2020 Shelter in Place Alphabet Movie Draft - ROUND 4

It just occurred to me I should have tried to spell out a phrase with my 20 picks. Don’t know what I could have pulled off with 5 vowels and the sometimes Y rule, but it would have been beautifully insane.

Speaking of beautifully insane.

M is for ...

1590213333943.jpg

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Was not a fan of any part of this franchise previously. But this one I dug hard. It is impossible to believe Miller wrapped up the original trilogy 30 years prior, made a few films about talking pigs and suburban witches in the meantime, then dropped this monster on us as though it had been in the works all along.

I have never known any director to take his own IP from decades earlier, and bring such a radically aggressive and fresh reimagining of it that I legit thought this was done by a hyper-hip indie auteur thirsty to make a splash in the Hollywood big leagues.

Instead, it’s Miller shaking the rust off his own creation and More Cowbelling the crap out of it.

The world-building on this thing is bonkers. The mythos and ethos are both ridiculously unreal, and plausibly functional. The cinematography is equal parts gorgeous and grotesque. The main narrative is streamlined into elegant simplicity, but the plot points surrounding it are dialed to 11 with intricacies and complex detail. Ordinarily the Rule of Cool is an excuse to ignore absurd leaps of logic, but in this case, the film-making is so superb, one can bask in both the craft and the cool.

This is also one of the few times the costume work and wardrobe stands out in my own personal sphere as being something I would label an integral part of the film's narrative and universe. And it is wicked in its scope and impact. This is a case study of custom design elevating a film a few notches.

Hardy is solid as the titular Max. One fan-theory suggested he was the mute kid from an earlier entry of the franchise and not the original Max, which was interesting in its own right and filled a lingering issue: "Why does Max barely speak and when he does it’s exceedingly awkward?" But ultimately that theory collapses under the weight of every other bit of evidence in the film. Besides, the more canon answer is a little more on brand: Max has spent so much time in the wastelands alone, he's starting to forget how to communicate with people.

Theron is a force as Furiosa, revitalizing her worthy career from languishing in a decade's worth of lack-luster entries. I absolutely love how Miller sticks with the angle that Max and Furiosa are survivalists first and would just as soon kill each other if it got them closer to their respective goals. There are no winners in the wasteland, only survivors.

And special nods to Hugh Keays-Byrne and Nicholas Hoult as Immortan Joe and Nux respectively. For Keays-Byrne it's difficult to emote such villany with a big contraption covering half your face (Hardy can attest to that), but he does it with gloriously sinister style. EDIT: And what an awesome call back his presence in the movie is! Something I just now discovered while researching for this write-up. Meanwhile Hoult is able to run the full hero's journey and take the audience with him while relegated to the outskirts of the main story.

Another of my favorite fan-theories is the main male leads are the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: Immortan Joe is Pestilence. The People Eater is ironically Famine. The Bullet Farmer is unironically War. Which makes sense given they're the three main villains. But for the fourth horseman, it's none other than our famously reluctant protagonist Mad Max Rockatansky as Death. This really doesn't add anything imperative to the story other than highlighting the moral ambiguity of the characters, including our supposed hero, and generally making everything MORE METAL!

1590254309142.png

Yeah, MORE METAL. I'll take that. This flick rocks.
 
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It just occurred to me I should have tried to spell out a phrase with my 20 picks. Don’t know what I could have pulled off with 5 vowels and the sometimes Y rule, but it would have been beautifully insane.

Speaking of beautifully insane.

M is for ...

View attachment 9875

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Was not a fan of any part of this franchise previously. But this one I dug hard. It is impossible to believe Miller wrapped up the original trilogy 30 years prior, made a few films about talking pigs and suburban witches in the meantime, then dropped this monster on us as though it had been in the works all along.

I have never known any director to take his own IP from decades earlier, and bring such a radically aggressive and fresh reimagining of it that I legit thought this was done by a hyper-hip indie auteur thirsty to make a splash in the Hollywood big leagues.

Instead, it’s Miller shaking the rust off his own creation and More Cowbelling the crap out of it.

The world-building on this thing is bonkers. The mythos and ethos are both ridiculously unreal, and plausibly functional. The cinematography is equal parts gorgeous and grotesque. The main narrative is streamlined into elegant simplicity, but the plot points surrounding it are dialed to 11 with intricacies and complex detail. Ordinarily the Rule of Cool is an excuse to ignore absurd leaps of logic, but in this case, the film-making is so superb, one can bask in both the craft and the cool.

This is also one of the few times the costume work and wardrobe stands out in my own personal sphere as being something I would label an integral part of the film's narrative and universe. And it is wicked in its scope and impact. This is a case study of custom design elevating a film a few notches.

Hardy is solid as the titular Max. One fan-theory suggested he was the mute kid from an earlier entry of the franchise and not the original Max, which was interesting in its own right and filled a lingering issue: "Why does Max barely speak and when he does it’s exceedingly awkward?" But ultimately that theory collapses under the weight of every other bit of evidence in the film. Besides, the more canon answer is a little more on brand: Max has spent so much time in the wastelands alone, he's starting to forget how to communicate with people.

Theron is a force as Furiosa, revitalizing her worthy career from languishing in a decade's worth of lack-luster entries. I absolutely love how Miller sticks with the angle that Max and Furiosa are survivalists first and would just as soon kill each other if it got them closer to their respective goals. There are no winners in the wasteland, only survivors.

And special nods to Hugh Keays-Byrne and Nicholas Hoult as Immortan Joe and Nux respectively. For Keays-Byrne it's difficult to emote such villany with a big contraption covering half your face (Hardy can attest to that), but he does it with gloriously sinister style. EDIT: And what an awesome call back his presence in the movie is! Something I just now discovered while researching for this write-up. Meanwhile Hoult is able to run the full hero's journey and take the audience with him while relegated to the outskirts of the main story.

Another of my favorite fan-theories is the main male leads are the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse: Immortan Joe is Pestilence. The People Eater is ironically Famine. The Bullet Farmer is unironically War. Which makes sense given they're the three main villains. But for the fourth horseman, it's none other than our famously reluctant protagonist Mad Max Rockatansky as Death. This really doesn't add anything imperative to the story other than highlighting the moral ambiguity of the characters, including our supposed hero, and generally making everything MORE METAL!

View attachment 9877

Yeah, MORE METAL. I'll take that. This flick rocks.
Most excellent pick. I was thrilled to pick it in the last movie draft, and I'm glad it got taken off the board early in this one. My second favorite film of the 2010's. :D
 
With my third pick in the Shelter in Place Alphabet Movie Draft, I will make use of the letter H to select:

Heat (1995):



Director: Michael Mann
Dir. of Photography: Dante Spinotti
Writer: Michael Mann
Score: Elliot Goldenthal
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Ashley Judd
Genre(s): Crime, drama, thriller
Runtime: 2 hours, 50 minutes

IMDb Entry: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0113277/?ref_=nv_sr_srsg_0

As I worked through my selections in the Shelter in Place Desert Island Music Draft, as well as this Shelter in Place Alphabet Movie Draft, I recognize in myself a desperate desire to contextualize every pick I make. As a viewer, I am consumed by the process, by the craft with which films are made. I am also consumed with the surrounding context, what was released in the vicinity of the film in question, what it was influenced by, and what it would go on to influence.

This, of course, presents a challenge in any draft wherein the participants are disallowed from naming films outside of those that have already been selected. I desire very much to discuss that which I cannot discuss! But my selection of The Thing was instructive to me, as I was fortunate enough to pick it after Blade Runner, Alien and The Terminator had already been selected. This offered me an opportunity to contextualize The Thing in the way that I wanted.

So, when I can, I think I'm going to allow my picks to react to films already selected. The Dark Knight was recently picked, and I can think of no film it is more indebted to than Heat. The opening scene of The Dark Knight, in particular, reads like a love letter to Michael Mann's masterpiece of a heist movie. And while Christopher Nolan's Gotham City was depicted as a golden-hued, seedy fantasia in Batman Begins (also recently picked), that city was transformed in The Dark Knight to resemble something much closer to the twilight blue of Mann's Los Angeles.

Heat is also a film that I would very much like to reclaim from the mancave set. For whatever reason, it has become one of those "dudebro" movies that men just can't stop "duuuuuude" and "broooooo"-ing about. But it's so much more than a "guys movie" descriptor can capture. Heat is, without question, Michael Mann's magnum opus. He made films in 1981, 1986, and 1989 that were basically just warm-ups for this one. Set in the city of Los Angeles, Mann filmed in cool tones using slow, methodical camera movements. LA is often shot in a way that emphasizes the warm climate and the sunny, upbeat dispositions of its residents. Mann instead approached the city with a gloomy kind of grandeur, as if LA was less a city of angels and more a city where angels have their wings clipped.

Robert De Niro gives one of the best performances of his career in this film as professional thief Neil McCauley. It's a masterclass in acting minimalism, elegant, patient, precise, not overly concerned with grandstanding or scene stealing. He stars opposite Al Pacino, who by 1995 had taken acting maximalism to its logical conclusion. Pacino's performance as Vincent Hanna in Heat is capital-B BIG. If De Niro slinks through the film like a snake just waiting to strike, Pacino struts through the film like a peacock screeching for attention. It works, of course, because he's effectively balanced by De Niro's thoughtful approach to McCauley.

Despite their divergent approaches to McCauley and Hanna, each actor recognizes that they are playing men driven by their hyper-competence, each thwarted not only by the exceptionalism of the other, but by the reeking amateurism all around them. McCauley is addicted to the score, and cannot abide dishonor in his den of thieves, while Hanna is addicted to the chase, and cannot abide the intrusions of his personal life upon the importance he assigns to his job. Though the screen time they share in the film is perversely (but tactfully) limited, the screen crackles to life in a remarkably understated way when they finally do meet. Michael Mann chooses not to give audiences what they would expect from such an interaction, and I adore that level of restraint in a film that is otherwise quite operatic. I imagine that Christopher Nolan had this scene in mind when he shot the interrogation room sequence between Batman and the Joker in The Dark Knight (though that scene reaches a more violent conclusion than Mann's meeting-of-the-minds in Heat).

There are, of course, many famous scenes in Heat. The big score, the firefight in the streets, the coffee shop sitdown, the retribution brought upon a backstabbing character, the final confrontation. But one of my favorite sequences sees Hanna following a false lead set by McCauley so that McCauley has an opportunity to size up and photograph Hanna from a distance. Once he realizes he's been led astray, Hanna bellows "Okay, motherf***er!" with a mouthy smile, acknowledging the skill of his adversary. McCauley grins back as he snaps pictures, illustrating the utmost respect these two men have for each other.







 
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Warhawk

The cake is a lie.
Staff member
Heat is another great choice, and now off my list.

I've seen some great comedies go already (Ghostbusters, Princess Bride, Young Frankenstein, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and The Breakfast Club in particular) and it is now time to grab one of my favorites. I'm surprised it is still available. "F" is for:

Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)

Ferris_Bueller's_Day_Off.jpg

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0091042/

I love this movie. I'm sure everyone has seen it by now and it is maybe John Hughes's best flick - a clean, fun teenage comedy that keeps the laughs coming. The character development is what drives this movie but there are also so many wonderful Chicago locales sprinkled in throughout.

Also, the soundtrack is nothing to sneeze at with Oh Yeah, Star Wars theme, Danke Schoen, Twist and Shout, etc.

It is incredibly fun and funny, with a great cast:
From wikipedia:

Featuring many Chicago landmarks, including the then Sears Tower, Wrigley Field and the Art Institute of Chicago, the film was Hughes' love letter to Chicago: "I really wanted to capture as much of Chicago as I could. Not just in the architecture and landscape, but the spirit."

It was enthusiastically acclaimed by critics and audiences alike, praising the light tone, Hughes' direction, the performances (particularly that of Broderick and Ruck), humor, soundtrack, and messages. In 2014, the film was selected for preservation in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
Hughes intended the movie to be more focused on the characters rather than the plot. "I know how the movie begins, I know how it ends", said Hughes. "I don't ever know the rest, but that doesn't seem to matter. It's not the events that are important, it's the characters going through the event. Therefore, I make them as full and real as I can. This time around, I wanted to create a character who could handle everyone and everything."
From Roger Ebert:

Here is one of the most innocent movies in a long time, a sweet, warm-hearted comedy about a teenager who skips school so he can help his best friend win some self-respect.

It does, however, work on at least a few other levels.

There is one great, dizzying moment ... that introduces, subtly, the buried theme of the movie, which is that Ferris wants to help Cameron gain self-respect in the face of his father's materialism.

Ferris is, in fact, a bit of a preacher. "Life goes by so fast," he says, "that if you don't stop and look around, you might miss it." He's sensitive to the hurt inside his friend's heart, as Cameron explains how his dad has cherished and restored the red Ferrari and given it a place of honor in his life - a place denied to Cameron.
Ferris: The key to faking out the parents is the clammy hands. It's a good non-specific symptom; I'm a big believer in it. A lot of people will tell you that a good phony fever is a dead lock, but, uh... you get a nervous mother, you could wind up in a doctor's office. That's worse than school. You fake a stomach cramp, and when you're bent over, moaning and wailing, you lick your palms. It's a little childish and stupid, but then, so is high school.

Cameron: [Whispering to himself after hanging up from a phone call with Ferris] I'm dying.
[Phone rings, and Cameron answers]
Ferris: (over the phone) You're not dying, you just can't think of anything good to do.

Ferris: Pardon my French, but Cameron is so tight that if you stuck a lump of coal up his ass, in two weeks you'd have a diamond.

Ferris: Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people.

Cameron: The 1961 Ferrari 250GT California. Less than a hundred were made. My father spent three years restoring this car. It is his love, it is his passion.
Ferris: It is his fault he didn't lock the garage.

Economics Teacher: Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?
Simone: Um, he's sick. My best friend's sister's boyfriend's brother's girlfriend heard from this guy who knows this kid who's going with the girl who saw Ferris pass out at 31 Flavors last night. I guess it's pretty serious.
Economics Teacher: Thank you, Simone.
Simone: No problem whatsoever.

Boy in Police Station: There's someone you should talk to.
Jeannie: If you say Ferris Bueller, you lose a testicle.
Boy in Police Station: Oh, you know him?

Economics Teacher: In 1930, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, in an effort to alleviate the effects of the... Anyone? Anyone?... the Great Depression, passed the... Anyone? Anyone? The tariff bill? The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act? Which, anyone? Raised or lowered?... raised tariffs, in an effort to collect more revenue for the federal government. Did it work? Anyone? Anyone know the effects? It did not work, and the United States sank deeper into the Great Depression. Today we have a similar debate over this. Anyone know what this is? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Anyone seen this before? The Laffer Curve. Anyone know what this says? It says that at this point on the revenue curve, you will get exactly the same amount of revenue as at this point. This is very controversial. Does anyone know what Vice President Bush called this in 1980? Anyone? Something-d-o-o economics. "Voodoo" economics.

Jeannie: [over the house intercom, as Principal Rooney is standing at the kitchen sink] Excuse me: if whoever was in this house is still in the house, I'd like you to know that I've just called the police. I'd also like to add that I've got my father's gun and a *scorching* case of herpes.


Ferris: You're still here? It's over. Go home. Go.
 
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VF21

#KingsFansForever
Staff member
Sorry for the holdup. I don't have time right now to do a new write-up since some creepy dude STOLE my next pick, so I'll just put the movie name and fill in the rest later to keep this moving.

ET The Extra Terrestrial - 1982
 
Nice selections all so far. I have seen each movie apart from Arrival and What We Do In The Shadows.

I saw Heat in the 90s on VHS and was confused by the abrupt ending. I think it was only the first of 2 VHS tapes... I’ll add those to my mental watchlist :)
 
I - Inception (2010)

1590352087252.jpg

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt1375666/

Cobb: An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.

Had to snag one of my favorite Christopher Nolan films here after missing out on The Dark Knight. Amazing visuals and effects, superb cast, and top notch score from Hans Zimmer. The following taken from the late Roger Ebert:

The story can either be told in a few sentences, or not told at all. Here is a movie immune to spoilers: If you knew how it ended, that would tell you nothing unless you knew how it got there. And telling you how it got there would produce bafflement. The movie is all about process, about fighting our way through enveloping sheets of reality and dream, reality within dreams, dreams without reality.
 
I feel the need, the need for speed!



T = Top Gun (1986) - PG

This flick brings some action, psychological soul searching, friendship, romance, patriotism, rebellion, and dog fighting. It’s a staple of any shelter at home film collection for its popcorn flick entertainment and quotable quotes.



Link #1
Link #2
Link #3

Quotes:
Carole: "Take me to bed or lose me forever."
Goose: "Show me the way home, honey."

Jester: "His fitness report says it all. Flies by the seat of his pants, totally unpredictable."
Viper: "He got you, didn't he?"

Iceman: You two really are cowboys.
Maverick: What's your problem, Kazanski?
Iceman: You're everyone's problem. That's because every time you go up in the air, you're unsafe. I don't like you because you're dangerous.
Maverick: That's right! Ice... man. I am dangerous.

Viper: In case some of you are wondering who the best is, they are up here on this plaque.
Viper: Do you think your name will be on that plaque?
Maverick: Yes, sir.
Viper: That's pretty arrogant, considering the company you're in.
Maverick: Yes, sir.
Viper: I like that in a pilot.

Goose: The defense department regrets to inform you that your sons are dead because they were stupid.

Charlie: Listen, can I ask you a personal question?
Maverick: That depends.
Charlie: Are you a good pilot?
Maverick: I can hold my own.
Charlie: Great, then I won't have to worry about you making your living as a singer.
Maverick'': I'm going to need a beer to put these flames out... Yo! Great Mav, real slick.

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0092099/?ref_=fn_al_tt_0
 
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I feel the need, the need for speed!

T = Top Gun (1986)

This flick brings some action, psychological soul searching, friendship, romance, patriotism, rebellion, and dog fighting. It’s a staple of any shelter at home film collection for its popcorn flick entertainment and quotable quotes.

https://m.imdb.com/title/tt0092099/?ref_=fn_al_tt_0
Noooooooo!!! Another one off my list. I’m really looking forward to Top Gun: Maverick later this year. This was a must have in the collection when the early home theater surround sounds first started to gain traction. I can vividly remember watching this film multiple times on my buddy’s Bose “lifestyle 12” system back in the day and being blown away by the sound. Great pick.
 
I love mashed potatoes.

C is for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

2C9E6AB2-DC87-4DFF-BB45-0521ABD9807D.jpeg

Random stolen internet blurb: “The story of a cosmic visitation among ordinary folk-turned-obsessives, Spielberg's masterpiece is that rare blockbuster -- at once grown-up, yet full of fairytale, childlike wonder.”

This was a pretty close one for me, with a couple other sci-fi movies and a murder mystery in contention, but when in doubt, go Spielberg.

Also, if everyone could start taking less good movies, that’d be great.
 
The C's are an easy one for me. My choice is one of my favorite movies of all time, Chinatown, with Jack Nicholson, who won best actor, Faye Dunaway as the mysterious woman, and John Huston, who plays her father, and who was nominated for best supporting actor. The movie won best picture, best director, and best screen play as well. Chinatown is a movie that stands the test of time. It's loaded with suspense, and plot twists. It even has a cameo by the director, Roman Polanski, who tragically was married to Sharon Tate.

 
The C's are an easy one for me. My choice is one of my favorite movies of all time, Chinatown, with Jack Nicholson, who won best actor, Faye Dunaway as the mysterious woman, and John Huston, who plays her father, and who was nominated for best supporting actor. The movie won best picture, best director, and best screen play as well. Chinatown is a movie that stands the test of time. It's loaded with suspense, and plot twists. It even has a cameo by the director, Roman Polanski, who tragically was married to Sharon Tate.

Forget it Jake. It’s Chinatown.
 
I love mashed potatoes.

C is for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

View attachment 9881

Random stolen internet blurb: “The story of a cosmic visitation among ordinary folk-turned-obsessives, Spielberg's masterpiece is that rare blockbuster -- at once grown-up, yet full of fairytale, childlike wonder.”

This was a pretty close one for me, with a couple other sci-fi movies and a murder mystery in contention, but when in doubt, go Spielberg.

Also, if everyone could start taking less good movies, that’d be great.
First movie drafted I haven’t seen. Inexcusable I know.

Thanks for providing the poster finally explaining what the title means.
 
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Capt. Factorial

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Staff member
To fill my "R" column in the alphabetical movie draft, I select:



The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson

Starring Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, Anjelica huston, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray

Trailer

Wes Anderson has made basically the same movie at least six times in his career. It's the movie about the outcasts with quirky family dynamics and it has title cards and Alec Baldwin narrating and characteristic palettes and camera movements and a great soundtrack and an all-star cast that doesn't seem to change much. It's a style so inimitable that Saturday Night Live imitated it perfectly in a parody trailer. I have to admit, I love that movie. And of all the versions of that movie, The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite. In this version, circumstances bring three failed former child prodigies and their estranged deadbeat father all together to live beneath the roof they grew up under with the matron of the family.

A friend (with, in my opinion, questionable movie taste) recommended the movie to me with a halfway dismissive "well, you'll like it" when I saw the DVD on a shelf, so I bought it. I was hooked as the exposition of the film played out to "Hey, Jude". And now I'm taking it fourth even though it might last longer because I can't really stomach anybody stealing it from me. Mine!

Royal O'Reilly Tenenbaum 1932-2001 Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Wreckage Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship
 
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To fill my "R" column in the alphabetical movie draft, I select:



The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)

Directed by Wes Anderson

Starring Owen Wilson, Luke Wilson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Gene Hackman, Anjelica huston, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray

Trailer

Wes Anderson has made basically the same movie at least six times in his career. It's the movie about the outcasts with quirky family dynamics and it has title cards and Alec Baldwin narrating and characteristic palettes and camera movements and a great soundtrack and an all-star cast that doesn't seem to change much. It's a style so inimitable that Saturday Night Live imitated it perfectly in a parody trailer. I have to admit, I love that movie. And of all the versions of that movie, The Royal Tenenbaums is my favorite. In this version, circumstances bring three failed former child prodigies and their estranged deadbeat father all together to live beneath the roof they grew up under with the matron of the family.

A friend (with, in my opinion, questionable movie taste) recommended the movie to me with a halfway dismissive "well, you'll like it" when I saw the DVD on a shelf, so I bought it. I was hooked as the exposition of the film played out to "Hey, Jude". And now I'm taking it fourth even though it might last longer because I can't really stomach anybody stealing it from me. Mine!

Royal O'Reilly Tenenbaum 1932-2001 Died Tragically Rescuing His Family From The Wreckage Of A Destroyed Sinking Battleship
Nice pick Capt! My 2018 list is quickly disappearing :). This film is memorable for the character ensemble, and of course Gene Hackman is brilliant as a low life but fun loving father.
 
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Sorry for the holdup. I don't have time right now to do a new write-up since some creepy dude STOLE my next pick, so I'll just put the movie name and fill in the rest later to keep this moving.

ET The Extra Terrestrial - 1982
And here's the film that absolutely slayed the box office in the summer of 1982. Blade Runner and The Thing never stood a chance. But ET is itself such an interesting example of a summer blockbuster.

Despite being remembered as "comfort food," it's not a movie that viewers are often keen to rewatch. As with so many of Spielberg's best films, there's an unsettling traumatic streak running through the center of ET that makes it more challenging to approach than one would expect. Spielberg tells that story from the perspective of the children in the film, and he does not shy away from acknowledging the fear, the anxiety, and the little deaths that occur all throughout childhood: expectation, adventure, innocence.

It's not my favorite of Spielberg's, but ET remains a powerful exploration of the trials of youth, with some of the strongest performances by child actors in film history.
 
I love mashed potatoes.

C is for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

View attachment 9881

Random stolen internet blurb: “The story of a cosmic visitation among ordinary folk-turned-obsessives, Spielberg's masterpiece is that rare blockbuster -- at once grown-up, yet full of fairytale, childlike wonder.”

This was a pretty close one for me, with a couple other sci-fi movies and a murder mystery in contention, but when in doubt, go Spielberg.

Also, if everyone could start taking less good movies, that’d be great.
Now this film is my favorite of Spielberg's. I selected it in the last movie draft, and I'm delighted to see it snagged so early in this one. It's just magnificent, and where ET examines awe and wonder through the eyes of a child, Close Encounters examines the struggle for adults to reconnect with their own sense of wonder.

But as always with Spielberg, the fantastical is simply a vehicle for exploring a variety of traumas. His parents' divorce looms over many of his films, and Close Encounters so strikingly depicts the dissolution of a marriage as a man's obsession blinds him to the responsibilities of domestic life.

Of course, the most famous sequence of this film is its ending, a startling and beautiful encounter with alien life. It's easy to draw a line of influence directly from Close Encounters' final scene and much of Denis Villeneuve's Arrival, which likewise approaches an alien encounter as an opportunity for communication, so difficult for us to achieve even amongst our own species.
 
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Oh my darling. Oh my darling
Oh my darling, Clementine
You were gone and lost forever
Dreadful sorrow, Clementine

How happy is the blameless vestal's lot!
The world forgetting, by the world forgot.
Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind!
Each pray'r accepted, and each wish resign'd

E is for ...

1590429494170.jpg

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

I had to warm up to this one. Maybe it was oversold to me at the time as a brilliant subversion of the rom-com genre with a tantalizing sci-fi premise. Maybe I never got on board with Carrey’s half-dozen or so film attempt to follow the late / great Robin Williams’ path in escaping the rubber-faced sophomoric absurdist funnyman typecast. Or maybe I simply came to it too early in my life and exploration of film as an art.

Whatever the reason, it took me multiple viewings over several years to appreciate the elegant simplicity and depth of heart on display in Eternal Sunshine.

Interestingly, my first instinct is to describe Carrey as solid and functional if unremarkable as Joel simply because I think Winslet as Clementine is the real standout. But then again, I can’t think of another actor who could portray Joel as effectively. Clearly was a conscience decision for Carrey to take the role as a subdued introvert who still has to emote to incredulously spectacular situations, and I think it’s a testament to his performance that my reaction is just that.

It also gives room for Winslet’s Clementine to fully embrace her subversive angle on the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope a year before the term was even coined. Yes, that’s right, I am firmly in the camp that Clem is a subversion of the trope, and not an example of it.

I don’t want to get too far lost in the weeds of debating whether Clem is or isn’t an MPDG, or if the term is even useful rather than a further regressive label that minimizes the impact of female characters. I will merely say Clem is presented as a fully realized, multi-dimensional person with some quirks and eccentricities sure, but clearly glaring flaws and complex issues. She is also the only character who remains a complete person even as Joel’s memories are erased. She acts as the mystical guide of sorts for Joel to become a better person, but that’s by addressing his actual insecurities and psychological hang-ups, not simply by shouting “be happy silly” in a sing-song voice and showering him with rainbow skittles.

A lot of that credit should go to celebrated screenwriter Charlie Kauffman who won an Oscar for the screenplay, and was still doing edits even as scenes were being filmed. In fact, I’m usually a rabid zealot of auteur theory and firmly believe every aspect of the film, barring immense studio interference, is ultimately a reflection of the director. But from everything I’ve read about the production of Eternal Sunshine, this is one example of the film succeeding in spite of its director.

Cast and crew had to contend with a grueling shoot schedule and Gondry’s demands to do specialized set work after he erratically fired the team meant to do it. Cinematographers wrestled with Gondry’s ridiculous “whimsical” lighting demands and allusions to French New Wave techniques. Gondry kept clashing with editors during the exceedingly lengthy process. I admit to being mostly ignorant of Gondry’s work (it’s mostly music videos and the one other film of his I’ve seen makes me physically ill), but I’m not inclined to credit this film’s success points to his presence behind the camera.

Regardless, I finally came around to seeing this film as a brilliant subversion of the rom-com genre with a tantalizing sci-fi premise. But more importantly, it’s a sublime meditation on the treasure of memories, the invaluable growth they can inspire within our characters and psyche, and how vital they are even when they’re painful.

Sometimes, especially when they’re painful.
 

Capt. Factorial

This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things
Staff member
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

Regardless, I finally came around to seeing this film as a brilliant subversion of the rom-com genre with a tantalizing sci-fi premise. But more importantly, it’s a sublime meditation on the treasure of memories, the invaluable growth they can inspire within our characters and psyche, and how vital they are even when they’re painful.

Sometimes, especially when they’re painful.
Clementine: This is it, Joel. It's going to be gone soon.
Joel: I know.
Clementine: What do we do?
Joel: Enjoy it.

I love love love love love love love this movie. If I had to guess which films, 80 years from now, were going to make the most "Best 100 Films of the Century" lists, this would be one of the first films I'd guess.