Finding Nemo (2003) - dir. Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich
I have a bit of a personal vendetta against this film. I love it. I do. I’ve seen too many times, in fact. I’m just appalled by the Oscars in 2003. Sylvain Chomet’s the Triplets of Belleville is a work of sheer perfection. While Finding Nemo is an exceptionally good family film, proving, once again, Pixar is clearly onto something. The Best Animated Feature category is one of the few that has the ability to upset me.
All that aside, Finding Nemo is great. It’s funny. It made Ellen Degeneres bigger than anyone ever thought she’d be. [I love that, all it took was some voice-acting. Albert Brooks did some minor improvisations and spent time really working on his comedic inflection, but Ellen… well, she was just reading the script. Being herself. And BOOM! She’s huge.] It’s a charming tale that is chalk-full of wit. Also, it’s the classic Search Story, and animated films always succeed with children when they’re based on classic literary archetypes. Bravo Pixar.
Rust and Bone (2012) - dir. Jacques Audiard
Snubbed from last year’s Oscars, French filmmaker Jacques Audiard does it again. Now, allow me to explain: Marion Cotillard deserved a Best Actress nomination. Stephane Fontaine deserved a nod for Best Cinematography. But the film itself is incredibly varied.
Each scene is beautifully constructed and plays out to near cinematic perfection. But the plot is far too grandiose, convoluted and abstract. The neo-realism brought by Audiard falls on deaf ears with this one. The film’s got killer whales, bareknuckle boxing, amputee sex, child abuse, animal abuse, Katy Perry and more. Excellent in pieces but sort of melds together with as much cohesion as a greatest hits album.
Audiard will someday make a truly excellent film, but this is not it.
The Little Mermaid (1989) - dir. Ron Clements & John Musker
Say what you will about the explicit sexism - but the Little Mermaid came as part of Disney’s strongest 5 film run in their prestigious history. Beginning with the unexpectedly great Mouse Detective in 1988, then Mermaid, then Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin and finally the Lion King - Disney really knocked it out the park here. If not for the story (Ponyo is a WAY better adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story) then at least for the music and the lovable characters. Flounder might be a bit daft but Sebastian is fantastic, Ursula is scary as shit and King Triton is the best Disney parent there is.
Ariel might be a terrible representation of a heroine and could even be the worst possible role model for young girls - but if you can look past that (it is, admittedly, a difficult task, but you always have to look past some form of oppression in order to enjoy a Disney flick) the film is rather enjoyable. The weakest of the aforementioned run of five, but a strong showing nonetheless.
Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - dir. David Lean
Forget the Fall, forget the Tree of Life, There Will Be Blood, Manhattan or any other film that tickles your visual fancy… because David Lean and director of photography F.A. Young did it better, and they did over half a century ago. Lawrence of Arabia is an epic by every definition - but it is also the most astoundingly beautiful film you’ll ever see. It’s an incredible feat.
The film itself… suffers from being far too much of a great thing. I love movies. But something rubs me wrong about a film that clocks in at well over three hours. There’s nothing wrong with Lawrence of Arabia - it’s got everything you could possible want in a film (and it should what with all that time) but when it all boils down the film is not exciting enough to demand repeat viewings. It is, however, an artistic triumph like no other.
Along Came a Spider (2001) - dir. Lee Tamahori
Let me preface this by saying - this was my favorite movie at one point. Now, allow me to clarify that I saw this when I was twelve and hadn’t seen many other R-rated films at that point. It was cool. And dark. And Morgan Freeman.
Revisiting the film all these years later (I haven’t watched it since I was in middle school) now that it’s on Netflix Instant I must say - I still have a soft spot. I love these 90s thrillers. They were all directed by no-name Hollywood directors (who the fuck is Lee Tamahori?) and adapted by no-name screenwriters (Marc Moss anybody?) from popular mystery novels (James Patterson… now there’s a name I actually recognize).
In conclusion - Along Came a Spider is no longer one of my favorites, though I never really thought it would be, But I still have a soft-spot for 90s-esque thrillers.
Walk the Line (2005) - dir. James Mangold
Perhaps I’m alone in thinking this… but this film is nothing but glossed up garbage. The story of Johnny Cash might make a good film… but if it does, this is certainly not it. Reese Witherspoon walked away with an Oscar which she certainly didn’t deserve (*cough* Felicity Huffman *cough* Scarlett Johansson *cough*), Joaquin Phoenix was great… but he never actually felt like Johnny Cash (I’m a Phoenix fan, but I just didn’t buy it). The only redeeming part of the film was the costuming.
Equus (1977) - dir. Sidney Lumet
I’m willing to watch anything directed by Sidney Lumet (and you should be too). Equus is an award-winning play written by Peter Shaffer that probably should have just stayed as being a play. I’ve read it. It’s fantastic. This film… is moderately good. I mean… it’s not a bad film. There’s some good performances and some of the more stage-ready scenes translated pretty well, but it just falls flat somehow along the way.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013) - dir. J.J. Abrams
Star Trek Into Darkness aka The Wrath of Khan remake no one’s been waiting for was a surprising success for J.J. (short for Steven Spielberg) Abrams. Seriously, Abrams’ Spielberg-ness is astonishing to me, and it just keeps coming through with each film. The newest installment of the newest installment of Star Trek is, without a doubt, the best and most fan-friendly film to date. It’s exactly what a summer blockbuster is supposed to be: there are a myriad of explosions, attractive faces, fantastic acting from under-appreciated actors (Zachary Qunto and Benedict Cumberbatch are flawless), and more one-liners than every previous Abrams film combined.
Seriously, it’s laugh out loud funny on such a consistent basis, this might be the best comedy of 2013 so far.
While the plot is rather foreseeable (it really is the Wrath of Khan) it never matters. And when all of the convoluted problems come to a sudden end you’re never mad that you didn’t actually think James T. Kirk or his crew were ever in any real danger. It’s a great action flick, and it’s everything I hoped it would be.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) - dir. John Hughes
Funny. Predictable. Definitely from the 80s. Definitely a John Hughes film. Watching John Candy doing pretty much anything is amusing. But the little affectations and terrible attempt at “heart” ruined this film from being anything other than the routing holiday themed buddy comedy.