Monday, July 9, 2007

AFI 100 List: Version 2.0

Well, last month the American Film Institute released its new-and-improved list of the 100 greatest American films ever made. I had the pleasure of watching the broadcast when the list was revealed with a group of film buffs, and I enjoyed participating in the running commentary on the merits of each film as it was revealed. I think everyone in the room had seen at least half of the films on the list, so when a film came up that a certain person had not seen, there were cries of indignation at the ignorance of said audience member ("What do you mean you haven't seen Singin' in the Rain!? You have to watch it!") I thought about compiling my thoughts in a series of top 5 lists as I am wont to do on this blog, but I did not want to limit myself to or force myself to fill 5 slots per category, so, my enumerated readers, here are my random thoughts on the list.

What the List Got Right
-I was pleased to see that two of the films I put on my top 5 list of films that should be included were included (The General - at #18! - and Sullivan's Travels).
-There are more silent films on this list than the previous list. The first one had 4, this one has 6, with The General (#18!) and Sunrise being the most notable additions.
-Some less-than-stellar films (From Here to Eternity, Giant), films that were important/big when they came out but have not withstood the test of time gracefully (All Quiet on the Western Front, Dances With Wolves), and films that are just plain overrated (Doctor Zhivago, Fargo) dropped off the list. Also of note, The Graduate dropped out of the top 10, a film I would put in all three categories. Here's hoping it drops out of the top 50 in 10 years.
-There was a nice selection of films new to the list from the new (The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring) to the old (The General, #18), and for them most part, I think the choices were good ones. Also, of the 23 films new to the list, I have not seen seven of them. Now I know what to add to the Netflix queue.

What the List Got Wrong
-Of the 23 films that dropped off the list, three are glaring mistakes: Fantasia, The Manchurian Candidate, and The Third Man.
-Chaplin: 3. Keaton: 1. Lloyd: 0. While I can't begrudge Chaplin his three entries, the uninitiated could look at the list and think that Charlie Chaplin was pretty much the only silent comedian, and while the inclusion of The General (at #18) does help to counter that erroneous assumption, the numerical disparity needs to be fixed. I would suggest dropping either City Lights or Modern Times, and adding either Sherlock Jr., Steamboat Bill, Jr., or Our Hospitality from Buster Keaton and at least one of The Kid Brother (my personal favorite), The Freshman, and Safety Last! from Harold Lloyd.
-Of the new films on the list, the one I'm most disappointed to see is Blade Runner. If you're going for a science fiction film from Ridley Scott, Alien would be a much better choice. I'm also not too wild about Titanic making the list, but that one has a lot more deserving aspects to it.
-While I liked seeing Vertigo crack the top 10, I was dismayed to see Raging Bull come in at number 4. I just can't appreciate Scorsese's exercises in unhappiness. I would replace Raging Bull with Star Wars in the top 10.

Some Random Thoughts
-Of the 18 comedies on the list (discounting musicals), only 7 were made in 1960 or later, with the most recent one being Tootsie from 1982. Compare that to 6 comedies from the 1930s alone, and 4 silent (or mostly silent) comedies. I thought it weird that there isn't a single Mel Brooks film on the list, when Blazing Saddles, The Producers (not the musical), and Young Frankenstein would each be worthy additions to the list. It's also interesting that the only two comedies to crack the top 20 were both silent films: City Lights and The General (at #18).
-The big winners of the list are The Searchers, which jumped up 85 spots from the last list to come in at #12, and The General, which didn't even make the last list, but this time around came in at #18. The big losers of the list (other than the ones that dropped off) are The African Queen, which dropped 48 spots to #65, and Ben-Hur, which dropped 28 points to #100.
-Overall I think the AFI 100 list is probably the best top 100 list out there. It does the best job covering the wide range of films that are out there, and most of them are pretty accessible, making it a wonderful primer for the beginning cinephile. It was a bittersweet moment when I finally saw A Streetcar Named Desire since it was the last film on the original list for me to see (discounting A Clockwork Orange; a film I refuse to see at this point in my life). I had the satisfaction of seeing the whole list, but then there was the uncertainty of where to go from there. Now with seven new films on the list I haven't seen, I can tackle the list all over again (though admittedly it's not a very big list to tackle).

Biggest Disappointment With the New List
Fantasia dropped off the list. This is a perfect example of animation as art, and one of the first group of music videos (if not the first). Also, there were only two animated films on the list, though the addition of Toy Story was a good one.

Biggest Improvement With the New List
The General made the list! And did I mention that not only did it make the list, but it made it into the top 20, coming in at #18?

You can see the whole list on

Thursday, June 21, 2007


More to come.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Top 3 (+2) 3s

Spider-Man 3. Ocean's 13. Shrek the Third. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End. We have a plethora of third movies available for viewing at your local cinema. And last year we had Mission: Impossible III and X-Men 3. With such an onslaught of third films coming out, it got me thinking about what some of the greatest third movies out there are. So, my enamoured readers, I am proud to present my top 3(+2) Third Films.

5. Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977)
Dean Jones and Don Knotts together. Two bumbling jewel thieves. Add to this two cars falling in love and you get one of the best examples of Disney film magic out there. Hands down my favorite of the four Herbie movies.

4. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
I know some will point out that this is actually a stand-alone film as Clint Eastwood plays three separate characters in A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More, and this one, but even if that is the case, they still form a trilogy of tone and style. And The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly has that in spades.

3. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
While it may not be as action packed as Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Last Crusade has more heart and a deeper emotional core. And it's still cool when Donovan ages 100 years in about 10 seconds, and the grail knight says, "He chose, poorly."

2. Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
Peter Jackson finishes off his magnificent trilogy in grand fashion with some of the greatest epic battle sequences ever captured on film. But even though some of the biggest moments of spectacle are in this film, there is still plenty of room for some of the heaviest emotional scenes in the film.

1. Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983)
This was my favorite film as a kid, and to some extent it is still my favorite of the Star Wars films. I am still amazed at h0w skillfully it is able to cut between the space battle, the Ewoks vs. the storm troopers, Han and Leia's attempts to bring down the shield, and Luke's final confrontation with Darth Vader in the thrilling final climactic battle sequence.

Three more third films of note:
Monkey Business (1931) - The third Marx Brothers film.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004) - The third Harry Potter film.
The Third Man (1949) - Has "Third" in the title.

Now it's time to prepare for The Bourne Ultimatum.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Top 5 Animal Movies

So the two most recent movies I've watched were Reservoir Dogs and Junebug, and about the only thing they have in common is they both have animals in the title. So it got me thinking about what the best films are with an animal in the title. So without further ado, I give you, my inexorable readers, the top five films of all time with animals in the title. In chronological order.

Duck Soup (1933)
In the Marx Brothers' best film, the plot serves solely to string all the madcap comedy scenes together. And the laughs refuse to stop. Just about the only downside is that the brothers characters don't work together as they do in Monkey Business (which could also qualify for this list) and A Night at the Opera. There are no ducks featured in the film other than behind the opening credits.

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
While Gregory Peck's performance usually gets the spotlight when dealing with the film, the film is actually the story of a little girl who learns to look at the world through new eyes. I suppose I should also mention the stirring score by Elmer Bernstein, with none other than John Williams playing piano. While no mockingbirds appear on screen, they are used as an illustration in one of Atticus' lessons to Scout.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
Cruelty to cats, people who aren't dead yet, and Arthur's complete inability to get anyone to cooperate are just some of the recurring themes in this wild send-up of the Arthurian legends. It is immensely quotable, and is the only film I can think of where people not only will quote lines from the film, but will often quote whole scenes. But just to set the record straight, you cannot be a Monty Python fan if you have only seen this film. There are no snakes, pythons or otherwise, on screen, and none are discussed in dialog.

Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
This is a heart wrenching story of a brother and sister who try to survive the bombings in Japan during WWII. The animation is fabulous, and I was enamoured with the believable way in which everyone moved (especially the sister). Not for the faint of heart, this is one of the most emotionally devastating films I have ever seen. In one scene the characters put some fireflies in a jar and use the light to light up their cave.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)
I was worried that the film would completely botch one of my favorite books by misinterpreting Lewis's themes, making it too kiddie, making it too gritty and realistic (in the vein of Lord of the Rings), or even worse, all three. So I was pleased when about 95% of my very high expectations were met. Not only is the lion in the title a main character, he's Jesus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Top 5 Robots of All Time

Well it's been a while since my last post and a while since my last top 5 list, so I decided to grace you, my valuable readers, with my picks for the best robots ever created from any medium. In order from great to amazingly awesome.

5. KITT from Knight Rider
So he's not your traditional robot, but he is an artificial intelligence inside a mobile metallic structure, so that's close enough for me. (Besides, every top 5 list should have one unorthodox choice in it.) The suave voice coupled with the sleek black exterior make for one very cool cat. And it doesn't hurt that he could also turbo jump over just about anything.

4. Gir from Invader Zim
He is wonderfully inept, and the best part of the show. Not only is he immensely quotable ("I need them or my head will explode. It does that some times.") he also serves to keep the show from getting too dark and twisted (though it does come pretty close when he's not around).

3. Marvin the Paranoid Android from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
Eternally depressed and pessimistic, Marvin brings a laugh to every page he's featured on. You would think someone with a brain the size of a planet would find something to be happy about or find something more useful to do than park spaceships, but I guess that wouldn't be nearly as funny.

2. R2-D2 from Star Wars
The guy is a walking (well, rolling) Swiss army knife. Add to that his ability to communicate a wide range of emotions through beeps and squeals and you have the most endearing character in the Star Wars saga. And if you haven't, check out the real story behind his rise to fame in R2-D2: Beneath the Dome.

1. Tom Servo from Mystery Science Theater 3000
He is wonderfully expressive despite having inarticulate arms and no eyes. He has a fine singing voice. He looks good in a dress. He can plug hull breaches just by sitting on them. And most importantly of all, he makes fun of really bad movies. He's so awesome, it's no wonder that he is the one that gets to be carried into the theater while that other one has to walk in on his own.

Of course the list wouldn't be complete without a couple honorable mentions, so here they are:
The Robot from Metropolis - One of the first robots captured on film, and a wonderfully creepy one at that.
The Transformers - I can't pick one over all the others, but it's hard to deny the coolness of something that is both a robot and a car.
G2-9T from Star Tours - Listening to this guy while standing in line is almost better than the ride itself. Almost.

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Sherida Made Me Do It

I got tagged by Sherida when she did this silly survey thingy, so I think that means I have to fill it out as well. But it doesn't mean I have to cooperate.

A - Available/Single? Well I am single, but to say I'm available is to imply I'm actively searching with a "this space for rent" sign hanging under my arm which is not the message I wish to convey at this current moment in time.

B - Best Friend? His first name is Josh, I just haven't decided what his last name is yet.

C - Cake or Pie? I'm rather fond of pi. Whenever dumb surveys ask me to pick a number, I always go with pi. It's also a pretty good movie.

D - Drink of Choice? Milk.

E - Essential Item You Use Everyday? Oxygen.

F - Favorite Color? Navy blue.

G - Gummy Bears or Worms? Well, Gummy Bears was a fun TV show, but I think I would find it silly now that I'm older. On the flipside, Worms is a very fun game, and it's hard not to like a game with weapons such as the super sheep, old woman, priceless Ming vase, and of course, the holy hand grenade. I'm going with Worms.

H - Hometown? Lincoln, IL, Kokomo, IN, Madang, PNG, Duncanville, TX. Take your pick.

I - Indulgence? I don't believe in indulgences. You cannot buy grace.

J - January or February? It's always bugged me the way February is spelled, so I'll go with January.

K - Kids & Their Names? I don't have any goats.

L - Life Is Incomplete Without? Death and Taxes.

M - Marriage Date? November 31.

N - Number Of Siblings? 2.

O - Oranges or Apples? You want me to compare colors to computers? Why don't I just get an orange Apple computer and have the best of both worlds?

P - Phobias/Fears? Phobophobia.

Q - Favorite Quote? You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but please don't pick your friend's nose.

R - Reason to Smile? A smile is an emotional response. Reason has nothing to do with it.

S - Season? Pepper or cinnamon.

T - Tag Three People? Abraham Lincoln, Steven Spielberg, Karl Gambolputty de von Ausfernschpledenschlittercrasscrenbonfriediggerdingledangledongledunglebursteinvonknackerthrasherapplebangerhorowitzticolensicgranderknottyspelltinklegrandlichgrumblemeyerspelterwasserkurstlichhimbleeisenbahnwagengutenabendbitteeinnurnburgerbratwustlegerspurtenmitzweimacheluberhundsfutgumberaberschonendankerkalbsfleischmittleraucher von Hautkopft of Ulm

U - Unknown Fact About Me? If I tell you, it won't be unknown now will it?

V - Vegetables You Don't Like? Jr. Asparagus. His voice is annoyingly high, and he's way too sensitive when it is suggested he is wearing cheese on his head.

W - Worst Habit? Misinterpreting questions.

X - X-rays You've Had? The dentist told me he took x-rays of my teeth, but I have to take his word for it.

Y - Your Favorite Food? Pure, unadulterated dark chocolate

Z - Zodiac Sign? Watch for falling rocks.

There we go. I have discharged my duties to the worst of my abilities.

Saturday, April 7, 2007

Nietschze Saturday

I was trying to come up with an appropriate post for Nietschze Saturday, and nothing seemed appropriate. So let me just say that even though you may not be seeking Zarathustra, it doesn't mean Zarathustra is not seeking you. So have a contemplative Nietschze Saturday.

Monday, April 2, 2007

5 Films to Avoid

In conjunction with my post from yesterday, I would like to submit to you, my benevolent readers, five films from the 50s and 60s that you should avoid at all costs. They are in order from horrible to unimaginable slop.

The Starfighters (1964)
I think there's a story floating around in here, but most of the film consists of stock footage of Air Force maneuvers intercut with unbelievably dull scenes of people talking. I'm not sure if it's supposed to be a film made by the Air Force for propaganda purposes, or if someone just came across a vault full of Air Force stock footage and decided to make a movie around it. Oh, and there is an endless succession of shots of planes refueling in midair (in fact it might even be the same footage Kubrick used for the opening of Dr. Strangelove).

Santa Claus (1959)
This film is incredibly painful to watch. I don't know what the writers were smoking when they thought this one up, but the Santa Claus featured in this movie bears no resemblance to the Santa Claus that I keep hearing stories about. The fact that he has child labor from all over the world is disturbing, and his toy wind-up reindeer are frightening enough to give even me nightmares, let alone unsuspecting children. And who thought it would be a good idea to cast Satan as Santa Claus' nemesis?

The Robot vs. the Aztec Mummy (1958)
This is classic B-movie fare. The Aztec Mummy doesn't look scary in the slightest, and the Robot from the title doesn't show up until the end. It's a good thing too, the costume was so laughable that I would have been damaged for life with more prolonged exposure to it. There is a plot (I think) but it mostly consists of an archaeologist or something reviewing what already happened to a room full of people that were all there when it all happened the first time around. It's as if the director had all these scenes, but had no way to tie them all together, so he had his main character expound to his compatriots to fill in the gaps. I think there's a bad guy in it as well. Of course what I find the most astounding is that it still occasionally screens at the Egyptian Theater (how is that for a double bill with Lawrence of Arabia?).

Red Zone Cuba (1966)
If you are able to overlook the bad acting, the bad screenplay, the poor casting, the repetitious editing, the lousy characters, the cheesy sets, the awful Fidel Castro impersonator, the theme song sung by John Carradine, and the fact that you have no idea WHAT is going on, it is still a bad movie. Written, directed, and produced by Colman Francis, it is part of the unholy trinity of Colman Francis films which also include Skydivers (1963) and The Beast of Yucca Flats (1961), which lost its soundtrack in post, so has a stupid narrator telling the audience all about what is going on.

"Manos," the Hands of Fate (1966)
This is the worst movie ever made, and so painful to watch, I will never forget the pain that it caused me. It is 100% likable character free, and the "shocking" ending is just dumb. It is supposed to be incredibly frightening, but the only things that frightened me with this movie were Torgo's knees (you know what I'm talking about if you've seen it) and the fact that I may make something as bad as this, and not recognize its horrendousness before it is unleashed on an unwitting public. Three of the actors committed suicide shortly after the movie ended shooting. Coincidence? I think not. I guess this is what should be expected from a manure salesman.

If you feel the need to visit any of these films, please do yourself a favor and watch it with three of the following: Joel Robinson, Mike Nelson, Tom Servo, or Crow T. Robot.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Five Overlooked Films

In the interest of educating you, my beloved readers, I have provided five films of note for your consideration from the 50s and 60s that while not often counted among the ranks of the great films of their era, have enough merit within them to warrant consideration of inclusion within the pantheon of great films. (In order from fifth to first best.)

The Starfighters (1964)
This is the heart wrenching story of a young Air Force fighter pilot who has to prove himself to his father who is both a congressman and a decorated Air Force pilot in his own right. This in and of itself would make for a wonderful film, but we are also treated to a glimpse into the daily lives of Air Force pilots and the rigorous training they have to endure to become the best of the best. As a added bonus, the footage of the pilots doing their maneuvers features actual Air Force jets in the performance of their duties; to the best of my knowledge no trickery with models is used.

Santa Claus (1959)
This whimsical tale from Mexico is a reimagining of the classic tales of Santa Claus. All the contraptions in Santa's headquarters (it's much too spacious and elaborate simply to be called a "workshop") look like giant toys. It also works as a morality tale as we follow the trials of little Lupita, who must struggle against the temptations of evil to make the right decisions. Add to that cleverly worked in characters from mythology, and what results is a delightful film to be enjoyed by the whole family.

La Momia azteca contra el robot humano (1958)
Another film from Mexico, this supernatural thriller examines the nature of memory and how our memories can be used against us, as well as the nature of humanity in general. It's also told out of linear fashion, which keeps the audience on its toes.

Night Train to Mundo Fine (1966)
Writer-director Coleman Francis stars as an escaped convict who tries his best to become a respectable citizen, but whose past refuses to give him up. This tragic antihero tries to gain respectability by joining the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, and when that fails, tries to be a miner. But even though his intentions are good, he is forced to continually break the law, just to keep himself alive, culminating in a tragic conclusion. Also of note are Coleman Francis' other two films: Fiend from Half Moon Bay (1963) and Girl Madness (1961) which feature similar themes of an outsider's inability to fit in with mainstream society.

The Lodge of Sins (1966)
This film is a cautionary tale, examining what happens when one family comes too close to the flame of evil and gets burned. What makes the film even more terrifying is that not even the young daughter or her small dog are immune to the influences of evil, and are pulled in just as deeply as her parents are. Special note must be made to writer-director Harold P. Warren, who refuses to cut away from the horrors on screen, but lets the camera linger, forcing the audience to take in the full impact the horrors present. And at the conclusion of the film, when the cycle starts all over again, it is both shocking and yet the pitch-perfect end to the film. Sadly, the film was not well received on its initial run, which deprived the world of any further gems from Warren.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The Baseball Season Cometh

Baseball is about the only professional sport I actually follow, and with the 2007 season starting up in about a week I thought I would impart to you, my honored readers, a couple of the things I'm doing to get myself excited about the coming season.

Spring Training
I am a Texas Rangers fan, but living in Southern California severely limits the number of Ranger games I can watch. But the Rangers' spring training facility is in Surprise, AZ, a modest 5 hour drive from the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. So March 9 found my roommate Zhitnik and I headed for Surprise to catch a pseudo double header at Surprise Stadium. The first game was Rangers vs. Cubs, and the Rangers won. The second game was a couple hours after the end of the first game and featured the Angels against the Royals. The Angels won. Since Zhitnik is an Angels fan, it was nice that both out teams won.
The atmosphere was much more laid back than with a regular season game. And yet, we were surrounded by serious baseball fans instead of the often ambivalent people you get in regular season games who are there just for the experience of taking in a game, but don't really care about the players or the outcome. Also, things felt more intimate due to the stadium being much smaller than a major league baseball park. We opted to pay through the nose to get the best possible seats, and ended up paying $20 per ticket for seats 3 rows behind home plate and 4 rows behind the Angels' dugout. If there are any baseball fans among my loyal readership, I urge them to consider taking a trip out to spring training. There are seven different venues to choose from in the Phoenix area alone, which allows for the serious baseball fan to catch just about half of the Major League Baseball teams over a relatively short period of time. Though we only caught two games, it is something that we both really enjoyed, and are already planning to do it again next year (and maybe bring a bigger group with us).
P.S. Special thanks goes out to Graf Spee for letting us crash on his couch so we didn't have to fork over money for a hotel.

Fantasy Baseball
I did online fantasy baseball last year for the first time and really enjoyed it. So this year I wanted to do it again, and maybe have another team in a different league as well. Zhitnik was looking to start some fantasy Baseball In Our Local Area (kudos to Lemming for coming up with the title) so I joined up in that league. We were looking at all the different statistics we could track, and some of them were absolutely ridiculous due either to their excessive frequency (like put outs) or incredible scarcity (like balks and shutouts) or their total randomness that often has very little to do with the actual player involved (like batters getting hit). After having a good laugh at these stats, we got the brilliant (misguided? absurd?) idea of creating a league that only keeps track of the lame statistics. Zarphnogg was kind enough to set it up, and of course I joined. So now I have three fantasy teams to play with, and at least one of them should do pretty well (though I'm hoping my best performance doesn't come from the team in the lame stats league).

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Obligitory Oscar Post

Since half my posts have been movie themed, I figured I was obligated to foist my opinions of the evening on you, my dear readers. So without further ado, here are a few highlights and lowlights of the evening.

The Highlights:
Ellen Degeneres was wonderfully quirky and light-hearted as this year's host, and I appreciated the lack of political jokes, especially since it could have ended up being a sustained rant against the Bush administration.
I liked that the awards were spread out over several films, which meant that pretty much every major film went home with at least one Oscar.
I liked the strong showing for Pan's Labyrinth, and I got a kick out of it winning the first two awards of the evening (though why couldn't it have won best foreign language film?).
While I'm not much of a fan on dancers at the Oscars, I loved the movie silhouettes, with Snakes on a Plane being my favorite one.
Though I'm not much of a fan of his, I'm glad Martin Scorsese finally has his Oscar. Now people will maybe stop griping all the time about how he's never won one. Also, I'm rather pleased that it was for one of the two films of his that I actually liked.

The Lowlights:
A glorified powerpoint presentation has no business winning an Oscar, and yet An Inconvenient Truth managed to win two. I was already upset that the five documentaries nominated for best documentary were all Important films (where was the nomination for the highly enjoyable Wordplay?) but I thought the academy would at least go for one that actually had a story. I guess not.
Also, the song that won best song was rather pitiful, and especially when it was up against the wonderfully bittersweet "Our Town" from Cars and three show-stopping numbers from Dreamgirls, it was the weakest of the lot.
And while we're on the subject of music, Babel had no business winning for best score, especially since there was hardly any music in the film at all.
Though I haven't seen Happy Feet yet, so I can't say for sure, I'm rather miffed that it won best animated feature over Cars (no film with the title of Happy Feet should ever be considered for a major award).

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Top 5 John Williams Themes

In honor of John Williams 75th birthday today I have decided to grace you with my five favorite John Williams themes. In the interest of variety, I have decided to discount any of the Star Wars themes since they are already widely considered to be his best (or at least most recognizable) work. Also, I would probably end up with at least three entries devoted to Star Wars: the Star Wars Theme, The Imperial March, and Duel of the Fates. So without further ado, here are my picks for my 5 favorite John Williams themes other than Star Wars (in reverse chronological order).

Hymn to the Fallen from Saving Private Ryan (1998)
I like the majestic feel of the piece, the snare drums at the beginning, and it's a lot of fun to sing along with the "Ahhs" from the choir.

Parade of the Slave Children from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
This theme is a whole lot of fun. It's somewhat ironic that what may be the best theme from the Indiana Jones trilogy is from the worst of the three movies.

The Raiders March from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
The Raiders March is the sound of high adventure. It's also great to hear live with a full orchestra.

March from 1941 (1979)
The theme is both whimsical and exciting and has a nice rhythm section. My foot refuses to stop tapping every time I hear this piece. Too bad the movie wasn't nearly as good as its theme. I wish I could hear it live.

Main Theme from Superman (1978)
My first non-Spielberg entry. And I was trying for variety. This theme probably wouldn't have made the list a year ago, but then I watched Superman Returns in the theater with it playing quite loud during the opening credits with a set of good speakers, and it ended up being one of my most memorable movie-going experiences. It's also good live.

And for those of you who are eagerly awaiting the next Improbable Moment of the Week, it's coming.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Top 5 AFI 100 Omissions

The American Film Institute is redoing its top 100 list for its 10 anniversary, so in response to this announcement, I thought I would provide my top 5 films that should have made the original list, but didn't.

The General (1927)
Buster Keaton's silent masterpiece is the best silent film ever made in my opinion. It has just about anything you could ask for in a film: hilarious comedy, thrilling action, tender romance, and a really cool train crash. Even though the bulk of the film is a train chase, the pace never slows and Keaton never repeats himself.

Sullivan's Travels (1941)
A Hollywood director sets out to find out how the Real Man lives in order to make a Steinbeckesque film on the suffering of humanity, but instead learns that most people just want a good laugh. The film is a riot all the way through, and yet there is truth to be found in it as well. I just wish some of the great directors of the 1970s had watched this film a few more times; maybe then we wouldn't have had quite so many depressing films from the 70s.

The Great Escape (1963)
Based on the true story of a large-scale prison break from a Nazi POW camp, The Great Escape takes its time building up to the climactic breakout, going into detail about all the different things that have to go just right in order for the plan to succeed. The film sports an A-list cast, headed by Steve McQueen in his greatest role. While the sobering end is shocking, it is in no way forced.

The Sting (1973)
I love the twists and turns the story takes, and it is great fun showing it to people who have not seen it yet. Never before or since has a con been as much fun to pull off. If you haven't seen this film yet, I would be more than willing to show it to you.

The Princess Bride (1987)
Few films have as many things going for them as this film does: a great story, a clever screenplay, quotable dialog, memorable characters, hilarious jokes, thrilling action, a beautiful love story, and the greatest sword fight ever filmed. I can watch this film over and over, and still it is entertaining. I fully expect this film to make the AFI 100 list at some point, but I may have to wait 20 years or so for it to happen.

Since I'm adding 5 films to the AFI 100 list, I should take five films off, so without much thought on my part, here are the five films that must surrender their spots: The Searchers (1956), Easy Rider (1969), Midnight Cowboy (1969), Goodfellas (1990), and Unforgiven (1992).

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Top 5 Mystery Science Theater 3000 Episodes

Well I promised random top 5 lists in this blog so I figure I ought to make good on that threat. So in honor of them helping me feel less miserable (Les Miserables?) while I was sick earlier this week, I give you my five favorite outings from Joel, Mike, Tom, and Crow (in chronological order).

Cave Dwellers (301)
It's kind of funny when a film has as large a cast as this one, and yet only four characters have any real amount of dialog. Favorite moments include Joel and the Bots (J&TB) reenacting the jerky, slow motion opening credits, berating the invading soldiers for neglecting to use the stair rails, and the constant invitations to Thong (Dong? Fong?) to say something.

Gamera vs. Guiron (312)
This has to be the silliest premise of all the Gamera films, and has one of the worst dubs of any film that I have encountered; the pace is halting and whoever did the translation had a rudimentary grasp of English at best. Of course this adds up to quite an enjoyable viewing experience, especially with J&TB along for the ride. Favorite moments include Tom mimicking the awkward wording of the dialog, Crow's string of appendage puns as Gaos is cut to pieces, the bicycle song, and the "Hello" "Thank you" scene, which must be seen to be fully appreciated.

War of the Colossal Beast - with short Mr. B. Natural (319)
The amazingly ill-conceived plot accompanied by J&TB's relentless and hilarious jabs make Mr. B. Natural the favorite short of so many people (including myself) and would be enough to put this episode on any top 5 list even without the quite funny War of the Colossal Beast. Favorite moments include Mr. B's introduction, Buzz's first meeting with Mr. B. with J&TB supplying what Buzz really should be saying, and Glen's slide show.

Angels' Revenge (622)
For the life of me I can't figure out what the filmmakers were trying to do with this picture. If it's supposed to be a feminist film, why are the ladies so stupid? If it's supposed to be an action film, why the cartoonish sound effects in the fight scenes? And that does not even begin to delve into the inconsistencies that run rampant in this film. Jim Backus should have run away from this film as fast as he could (and you'll agree once you see his soup scene). Favorite moments include every time Michelle Wilson is introduced ("Hey, she sucks!"), every time M&TB comment on our crew of heroines lack of mental prowess, and the complete randomness of the host segments.

Jack Frost (813)
Maybe I don't get the film because I'm not Russian, but this Russian fairy tale has very little in the way of a cohesive plot, but that quite often makes for better riffing from M&TB. There does seem to be some effort on the part of the filmmakers to create a fairy tale world visually, which also helps this film stand out as one of the more colorful MST3K episodes. Favorite moments include all the Tolkien references, a very clever Biblical reference, and Mike Nelson IS Lord of the Dance!

Friday, January 19, 2007

Improbable Moment of the Week IV

I already speak English, what else is there?

Walid is the head (of some sort) of a Muslim-American advocacy group, and yet does not know even a smattering of Arabic? The Qur'an is in Arabic. He probably has to deal with people every day whose first language is Arabic and may not speak English very well. He should at least be able to say phrases like "Hello," "Where's the Gent's?" and "My hat is brown." But it really doesn't matter that he doesn't know Arabic, after all a random person at CTU does.

Improbable Moment of the Week III

I'm a criminal mastermind, so I use rookies on a tight schedule

So here we have Fayed who is able to both acquire a low-grade nuclear weapon and engineer a prisoner snatch, so who does he send to pick up a vital component to his mission of terror? A rookie. What is the backup plan? There isn't one. What is the window of opportunity? A couple hours. Even assuming the transaction goes off without a hitch, the rookie could still get caught in traffic and miss the rendesvous. Why not have everything ready for the weapons expert a day in advance? I think I'm thinking about the logic of the show too much again.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Improbable Moment of the Week II

Deleting a database in 60 seconds or less

Yes, I know, this is the second one of the day, but FOX aired two episodes on Sunday, so I had to do one per episode. Expect two more after Monday night's two episodes. There is no way Sandra Palmer could delete an entire database of names in the amount of time she did. It would take me that long just to find the database. Even if they had top-of-the-line equipment at the facility (which is highly doubtful) it would still take several minutes for the information to be deleted and "shredded." And really, her actions are rather futile considering there would be backup systems, archives, a duplicate copy at the Washington DC office, not to mention that a large amount of the information is probably available in hard copy form in a bunch of filing cabinets in the back room.

Improbable Moment of the Week

In honor of the new season of 24 starting up, I have decided to institute the Improbable Moment of the Week. Each week I will document the improbable moment in the episode that either I find most improbable or is most worthy of note. We'll see how long it lasts. So without further ado, the first Improbable Moment of the Week is:

Wayne Palmer is president of the USA

Sure I could go on about how Jack shouldn't even be functional, and the kicking in of a front door in an upper-middle class neighborhood with one kick rather bugged me, but how Wayne Palmer was able to swing over 50% of the electoral vote to become the most powerful man in the world (other than Jack) is beyond me. This guy has scandal in his background that ruined his brother's bid for reelection; there is no way he would be stupid enough to run for office with this in his past. Add to that the fact that he is a weak, non compelling character, and I fail to see how the man could get enough votes. Secretary Heller would have been a much more plausible choice for the presidency.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I have a blog. Now what?

For my first post on my brand new blog, I suppose I should give an outline of what I expect this blog to be. That way a year from now I can look back at this post and laugh at myself at how naive I was while writing this post. My guess is that the blog will mostly consist of my musings about the random movies I've seen, interspersed with the occasional top 5 list. Don't expect too much ranting about my personal life. The basic plan with the blog is to force me to write more since I did virtually no writing all of last year.

Beware the Rabid Chickens!