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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

30 Day Film Challenge (Days 21 Through 30)

Currently over on Facebook, I am participating in the 30 Day Film Challenge for a group page known as Movie Magic Mesmerize Me.  It is fairly straightforward, as each day presents a new question, to which a film-related response is required.  As I am having a lot of fun adding my thoughts on this each day, I have decided to collect these posts and make a few articles out of them here as well.  So this post consists of my last set of responses for this challenge, days 21 through 30.  Note that I have not done much to really make the writing any better; not that it is bad, but I have done little to really proofread what were originally quick (but thought out) posts on Facebook. Enjoy. (Find Days 1-10 HERE and Days 11-20 HERE)


Day 21(a) - Your Favorite Science Fiction Film - The Star Wars Trilogy

First off, I'm splitting up today's challenge as I can't condense Sci-Fi and Fantasy into one category, that's just ridiculous. With that out of the way, choosing a favorite Science Fiction film is both an easy task and a difficult one. The reason is simple: My answer is the original Star Wars trilogy through and through. While I considered going a different direction, as the choice seemed to easy, I decided not to do something for the sake of having some original answer and just went with what fits.

I love the Star Wars universe and I love the original trilogy enough to consider it a 'given' when going over my favorite films. Star Wars means plenty for me and that's really all I need to say, as far as expanding on this first part of today's challenge.

Runner-ups: Blade Runner, Alien, Dark City, The Fifth Element, WALL-E, Moon, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, District 9, Strange Days, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Total Recall, Children of Men, Gravity

Day 21(b) - Your Favorite Fantasy Film - Pan's Labyrinth

Same deal here, I split today into two posts, because combining what are clearly two different genres made little sense to me. With that said, narrowing down a fantasy film was tougher than sci-fi. Lots of really fun options, but only a couple came up as gut instincts as what I would really consider my favorite. In this choice I went with a film that I found to really nail a great idea of the fantastical and a director's vision coming to life.

Guillermo del Toro's 2006 triumph is my favorite film of his and one of my favorites ever. If he can top this film then it will be something pretty spectacular, as Pan's Labyrinth is this wonderful mix of fantasy and reality, providing both a visual feast and a depiction of the wartime Spain, which is quite impressive. The imaginative creations are one thing, with Doug Jones doing fine work as both the Faun and the eerie Pale Man creatures, but Sergi Lopez's character of Vidal is an incredible villain existing in reality in this film, acting as a man you can understand, but despise. This all plays well with the quest of lead character Ofelia, who goes on to take herself away from her reality, even if it may or may not all be true. Between the visuals, the storytelling, the music, and the imagination on display here, I love this film so much and it fits well as my favorite fantasy film.

Runner-ups: Pan's Labyrinth, King Kong(s), The Fall, Jason and the Argonauts, Stardust, Midnight in Paris, The Purple Rose of Cairo, The Princess Bride, Groundhog Day, Spirited Away, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Dogma, Defending Your Life, Where The Wild Things Are, Being John Malcovich, Ghostbusters

Day 22 - Your Favorite Horror Film - Psycho

At the end of the day, I always come back to one movie on this, but I love horror films of all varieties. There are so many different sub-genres within horror and I really don't have much of a problem with any of them. Sure, some actually come close to scaring me, while others are better to admire for the craft involved in making them, but one can take so much away from horror, whether it be basic entertainment, and acknowledgment of a certain style of filmmaking, the acting in some cases, the psychological torment they can go for, or the social commentary that may be buried in them. It truly is a fascinating genre, given the scope of it. As for my favorite...

Psycho is one of my favorite films of all time and it was practically a no-brainer to choose it as my number 1 horror film.  It is great for so many reasons, including the fascinating approach of literally switching main characters nearly halfway through the film, almost giving you a reason to want to root for the wrong person.  Plenty more I could say about this Hitchcock classic, but "brilliance" is an easy word to associate with this film.

(I actually put together an article of my top 20 favorite horror films last year - http://www.thecodeiszeek.com/2013/10/aarons-top-20-horror-movies-and-ton-of.html)

Runner-ups: Jaws, Halloween, Dawn of the Dead (1978), Night of the Living Dead, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Frankenstein, The Shining, Alien, From Dusk til Dawn, The Evil Dead, Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn, The Thing, The Orphanage, Sleepy Hollow, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Cabin in the Woods, Poltergeist, Henry: Portait of a Serial Killer, The Devil's Backbone, The Fly, Nosferatu, Drag Me To Hell, The Night of the Hunter, Rosemary's Baby, The Mist

Day 23 - Your Favorite Thriller/Mystery Film - Oldboy

While I wish there was a separate challenge day for Film Noir, so I could also recognize one of many of my options in that realm, I had a good time going through plenty of options as far as thrillers and mysteries go. Not many stipulations I tried to stick with here, but for the sake of the challenge, I decided to go with a film that is both thrilling and features some sort of mystery aspect to the story.

Park Chan-wook's Oldboy is one of my favorite films and a spectacular example of style and substance coming together to create a twisted tale of revenge. The middle chapter in Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy, Oldboy is certainly the 'coolest' between Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance and Lady Vengeance, but it is just as dark and brutal as the others, thanks to the story we get to see unfold. Min-sik Choi's amazing performance is one of my favorites of the 2000s, as we see his character, Oh Dae-su come to terms with his early, mysterious imprisonment and turn himself into a weapon seeking answers. There are so many other things to talk about, including the crazy twists this movie has, but suffice it to say that I love this movie for all its craziness, style, themes, and more.

Runner-ups: Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, The Usual Suspects, Memento, No Country for Old Men, M, Collateral, Rififi, The Third Man, Black Swan, Dog Day Afternoon, Taxi Driver, The Prestige, Zodiac, I Saw the Devil, Shadow of a Doubt, Strangers on a Train, North by Northwest, Vertigo, Rear Window...agh, just Hitchcock in general!

Day 24 - Your Favorite Animated or Children's Film - The Triplets of Belleville

So I'm looking at today's challenge a little differently and sticking with just animated films, as I both don't tend to look at animated features as purely for children and see 'children's film' as a bit too loose, so I'll look back on it in a couple days with the 'favorite film you watched as a child' challenge, which is more defined. With that in mind, there is such a wide variety of animated films out there, it excites me to go over just one for the sake of this challenge, but still consider all the different animated features that I truly love to watch over and over or appreciate for their creative merits/storytelling/etc.

The Triplets of Belleville is a strange French animated feature that combines interesting and absurd visuals, a satirical sense of humor, and sweet lead characters. It also combines jazz, noir, mafia bosses, bicycle racing, frogs, and car chases into a great comedic mix. I was so taken aback when I first saw this movie, as I was impressed at how wrapped up I was with the style, that it made me seriously wonder about other films I could find like this, as I wanted more of this thing. With that said, I really have to speak up about the soundtrack, as this mostly dialogue-free film truly comes together thanks to its fantastic soundtrack that really emphasizes how unique a film like this is. I love this movie.

Just to add an aside: I remember first hearing of this film around the time of the Academy Awards of that year, but not having seen it until after. That said, it was up for best Original Song, and I remember that being a year of one depressing song after another (Including the eventual winner Return of the King), but when 'Triplets' came on during the broadcast, it was such a refreshing Jazzy delight that I was all up in arms about how this was the song that somehow lost and was then hell-bent on seeing this movie that made me feel so much joy. Glad I did.

Runner-ups: Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E, ParaNorman, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lion King, The Iron Giant, Fantasia, Rango, Robin Hood, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, The Toy Story Trilogy, Spirited Away, Shrek, Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Scanner Darkly, Cowboy Bebop: The Movie, The Grave of the Fireflies

Day 25 - Your Favorite Documentary Film - Dave Chappelle's Block Party

There are different avenues I could have gone down, when coming up with my favorite documentary.  I could have went with a film that takes a look back at an event in history or one that chronicles someone from the past.  I also could have chosen a film that more focused around present times that attempts to go over a current agenda or acknowledge something going on in the world, which has now been put in the spotlight.  For me, while I have plenty of runner-ups that fit into these various categories of documentaries and would love to give praise to all of them, sometimes it is the personal story that is the most affecting for me.

Dave Chappelle’s Block Party may not be an ‘important’ film in the same way the films of Errol Morris may be, but it does work for me as a nice piece of history concerning a certain point in the careers of not only Chappelle, but many of the hip-hop artists featured.  Dave Chappelle was certainly well known by the time this film came out, but it was also made before The Roots became the official band of The Tonight Show, before Common, Mos Def, and Jill Scott were taking on many different acting roles, and before ego completely took hold of Kanye West. It even serves as a film that briefly brought The Fugees back together.

Directed by Michel Gondry of all people, this documentary chronicles a massive concert and the days around it, which was set up by comedian Dave Chappelle, during the time that he had been breaking out big thanks to his Comedy Central series.  Things would go a different direction for Chappelle in the following years, but this doc is a reminder of the place of joy he was in, as he did something that brought hundreds of people together, in an effort to have people, both hip-hop fans and non-hip-hop fans, have a great time with the musicians that he considers to be not only his friends, but his current favorites.  There are only so many docs that I really enjoy watching more than once and this is the one that I have watched the most, as it has lots of comedy, lots of music, and it is all just so honest.

Runner-ups: Murderball, Man on Wire, King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, Hoop Dreams, Undefeated, Beats Ryhmes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest, When We Were Kings, The Fog of War, The Act of Killing, The Up Series, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Marley, The Times of Harvey Milk

Day 26 - Your Favorite Foreign Language Film - City of God

If I did not have an immediate answer for this question, I see how this could be hard to narrow down. So many decades of films that exist outside of English-speaking nations, with many of the best films of all time fitting within this category. That said, there are plenty of films I am happy to champion, let alone enjoy in my own time, but while I could go on all day listing plenty, one stands out for me.

City of God is on my short list for favorite films ever, so choosing it as the favorite for today's challenge was pretty simple. I found this film so affecting the first time I saw it and was incredibly impressed by the confidence in the filmmaking on display. A coming-of-age story or sorts crossed with a gangster film, the film is based on a true story chronicling events taking place between the 60s and the 80s, set in the suburb/slums of Rio de Janeiro. The film is sad, funny, poignant, exciting, and plenty of other things, which keep me very involved every time I watch it. In 2004, City of God would go on to be nominated for Best Directing, Editing, Writing, and Cinematography Oscars, which all make so much sense when looking at how well-produced this little film is. I would go as far to say that this cast is pretty incredible, being made up of mostly amateur actors, who utilized a lot of improv in their performances. The film also does a great job of balancing a cold understanding of certain facts with the warmth that comes from the narrator and the chilling material supplied by the film's de facto villain. City of God has the kind of energy and authenticity that I love in a drama and it accomplishes so much in an incredibly effective way.

Runner-ups: Pan's Labryinth, Amelie, Seven Samurai, Roshamon, Let the Right One In, Run Lola Run, The Devil's Backbone, The Orphanage, Hero, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, El Mariachi, Amores Perros, Black Book, Oldboy, The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, The Raid, District B13, The Host, The Battle of Algiers, La Haine, Metropolis, Spirited Away, The Triplets of Bellville, The Twilight Samurai

Day 27 - Your Favorite Independent/Arthouse Film - Me and You and Everyone We Know

So I re-purposed a mini-essay I already wrote for today's challenge, as it does a fine job of getting across my points on this film, which I consider to be a favorite independent feature of mine. That said, the world of independent cinema has certainly change over the years, given the roles that studios play these days. With that in mind, whether it is just a low-key film under the guise of "an independent film" or a true oddity that has somehow made its way to theaters, plenty of films are out there to discover.

This 2005 feature from artist/filmmaker Miranda July took me by surprise. I knew of the acclaim it was receiving, but it was about five minutes in when I realized how special this film was.  Watching the terrific John Hawkes playing just a normal (soon-to-be-divorced) dad, who was suddenly shaking his flaming arm around, let me see something beautiful, despite my concern for what would come from this.  There was a sort of initial reaction that had me thinking this movie may be the kind of offbeat delight that only so many people will have heard of, but as the film went on, it became more than that.

Maybe a third of the way in, John Hawkes and Miranda July’s characters meet and they later take a walk together on a sidewalk, where the describe the path they are on as a metaphor for a relationship.  It is a beautiful scene that goes far beyond the supposed creativity of ‘meet cutes’ in modern rom-coms.  It is the kind of scene that made me well up in emotion by the time this film reached its climax and had another interaction between Hawkes and July, where the two were finally able to put aside certain circumstances and come together. I have only focused on two key characters so far, but I love all the various connections made between the different members of this ensemble cast.

Me and You and Everyone We Know is a weird and wonderful artistic triumph, with a great cast, wonderful little moments throughout and a film that stirs up feelings inside of me that only so many films have also done in the past.  I could go on for a much more in-depth piece about the greatness of this film, but as it stands, I am happy doing what I can to put some sort of spotlight on this little movie.

Runner-ups: Swingers, Clerks., Halloween, El Mariachi, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Resevoir Dogs, Night of the Living Dead, Mean Streets, Bottle Rocket, Memento, Primer, Half Nelson, Stranger Than Paradise, The Terminator, Donnie Darko, Blood Simple

Day 28 - The Most Obscure Film You've Ever Seen - The American Astronaut

I had a good set of films to pick from for this challenge and I guess the approach was to go with a film that not only fits the bill as a cult movie, but one that even people that love cult movies in general may not be completely aware of. With that said, there are lots of strange and bizarre films out the, so this is what I have.

Before Firefly, there was this very small movie called the American Astronaut, a sci-fi/western/musical that is incredibly weird and decidedly obscure. Getting to what it is about is unnecessary, as it is really more of an experimental film that moves to its own groove and has a vibe that people with either enjoy or just fine to bizarre for its own good. With all that in mind, when I was first introduced to this film, I certainly found it weird, but could not get it out of my head either. Some of my runner-ups fit the same bill, but I don't think The American Astronaut is about to be hitting many lists any time soon.

Runner-ups (and I know I'm missing a ton here): Beyond the Black Rainbow, Rubber, Enemy, Under the Skin, The Visitor, The FP, Miami Connection, I'm Not There, Upstream Color, Primer, Un Chien Andalou

Day 29 - Your Favorite Film As a Kid - Independence Day

It was somewhat easy to narrow this choice down, as a lot of films I have picked (Star Wars, Batman, T2, etc.) were already some of my favorites as a kid. For this challenge, the only decision I made, was to be sure these were films I watched a lot, before actually becoming a teenager and would now more or less still consider to be 'good' movies. There's only one movie in my runner-ups that I would consider to be stretching the term 'good', but for the most part, I really love all of these films. And yes, this is a challenge that certainly shows my age.

Independence Day was awesome to see in theaters on opening night back in 1996, it was awesome to watch at home in VHS, and it was still awesome to watch on Blu-ray this past 4th of July. Roland Emmerich delivered big time with this blockbuster sci-fi adventure that combines Irwin Allen disaster films, 50s sci-fi, and the latest in special effects, both practical and CG at the time to make a wildly entertaining film that caught on huge with audiences when it first came out. I certainly understand the goofy nature of some of the plotting, but I am continually impressed by Independence Day for the amount of effective melodrama it has. The large ensemble cast means a lot of time spent on characters and building up tension (it's a good 45-ish minutes before aliens start blowing stuff up), before going to its action scenes, which I still find to be quite impressive for a blockbuster of this scope. It is also fun. Not content with being a downer, Independence Day allows the audience to have fun, despite presenting the reality of major cities being blown apart. For all of these reasons, I have continued to really enjoy this film, but as a younger person, was very happy to revisit it again and again.

Runner-ups: Batman, The Sandlot, Star Wars, Cool Runnings, Terminator 2, Apollo 13, The Lion King, Aladdin, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Rescuers Down Under, D2: The Mighty Ducks, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Day 30 - Your Favorite Film This Time Last Year - Fruitvale Station

Since I keep track of my reviews, it was fairly simple to pick this one out.  Given that my top ten list from last year had certain films in certain positions, it is easy to see what I would have considered my favorite at certain times of year.  With that in mind, this is a nice end to the 30 Day Challenge, as I am happy to represent these films from our current time.  The following paragraph is from the intro of my original review of this wonderful debut film from writer/director Ryan Coogler:

“It must be hard to be so simple.  Fruitvale Station has the feel of a very straightforward film, were one to break it down into its basic structure.  We follow one man throughout his day.  We see where he lives, whom he interacts with, and it all ends on a tragic note.  It also happens to be based on a true story.  There is so much more there though.  Beyond the efforts to get a small film like this made, which includes using Oakland locations and filming on and around BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit), Fruitvale Station is such a strong success because of its incredibly apt direction, the feel generated throughout, based on the sense of location and supporting players, and the incredibly compelling lead performance from Michael B. Jordan.   There is nothing glamorous about how this story is told; it simply works as a straightforward telling of one, with a great pool of talent to work with.” – The full review can be found here: http://whysoblu.com/fruitvale-station-movie-review/


Runner-ups: The World's End, The Hunt, In A World, Spring Breakers, Before Midnight, Blue Jasmine, The Way Way Back, Short Term 12

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