Klaus (2019)

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The world’s getting louder and meaner and prouder,
Content to be less than the best it can be.
Our good angels shrivel when others aren’t civil,
And we follow suit with acute savagery.

The worst in a person can come out and worsen,
And wrong leads to wrong for as long as we let it.
Yet kindness courageous is also contagious.
The bar is as low or high, though, as we set it.

What good can be started by all the kindhearted
Can spread just as quickly as wickedness can.
Right actions and choices speak more than raised voices,
For goodness expressed frees the best part of man.
____________________

MPAA rating: PG

It might be too late for Christmas, but Netflix’s Klaus isn’t just a great Christmas movie; it’s a great movie. I wasn’t expecting much from Netflix’s first original animated film, but good word-of-mouth convinced me to give it a look-see, and now I’m happy to contribute to its positive buzz. Being nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar doesn’t hurt either.

Does anyone else recall a 2000 animated film called The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus? I remember it nostalgically as a sweet origin story for Santa, and Klaus is similar in that regard. Whereas the other film featured extensive magical elements, Klaus is far more down-to-earth, gradually developing the myths and trappings surrounding Santa in a way that could feasibly happen, albeit still with some cartoonish absurdity and a dark undercurrent.

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However, the titular Klaus is not the main character. Instead, it is the vain and spoiled Jesper (Jason Schwartzman), whose father, exasperated by his son’s laziness, makes him the postman for the remote and desolate island village of Smeerensburg, where a family feud has raged for generations. In a town where no one is eager to send letters to each other, Jesper concocts a plan to get the children to send letters for toys, a plan that might eventually get him transferred back to his well-to-do life. Essential to the plan is Klaus (J.K. Simmons), a mysterious woodsman with a wealth of toys, and, while Jesper’s goals begin as self-serving, he eventually starts to see the good that can come from an act of kindness.

The most noteworthy aspect of Klaus is its unique animation. In an age where most of the 2D hand-drawn animation around originates in Japan, director Sergio Pablos (creator of the Despicable Me franchise and character designer for several Disney Renaissance films) and other former Disney animators wanted to show how 2D animation might have evolved if it hadn’t been abandoned by the industry in the West. The result is gorgeously rendered and looks somewhere in between 2D and 3D, thanks to meticulous attention to shadow and shading.

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If Klaus had come out twenty years ago, I know it would have become a classic annual watch in my home, and I’d like to think it will be for this generation as well, despite its exclusivity to Netflix. The last decade has seen 2D animation flourish on the small screen, and Klaus gives me hope that it’s not dead for feature-length films as well. Despite some predictable elements, it’s filled with humor, sweetness, and a stellar voice cast (also including Rashida Jones, Norm MacDonald, and Joan Cusack) and carries the perfect heartwarming Christmas spirit that reminds us how much better it is when kindness guides our choices.

Best line: (Klaus) “A true selfless act always sparks another.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
659 Followers and Counting

 

My 2020 Blindspot Picks

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Another year, another Blindspot series! Once again, I tried to find a balance between movies that I’ve been meaning to see and a mixture of years, genres, and critical acclaim. Comedies are the most represented genre, but there’s also a musical, a film noir, an anime, a foreign zombie film, and a heavy sci-fi. I can’t wait to see what I think of these films as I watch and review one a month, but here’s hoping 2020’s Blindspots will be the best group yet!

And, in alphabetical order, the movies are:

Annie Hall (1977)

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Double Indemnity (1944)

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Fargo (1996)

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The Grand Budapest Hotel (2013)

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Heathers (1988)

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Make Way for Tomorrow (1937)

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Moulin Rouge! (2001)

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One Cut of the Dead (2017)

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Pom Poko (1994)

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Primer (2004)

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Short Cuts (1993)

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What a Way to Go (1964)

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What do you think of this selection? Is anyone else tackling their own Blindspot series? Feel free to let me know in the comments!

2019 Blindspot Ranking

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One aspect of this whole blog experience that I’ve enjoyed is the Blindspot series, which I’ve done for the last three years. Everyone has those films that critics and fans laud, yet you’ve never quite gotten around to seeing them. Picking twelve such films at the beginning of the year and watching one a month is a great way to catch up on movies I keep putting off.

Despite falling behind throughout the year, I finished before the new year began, which is more than I can say for 2018’s picks. It was a nice mix of genres, and since I’m a nut for lists, here is my ranking of my 2019 Blindspots. While none of 2018’s picks dented my Top 365 list, three films from last year’s selection made the cut. The rest were uniformly good, though my bottom two felt lacking, considering their “classic” status. I’ll be posting my Blindspots for 2020 tomorrow but thought I should give a quick retrospective to bring last year’s Blindspot series to a close.

 

  1. Best in Show (2000)

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Often ridiculous mockumentary about weird dog owners that just wasn’t as funny as it was trying to be

 

  1. Vertigo (1958)

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Classic Hitchcock with some great moments but dull connective tissue

 

  1. Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honneamise (1987)

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Impressive world-building anime about an alternate space program, with a unique religious aspect

 

  1. Run Lola Run (1998)

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Fast-paced thriller played out in three variations; loved the butterfly effect but needed something more

 

  1. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1974)

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Classic comedy borne on British drollery; will no doubt get funnier with repetition

 

  1. Mr. Nobody (2009)

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One man’s life dependent on fate and choice, cosmic in a way that swings between poignant and pretentious

 

  1. How Green Was My Valley (1941)

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Warm-hearted Best Picture winner that felt like a Welsh version of The Waltons

 

  1. Twenty Bucks (1993)

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Likable Meet-‘Em-And-Move-On tale of a twenty-dollar bill floating through people’s lives

 

  1. Amadeus (1984)

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Exquisite biopic of two composers ruined by jealousy and genius

 

  1. The Longest Day (1962)

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Expansive recount of D-Day with an all-star cast, excellent complement to Saving Private Ryan

 

  1. Dancer in the Dark (2000)

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Heart-shattering musical melodrama with an exceptional performance by Bjork

 

  1. Selma (2014)

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Near-perfect biopic of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his 1965 voting rights marches; deserved more awards love than it got

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

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A long time ago, in a galaxy far,
A popular story began
Of sand-covered planets and creatures bizarre,
And ships that can travel from star unto star,
Of heroes and scoundrels who meet in a bar,
Of princesses, sages, and even Jar Jar,
And rebels who battle the way that things are.
Of such stories, I am a fan.

Yet stories must finish to make room for more.
All tales, great and small, say good-bye.
They thrill us with action and romance and war;
They shock and amaze with sights not seen before;
They spark controversy and trigger uproar;
They grant us new worlds with their mythos and lore
That lovers and haters alike can explore.
Their endings do not mean they die.
__________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

At long last! I had wanted to post this review before the New Year, but instead it gets to be my first review of 2020. Star Wars fans everywhere were eagerly anticipating the final installment in the Skywalker Saga, and the return of J.J. Abrams as director reassured many that it would be ended by a sure hand. Yet I was one of the few who really enjoyed Rian Johnson’s work on The Last Jedi and was hopeful that Abrams wouldn’t retcon it just because some fans were dissatisfied. Thus, I approached The Rise of Skywalker with hopeful but mixed feelings, and I walked away with satisfaction that has yielded somewhat to similarly mixed feelings.

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Since it was no secret in the trailers, posters, or the film’s opening crawl, I don’t mind revealing that Emperor Palpatine has returned. (Collective non-gasp!) With Supreme Leader Snoke dead and Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) still wavering in his villainy, they had to bring back the original Big Bad, no matter how unlikely his survival seemed at the end of Return of the Jedi. Faced with an evil armada, Rey (Daisy Ridley), Finn (John Boyega), and Poe (Oscar Isaac) team up for the first time to track down a Sith planet and stop the un-dead Emperor.

The Rise of Skywalker is an unusual beast. I thoroughly enjoyed it in the theater and left satisfied, yet I knew then that I still liked The Last Jedi better. This latest film is an exercise in all things Star Wars – alien critters, good-at-heart criminals, explosive action, the redemption of bloodlines – all things I love, yet it also felt safe in a way The Last Jedi didn’t, with fewer laughs and impactful moments too. Not that I minded any of this while watching it, but as the Internet has since pointed out its flaws to me, somehow they annoy me more here than all the complaints over The Last Jedi did, perhaps because the previous film had the hope of a sequel making sense of things while this bears the weight of being a grand finale.

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I think J.J. Abrams was the right person for this job, but it sometimes felt like he was trying to “redeem” the previous film, for instance sidelining Rose (Kelly Marie Tran) almost completely. It was interesting, though, how it doubled down on the “new” things the Force was capable of; if you didn’t like that aspect of The Last Jedi, watch out. With Abrams at the helm, there’s much to appeal to fans, but every time something unexpected happens, it’s walked back to prevent offending those fans too much, you know, like that last movie. I am one of those fans, so I’m not sure if I should be relieved or bothered at being patronized like this. (However, Lost alert! I did appreciate a certain cameo from my favorite show.)

Boy, I sound like all those whiners over The Last Jedi. Yet unlike them, I can still say it was a great movie, warts and all, and a worthy conclusion to the Skywalker Saga. All the actors are in fine form, with the original cast (Mark Hamill, Billy Dee Williams, etc.) provided a fitting send-off for their characters, including the late Carrie Fisher. It’s easily the messiest of the new trilogy, raising questions that are never answered and wearing its plot holes on its sleeve, and the storyline is all over the place. At one point, the main characters are searching for an object that has a clue to locate another object that will help them find a planet, yet the brisk pace and chemistry among the actors always sustain the fun of a good space adventure. There’s just something about Star Wars. It’s what made people turn out in droves for this movie despite the public disappointment in the previous one.

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I suppose the main problem with The Rise of Skywalker for me is how it changes the arc of the series as a whole, due to the return of the Emperor. The first two trilogies were about the fall and rise of Anakin Skywalker, but this trilogy makes it all seem more like the rise and fall of Palpatine. Perhaps that’s not so bad, but I doubt it’s what George Lucas had in mind. Even so, The Rise of Skywalker caps off an uneven but still thoroughly entertaining chapter of the Star Wars story, with impressive visuals and rousing action. Despite my gripes, I stand by my assertion that there has never been a Star Wars movie I haven’t enjoyed. Now we just need to wait twenty years or so for a new trilogy with an older Rey training a new generation of Jedi to fight another evil empire. In the meantime, may the Force be with you.

Best line: (Zorii Bliss, played by a masked Keri Russell) “That’s how they win… by making you think you’re alone.”

 

Rank: List-Worthy (joining The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi in my Top 100)

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
659 Followers and Counting

 

THE LIST (2020 Update)

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Happy New Year! It took a little longer than I anticipated, but here at last is the update for my Top 365 Movie List, the one that started it all back in 2014 as I counted down one a day. As I said in my 6th Blogiversary post, only 20 films I saw in 2019 made the cut, and you can see the additions in bold below.

However, through the magic of cheating on my part, only ten films actually got painfully booted off the list. This is thanks to the sheer number of sequels, such as Toy Story 4, Avengers: Endgame, and The Rise of Skywalker, as well as my tendency to group similar films together, such as pairing The Longest Day with Saving Private Ryan and The Magnificent Seven (both versions) with its originator Seven Samurai. Aside from the three series sequels I mentioned, nothing was able to crack the Top 100, though Mr. Church came close at #101, and most of the other additions were relegated to the latter half of the List. The main tweak to the Top 100 was an eight-place rise for The Avengers and its equals, which was bolstered by the satisfying conclusion that was Endgame.

I don’t want to forget those former favorites that fell off the List but still deserve recognition: Silverado (1985), Harrison Bergeron (1995), The Judge (2014), Amazing Grace (2006), War of the Worlds (2005), The Quick and the Dead (1987), Sheffey (1977), Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Beginnings and Eternal (2012), The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007), and Lady and the Tramp (1955).

Only the hawk-sighted would notice, but there were some rises and falls among the films already on the List. Spider-Man: Homecoming was the biggest gainer thanks to its pairing with Far from Home, jumping from #288 to #210, whereas The Nativity Story was the biggest loser, dropping from #165 to #310, likely suffering from lower rewatchability, as did United 93 (falling from #158 to #206).

All this is strictly personal preference, list mania, and total favoritism on my part, which obviously changes over the years, so you’re welcome to disagree or, better yet, suggest a film I may not have seen that you think deserves placement here. This is a living List that is meant to change over time, and I can’t wait to see what films 2020 will offer up to potentially join their celebrated brethren here on my humble blog (even if it sadly means taking some off to make room).

Here’s to another year with Rhyme and Reason!

 

  1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001, 2002, 2003)
  2. Mr. Holland’s Opus (1995)
  3. Forrest Gump (1994)
  4. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
  5. The Sound of Music (1965)
  6. Star Wars Trilogy (1977, 1980, 1983)
  7. Finding Nemo (2003) and Finding Dory (2016)
  8. Titanic (1997)
  9. Toy Story Series (1995, 1999, 2010, 2019)
  10. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  11. The Princess Bride (1987)
  12. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  13. Groundhog Day (1993)
  14. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
  15. The Prince of Egypt (1998)
  16. You’ve Got Mail (1998)
  17. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  18. The Avengers (2012), Captain America: Civil War (2016), Infinity War (2018), and Endgame (2019)
  19. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  20. War Horse (2011)
  21. The Incredibles (2004) and The Incredibles 2 (2018)
  22. Cast Away (2000)
  23. Heart and Souls (1993)
  24. Pirates of the Caribbean (2003, 2006, 2007) and Dead Men Tell No Tales (2017)
  25. Tarzan (1999)
  26. Les Miserables (2012)
  27. Ben-Hur (1959)
  28. Star Trek (2009)
  29. The Chronicles of Narnia (2005, 2008, 2010)
  30. The Family Man (2000)
  31. The Mummy (1999) and The Mummy Returns (2001)
  32. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
  33. Oliver! (1968)
  34. Whisper of the Heart (1995)
  35. Spider-Man Trilogy (2002, 2004, 2007)
  36. The Five People You Meet in Heaven (2004)
  37. Elizabethtown (2005)
  38. Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  39. Chariots of Fire (1981)
  40. Babe (1995)
  41. The Blues Brothers (1980)
  42. Jurassic Park (1993)
  43. 84 Charing Cross Road (1987)
  44. National Treasure (2004)
  45. Ratatouille (2007)
  46. The Fugitive (1993)
  47. True Grit (1969, 2010)
  48. Evita (1996)
  49. The Lion King (1994)
  50. Inception (2010)
  51. When Harry Met Sally… (1989)
  52. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015), The Last Jedi (2017) and The Rise of Skywalker (2019)
  53. Lilies of the Field (1963)
  54. Life of Pi (2012)
  55. Mary Poppins (1964)
  56. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)
  57. Glory (1989)
  58. Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
  59. The Sixth Sense (1999)
  60. Back to the Future Trilogy (1985, 1989, 1990)
  61. Aliens (1986)
  62. Life Is Beautiful (1997)
  63. Sherlock Holmes (2009) and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
  64. The Phantom of the Opera (2004)
  65. Awakenings (1990)
  66. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  67. Paulie (1998)
  68. Home Alone (1990) and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
  69. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1996)
  70. Big (1988)
  71. Jumanji (1995)
  72. Somewhere in Time (1980)
  73. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  74. A Christmas Story (1983)
  75. Speed (1994)
  76. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
  77. 1776 (1972)
  78. High School Musical Trilogy (2006, 2007, 2008)
  79. Wit (2001)
  80. Serenity (2005)
  81. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
  82. Gone with the Wind (1939)
  83. Aladdin (1992)
  84. The Greatest Showman (2017)
  85. Saints and Soldiers (2003)
  86. La La Land (2016)
  87. Fantasia (1940)
  88. Shadowlands (1993)
  89. Hook (1991)
  90. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  91. The Truman Show (1998)
  92. The Ten Commandments (1956)
  93. Star Wars Prequel Trilogy (1999, 2002, 2005)
  94. October Sky (1999)
  95. Saving Mr. Banks (2013)
  96. Holes (2003)
  97. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016)
  98. The Martian (2015)
  99. The Pursuit of Happyness (2006)
  100. About Time (2013)
  101. Mr. Church (2016)
  102. Taking Chance (2009)
  103. Star Trek into Darkness (2013) and Star Trek Beyond (2016)
  104. Signs (2002)
  105. The Blind Side (2009)
  106. Star Trek: Generations (1994)
  107. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  108. The Santa Clause (1994)
  109. Starman (1984)
  110. My Fair Lady (1964)
  111. The Passion of the Christ (2004)
  112. Train to Busan (2016)
  113. On Golden Pond (1981)
  114. Brother Bear (2003)
  115. WALL-E (2008)
  116. The Green Mile (1999)
  117. Air Force One (1997)
  118. Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2013)
  119. Shrek 2 (2004)
  120. Big Hero 6 (2014)
  121. Iron Man Trilogy (2008, 2010, 2013)
  122. To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
  123. The Matrix (1999)
  124. Ghostbusters II (1989)
  125. The Right Stuff (1983)
  126. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
  127. Shuffle (2011)
  128. The Mask of Zorro (1998) and The Legend of Zorro (2005)
  129. The Color Purple (1985)
  130. Jesus Christ Superstar (1973)
  131. Ready Player One (2018)
  132. Shrek (2001)
  133. Inside Out (2015)
  134. The King’s Speech (2010)
  135. X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
  136. The Hunger Games series (2012, 2013, 2014, 2015)
  137. Yentl (1983)
  138. Men in Black Trilogy (1997, 2002, 2012)
  139. Skyfall (2012)
  140. The Music Man (1962)
  141. Ghostbusters (1984)
  142. Regarding Henry (1991)
  143. Alien (1979)
  144. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)
  145. The Polar Express (2004)
  146. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
  147. Julie and Julia (2009)
  148. Airplane! (1980)
  149. Darkest Hour (2017)
  150. Secondhand Lions (2003)
  151. A Christmas Carol (any version)
  152. Grave of the Fireflies (1988)
  153. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
  154. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  155. Mrs. Doubtfire (1993)
  156. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
  157. The Little Mermaid (1989)
  158. Die Hard trilogy (1988, 1990, 1995)
  159. Castle in the Sky (1986)
  160. Source Code (2011)
  161. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
  162. Planet of the Apes Trilogy (2011, 2014, 2017)
  163. Extraordinary Measures (2010)
  164. Overboard (1987)
  165. Cinderella (1950) / Cinderella (2015)
  166. A League of Their Own (1992)
  167. The Homecoming: A Christmas Story (1971)
  168. Tangled (2010)
  169. Zootopia (2016)
  170. The Untouchables (1987)
  171. Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron (2002)
  172. Ella Enchanted (2004)
  173. Splash (1984)
  174. Monsters, Inc. (2001) and Monsters University (2013)
  175. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
  176. The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (1974)
  177. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
  178. Enchanted (2007)
  179. Up (2009)
  180. Children Who Chase Lost Voices (2011)
  181. What’s Up, Doc? (1972)
  182. Ant-Man (2015) and Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
  183. Wolf Children (2012)
  184. Jojo Rabbit (2019)
  185. Coal Miner’s Daughter (1980)
  186. Pocahontas (1995)
  187. Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)
  188. Rudy (1993)
  189. Mulan (1998)
  190. Your Name (2016)
  191. Hidden Figures (2016)
  192. How to Train Your Dragon (2010)
  193. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Vol. 2 (2017)
  194. Labyrinth of Lies (2014)
  195. Treasure Planet (2002)
  196. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms (2018)
  197. Mission: Impossible III (2006), Ghost Protocol (2011), Rogue Nation (2015), and Fallout (2018)
  198. Selma (2014)
  199. As Good As It Gets (1997)
  200. King of Thorn (2010)
  201. Les Miserables (1998)
  202. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)
  203. Spaceballs (1987)
  204. The Way (2010)
  205. The Prestige (2006)
  206. United 93 (2006)
  207. Déjà Vu (2006)
  208. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011)
  209. Doc Hollywood (1991)
  210. Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and Far from Home (2019)
  211. Blinded by the Light (2019)
  212. Foul Play (1978)
  213. Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
  214. Saving Private Ryan (1998) / The Longest Day (1962)
  215. Frozen (2013)
  216. The Dark Knight Trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012)
  217. Woman in Gold (2015)
  218. Twister (1996)
  219. Coco (2017)
  220. Funny Girl (1968)
  221. Rocky (1976), Rocky II (1979), Rocky III (1982), Rocky IV (1985), and Creed (2015)
  222. Hello, Dolly! (1969)
  223. Joyeux Noël (2005)
  224. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
  225. To Sir, with Love (1967)
  226. April and the Extraordinary World (2015) / Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004)
  227. Out of Africa (1985)
  228. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979)
  229. The Hobbit Trilogy (2012, 2013, 2014)
  230. Cars (2006) and Cars 3 (2017)
  231. Adventures in Babysitting (1987)
  232. Hoosiers (1986)
  233. Gravity (2013)
  234. The Great Escape (1963)
  235. The Naked Gun (1988)
  236. Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1986)
  237. Soul Man (1986)
  238. Philadelphia (1993)
  239. Raising Arizona (1987)
  240. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
  241. Ghost (1990)
  242. Misery (1990)
  243. Captain Phillips (2013)
  244. School of Rock (2003)
  245. Something the Lord Made (2004)
  246. Vantage Point (2008)
  247. Peter Pan (1953)
  248. The Terminal (2004)
  249. Superman (1978) and Superman II (1980)
  250. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  251. Jane Eyre (1970)
  252. Casablanca (1942)
  253. Phineas and Ferb the Movie: Across the 2nd Dimension (2011)
  254. The Poseidon Adventure (1972)
  255. The Girl Who Leapt through Time (2006)
  256. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Waterworld (1995)
  257. Casino Royale (2006) and Quantum of Solace (2008)
  258. Annie (1999)
  259. The Elephant Man (1980)
  260. Cloud Atlas (2012)
  261. Anastasia (1997)
  262. X-Men (2000) and X2: X-Men United (2003)
  263. Green Book (2018)
  264. Surrogates (2009)
  265. Lethal Weapon 2 (1989)
  266. WarGames (1983)
  267. My Girl (1991)
  268. Chronesthesia (or Love and Time Travel) (2016)
  269. The Ultimate Gift (2006)
  270. The Way Back (2010)
  271. Memphis Belle (1990)
  272. Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)
  273. Dances with Wolves (1990)
  274. The Terminator (1984)
  275. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947)
  276. The Castle of Cagliostro (1979)
  277. Rain Man (1988) and Dominick and Eugene (1988)
  278. Pinocchio (1940)
  279. City Slickers (1991)
  280. The Hundred-Foot Journey (2014)
  281. Patema Inverted (2013)
  282. Forget Paris (1995)
  283. Eddie the Eagle (2016)
  284. A Silent Voice (2016) / Hear Me (2009)
  285. Doctor Strange (2016)
  286. Akeelah and the Bee (2006)
  287. Dunkirk (2017)
  288. Murphy’s Romance (1985)
  289. Shenandoah (1965)
  290. The Red Violin (1999)
  291. Arrival (2016)
  292. Bridge of Spies (2015)
  293. Hidden (2015) and A Quiet Place (2018)
  294. A View to a Kill (1985) along with most other Bond films I’ve seen, including Spectre (2015)
  295. Wonder Woman (2017)
  296. Con Air (1997)
  297. Shazam! (2019)
  298. The River Wild (1994)
  299. A Beautiful Mind (2001)
  300. Finding Forrester (2000)
  301. Unbreakable (2000)
  302. Starter for 10 (2006)
  303. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (2003)
  304. The Spiderwick Chronicles (2008)
  305. Wayne’s World (1992)
  306. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
  307. The Disappearance of Haruhi Suzumiya (2010)
  308. Steel Magnolias (1989)
  309. Searching (2018)
  310. The Nativity Story (2006)
  311. Dancer in the Dark (2000)
  312. Please Stand By (2018)
  313. The Count of Monte Cristo (2002)
  314. Have a Little Faith (2011)
  315. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
  316. Music and Lyrics (2007)
  317. Sister Act (1992)
  318. The Abyss (1989)
  319. The Breakfast Club (1985)
  320. Places in the Heart (1984)
  321. Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey (1993)
  322. Klaus (2019)
  323. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)
  324. In Time (2011)
  325. Thor (2011), Thor: The Dark World (2013), and Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
  326. Galaxy Quest (1999)
  327. Minority Report (2002)
  328. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
  329. Scrooged (1988)
  330. A Monster Calls (2016)
  331. Wuthering Heights (1970)
  332. Coma (1978)
  333. The Peanuts Movie (2015)
  334. Trading Places (1983)
  335. Fiddler on the Roof (1971)
  336. Remember the Titans (2000)
  337. Journey to the Center of the Earth (2008)
  338. Seven Samurai (1954) / The Magnificent Seven (1960/2016)
  339. Citizen Kane (1941)
  340. The Conjuring (2013) and The Conjuring 2 (2016)
  341. Captain Marvel (2019)
  342. The Great Mouse Detective (1986)
  343. The Majestic (2001)
  344. The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
  345. Serendipity (2001)
  346. The Others (2001)
  347. Joseph: King of Dreams (2000)
  348. Baby Boom (1987)
  349. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie (2003)
  350. The Wind Rises (2013)
  351. Lion (2016)
  352. Ordinary People (1980) and Rabbit Hole (2010)
  353. The Last Days (or Los Ultimos Días) (2013)
  354. Cloak and Dagger (1984)
  355. Chicken Run (2000)
  356. Sneakers (1992)
  357. Marriage Story (2019)
  358. The Fault in Our Stars (2014) and Paper Towns (2015)
  359. Hercules (1997)
  360. Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001)
  361. The Emperor’s New Groove (2000)
  362. Dave (1993)
  363. Psycho (1960)
  364. A Bug’s Life (1998)
  365. Time of Eve (2010)

My 6th Blogiversary and 2019 List Additions

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What a year 2019 has been! It’s hard to believe it was 6 years ago today that I published my first blog post, an introduction before I started counting down my top 365 movies back in 2014. I’ve come a long way since then, and 2019 has been quite the catalyst year, for good and ill. This was the year I finally managed to change careers, transitioning from food service to an IT job at a major company, a dream I’ve long awaited.

Yet it’s also been a year of endings. Besides ending the decade, 2019 marked an end/turning point for multiple fandoms, only some of which I belong to: the conclusions of the MCU’s Infinity Saga and the Star Wars Skywalker Saga, as well as the series finales for Game of Thrones, Gotham, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, The Big Bang Theory, Orange Is the New Black, Star vs. the Forces of Evil, Steven Universe, Mr. Robot, and many others.

Worst of all, it’s the year I had to say goodbye to both my cat and my father in the same month, which has struck my family hard recently.

Yet through the highs and lows of the past year, there have always been movies to raise or crush our spirits as needed. And as with every year, it’s time to tally up the best I’ve seen over the last 365 days and rank the heck out of them! I’ve seen quite a lot of good movies over that time, but not as many great ones as in years past, so this list of 20 seems smaller than in the past. I don’t know if I’m becoming more discerning in my film tastes or just not seeing as many good ones, but at least I had the movies listed below to get me excited about cinema.

Please keep in mind that this is not a ranking of strictly 2019 movies, as I’ve never been one to see every movie as it comes out, but you can expect such a ranking later in 2020 once I’ve had time to catch up. Instead, this list is for all my favorite movies I’ve watched in 2019, whether in the theater or at home, and of course it is strictly my personal opinion and ranking. A special mention also for those List Runner-Ups that barely missed the cut this time, including Beautiful Boy, Game Night, Alita: Battle Angel, Odd Thomas, Detective Pikachu, Amadeus, I Am Mother, Anna and the Apocalypse, Baby DriverHow to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and A Few Good Men (which was meant to be List-Worthy but was knocked down by the competition).

I’d love to hear your opinion, though, as well as any recommendations, perhaps of the best movies you saw in the past year as well. Anyway, on to the list!

 

  1. Please Stand By (2018)

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Based on its reviews, this is a movie that probably doesn’t deserve to be on a top movie list, yet I couldn’t help but love this Rain Man-inflected drama of an autistic girl (Dakota Fanning) making a quest to enter a Star Trek fan writing contest. Fanning offers a sensitive, human performance, and the Trek references kept this fan happy while leading to an encouraging and honest conclusion. Some movies appeal to certain people more than others, and this one appealed to me.

 

  1. Dancer in the Dark (2000)

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It’s hard to say I loved Dancer in the Dark, just as it’s hard to say I loved Grave of the Fireflies. Can you really love something that destroys you emotionally? Lars von Trier’s hope-crushing tone and naturalistic camerawork are also far from my usual cup of tea, yet there’s something about the earnestness of Bjork’s character in this strange musical melodrama that drew me in and broke my heart as few films have.

 

  1. Shazam! (2019)

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From its gloomy lows, DC has made somewhat of a comeback in recent years, but I still was surprised at how much I enjoyed Shazam! While it’s basically a superhero version of Big, the filmmakers found a good blend of action and humor to make this film stand on its own, and while its tone veers too dark at times, contrasting the warmth of the main character’s adopted family, it’s still among the DCEU’s best offerings.

 

  1. Green Book (2018)

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The best film of 2018? Debatable but still deserving, in my opinion. Green Book is one of those unlikely friendship movies that I’m just naturally inclined to like, and Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali play off each other wonderfully, the former a New York bouncer-turned-chauffeur and the latter an acclaimed pianist going on tour through the South in 1962. Critics can complain all they want, but Green Book was an entertaining delight about two flawed individuals finding friendship.

 

  1. Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)

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I can’t quite decide if I enjoyed Ralph Breaks the Internet more than its predecessor, but that’s a good sign in my book. Ralph and Vanellope’s journey into the World Wide Web offers both exuberant animation and comedy gold, particularly surrounding the plethora of properties Disney now owns. Its central conflict, devoid of villains, is also unique in how it addresses the real-life pain of friends separating. Disney’s first official sequel was luckily a slam dunk.

 

  1. Blinded by the Light (2019)

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I’ve never been the biggest Bruce Springsteen fan, but in the words of La La Land, “people love what other people are passionate about.” This true story of a teenage Pakistani Brit in the ‘80s discovering the Boss for the first time spoke to me as a poet and music lover and proved to be one of the best feel-good films of the year.

 

 

  1. Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

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Some might recall that The Last Jedi was my favorite film of 2017, so the placement of Rise of Skywalker should indicate my more mixed but still largely positive opinion of it. Its plot holes are legion, yet I still enjoyed this final chapter of the Skywalker Saga, as I’ve enjoyed every Star Wars episode so far. The world, the action, and the characters make all (or at least most) of its flaws forgivable and don’t detract from the entertainment value of that galaxy far, far away.

 

  1. Spider-Man: Far from Home (2019)

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Homecoming was neither the best nor the worst Spider-Man outing, and in the wake of Endgame, I wasn’t expecting much from Far from Home. Yet this turned out to be a lovably fun palate cleanser after the high stakes of Endgame. It was not only a funny European road trip but also a way for Peter Parker and the audience to move beyond the loss of Tony Stark. (Oh, uh, spoiler alert?) With twists both predictable and surprising, it was an entertaining way to end the MCU’s Phase 3.

 

  1. Selma (2014)

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I don’t know why it took so long for me to see this Martin Luther King, Jr. biopic, but luckily my Blindspot series gave me the opportunity I needed. Powered by a tour de force performance by David Oyelowo (who was robbed for an Oscar nomination), it focused exclusively on one key chapter of King’s life. Even for those who already knew the story of the Selma march, this near-perfect biopic manages to raise the tension as events play out, and it praises King while also showing him at his lowest moments.

 

  1. Jojo Rabbit (2019)

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Taika Waititi’s humor is an acquired taste that I hadn’t fully acquired until this hilarious but heartfelt Nazi satire. Young Roman Griffin Davis shines as a Nazi Youth wannabe with an imaginary Hitler for a best friend (Waititi himself), and it has a lot to say about prejudice while delivering some of the funniest lines of the year.

 

  1. Mr. Church (2016)

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Another film I’ve put off watching for far too long, it didn’t take long while watching Mr. Church for me to realize that I loved it. The based-on-truth story of an in-home cook growing into a genuine member of the family he cares for was just too sweet to resist and gave Eddie Murphy his best role in years. Despite the mixed reviews surrounding it, I loved this film dearly.

 

  1. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

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Nothing could top the grand finale of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Infinity Saga. After the gut-punch of Infinity War, everything hinged on Endgame, and the Russos delivered the biggest, coolest, most satisfying entry of the franchise to date. It’s a rare case of sky-high expectations being handily met. Plot holes be darned; this was a great way to end a decade of superhero awesomeness.

 

So ends the top twelve, but the films below also earned the rank of List-Worthy this year and will be added to my Top 365 list along with the ones above.

 

Captain Marvel (2019)

Klaus (2019)

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The Longest Day (1962)

The Magnificent Seven (1960/2016)

The Majestic (2001)

Marriage Story (2019)

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Toy Story 4 (2019)

 

Thus, another year of movie-watching comes to a close. If you’re still reading this, here are a few awards I dole out to the List-Worthy films every year.

 

Best opening scene: Marriage Story

Best final scene: Avengers: Endgame

Coolest scene: Avengers: Endgame

Biggest emotional impact: Dancer in the Dark

Oldest film: The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Most recent film: Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker (2019)

Longest film: Avengers: Endgame (181 minutes)

Shortest film: Please Stand By (93 minutes)

Best soundtrack: Blinded by the Light

Best score:  The Magnificent Seven (1960)

Best special effects: Avengers: Endgame

Most mind-bending: Spider-Man: Far from Home

Most family-friendly: Toy Story 4

Most mature: Marriage Story

Scariest: N/A

Funniest: Jojo Rabbit

Best VC Pick: A Few Good Men

Best male performance: Adam Driver in Marriage Story

Best female performance: Bjork in Dancer in the Dark

Personal favorite poem written:  Chicken with Plums

Most represented year: 2019, with ten films

 

I’ll be posting my updated Top 365 list with these additions in the days ahead, but I want to thank everyone who has read, liked, followed, and commented over the past year. I use this blog as simply a creative outlet for my writing and love of film, but the fact that others find it worth reading is a constant encouragement for me. Thank you all, and I wish everyone the best 2020 possible!

 

To finish things off, here’s a little look-back at the movies 2019 had to offer, for a little short-term nostalgia.

2019 Blindspot Pick #12: Twenty Bucks (1993)

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The money that rolls from the printers of mints
Is not unlike people who leave fingerprints.
Each purchase takes part in a life barely known;
Each bill changing hands is a seed that is sown,
And what will grow from it, for good or for ill,
Depends on the spender, as always it will.
_____________________

MPAA rating: R (for language and an extended scene of nudity)

Despite repeatedly falling behind on my Blindspot list this year, I am officially caught up and finishing right on time! I don’t know how Twenty Bucks ended up being the last movie to watch, since I’ve had a curiosity about it for some time. As many of you might know, I’m quite partial to what I call Meet-‘Em-And-Move-On films, where we follow one person as others float in and out of their life (think Forrest Gump and Mr. Holland’s Opus). Twenty Bucks is exactly that kind of movie I so enjoy, with the difference of following an object, a $20 bill that is passed around through various people’s stories.

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There is no one main plot, but certain individuals matter more than others based on time spent with them and whether they pop up again later, including Brendan Fraser as an engaged man with poor judgment, Elizabeth Shue as an aspiring writer, Linda Hunt as a homeless lady desperate for a lotto ticket, and Christopher Lloyd and Steve Buscemi as a pair of small-time convenience store crooks. There’s a fun sense of chance, irony, and serendipity as the bill changes hands and incurs increasing damage from the surprisingly large and recognizable ensemble, which also includes Gladys Knight, William H. Macy, Matt Frewer, and David Schwimmer, all of whom do well with their limited screen time, especially Lloyd as a cool and professional criminal.

I must admit that, when it was over, I wasn’t instantly in love with Twenty Bucks. The circuitous plot and some characters’ strange decisions kept me appreciating the film at a distance, which wasn’t helped by an explicit and far too long nude scene. Given a couple days’ retrospect, though, my regard for the film has grown. At times, it wasn’t always clear how the stories would intersect or how the $20 bill would connect them, but that only served to hold my interest, and some of the connections weren’t made clear to me until the credits rolled. My natural appreciation for the genre has strengthened my fondness for this particular entry, and I liked how each story served as an example of what money could mean to different people: something to ruin relationships, something to threaten or kill for, something to pass on to your children, something to pin all your hopes and dreams on, and so forth.

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As described in a behind-the-scenes featurette I saw, the screenplay for Twenty Bucks apparently originated from writer Leslie Bohem’s father, who penned a version of it back in 1935, and this film was an effort to resurrect this kind of follow-the-object movie that had been popular back then. (I’ll have to check out some of those ‘30s films that I’d never heard about before.) It does make me wonder what this movie might have looked like if it were filmed at that time, minus the objectionable elements, but Twenty Bucks still proved to be a largely enjoyable incarnation of my favorite sub-genre and a good cap-off to this year’s Blindspot selections. It doesn’t match The Red Violin, which is still my favorite follow-the-object film I’ve seen, but it makes me wish more such movies would be made.

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
656 Followers and Counting

 

Anna and the Apocalypse (2018)

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When the world is collapsing, the nation on edge,
The whole of society out on a ledge,
The sky close to falling, disease at a high,
And dead people don’t even know when to die,
It only makes sense that, when fear’s on the rise,
The level heads left of us prioritize.

Sure, some go for water, and some hunt for food,
And some say we just need the right attitude,
But while these survivalists weigh their concerns
And plan for the worst to diminish returns,
A few must step up to remind all the rest
Of one thing emergencies need when distressed.

MUSIC! That’s right. It’s so often neglected,
But soundtracks do wonders for those not infected.
When life’s at a low, just compose your own cure
And let a good melody help you endure.
Just sing your heart out, out of range of the ghouls,
For songs are survival’s most critical tools.
______________________

MPAA rating: R

What a weird, catchy, sad, gruesome, delightful movie! I’m sure it was an interesting pitch when someone first described the plot of Anna and the Apocalypse, a Christmas musical zombie film that manages to nail all three aspects of its split personality. I normally shy away from zombie movies, but the prospect of an original musical convinced me to give this unique mish-mash a try.

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Due to my aversion to gore, I’m always very wary of the zombie genre, yet I know it can be done exceptionally well (Train to Busan and Gakkou Gurashi are two prime examples), so I wanted to give Anna and the Apocalypse a chance. Unsurprisingly, it had the inventive undead bloodshed so common to the genre and so off-putting to me, yet I must admit I loved just about everything else about this British experiment.

It starts out so innocent with its high school setting and teenage misfits and then veers into zombie action and some surprisingly touching moments by the end. And through it all is the magic of song and dance, at first fitting in a High School Musical sort of way and later used as an ironic contrast to the zombie apocalypse. And the music, courtesy of Scottish artists Roddy Hart and Tommy Reilly, is actually darn good! I wouldn’t have been surprised if it came from a Broadway musical or showed up on the radio, yet the fact that it’s all original gives me pure delight.

See the source imagePutting aside the feeling that I’ve seen versions of all of these characters in other movies many times before, the entire cast of mostly unknowns give their all, instilling a fresh and likable energy to their roles. Ella Hunt is especially good as the wistful Anna, whose zombie-killing weapon of choice is a giant candy cane, and Paul Kaye is a downright ham as the school’s power-mad vice principal. Despite the initial poking fun at how juvenile high-schoolers might actually react to zombies, the whole cast later prove their acting chops as things get more dire. And while dire is to be expected from a movie with Apocalypse in the title, it also sadly saps some of the earlier fun away. Not everyone I wanted to live does, and the half-hopeful ending can’t disguise the inescapable bleakness that almost always accompanies a zombie outbreak. One of the songs even says, “There’s no such thing as a Hollywood ending.”

So Anna and the Apocalypse left me with a strange mix of admiration and indecision. The musical numbers are a blast, and, while I wish I could say I loved every minute of it, I enjoyed far more minutes of it than I ever thought I would in a zombie film. Every actor is on point, and the audacity of its holiday spirit deserves appreciation, especially when it’s this darn likable. Yet it also earns its R rating with the blood-splattering violence and didn’t leave me with the smile I wore through much of it. Thus, I’m pulling out a ranking I’ve only used once: the Semi-Dishonorable List Runner-Up, which sums up my mixed feelings. I hesitate to recommend it, but if the gore and mixed tone don’t bother you, absolutely seek out this ebullient gem. Minus the violence, it would easily be List-Worthy for me. It will no doubt end up as a cult classic addition to the Christmas horror catalog, among which it certainly has the best soundtrack.See the source imageBest line: (Mr. Savage, after Lisa asks about her boyfriend’s sick grandmother) “Look around you, Miss Snow. What do you see?”
(Lisa, Anna’s friend) “Um…tables?”
(Mr. Savage) “I see civilization on the edge. And what does civilization do when it finds itself on the edge?”
(Lisa) “We help each other?”
(Mr. Savage) “We prioritize.”

 

Rank: Semi-Dishonorable List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
656 Followers and Counting

 

Teen Spirit (2018)

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We all have a dream at some age
And wait for our turn on the stage.
Dreams shy and untrained
Will remain unattained,
But risk and result turn the page.
____________________________

MPAA rating: PG-13

The Fanning sisters are quite the talented pair. Earlier this year, I was an advocate for Dakota Fanning’s Star Trek-themed Please Stand By, and I’ve been awaiting Elle Fanning’s musical drama Teen Spirit since I posted My Top Twelve 2018 Movies I Hope Are Good nearly two years ago. Teen Spirit is essentially Rocky but with a teenage girl and a singing competition. That’s the easiest way to describe it, yet it fills its familiar mold with catchy pop favorites and earnest performances and ends up being better than the sum of its parts.

Violet Valenski (Fanning) is a British girl of Polish descent whose bucolic life on the Isle of Wight offers her little future, but when the televised competition Teen Spirit comes to town looking for contestants, she finds her chance for success, with the help of washed-up former opera star Vlad (Zlatko Buric). Fanning’s performance is subdued, as if she expects nothing from the world, and joy and frustration are keenly felt when success or its opposite come her way. Her relationship with Vlad is an added source of heart as well, Vlad growing into a father figure and seeing her as a chance to contribute to someone else’s dreams, despite his flaws sabotaging his own. (She didn’t have much to do, but it was nice also to see Clara Rugaard, who was so good in this year’s I Am Mother.)

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The best part and main draw for me, though, is the music, much of it performed by the talented Fanning herself, making me think it’s only a matter of time before she tries her hand at a solo album. The soundtrack is mostly pop staples, joined by some less widely known songs, including “Dancing on My Own” by Robyn, “Genesis” by Grimes, “Lights” by Ellie Goulding, and a stellar version of Sigrid’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe.” I can’t help but feel that Teen Spirit will serve as something of a time capsule film for the decade’s pop music, the way ‘80s films like Purple Rain and Footloose were.

As I said, there’s little in the plot that hasn’t been seen many times over, from the smile-worthy underdog story to the dangers of celebrity when Violet reaches her potential fifteen minutes of fame. Yet, despite an occasionally slow pace, it’s an example of a tried and true formula proving its feel-good value, and, while this particular film isn’t an awards magnet, it’s a sign that, between this and Please Stand By, it’s only a matter of time before one of the Fanning sisters ends up with an Oscar.

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
656 Followers and Counting

 

The Hurt Locker (2008)

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Another morn, another day,
Another chance I’ll pass away
With sudden boom or bullet swift.
Another day, another shift.
I should be scared; indeed I am,
But danger doesn’t give a damn.
I still have work for others’ sake
That fools and heroes undertake,
And if I die before it’s done,
I pray the Lord will say we won.
___________________

MPAA rating: R (for much language and violence)

The Best Picture race for 2009 had some stiff competition, especially since it was the first year the Academy switched from having 5 nominees to 10. Granted, I haven’t seen most of them yet – it was only ten years ago; give me more time! – but I was still curious to see the ultimate winner, Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker. Sure, it was satisfying when she beat her own husband James Cameron’s juggernaut Avatar, becoming the first female director to win Best Picture, but as it turns out, The Hurt Locker is a solid war film that thrives on tension and committed performances from Jeremy Renner and Anthony Mackie.

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Most of the war films I’ve seen have been set during World War II or the Civil War, so, for me, this was a new foray into modern cinematic warfare, specifically the high-tension job of an American bomb squad in the Iraq War. After a nerve-racking opening scene that demonstrates how dangerous the job can be, we’re introduced to Sergeant First Class William James (Renner), who is placed in charge of an Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) unit. It doesn’t take long, though, for his fellow soldiers (Mackie and Brian Geraghty) to realize that their new team leader is on the unconventional side, disregarding safety precautions and sometimes acting like he has a death wish.

The plot is rather episodic, as captions count down the number of days left in their tour of duty. Each instance of tense bomb hunting or sudden combat adds to the tone of danger, while having more impact on the characters than the storyline as a whole. The three men bond as soldiers do, while James’ recklessness strains that very bond as the days of constant life-and-death strain take their toll. One detour of James hunting for the truth behind someone he believes to have been killed ends with an odd lack of resolution, though, and ultimately the film’s greatest strength is the individual scenes of unbridled tension as bombs are being discovered and defused.

It did seem to me that James’ cavalier attitude seemed like the kind of behavior that would get reported and disciplined, so it made sense when I read afterward about the many veterans who complained about the film’s unrealistic portrayal of EOD soldiers, among other inaccuracies. Plus, it would have been helpful if they explained the title: “the hurt locker” refers to a soldier being injured, but I don’t recall anyone actually saying that.

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The Hurt Locker presents the stresses of the war in Iraq with a visceral candor that helped me as a viewer feel close to the action while not relying on in-your-face gore. It was also nice to see not one, not two, but four members of the MCU in one movie several years before their franchise days (Renner and Mackie, as well as Evangeline Lilly and Guy Pearce). I can’t really compare it to other Iraq War films, since this is the only one I’ve seen, but this certainly sets a high bar to which any others may aspire. Deserving of its six Oscars, it’s equal parts war movie and thriller and does both parts well.

Best line: (opening quote) “The rush of battle is often a potent and lethal addiction, for war is a drug.”

 

Rank: List Runner-Up

 

© 2019 S.G. Liput
656 Followers and Counting