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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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The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards

As the year is approaching its end, it’s customary for bloggers and critics alike to do a top ten list of the best movies of the year. I won’t be doing that, because I haven’t seen nearly enough films of 2011 yet. A list like that from me is still a good half year away from meaning anything. So rather than reflecting strictly on the films released this year, I’d like to reflect on all the films I saw this year.

Thus, I present A Swede Talks Movies’ The Films I Watched In 2011 Awards! Or ASTMTFIWI2K11A, if you’re into the whole brevity thing. A bunch of random categories will be conjured for whatever films I feel like singling out for one reason or another.

This year I watched 229 movies I hadn’t seen before, from 19 different countries with release dates spanning from 1925 to 2011. A lot of it is from recent years, but I did check out a couple of older “you haven’t seen that one!?” flicks too. I saw my first ever films from Belgium, Brazil, Greece and Russia (Ben X, City of God, Dogtooth and Night Watch, respectively). I saw my first ever Charlie Chaplin movie (The Gold Rush) and got my first glimpse of Audrey Hepburn in Wait Until Dark. I watched highly regarded classics like Casablanca, The French Connection and the Alfred Hitchcock films Vertigo and Rear Window, as well as newer stuff like the brunt of the Best Picture Oscar nominees from the last ceremony. I saw great films like Man on Wire and A Single Man, and I saw crap like Season of the Witch.

For these awards, I’m only counting films I saw for the first time in 2011. Rewatches need not apply.

And now, on with the show!

Most Eyebrow-Raising “And Introducing” Credit Award
Winner: Kate Winslet – Heavenly Creatures

It kind of feels like Kate Winslet has been around forever, always turning in great performances. And yet there she was in Peter Jackson‘s teen murder drama Heavenly Creatures, her arrival on the big screen loudly heralded in the opening credits. As for the performance itself? A bit rough around the edges perhaps, but full of energy and enthusiasm.

Best Use Of A Urinating Baby Award
Winner: Hard-Boiled

Hard-Boiled was pretty kick-ass all around and could have gotten a shout-out for plenty of different things. But that baby putting out a fire by wetting himself really stood out. Patently ridiculous, but so good.

“What’s The Big Deal?” Award for A Beloved Film That Left Me Underwhelmed
Winner: Carrie
Runner-up: Withnail & I

While I did like Withnail & I less than Carrie, that one seems to be more of a cult classic than anything. Carrie has more wide-spread acclaim, which made it all the more disappointing to me. I’ve had more fun discussing the film with people afterwards than I had watching it.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on 27 December, 2011 in Year End Awards

 

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Review – The Fisher King (1991)

The Fisher King is an interesting case in some ways. It’s a good film, but one that could have been great if it had managed to be more focused on the parts that work. But said parts might not be the ones you’d expect from its director Terry Gilliam. In most of his other films, it’s his sense for either absurd humor (anything Monty Python-related), wild imagination (The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus) or the blurring between reality and delusion (Twelve Monkeys, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas) that stand out as something special. In The Fisher King, I find myself wishing he’d scale back on all those things and instead allow the relationships between the characters to take more room.

As the film opens, we’re acquainted with radio shock jock Jack Lucas (Jeff Bridges), a sccuseful man ready to take the next step in his career and start pursuing acting. He’s at the top of his world when disaster strikes: after giving particularly insensitive advice to a caller on his show, said caller snaps and goes on a shooting spree in a restaurant. Many people die and Jack’s career comes to a screeching halt. Flash forward three years and Jack is now a suicidal depressive stuck working at a video rental store, plagued with guilt over his part in the shooting. A chance late-night encounter with the bum Parry (Robin Williams) offers what might be a chance at redemption. Parry is clearly crazy, conversing with imaginary little people and on a quest to find the holy grail somewhere in New York. At first Jack wants nothing to do with the nut-case, but when Jack realizes that Parry’s wife was one of the people killed in the restaurant, he begins feeling responsible. He needs to help Parry in any way he can. The quest for the grail is not the only thing Parry needs aid with, though. He has also fallen in love with an accountant named Lydia (Amanda Plummer), whom he observes from afar but never dares to approach. This too Jack needs to do something about.

The Parry character is what drags the film down. It’s not that he’s dull (because he isn’t) or that Robin Williams isn’t good in the part (because he is), but he takes upp too much space. He takes his clothes off and watches the stars in Central Park. He’s chased by a monstrous red knight of his delusions. He conducts fellow homeless in singing songs. Not to mention the ever-present search for the grail, supposedly to be found in a rich man’s home on Upper West Side. All these things feel like distractions, only indirectly connected to Jack’s problems and, worse yet, not even fun. Whenever the film indulges in them, it slows down and loses my interest. This makes in particular the first half of the film drag a bit.

But when the film takes a step away from these things and focuses on the relationships present, it really shines. The Lydia of Parry’s desires is in the film described as mousy, and that seems accurate. She has her own hang-ups and quirks and appears a better match for Parry than what he’s probably aware of himself. The best part of their courtship is a quite touching scene in which Parry, after an arranged double-date at a Chinese restaurant, professes his love for her (capped off by a really funny closing line by Williams). Very sweet. Even better is what’s going on between Jack and his boss/flatmate/girlfriend Anne (Mercedes Ruehl), the other half of said double-date. Their relationship is a complex one, based as much on need as on affection. The Fisher King is never better than when it pairs off these two characters alone to have them talk about what’s going on between them. It works because they have believable issues and we can sympathise with both of them fully. This kind of thing has never really been Gilliam’s forte, so it’s a pleasant surprise that these scenes are as good as they are. No, not good. Great. Credit to both Gilliam, the actors (Ruehl in particular) and writer Richard LaGravenese for making these scenes so special and heartfelt.

But for every scene of such greatness, there’s another sidetrack to Parry’s craziness and I find myself gritting my teeth and trying to invest myself in the going-ons of his delusions. At one part, right after Parry makes a breakthrough with Lydia and they part ways, the red knight shows up to haunt him again. Having for once broken out of his craziness and behaved mostly normal for some time, he now falls to his knees on the street and cries out “Please, let me have this!”. I share the same sentiment. Let him be normal!

Despite the missteps this film makes, I have to call it a satisfying experience overall, if also a frustrating one. The parts that work really work and are truly top-notch stuff, among the best Gilliam has ever directed. There is a sardonic humor running throughout the script that I quite enjoy, and not all of the crazy Parry episodes are bad (there’s one whimsical scene where people start dancing in Grand Central Station that is both out-of-place and quite beautiful in a way). The performances are also good/great, with Bridges and Ruehl carrying the dramatic load and a memorable Michael Jeter providing solid comic relief as a homeless drag queen. So yes, as I said in the opening paragraph: The Fisher King is a good movie. But it could have been great, and it’s a real shame that it isn’t.

Score: 3/5

 
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Posted by on 10 October, 2011 in Reviews

 

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