Sunday, January 19, 2014

30 Week Blog Challenge - Week 2: Favorite Movies

Now Playing: Laundry League - Holiday Haunts

Funny thing about that song--it's composed by an old middle school friend of mine named Danielle. I haven't spoken closely with her in ages, but I have fond memories of our time together in art class during 8th grade. I know she's on her way to becoming a great musician and Holiday Haunts is one of my favorite songs from her.

I also secretly hope one day I'll get back in contact with her and she'll give me permission to direct and edit a music video for her. I mean, she's gotta let me, right? She's a future successful, professional musician. I am a future mediocre, semi-professional writer. We both dyed our originally dark and wavy hair blonde and neon colors. IT'S LIKE IT'S MEANT TO BE.

But anywayssssss, on to the blog challenge! Original here!

This one's difficult because narrowing down my favorite movies is always a pain. To challenge myself, I picked the Top Ten! :D

So HERE IT IS.

EDIT: Before we begin, I gotta say--after some introspection, I realized I really should have put Pan's Labyrinth on this list. It's such a beautiful movie, with incredibly elements of fantasy and some great female characters. (And a terrifying villain. Who's also subtly misogynistic, if you notice). There are aspects of it I like more than others, but it deserves a spot here. 



Actually...this list is soooo incomplete. I'd add so many other movies--like the 2012 Dredd film or Kill Your Darlings or a ton more.

Ever changing favorites.

1) A Clockwork Orange
There was a period of my life were I was oddly fascinated with this movie. I knew it was terribly violent and that the main character, Alex, was a rapist, a criminal, a degenerate, a teenager, all kinds of horrible things. My dad had seen the movie and knew about the book, but would not let me see it no matter how much I begged. He told me I could see the movie all by myself when I turned sixteen. So of course, the second my sixteenth birthday came around, I dove straight in.

The thing to note is that I'd read the book about a year earlier--it'd been gifted to me by my friend Silvia on my fifteenth birthday. In a way, I was expecting what was to come. And I ended up loving the movie even more than the book, all just because of Kubrick's directing and Malcolm McDowell's acting. I still gasped or freaked out at things that I knew were coming.

This is one of those movies with an uncomfortable but captivating atmosphere, especially because of the long takes (and, yeah, the content). I think it can be a life-changing story because it questions the meaning of choice, goodness, freewill, and so much more.

(And I love Kubrick's directing. He's probably one of my favorite filmmakers. And I love Malcolm McDowell too--he's like 90% of the reason I sat through most of Caligula >.>)

2) Kill Bill
Much like A Clockwork Orange, this movie had a big build up for me. I remember watching the trailers for it when I was very small and being intrigued just because it had this kick-ass music playing alongside footage of kick-ass women. I wanted to see it, but I was not allowed, for obvious reasons, and so I waited years and years till my parents relented.

And it was not what I expected. Knowing next to nothing about this movie made it so much better. I didn't even know what it was about, especially because the trailer I'd seen as a child didn't explain very much. And while I agree with most people that Pulp Fiction or Inglourious Basterds are Tarantino's best movies, Kill Bill will always be my more personal favorite, and the reason why I'm such a big fan of him. I don't think there's a single scene that I don't love--in either part one or two--and it has some of the best action scenes ever directed.

I can't even properly talk about this movie without turning into a fangirl. It's got a great soundtrack, great characters, great segments, and I love, love, love it so much!

3) Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi
I knowwww--cliche obvious choice. (Then again, I would say a good chunk of this list is cliche :P)

I'm certain Star Wars became a great phenomenon because of the world and mythology. It's like this great epic western/sci-fi world with elements of fantasy--a great mix of it all. And while I do like the world, Star Wars would be nothing to me without Luke, Leia, and Han. I think my favorite scene is when the siblings talk right before Luke has to leave to confront Vader. The Force theme plays against the backdrop and Leia comes to know about her connection with Luke and Vader. I can't even say why--it just makes me want to watch the original trilogy all over again, in one sitting, to see these characters again and connect with them.

Whenever I think back on a movie, I wonder a lot about other people's opinions and the things they've said about it. I like wondering about the impact it's had on people--whether negative or positive. But I never feel that way about Star Wars. I don't care what other people think about it or what they love or hate most about it. All I know is that it's always been important to me, and even if there are things about it that don't work perfectly, or even what happened to the franchise later on, I'll still always love the first three, especially Return of the Jedi.

And oddly enough, I can't wait for the day I can share these films with my kids. (Well, the original trilogy).

4) Spirited Away and Princess Mononoke (Tie!)
I didn't want to have to chose between these two, but I wanted to keep the list brief so I sort of just shoved them both into one spot. And that's because I will always be grateful that I grew up on Miyazaki films instead of any other kind of animation.

Spirited Away was the first movie I ever saw from him, and I loved the world and Chihiro's bravery. I'd never seen anything like this movie. The visuals are incredible, as is the mythology. It has one of my favorite dragons of fiction, and the greatest little heroine ever written.

For the other, I feel like Princess Mononoke captures the feel of an epic fantasy film in a genuine way. I love the subtle romance in the film, and the fact that it has basically no antagonist. Watching it for the first time was unexpected. I didn't expect the violence after seeing some more child-friendly Miyazaki movies, but I also didn't expect to be so invested in all the conflicting sides.

Miyazaki is really, really good at making his characters extremely likeable. I feel like someone as good as Ashitaka should be a prototypical boring hero, but he isn't. He's very strong and brave, and his quest for peace and balance is admirable. San is a little more complex, but her hot temper and devotion to nature are also admirable.

Plus, Miyazaki isn't just good at characters in general--I think he gave me some of the best role models a little girl could have. Chihiro can't fight, particularly comparing her to action girls like San, but it doesn't matter because she's still a driving force in the story. I think that's what makes his female characters better than most "strong" women written in other movies and films--his are ones that push the story forward. Their autonomy is ever present and the story unfolds because of them rather than having stuff just happen to them.

5) Exit Through the Gift Shop

I've always liked street graffiti. In a way, when I went back to Ecuador for the summer, I was looking forward the most to seeing the art of the streets. I don't think there's tax payer money or fuzzy home/business owners who want to cover up the paintings and messages. I missed looking at them, because the art was always so unique. I don't really see much of it in Miami, let alone in Tallahassee, which makes me wish there were more art-prone vandals in the world.

And I would say, Banksy is probably my favorite artist.

I was always pretty interested in this film but didn't feel the need to watch it for a while. Finally I got the chance to see it last semester. It was interesting to know Exit Through the Gift Shop isn't just about street art...in fact, as tv tropes puts it, it's kind of difficult to figure out what it's about exactly. A film about Banksy, or a film Banksy did about Mr. Brainwash, or just about the movement overall.

It raises questions about what defines art and if anyone can be an artist. It's incredibly funny in an oddly bitter way towards the end, and I was amused the whole way through. I would recommend this movie to almost anyone--but especially if they're into the arts.

6) The Motorcycle Diaries
I'm ashamed to say I don't know that much about Che Guevara. I know he's a controversial figure, and it's difficult to talk about this movie without realizing I'm reflecting on the story of someone who's both a hero and villain in history.

Nonetheless, I was in awe by this movie in a way I wasn't expecting. It was playing randomly on the background, and I wasn't even paying that much attention at first. But it was intriguing, the music was nice, and Gael García Bernal's acting is just so charming and captivating. He became one of my favorite actors right after watching this.

The Motorcycle Diaries is funny, thought-provoking, and even sad at times. The scene at Machu Picchu is probably one of my favorite moments in cinema. If I ever do go on a trip across the world, I want to do it how these two did--barely any money, town to town, speaking with locals and understanding the struggles of the people.

I was disappointed in my Hispanic cinema class because I often wonder how many more movies there are like the Motorcycle Diaries that I just haven't heard of. I have some trouble accepting my heritage because I haven't been exposed to aspects that I admire about it. I'm actually put off by a lot of Hispanic things (music, costumes, social aspects, even food)--and I can't figure out why.

But this movie feels very much like a reflection of South America while also having its own universal themes. Which is, I think, the mark of a great story.

7) Ghost in the Shell

I feel like a lot of the conversations and themes in the movie made me think about human nature and what it means to be human--which I'd never considered before. The film doesn't ever give an answer to the questions it raises, but I think that's whats always made it so great for me.

Honestly, as well done as the actions scenes are, what I like the most about Ghost in the Shell are the conversations. But that's not to say I don't enjoy the animation and the atmosphere, and the scene that runs along with the credits is beautiful. Particularly because it's impossible to know if that's Motoko's dream or maybe even a memory.

I think Ghost in the Shell was one of the first movies to show me the importance of pure sci-fi, and I ended up creating two very important characters after seeing it--the genetically engineered cyborg Amber Jackson and the A.I Isadora. Theirs is one of those works I hope to return to because it's a subject matter I want to explore. And I have to thank Ghost in the Shell for that.

8) Run Lola Run
I'd heard great things about the character of Lola before I saw this film in my German cinema class. After a string of depressing flicks and art house cinema, Run Lola Run was meant to give us a bit of a break. It was certainly different than the slow-paced, softly spoken films that preceded it. Most of Run Lola Run is, quite appropriately, constantly in motion, but once it reaches a pause, it never feels out of place or distorted. And the soundtrack for it is awesome--it could make anyone want to break out into a run through Berlin.

I wrote a paper about it for the class, so I spent a lot of time talking about the role of fate and chance in the movie, the exploration of the domino effect, Lola's almost cosmic autonomy, the strength and respect shown in the relationship, and even its frame as a modern fairy tale. But even without all of that, it's still a solid, entertaining movie.

I remember before we watched it, my professor said that this was the beginning of a more "Global" German cinema. The kind that was supposed to emulate stuff from Hollywood and appeal to Western audiences. And while I certainly think it's different from early German stuff, this film actually doesn't feel very American to me. I don't imagine an American director or writer coming up with something like this. Despite how fast it is, it also likes to take its time. It's both simple and complex, and works as a visual medium more than anything else. I like it for how unique it is, and how it doesn't ever seem apologetic about its style.

9) Hidden Fortress
Oh god this movieeee. The princess. The princess totally makes it. Well, her and the general. Ahhhhh, Princess Yuki and General Rokurōta~

I watched Seven Samurai first, as is tradition, I think, since that's Kurosawa's best movie. (Uh...it's either that or Rashomon. Much more educated people than I can probably debate that). I was not expecting to like this movie so much, but I doooo. I love it more than anything else he's ever made! Yes. Anything. Fight me, film buffs, I'm not backing down on this claim. This movie wins above all Kurosawa movies (in my personal, subjectively biased view).

Maybe cuz I love princesses. I know they get a lot of crap and everyone's always like "princesses are boring they don't ever do anything, the title doesn't matter." BUT I DON'T CARE. I am not above that kind of female character, not "too good" for princesses. I mean, yes, obviously they have to be done right, but the princess in this movie is just so, so great. I haven't seen Hidden Fortress for a few years now, probably not since I was twelve. But I remember being vividly connected to the characters and the fear they felt while trying to hide the gold. It makes me sort of sad to know the actress didn't become a super mega famous star, but I still adore her portrayal of Yuki.

And actually, as much as I like Kurosawa, his female characters don't leave impressions on me--and there aren't very many of them either. (He's not bad at writing them, in my opinion, it's just not his strength). But Princess Yuki is his exception. And either way, he's actually good at character depth and has some pretty incredible action scenes. I'll always, always, always love this movie.

10) Pride and Prejudice (2005)
This adaptation isn't always a fan favorite because it omits a lot of things from the novel, plus there is a bit of a difference with the way Darcy and Elizabeth behave--overall and with each other. But  this was the first time I was ever exposed to the Pride and Prejudice story, and Elizabeth's strong will and morals were incredibly inspirational. In a way, I think I've always wanted to be like her, opinionated and witty. Strong, and thoughtful, but not free of faults with her judgement of others.

The score compliments the scenery and emotion well--it has some great lingering shots of the landscapes and sets. And even though some people have criticized Kiera Knightly's portrayal of Lizzy, I still enjoy it. I feel her strength and her growth as a person, and her acceptance of her faults and Darcy's faults as they both grow.

And AHHH THE LOVE STORY. BAEORHAEOWARHEBOFAWER. Nothing comparesss. And yes, I'm allowed to get all mushy and girly at this movie >.> Greatest. Romance. Ever.

(And yeah, I still wish I had a lively, playful disposition that delighted in anything ridiculous).

BONUS: Guilty pleasure - Showgirls.
Oh good god, I have no excuse for this. I'd heard so much terrible things about it before watching it, I knew it was terribly sexist and idiotic (yet the people involved obviously thought it was empowering) and I'm always horrified that people think this is what movies about women is supposed to be. But I love it so much. I love how stupid it is, I love how over the top it is, I love how nonsensical it is. And I actually think that, when the dancing doesn't look ridiculous, Nomi's pretty good at it! Honestly, the only thing I don't ever watch is the rape scene, because that bit pisses me off, as does the resolution. But I suppose that's the charm of this movie--it just gets stupider and more infuriating as you go along.

I also find it hilarious that this crap passes the Bechdel Test. I mean, nothing beats the doggy chow/nice tits conversations >_>

Enjoy that great failure of a clip :D
~Becky

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"Science and science fiction have done a kind of dance over the last century... The scientists make a finding. It inspires science fiction writers to write about it, and a host of young people read the science fiction and are excited, and inspired to become scientists...which they do, which then feeds again into another generation of science fiction and science..."
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