Daily Archives: March 31, 2009

Ten Things Tuesday

Ten more movies!

We’re sliding down the second half of my 100 Movies effort; today. we’ll knock off 51-60.  Ready?

51.  Die Hard.  I really like Bruce Willis as an action hero, and this first outing of – what is it now, four? – movies really, really works for me.  It’s funny, it’s harrowing, it’s gritty and scary, and just when you think it’s over, it’s not.  Besides, I’m not sure there’ll ever be a movie line to top “yippee-kay-yay, Motherfucker.”

52.  To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Numar.  Aside from the absolutely gorgeous and completely convincing performances of Patrick Swazey, Wesley Snipes and John Leguizamo – which is nothing to cast aside, I tell you – this film is a touching, heartfelt, and, at times, laugh-out-loud funny look at people trying to figure out where they fit in the world and who believe, rightly, that there should be a place for them.  Swazey’s performance hits me especially hard – the scene where s/he stops the car in front of the family home and watches as her mother steps back into the house is one that gets me every time.

to-wong-foo

53.  Coming to America.  There was a time – and I know some of you remember it – when Eddie Murphy was funny.  This film – which, I think, was the first in his attempt at a more family-friendly brand of humor which would lead him away from his Delirious-like material to do things like Dr. Doolittle and the voice of Mushu in Disney’s Mulan – blends a kind of self-deprecating humor with Murphy’s keen eye for the ironic in our everyday lives.  This film, like To Wong Foo, manages to be both critical of its material and respectful and sympathetic to it, too. Arsenio Hall is a screaming RIOT in this film. Don’t forget to check out Murphy and Hall in the barber shop!

54.  The Negotiator.  I’m not a huge fan of either Kevin Spacey’s or Samuel L. Jackson’s.  Don’t get me wrong; I have a great deal of respect for the work they do, I’m just not in awe of them the way I know some people are (I’m still not sure I truly understand either American Beauty or The Usual Suspects).  That being said, I ADORE the Negotiator.  It’s tight, it surprises me every time I see it, and it’s satisfying at the end.  When your friends betray you, the only people you can trust are strangers.

55.  The Lord of the Rings; The Fellowship of the Ring.  There is so much to love in this film.  It is breathtakingly beautiful to look at, for starters.  It does a perfectly thorough job of introducing us to the story and familiarizing us with the history.  The film shows us the important characters and establishes their personalities and the relationships between them (and it does that without beating us over the head with it; we really do come to know them).  There’s action and suspense, romance and heartfelt friendship, magic and love.  We saw this almost as soon as it came out in the theatres (we had to wait for all the die-hard LoTR fans to give up their seats first, though) and grabbed this film on DVD as soon as it hit the shelves (then got it again when the extended version came out).  I never hesitate to put this series back in the DVD player, and the first installment is, like the two that come after it, a masterpiece.

thefellowshipofthering

56.  Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.  I think this may have been my favorite of the books, and while I was disappointed by how little of the wonder of the book the film was able to convey, it still did a grand job with some pretty complex material.  The kids are getting older and their feelings are getting more complex.  The story is starting to get darker and more dangerous.  The stakes are getting higher and, now more than ever, friendships and alliances are important.  I remember reacting almost viscerally to Delores Umbridge and the feelings of frustration at knowing something that people in authority deny, and I remember the feeling of utter vindication when Umbridge gets hers in the end. Things really start to come together in this film.

57.  Glory.  I know I said that there’s no particular order to this list, but I can’t believe that I made it more than halfway through before getting to this film.  If I were doing this list in order, Glory would easily be in the top ten.

glory-dvdcover1

This film is stunning in both its scope and its emotion, and it deserved every award it won (and all that it it didn’t, too).  The acting in it is incredible; I thought, when I first heard about the cast, that I was going to have a hard time with Ferris Bueler as a Civil War commander, but about ten minutes into the film, I was hooked.  Denzel Washington kills me in this film, and I regularly use the desertion scene in my literature classes (just look at the looks on their faces!).  Morgan Freeman is, as usual, outstanding (“Shoes, suh.”).  Not that it matters all that much to me, but I’ve heard, from someone who is an historian of the Civil War, that even though the film is an amalgam of a lot of different experiences, the feel of the movie is just about right for the time.

58.  Moonstruck.  This is just fun.  I love Cher, I love Olympia Dukakis and I love Nicolas Cage, and they all did amazing work in this film.  It’s tender and funny, it’s frustrating and frenetic, it’s over the top and ridiculous, but I love it.  Mr. Chili can’t even hear the name Nicolas Cage without making a claw with his hand and shaking it in the air, but that’s a small price to pay for this thoroughly enjoyable love story.

59. National Treasure. Since we’re talking about Nick Cage, let’s knock off another of his films, shall we? National Treasure is an entirely enjoyable, family friendly action-adventure film that feels to me like the love child of Indiana Jones movies and The Da Vinci Code. Cage’s character is a treasure hunter who’s trying to unlock the secrets of a fabled treasure no one believes exists. The clues lead him through history to our Masonic founding fathers, and ends with the Declaration of Independence. He’s racing against his nemesis (played by a very creepy Sean Bean) and fighting against disbelieving officials and the security of the Smithsonian in an effort to see what he knows is there. The film combines edge-of-your-seat adventure with humor and a bit of U.S. history (and a huge dose of willing suspension of disbelief, but that’s part of the fun, really) to make a really engaging ride.

60. Batman Begins. I’ve enjoyed most of the Batman outings – I even got past my incredulity to accept Michael Keaton – Mr. Mom! – as Batman – but this one is truly my favorite of the franchise.

For someone who never in her life read comic books, I nevertheless have a great affection for the films that were inspired by them. Sometimes, I think that my ignorance of the original stories makes me a better consumer of the the films; I come to them with no pre-conceived notions of how the set is supposed to look or of which actors are appropriate for which roles, so I heartily enjoy them (even some of the “bad” ones) for what they are.

That being said, I think that Christian Bale is a wonderful Batman. He is in turns brooding and mournful, vicious and careful, self-assured and tortured, and I love that he can play all of those things in such a way that I’m entirely convinced. The supporting players – Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman, Gary Oldman, and Liam Neeson especially – all contribute to why I really love this film. Someone can come to this movie with no idea of the Batman story and come away, two hours later, with a solid understanding of the character and his motivations (without feeling like they’ve been spoon-fed or bashed over the head with the blatantly obvious). The feel of the film is just right, and it’s one that I am only too happy to pop into the DVD player on a rainy Saturday afternoon.

Happy Tuesday, Everyone!

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