the (almost) daily appreciator

Saturday, July 21, 2007

All Art is quite Useless, or: Fuck the Mona Lisa

Whoever doesn´t know at least one of these (and many other) posters by Drew Struzan - dude, where have you been the last 30 years.
I found an article about him on Charley Parker´s lines and colors - and it´s amazing to look through his oeuvre, and see that many of these posters are as much part of my movie memory as some of the movies and the greatest imagery from them.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

This Be The List

Inspired by the filmblogosphere´s reaction to the AFI TOP 100 movie list (here, here, here, here, here, here, here)I took it upon me to compile my very own Top 100 list. I have actually never done this before (Top 5 or 10 maybe, but 100!) and I must say it´s actually a lot of work - and it´s a Sisyphos-kind of work as the list can change from day to day. Quite frankly I asked myself if it is really possible to have so many favorite movies - or is that number always already a sign that one is trying to compile a canon which means one includes movies that aren´t necesswarily (sic! I just had to leave this mispelling be) favorites but as a somewhat film-literate person one has to acknowledge their historic importance.

I once tried to write down every movie I could remember watching and with the first 50 movies for this list (which didn´t necessarily make the Top 50 of the finished list) I had the same kind of stream-of-conciousness-automatic-writing experience - but then I had to start thinking, especially since I have seen many movies that I know should make this list, but I couldn´t for the life of me remember the feel or specific scenes of that movie. But that´s the thing: I think if I had more than 30 really favorite movies, as in: movies that I watch, think about, read about with pleasure, write about frequently I would go insane. I want to listen to new music, watch new movies, new TV shows, I have to work, sleep and wash dishes - there is just no time or mental space for 100 favorite movies fighting for my mental, emotional and sensual attention.

Another problem is: how do you decide that say Lethal Weapon (ranked 67) is more important personally or filmhistorically than Se7en (ranked 78). And how does one account for movies one hasn´t seen so recently, how do I know that The Player still holds up - I hadn´t seen it in a while. And what´s with movies one has only seen once?

So in the end I decided to have a kind of system to rank them, and I decided such a list only makes sense with comments. And although I remember Citizen Kane to be quite modern even for MTV-addled eyes (and brain), it´s been a while since I´ve seen it and although I know it is more important than and far superior to most movies on this list, The Big Lebowski just means more to me personally, so it would belie a far greater hubris on my side to rank it higher than the hubris on display in that movie itself (in Citizen Kane that is, but come to think of it...mmh...are these two movies actually complementary to each other? Would they be the perfect double feature???).

So without any further ado - a compilation of favorites and the canon:

100. The Fleas - this movie only exists in my head, but like most movies in my head (imagined or actual) it is very important to me - and trust me, it´s brilliant!

99. Weapon of choice - some music videos should be shown in theaters. And Spike Jonzes best videos are better than his movies (not that Being John Malkovich is bad). Also, it is an indictment of the state of modern movies that Christopher Walken isn´t give more chances to dance in feature films.

98. Buffy-episode "Once more, with feeling" - when are they going to start distributing/broadcasting TV-serials in theaters like in the olden days. Nowadays there´s so much going on in fictional TV that is far superior to any given new movie - not just in terms of writing (story arcs, character development, dialogue), but sadly in terms of acting and visual storytelling (and in this particular case especially: music) as well.

97. Citizen Kane - not to include it, would be the exact opposite of hubris (whatever that is: maybe stupid?)

96. Run Lola Run - it is referenced in a Simpons-episode, for a modern German movie that´s a lot - and living in Germany I must sadly admit it´s the only one deserving that attention - although I haven´t seen it since it...well, I don´t know if it holds up.

95. Joe Strummer: The Future is unwritten - it made me realize that documentaries are about texture more than anything else - the texture of the times, of culture-at-large, a person, an idea. I think this movie has that in spades.

94. Dogme1-Festen - whatever happened to the Dogme-movement? I haven´t seen too many of them, but this movie was chilling...

93. Modern Times - classic Chaplin - and still modern!

92. A few good men - I love courtroom dramas, and this is one of the best! The showdown between Jack and Cruise is spellbinding - I personally think Jack is best when he gets to be unsubtle, when he gets to ham it up.

91. They live - when John Nada first puts on the shades of truth and sees the world for what it is: that is easily one of the most accomplished scenes of silent, visual storytelling. Also the legendary brawl is allegorically sound - not just a great piece macho movie bravado.

90. Fight Club - Freedom ´99. Not as deep as many people would like to believe, but that in itself is as brilliant a comment on the 90s as it gets.

89. Strange Days - when I first saw it I thought it might not hold up on video (remember the times?), then I saw a copy...IN MONO, and it was still as visceral as movies can be.

88. Brazil - should probably (definitely) be further up the list, but what can I do...

87. Lost Highway - brilliant mindfuck! Made me realize that sometimes understanding a movie isn´t necessary as long as it makes some kind of sense - there is a certain internal logic to this movie...

86. Evil Dead 2 - as horrifying as the first and as funny as the third. Somewhere along the line I decided not to include entire series, so this is a stand-in for the trilogy (my favorite of them would be Army of Darkness, but only because I like silly comedy more than horror - although comedy/satire and horror usually have only a thin line seperating them from each other - that´s where the idea of the grotesque comes in, I guess)

85. Scream - it was da bomb in the nineties - it actually introduced me to the slasher genre. Although Halloween is the more important movie here, and the scarier one (next list: Halloween will be included, and Scream excluded, but Scream was more important for me at the time, and this list very much reflects my coming of age as person and moviefreak).

84. Cape Fear(Scorsese) - before this I wasn´t into psychological thrillers - after this (and Blue Steel amongst others) I loved them. It has more subtext than the original (but Robert Mitchum kicks De Niro´s ass which isn´t to say that De Niro is anything less than brilliant) and is much better than Silence of the Lambs (which is highly overrated).

83. The Shining - this movie is about madness (amongst many other things). Many think Jack was miscast because he didn´t become mad throughout the movie, he looked mad from the getgo - well, the whole movie reeks of insanity from the getgo (music, cinematography), and quite frankly I think he doesn´t portray a character going insane, he portrays the concept of insanity/madness itself - and brilliantly so.

82. Jaws - second best animal horror movie - and better in every respect than anything Spielberg made in recent years! A true work of art!

81. The Birds - Best Animal Horror Movie!

80. The Thing (Carpenter) - it says everything you need to know about the brilliance of this movie that Morricone emulates Carpenter and delivers a vintage Carpenter and Morricone score at the same time. Also, it´s a thinking man´s splatter movie. Gosh, I have to watch it again, it´s been too long.

79. Fargo - when I first saw it I laughed out loud, the second time around it was a horrific movie about the human condition (there´s that thin line between comedy and horro, again)

78. Se7en - great atmosphere, great cinematography, but as soon as Kevin Spacey (sorry: Keyser Soze...err...John Doe) yells: "Detective Mills!" the movie becomes transcendent in its greatness - the definition of a feel-bad-movie. Probably deserves to be in the Top 20 but, alas I´m too exhausted to think about what to kick out to make place.

77. M - Peter Lorre delivers one of the great performances of evilness (and the humanity within and of evilness, or is that the evilness in humanity?), as frightening as he is fascinating and to be pitied.

76. Der Totmacher (don´t know the English title: The Deathmaker?) - German movie magazine Cinema called it splatter for the mind - it´s only Götz George (brilliant German actor) as real-life-serial-killer Fritz Harrmann sitting in a room talking about his murders - forget Hostel - this is truly disturbing.

75. Ed Wood - I love movies about moviemaking - this is one of the best.

74. Barton Fink - why John Goodman hasn´t gotten the Oscar is just a mystery.

73. The Player - like I said: I love movies about moviemaking.

72. Blow Out - De Palma seems to have an erotic/sexual relationship to the process of making movies - he is aroused by cinematography, editing, sound - and he manages to titilate just by sharing his erotic fantasies - I love movies about moviemaking: this is pure moviemaking porn.

71. The Adventures of Ford Fairlane - it´s the best deconstruction of machism - honestly.

70. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang - META forever!

69. Two girls and a guy - it´s about sex, relationships, ego, loneliness, acting and Robert Downey Jr´s genius.

68. Last Boy Scout - Bruce Willis at his best!

67. Lethal Weapon - Martin Riggs and Roger Murthaugh are just great buddies to hang out with, if you love action movies.

66. The Empire strikes back - when the Millenium Falcon does that looping into the asteroid - that´s easily one of the most beautiful FX in movie history - also it´s just a great movie (not just compared to the other Star Wars movies)

65. E. T. - Spielberg wasn´t just in touch with the child´s imagination - he was in synch with it, and with the texture of the time - I think he has lost a bit of that - today he´s only in touch, at best.

64. Mary Poppins - witty songs, great animation - what more does one need to feel good.

63. Over the hedge - Bruce Willis is a great voice actor. Also, the nacho explosion is easily one of the 10 greatest cinematic moments of the last few years.

62. The Jungle Book - the ending really aggravates me, but before the entrance of the evil female, this movie is just brilliant - the German version of Bare Essentials is actually better than the original song.

61. Asterix erobert Rom (it´s a French cartoon) - one of the most important comics (personally and historically) - and this wasn´t an adaptation of one of print stories, it is simply one of the best Asterix-stories, and the best animated Asterix-features.

60. Eternal Sunshine of the spotless mind - certainly the most resonating love stories of our time. Everyone involved is at the top of their game. Maybe someday I´ll rank it higher. (Top20 even)

59. The Fisher King - I wish I could say that I can remember the damndest thing about the old screwball classics that I know (the few, too few), but I guess I´m just a child of my time - this movie truly is magical - I guess what goes for 60. goes for this one, too (maybe even Top10).

58. Rio Bravo - for the singing scene alone - and Dean Martin´s great performance.

57. Unforgiven - a movie about the mythmaking machine that is the Western - easily Clint´s greatest allround movie.

56. Assault on Precinct 13 - now follows a late entry to the filmmusic-blogathon: dum dudu du-dum...

55. The Usual Suspects - Keyser Soze isn´t a character in the movie - it´s the desire of the audience to be manipulated sensually, emotionally and intellectually by this trickster-devil called Movie.

54. Reservoir Dogs - sometimes I like it more than Pulp Fiction; like right now while thinking about it.

53. The Untouchables - Morricone´s score alone validates this being on the list, add to that one of the 5 greatest shootouts in movie history (this I say without even knowing what the others would be...mmh), and great performances by Connery and De Niro.

52. Back to the Future - whoever loves movies (as wellmade entertainment, or as I would call it: art) should love this one. Quo Vadis Zemeckis...

51. Grosse Point Blank - whenever I don´t know what to watch, this is an option..

50. True Romance - Christopher Walken! ´nuff said.

49. Speed - purest motion picture.

48. Kung Fu Hustle - I just exchanged a signature Jackie Chan movie with this because it encompasses more of what Hongkong does so wonderfully - which is old Jackie Chan, the fantastic and in this case imaginative if not always technically perfect FX - if only I had seen it on the big screen, but even so it´s the definition of AWEsome.

47. Hardboiled - it´s not John Woo/Chow Yun Fats´best, but the pure essence of their movies.

46. Total Recall - it´s a nobrainer with as much brain as brawn - if that makes sense

45. T2 - there are actually so many layers beneath the surface - but the surface alone would get it on the list.

44. The Incredibles - with great power comes great banality; with great individuality comes Incredible power; there is absolutely an I in team...

43. Robocop - the 80s (and today?) in a nutshell - identity-crisis in action

42. Batman 2 - Catwoman...meow!!

41. X2 - Nightcrawler-attack on the White House is easily the best action set piece in many years; great as sequel, as stand alone movie, as adaptation...

40. They call me Trintity - I should probably have some Leone or Fellini here, instead I choose one of the best Spencer/Hill movies for nostalgic reasons, and also: it does hold up as a quite ingenious spoof of the (spaghetti) western.

39. Liar Liar - honestly

38. Hot Shots Part Deux - Sheen actually worked out...for a spoof...of the action genre - if that ain´t commitment, I don´t know what is (The Method can be found in the unlikeliest places) - also: the moment with father and son Sheen is sublime.

37. Ferris Bueller´s day off - when Cameron was in Egypt´s land!

36. A fish called Wanda - Kline´s Oscar was one of the truly deserved in the history of the Oscar. In a perfect world Cleese would have gotten one, too.

35. Planes, Trains and Automobiles - Comedy PhD; whoever understands how and why this movie is hilarious might have a great comedy in him/her.

34. Ace in the hole - it still says all you need to know about media - truly devastating - oh, the humanity

33. Short Cuts - this movie might be the Great American Novel

32. Do the right thing - all too seldom does Spike Lee fulfill his admittedly great potential, here he went beyond it.

31. The Contender - the performances are great and deep down it says more about the inner workings of democracy than anyone involved intended - the frathouse of democracy

30. Goodfellas - best gangster movie!

29. Casino - the documentary of the inner workings of Las Vegas is dazzling - 29. and 30. are interchangeable and should both be much higher

28. Clockwork Orange - gutwrenching to viddy, but viddied it should be

27. Dr Strangelove - the definition of satire

26. Mars Attacks - the satire lies in the fact that the martians are actually us - the joke´s on us not in form of the humans

25. Bowling the Columbine - it is important, no matter how deserved the criticisms it recieved are.

24. The Great Dictator - if you can understand German, the nonsensical speech in the beginning hits the mark even more than it intended - how anyone could fall for this hateful drivel is one of the great mysteries for the generations who only have hindsight and not direct experience.

23. Platoon - Postcards from My Lai. Some images just seem like postcard images, the kind of pictures one would take on a trip. It doesn´t look like war documentary imagery. So even visually it´s Stone´s war memoirs.

22. Full Metal Jacket - Billy Wilder was certainly right about the first half; and in my opinion the second half is different but great as well.

21. Starship Troopers - best (anti)war movie - seriously!

20. Y tu mama tambien - the shaggy dog storie-type stuff is just great - the rest is no less great.

19. Heavenly Creatures - still Jackson´s and Winlet´s, respectively, best achievements to date

18. Heat - there´s just one split second look on De Niro´s face when he sits alone amongst his crew and their women - this lost, lonely and longing look (alliteration more or less unintended) his one of his best moments - I had goose bumps - if one would take out all the other character´s developments and concentrate on De Niro and Pacino more it would still be a superior movie - but those scenes are a bonus deepening it all instead of dragging on.

17. Looking for Richard - if only English Lit classes were like this movie.

16. Finding Nemo - the colours alone.

15. L. A. Story - love, comedy, magic - the art of appreciation!

14. One, Two, Three - I´m a born American living in Germany - this is my movie - it also helped introduc me to old movies in general and Billy Wilder specifically.

13. Indiana Jones 3 - Spielberg´s last truly great work of art. I´m dead serious - and I can explain it semi-coherently, too.

12. North by Northwest - Action, Comedy, Suspense, Eroticism/Romance, Cary Grant, Bernhard Herrmann´s score, cornfield, auction, proto-Hans-Guber James Mason, the title sequence, the cinematography, and somewhere in all this excitement it might even have something to say about the world.

11. Pulp Fiction - it is probably the most important movie of my generation...

10. Clerks -...but I just like this movie more.

9. Raging Bull - Life truly is a battle.

8. One flew over the cuckoo´s nest - Jack!

7. The Big Lebowski - Bowling and Nothingness. Being and MacGuffinness. The Dude abides.

6. Life of Brian - Always look on the bright side of life...

5. Die Hard - reading all the other lists calls for a Die Hard blogathon, methinks.

4. Groundhog Day - it´s about everything.

3. Some like it hot - Billy Wilder might just be the Shakespeare of the 20th century, Tony Curtis impersonates Cary Grant, Jack Lemmon becomes Daphne, Marilyn Monroe just is.

2. Rear Window - proto-Altman, voyeurism, cinema, its audience, best opening scene ever, says more about sex/romance/loneliness and the city than Sex and the City, Friends and Seinfeld could even try to.

1. The Wizard of Oz - it´s everywhere. From Lynch to Gilmore Girls, from Star Wars to Buffy, from Angel to T2. It´s the DNA of the American mind. This wasn´t produced by a studio, it was produced by America; it wasn´t adapted from a book series, it was adapted from American culture-at-large.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pain don´t hurt

This article at Slate makes me want to watch all these movies right now - even Road House (see the title of this post), but especially Predator ("I ain´t got time to bleed").
I like how the author analyzes "Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker!" as a philologist would.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Spoiler Alert!

This must be the coolest Tshirt ever! I wish I had money...

Sunday, June 03, 2007

miscellaneous thoughts in a 3:07a.m. state of mind

Letztens hatte ich mal wieder so einen super Gedanken zum Thema Eskapismus. Ich glaube ja das selbst denken eine Form des Eskapismus ist. In diesem Sinne könnte der Phrasmus "in Gedanken woanders" eigentlich bedeuten, dass das "Woanders" die Gedanken selber sind...

Everything I know about Music I learned watching Beavis and Butthead

Of course that is not entirely true. But the world of music is inextricably connected with movies and TV in my mind. I belong to the MTV-Generation and I see no problem in that, and I also loved filmmusic before I loved any other kind of music. So here are some random notes on coming-of-age-and-life, music and movies:

- my very first selfbought CD (I think even very first, period) was the soundtrack of "Backdraft" by Hans Zimmer, and I´ve been a very big fan of Hans Zimmer ever since. During a very hard time in my life I listened to that music as others would to Nirvana, come to think of it it´s as much part of the soundtrack of my life at that particular time as Nirvana (shortly after Cobains death), Marty Friedman´s "Scenes", Vangelis´"1492"-score, The Doors and others. When a very important friend of mine died, I listened to "Backdraft" after the funeral. I usually detect Zimmer´s signature even in music he hasn´t written - more often than not by people he has worked with. I still believe that Klaus Badelt is a pseudonym for him: honestly, "Pirates" sounds exactly like "Backdraft" blended with some swashbuckling music. The problem with Zimmer is that he´s everywhere: on TV, in movie trailers, especially "Backdraft", so many people have worked with him, and basically every actionmovie score sounds like a variation on "Backdraft". But sometimes he can still surprise and even elevate you, so here are his quintessential soundtracks: "Rain Man", "Backdraft", "The Rock", "The Lion´s King", "The Thin Red Line", "Gladiator" and the very first video MTV showed:"Video killed the Radio Star" - he did the keyboards.

- Kämen Rocks! (That´s a heavy-metal-umlaut) "Robin Hood" is one of the best scores, ever. The intro alone. "Die Hard" is the best actionmovie because amongst other things it has one of the greatest scores in that genre. I think it is safe to say that it introduced me to the awesomeness of Beethoven (together with...well later). And he actually really rocks - he did the orchestral arrangements for Pink Floyd´s "The Wall", Metallica´s "Nothing Else Matters" and "S&M"concert, the MTV 10th anniversary version of Aerosmith´s "Dream On", he worked with Kate Bush, Eurythmics, David Bowie, Queensryche and of course there´s the matter of his collaboration with Bryan Adams and others on filmsongs - which were for better or worse as much a fixture of 90s popculture as Techno, Gangstarap and Grunge. When I was on a school trip in 1991 we listened to "Everything I do..." and the 2LiveCrew. Bryan Adams for the Slowdance, "Me so horny" for..well being horny...

- Beethöven Rocks! One of the grand musical realizations of my youth was that classical music sounds a lot like filmmusic. So as a teenager I was more into classical music than Punk, Heavy Metal, Hip Hop or any other youth music. John Williams alone makes very classically sounding music: "Home Alone" sounds almost exactly like Tschaikowsky`s "Nutcracker". Michael Kamen is very good at integrating classical music into his scores - not just rockmusic. I had two defining moments related to classical music and movies: when I was 6 or 7 years old I saw "Amadeus", because of its dark tone I was traumatized into not liking Mozart for years (I still think he is vastly overrated - that goes to show you how powerful movies can be). When I was in my teens I saw "Bill & Ted´s excellent adventure" and I still think Beethöven rocks because he was the cool dude playing the guitar parts from Extreme´s "Play with me" on the keyboard in the mall. Rock´n`Roll!

- Wayne´s World! Wayne´s World! Party Time! Excellent! I think men of a certain generation still can´t listen to Queen´s "Bohemian Rhapsody" without singing and banging along...and Queen were one of the precursors of the modern music video with their "Bohemian Rhapsody"-promovideo.

- And on that note: Kamen and Queen=Highlander! "Here we are, born to be kings, we´re the princes of the universe...". Queen and soundtracks: "Flash Gordon", killing Zombies to "Don´t stop me now" in "Shaun of the Dead", "One Vision" on the "Iron Eagles"-soundtrack of all places and the list goes on.

- Music videos aren´t the worst way to start a movie career: David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry, Liv Tyler, Alicia Silverstone ("Clueless" was pretty good), Courtney Cox, Russel Mulcahy ("Highlander had awesome cinematography, and "Ricochet" wasn´t bad either), Mike Judge (sadly he only commented on the videos through Beavis & Butthead, but those comments were actually quite lucid, sometimes). And it wasn´t beneath Martin Scorsese and John Landis to make their mini-movies for Michael Jackson. To name just a few.

- Live Music Hall, club in Cologne, some time around 2000/2001, 80s party: Amongst all the U2, Madonna, Depeche Mode, "99 Luftballons", Michael Jackson, "Walking on sunshine", Tears for Fears, "I had the time of my life", "Don´t you forget about me", "Under Pressure", "Dancing with myself" and many other great songs by great musicians (honestly, why are the 80s so maligned culturally?), suddenly, a sound that is familiar but in this context a bit alien: "Axel F". I`m going to make a bold statement here: You haven´t partied if you haven´t tried dancing to "Axel F". And I´m not talking about generic moves with slight variations depending on the tempo of the song - no, I mean moving to the music...sober!

- (Jon) Bon Jovi can definitely write tunes. One of my favorites is "Blaze of Glory". It´s catchy, has a great melody, great guitar and great lines like: "When you´re brought into this world/ They say you´re born in sin/ Well, at least the gave me something/ I didn´t have to steal/ Or have to win". It´s simple all right and not overloaded with ambiguity - it might not be in the tradition of Dylan, but certainly Chuck Berry or even fellow-Jerseyan Springsteen. It fits the Western-theme (Billy the Kid) perfectly, but can also be read as about fame, about being an outcast...kinda like another great Bon Jovi-tune "Wanted dead or alive" (used in "Harvey Davidson and the Marlboro Man"). Also, the video: awesome - the guitar hero standing in front of the burning screen; the lightning in synch with the drums; as the movie scenes show the ignition of a fire, the screen starts burning - also very simple, but well done. One of the great movie songs, one of the great accompanying videos - both better than the movie (although Silvestris score is fine, not as great as his work for "Back to the future", but few scores are). The song is especially great to just sing and airguitar along to with friends at a party...

- I turned 30 a few months ago, but I felt the oldest a few weeks before my birthday: where I work are a lot of colleagues that are just 20 or 21 years old. One day I heard The Cardigans´ "Lovefool" on the radio, and I stood amongst these twens remembering when that song came out, and Leonardo DiCaprio wasn´t yet the megastar he would become but one might have been able to sense it happening, back then I was one of the older people in the audience of "Romeo and Juliet", there were a bunch of teenies that certainly didn´t watch it out of appreciation of Shakespeare - anyway, when that song came out I was the same age my colleagues are now, and that´s ten years ago - a fucking decade - man, I´m old.

I´m sure I could think of some more things, and maybe I will in the comment section, but that´s it for now. Hopefully anyone of the other bloggers will take us on a trip through memory lane and talk about the soundtrack of their lives...

Sunday, April 29, 2007

textual healing: Wonder Boys

when I get that feeling
I want textual healing...

...with "Wonder Boys" by Michael Chabon

Critique forthcoming...


Vigourously Eating Greasy Animals´N`Stuff

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Ist Janus der Gott des Sommers?

Diese beiden Bilder habe ich von Christians Fotoblog.