Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Ocular Optometrical - Lists

I've decided to start keeping track of my own picks for movies according to the topics covered on some of my favorite movie review podcasts. I figure it will help give me more regular content than what records I've bought in the last 2 weeks.

Firstly, a big-up to the podcasts I'll be ripping off list topics from:
- Filmspotting - http://www.filmspotting.net/
- Scene/Unseen - http://www.sceneunseenpodcast.com/
- Cue The Film - http://cuethefilm.blogspot.com/

Scene/Unseen - Topic: LA movies
my pick:

Repo Man (1984)
Emilio Estevez & Harry Dean Stanton are auto reposessors in Alex Cox's edgy, trippy, punk comedy, and they take their jobs very seriously. Grabbing cars from unsuspecting deadbeats and speeding around the concrete streets of LA embroils Estevez & Stanton in a metaphysical plot that could destroy the Earth. Cox's film perfectly marries its story with its tiny budget (incidently, the film was produced by The Monkees' Michael Nesmith) and romantically sums up the gritty wasteland of early 80's LA in Reagan's America.

Filmspotting - Topic: Top 5 vacation movies
I decided to try to pick films that each said something different about vacation, so films with redundant themes, some really awesome, ended up in my honorable mentions.
my picks:
honorable mentions:

L-R: Weekend (1967) / The Witches (1990) / Straw Dogs (1971) / Westworld (1973) / My Life As A Dog (1985)/ The Descent (2006) / Total Recall (1990) / Withnail And I (1987) / Tokyo Story (1953)


5. One Crazy Summer (1986)
One of my favorite screwball comedies as a kid. John Cusack goes on post-high school vacation to Nantucket where he joins a cast of misfits in a community run by preppy jocks & evil land developers. I think I really wanted to identify with Cusack's likeable but nervous animator who manages to steal the hot, preppy girl but knows enough to end up with the hot hippy Demi Moore. He also hangs out with a great group of oddballs like Bobcat Goldthwait, Joe Flaherty, Curtis Armstrong & Tom Villard. The whole thing culminates in a 80's cliche yacht race, but it sums up a summer vacation perfectly where you create your own challenges to become consumed with even though they may have little consequence in your life at home. Those are the challenges that end up transforming you.


4. Stranger Than Paradise (1984)
An early film from Jim Jarmusch that highlights his strength in capturing 3 dimensional characters on screen, even when the acting talent of John Lurie & Richard Edson might be more than a little rough around the edges. This film perfectly captures that adage that no matter how far you go, you can't escape yourself, as a trio of New Yorkers can't seem to rise above their dissatisfaction with themselves on a roadtrip to Miami.


3. Wolf Creek (2005)
It was a little bit of a toss-up between this & Straw Dogs for a vacation that ends up going terribly wrong. Often lumped into the "torture porn" genre, Wolf Creek does feature some brutal, graphic violence, but it also does a very admirable job of taking time to establish characters with hints of depth who we actually care about. Based loosely on a true story, the film also feels stomach-turningly possible. These sorts of films play out like excruciating cautionary tales against leisure. Easily one of the best horror films of this decade.


2. Omohide poro poro [Only Yesterday] (1991)
A Studio Ghibli animated movie about a young office woman. Feeling like her life might be passing her by, she takes a trip to the countryside and reminisces about her childhood. A lot of people will hold up depictions of graphic violence as evidence that animation doesn't have to be just for kids. I'd recommend that they watch this beautifully realized film where the exacting attention to details about ordinary life are caught in the animation, and it carries to the larger themes of a young woman's appreciation of the world around her. The film walks a fine line of heart warming moments but manages to avoid falling into a trap of schmaltzy sentimentality. Apparently Disney decided not to release this film as part of its Miyazaki imports because the film mentions menstruation, and yet they did release Pom Poko which stars Raccoons with gigantic testicles.


1. The Last Detail (1973)
At some point I realized that Jack Nicholson used to be a great actor and I went about hunting down all of his performances, but imagine my surprise when I got to this film and found out that Randy Quaid used to act too! This Hal Ashby film falls squarely in the man's man cannon like every Clint Eastwood or Steve McQueen flick. Two naval officers are assigned to escort a sailor to a military prison for a petty offense. The 2 officers are determined to take the fastest route possible so that they can use the extra time and per diem as a small vacation, but when they realize how young & inexperienced in life their charge is they can't bear to leave him to rot in prison for 8 years without a taste of his youth, So a vacation that probably would have consisted of blowing off steam in strip clubs & bars becomes a lot more poignant. It's a great film where all of the characters are given the spotlight to be their best & worst, for you to love & hate.

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