Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part X: 10-1

Here it is folks, just in time for New Years, my top 10 movies of all time. If you haven't seen them already, then go out and watch them any way you can.

10. Singin' in the Rain 1952
Directors: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelley
Starring: Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds, Jean Hagen
Synopsis: A silent film star falls in love with a talented fan as Hollywood makes the transition to talkies.
Review: Quite simply the best musical ever filmed with great song and dance numbers across the board, a good sense of humour that pokes fun at Hollywood, and terrific performances from it's four leads. It's to forget songs like "Make 'em Laugh", "Good Morning", and of course the title song which most everybody has heard regardless of whether or not they're seen the movie. It's also a delicious satire of the Hollywood studio system and it's desperate struggle to keep up with the new technology with much of the humour coming from Don Lockwood's (Kelly) primadonna "love interest", Lina Lamont (Hagen), and his ever-optimistic and acrobatic best friend, Cosmo Brown (O'Connor). It's a clever film with creative and memorable musical numbers, plenty of laughs, and Gene Kelley showing off his smooth moves which all make for a fun-filled couple of hours.

9. The Bridge on the River Kwai 1957
Director: David Lean
Starring: Alec Guiness, William Holden, Sessue Hayakawa
Synopsis: The Japanese force some POWs to construct a bridge in poor conditions during WWII while the allies endeavor to destroy it.
Review: Easily my favourite war movie despite the fact that it doesn't feature a single battle. It has a great opening with a ragged squad of POWs whistling the "Colonel Boogie March," as they are herded into the prison camp and it's only gets better from there right up to and including the maddening finale. Holden does a fine job as the American escapee from the prison camp and is a cool character is his own right, but it's the interactions between Col. Nicholson (Guiness), and Col. Saito (Hayakawa) that really make the movie. They start off as enemies, but end up working together in an unusual fashion as they drive one another insane. They're both well developed characters and Lean doesn't make it clear as to who is the hero or who is the villain. The acting is spot on, the plot is pretty intense, and the commentary the film provides on honour in war is insightful though it may not be as heavy on action as some people might like (Damian!).

8. The Big Lebowski 1998
Directors: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Jeff Bridges, John Goodman
Synopsis: A laid back hippie and his loudmouth conservative friend get embroiled in a kidnapping.
Review: The plot to this film is twisted and insane, but by the end you'll realize that the story doesn't matter all that much and that it's really about the relationship between Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski (Bridges) and his best friend Walter (Goodman). These two form the greatest on-screen duo I've ever seen that put even the most famous of romantic leads to shame thanks to sharp writing and stellar performances from Bridges and Goodman who fit into their respective roles so easily it almost seems like they're not acting at all. They're hilarious together and I can't pick a favourite between them as they function as a perfect whole. There's also a talented supporting cast of unusual characters that includes Steve Buscemi, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Julianne Moore. It's a delightfully mad and incredibly quotable film that I consider to be the greatest of the Coen bros' films.

7. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly 1966
Director: Segio Leone
Starring: Eli Wallach, Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef
Synopsis: Three gunslingers work with and against each other in search of hidden gold.
Review: The title of this film is a tad misleading as all of the characters are fairly amoral. At best they are slightly different shades of gray. They are all violent, greedy men who have no qualms with killing, torturing, or backstabbing. Each is an interesting and cool character in their own right with Eastwood normally receiving top billing, but it's Wallach as "the Ugly" who steals the show. He plays his brash and greasy character with relish and instantly likable despite the bandito's violent nature. There are also many great scenes and set pieces such as the civil war battle culminating with a bridge blowing up, the forced march through the desert, a torture scene set to the violin, and of course the epic standoff finale. It's also worth mentioning the brilliant score from Ennio Moriconne which has become the music that plays in my head whenever I think of Westerns. The entire film is slick, stylish, and bloody and it's easy to see how Leone has influenced modern day directors such as Quentin Tarantino with his classic spaghetti westerns.

6. Network 1976
Director: Sidney Lumet
Starring: William Holden, Peter Finch, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall
Synopsis: Executives at a television network stoop to new lows for higher ratings.
Review: I consider this to be the best written movie I've ever seen, though it may not be as quotable as Casablanca or The Godfather. Whenever a character opens their mouths they always seem to have something smart or meaningful to say without sounding unnatural or preachy. Sometimes, when you think about it, they sound insane, but that's the whole point to this movie. Virtually every character goes mad as they turn the evening news into a freaskshow. With the possible exception of The Daily Show, you'd be hard pressed to find a more damning condemnation of the media and it's tendencies towards sensationalism. The issues dealt with in the movie are as relevant as ever today, if not more so, and it's easy to draw comparisons between Howard Beale and Glenn Beck (or just Fox News as a whole).

5. The Usual Suspects 1995
Director: Bryan Singer
Starring: Kevin Spacey, Gabriel Byrne
Synopsis: The only survivor of a group of criminals gives his account of how they got together, pulled off some heists, and ultimately died.
Review: On one level this is a solid crime thriller where you become involved, just as much as the detectives in the film, in solving the mystery of what happened on that boat, how they got there, and who is Keyser Soze. On another level, this is story about storytelling and truth. Most of the film is told through flashback from the perspective of "Verbal" Kint (Spacey) who puts his own filter on events. But he sucks you in so deep that you don't see this filter until the very end, and though the mystery of Keyser Soze is answered, everything else that's been told to us is called into question and nothing is certain. This extra layer gives the film an extra oomph that sets it apart from other films of the same genre and turns it into one of the slickest, and smartest films ever made, supported by a stand-out performance from Spacey and a great ending.

4. Monty Python and the Holy Grail 1975
Directors: Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones
Starring: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Terry Gilliam, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
Synopsis: King Arthur and his knights seek out the Holy Grail.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's a link to that review.

3. The Godfather Parts I & II 1972/1974
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Al Pacino, James Caan, Marlon Brando, John Cazale, Robert Duvall
Synopsis: Michael Corleone takes over his father's crime family and rises to power.
Review: Calling these films great gangster flicks would be doing them a great disservice, as there's much more to these movies than just crime and violence. They deal with notions of justice, the American dream, and power amoung many other themes, but when it comes down to it, The Godfather is really all about family. The relationships between Michael (Pacino), his father (Brando), his wives, and his siblings (and later his children) are the glue which hold the films together, from which all the other themes flow, and which define the actions and decisions all the characters take. It's a dark and moving portrait that Coppola paints, and yes it is bloody. There are so many great lines that you'd have to recite at least half the movie to get them all in, the cast is phenomenal, the direction superb, and not a scene goes by where I don't say to myself, "Oh, my god! I love this scene!" Part III may be lacking, but the first two jointly form a cinematic masterpiece.

2. Lord of the Rings Trilogy 2001-2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellan, Viggo Mortenson
Synopsis: Elves, humans, dwarves, and hobbits must work together to defeat Sauron and his armies and destroy the One Ring.
Review: Jackson took on a mighty tall order when he decided to make Lord of the Rings, but boy did he deliver. Through creative use of special effects, make-up, set design, costumes, miniatures, and the New Zealand landscape he makes Middle-Earth come to life in ways that staggers the imagination. Of course it's more than just something pretty to look at. It features the most beautiful musical score in recent memory courtesy of Howard Shore, all of the major characters are interesting with a level of depth not often seen in the high fantasy genre and are played by an all around terrific cast, everything about the film is epic in scope, and it grapples with themes that goes beyond good versus evil. There are obvious themes such as the subtle corrupting influence of power, but there are also some which aren't quite as noticeable such as friendship which I feel plays an important and meaningful role especially between Sam (Sean Astin) and Frodo (Wood). Unfortunately most people have decided to joke about how gay they seem, but fuck that noise. I wish friendships were more like that. The world would be a much nicer and easier place to live in. Anyway, great films. Smeagol/Gollum is awesome.

1. Dr. Strangelove 1963
Director: Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott
Synopsis: Politicians and generals scramble to avert nuclear armageddon.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's a link to that review.

Here are some movies that I either forgot about, didn't quite make the cut, or that I saw after I made the list that I feel deserve an honourable mention: Office Space, Pleasantville, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Inglorious Basterds, Toy Story, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The Last Picture Show, Shoot the Piano Player, Modern Times, Boogie Nights, Roman Holiday, The 39 Steps, American Beauty, The Apartment.

There you have it. My top 101 movies. It took a while to get through, but I enjoyed making it. If you think that some movies shouldn't be on the list that are, or should be on the list but aren't, or that some movies should be higher or lower on the list then leave a comment and maybe I'll give you some bonus points.

The Story of Justin, The Littlest Penis

Here's a very special story I wrote for a very special friend indeed. Enjoy.

Gather round children and hear my wondrous tale,
About the tiniest penis on any scale.

Justin was his name, or so it goes,
And try as he might, he just couldn’t grow.

He’d stand in front of his mirror as tall as he could,
But no amount of stretching did him any good.

Justin was just so miniscule you see,
That he was hardly larger than a bee.

His shortcomings caused him much distress,
And his attempts to compensate met with little success.

Behind guns and fast cars, he sought to hide,
But everyone saw through his pathetic disguise.

“Look at that Justin!” shouted Richard the Meany,
“He is nothing more than a teeny weeny!”

The twins, Woody and Willy weren’t any more polite,
As they mercilessly mocked his pitiful height.

“My lord, how that Justin is so terribly small,
He’s barely bigger than one of my balls.”

“Speaking of balls, let’s use him for soccer,
And then once we’re done we’ll shove him in a locker.”

After this torture and cruel abuse,
Justin ran to his only friend John with his blues.

“I hate being small, I want to be massive,
I’m tired of being tiny and passive!”

“Oh, I wouldn’t worry,” said John,
“We must take what we’re given, and carry on.”

“Easy for you to say, you have no problems with size,
When people see you, they can’t believe their eyes.”

“Everybody is either envious or afraid,
Of your impressively gigantic blade.”

“That may be so, but my advice still holds true,
You can’t let your size rule over you.”

But Justin was still not entirely sure,
That he could be a somebody while so demure.

Just then they heard a cry and a shout,
And the pair rushed off to see what it was about.

Little Baby Dill had fallen into a deep hole,
But the entrance was tiny, and could barely fit a mole.

All the penises tried to squeeze in with all their might,
But they just couldn’t do it, the slit was too tight.

Then Justin stood up and rolled back his sleeve,
And said, “I believe I can fit through that squeeze.”

“You are all far too big and bulky,
But this job looks just the right size for me.”

So down he wiggled through that narrow crevice,
And grabbed Baby Dill at the base of the abyss.

He returned to the surface amidst cheers of joy,
Everybody had kind words for the heroic boy.

“Huzzah for Justin, hero of the day!”
Cried Woody in glee, “Hooray!”

“He’s a champion, a star, the best,”
Exclaimed Willy with sincere zest.

“I’m sorry for saying such mean things before,”
Apologized Richard, making Justin’s heart soar!

Never again would he despise
His tiny, diminutive, puny, laughable size.

So, remember this moral my friends,
That size doesn’t matter in the end.

Now wasn't that tasteful?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christ Reborn

There are two things I've noticed about modern culture: firstly, the popularity of gritty reboots for superheroes and the like, and secondly, how hardly anybody other than Charlie Brown seems to give two shits about the true meaning of Christmas and instead focus on the more commercial aspects of the holiday. I've decided to capitalize on both tendencies and present to you my very own updated version of the birth of Christ. Enjoy.

Once their was a very powerful man who was simply referred to as "The Don" who had control over a relatively small neighbourhood, but was almighty nonetheless. Unfortunately, for all his splendour and all the people under his protection, he was without an heir, and as he spent most of his time residing in his mansion, he was growing increasingly out of touch with those beneath him. He therefore came up with a clever plan to kill two birds with one stone. The Don called his right hand man, Gaby, to his study and gave him this message:

"I've decided that it's high time I have a son, but since I have no wife we'll have to use some unorthodox methods. I have here a vial of my semen. I want you to take it down to this broad named Mary down on the Eastside and artificially inseminate her. Her father is indebted to me for the help I gave to him last year ensuring that his business stayed open, and owes me a favour in return, so there shouldn't be any arguments. He knows what happens when you cross me."

Gaby took the vial, paid his respects, and left immediately for the home of Mary and her family. "Congratulations," he said to Mary upon entering, "you're about to be the lucky mother of The Don's child and sole heir. Here's his baby batter and some money for an artificial insemination specialist."

"What? I'm not ready to be a mother. I'm not even married. How am I supposed to raise a child?" asked the bemused and voluptuous young woman.

"Fuck, I don't know. I'm just doin' what I'm told. Don't you have a boyfriend? Why don't you marry him?" suggested The Don's representative.

"Joe? I don't know if I want to marry him. He's just a mechanic and isn't really going places. I was planning on finding a nice lawyer. Also he hasn't been able to perform, if you know what I mean."

"Shit, you mean you're both virgins? That's hilarious."

"Can't we make some other arrangement?"

"What the hell do you want me to do about it? The Don tells me to give you his jizz, I give you his jizz. Fuck, why do you expect me to solve all your problems? You're on your own missy. See you round," and with that he took his leave.

With no other recourse, Mary married Joseph and underwent the procedure to get pregnant. A couple of months in, Little Caesar, the crimelord who ruled the entire city with an iron fist, ordered all those who were under the protection of The Don to return to their original neighbourhoods so he could count them and figure out how best to reap in extortion money from them. So Joe and Mary hopped in their beat-up old Honda Civic and set off for the Old Bethlehem neighbourhood where Joe grew up. Unfortunately, Joe was good-for-nothing layabout and then didn't leave until the last minute meaning there was no space for them due to the influx of people coming in. Even the crummiest hostels and boarding houses were filled to capacity and they were turned away everywhere until the proprietor of the Star Hotel took pity on them and let them stay in a lean-to set up by a hobo in the back alley. Here, amoungst the rats and the odd stray dog or cat, Mary began to go into labour.

On the verge of the birth of his child, The Don called Gaby into his study and told him to gather together some crack dealers to witness the birth and make it look legit. Faithful Gaby complied with his wishes and went down to Old Bethlehem and found a group of dealers who had gotten into their own stash and were having a pretty good time. They were completely out of their minds and Gaby had great difficulty in herding them off to the alley were Mary and Joe were staying. Not only did they think that there were multiple Gaby's, but they also thought he was some sort of divine being sent to smite them. Eventually he managed to calm them down and brought them to Mary just in time to see a baby boy pop out of her virginal vagina. Truly it was a miracle, thanks to science.

Meanwhile, rumours of The Don's unborn child began to spread and eventually reached the ears of three small-time hoodlums in charge of minor gangs named Vito, Joey, and Ratface. These three wiseguys decided to check out the veracity of this gossip and together made their way to Old Bethlehem by following the neon lights on the Star Hotel. So as not to offend The Don, they brought some sweet gifts in case the rumours were true. After some time of cruising around in their tricked out Mustangs, they finally found the back alley where Mary had just given birth. There was no denying that he was The Don's son and so the wiseguys paid their respects and revealed their presents. Vito gave the newborn some high quality gold bling to drape around his neck. Joey sprayed the babe with some pricey, and overly aromatic perfume. And Ratface brought out his finest hash, and lit baby's very first joint. When they saw him lying there in his cardboard crib, covered in gold chains, smelling like a pick-up artist, and smoking pot, they could already tell that this youngster was totally boss. As they left the alley, Gaby approached them and told the trio, "If you ever tell Little Caesar or any of his men about this, especially Dirty Harry, I'll personally fistfuck you sideways."

The final visitor that night was the Little Rum Runner Boy who had come to bring Joe his weekly fix. When he saw the baby, he figured that he ought to do the polite thing and give him a gift. Unfortunately the Little Rum Runner Boy was very poor and had almost nothing to give. All he had was a single leftover bottle of rum. He wasn't sure if 2 hour old babies should be imbibing alcohol, but he gave it to him anyway. The baby eagerly grabbed the bottle, took a big swig, and smiled contentedly. The Little Rum Runner Boy had done well and could leave knowing that he would live to see another day thanks to that easy-going, and all-loving baby who would go on to found the greatest international crime syndicate the world has ever known.

Well that's a lot of blasphemy for a single post. Much more than usual. Here's an entertaining picture from a few years ago that in no way makes up for everything I just wrote, but that I'm sure you'll enjoy nonetheless.

Merry Christmas Everyone!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Worst Christmas Carols

A while back I made a list of annoying songs that included Johnny Cash's rendition of "Little Drummer Boy." Well that only scratched the surface of godawful Christmas songs and today I am going to submit for your consideration some more of the worst yuletide carols I've had the displeasure of listening to.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing - Bob Dylan
You're going to have to skip ahead a bit in that video before you hit the song, but holy shit is it totally not worth it. I just don't even know what to make of it. I don't think there could possibly be a worse professional rendition of this song. I cannot conceive of what possible combination of drugs, alcohol, and apathy led to this performance that was actually released to the public for purchase and listening, but I can only assume that it would have been fatal to anyone other than Bob Dylan. Though while listening to it, you can hear him slowly dying on the inside. In the video you'll notice that hardly anybody can stand to listen to the whole thing, and indeed if this song were sung by Miss Moo Goo I'd probably stand a better chance of hearing the whole thing in one go. It's a complete travesty that only succeeds in making you feel a deep sense of shame for everything to do with this song and all the forces that let it happen.

Silent Night - Mahalia Jackson
I have nothing against what is sung in this song, just the way that it is sung by Mahalia Jackson. She draws out every goddamn word as long as she possible can. This song is three verses long and should only take two minutes tops to get through. But not if you're Mahalia Jackson apparently. Oh no, if you're her then this song is fucking "Stairway to Heaven." I get the idea that she's trying to be soulful, but my patience has its limits. At ten seconds I'm parodying her obnoxious singing style. After thirty seconds I'm shouting at her to get on with it. Once a minute has passed I get up and change the song. I get the impression that she's illiterate and lacks the ability to memorize, so she has to slowly sound out each word as she goes. This is the only scenario in which I can forgive the existence of this terrible song. In any other case there can be no forgiveness, only death.

Song for a Winter's Night - Sarah McLachlan
Jesus Christ, this has to be the saddest Christmas song in existence. Why would you even sing this at Christmas? It does the exact opposite of spread cheer. If anything it encourages suicide. Not only does she sound as if she's on the verge of tears, but the lyrics themselves are also fairly depressing. Nothing says "Hooray, it's Christmas," like, "The air is still in the silence of my room." Presumably, this song is about somebody longing for their deceased lover, but I like to think it's just a chick whining about her boyfriend who dumped her around Christmas. I think it's funnier that way if only for that extra bit of melodrama. It's also interesting to note that this song was originally written and performed by Gordon Lightfoot, so apparently us Canadians really hate winter. All that snow 75% of the year just gives us clinical depression. And this song does nothing to help.

A Christmas Trololo - The Gifford Children's Choir
What is this? I don't even!!! First of, what the hell does this have to do with Christmas? It's just a stupid internet meme that's as retarded as they come. Do these kids even know what they're singing? Why is the audience encouraging them by singing along? Does nobody question the creepy masks? Did nobody look at the lyrics and wonder why the hell they were just saying "trololo" repeatedly? The only way I can make sense of this is that the choir teacher frequents 4chan, but that only raises the further question of why he's allowed to be in charge of children. I find the whole thing to be ridiculous and somewhat disturbing. What began as a silly online thing is now becoming accepted by society at large, ingrained into our children, and celebrated during the holidays. Soon, trollface will become the spokesman for North Korea, Philosoraptor will supplant Aristotle as the basis for Western thought, and every episode of Mad Men will end with a rickroll. The horrors of the internet were not meant to get out. We are all doomed! Dooooooooooomed!!!!!

Must Be Santa - Bob Dylan
I know I already have on song on this list from Dylan's Christmas album, but that is not enough to get across the sheer terribleness of that album. This is considered to be the best song on the album and even has a ridiculous music video to go along with it. Everything about it operates on a level of incomprehensible stupidity. If you're not distracted by that shambling scarecrow stumbling while having the occasional spasm in front in the camera that is apparently Mr. Dylan, and actually listen to the lyrics, you'll be astounded by their sheer inanity. This is the same guy who wrote "Like a Rolling Stone," "Blowing in the Wind," "The Times They Are a-Changin," "All Along the Watchtower," and, "Don't Think Twice, It's Alright," just to name a few. What the hell happened? Knowing that Bob Dylan is responsible for this tripe is the most depressing thing I can think of. More people probably committed suicide during the holidays due to this song than because of loneliness. It's the definitive anti-Christmas song.

Also, honourable mention goes to "Gandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer," goddamn that song is annoying.

Bonus points to whoever can best describe how terrible the Bob Dylan Christmas album is.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part IX: 20-11

20. The Graduate 1967
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
Synopsis: A recent graduate tries to figure out what to do with his life.
Review: I like this movie for many reasons. One is because I enjoy it's sense of humour. Ben Braddock's (Hoffman) awkward personality combined with the blissful unawareness of those around him of his anxiety makes for some deliciously funny moments (my favourite of which can be summed up by the word, "plastics"). Another reason is that I can relate to Benjamin's predicament. I don't really know what my plans are after I graduate, and although I haven't started sleeping with an older woman, it is on my 'To Do' list. Virtually every adult I meet asks me what I plan to do with my major before dispensing some useless advice. Deep down I want to tell them to fuck off, but like Ben I just suppress it, smile, and move on feeling disillusioned. And finally, I like this movie for it's awesome soundtrack that introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel. Also, you get to see Anne Bancroft's tits which isn't a big deal for me, but that's the reason my dad saw this movie twice in the same week when I came out. I later did the math and figured out he was 7-years old at the time, yet he wouldn't let me watch Life of Brian when I was 12, the hypocrite.

19. District 9 2009
Director: Neil Blomkamp
Starring: Sharlto Copley
Synopsis: A bureaucratic man working for a corporation in charge of a bunch of aliens stranded on Earth finds himself being turned into one.
Review: Easily one of the best movies of the past decade, and one that I am sure will go on to become a classic work of science-fiction. I normally don't really care about how shiny the special effects are, but I'm impressed by how good the aliens and their technology looks in this move especially when you consider the budget was a tenth that of Avatar. But the effects don't overshadow or try to cover-up the lack of plot or interesting character. Rather they serve the documentarian feel that Blomkamp was aiming for, and the aliens are interesting characters in their own right. Copley does an excellent job as Wikus, the nebbish official who has to lose his humanity in order to find it. On top of this you have multiple layers of social commentary revolving around imperialism in order to make for a compelling, intellectual stimulating, blood-soaked thrill-ride.

18. The Bicycle Thief 1948
Director: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Lamberto Maggiorani, Enzo Staiola
Synopsis: A poor man living in Italy has his bike stolen which is vital for his new job.
Review: Out of all the tragedies I've seen in my life, this is by far the saddest. Antonio (Maggiorani) does the best that he can to provide for his family, but just can't seem to catch any breaks. He travels around Rome searching for the thief with his young son , Bruno (Staiola) and their relationship forms the heart and soul of the film. The son wants to make his father proud while the father doesn't want let his son down, and in the conclusion when Antonio performs a final act of desperation, the look on Bruno's face will tear at your heartstrings. The film is as beautiful as it is infinitely sad and does a brutally efficient job at bringing the turmoils of poverty to light. It's not a good movie to watch if you're looking for some lighthearted fare, but it's definitely a must-see.

17. Airplane! 1970
Director: John Abrahams, Davud Zucker, Jerry Zucker
Starring: Leslie Nielson, Robert Hays, Julie Hagerty
Synopsis: A man must land a plane after both pilots pass out.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's a link to that review.

16. M 1931
Director: Fritz Lang
Starring: Peter Lorre
Synopsis: Police and street gangs hunt down a serial killer.
Review: Fritz Lang's first sound film is also what he considers to be his magnum opus which is saying a lot when you consider that Lang directed such notable films as Metropolis, The Big Heat, and Dr. Mabuse. It tells an intense, chilling, and compelling story that makes full use of the new technology in innovative ways. He uses sound to really rack up the tension as well as to provide crucial plot points, and its easy to see how this movie just wouldn't work as a silent film. Also of note is Lorre's performance as the mentally unstable killer. His expressive eyes and impassioned defense speech at the end make for a memorable character. It's a shame he was only ever given bit parts as snivelly little rats when he came over to Hollywood. They really wasted his potential. Even if you don't have the eyes (or ears) to appreciate the technical aspects of the film, it's still a thrilling and darkly humourous film that anybody can enjoy.

15. Wall-E 2008
Director: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight
Synopsis: A lone robot, wandering the vast desolation of Earth, encounters another robot from space sent on a classified mission.
Review: I had hard time choosing between this one and Up (I have yet to see Toy Story 3). I suppose I could have put both on the list, but I only wanted to put one on as I like them for similar reasons. Ultimately I went with Wall-E for multiple reasons. Firstly, the first half is some of the most brilliant filmmaking I've ever seen. Very little is spoken, but Wall-E's (Burtt) actions and the environment he lives in speaks volumes. Not only does it tell a touching story in a humourous Chaplinesque style, but it also deals with surprisingly sophisticated themes for what is supposed to be a children's movie. In fact the last couple of Pixar movies I've seen all seem to show them taking animation in a more adult direction while still maintaining a sort of cartoonish charm. It's a very refreshing combination that makes most all of their movies a pleasure to watch. These movies are so good that even the credits are fun to watch.

14. This is Spinal Tap 1984
Director: Rob Reiner
Starring: Christopher Guest, Mike McKean, Harry Shearer
Synopsis: Aging British rockstars tour the USA with little success.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's a link to that review.

13. Reservoir Dogs 1992
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: Harvey Keitel, Tim Roth, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi
Synopsis: A chronicle of the events leading up to and following a heist gone wrong.
Review: Personally, this is my favourite Tarantino film though most seem to prefer Pulp Fiction. You have everything you expect to see in most Tarantino films: slick characters, uber violence, unusual story structure, and dialogue laden with pop culture references. My favourite character is Mr. Pink (Buscemi), because he's essentially the voice of reason in the film and I always go for them, though all of the characters are cool in their own right. It's hard to get more violent than the ear cutting scene which reportedly led to Rob Zombie walking out from the theatre. I'm not a huge fan of that level of violence, but Tarantino always manages to make it work somehow. I think my favourite part of the whole movie is how it's laid out. It's almost as interesting just to watch how Tarantino plays with form as it is to watch the characters interact. Speaking of which, the conversations that occur in this movie are some of the best in any movie. The stand-out is definitely the opening scene where Mr. Brown (Tarantino) discusses Madonna and Mr. Pink explains why he doesn't tip. Overall it's a fun, wicked cool movie that never disappoints.

12. Casablanca 1942
Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Synopsis: A nightclub owner in the titular city meets an old flame of his during WWII.
Review: You'd be hard pressed to find a more quotable movie than Casablanca. The dialogue in this movie is so sharp that I can't even come up with a metaphor to aptly describe how sharp it is. Whenever Rick Blaine (Bogart) opens his mouth, you can expect him to say something awesome. For me, Blaine and Bogart are practically the same person and it goes without saying that this is his most iconic role. The story itself is also classic and features the greatest ending to any movie ever. It's partly a love story, but mostly it's a tale about redemption and recovering a lost humanity. With intrigue, a great anti-hero, a beautiful love interest, and stellar writing, Casablanca is a movie that, much like the famous song, will stay with us as time goes by.

11. Chinatown 1974
Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway
Synopsis: A private eye investigates a civil engineer and uncovers a deeper conspiracy.
Review: It's an homage to film noir that despite being in colour, is far more darker than any Sam Spade mystery. As Jake Gittes (Nicholson) gets more embroiled in Evelyn Mulwray's (Dunaway) affairs, everything keeps getting murkier and once everything is out in the open, you'll wish like Jake that you hadn't gotten so nosy. Suffice to say, the ending is not quite what you'd expect or desire, but it's really the only ending this film could have had. Nicholson is fantastic as Gittes who's combination of cleverness, perseverance, humour, and outward aloofness but inward caring makes him one of my all time favourite film heroes. Dunaway is also memorable as the mysterious woman who isn't what you'd expect. And John Huston makes a surprisingly good villain.

Friday, December 10, 2010

8 Lamest Animals

I don't know where I should begin when describing my passionate hatred for this breed of dog. For me they're emblematic of everything that is wrong with the world, or at the very least everything wrong with Western civilization: mindless consumerism, profound stupidity, and bad Mexican food. Then you have that stupid Beverly Hills Chihuahua movie. I actually cried when I saw the trailer. I can only assume that Paris Hilton, Taco Bell, and Disney got together, had a threesome that defiled all conceptions of morality, and birthed that abomination. Chihuahuas themselves are not only laughably tiny, but are also the butt-ugliest dogs on the face with planet. The fact that they became popular at all just shows how tasteless our culture has become.

Everytime I see a pigeon, I feel a very Strong urge to kick it. Just looking at them raises my ire. They clutter up the cities, smell bad, carry disease, survive by mooching off of society, and most people tend to avoid them at all costs. Pretty much, they're the hobos of the animal kingdom. Except for pigeons are worse, because they weren't forced into their lifestyle. They figure it' a pretty sweet way to live. They're more than happy to run up and accost you for handouts. And in return they shit all over the place, especially on your car. They're filthy creatures, and whenever I see old people feeding them I'm all like, "Goddammit old people! Stop encouraging those bastards! They're disgusting!" and then I scare all the pigeons away. But they always come right back like the plague that they are.

For those of you familiar with Jules Verne's Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, you may know that Captain Nemo's submarine is called The Nautilus and that's its described as a colossal masterpiece of engineering. The real life nautilus has nothing in common other than the fact that it swims in water. And it's not fast either. In fact it expends so little energy in movement that it only needs to eat once a month. Another interesting fact about their movement is that they swim backwards, which means they can't see where they're going and regularly bump into things. Not that swimming forwards would make a difference as their eyesight is so bad. Somehow, these guys have bumbled their way through multiple mass extinction events and have been around for millions of years. Here us humans thought that having larger brains was an evolutionary advantage. As it turns out we should just all put on blindfolds and start walking backwards.

I can't think of any animal less exciting to watch than a sloth. If I had to describe them in one word it would have to be "meh." They're so bland and boring that it doesn't even boggle the mind how bland and boring they are. Maybe you've seen one in a zoo, and after about ten seconds you walk on because it's doing absolutely nothing. Watching one try to move is pretty much the most pathetic thing you'll ever see. It would be like watching a one-legged cat trying to swim in a lake, they can sort of do it, but you know they aren't meant to. And they're so apathetic about everything it's ridiculous. Here's a video of one being carried off by an eagle. It doesn't even bother trying to resist. He just rolls with it. They're such easy targets I actually don't understand how they still exist. They're entire survival strategy seems to depend on the flawed idea that if they stand still then they become invisible. They're just lame.

Red-Sided Garter Snake
You may think it strange that a man with "snake" in his name would hate a species of snake, but these aren't just any snakes. First off, they're garter snakes which, as everybody knows, are the lamest type of snakes, giving snakes all over the world a bad name. But red-sided garter snakes give garter snakes a bad name and it's all because of how they have sex. 25 000 of them will get together in a den and initiate a massive orgy, piling up into gigantic balls of steamy snake sex. Sometimes, snakes will be crushed under the weight, but they just keep going at it with the corpses, making them necrophiliac. You probably think that this kind of crazy can only come from a place like Japan, but you'd be wrong. These guys live right here in BC. So just picture walking yourself walking through the forest and stepping knee deep in a giant, dead snake orgy. Have pleasant dreams tonight.

I drink plenty of milk, and there's nothing I like more than a good burger, but I hate cows. When I think of stupid animals, cows are always the first thing that come to my mind. Their brains developed to the point where they figured out how to eat grass and then decided that was good enough. Important life lessons like "don't run off cliffs," or "don't stick your head into the little gap," don't seem to matter all that much to cows. They just don't seem to give a shit about anything. They mindlessly go about their day doing absolutely nothing while patiently waiting to be slaughtered, herded, or milked. On top of this, they're quite and easily the least interesting of all domesticated animals. You can't really ride a cow or play with one or chase it around. They just sit there staring at you with their bored, empty eyes. I have no respect for them.

I know these guys are popular, but I've come to the conclusion that pandas no longer have the will to live. Everything about them is depressing. You know how there are some towns that are dependent on only one industry like coal mining, and once that industry goes under the whole town dries up? Well, that's pretty much what pandas are. Their only food source is bamboo, and boy they couldn't have picked any worse, and not just because it's getting sparse. Bamboo isn't nutritious at all, especially when you have the digestive system of a carnivore. They need to eat a ton of it just to keep themselves going, and baby pandas take months to grow to maturity as a result of the poor quality of the mother's milk. Also, it seems that pandas aren't big on procreation and some males flat out refuse to have sex. C'mon guys, I know she's not much to look at, but can't you take one for the team?

Lot's of people think these guys are cute when they do things like hold hands, eat off of their bellies, or do silly dances, but fuck 'em. I hate otters. They're assholes. I was watching Planet Earth, and there was this group of otters who started picking on a crocodile for no good reason at all. He was just chilling, minding his own business, when all of a sudden a bunch of fucking otters show up and start harassing him. He tried to scare them off, but they just kept coming back, standing at a safe distance while jeering at him. I know crocs and otters aren't exactly friends, but come on otters, bullying is uncalled for. You can fight more honourably than that, or better yet just leave him alone. He bears no grudge against you. Jerks.

Bonus points to whoever can provide a solid argument for why another animal is lame.

8 Coolest Animals

I like the fox for a number of reasons. One because they have a reputation for being sly, and as you'll notice on this list, I like smart animals. Secondly, they look cool with sleek fur, a bushy tail, and nice coloration. They were always my favourite animal as a kid, because I liked to think I was sly, and also maybe because of the Roald Dahl story, Fantastic Mr. Fox. I really need to see that movie. For some reason they were always badguys in the Redwall series, which saddened me, because I knew they were cool. Also I once saw this hilarious bit on a nature documentary (I think it was Planet Earth) where an arctic fox tried to fit a whole bunch of goslings into its mouth to bring back to its pups. It was probably the most morbidly funny scene from nature I've ever seen.

Most people detest these misunderstood birds, but I think they're awesome. They have the whole black symbol of death thing going for them, and in many legends they are clever trickster figures, and they certainly are more intelligent than most birds. They know how to get food just as well as they know how to avoid danger. If you ever bend over to the ground when near a crow they'll always fly off. Why? Because they suspect that you're picking up a pebble to throw at them. They don't just react to problems, they anticipate them. Plus, once when we were at a family reunion, my sister had the top of her burger stolen by a crow causing her great distress. And I have it on good authority that a friend of mine was once attacked by crows. That's hilarious! Crows are great.

Octopi (most say octopuses, but I prefer this plural form) are one of those rare creatures that looks simultaneously terrifying and absurd, but that's not the reason that their on this list. And it's not because they can squirt ink or fit through any crevice the size of it's nose. It's because they may very well be the smartest things in the ocean along with dolphins, but without that smug attitude. They often use their intelligence to solve problems and get food, but sometimes they just use it for their own personal amusement by doing things like juggling crabs, or cutting out power to lights near its aquarium. Some are even clever enough to leave their own aquariums and enter another to eat. And these are just the things they do in captivity. Just imagine what they're capable of in their own environment! Unless your Japanese, in which case please don't imagine anything else involving octopi.

Okapis may very well qualify as the most WTF?! looking animal on the planet. Their anatomy doesn't even make sense. It's as if after God created all the animals he had some spare parts left over and just haphazardly cobbled them all together. You've got zebra, deer, dingo, hyena, and like freakin dinosaurs in there. The more I look at it the less I understand what it is I am looking at. I think they're survival strategy is simply to confuse predators with their appearance. When Europeans first discovered them, they couldn't believe they were real. Every zoo and their dog wanted one. They're just too funky not to make a spot on this list. As an added bonus, their closest living relative is the giraffe. Go figure.

If the okapi defies logic, then the platypus is an affront biology. It's also a pretty weird looking animal, but their duck/beaver hybrid appearance is only scratching the surface of how strange these guys are. You probably also all know how they're mammals that lay eggs which is already a pretty big fuck you to everything we thought we knew about biology, but maybe you didn't know that they're also venomous. That's right, in Australia, even their monotremes (egg-laying mammals) can/will poison you. That not enough for you? Their beak isn't a mouth, but a sensory organ that allows them to detect electrical impulses. Want more? They walk like reptiles with their legs on the sides of their body rather than underneath. And that's not even all of it. Everything about them is different from anything else, and for that I salute them.

What's not to love about parrots? They're colourful, smart, long-lived, and you can train them to talk. Nobody would ever call these guys bird-brained due to their cleverness and imitative abilities. If I could teach a parrot any one word or phrase, it would have to be "Got any crackers?" because of that lame joke I like to tell (if you haven't heard it, then just ask next time you see me and I'll be sure to fill you in) or "Hermocrates" for those of you who remember playing Indian Jones and the Fate of Atlantis. Also, without parrots, we wouldn't have the famous "Dead Parrot" Monty Python sketch ("Dead Budgie" just doesn't have the same ring to it). You gotta give them chops for their lovely plumage.

Grizzly Bear
Grizzly bears are easily the most majestic mammals in the northern hemisphere. Not only are they a great symbol of strength and ferocity, but in virtually every picture you can find of one they look absolutely glorious, especially when they're catching salmon. I think the most manly thing in the world would be to ride one. Imagine an entire bear cavalry. I'd surrender to to that army just on the grounds of how awesome they are. Honestly I don't know why Canada didn't make them our national animal. The Americans have bald eagles, which are pretty majestic birds, while all we have are beavers, moose, and geese. Screw all that nonsense, fucking grizzly bears are where its at.

Everyone has that one animal that they think is cute, and for me that's the weasel along with their brethren: stoats and ferrets. They're especially adorable when they do their weasel war dance which is like the weasel way of saying, "I'm a champeen!" Some people think of them as vermin, mostly farmers, but they're just misunderstood. They need to get food from somewhere, and chickens are easy targets. Like many other animals on this list, they have a reputation for being guileful. In fact one of my favourite Black Adder quotes is on this theme: "I have come up with a plan so cunning you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel!" I don't know how well they actually live up to this reputation (based on some of the weasel war dances on Youtube, not very well), but they're pretty cool regardless.

Bonus points to whoever can up with something hilarious for a parrot to say.

Friday, November 26, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part VIII: 30-21

30. Cool Hand Luke 1967
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Starring: Paul Newman, George Kennedy
Synopsis: A free spirited man is sent to prison and attempts to escape.
Review: The primary reason to see this movie is to watch Paul Newman star in his most iconic role. He's absolutely astounding (and ridiculously sexy, regardless of your gender or sexual orientation) as the one man who refuses to play by the rules and attempts to beat the system. It's left to the viewer to decide who wins, but no matter how many times he's beat down, one way or another he always manages to get back up again. The indomitable will of Luke, combined with Newman's natural charm makes for a hero for the ages. There's also many wonderful supporting performances, most notably from George Kennedy as Luke's best friend in prison, Dragline. It's fun to watch with many memorable lines and scenes (my favourite being the carwash), and who can forget that smile.

29. Donnie Darko 2001
Director: Richard Kelly
Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal
Synopsis: A strange young man begins to have weird visions involving a giant bunny named Frank who tells him to do things.
Review: When watching this movie, you'll probably notice that it's tripping balls, which for some people can be a major barrier, but I don't see it being about metaphysics so much as it is about morality. Donnie's (Gyllenhaal) worldview may be twisted and skewed, but when compared to some of the town's more vocal moral watchdogs, he seems relatively level-headed. And the ultimate decision that the entire movie revolves around is one of life and death that makes Donnie into something of a quiet hero. Whether you "get" this film or not, it's still a chilling tale, with a dark and brooding atmosphere, a solid soundtrack, creepy visuals, and great dialogue. I believe that this film demands mulitple viewings to fully appreciate, but that does nothing to diminish it's quality.

28. Memento 2000
Director: Christopher Nolan
Starring: Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, Joe Pantoliano
Synopsis: A man with no short term memory attempts to find his wife's killer.
Review: I don't know what I like better about this movie: the story itself, or the way it's told. Some people may think that telling the story backwards is a mere gimmick, but I believe that the structure serves the purpose of both the story and the main character quite well. It really gets you into Lenny's (Pearce) world and helps you to understand him. We start off sympathizing with him and his quest of what seems to be a simple case of vengeance, but as the film progresses he becomes more morally ambiguous, and also willfully stupid. Without giving too much away, I will say that if the story were laid out in the conventional fashion it just wouldn't have the same impact. It's a unique accomplishment and it tells a wicked cool story to boot. Definitely worth multiple viewings.

27. Pulp Fiction 1994
Director: Quentin Tarantino
Starring: John Travolta, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Uma Thurman
Synopsis: Two mob hitmen go about their day.
Review: It's the movie that introduced most of the world to Quentin Tarantino and what some critics consider to be the defining film of the 90's. Though I would not be so bold to make such a claim, I will say that it is awesome as hell. It has all the elements needed to make a cool movie: over-the-top violence, ultra-slick dialogue, original story structure, and characters who, as one critic put it, "the depths of their shallowness is profound." Every actor plays their part to a tee, and even players with minor roles, such as Christopher Walken and Harvey Keitel turn in memorable performances. It's a great and influential film that has a spawned a slew of imitators and sparked plenty of critical debate, and I don't think it's going to lose any of it's veneer any time soon.

26. Star Wars 1977 (and Empire Strikes Back/A New Hope)
Director: George Lucas
Starring: Mark Hammil, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Synopsis: A small group of rebels must stand up to an evil empire and Darth Vader.
Review: I pretty much grew up on these movies, and despite certain elements which I do not care for (I'll give you a hint: they're two feet tall, ugly as sin, and bring down the Empire using sticks and stones), the original trilogy remains as some of my favourite films. The basic plot may not be anything too special, but the universe is incredibly imaginative and easy to get immersed in. It's filled with crazy aliens, cool characters, epic space dogfights, awesome costumes and settings, a memorable musical score, and of course, lightsabers. On top of all this, the sound and special affects are amazing and I believe that they still hold up today. I may have lost some respect for Lucas in recent years, but what he did back in 1977 laid the groundwork not only for a pop culture staple, but also for the way people think about movies today.

25. Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981
Director: Steven Spielberg
Starring: Harrison Ford
Synopsis: An acrhaeologist tries to find the Ark of the Covenant before the Nazis do.
Review: No film series captures the spirit of adventure quite like Indiana Jones, and of all the movies made thus far, Raiders remains my personal favourite (though Last Crusade comes in a close second) where we meet one of cinema's most recognizable heroes for the first time who comes with his own instantly recognizable theme song. It's a lot of fun to watch him work his way through traps, puzzles, snakes, and Nazis. So just what makes Indiana Jones so cool? I think it's his ability to think on his feet, relying on his wits and strength (and his whip) to see him through any obstacle, and still have a witty one liner at the end of it all. Of course the most important part is his hat.

24. North by Northwest 1959
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant
Synopsis: A man is mistaken for a spy and chased across the country.
Review: Of all the stories out there revolving around a case of mistaken identity, this one is probably my favourite. It's funny, action-packed, and has a twisting story that most Hitchcock films share. It also features Cary Grant's most memorable role as advertising executive, Roger Thornhill who relies on his wits, his feet, and his smooth-talking to survive and figure out just what the hell is going on. I also like the spy thriller aspect of the film and I think that this can be counted as one of the inspirations for the James Bond franchise. It's easy to see how Grant could have been 007. There are plenty of timeless scenes and set pieces (the crop duster scene springs to mind), and it cannot be stressed enough how awesome Cary Grant is which makes this my favourite Hitchcock film.

23. It's a Wonderful Life 1946
Director: Frank Capra
Starring: James Stewart
Synopsis: A despairing business man finds a new lease on life.
Review: For many, this film is ubiquitous viewing around this time of the year, but I don't really see this as being a "Christmas movie" as it doesn't really have all that much to do with the holiday other than that part of it takes place in December. As the title suggests, it's really just about life and the effect that each and every person has on the world, no matter how unnoticeable of insignificant it may seem. Much of this movie is actually pretty depressing seeing as how it's about a man on the verge of suicide who got a big kick in the pants from life. Of course the ending reaffirms the belief that life is worth living, but Capra manages to do it in an uplifting rather than a sappy manner (Ok, so maybe the "Everytime a bell rings..." line is pushing it). In any case, Jimmy Stewart does a terrific job, the film itself is iconic and continuously referenced to even today, and it's a powerful and moving piece on the human condition.

22. Gone With the Wind 1939
Director: Victor Flemming
Starring: Vivien Leigh, Clark Gable
Synopsis: A Southern belle and a rogue carry on a love affair during around the Civil War.
Review: Epic is the word I'd use to describe this movie. It's like four hours long, has large and detailed sets, and everything about the film is on a grand scale. Of course none of this would matter if it wasn't for Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable as Scarlett O'Hara and Rhet Butler respectively. They form the emotional core of the film, and are the greatest romantic leads in Hollywood history. On top of this, O'Hara and Butler are great characters who aren't wholly good or bad, or completely sympathetic either which make them all that more compelling to watch. It was ridiculously popular upon release, and remains popular today, and it will probably stay that way for some time and for good reason. It's simply phenomenal.

21. Amadeus 1984
Director: Milos Forman
Starring: F. Murray Abraham, Tommy Hulce
Synopsis: Salieri has a rivalry with, and attempts to sabotage the career of Mozart.
Review: For me, this movie is a feast for the eyes and ears. The scored is fantastic (it's hard to wrong with Mozart) and the costumes, sets, and scenery are absolutely gorgeous. The story itself is a compelling, if not entirely historically accurate, look at one of the great musical geniuses while also providing a chilling perspective on envy. Hulce gives a hysterical performance as the famous musician, but the show goes to Abraham as Mozart's rival, Salieri. He is a terrific actor and its too bad he never did much work on the silver screen. In any case, you should all watch this movie.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

My Top 101 Movies Part VII: 40-31

40. Ocean's 11 2001
Director: Steven Soderbergh
Starring: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts
Synopsis: Eleven men attempt to rob three different casinos at the same time.
Review: This is one of those movies I enjoy simply because it's fun to watch. The ensemble cast has great chemistry and you can tell they're enjoying themselves, there are plenty of laughs to be had, and it has a slick, wicked cool, and twisting plot. As you may or may not know, this movie is a remake, and normally remakes tend to pale in comparison to the original. But I've seen the first Ocean's 11 starring the Rat Pack, and I have to say that this is one of those rare films that takes the original premise to a whole new level. Clooney, Pitt, Damon and the rest make Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and Sammy Davis Jr. look like shit. Unfortunately, like any fun and popular movie, they had to go ahead and take away from it by making sub-par sequels, but ignoring it's successors, I still think this movie stands up and will be a continued favourite for years to come.

39. Rear Window 1954
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, Grace Kelley
Synopsis: A man confined to his room in a wheelchair spies on his neighbours and becomes convinced that he's witnessed a murder.
Review: Easily one of Hitchcock's best, Rear Window is one my all time favourite suspense movies that achieves it's effect through a combination of claustrophobia, voyeurism, and never being certain exactly what has or will happen. The whole film is set in an apartment building and you see what Jeffries (Stewart) sees and only know what he knows. Being bored and confined to a wheelchair, you feel his ennui and utter helplessness when things start to get hectic. Like all Hitchcock films, there's a dark sense of humour and some rather disturbing implications of some of the character's actions (such as what did the murderer do with the body?). If you only see one Hitchcock film (though I don't know why you'd want to only see one) then this should probably be it, although Psycho is more famous and *SPOILERS* there's still one more of his films on this list. Jimmy Stewart gives one of his best performances and Grace Kelley is hot, and also a fine actress.

38. Fiddler on the Roof 1971
Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Topol
Synopsis: A Russian-Jewish father marries off his daughters while suffering persecution. Review: I grew up on musicals, and while I now look back on some of them as cheesy and a bit silly (I am looking at you Seven Brides for Seven Brothers), this one as always remained one of my favourites. Part of it I think is because it deals with heavier subject matter than most musicals, but still grounds it in humour and family life. However, the major draw for me has to be the main character and father-figure, Tevye (Topol). He's easily one of my all time favourite characters in any movie, and is played to perfection by Topol who I am yet to see topped in any production of the musical. He's funny, easy to relate to, instantly likable, and I especially like the system of logic he uses to solve all of life's problems. And of course you have some great musical numbers such as "Tradition," "Matchmaker," and my personal favourite until Gwen Stefani destroyed it with the pickaxe of her voice, "If I Were a Rich Man."

37. Steamboat Bill Jr. 1928
Directors: Charles Reisner, Buster Keaton
Starring: Buster Keaton
Synopsis: A fop attempts to help his estranged father run his steamboat.
Review: When I went to see this, I wasn't sure what to expect. I knew that it was a comedy, but I wasn't sure if the humour of the silent era would hold up today. Luckily, I was not to be disappointed. This movie is hilarious and features some of the craziest stunts I've ever seen, all performed by Buster Keaton with amazing acrobatic skill, and (I suspect) a little bit of luck. On top of this there are also some pretty good lines (on title screens) as well as some clever visual gags. To complete the experience, there was a live pianist in the theatre who had composed his own music specifically for the film. It was a memorable night overall and I look forward to seeing more work from this great comedian.

36. Seven Samurai 1954
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Starring: Toshiro Mifune, Takashi Shimura
Synopsis: The titular seven try to save a village from bandits.
Review: Kurosawa has directed many, many great films, but this is the one that I feel is most deserving of being called his magnum opus. It's epic in scope and length, has some of the most memorable characters in any of his films, the battle sequences are intense, and the writing and plot are superb. I find the story to be at once tragic and uplifting. The samurai do eventually succeed in their quest, but as is pointed out at the end, it's the farmers who are the real winners while the defenders died and gained nothing for it. It's an interesting take on honour, duty, and violence that I think has appeal across cultures, as evidenced by the American Western remake, The Magnificent Seven. For people with short attention spans, this movie could be difficult to sit through, but for everybody else it's mandatory viewing.

35. Fantasia 1940
Director: A Bunch of Guys
Starring: N/A unless you count Mickey Mouse
Synopsis: Classical music and crazy cartoons!
Review: Like most children, I watched plenty of Disney films in my youth, and although there are plenty of classics to choose from, this is the one that by far stands out the most. It was and remains one of the most original and creative works of not just animation, but of cinema in general. There's virtually no plot, which is a bold enough move in and of itself, and the entire thing is a feast for both eyes and ears. The animation team came up with some really weird and creative ideas, one of my favourite of which are the dancing mushrooms. But every scene (perhaps sketch would be a better word) is memorable in its own way, though the most famous is certainly Mickey vs The Broom of Doom. I also wish to note that the one sketch with the devil summoning all the dead and demons scared the shit out of me as a kid, but its still awesome and I am glad they didn't remove it to make it more palatable. This is a film that transcends boundaries, and can be enjoyed by anyone regardless of age, gender, or culture.

34. The Manchurian Candidate 1962
Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, Laurence Harvey
Synopsis: A Korean War veteran begins to unravel a conspiracy involving him and the surviving members of his squad.
Review: This is the original, not the remake, for those of you too lazy to read the date. It's one of the great political thrillers, and one that doesn't pull any punches. The point here isn't the mystery of what exactly is going on, as most of that is revealed at the very beginning. The primary driving force behind this film is if they'll be able to stop the plan from going into action. Essentially it's a race against time, and by the end the tension will have you shaking in your chair. It's also a very dark film which doesn't shy away from the disturbing stuff. I don't want to reveal too much for those of you who haven't seen it, but I will say that Angela Lansbury as Mrs. Iselin is one of the greatest movie villains of all time. I actually hate her. She's ridiculously evil, and will make your mother look like a peach.

33. Apocalypse Now 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Starring: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall
Synopsis: Capt. Willard heads upriver into Vietnam to find the enigmatic Col. Kurtz.
Review: I'd say this is one of the darkest movies I've ever seen which makes sense seeing as how it's based on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The progression of the film can be described as a descent into Hell as each scene becomes more disturbing and morally black than the last. This journey into the horror at the heart of war and civilization is physically represented by the journey of the gunboat down the river in search of Kurtz who is both a visionary and the embodiment of all that is wrong with the imperial project. It begins with the dawn raid set to "Ride of the Valkyries," has the massacre aboard the native riverboat in the middle, and ends in Kurtz's demented home he's made for himself. It's one helluva ride that, much like the novel, is open to interpretation, and it has an intense story, great cinematography, and stellar performances from some of the greatest to boot.

32. To Kill a Mockingbird 1962
Director: Robert Mulligan
Starring: Gregory Peck
Synopsis: Two children grow up in a lazy Alabama town while their father, a lawyer, defends a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.
Review: A lot of probably were probably forced to read the book in high school, and probably hated it because you were forced to read it in high school. Luckily my view of it has not been tainted by the educational system as I read it of my own accord, and it's one my favourite novels, and one of the few that has the distinction of me reading it twice. I hold the movie in just as high esteem, thanks in no small part to Gregory Peck's inspiring performance. I can't picture anybody else in the role of Atticus Finch who was rated as the all time greatest hero in cinema by AFI, a ranking that I agree with. His portrayal is supported by the at times charming, and at other times moving story faithfully adopted from the novel, as well as strong performances from the young actors playing the children. There are plenty of powerful and moving scenes from the film, some of which have become instilled in popular culture, with the courthouse scenes standing out the most (if you've ever seen Pleasantville, you'll find a clever reference to this scene).

31. Blazing Saddles 1974
Director: Mel Brooks
Starring: Cleavon Little, Gene Wilder
Synopsis: A black sheriff is put in charge of defending a racist town in the wild West.
Review: I am too lazy to re-review this movie as I've already done it, so instead here's the link to that review.

Rules I Live By

This post could just of easily been called, "Bizarre and Irrational Habits that I Have," but I prefer to think of myself as infallible. Which may also be a bizarre and irrational habit that I have. Well, without further ado, I present the list.

1. Always wear socks
As some people have noticed, I virtually never go barefoot. I always wear socks no matter what. The only two exceptions are when I'm swimming, and when I'm going to bed. If somebody were to steal all the socks in my house, I'd probably have a nervous breakdown. It's not that I have webbed toes or are am ashamed of my feet or anything. It's just that I distrust the cleanliness of the ground. Who knows what's down there. There could be any number of bodily fluids, icky bugs, pieces of glass, rusty nails, etc., and I don't want any of those things coming into contact with my precious skin. Oddly enough, I really don't care if my socks have holes in them, no matter how gaping they are, which pretty much makes wearing them redundant. In fact, the more I think about it, the more absurd this core belief of mine seems. But it's gotten me this far in life without killing me, so I see no reason to stop.

Me at the beach.

2. Never drink coffee
I've come to the conclusion that coffee is bad for you based on virtually no scientific evidence. People always say how they can't live without the buzz from their morning cup of coffee, yet I've been doing just fine without it, and I bet they did just fine before they started drinking it. I think it's become an addiction for many people and now they're just making excuses. Coffee is the cigarette of the modern era. Everybody does it without questioning it or wondering if maybe all that caffeine has any negative side effects. It's pretty much a drug, and believe it or not, I don't do drugs. I hardly even drink alcohol. Yeah, I am pretty fucked up like that. Also, coffee tastes like shit.

Could you live in a world without coffee?

3. Always have a #2 pencil on hand
This one I don't strictly adhere too, but I do have an undying love for pencils. I prefer the classic orange HB #2 pencils, but one of those fancy push pencils will do in a pinch. I like the convenience of being able to erase mistakes, whereas with pens you either have to use white-out and wait for it to dry, or just scratch out your mistake which makes your writing look like crap. Also, you don't have to worry about it running out of ink. If it gets a bit dull, you just give it a few twists in the sharpener and then you're back to maximum efficiency. I think pencils are the most underrated tool that mankind has ever invented, and it's high time we give it the recognition it deserves. Though I do have one question. Has anybody ever seen or used a #1 pencil?

From my cold, dead hands!

4. Set aside time every day for contemplation
This is a nice way of saying I daydream a lot, and value that time I spend each day in deep thought. It can happen at any time, normally on the bus, or before I go to bed, or when I am bored in class, and sometimes at home when nothing in particular is happening. There can be any number of things running through my mind from how I'm going to survive a zombie apocalypse to what I'm going to write for my next blog post. Sometimes my propensity for daydreaming exhibits itself in weird and very public ways. Often I'll start talking aloud to myself, or I'll pace back and forth which I believe is a habit I picked up from my papa (grandpa, not dad for those frenchies out there) since I've noticed he tends to do the same thing. In addition, I've noticed that he'll read aloud signs he passes on the road for no particular reason at all, a habit which I also seem to have acquired. Does this all make me insane? I'd rather not think about the answer to that question.

Like this except with more crazy and less nudity as I'd be wearing socks.

5. There's nothing wrong with procrastination
Believe it or not, I used to be very dedicated to my school work. I'd spend hours doing research, solving problems, and checking my answers. But at some point around grade 7 or 8, I discovered that I could put in the bare minimum effort and still get between 80 and 95% on my work. This was, for better or for worse (probably worse), a life changing epiphany for me. Now instead of coming own and plopping myself down to work on that writing assignment or math problems, I just sit at the computer playing video games, or in front of the TV watching Netflix. I figure that i can just write that term paper the night before and still pull off an A-. If I actually applied myself I could probably be an A+ student and have a lot more money than I currently do. But that sounds like it would take a lot of effort. So I'd rather not.

I would have come up with my own pithy slogan, but I didn't feel like it.

6. Let the ladies come to me

When it comes to relationships, my attitude is if a girl is interested in me, then let her come ask me out. Why should the guys always have to do that job? I'm pleased to say that my methods have met with a 100% success rate in that I've never had a girlfriend. I like to think that it's because of my abrasive and offensive personality. For some strange reason that thought gives me comfort. Maybe it's because it makes me feel as though I didn't have to compromise my values or personality for the sake of pleasing a woman. Or maybe because it prevents me from coming to the conclusion that I'm a coward for not asking anybody out. Whichever it is, I'm just glad I don't have to waste any money on a girlfriend.

Natascha is the only woman I need! Now give me a minute while I sob in a corner.

Bonus points to whoever can give me one of their own crazy habits so I don't feel like such a weirdo.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The 6 Most Amazing yet Pointless Videos

You can find plenty of bizarre, disturbing, and absolutely useless stuff on Youtube (especially if you read the comments), but very few videos can actually be described as art. What follows is a list of some videos that I believe straddles the line between the two. Are they brilliant masterpieces, or pointless distractions who's only value is in how long they can keep us from doing work? I'll leave it to you to decide.

Lazy Town vs. Lil' Jon
I don't know how many times I've seen this video and I still find it hilarious. It's terrifying how well these two songs mash together despite their vast difference in content. You also have to consider how small the overlap must be between fans of Lazy Town and fans of Lil' Jon. In fact, I'd say the overlap consists solely of the twisted mind who produced this video. It get creepier when you notice the strong sexual undertones of the Lil' Jon lyrics contrasted with images of an innocent young girl dancing around and spraying fluid all over the kitchen. When watching this, it's hard not to feel a little bit dirty. It should come as no surprise that a solid 90% of the comments on this mash-up involve pedophilia. Yet I still find it quite funny, well put together, and pretty creative. Is it clever? Perverted? Somehow both? Is this making you uncomfortable? Then my job is done.

While My Guitar Gently Weeps on the Ukulele
One morning, Jake Shimabukuro woke up and decided that he would become god of a particular instrument. He settled on the ukulele which falls somewhere between conch shell and accordion on the scale of respectable instruments. I suppose he can be forgiven since he is from Hawaii where the uke is what bagpipes are to Scotland. But I just can't get over that he's playing one of the greatest renditions I've ever heard, of one of the greatest Beatles' songs on the ukulele with a skill that he must have sold his soul to the devil to acquire. I'm sure Satan was laughing all the way to the soul bank with that one. No matter how good you get at playing the ukulele, you're never going to reach the same level of fame, fortune, or non-stop sex that even a half-decent guitarist in a semi-popular rock band will get. Am I saying that Jake wasted his talent? Well if he's happy then who am I to judge? Snake-Eyes Damascus, that's who. Jake, you are simultaneously awesome and ridiculous.

TF2 Mass AI
I can't even begin to imagine how many hours it took to put this all together. EvilDaedalus had to Set everything up, make sure everything is in the right spot and does what it's supposed to do at the right time, edit all of the footage, and then synch it to the music, all of it done in his spare time while playing a video game for no purpose other than to look cool. Am I the only one who thinks that the making of this video was a colossal waste of time, effort, and skill? I suppose there are a lot of machinima people out there who'd flame me for the previous question, and they may be justified. Certainly there is some sort of beauty to this video, but then you realize it's a guy goofing around in a game engine making bots kill each other or dance around in silly ways. Oscar Wilde once said that all art is useless, but did he have something like this in mind? Probably not, seeing as how computers, video games, and the internet didn't exist when he was alive.

Slap Chop Scout and Kaboom Heavy
I included these two together since they both take dialogue from TF2 and insert it into infomercials to comical effect. The first thing you'll notice is just how well the voices of the Scout and the Heavy match the bodies of Vince Offer and Billy Mays respectively. Secondly you'll notice how well the dialogue, from a video game without a plot or much in the way of character development mind you, matches up with the actions in the videos. And lastly you'll notice how retarded it all is. Clearly a lot of effort went into making these videos as they had to find the appropriate dialogue, and then edit it into the video to make it seem natural. But after having watched these videos many times over, I can't figure why somebody would go to all that effort. It's the same thing with all the autotune remixes of any video that becomes remotely popular. Why do people do it? Do you see a point to any of this? The more I see of the internet, the less I understand it.

Matrix Ping Pong
Some of you probably remember this one. It was popular for a while, and I have to say that it is interesting to watch. The way it all flows together seamlessly and creatively is certainly impressive, but when it comes down to it, it's a glorified puppet show of two guys playing ping pong. It's so out there, that you know it has to come from Japan. At least it doesn't involve tentacles, though that is the next logical step. The whole thing looks awesome, and requires a high amount of coordination, but like anything else on the internet, it doesn't seem to amount to much more than a novelty to distract me for a few minutes. Am I being to harsh on these guys? They seem pretty proud of what they accomplished, whatever that may be. Then again, Johnny Knoxville seems pretty proud of what he's accomplished on Jackass, so maybe that shouldn't be how we judge what constitutes art.

Ryan vs Dorkman
This video is absolutely astounding. There's a good sense of humour, the sound and special effects are spot on, and the choreography is mindblowing. And it stars two uber-nerds trying to be action heroes in a warehouse. I suppose if you don't consider Star Wars to be art then you certainly won't consider this to be art either, but there is a graceful elegance to this video. I can't believe I just used "graceful elegance" to describe an amateur lightsaber duel, but there you have it. Is this truly a great example of human artistic achievement or is it just geek masturbation fodder? Is that a false dilemma? You bet your ass it is. Do you know what a false dilemma is? Well you'd better, because I'm not explaining it to you.

Bonus points to whoever can convince me that one of these videos is either art or tripe.

Mega Shark Versus Giant Octopus

Let me start off by saying that this movie is without a doubt, bad. It's so bad that I couldn't watch it all in one sitting as it was too painful. I watched the first half one night, and the other half two nights later. This movie sucks super hard. The acting is offensive, and the terrible writing and characters don't help. The special effects are ugly to say the least, and it was clear that they didn't have much of a budget based on the quality of the animations and how frequently they reuse the same ones over and over again. The story is completely non-sensical, and riddled with plot holes and logical gaps. As far as I can tell, there isn't even really a climax. This movie tries to be campy, but it even fails at that. There are the occasional laughs peppered throughout this shoddy attempt at filmmaking, but overall it's just bad. Now let's get into the nitty-gritty of just how bad it is.

The film opens with two marine-biologists in a really shitty submarine set looking for whales off the coast of Alaska while some army guy is in a helicopter above them apparently about to launch some top secret military experiment. The attractive, single, female marine-biologist keeps commenting on how strange it is that there are so many whales in one place. The chopper pilot then drops some gadget into the ocean which emits waves of some sort that somehow releases the titular duo who have been frozen in ice for millions of years (because that's how cryogenics works, right?). The helicopter then explodes for no apparent reason, while Mega Shark and Giant Octopus completely ignore the submarine and each other despite the fact that when they awoke they were locked in a life or death struggle. This all somehow explains the strange behaviour of the whales who I guess had some sixth sense telling them that a piece of human technology was going to release the deadliest sea creatures to ever exist, and this same instinct told them to swim en masse towards this certain doom. This the first of many times that the movie won't make any sense.

The next time happens five minutes later when the scientists arrive in San Francisco. It turns out that took the sub for a joyride from the Californian marine institute that they work at, took it all the way up to Alaska, and then came back without getting caught or reprimanded. By the time they get back, it seems that Mega Shark and Giant Octopus have begun their reign of terror as a whale carcass has washed up on shore. For some reason this event is of intense interest to the government who have agents all over the place despite the fact that everybody dismisses the incident of being of no significance. All of them wear sunglasses. In fact, virtually anybody who works for the military or the government and doesn't have a speaking role, wears sunglasses at all times no matter what. The attractive, single, female scientist sneaks a peek at the whale at night when no guards are around (I suppose they figured the police tape would be enough of a deterrent) and finds a large tooth embedded in the whale's body. She takes the tooth to her Irish friend/mentor and he tells her that it's the tooth of Megalodont, a giant prehistoric shark.

Meanwhile we get our first real look at the incredible CGI in this movie when Mega Shark straight up jumps thousands of feet into the air and catches a passenger jet mid-flight. I think this may very well be the most ridiculous scene ever put to film. It's unbelievably retarded and is made even more stupid by the terrible acting that accompanies it. A guy is sitting on the plane when they hit some turbulence. He gets nervous and an attendant comes by to comfort him. For no reason at all, he tells her that he's getting married tomorrow. She has no idea what to say to that so she just walks away. Then he looks out the window and sees a giant, poorly animated shark jumping out of the water. He shouts, "holy shit!" and then we are treated to a cheesy explosion. At the same time, Giant Octopus tears apart a Japanese oil rig in what can only be called an orgasm of complete nonsense. I can't even begin to describe what happens, because when I think about it I realize that I still don't know what the fuck was going on. There is one lone survivor who I think is supposed to be Japanese, but he might also be Australian. I actually have no idea who he's supposed to be, but that doesn't matter because he only exists to introduce the final main character, a Japanese marine-biologist who is doomed to become the love interest for the attractive, single, female marine-biologist. He asks the man some irrelevant questions, who is being secretly held since apparently nobody is allowed to know about the whole shark/octopus thing even though by this point there have been tons of reported attacks seen by tons of witness. The Japanese man then departs for San Francisco to meet up with Irish mentor and attractive, single, female scientist.

About this time, a video arrives at the home of Irish mentor where they are all staying that was taken from the submarine, and apparently has footage of the awakening of the sea monsters, but all you can see is a black mass, though the characters adamantly claim that you can clearly see them. Then some military guys arrive and arrest them at gunpoint since obviously there is no way they would have come peacefully to work on solving the problem with access to government resources. Now we get to see a string of montages of the scientists mixing Kool-Aid together and shaking their heads in disappointment (cuz that's how science works, right?).

Meanwhile the navy is trying to take out Mega Shark, but little do they know that high-powered guns have no effect on sharks. All you see of the shark is his fin sticking out of the water as it slims closer to the battleship. Except for it never gets closer because they just replay the same shot over and over again, like that scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when Sir Lancelot is storming Swamp Castle. The interior of the battleship is just a room that's always bathed in red, has a bunch of random machines and buttons all over the place, and has a steering wheel. They fire their guns a bunch and then somebody reports that Mega Shark is down, because he disappeared from their radar. But then he comes back unexpectedly since radar wasn't designed to keep track of massive sharks twice as large as an airplane. The captain stands there looking like an idiot, doing nothing, and then explosion. It should be noted that this scene is reused later, and is exactly the same in every way except for there's a different captain.

The Japanese scientist and the attractive, single, female scientist decide to have sex since they figured that they must be in love or something, I don't know. After doing the deed in a closet in a military installation without anybody noticing, they realize that pheromones are they key to defeating them. One chemistry montage later, and they have the pheromone that is apparently nuclear waste as it glows green. The plan is to lure the sea beasts into highly populated areas where they can... I don't really know where they planned on going from their. Needless to say, it ends with the Golden Gate Bridge being bitten in half.

Plan B is to use the pheromones to lure Mega Shark and Giant Octopus to each other so they can duke it out and kill each other since obviously it's been bred into their genes to have an irrational hatred for one another. At no point does anybody ask, "Hey, what happens if instead of both of them losing, one of them wins?" So they set out in a dangerous mission in some submarines to bring the two together in the middle of the ocean. A bunch of subs are destroyed and many die in the process, but it's all worth it to see the movie live up to the promise of its title. I'm just kidding, it's the most anti-climactic monster battle in the history of cinema. This movie is one and a half hours long, and Mega Shark doesn't actually fight Giant Octopus until the final fifteen minutes of the film, and when they do all you see is Giant Octopus wrap its tentacles around Mega Shark who squirms for while, escapes, bites one of the tentacles, gets caught again, rinse and repeat. Finally they sink to the bottom of the ocean, locked in death's grasp, and Japanese scientist, and attractive, single, female scientist have a make-out session. The end.

If you still want to see this movie after reading that, then do everything in your power to avoid paying for it. I watched it during my free month of Netflix on the PS3, and even then I still regret it.

Bonus points to whoever can tell me what the filmmakers were thinking when they made this shit that isn't fit to be called a movie.