Saturday, August 20, 2011

Movies You Should Watch Before You Leave School: Part II

I'm sorry if I haven't been doing much lately with my blog, but apparently I got to prepare for my finals and that is what I would be having in mind.

Due to the ongoing popularity with Part I , I've decided to do a second list on movies you have to watch before you head off to Uni, get a job or whatever future prospects you have. The list felt so original than other movies-you-must-see lists I've heard before. I am looking at you, the adoscelent, to watch movies that to me, are not trash, stand upon its time and will hopefully be put in some highly secured archive before the end of the world would actually happen.

And before I go into the list, these are the films I feel ashamed not to have watched.

Saving Private Ryan
The Usual Suspects
The Truman Show
City of God
Requiem For A Dream
Close Encounters of a Third Kind
Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back and Return of The Jedi
Annie Hall or any Woody Allen film
Resevoir Dogs
Taxi Driver
The Big Lebowski
Apocalypse Now
Let The Right One In
Lord of The Rings: The Return of the King.

10. Raging Bull (1980)

Raging Bull is the best movie made by Martin Scorsese considering how beautifully this has been shot in black-and-white, it never manages to go into sporting movie cliches and the violently energetic performance from Robert De Niro as Jake La Motta, a famous boxer from the 1940s and 50s. This isn't the usual Rocky-esque movie you'll find in sports movies. In fact this is a story of an underdog with an animalistic behaviour fueled from boxing and sexual jealousy. As we study La Motta's character in person, the feeling of watching a modern day Othello emerge. A rising boxer comes up, becoming well-respected with a beautiful wife but planting himself the seed of jealousy at the end leading to the self destruction of his life.

9. American Beauty (1999)

I love hearing about things we find filled with so much greatness that once we look closer it's isn't there or has a flaw. Take American Beauty for instance when you're a middle aged husband whose wife and daughter is bored of you because they've been there with you too long. Your journey to freedom starts with a sexual fantasy of your girl's best friend whose reminds you of that popular girl from your old school you want to jerk off to while your wife wouldn't find out. It continues with working out to impress the girl then to anything related to a midlife crisis while your wife has an affair with her career competitor and your daughter also takes that journey with her teenage neighbour enslaved by his authoritarian father. American Beauty shows a cold yet honest portrayal of an upper-middle class family looking perfect in people's eyes that once you look closer the flaws that will be fatal are there. With riveting performances from Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening playing a bickering husband and wife and Sam Mende's gorgeous direction, the boundaries have been broken.

8. Memento (2000)

Inception may have been Christopher Nolan's dream invader, but Memento is Nolan's memory invader. Memento is an earlier mind bender from Nolan about Leonard Shelby (Guy Pearce) with short-term amnesia following the rape and murder of his wife. From the beginning we should know who was her killers but this film rewinds from Shelby getting back to the origins of his investigation and his amnesia. This is storytelling at its heartbreaking and complex. What I liked about it is that Guy Pearce plays a man with a dyslexic mind tells us where he had been heading that had ripped his life apart and giving him the amnesia. One flaw though is that the unconventional structure felt so conventional as we go from the beginning to the end, repeats itself. But even with this flaw, Christopher Nolan manages to take you on a tour of someone tragic and manipulated by the people who would forget them 5 minutes into the conversation.

7. LA Confidential (1997)

Back in the 1940s and 50s we get detective films that are cynical and decipher the themes of drugs, hookers and corruption. Those were called film noirs. Those movies had been better than all of the crime thrillers you've seen so recently or were trying to pay tribute to those movies (I'm looking at you, Lincoln Lawyer) and in the mid 90s we got Se7en, a neo-noir detective thriller about the seven deadly sins. But on that same time, LA Confidential comes up on that page and if this film was released in the golden era of film noir, it would've been a classic. But it's still a classic when it was released in 1997 despite being seriously overlooked by the overpraised Titanic. This film delivers a huge sense of film noir nostalgia for the hardcore of movie geeks. With charismatic performances from Kim Basinger and Kevin Spacey and some breakouts from Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce (it shows, Hollywood, why Australia is a place to find some talent), it's classy and stylish schlock that'll put a smile on your face after you finish the film.

6. Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988)

How do you make the Golden era of Hollywood look cool? Add cartoon characters into the story and turn them into psychotic morons. A film noir crossed with animation, Roger Rabbit is the biggest cartoon star in Hollywood experiencing troubles with Maroon studios. The toon detective Eddie Valient despises toons blaming them on the death of his detective partner and brother. Valiant has to investigate the murder of Maroon's competitor cartoon mogul Marvin Acme. Roger Rabbit is framed for the murder because his cartoon wife the voluptuous Jessica Rabbit had been playing pattycake with Acme. Roger Rabbit is at least human but to many of the humans he's psychotic like many toons you will see in this film. Like your average film noir, it's a detective story featuring cynical concepts of power, passion with a hint of goofiness.

5. Mary And Max (2009)

Mary And Max is an outstanding animated feature from Harvey Krumpet director Adam Elliot about a long distance relationship (not a sexual one) of two very lonely people. An 8 year old girl from Melbourne called Mary and a middle aged Jewish man from New York City called Max who cannot relate to people. Through 89 minutes, we discover the poignancy of these two evolving through their lives from Mary becoming a successful-then-failed writer while Max attempts to achieve his life goals which includes winning the lottery. But the main reason for thinking that this animation is so understated is it goes off-convention and still retained its powerful and emotional tone for its main characters. It is beautiful in cinematography yet the emotions are never cheerful.

4. The Godfather: I and II (1972 and 1974)

Yes, these are two of the greatest movies of all time. But if I go into a conversation and was asked which Godfather was better it would be Part II because it has more dynamic than I. The story of the Corleones a crime family powerful to convince an Italian hating director to cast a Sicilian in his movie that they can cut off a racehorse to do so. In Part I, Marlon Brando plays the patriarch Vito Corleone whose ill fate led to the downfall of the Corleone dynasty. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) the youngest son has to save the family. Part II is a sequel and a prequel that shows of Michael's rise to power and a biographical account of a young Vito (Robert De Niro) who also undergo a rise in power following the death of his family.

As brilliant as the first film was, I didn't love like anybody else. The Godfather was pretty slow, some of the dialogue spoken by Vito is incomprehensible because of Marlon Brando's thick accent. But it had brilliant performances from Brando, Pacino and the best from the lot from both movies was from Robert Duvall playing the American adopted son Tom Hagen who has a few flaws of his characters than any of the Corleones and opened up some psychological depth of the family filled with such power. The Godfather sticks with the simplest storytelling about power, loyalty and betrayal and keep in mind that both movies had some of the best scenes including the kiss of death from Michael Corleone in Part II and the ending from Part I. Despite all of the problems, I still love these films although its reputation was scarred from Part III.

3. Goodfellas (1990)

Grab the smartest clothes to wear so you can watch this awesome mobster movie from Martin Scorsese about Ray Liotta as Henry Hill living the dream... as a gangster. Seriously, he fantasises being a gangster yet he forgets his lesson from Robert De Niro's Jimmy Conway. "Never rat on your friends... and always keep your mouth shut". And then he was living the nightmare. Scorsese's second best movie makes me feel confident every f***ing day because it is a special movie. The narration from Liotta takes you to a journey as a gangster who rise and fall at the very end. Add in Joe Pesci as the short-tempered squeaky accented sidekick and you're taken a tour to Hill's rise and fall as a mobster. Martin Scorsese's crime epic is grand with a huge sense of identity at its heart.

It's brazenly edited and mesmerisingly narrated by Ray Liotta and has a great soundtrack and when I finish watching the film it gave me a right amount of confidence and happiness from depression. Goodfellas is one of those rare movies that never loses its significant effect to the viewer every time you watch it.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994)

This movie redefined movies. It's Quentin Tarantino's flawless work and if there's anything to hate about this movie it's either because it's two and a half hours long and that it's aethetically violent. Pulp Fiction has a story... that is more than one... and has the facts... referential and self-referential... and is moral, good and bad. There are many of Tarantino's trademarks shown off in Pulp and this is not only his ultraviolent violence and you only have to find out for yourself.

Two talkative henchmen, a shining suitcase, a golden watch and a bank robbery are the elements of a story with such a clever structure. This shows that anytime you want to carry dialogue for your film, it needs to be clever and have to be stylised. Otherwise people would just doze off. And that's exactly what Quentin did with his screenplay as most of the dialogue pays a lot of homages in many areas of cinema. But the highlights of Pulp Fiction is John Travolta's comeback performance as Vince Vega and Samuel L Jackson as the Bible-quoting sidekick and the entertaining soundtrack. This movie comes from an all star cast including Harvey Keitel, Ving Rhames, Christopher Walken, Tim Roth and more (oh and there's a cameo by that guy who voiced Zoidberg from Futurama). This also marks the comeback of Bruce Willis and breakout of Uma Thurman, an actress Tarantino often consider as his muse.

1. Fight Club (1999)

This movie need to be taught at schools especially in English about how our world and individuals have been in conflict for eternities both physically and mentally. Even if it's so violent and would cause a teacher to be fired, it has to be taught. Fight Club is one of those movies that explain my own motivations to go to movies. I go to movies to be entertained, to think within and to recognise the artistic value the director has intend to put in. Yes, it's a dark film. Yes, the results had initially made audiences cold. And yes, this is for anyone who wants a guide on writing death wishes.

We all want to die and that is certainly the case for Edward Norton as the narrator. The dude cannot sleep and his life is going nowhere. However he meets Tyler Durden, a soap-making, soup-urinating hickey who looks like he's living the life and after their flight he introduced him to the world of fighting in which Norton, Pitt and so many other urban workers are busting knuckles to release their masculinity.

Fincher had quite said that the fights are not to be shown as glorious and more of a therapy session. That's why he's was keeping it low with the marketing and the results were pretty much disappointing. The initial reviews were quite harsh with publications as Entertainment Weekly giving it low as a D+ and it merely made its budget. But when the DVDs came out, it had a Family Guy effect. It had mediocre money, caused a rift with Fox executives and made huge DVD sales with EW reversing its opinion putting it in the top spot of Essential DVDs giving it the deserved recognition.

Fight Club is a meaningful and tightly smart film that adds multiple dimensions to its characters in particular the Edward Norton character whose basically the 'working everyman' while this earned my respect to Brad Pitt as a very fine actor working today in Hollywood. It's a movie that covers the social disenchantment of generation X thanks to the rise in consumerism and the philosophy inspired by Nietzche to escape from the desires of conforming and Fight Club is the entire package leading to that escape and destroying something that is so beautiful.

If the world is threatened by a calendar, an alien invasion, or a spreading virus, this movie is what I hold onto.

Keep watch for Part III

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