My Updated List of Top Twenty Movies That Have Impacted My Life (October 2018)

Back in March of 2013, I wrote a post about my top 10 movies that I’ve seen in my lifetime. I recently came across that 2013 post again and realized that it was in need of a serious update. And that’s natural, right? God knows how many movies I’ve seen in the last five and a half years alone. I decided to take a deep look into my subconscious and come to a clear and consensus agreement with myself over which films have been life-altering for me and try to explain to you the reasons why in the most concise way possible. These are the types of movies that I will always watch if I catch it on TV as I’m channel surfing or will randomly pop it into my Blu-Ray player on a lazy, rainy, Sunday afternoon.

As always, feel free to comment, question, or ridicule my choices. I make no apologies. So let’s get this show on the road. (more…)

“Joker” Teaser Trailer, Production Shoot, and Update

Back in February, I mentioned that Joaquin Phoenix had been in negotiations to play the clown prince of darkness in a stand-alone Joker film. Evidently I was right and it looks like we’ll be getting the movie earlier than I had originally anticipated. With an October 4, 2019 release date according to Variety.com, it’s a full year earlier than what I had estimated.

Look, I just saw this video about two hours ago when I got off work. I’m not sure what to think. Except I know it looks better than Jared Leto’s Joker already. But I, and millions of other Batman universe fans, am forced to give an unfair and nearly impossible expectation when comparing it to Heath Ledger’s performance in Christopher Nolan’s masterpiece.

I know it’s unfair, but can you blame me?

I will say this, however. Joaquin Phoenix is in my opinion a wonderful and underrated actor. I think he may surprise a lot of people with his performance. Whether or not it’s going to be a pleasant surprise or not, only time will tell.

Rest assured that once a full trailer goes up, probably by spring 2019, I’ll be sure to report back to you.

“Best Popular Film” Category at Oscars is Worst Possible Idea (Here are Better Ones)

The Academy of Arts and Sciences has decided in their infinite stupidity to add an additional category to their already very long list of nominations. These new golden statue recipients will have earned it not by being recognized for an additional discipline or skill in filmmaking that has been long overlooked or ignored, but rather for being a part of the “Best Popular Film.” What does that even mean? Will it be given to the movie that had the highest profit? Or the movie with the most social media impressions? How about most times a trailer is watched before its release? The Academy themselves don’t seem to know how to answer that question either. This article explains it quite well.

The reality is that The Academy absolutely SHOULD add another category. Actually it should add a few. How and why it is that The Academy hasn’t done this yet completely confounds me as well as every filmmaker and storyteller from every notch of the totem pole. Here are some categories that The Academy must add. I’ll even tell you who should have Oscars already given to them retroactively with The Academy’s apologies from the last 20 years or so.  (more…)

Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018)

Less than a week ago, we all learned of the untimely and tragic passing of writer, producer, chef, and television personality, Anthony Bourdain. Bourdain hung himself in his hotel room in France. I honestly don’t remember exactly when or how I first noticed Bourdain on one of his many successful shows, but one thing was certain, once I discovered his shows, I was-to paraphrase Bourdain-“hungry for more.” (more…)

Isle of Dogs

There’s something to be said about a Wes Anderson feature film. For one thing, not only does Anderson direct, he also writes and produces all of his films. He has received six Oscar nominations in his career as of the date of this post and has not won one yet. These nominations have come in those three categories respectively: original screenplay, directing, and production. His last feature, “Grand Budapest Hotel” earned him the holy trinity of Oscar nominations. Well, I think it’s high time for him to win one and the film with which he should win (at least one) Oscar is “Isle of Dogs.”

Let me say right off the bat that I predict “Isle of Dogs” will be nominated for Best Picture. Not just best animated feature, (of which a nomination is all but certain) but also Best Picture. No animated film in the history of the Oscars has ever won Best Picture and the last animated film to be even considered for such an accolade was “Toy Story 3” back in 2011. It lost to “The King’s Speech” but still managed to take home best animated feature.

So what is it about “Isle of Dogs” that makes it so magnificent? It’s a monumental achievement in stop-motion animation and puppeteering. Four years of production, 27 animators and ten assistants were needed to bring this story to life. I can only imagine the monumental difficulty that goes into making inanimate objects not only express emotions such as anger, sadness, excitement, or humor; but to be able to express it in a convincing and raw way that made me feel for these characters throughout the entire story.

The story of “Isle of Dogs” is a simple one. Set twenty years in the future, every species of dog is infected with a severe case of canine flu in the fictional city of Megasaki, Japan and are exiled to a garbage island outside the city limits. One little boy steals a plane and flies there in the hopes of finding his dog. The boy is unable to communicate directly with the dogs and vice versa.

Speaking of communication, let me also mention how phenomenal the voice-acting was. If you’re familiar with Wes Anderson movies, you’ll recognize immediately the voices of Edward Norton, Bill Murray, and F. Murray Abraham to name a few of regulars that always manage to get happily sucked into the worlds that Wes Anderson creates, but also performances by Jeff Goldblum, Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johannson, narration by Courtney B. Vance, and newcomer Koyu Rankin are equally incredible. I really appreciated a hilarious back-and-forth between the dogs constantly discussing rumors that one of them had just heard. There’s something very… human about that.

The direction and visual storytelling is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. A good portion of the movie is actually in Japanese with nearly no subtitles. Everything is explained to you by interpreter appropriate to the scene or through visual cues given to the audience. The contrast of the two different worlds in which the story takes place; a fictional Japanese city and a floating landfill shows throughout with spectacular effects of lighting and set design.

“Isle of Dogs” is definitely a top 3 movie that I’ve seen this year and I hope that my predictions are correct in that Wes Anderson will finally get at least one much-deserved Oscar for his work. “Isle of Dogs” in my mind is a masterpiece.

A Quiet Place

“A Quiet Place” is a story about a family living in silence to protect themselves from monsters that hunt by sound. The movie stars and is directed by John Krasinski. That’s right, Jim from “The Office” directed and starred in a horror movie. Let that sink in for a second…

There is a multi-layered sense of cleverness in this movie. How do you make a thriller in 2018 where 98% of your movie is silent? With Krasinski’s direction along with the super clever screenplay by Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, and, oh yeah, John Krasinski (according to IMDB,) that’s how.

The movie starts right in the silence, and ambiguously stated simply as “Day 89.” There is no real explanation or back-story about how or why the monsters arrived there, why they won’t leave, and what (if anything) anyone has done to try to get rid of them. You’re just thrown right into the thick of survival with this family.

Part of the reason why this family has been able to adapt to a life of silence better than the other few survivors we see is because one of the children is completely deaf and communicates in ASL. It’s clearly established early on through visual storytelling and ASL communicated within the family that sound has deadly consequences.

The characters in “A Quiet Place” were predominantly simple to follow in their motivations and easy to root and worry for. There isn’t much character development in this movie and there isn’t any particular actor that “steals” any scene, but what makes up for it is the marvel you feel as seeing how this family has been able to live and survive the way that they do despite the tragedies that befall them. They paint squeaky floorboards in different colors so they know which ones to avoid and use different colored patio lights strung around their yard to communicate safety or danger.

There’s also something to be said about experiencing this movie in a crowded theater. Because it is a silent film, and because of the white-knuckle grip it has on you the whole time, you want to stay silent also. You feel as an audience member that if you make a sound, you jeopardize that family’s safety. And that was  an amazing thing to realize and experience in real time.

I want to go back and see “A Quiet Place” again because I know that there are story details that I missed and I would like once again to awe at the fact that Jim from “The Office” made an amazing and thrilling movie. But it’s more than that. “A Quiet Place” is the best thriller I’ve seen since “The Sixth Sense.”

 

 

“Ready Player One” – The Movie

This feels like an end of an era… or certainly a long time coming. If you’ve read pretty much anything I’ve written-especially in the last three years-you’d know that I’ve dedicated a tremendous amount of time writing about “Ready Player One” the book and how I’ve been anticipating, speculating, and rumor-trafficking how the movie would be adapted from the 2011 novel. Now that I have had a proper amount of time to digest the 2 hour and 20 minute adaptation, I have a few choice words for it. This review will be more of a comparative analysis of book-to-movie and chock-full of spoilers and maybe an Easter Egg or two. Hey… it is Easter Sunday after all.  (more…)