Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My 100 Favourite Movies: Prelude

A long time ago, when I was a different person, I was goaded into making a list of every movie I'd ever seen. I've told the story before, so if you know me you've probably heard it, and if you haven't, sorry, the re-telling will dredge up unhappy memories. And when that list was compiled, I thought, "Finally! I have completed this time-intensive project with little-to-no value to the world! And now...I'm bored." So I decided to make a list of my top 100 favourite movies.

That was just over five years ago. And in five years, yours truly can rack up a LOT of new movie-watching experiences. So I decided to re-vamp the list back in December, and due to some procrastinating, some life stuff, and some repeated fiddling with the order, I finally completed it. It took quite a while to do; I whittled my master list (over 2000 distinct movies) into a shortlist of about 250, then whittled that down to a shorterlist of about 140, and then viciously cut the last 40 out. Then, in a process that took WAY too many steps to recount here, I finally ordered them into some semblance of an order. Due to the nature of this task, and the nature of ordering in general, if I was to do it another month from now, things might shift around a little bit, but generally everything's where it should be, plus or minus five slots. And I'm very happy with the top 20, and have almost nothing to change about those ones.

But I'm not here to talk about the new list. I'm here, for a moment, to talk about the old one. Some of the entries are a little embarassing now, but a number of them are still classics, and some of them are unfortunate but necessary casualties on a list where I've likely seen over eight hundred new movies since I first started it. So take a look. It's both a reminder of someone that I used to be and, when compared to the list I'll be posting over the next few weeks (few months?), an indication of someone that I may become.

My 100 Favourite Movies: 2006 Edition
100. Casino Royale (2006)
99. Edward Scissorhands
98. Shall We Dance?
97. To Kill A Mockingbird
96. King Kong (1933)
95. The African Queen
94. Babe: Pig in the City
93. The Killer
92. Die Hard
91. The Man Who Would Be King
90. Men With Brooms
89. The Shop Around The Corner
88. High Fidelity
87. The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari
86. Vertigo
85. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
84. Hellboy
83. Out of Sight
82. Dead Ringers
81. Hallowe'en
80. The Producers
79. Monty Python's Life of Brian
78. X: The Man With X-Ray Eyes
77. Who Framed Roger Rabbit?
76. This Is Spinal Tap
75. The 40 Year Old Virgin
74. It's A Wonderful Life
73. Star Wars
72. True Lies
71. From Russia With Love
70. Spider-Man
69. Brazil
68. Kill Bill, Vol. 2
67. Alien
66. The Wild Bunch
65. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
64. The Great Dictator
63. Seconds
62. The Iron Giant
61. L.A. Story
60. Psycho
59. A Fish Called Wanda
58. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
57. Some Like It Hot
56. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
55. Man Bites Dog
54. Mrs. Brown
53. The Muppet Movie
52. Wings of Desire
51. Casablanca
50. Grand Illusion
49. Rushmore
48. Duck Soup
47. American Beauty
46. The Matrix
45. L.A. Confidential
44. The Manchurian Candidate
43. The Princess Bride
42. The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly
41. Fargo
40. When Harry Met Sally….
39. Leon
38. The Wizard of Oz
37. Frankenstein
36. Blade Runner
35. Pirates of the Carribean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
34. Miller's Crossing
33. Dark City
32. M*A*S*H
31. Rashomon
30. A Hard Day's Night
29. Maltese Falcon
28. The Kid
27. Battleship Potemkin
26. Touch of Evil
25. Raiders of the Lost Ark
24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
23. Bride of Frankenstein
22. Roxanne
21. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves
20. Apocalypse Now
19. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
18. Pulp Fiction
17. The Usual Suspects
16. The Empire Strikes Back
15. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
14. Life is Beautiful
13. Mallrats
12. Unforgiven
11. The Last Temptation of Christ
10. Singin' In The Rain
9. The Searchers
8. It Happened One Night
7. The Rules of the Game
6. The Godfather
5. Dr. Strangelove
4. City Lights
3. The Godfather, Part II
2. Citizen Kane
1. Seven Samurai

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Day 13 - A Song That Is A Guilty Pleasure

I try not to have guilty pleasures. If I enjoy something, I rarely feel guilty about it. But I suppose, if I had to try to embarass myself, I really do enjoy "This Ain't a Scene, It's an Arms Race" by Fall Out Boy. I know, conceptually, that Fall Out Boy is not a band that I should like. But that song is a lot of fun, despite some unfortunate lyrical issues for radio play. It's surprisingly smartly-written and catchy, okay?

Day 12 - A Song From A Band You Hate

"Burn It To The Ground" by Nickelback. Awful song, awful band. That's all I have to say.

(I wrote this yesterday but didn't publish it. So sue me, me.)

Friday, October 07, 2011

Day 11 - A Song From My Favourite Band

My favourite band, even more than The Beatles (which is just a hair’s breadth away at number two), is NoMeansNo, a fantastic Canadian punk rock band with jazz and funk influences. I don’t know what the best song would be that would best represent them to other people, but “Now” is a pretty good choice. It’s got a lot of the loud angry energy that they portray so well, as well as some really creative musical choices that you wouldn’t expect from a punk rock band but come so naturally to NoMeansNo. I love it.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Day 10 - A Song I Fall Asleep To

I haven't fallen asleep listening to music in a really long time. It's mostly been Old Time Radio shows, standup comedy, or Bob Ross for the past few years. But if I had to I think one song that might be fairly nice to fall asleep to would be "Blue in Green" by Miles Davis. It's a soft little ballad and while Miles' trumpet can be a little loud to drift off to, Bill Evans' piano work is really beautiful and soothing, a lovely cloud to sink into.  I don't really know, but you can judge for yourself. Whether you could fall asleep to it or not, it's a beautiful song.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

What's Up Wednesday - October 5, 2011

So did you know that since the reign of Queen Victoria, the last Wednesday in September has been given the name "Second Tuesday"? That's because it's not true. I missed a week. Oh well! Let's see what I found interesting in the past two weeks.

* * * *

I love The Muppets and am a big fan of off-beat covers, so when I saw The Green Album I knew I would eventually have to give it a spin. It starts off really promising: OK Go!'s cover of "The Muppet Show Theme" is weird and groovy, although it goes on a little too long. Things pick up with Weezer & Hayley Williams's cover of The Rainbow Connection, which gives us a harp doing the traditional banjo riff and a beautiful two-part harmony for the last verse. The Fray's "Manah-Manah" sounds nearly the same as the TV version, which is okay but nothing special. And then there's the Alkaline Trio's version of "Movin' Right Along" which could be my favourite song on the album: it's a fusion of the band's sound with the spirit of the original, where the band plays with it just enough to make it interesting without completely destroying the song. My Morning Jacket's version of "Our World," a song I've never heard before, is a nice little song that would be easily performed by both Muppets and rock stars.

And then...things start going downhill. Amy Lee does a creepy version of "Halfway Down The Stairs," which needs that kind of interpretation like Archie Andrews needs a goth-style makeover. Another lowlight is a really awkward version of one of my favourite Muppet songs ever, "I Hope That Something Better Comes Along" - a human should not sing lyrics like "What could be better than a saucy Irish Setter" straightforwardly. An adequate version of "It's Not Easy Being Green" almost pulls us out of the nose-dive, but then the album closes with Rachael Yamagata's version of "I'm Going To Go Back There Someday" which seems weirdly-orchestrated just for the sake of being weird, and is truly unfortunately mixed (I don't need to hear the soft tisues of your mouth sliding against each other when you're singing). I like about half the album and the rest either underhwlmes me or makes me frustrated thinking about how much better it could have been.

* * * *

I have been curious about Matt Wagner's Grendel comics for a few years, so last week I got off my ass and took Grendel: Behold The Devil out of the library. If I had done my research I would have discovered that this was one of the last books in the series, but I decided to try it anyhow, figuring every comic is someone's first and that it might hook me hard enough to want to seek out the other comics. And boy, did it. In this volume Grendel is Hunter Rose, bestselling author by day and brutal crime kingpin by night. Behold The Devil is an examination of a "lost" episode in his life, and if this is anything like the earlier comics then I am in. Beautifully illustrated, perfectly paced, this tale of violence unfolds step by glorious step until the surprise (to me) ending. The violence is absolutely exq$uisite; the first five pages of Chapter One completely blew me away. I will be back for more, definitely, and will re-read this one with relish when I get back to its spot in publishing continuity.

* * * *

I saw Drive yesterday and it is GOOOOOOOD. It's not the big dumb action movie they're trying to sell it as, although sharp-eyed viewers would probably have figured that out by the use of pink font on the posters and trailers. It's a thoughtful, suspenseful action film, more along the lines of a Point Blank or To Live& Die In L.A. than a Fast & The Furious. I've heard a few people say the 70s & 80s homage is slap-dash and unsatisfying, but I really feel there's a lot to like. There are a number of very quiet moments, nearly TOO quiet, and there are a lot of very subtle performances that would have been completely extinguished in a lesser film. And when things go bad, they go really bad. Shocking, grotesque violence, with one scene that had me squirming in my seat. And the cast is great, too. Ryan Gosling's stoic performance may go a little too far towards stone-faced at times, but Carey Mulligan is note-perfect, Ron Perlman is fun and intimidating, Bryan Cranston is great as usual, and Albert Brooks is TERRIFYING as a crime boss. No seriously. I was shocked too. If you like film in general and action films in particular, then you need to make a trip to see Drive, and soon.

* * * *

After months of struggling to read, I broke into Grant Morrison's Supergods for Nerd Book Club and it is a really fun and fast (but uneven) book. I enjoyed his (admittedly skewed) examination of the Golden and Silver ages of superhero comic books, with a little bit of examination of how these books represent spiritual archetypes that have been with us for centuries, but these analogies didn't really going anywhere other than "Did you notice that? I did, it's amazing." Which is okay, I guess, and I enjoy seeing someone else's perspective on these familiar characters. And then about halfway through, it became less about an exploration of the character archetypes & how they could inform us about human nature and became part-history, part-memoir. I understood why: Morrison felt he needs to explain his motivations for writing, which are based on his life experiences, including his metaphysical ones. And while that fits into the theme of the book, which I won't completely reveal because I think finding that theme is part of the journey,

I think the memoir aspects could have been toned down and the thematic aspects given more direction and follow-through. The book is in some pretty desperate need of an editor, as things get a little meandery about halfway through and almost spiral completely out of control towards the end. (There are also some pretty obvious typos and things being mentioned out of sequence.) For me, though, being familiar with Morrison's style, I find the lack of direction is a trap he sometimes finds himself in, and I was able to climb out of it with him and bring something worthwhile along with me. So I ended up liking it and will probably re-read it in the next couple of years, but  I would be really interested in a non-fan's perspective on the book.  I don't know if it would be easy to follow or impactful for someone who doesn't have strong connections to the characters or the writer like I do.

* * * *

Two weekends ago I went to visit a friend and we had a marathon of all 25 episodes of the first season of Community Season 1. That marks the seventh time I've gone through the first season in under 12 months. Which probably sounds silly but it really is that good. I noticed jokes and references this seventh time that had completely passed me by the first time, which means that either a) I am not very observant or b) these are some amazingly great episodes. I would like to think that the answer is b). Regardless: if you haven't seen Community, you really should. It is one of only a handful of shows that represent the pinnacle of television comedy, and I have no doubt that it will be remembered very fondly in the coming decades.

* * * *

This "week," I would like to take a moment to talk about...The Playboy Club. When I first heard that there was going to be a prime-time drama about The Playboy Club, I was dubious. I thought that it was just a lame way to grab ratings by cashing in on the Mad-Men-60s-style-chic and parading beautiful women around in Bunny costumes and their underwear. And I will admit: it was partly that. But honestly, only partly. By the end of the first episode I thought, despite myself, that there was something more there. They introduced a lot of characters, and involved a lot of interesting themes: politics, race relations, organized crime, sexual orientation, gender roles, and a handful of interesting mysteries. And there were musical numbers! And did I mention a half-dozen beautiful women? Sure, some of the characterizations were groaningly broad, and the "Hugh Hefner in the shadows" bits were pretty awful, but I thought there were things to grow on. I felt even more positive about the show after the second episode, where things felt a little rushed and some plots were given more time to breathe. And that meant, of course, that it would be cancelled. I just didn't think it would have been by episode three! I thought for sure I'd get a half-season out of it at least, where they could wrap at least a couple of plot threads up. Instead I got three episodes of what was a pretty promising show. I guess most viewers didn't see it the way I did, but I really think that The Playboy Club is up there with American Gothic as one of those promising shows cancelled way too early.

* * * *

Last Monday my brother got me royally drunk, tied some training wheels on me, and set me up in his hockey draft. I apparently did okay, stealing some players out from under some of the other guys, and I walked away thinking I did okay. And then three days later he sent me a text saying I had drafted someone who had already retired. And nobody noticed. So I have a lot more to learn, I guess.

* * * *

And that's it. More song updates to follow, for sure, but now it's time for me to get on the exercise bike. Curse you, bike.

Day 9 - A Song I Can Dance To

I am putting this song on because it is a newly-discovered song and it is incredibly dance-able while also being funny, creative, and a surprisingly good pop song. That song is "(Rockin') All Nite Long" by the folks at Bad Lip Reading. They took a Taylor Swift song that I have never heard, watched the video, figured out other lyrics she could have been singing by watching her lips, and then wrote an entire new song about it. And then added a rap by doing the same thing to a Wiz Khalifa song. And the funny thing is? It's actually a really well-crafted pop song and you can dance to it to boot. So yeah. I was surprised too, but really, you have to check it out. (And then find Gang Fight on YouTube by the same folks.)

Here it is. Marvel at its majesty.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Day 08 - A Song You Know All The Words To

So, so many songs fit into this category. But I think that I will cheat and pick a song I sing in my a cappella group, Apocalypse Kow. And my favourite song to sing lead with them is "Uniform Grey" by Sarah Harmer. It's a sweet, beautiful little song that I think everyone should hear, and it makes me happy and sad at the same time.

Here's Sarah's (superior) version. You could find ours if you looked really hard.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Day 07 - A Song That Reminds You Of A Certain Event

Took me a second (again, all the stuff that immediately comes to mind is either negative or makes me more depressed) but R.E.M.'s "Begin The Begin" reminds me of the happiness EXPLOSION that poured out of my lungs and throat when I finally got to see my favourite rock band play live for the very first time. I was in Thunderbird Stadium in Vancouver with my then-future-ex-wife and when the opening guitar riff started the crowd and I roared as one, and I just felt the relief and joy flood out of me as I prepared myself for an amazing concert. I still remember that feeling when I hear the album version. (Don't know if it's cheating if the event is a rock concert or not but I'm going with it.)

Couldn't find video of the Thunderbird stadium show but here's the album version:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Day 06 - A Song That Reminds You of Somewhere

John Denver's "Rocky Mountain High" always reminds me of the highway into Jasper just as you make it into the mountains. My parents loved John Denver (and I did too when I was a kid) and my mom loved singing along to that song on our road trips to the mountains during summer vacation. Just thinking of the chorus invokes the giant snow-capped peaks and the highway winding in between them.

Not much to say about this song: it's cheesy and not everyone's taste - it even grates on my nerves at times - but there are times that I find it almost transcendent. Weird how nostalgia and memory works like that.

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Day 5 - A Song That Reminds You of Someone

There are a lot of songs that could fall into this category. And after a while, I actually came up with a positive one! "Bring The Noise" by Public Enemy always reminds me of my good buddy @worstninjaever. Not just because it is our karaoke song (and we ROCK THE HELL out of that song live). But it's part of the reason we're friends, I think we really started becoming better friends when we found out we were both PE fans, and that happened when we both started singing that song at a party once. It was a big deal in my life. And also: we are AMAZING. I am the Chuck D to his "Flava Flav and dude from Anthrax."

While he prefers the Public Enemy w/ Anthrax version, I prefer the original (although I do like the guitars on the remake). A little slower delivery makes for a better song. I'm presenting this live version (starts at about 2:00 on this video) because he and I were actually both at this show. Me at the front of the stage, him sitting way at the back at a table. Because he's a gimp. And if you check REALLY closely, you can see me in the crowd. Just look for awesome sideburns.

Day 04 - A Song That Makes You Sad

“You Were Here” by Sarah Harmer. Nearly the entire album is about the end of relationships and every song is some variation of sad, but this one is hauntingly beautiful and makes me bittersweetly sad. Partly because it’s sad on it’s own and partly because it reminds me of the two breakups that define my life. So yeah. It’s a beautiful song and I love it, but it makes me very sad. Not “crying while driving the car and trying to hold it together so as not to crash” sad, the good kind.

Day 03 - A Song That Makes You Happy

Definitely one of the best songs that fits this criteria is "Move On Up" by Curtis Mayfield. That song is over eight solid minutes of happy. The killer drum riff (boom-boom-CHACK-ba-boom-ba-boom-CHAK), with a beautiful layer of guitar and a cool quasi-funk bass line. Hell, it has both a horn section AND a string section! And Curtis Mayfield’s smooth amazing voice singing those uplifting lyrics (Hush now child/And don’t you cry/Your folks might understand you/Bye and bye). Just thinking about the opening section (DRUMS! HORNS! GO!) makes me smile and sets my toes to tapping. A good antidote to a foul mood.

Here’s the full length song, a solid eight minutes and forty-nine seconds of funk soul goodness. There are radio edits out there you can search for, but for me this is the version.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

30 Day Song Challenge - Day 02

Your Least Favourite Song

Not many songs can make the bile rise in my throat like “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel. Insipid lyrics, inane delivery, inexplicably popular when I was in my youth and hearing it sets my teeth on edge. Even thinking about the lyrics hurts me. “I crack the eggs and make a smiley face…” I am literally shuddering with frustration as I type this.

(Also: my What's Up Wednesday will be delayed as I wrote a very long entry for it that promptly got erased. Because I am dumb. It'll be up tomorrow for sure.)