Friday, June 10, 2011

Lost Horizon

It's hard to get this challenge going again without any momentum. Not impossible, but very difficult. I find myself lost now that the end of the list is not on my horizon...but I'm trying to find a way to carry on. So forgive me if I seem to be losing my footing at times.

A reader once told me that when I got to Traffic (2000), I would recognize the use of gritty images and the manipulation of colour balances in its shots because many films after Traffic mirrored its style. Well, that day has finally come, and I can definitely agree. Stylistically, this film is brilliant, edgy, and original, saturated with Stephen Soderbergh's distinctive guidance. But as a whole, this one didn't do much for me. The intertwined storylines were supposed to give the film intrigue and keep it at a galloping pace, but only one of them really interested me. Maybe it's too grown-up for me...I don't really know. I can't really relate to any kind of struggle with cocaine or Mexican drug dealers, so a film about such subjects is bound to fall flat with me.
Even so, the performances were still fantastic. Benicio Del Toro (where has he been lately??) brings smoldering Latino flare to the washed-out scenes in Mexico, while Michael Douglas keeps us hooked for the stateside scenes. Topher Grace surfaces for a few key moments, reminding us of the dramatic promise he once showed (and where has he been lately??). My verdict: great performances, fascinating delivery, unimpressive story.

The summer surprises just keep rolling in: X-Men: First Class is actually watchable. Maybe not just that- it's even a little bit entertaining. I was expecting to roll on the floor in agony, but I was stunned by its poise. A star-studded cast helped guide it through its minor kinks, and a fast, fluid plot moves the film along quickly enough so that we can't stop to think about its flaws. Kevin Bacon- always a blast to watch- has so much fun in his villainous role that we can't help but join in, and Jennifer Lawrence shows us her fun side as well, fresh off her wild Winter's Bone ride. My verdict: not a complete waste of summer-job money.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

The Graduate

That's right. After years of toil and struggle worthy of my own striking drama, I have finally graduated. The parties and celebrations have finally come to an end, the checks have stopped rolling in, and the confetti has at last you know what that means: it's movie season again. Just when you thought I'd never be back...I am, and I'm more ready than ever to take on my massive list.

First and foremost, I have to ackowledge the lone movie I managed to fit in during those few weeks of graduation. It snuck up on me and took me by complete surprise--but it ended up being one of the best movies I've ever seen. Seriously, it blew my mind. Hands down, best film off the list so far.

The Reader (2008) knocks the wind out of you with its powerful emotional punch. I can't even begin to describe the plot without feeling my tear ducts firing up, so I'll just say that it's a sweeping story of acceptance and unswerving true love. Painful, magical, gripping true love. Stephen Daldry delivers brilliantly in his directorial masterpiece. Kate Winslet muscles up the best performance I've ever seen her give, and Ralph Fiennes shows us his sensitive side in one of his better dramatic turns. For me, the real scene-stealer was David Kross. He is absolutely delicious and I have now decided that he is replacing James Franco as my future husband. Sorry, James, I hope you understand-- David is just too good to pass up.

Another crazy surprise I recently encountered? Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Biggest shock of the summer so far: it's actually good. The Pirates team out-did themselves in this one, whipping up the best installment in the series since the very first swash-buckling smash back in 2003. Hans Zimmer scores it again (in my opinion, his music makes these movies), giving that old familiar punchy tune a fresh new tone.
Sailing on sans Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, producers were taking a major gamble betting that Johnny Depp alone could take the helm-- but their faith in our favorite maritime outlaw definately paid off. Granted, he did get a hand from newcomers Ian McShane and Penelope Cruz, and from familiar faces like the pock-marked mug of Geoffrey Rush...but let's face it, this is Depp's movie. And it's a damn good one at that.

Monday, May 16, 2011


It's times like these that make me miss those days when I would be bummed out about missing just one weekend of movie watching. Another two weeks down the drain? I still can't believe my slacking has reached this level. And my alibi isn't exactly rock solid either: a few AP exams, some end-of-the year festivities...hardly anything more than what I've dealt with since day one. Somehow, though, I let my project take a back seat to everyday life- and that's not really ok with me. I set out to accomplish something with feverish resolve...and, sadly, have watched my ambitions slowly wane sans any effort to maintain them. What a waste.

But tonight, I'm all the way back (and sincerely hoping to keep it that way!) with a phenomenal picture off my list and my latest journey out to the movies. Get excited.

I restarted my challenge with Terms of Endearment(1983)-- a touching golden classic everyone should see. Seriously...I'm still drying my tears. It went from an edgy comedy to a heart-piercing, devastating drama so fast my head was spinning for a good ten minutes. How do they do that?? And why do they have to make it so damn sad??

Shirley Maclaine made this movie. She gives her quirky character so much personality that we can scarcely keep up with the woman. First she's classy and principled, then she's vulnerable and unbridled, and suddenly she's hysterical swiftly followed by a long bout of stoic? It's exhausting, trying to label this broad. She and Debra Winger, who's also fabulously dynamic in her turn, whip up some textbook on-screen chemistry-- but they only clicked for the cameras. Maclaine would later write that Winger was difficult and nearly unbearable to work with in the production of this film.

As for the men of Terms, Jack Nicholson takes the cake. This guy just can't be beat. He assumes a typical Nicholsonian role, portraying an old cocky womanizer with a reflexive fear of commitment like only he can. I found it difficult to take Jeff Daniels seriously because I only know him from his Dumb and Dumber days (despite his valiant efforts to be dramatic), and when John Lithgow opened his mouth all I heard was Lord Farquad from Shrek. I know, I know, I'm a terrible movie watcher.

Anyway. In a recent rare trip out to the movie theatre, I got blown away by Scream 4-- the surprisingly smart reboot of the classic 90's slasher franchise that essentially saved the genre from straight-to-video ruin. Fresh new faces and bold new turns reinvigorate the stale series, while the return of the original cast and numerous references to the original storyline keep the memory of what made these movies so great alive in our minds.
A brilliant opening sets the pace for this movie, letting us know that no one and nothing will be safe once it revs up, and a jaw-dropping finale that you won't see coming ties a neat little bow around a daring little movie. Still, its genius comes from its ability to laugh at itself, acknowledging its flaws and embracing its cliches. It's And while Neve Campbell's wide-eyed visage is always a treat, it's Emma Roberts who wows us here. She flaunts a frightening dark side here that's been kept hidden so far in her career under layers of innocent sweetness, which makes its debut all the more shocking and exciting. I'll tell you this right now-- she is definately one to watch. Now let's just hope they don't disgrace the franchise when they churn out Scream 5 in 2013.

Monday, May 2, 2011

One Foot in Heaven

It's been a crazy ride these past few days, and some absolutely amazing things have happened. I honestly feel like I've had one foot in heaven this weekend--the awesome just keeps rolling in. Never mind that I have an exam in T-minus four hours...I think pop culture holds its rightful place in my life.

First up: let's take a hit of Pot. I'm talking about Harry Potter-- or more specifically, the recently released Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2 trailer that has everyone buzzing. I'm guessing that most everyone has seen it, but on the off chance that you haven't, update yourself right here:

If that doesn't get you pumped for the summer premiere of one of the most epic series conclusions of all time....then you don't have a soul. Seriously-if you're not on the HP bandwagon yet, get on it. There's still time. But you do not want to miss out on the magic of this last installment (get it?? magic??). For once, the hype is right (can't say the same for Twilight, though).

Secondly, I have to touch on the Royal Wedding. I was beyond stoked for "the social event of the decade" because, in the words of Jon Stewart, "Prince William is marrying a muggle" (see that awesome HP segway there? I am hilarious)! I'm slightly ashamed to admit that I refused sleep all of Thursday night and instead had myself a very regal celebration: first, I caught the last half hour of The Queen (2006), which I'd seen before in theatres (but more on that later), then I cracked open my newly-purchased copy of The King's Speech (2010), and finally I flipped over to BBC's live coverage of the main event. Yes, I had quite the busy night (so busy I just had to skip school the next day...). Kate's dress was amazing, and the whole event was enough to convince me that fairy tales really do exist...I'm now actually hoping to marry the remaining prince-the ginger one-and move into Buckingham palace with the royal fam. Fingers crossed.
(Side note: The King's Speech gets better and better every time I see's really grown on me. It was especially exciting to watch it Thursday knowing that it's the story of Prince William's great-grandfather...and that it concluded on the same balcony that saw the end of the public portion of Will and Kate's perfect royal ceremony).

Next, I feel like I just have to throw in a mention of the Bin Laden capture because it's so epic and historical. And it happened just before I was about to pop in tonight's movie so I got delayed a couple hours due to intense news watch-age. Totally worth it. Go Team America.

Finally, we arrive at tonight's movie--and a major milestone in the BPC!! After conquering Babel (2006), I have officially completed my first entire year on this list...that is, I have seen every film nominated for Best Picture in 2006. Congratulations, me, it's about time I knocked out one of these!
Babel tried very hard to get somewhere special, but it set out in so many different directions that it ended up mostly just jogging in place. I get that it was trying to be an edgy, shocking exploration of the limitations of language and the buried similarities of the human experience all over the world-- and to a certain degree, it succeeds in this endeavor--but for the most part it's just dizzying, dramatic, and dripping with sadness. Still, the Moroccan scenery was breathtaking and certain players, like Brad Pitt, for example, managed to shine through the structural fog.

2006 was a pretty solid year for movies, if you ask me. With Babel bringing up the rear and Little Miss Sunshine sliding in at fourth place (I loved this charming little comedy but it can't hold a candle to the remaining three), the year's winner is tough to determine. I hated The Queen when I saw it (twice) in theatres five years ago- but I was 13 then, and this one is a little too grown-up to be appreciated by a seventh grader. Now, I'm absolutely fascinated by this picture and I'd love to give the whole thing another careful watch (since I only caught the end last week). Obviously Letters from Iwo Jima sucked me's certainly one of the best war movies of recent years. Still, I have to side with The Academy when I choose my winner for 2006: The Departed.

The Scorsese was sizzlin, the DiCaprio was dazzlin- and that Flogging Molly track was indescribably perfect. This is one of those movies you just can't stop thinking about even months after you've watched it- one whose twists and turns keep you reeling long after you've put the DVD back to bed. Love it.