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!