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Flickcharting #2 – Rocking my Top 100

Time for more Flickcharting! For those still unfamiliar with the website Flickchart, here’s the gist of it: You’re presented with two random movies. Pick the one you like the most. Repeat until the end of time.

Last time I did this, I had Flickchart pick movies out of all the films I’ve seen. This time, I’m restricting the selections to the films currently in my top 100 on Flickchart – based on all my previous rankings. This should lead to harder decisions, as these 10 match-ups will all be between movies that I love.

Take it away, Flickchart!

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Black Swan vs Bridge to Terabithia

Bridge to Terabithia always deserves more love than it currently has. Always. It may be my favorite movie about childhood, and watching it is a wonderful experience. It’s so much better than what the misleading marketing made it seem. So it’s with heavy heart that I can’t give it the win here. Black Swan is such an intense film, and a terrific production in all regards, from the cinematography to the acting. The final scene always leaves me breathless.
Winner: Black Swan

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Best Worst Movie vs Take Shelter

There are plenty of things that I like about Best Worst Movie, the documentary on the notoriously bad Troll 2 and its cult following, but one part that really stood out to me was when they visited Margo Prey, who played the mother in Troll 2. At first, I just laughed at how out there she was, but gradually, that gave way to thoughts of “Wow, she’s really in a bad state.” It’s quite the shift from the generally humorous tone of the rest of the documentary. And then you have the scene at the convention, where both the Troll 2 people and the viewers come out of the bubble and are reminded that cult following is not the same thing as wide-spread fame. Two great documentary moments. Now, Take Shelter is a nuanced and engaging movie with a powerhouse performance by Michael Shannon, but I had fonder reactions to BWM.
Winner: Best Worst Movie

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The Wrestler vs Little Miss Sunshine

I’ve gone back and forth a bit on Darren Aronofsky‘s The Wrestler since its release. I loved it when I first saw it, but on a subsequent rewatch, I felt the story was a wee bit too familiar, and I docked it a point in my review of it. Since then, my appreciation for it has risen again, largely due to how cleverly it uses its pro wrestling subject matter to create a different vibe from most sports dramas. “Sports”-wise, it’s not about a guy proving that he’s better than others; it’s about a guy willingly putting his health at risk because it’s all he knows how to do. It’s a unique beast, that film. That said, there is nothing in the movie quite as great as the rollercoaster of emotions that is Little Miss Sunshine’s climax, and while Mickey Rourke‘s performance in The Wrestler is worthy of all the praise it has gotten, there is a lot of fun to be had in the many ways the members of Little Miss Sunshine’s ensemble cast interact with each other. Plus, I’m a sucker for comedies.
Winner: Little Miss Sunshine

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Hero vs Stranger Than Fiction

This is a case of where I appreciate the two films for very different things: Hero for its jaw dropping visuals and twisty Rashomon-esque storytelling, Stranger Than Fiction for its performances and quirky plot. Hero wins though, because it’s pretty much the most gorgeous-looking movie ever.
Winner: Hero

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Life of Pi vs Groundhog Day

Life of Pi was the first movie I ever paid to see more than once in theaters. Like Hero above, it’s a stunning achievement in visual splendor, and the story it tells is one I adore for many reasons. It is, however, sadly lacking in Bill Murray at his best and snarkiest. Groundhog Day also has quite the nostalgia factor for me, which proves to be too much for Life of Pi to overcome.
Winner: Groundhog Day

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The Rules of Attraction vs Requiem for a Dream

Flickchart is in an Aronofsky kind of mood today, it seems. Three films in six match-ups so far. Funny, that. Roger Avary’s The Rules of Attraction is a film I enjoy championing, because it rarely gets the credit it deserves – especially next to that other Bret Easton Ellis adaptation American Psycho. It’s great, wickedly funny, kind of alcoholic, and has some real teeth to it. If you haven’t seen it, you’d do well to check it out. Not that it’s better than Requiem for a Dream or anything, however. I saw Requiem early in my cinematic awakening, and it was a real eye-opener to me in terms of what was possible to achieve with directing and editing, not to ention the story that had me totally reeling. As an aside, it’s fun to note that the Victor segment of The Rules of Attraction owes a lot to Requiem’s hip hop montage editing style.
Winner: Requiem for a Dream

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The 40-Year-Old Virgin vs Lost in Translation

One of my Flickchart philosophies is that there should be no “automatic” wins. Just because I call Lost in Translation my favorite movie doesn’t mean that the match-up shouldn’t warrant full consideration (in fact, I never would have realized that it was my favorite movie if not for this philosophy, as described here.) So let’s look at the opposition here. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is pretty much the cream of the crop of the Judd Apatow brand of comedy. It’s hilarious, the cast is hitting on all cylinders, and there’s real affection for the main character and his plight. I’d call it one of the finest laugh-out-loud comedies of the 2000s. There. Case made. Lost in Translation is still better. Its meditative nature and profound tale still strikes all the right chords for me, and it keeps growing all the more relevant to me for every year as I traverse the age gap between Charlotte and Bob.
Winner: Lost in Translation

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High Fidelity vs The Ice Storm

Two movies about relationships here. Well, kind of. High Fidelity very much is, whereas The Ice Storm focuses more on a specific time and place (70s American suburbia) and the way people and families operated during this era. The Ice Storm is arguably the deeper of the two, and its approach to its themes is impressive considering that it’s directed by non-American Ang Lee. Even so, High Fidelity is a movie I find more relatable, and its blend of outright comedy and introspection is handled wonderfully. Having read Nick Hornby‘s source novel, I’m also in awe of what a skillful adaptation it is. Oh, and it has Jack Black‘s best performance ever.
Winner: High Fidelity

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Man on the Moon vs Forrest Gump

Oh, this is a tough one. My gut reaction is to go with Forrest Gump due to its emotional and touching story, but the more I think about it, the more I lean towards the Andy Kaufman biopic. It’s the one movie where I can actually forget that I’m watching Jim Carrey, as he does a great job of inhabiting the Kaufman character. Compare this to Forrest Gump, which is more a case of “Tom Hanks is sure acting the hell out of this movie.”
Winner: Man on the Moon

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The Woodsman vs American Beauty

Remember how I said that Lost in Translation is the movie I tend to call my favorite? Well, that used to be American Beauty, which to this day holds a special place in my heart. The Woodsman, on the other hand, is the film that made me a certified Kevin Bacon fan through his stunning performance as Walter. Both movies deal with the touchy subject matter of adult men lusting after younger girls, with The Woodsman fully focused on this whereas American Beauty has this as just one aspect of main character Lester’s mid-life crisis – and said crisis is still just one part of everything 1999’s Best Picture winner deals with. This thematic multitasking is part of what I like so much about it. The Woodsman is a more harrowing film, and certainly the more fearless one, but superior to American Beauty it is not.
Winner: American Beauty

Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments!

 
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Posted by on 4 October, 2013 in Flickcharting, Misc.

 

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50 MORE Things I Love About Films

Well over a year ago, I wrote a post called 100 Things I Love About Films on my old blog, which I later reposted here at A Swede Talks Movies. This is the sequel, adding 50 more things to the original 100. I’ve tried to avoid repeating movies and actors I mentioned in that first post, though a few have slipped through anyhow.

Credit for the original concept goes to Beau Kaelin. Thanks also to gentleman and scholar Travis McClain for bringing the idea to my attention. The original description:

Rather than posting your 100 favorite films (which has been done and overdone), you simply post your favorite things about movies.  I dig the concept, because instead of obsessing over whether the films you put on a list are “objectively good enough” to put on said list, you simply jot down 100 moments/lines/visuals that have made a lasting impression on you or sneak their way into running gags between you and your friends. Just read below and you’ll get the idea.

Why only 50 this time instead of 100? Because… quality over quantity? Yes. Let’s go with that.

1. Emily Watson in Breaking the Waves, the fear and agony on her face raw enough to make me gasp in sympathy.

2. The wonderfully trashy dialogue in Bitch Slap. I love the fact that someone actually put the words “Lube my boob, skank twat” to paper.

3. Natalie Portman‘s joy-stricken face when she phones her mother from the bathroom stall in Black Swan.

4. Michelle Williams‘ dorky dance in Blue Valentine.

5. When actors produce their own films, showing a real desire to have the movies made.

6. The brief cameo by Jason Statham reprising his role from The Transporter at the beginning of Collateral. Crossover stuff of that nature should happen more often.

7. The 20th Century Fox fanfare.

8. Robin Williams capping off his love declaration in The Fisher King with the words “But I still don’t drink coffee”.

9. The shot of the sugar lump in Three Colors: Blue.

10. Watching Casablanca for the first time and finally getting some context for all the well-quoted lines of dialogue. “Round up the usual suspects” put a big smile on my face.

11. Penelope Cruz performing A Call From the Vatican in Nine. I don’t mean to sound crass, but… hubba hubba.

12. The chase sequence through the construction site in the 2006 Casino Royale.

13. The Remains of the Day lunch box in Waiting for Guffman.

14. The whole sequence with the trunk in The Ice Harvest. Great mix of tension and humor.

15. Kat Dennings trying to pronounce Mjölnir in Thor. “What’s Myeh-myeh” indeed.

16. Danny DeVito trying to look scary to John Travolta in Get Shorty.

17. Sven Nykvist‘s gorgeous cinematography in Persona. I’ve never seen black & white look better.

18. Mark Ruffalo‘s “Why the fuck did I just say that?” grimace after stating that he loves lesbians in The Kids Are All Right.

19. Speaking of Ruffalo: The Hulk in The Avengers. Every awesome second of him.

20. When a movie just leaves me completely baffled about whether I like it or not, or whether it even matters. It’s annoying too in a way, but I love how it questions the very idea of why I watch films and what I take away from them. Funny Games would be a recent example of this kind of movie for me.

21. The ending of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. Teriffic execution of a sequel hook.

22. Those performances that become so utterly convincing that my brain eventually has to break me out of the trance by going “Uh, Emil, you do know that this is an actor playing a character, right? It’s not a real person.” And then I go “Shut the fuck up, brain.” A recent example: Richard Farnsworth in The Straight Story.

23. Seeing an actor I’ve never heard of before in a film and immediately wanting to find out what else they have been in since they’re so good.

24. The climax of Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, a sequence that tops anything else in either of Guy Ritchie‘s Sherlock films.

25. Tippi Hedren waiting outside the schoolhouse in The Birds. Cue me gasping for breath and muttering “Oh shit…”

26. Kirsten Dunst looking stunning in the wedding dress in Melancholia.

27. Hugo reminding me that 3D can indeed be used to great effect. Thank you, Martin Scorsese.

28. Tom Cruise scaling the Burj Khalifa in Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Absolutely jaw-dropping.

29. The scene in 50/50 where Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes in for surgery and suddenly realizes that he might never wake up again.

30. Michelle Duncan‘s adorable Scottish accent in Driving Lessons.

31. This exchange in The Fugitive: “I didn’t kill my wife!” “I don’t care!”

32. The opening of Grave of the Fireflies. It’s good on the first watch, but it’s heart-breaking on a rewatch.

33. The lone penguin wandering off towards the mountains and certain death in Werner Herzog‘s Encounters at the End of the World.

34. The dream-like atmosphere of Robert Altman‘s Images. The kind of stuff that makes you realize how inaccurately the term “dream-like” tends to get thrown around.

35. Ellen Page in Juno. And Jennifer Garner. And Jason Bateman. And Allison Janney. And J.K. Simmons. And everyone else.

36. ))<>(( from Me and You and Everyone We Know.

“What business is it of yours where I’m from… friendo?”

 

37. The tense scene in No Country for Old Men where Javier Bardem makes the gas station attendant call a coin flip.

38. Seeing a scene that for some reason doesn’t work for me, only to much later have a revelation on what it meant. Guaranteed to make me love the part next time I watch the film.

39. Everything about Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich, but particularly her dismissive reactions to everything John Cusack says and does in the early goings.

40. Uggie playing dead in The Artist.

41. The meet-cute between Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent at the costume party in Beginners.

42. This poster for 127 Hours.

43. The entire showdown between Uma Thurman and David Carradine in Kill Bill: Vol. 2. Had me at the edge of my seat when I first watched it.

44. The very recognizable video game scene in Swingers.

45. Brad Pitt‘s ridiculous accent when speaking Italian in Inglourious Basterds.

46. The suffocating atmosphere of Seven.

47. The big fight on the rope bridge in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

48. George Clooney‘s fine-tuned and low-key performance in The American.

49. Robert Downey Jr. sucking at math in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang.

50. Shea Whigham‘s brief part in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, repeatedly uttering “Whoa!” in the funniest fashion.

 
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Posted by on 22 May, 2012 in Lists

 

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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 1997

Here we go with another list of my favorite films of a given year. This time we’re in 1997. The year when we found out that the Terminator movies weren’t accurate predictions of the future as Skynet didn’t take over on August 29. The year when “MMMBop” reigned supreme on the pop charts. The year when James Cameron released a little film that would go on to obliterate the cash registers at the box office. The year when Lady Di met an unfortunate end. And, of course, plenty of good movies.

As usual, this list only counts movies with a stated release year of 1997 according to IMDB.

Honorable mentions: Boogie Nights, The Fifth Element, Life is Beautiful, Suicide Kings, Titanic

10 – CUBE (Vincenzo Natali)

“No more talking. No more guessing. Don’t even think about nothing that’s not right in front of you. That’s the real challenge. You’ve got to save yourselves from yourselves.”

A group of people wake up in a maze consisting of cube-shaped rooms. Some of the rooms contain deadly traps. There. That’s an effective two-sentence summary of Cube’s premise. While there are scenes of gruesome deaths, the focus lies primarily on the characters and how they cope with each other as they try to figure out where they are, why they’re there, and how they can get out. With claustrophic tension to spare, this Canadian thriller is not one to miss.

9 – PERFECT BLUE (Satoshi Kon)

“You bad girl! You have to follow the script!”

Perfect Blue is a must-see for anyone who liked Darren Aronofsky‘s Black Swan as they deal with similar themes: uncertainty of what’s real, pressure to succeed, and the psychological effects of sex. Here we follow a young famous pop artist who decides to switch gears and become an actress, only to find herself stalked by an all-seeing obsessed fan who thinks her a traitor. At only 80 minutes, Perfect Blue is a very condensed psychological thriller that packs a heavy punch.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 19 April, 2012 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Better late than never: My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2010

Most critics and bloggers put together their Best Of The Year lists at the end of the year. That doesn’t work for me. Many films take a long time before they arrive here in Sweden, a problem hardly alleviated by American studios scheduling a lot of quality stuff for awards season at the tail-end of the year. So by the time the clock strikes midnight on New Year’s Eve, I’ve never seen all the films I feel I need to in order to make a list that has any chance of meaning anything.

But by now I feel like I’ve caught up on a lot of my personal must-sees of last year, so the time to make my own list is at hand. That’s not to say I’ve seen all there is to see. I’m particularly underwatched in non-English language films still, not to mention documentaries which people were saying had a banner year in 2010. But the great thing about lists is that they’re never set in stone. This list only reflects my feelings today, and might well look radically different one year from now.

There isn’t a ton of surprises on this list of mine, which I’m okay with. So far I’ve mostly focused on seeing the films people are talking a lot about. As time goes on, I will hear about and track down the smaller films, the forgotten gems, the new cult classics. The further removed you are from a year and the more you see, the more eclectic your list is bound to become. Time changes everything.

So here are my ten favorite movies of 2010 (note: listed as 2010 on IMDB), a particularly strong year of cinema in my opinion. Many films were hard to leave off, but that’s the way it is. No honorable mentions, no consolation prizes, no mercy. Just ten films that I love.

10 – GREENBERG (Noah Baumbach)

“There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying. You’re all ADD and carpal tunnel. You wouldn’t know Agoraphobia if it bit you in the ass, and it makes you mean.”

Some people can’t stand the quirky characters Noah Baumbach comes up with. I can’t get enough of them. In Greenberg, we’re treated to two stand-out examples. One is the titular Robert Greenberg (Ben Stiller), a man angry at the world and obsessed with his own misery. It’s arguably Stiller’s most nuanced and impressive performance, in some ways his own Punch-Drunk Love. The other is Florence (Greta Gerwig), a woman whose life is in turmoil yet she still can’t help but bend over backwards to help people. Gerwig is even better than her co-star. A grimly funny film, true to life if not the one we live.

9 – THE SOCIAL NETWORK (David Fincher)

“Did I adequately answer your condescending question?”

David Fincher and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin play loose with the truth as they tell the tale of how Facebook came to be. Those wanting the real story ought to look elsewhere. The rest of us can enjoy the quick razor-sharp dialogue, the impressive performance by Jesse Eisenberg as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, the Trent Reznor-penned score and a fascinating tale of how in the pursuit of connecting people, two friends can drift farther apart than ever.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 13 September, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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Three is One: Women going crazy

“Three is One” is a new feature here on the blog. The idea is to examine three different movies that have something in common and see in which ways they differ from one another.

This first installment will be about three psychological thrillers in which women lose their minds, or perhaps have lost them already: Roman Polanski’s Repulsion, Robert Altman’s Images and Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. All three films put an emphasis on female sexuality in various ways, and they all feature plenty of ambiguity about what is actually really and what is merely hallucinations.

REPULSION (Polanski, 1965)

Catherine Deneuve plays Carole, a young woman who lives in a London apartment with her sister and works as a manicurist. Carole has a big problem with men. She’s noticeably uncomfortable around them, which creates conflict with her sexual urges (the source of this aversion of hers is never revealed, making her case the most mysterious of the three films). When her sister goes on a holiday, Carole is left alone in their home. It’s around this time her sanity starts slipping. She spends more and more time at home, never leaving except to go to work. Strange noises are heard, threatening shadows loom outside her bedroom door and the entire apartment seems to be decaying.

Repulsion is the first part of Polanski’s Apartment trilogy. It’s followed by Rosemary’s Baby and The Tenant, two other movies that deal with themes similar to Repulsion’s, albeit with different slants. Rosemary’s Baby has Rosemary feeling paranoid about whether the child she’s carrying might be the spawn of the devil, and The Tenant deals with social anxieties as a man tries to fit in with his new neighbors. They’re both really good films and naturally make for interesting comparing and contrasting with Repulsion. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 30 June, 2011 in Three is One

 

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