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Archive for May, 2015

MrPikes’ Top 10 Favorite Movies: Postamble

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

If any of these posts has inspired you to give even one of these movies an initial chance or a second look, then my effort has been rewarded immeasurably.

I don’t regret my choices for a moment, especially since this list was never meant to be carved in stone. With so many of my favorite writers, directors, actors and cinematographers still working, odds are good that I’ll happily be making adjustments.

A few parting thoughts.

Technology never gets worse (except for whatever those shit farmers were getting up to in the Dark Ages). I’m disappointed that I couldn’t find a way to work an animated film into the 10. So many delight and amaze me, like The Incredibles (2004). Computer-generated Imagery (CGI) offers filmmakers an ever wider palette for projecting their imaginations into the world, provided they don’t get lost in the tech or the pace of its lifecycle. There must be something liberating and utterly terrifying about having the ability to create an entire film literally from nothing.

Technology always gets cheaper and more accessible. Movie studios will likely be with us for a long time (effects-laden blockbusters with exotic locations more or less require them), but here-now-today we have never had a more hospitable environment for independent filmmaking and distribution. That’s exciting, because there are more and better stories to tell than Hollywood (or its international equivalents) has the imagination or risk tolerance to greenlight, and there is enough of an appetite for good storytelling to make these movies profitable.

Never start with the technology. To stage a play all you need is a story, light, air, actors, gravity (optional) and an audience. While I love having my mind blown by the scale of movies like The Avengers (2012), I am made equally happy (if not more so) by movies like Sleuth (1972). For Pete’s sake, start with a worthwhile story and then embellish it with great acting and visuals. Anything else is like trying to polish a turd. And Hollywood, please stop systematically ruining my happy childhood memories with your cynical failures to cash in on my nostalgia. Or don’t. The days of your captive, artificially-propped-up business model are numbered. Maybe. Previously.

Bonus fun 10 movies (not otherwise mentioned) that might have made the top 10:

  • Blade Runner (1982, 1992, 2007 or whenever the last time was that Ridley Scott stopped fucking around with it)
  • Brazil (1985)
  • Bubba Ho-Tep (2002)
  • The Fifth Element (1997)
  • Forbidden Planet (1956)
  • The Name of the Rose (1986)
  • One Night at McCool’s (2001)
  • Ronin (1998)
  • Strange Days (1995)
  • Zombieland (2009)

MrPikes’ Top 10 Favorite Movies: #1 Harold and Maude (1971)

Saturday, May 2nd, 2015

I have developed a significant personal connection with this movie and I can only watch it every so often because I can’t not weep openly every time I do. I’ve had some experience with loss and watching Harold and Maude stirs all that shit up.

I tell people it’s two movies. Upon first viewing, it’s a quirky, somewhat dated black comedy. The sexual relationship between 19-year-old Harold and 79-year-old Maude has shock value and all, as does Harold’s elaborate staging of mock suicides. It’s a solidly entertaining (if a little uneven) irreverent movie.

Upon every subsequent viewing, however, when you know what’s coming, it’s the saddest, most beautiful film I ever hope to see.

Scored entirely by Cat Stevens, directed by Hal Ashby ‒ who got a fantastic performance out of Jack Nicholson in The Last Detail (1973) ‒ co-starring Bud Cort (a promising young actor whose career suffered a tragic setback) and Ruth Gordon, released in the year of my birth, Harold and Maude is my answer to the question, “MrPikes, you’re into movies, what’s your favorite?”

Harold and Maude is my favorite. When my beautiful bride and I threw a balls-out gala to celebrate our marriage, we gifted copies to all the guests and staff. Harold and Maude is one of the ways we got together.

So, the movie I love most is actually hard for me to watch. I’ll be damned.

MrPikes’ Top 10 Favorite Movies: #2 Out of Sight (1998)

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Given Steven Soderbergh’s popular projects ‒ the Ocean’s Eleven movies (2001, 2004, 2007), Erin Brockovich (2000) and, going further back, Sex, Lies and Videotape (1989) ‒ I guess I’m a little surprised Out of Sight did not make it into more people’s queues. It’s a proper heist movie (based on the Elmore Leonard novel of the same name) starring George Clooney, Jennifer Lopez, Ving Rhames and Don Cheadle, with excellent supporting performances by Luis Guzman (Cheadle’s conjoined acting twin), Albert Brooks, Dennis Farina (one of my favorite working actors), Steve Zahn and a swell cameo from Michael Keaton.

Mssr. Soderbergh is a player/manager (back in the day, some baseball managers also played). He seems to be most comfortable with a steadicam in his hands, inserting himself on the viewer’s behalf into the scene in a way that few directors do. This investment pays dividends in lots of his movies, but Out of Sight is dense with these…moments. A particular sequence with Lopez and Clooney in a Detroit highrise hotel kills me every time it’s so beautiful. It’s the most candid, vulnerable thing I’ve seen captured on film. In the words of one of my favorite authors Neal Stephenson, it leaves me feeling “naked and weak and brave.”

Soderbergh has demonstrated that he can make commercially successful movies more or less at will and he has ready access to Hollywood’s top shelf. My hope is that he will use this platform to continue taking risks on less mainstream fare. As with Out of Sight, when he nails it he nails it hard.

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