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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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My Top 10 Favorite Movies of 2007

Ah, 2007. Here’s a strong candidate for my favorite film year of the 00s. A ridiculously large amount of great films arrived this year, leading to a really wonderful selection on this list. The #10 on this list could beat the crap out of most other #10s of the decade.

I normally don’t do honorable mentions, but I really do need to give a shout-out to Persepolis, a lovely animated autobiographical film about a girl growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. It was originally on this list, and I had its entry written up and everything. But just last week, I discovered the film that ended up on #9 here, and thus Persepolis got bumped off. Very sad. If you haven’t seen it, you really ought to.

As usual, this is 2007 strictly as listed by IMDB. Also, this is a list of my favorite films of the year, and nothing more.

10 – NOTHING IS PRIVATE (TOWELHEAD, Alan Ball)

“See, the mark of intelligence, Gail, is having the capacity of holding two conflicting ideas in your head at one time.”

This is a film I found great, yet I have little desire to revisit it anytime soon. It’s a rough watch likely to make you squirm, about a young teenage girl who has lived her whole life with her American mother in New York but is now sent to Texas to stay with her Lebanese dad. The culture clash mixes with her sexual awakening to create an uncomfortable (in a good way) story, and director Alan Ball (who wrote American Beauty) wisely sprinkles it with some black humor to make it go down easier. Summer Bishil is effective in the lead, but it’s the supporting turns by Aaron Eckhart, Peter Macdissi and Toni Collette that leave real lasting impressions.

9 – TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE (Alex Gibney)

“If you weren’t a terrorist when you came here, you sure would be when you leave.”

A horrifying documentary on the torture and interrogation techniques used by the US during the War on Terror. But it goes beyond mere shock effects and investigates what made people carry them out and why and how they were put in place. Not a pleasant watch, but an important film. Michael Moore wishes he could make me dislike the Bush administration as much as this movie did.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 25 October, 2011 in Lists, Top 10 of a year

 

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The dangers of watching trailers and why I try not to

A week ago or so, the trailer for Jason Reitman‘s latest film Young Adult hit the internet. Everyone on my Twitter feed and all the movie blogs I follow had something to say about it, most of it positive. Me? I didn’t watch it. Not because I don’t care about the film. Au contraire, I’m absolutely psyched for it as I’ve loved the director’s first three films. No, the reason why I’m not watching it is because there’s absolutely no reason for me to do so. I already know I want to see the film badly, so it doesn’t need to hook me. I don’t know what the film is really about, but I don’t have to. The people involved have a good track record with me, so why not let the plot be a surprise? And having some funny moments from the film spoiled for me in advance is not anything I desire either.

That’s not to say I have a complete hatred for trailers. I understand that they serve an important purpose in getting people interested in seeing the films they represent. Not everyone keeps up on movie news to the degree that I (and most other movie bloggers I assume) do, so they can be a handy form of publicity. And when I sit down to watch a DVD, I don’t instantly skip past the trailers shown before the film. Sometimes I’ll get alerted to films I hadn’t heard of before, or am made to change my mind on a film I hadn’t been planning on watching. I’ve discovered a fair share of films I ended up loving by watching these random trailers (the great documentary Murderball being but one example that springs to mind). Likewise, if I see a blog post about a film I haven’t heard of where the trailer is posted, I might well give it a look. But it doesn’t happen too often.

So why not watch trailers? There are two main reasons that make me wary of them. The first is the spoiler factor I already alluded to. I abhor spoilers of all kinds. It’s bad enough when it’s just a comedy trailer that gives away all the good jokes, but then there are really scary examples where the plot of an entire movie is given away. Sometimes including the ending! The Cast Away trailer is a perfect example of this.

WARNING! This trailer gives away the ending of Cast Away!

Cast Away is an extreme example, but even in cases where the ending is left unspoilt, knowing too much about what’s going to happen in a film can have a detrimental effect on how we enjoy it. There is great joy to be had by going into a movie not knowing anything but the very base premise.

The second danger of trailers is that they can be misleading. They might show a tone or atmosphere that is not in line with what the film itself has to offer. For a taught and tense thriller, the trailer might emphasize action even if there’s only one or two such scenes in the film (hello, The American). For an intelligent drama, it might make a romance the centerpiece even if that’s just a small portion of the movie. For a musical, they might try to hide the genre completely, such as with the trailer for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. And if you see a trailer for a film you haven’t heard of where oddly enough there’s no spoken dialogue, odds are it’s actually a foreign film.

Sadly, this practice makes perfect sense from a business point of view. Making a movie isn’t cheap, so the production company will want to make sure that they get as much money back as they can. As such, the movie needs to appeal to as many people as possible publicity-wise. But in trying to go for the lowest common denominator, the film might be made to look bland and cookie-cutter. People who want something different and would enjoy the film for what it is can be turned off from it. Here’s a shining example: the Bridge to Terabithia trailer.

WARNING! This trailer completely misrepresents Bridge to Terabithia!

Based on this trailer, you’d think Bridge to Terabithia would be your standard CGI-filled Narnia-esque fantasy about kids who discover a magical world filled with wonders. However, the key word here is “fantasy”. Parts of the movie does contain what the trailer shows, but in the film, it’s made clear that this is just the children playing and imagining. It’s make-believe. And it’s just a fraction of what the movie is really about. Most of Bridge to Terabithia takes place in the real world and deals with all manners of things childhood-related: friendship, bullying, family troubles, crushes on school teachers and so on. It’s not just a great children’s film; it’s a great film period, because it refuses to dumb itself down for its audience. Heartfelt and true, with plenty of recognizable situations. The trailer might well have scared off plenty of people who might have loved the movie. And that’s terrible.

Ironically enough, the crappiness of the Bridge to Terabithia trailer is actually what led me to the film. The movie itself isn’t one I see talked about a whole lot, but it kept popping up in forum discussions on misleading trailers. People kept saying how lame the trailer was compared to the wonderful movie. So I became curious and decided to add the film to my rental queue since everyone who had seen it seemed to love it so. I’m glad I did. So the trailer served its purpose I suppose, even if it was in the most backwards way possible.

Seeing an underwhelming film is nowhere near as bad as letting a great one slip you by. So never let a trailer convince you to not see a movie. They are not to be trusted.

For further reading on “bad” trailers, I recommend TV Tropes. Specifically, the pages for Trailers Always Spoil and Never Trust A Trailer. Both obviously contain various degrees of spoilers, so read at your own peril.

Have you had any particularly bad trailer experiences? Please leave a comment.

 
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Posted by on 17 October, 2011 in Misc.

 

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