Friday, August 29, 2008

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)

Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
The future is in trouble again, and the only salvation is in the past! It's up to Bill S. Preston, Esq. and Ted "Theodore" Logan to save the day in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey. In some odd turn of events, I believe I may have seen this sequel more times than I've seen the original. And while I enjoy the original, there's something about the boys relationship with Death and Station that I enjoy even more.

Whereas Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure relies on a misplaced in time storyline, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey relies on a misplaced in death storyline. The Grim Reaper is clearly a parody of Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal, though he's a lot less boring and quite spiteful in losing to Bill and Ted.

One interesting thing about this movie is that it goes a long way to show how Bill and Ted are largely the same person. When they propose to the girls, they give basically the same speech and ask, "Will you marry us." We also see them using the same lines at the same time. The first film was designed to keep them from separating, though perhaps if they did, they would become separate people... which would ruin the future.

William Sadler, Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey
Both Bill & Ted films have a weird instance of homophobia in them. In the first film, glad to find Ted alive in Medieval England, Bill hugs him. They quickly break apart and call each other fags. In the second film, Bill and Ted attempt to convince their evil robot "us-es" from killing them by telling them that they love them. The robots look at each other, call human Bill and Ted "fags" and push them off the cliff. In both films, these scenes seem jarringly out of place. However, they may be a product of their times. Today, Bill and Ted may be able to openly claim their "bromance"1 but at the time, this option would have been unavailable to them and the only socially understandable expressions of male-male love were through homosexuality.2

One final piece of trivia that I noticed with my nerd-dar, the future school that Rufus teaches at is the Japanese Gardens at the Tillman Water Reclamation Plant in Van Nuys, CA. This site has also been used many times in the Star Trek series, most notably as Starfleet Academy. Later in the film, Bill and Ted are watching an episode of Star Trek where Kirk fights a Gorn at Vasquez Rocks, they are later taken there by their robot doppelgangers. This reference is more direct though, since they're purposefully drawing our attention to the same location.3

Alex Winter, Keanu Reeves, Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey
Rufus: You won't get away with it.
De Nomolos: Time will tell.
Rufus: Time has told.

De Nomolos: Then I will go back and change it.

1. Scrubs calls this "Guy Love", but I prefer the term bromance.
2. Of course, it's only a matter of time before Bros start having sex with each other that will somehow be not-gay. See Dude, You're a Fag by C.J. Pascoe for further reading on the usage of the term "fag" by high school males.
3. And to complete this nerd-out, Vasquez Rocks is also where the space ship was kept on the TV series Roswell. Coincidentally William Sadler who plays Death in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey played the Sheriff on Roswell!

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)

George Carlin, Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
In what I imagine was one of the worst things that could have happened to my friends William and Theodore Jenkins, 1989 brought us Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. Of course, Bill & Ted also marked Keanu Reeves career in a way that he spent the next decade trying to get beyond his Ted "Theodore" Logan persona.1 Tragically, this film marks Alex Winter's last2 notable performance in Bill S. Preston, Esq.3

When the future is in danger, George Carlin is sent back in time to ensure that Bill and Ted aren't separated due to failing grades. By giving the boys a time machine, they are able to travel through time to learn about the history they'd ignored. On the way they gather Napoleon Bonaparte, Billy the Kid, Socrates, Sigmund Freud, Ludwig Von Beethoven, Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Abraham Lincoln.

Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Be Excellent to each other
In many ways this is the prefect movie about idiots from the late 80s. What they lack in smarts though, they make up in heart. In general it's a fun examination of what would happen if two lovable losers brought great historical figures to the "present." It's a wacky adventure tale that I suppose could get a person interested in history if they were not already.

Unlike the Back to the Future trilogy, the rules of time travel are a little different in Bill & Ted. Whereas in Back to the Future you can go to any time, you are transported to the same place as you left. In Bill & Ted you can travel not only to any time, but also any place. Bill & Ted also has an odd rule where time is always moving forward in the future putting a bit of a pinch on Bill and Ted's traveling. This seems to imply that time is cyclical, and that in order to travel to certain places certain other conditions must also be met. It's never quite spelled out though, but perhaps the fact that their time travel machine is from the distant future explains it's difference from Doc Brown's.

Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure
Bill: Be excellent to each other.
Ted: Party on, dudes!

1. I think The Matrix largely did this, though part of the joy of The Matrix trilogy comes from seeing Keanu Reeves in a role that didn't seem to fit.
2. Only?
3. Of course, we can't forget his earlier performance in The Lost Boys as a random vampire who wasn't Kiefer Sutherland.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Big Lebowski (1998)

John Goodman, Jeff Bridges, The Big Lebowski
Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there... Well, sometimes there's a movie, and it's the right movie for its time and place. The Dude, is such a guy, and The Big Lebowski is such a movie. Ten years ago, fresh off their best picture win for Fargo, the Coen Brothers1 wrote one of the greatest comedies of all time.

The Big Lebowski follows Jeffrey "The Dude" Lebowski,2 who wants nothing more than to bowl with is friends Walter and Donny,3 when a case of mistaken identity launches him into a kidnapping scandal meant for Jeffrey "The Big" Lebowski, his wife Bunny, his daughter Maude, and a host of others.4 Because it is a Coen Brother's script it's filled with fast and smart dialogue that makes for infinite quotability. The movie even tends to quote itself, as a good portion of the Dude's lines are said by another person in the film.

The movie has also achieved a cult following as every year fans all over the country organize Lebowski Fests. My friends Robin and Patrick have attended one in Los Angeles. My friend Kevin went to a Lebowski themed birthday party the other day. And while I was traipsing around Kalimndor slaying Deadwood tribe Furbolgs to gain reputation with the Timbermaw Hold, I saw a Night Elf who belonged to the "Lebowski Urban Achievers" guild.5

John Turturro, The Big Lebowski
It's hard for me to really explain why I love this movie. I think in the end it's just filled with so many outrageous and absurd lines that I cannot help but laugh when I think about it. And whenever two Lebowski fans get together, they'll either spend a lot of time quoting the movie... or I guess, organizing a Lebowski Fest. This film also has some fun moments when seen on basic cable, but only if you know the real movie. At one point, Walter is teaching young Larry a lesson and he says to him "This is what happens when you fuck a stranger in the ass!" On cable, however he says, "This is what happens when you meet a stranger in the Alps!" Classic.

I should also ad that I had to replace my copy of The Big Lebowski because someone had stolen it. I got the collectors edition as a replacement, and this blog had me watching this copy for the first time ever. It has an introduction from "Forever Young Films" that I have never seen and that is quite humorous with Mortimer Young talking about this restored version of The Grand Lebowski.

Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, The Big Lebowski
The Dude: Let me explain something to you. Um, I am not "Mr. Lebowski." You're Mr. Lebowski. I'm the Dude. So that's what you call me. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing.

1. Ethan and Joel.
2. Jeff Bridges
3. John Goodman and Steve Buscemi, respectively.
4. Dave Huddleston, Tara Reid, and Julianne Moore, respectively. Phillip Seymour Hoffman, John Turturro, and Peter Storemare also have notable roles.
5. That's World of Warcraft for those of you who don't know.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Birdcage (1996)

The Birdcage, Nathan Lane, Robin Williams
Based on the French film La Cage Aux Folles, 1996's The Birdcage moves the action to South Beach, Florida with an all-star cast with Robin Williams and Nathan Lane at the lead along side Gene Hackman, Dianne Wiest, Hank Azaria, Dan Futterman, Calista Flockhart, and Christine Baranski. This all-star1 cast works well together in this light comedy about different worlds colliding.

This movie has a lot of great jokes and funny situations. Hank Azaria's character as the butler/maid, Agador, brings a lot of comedy to the screen. His accent only ads to Azaria's general comic charm. Williams and Lane are also a rather comedic duo. Lane manages to be one person who can make the San Franciscan native Williams seem like the "butch" one.

Dan Futterman, Hank Azaria, the Birdcage
For some reason whenever I watch The Birdcage on TV, they tend to ad a towel to Hank Azaria as he's bobbing around the house cleaning in a thong. I'm not certain why this is considered especially heinous, but to rectify this situation, I've made sure to cap it. So bask in what TBS denies you! At one point I read an interview with Hank Azaria for Along Came Polly2 where he mentioned that, "Every few years Hollywood asks me to be some version of a naked foreigner, and I'm very happy to oblige." This, as far as I can tell was one of his first naked foreigner roles, but I could be wrong.

That screen capture also illustrates why I've never really liked the character of their son. Despite having been raised above a drag bar by gay parents, and likely surrounded by gay men his entire life, the son seems entirely uncomfortable with gay men. Rather than standing up for his own upbringing he seeks simply to enact conformity on everyone else. He's just never sat right with me.

I used to watch The Birdcage rather frequently. Now I watch it whenever I'm feeling a little down and I want a light funny comedy that I don't have to think about but still hits home. Of course, it's also good when I've just been quoting it a lot and need to watch it to get that out of my system.

Nathan Lane, Robin Williams, Gene Hackman, The Birdcage
Armond: You do: Fosse! Fosse! Fosse! You do: Martha Graham! Martha Graham! Martha Graham! or Twyla! Twyla! Twyla! or Michael Kidd! Michael Kidd! Michael Kidd! or Madonna! Madonna! Madonna! But you keep it all inside.

1. -ish
2. I never saw it and I don't imagine I will.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Beetlejuice (1988)

Alec Baldwin, Sylvia Sidney, Geena Davis, Beetlejuice
When I was young I used to watch Beetlejuice with some regularity, this includes its lesser-known spin-off cartoon series. Having re-watched it as an adult, I'm not certain who thought it would be a good idea to turn a demonic trickster into a harmless joker and friend of Lidia. Of course, the cartoon show also left out Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin's characters.

One of the first things I noticed on this watching was how Danny Elfman-like the theme music was. Lo and behold, Elfman was the composer for the film. Of course, this makes sense given that the movie was directed by Tim Burton and Elfman is his composer of choice.1

Michael Keaton, Beetlejuice
This movie also prominently features the music of Harry Belafonte throughout. It is most noticeably used during two "haunting" scenes, one at dinner and one as a reward for Lidia's good grades. As a child, these were the first Belafonte songs I'd heard, and to this day when I hear them I think of this movie.

Finally, this movie wouldn't be the classic that it is without the ghost with the most. Keaton delivers a fantastic performance as the titular bio-exorcist. His character is slimy and disgusting and makes you feel dirty just watching him. Despite this fact, you can't help but enjoy all the scenes he's in. Even if you haven't seen this movie for years, I recommend watching it again for Keaton's performance.

Michael Keaton, Beetlejuice
Betelgeuse: I'm the ghost with the most, babe.

1. Of course, Michael Keaton and Winona Ryder later starred in Burton's Batman and Edward Scissorhands, respectively.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bedazzled (2000)

Elizabeth Hurley, Bedazzled
When Brendan Fraser isn't remaking children's cartoons into movies,1 he's remaking old movies. Thus we have Bedazzled,2 costarring Elizabeth Hurley3 in roles originally developed and played by Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, respectively.

Bedazzled tells the story of a lovable loser (Fraser) who is in love with a girl from the office.4 She, of course, doesn't know that he exists, let alone that he's in love with her. Fraser says he would give anything to have her in his life, at which point the Devil arrives to offer him seven wishes. Like the monkey's paw,5 each of these wishes has a way of turning on our hero.

Frances O'Connor, Brendan Fraser, Bedazzled
In then end, the audience is told that wishing won't change your life. We each have to make our own changes and work for ourselves. It's a nice moral fitting with American meritocratic ideals. Of course, in the end, Fraser is given what he wants without having to do anything, but maybe we aren't supposed to notice that... After all, fate is outside of wishing.

In the end, I think I own this movie because I enjoy the cast. Despite the fact that Brendan Fraser will never win any awards for acting, I still enjoy him. The ways in which his wishes go awry are sometimes rather humorous. Elizabeth Hurley does a fantastic job as the Devil, and her little evils are quite glib.

Brendan Fraser, Elizabeth Hurley, Bedazzled
Elliot Richards: But it's my soul! I can't give you my soul.
The Devil: What are you, James Brown?

1. e.g., George of the Jungle and Dudley Do-Right.
2. e.g., The Mummy
3. I have a bit of a thing for Ms. Hurley. She's definitely on my list.
4. Played by Frances O'Connor who you may remember from Artificial Intelligence.
5. Read the classic story here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Back to the Future, Part III (1990)

Back to the Future Part III, I'm Back from the Future! Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
Back to the Future, Part III ends my favorite trilogy about time traveling to date. I have heard many people groan about its wild-west approach to science fiction, yet I still enjoy this third installment over the second. With Doc Brown stuck in 1885 and about to be killed by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen, it's up to Marty to journey back in time and save him by using the DeLorian to get back to the future.

Back to the Future, Part III
This film draws on many of the jokes and themes that occurred in the first films though with a few switches that are only humorous based on our knowlege of the main characters. When Marty exclaims, "Great Scott!" to which Doc Brown replies, "I know. This is heavy." The humor lies in the fact that throughout the films each character had said the other line, and Doc Brown had even been quite baffled by the use of heavy in the first film.1

I've avoided at great length the problems with time travel that exist in the Back to the Future series. At some points changes in the time-line result in a rippling effect that take time to reverberate throughout the ages. In other cases, what happens to one characters past self seems to have no real change on that characters future self.2 Perhaps there exist multiple quantum realities that they're slipping in an out of as they transgress the boundaries of time. The only consistent is that the future is inconsistent, but changes in the past can have devastating ramifications.3

Back to the Future, Part III
Doc: ...[Y]our future hasn't been written yet. No one's has. Your future is whatever you make it. So make it a good one...

1. Marty: "Whoa, this is heavy." Doc: "There's that word again; 'heavy.' Why are things so heavy in the future? Is there a problem with the earth's gravitational pull?"
2. e.g., Future Doc who was stuck in the past should have known that past Doc who was in his relative future, would send Marty back to help him.
3. Of course, many series have had this problem, including the great Star Trek which Ryan and I (along with a multitude of other nerds) have had many long conversations discussing.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Back to the Future, Part II (1989)

Back to the Future, Part II, Michael J. Fox, Elisabeth Shue, Christopher Lloyd
In Back to the Future, Part II Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd return as they travel all the way to the year 2015 because something's got to be done about Marty's kids! This time Jennifer joins them, but so long Claudia Wells, and welcome Elisabeth Shue! The meddlesome antagonist Biff Tanon, played by Thomas F. Wilson manages to mess up the past creating an alternate 1985 forcing our protagonists to once again return to 1955 to fix the future.

This film is my least favorite of the Trilogy. For some reason the alternate 1985 never really worked for me, and prevented me from really getting into it. I did enjoy the "Future" which is now less than seven years away, largely because I enjoy seeing how various time periods envision the future.

Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Back to the Future, Part II
The thing that really saves this film is the integration of events from the previous film. We realize that at one point there were two Doc Browns and Two Marty McFlys running around trying to save the future. The film uses alternate angles and some dubious special effects to cut together the two movies.

The second and third movie were written and filmed at the same time, so throughout the second movie we see foreshadowing of the third movie. I do appreciate a film that takes the time to work out these sort of details, and I think it leads to a more pleasurable movie-viewing experience. Unfortunately beyond the last scene of the first movie, I don't know that the second and third movie were planned, which would have really helped to tie the entire series together even more than it already is.
Back to the Future, Part II
Doc: No! It can't be; I just sent you back to the future!
Marty: No, I know; you did send me back to the future. But I'm back. I'm back from the future.
Doc: Great Scott! [Feints]

1. Also, so long Crispen Glover and welcome Jeffrey Weissman!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Back to the Future (1985)

Christopher Lloyd, Michael J. Fox, Back to the Future
One of my favorite movie trilogies is Back to the Future, directed by Robert Zemeckis and starring Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd as our time traveling duo.

This film is one of my childhood favorites, and yet I still really enjoy it as an adult. I think the relationship between Fox and Lloyd is really what sells it. Lloyd does a fantastic job of portraying a crackpot inventor who despite his brilliance can never quite get anything to go off without a hitch. Fox, meanwhile, is that smart young man who seems a little too cool for school but somehow has befriended the brilliant doctor.

Back to the Future, Part 1
A Connecticut Yannkee in King Arthur's Court this ain't, yet a youth thrown back in time to a place that he doesn't quite understand has its parallels. What would happen if you almost prevented your parents from meeting and falling in love? What do you have to do to fix that before the temporal waves reach your own existence.

This film also contains a number of really great lines and exchanges between Fox and Lloyd, particularly in 1955 where Fox's 80s language makes little sense.

In the end this movie is great because it sets up the sequel in the very last scene. I'm not certain that the second and third films had already been written, but the movie still sets up the sequel to take us all the way to the year 2015!

Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads.
Marty: Doc, we better back up. We don't have enough road to get up to 88.
Doc: Roads? Where we're going, we don't need roads.

Monday, August 18, 2008

All About My Mother (1999)

Pedro Almodóvar's Academy Award Winning Todo Sobre Mi Madre is all around a great film. The film follows Cecilia Roth as mother who loses her only child and moves to Barcelona where she befriends an aging actress played by Marisa Paredes and a young nun played by Penélope Cruz. This film pays homage to Tennessee Williams' A Streetcar Named Desire as well as the classic film All About Eve with Roth playing a combination of Eve Harrington and Stella Kowalski, yet entirely different.

All About My Mother, Cecilia Roth
I have often wondered if foreign language films are as good as I believe them to be. When I do not understand the language, am I less critical of the acting quality simply because I cannot accurately judge how convincingly the lines are delivered? I cannot really answer this question, but I do know that All About My Mother has an interesting storyline that seems to work well. The fact that it draws parallels to classic works of stage and screen while still being a unique story of its own is quite captivating.

All About My Mother is also unique in that it shows many of the ways in which American views of gender and sexuality are limited when compared to a global scale. Roth's character's best friend and her ex-husband are both male to female transsexuals. Sex work is also discussed rather frankly throughout. And homosexuality (or at least bisexuality) is seen as an unremarkable and viable option.

All About My Mother, Marisa Paredes, Cecilia Roth
This film manages a good balance of drama and comedy. In some scenes one truly feels sorry for a character one later feels quite happy to see. For example in one scene we feel quite bad for Agrado who has been beaten by a john. Yet later when she discusses here multiple plastic surgeries to become an authentic woman we can't help but laugh.

My first Almodóvar experience is still my favorite, but this film opened the door to many brilliant films by the prolific director.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Airplane! (1980)

Airplane! 1980
Prior to 1984, the rating of PG-13 did not exist. This has frequently lead to me hastily turning off a movie at the video store where I work. One film that really shows the need for a PG-13 rating is 1980's PG rated Airplane! The rating system is not why I own this comedy classic though. The film is similar to many modern movie parody films in that it lampoons a good number of famous films.1

The film stars
Robert Hays and Julie Hagerty as a pair of lovers who have reached a breaking point and attempt to reunite on board a flight to Chicago. The film also stars Leslie Nielson as a bumbling doctor, Peter Graves as the bumbling2 pilot, and Lloyd Bridges with Robert Stack as the air traffic control operators, as well as a host of other bit parts who came and went as jokes were necessary.

Airplane! Autopilot, Julie Hagerty
This movie is full of slap stick and puns. It is, of course, the highest form of comedy. The movie also throws in a bit of absurdity that breaks out of a standard comedy.3 While it's been almost thirty years since this films original release, it hasn't dated itself beyond salvation. Its classic status has ensured its airing on basic cable long into the future.

Lloyd Bridges, Robert Stack, Airplane!
McCroskey: Looks like I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue.

1. e.g., the very first shots are a parody of Jaws.
2. He may also be slightly pedophilic.
3. e.g., during one panic scene, a topless woman carrying a plate of Jell-O comes on screen and shakes both her breasts and the Jell-O for no apparent reason.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

American Pie (1999) & American Pie 2 (2001)

American Pie 1 & 2 Title
Strictly speaking I only own American Pie on VHS, though I do own American Pie 2 on DVD. However, I didn't feel that it would be fair to review American Pie 2 without also review the original.1

In the summer of 1999, my friend Corey2 and I went to see American Pie in theaters. It was the first film like it I'd ever seen. It raised the bar on raunchy teen sex comedies. Many films since have raised the bar even further, but I like to think that this film marked a change.3 It both popularized the term “MILF,”4 and changed the way we look at band geeks. This film also has the dubious distinction of launching quite a few actors to stardom, Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott, Chris Klein, and Shannon Elizabeth.5 Some of these careers have obviously fared better than others, and some are more of a detriment to film, but that's neither here nor there.

While American Pie did raise the bar and change things in teen sex comedies, it is nevertheless a teen sex comedy, and so therefor follows a certain storyline. A group of guys vow to lose their virginity by the end of the school year, hedging their bets that prom will be their golden ticket, which of course works out differently than each person had expected.

Jason Biggs, Eugene Levy, American Pie 2
This film found its place in my DVD collection as one of my favorite teen flicks from that era of my life. While I still enjoy it, I think a good deal of its appeal comes from it's nostalgic appeal. American Pie 2 made its way into my dvd collection by sheer virtue of my obsessive need to own the entirety of a series.6

For their sequel, the writers and producers seemed to realize that one of the appealing factors of the original film was the heaps of embarrassment that Jason Biggs finds himself in. With that in mind, they created a host of torments to subject him to, primarily embarrassment of the body.7

An interesting thing about these films is that whereas the first film was almost given an NC-17 rating for having Biggs horizontally hump his apple pie, the second film goes full bore in showing Biggs wearing nothing but his hand. Both films, of course, contain ample female nudity which does not apparently warrant a higher rating. The success of the unrated versions of the American Pie films seem to have spawned an entire industry of filming content simply for the unrated DVD version, especially of the ____ Movie series.

The second film in many ways lacks a driving point that the first one did, rather it seeks to fill as many embarrassing situations and assigning Stiflerisms as it can. It still manages to be amusing, and worth the occasional watch, especially since Allison Hannigan's character is greatly expanded beyond a mere caricature of a Band Geek but a full fledged person. Of course, ever tyime I watch these movies I experience a little bit of Schadenfreude, because I saw an interview with Thomas Ian Nichols where he sees himself as the star of these films when it is so obviously Jason Biggs, and his delusion in painful. Maybe the role was originally pitched to him as the lead, but the "normal" kid is not the person the audience identifies with.

Jason Biggs, Seann William Scott kiss
Michelle: One time, at band camp...

1. I do not now, nor will I ever own the train wreck that is American Wedding, nor will I now or ever own any of the other American Pie Presents films.
2. From Boys State. He was my "friend to last a lifetime."
3. Of course, late 70s and early 80s teen sex comedies (e.g., Porky's) also contained a level of sexuality that shouldn't be ignored, but American Pie has a different level of raunch to it.
4. Of course, I think today the preferred term is "Cougar."
5. Already “famous” were Thomas Ian Nicholas, Alyson Hannigan, Tara Reid, Natasha Lyonne, and Mena Suvari. And in a bit part we see John Cho, who first lets us in on the term of MILF. And Casey Affleck makes an appearance as well. Of course, we shouldn't forget the brilliant performances of Eugene Levy and Jennifer Coolige
6. A habit both American Wedding and Spider-Man 3 broke me from doing anymore.
7. To get a little Foucauldian.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

A.I. Artrificial Intelligence (2001)

Rather than a space odyssey, 2001 brought us a robot odyssey in the form of A.I. Artificial Intelligence.1 This film stars Haley Joel Osment as an android boy designed to imprint on a family love them for all time. Osment is joined by a host of humans (notably his “mother” played by Frances O'Connor, and his creator played by William Hurt2) and androids (Jude Law3 as Gigolo Joe is probably the most well known).

Due to its length, A.I. can be divided into three separate stories. The first asks what does it mean when an android is programmed with the express purpose of loving its parents. The adult nature of a robot in the form of a child is jarring and rather creepy. His wise teddy bear, experienced in the destructive nature of humanity, doesn't help to make him any less creepy. As the family grows increasingly weary of their robot son, they abandon him to the world.

At this point, we are then introduced to our second story. In a post-global warming world, where many humans have grown disaffected with the world, they've decided to take their frustration out on the “mecha.”4 It is at this point that Osment befriends Law who opportunistically uses him to get to safety. We also see more of what has become of future cities with the destructive power of global warming.

Clara Bellar, Artificial Intelligence
Finally, A.I. is a futuristic retelling of Pinocchio. In the beginning Osment is told the story of Geppetto's creation and comes to believe that if he is a good enough boy the Blue Fairy will turn him into a real boy as well. Unfortunately for our poor mecha-boy, he does not live in a fairy tale, and the Blue Fairy cannot grant his most desired wish.

In the end, this film gets a little to Spielbergian for some people. The evolution of the Mecha into beings that seem too alien to be of this earth is confusing for some. Further the fact that these mecha seek to find clues to their past and can do so only through this boy boy who spends an entire film emotionally frozen in childhood comes across as strange. However, the film offers some amazing visual effects throughout. It raises questions about what our responsibility is to those we create and care for, as well as what makes something alive.

A.I., Artificial Intelligence, Haley Joel Osment, Frances O'Connor
Female Colleague: It occurs to me with all this animus existing against Mechas today it isn't just a question of creating a robot that can love. Isn't the real conundrum, can you get a human to love them back?
Professor Hobby: Ours will be a perfect child caught in a freezeframe. Always loving, never ill, never changing. With all the childless couples yearning in vain for a license our Mecha will not only open up a new market but fill a great human need.
Female Colleague: But you haven't answered my question. If a robot could genuinely love a person what responsibility does that person hold toward that Mecha in return? It's a moral question, isn't it?
Professor Hobby: The oldest one of all. But in the beginning, didn't God create Adam to love him?

1. Sometimes titled: Artificial Intelligence, A.I., or simply A.I., or Artificial Intelligence. I've chosen the title that most closely matches the way it is seen on the DVD box.
2. More William Hurt in Dune (2000).
3. More Jude Law in The Talented Mr. Ripley.
4. A parallel can be drawn to people's responses to immigrants and any other form of difference.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

About a Boy (2002)

About a Boy, Hugh Grant, Nicholas Hoult
About A Boy stars Hugh Grant1 as a laze-about bachelor living off the royalties of a song his father had written. He sees himself as an island unto himself, a prospect made possible by the conveniences of modern life. His life is turned upside down when he meets the titular boy, played by Nicholas Hoult.

In many ways, Grant and Hoult's relationship is a juxtaposition of opposites. Grant is a wealthy 38 year-old man with no attachments to the world, and spends most of his life trying to seduce women--an activity in which we gather he's rather successful. Hoult, on the other hand, is the picture of awkwardness. His only true relationship is with his depressive and somewhat eccentric mother--played by the incomparable Toni Collette2. While Grant tries to distance himself from real ties in life, Hoult wants nothing more than a true friend and to make his mother happy.

Hugh Grant, Island unto itself, About a Boy
On the surface, this film has a plot that has been done time and again, the person who wants nothing to do with children finds their life turned around by having a child forced into their life. What saves this film for me is its exceptional cast. Rather than the bumbling love interest that marked most of Grant's career, Grant plays a smooth operator who we look forward to seeing change. And unlike most relationships between an adult and child, their relationship is met with some suspicion--after all, what sort of 38 year-old man wants to hang out with a 12 year-old boy?

Though it contains tones of sadness and bitterness, in the end, this movie's message is that even in a modern age, John Donne is correct, “No man is an island, entire of itself...”3 And while a DVD collection can be complete without this film, I find myself enjoying it whenever I'm feeling a little down and in the need for something heartwarming.

Toni Collette, Nicholas Hoult, About a Boy
Will: I find the key is to think of a day as units of time, each unit consisting of no more than thirty minutes. Full hours can be a little bit intimidating and most activities take about half an hour. Taking a bath: one unit, watching Countdown: one unit, web-based research: two units, exercising: three units, having my hair carefully disheveled: four units. It's amazing how the day fills up, and I often wonder, to be absolutely honest, if I'd ever have time for a job; how do people cram them in?

1. More Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral.
2. More on Toni Collette when I cover Connie & Carla and Muriel's Wedding.
3. “...every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.” [Full text.]

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)

Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert
Though not the first title in my movie collection, I can think of no better way to kick off this blog than with one of my all-time favorite films, The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. This 1994 Australian film stars Hugo Weaving, Terence Stamp, and Guy Pearce as drag queens on their way from Sydney to Alice Springs in a bus dubbed Priscilla.

A Cock in a Frock on a Rock, Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Guy Pearce, Terence Stamp, Hugo Weaving
For shear camp value, this film belongs in anyone's DVD collection. It manages to capture a certain kind of campy drag that I love. The characters exchange bitchy barbs,1 and wander around in Academy Award winning dresses. This is only enhanced by the film's awesome soundtrack which prominently features a few of my favorite ABBA songs as well as some disco classics.

At it's heart, this is a road movie about a group of misfits who make their way through a terrain that's inhospitable to them. In the end they discover the degree to which they need each other and that acceptance, though hard to find can be located in unexpected places. It's characters are likable thanks in large part to a talented cast and sharp dialogue.

Finally, this film deserves points based on bravery. In 1994, films about gay men were largely absent from the big screen, aside from AIDS films that rarely left gay circles. This plucky Australian camp-fest managed to make a larger splash with characters who lead somewhat happy lives and don't die in the end.2

Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
Felicia: Well, ever since I was a lad, I've had this dream, a dream that I now--finally--have a chance to fulfill.... To travel to the center of Australia, climb King's Canyon--as a queen--in a full-length Gautier sequin, heels and a tiara.
Bernadette: Great. That's just what this country needs: a cock in a frock on a rock.

1. e.g., Bernadette: Now listen here, you mullet. Why don't you just light your tampon, and blow your box apart? Because it's the only bang you're ever gonna get, sweetheart!
2. I'm looking at you, Philadelphia.

Welcome to Ben's Movie Round-Up!

Over the years I've amassed a rather large DVD collection. Some of these movies I watch rather regularly, others I rarely watch1. In an effort to watch all of my DVDs, I've decided to start this blog.

I have laid out a few rules for myself in the process:

1. I must watch my the movies in alphabetical order.
2. I am allowed to skip ahead up to five titles if I'm not in the mood for the current title. I cannot move beyond those five until I've watched the "current" title.
3. I may watch/post about series as a single entry rather than individually.
4. I may also post about movies I have seen in theaters but do not own.
5. I do not have to post about my VHS collection, though I may if I choose.
6. I will not cover my TV on DVD.

I think this covers my list of rules I've created for myself. I encourage you to join in with me, they're almost entirely available for rental somewhere. I have some great movies, and I have some terrible movies, but I hope to give each a fair treatment as well as explain why I felt that they belong in my movie collection.

1. In rare cases, I have purchased DVDs that I have never watched. I say rare, but really it's more common than I'd probably like to admit.

Ben's Complete DVD Collection

  1. About A Boy (2002)
  2. The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (1994)
  3. Airplane! (1980)
  4. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  5. All About My Mother (1999)
  6. American Pie 2 (2001)
  7. Another Gay Movie (2006)
  8. Back to the Future, Part I (1985)
  9. Back to the Future, Part II (1989)
  10. Back to the Future, Part III (1990)
  11. Bad Santa (2003)
  12. Batman Begins (2005)
  13. The Dark Knight (2008)
  14. Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  15. Bedazzled (2000)
  16. Beetlejuice (1988)
  17. Big Business (1988)
  18. The Big Lebowski (1998)
  19. Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989)
  20. Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey (1991)
  21. The Birdcage (1996)
  22. Blade (1998)
  23. Blade II (2002)
  24. Blade Trinity (2004)
  25. Blazing Saddles (1974)
  26. Bottle Shock (2008)
  27. Bring It On (2000)
  28. The Broken Hearts Club: A Romantic Comedy (2000)
  29. Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001)
  30. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)
  31. Bulletproof Monk (2003)
  32. But I'm a Cheerleader (1999)
  33. Buying the Cow (2002)
  34. Can't Hardly Wait (1998)
  35. Captain Ron (1992)
  36. Charlie's Angels (2000)
  37. Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle (2003)
  38. Charlie Bartlett (2007)
  39. Chicago (2002)
  40. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968)
  41. A Chorus Line (1985)
  42. A Christmas Story (1983)
  43. Clash of the Titans (1981)
  44. Cocoon (1985) / Cocoon: The Return (1988)
  45. The Color Purple (1985)
  46. Commando (1985)
  47. Conan the Barbarian (1982)
  48. Conan the Destroyer (1984)
  49. Connie & Carla (2004)
  50. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  51. Cruel Intentions (1999)
  52. Cutthroat Island (1995)
  53. Dark City (1998)
  54. The Dark Crystal (1982)
  55. Death Becomes Her (1992)
  56. Demolition Man (1993)
  57. Dirty Dancing (1985)
  58. The Distinguished Gentleman (1992)
  59. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (2004)
  60. Dogma (1999)
  61. Don Juan DeMarco (1995)
  62. Double Dragon (1994)
  63. Down with Love (2003)
  64. The Dreamers (2003)
  65. Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999)
  66. Dude, Where's My Car? (2000)
  67. Dumb & Dumber (1994)
  68. Dune (1984)
  69. Dune (2000)
  70. Children of Dune (2003)
  71. Edge of Seventeen (1998)
  72. Elf (2003)
  73. Ellen DeGeneres: In the Beginning (2000)
  74. Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now (2003)
  75. Far and Away (1992)
  76. Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986)
  77. A Few Good Men (1992)
  78. Fiddler On the Roof (1971)
  79. The Fifth Element (1997)
  80. Fired Up (2009)
  81. 54 (1998)
  82. Fight Club (1999)
  83. Fired Up! (2009)
  84. The First Wives Club (1996)
  85. (500) Days of Summer (2009)
  86. Forrest Gump (1994)
  87. The 40 Year Old Virgin (2005)
  88. Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994)
  89. Fried Green Tomatoes (1991)
  90. The Full Monty (1997)
  91. Funny Farm (1988)
  92. Galaxy Quest (1999)
  93. Gattaca (1997)
  94. Get Real (1998)
  95. Ghost (1990)
  96. Ghost Town (2008)
  97. Gladiator (2000)
  98. Go (1999)
  99. The Goonies (1985)
  100. Gosford Park (2001)
  101. The Great Outdoors (1988)
  102. Guys and Dolls (1955)
  103. Hair (1979)
  104. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
  105. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (2002)
  106. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004)
  107. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (2005)
  108. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007)
  109. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)
  110. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (2001)
  111. Hero (2002)
  112. High Spirits (1988)
  113. Highlander (1986)
  114. Highlander II: The Quickening (1991)
  115. Hook (1991)
  116. House of Flying Daggers (2004)
  117. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)
  118. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
  119. I Love You, Man (2009)
  120. I, Robot (2004)
  121. In Good Company (2004)
  122. The Incredibles (2004)
  123. Independence Day (1996)
  124. Indiana Jones and Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
  125. Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984)
  126. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989)
  127. Interview with the Vampire (1994)
  128. It's a Wonderful Life (1946) 
  129. Queen of the Damned (2002)
  130. John Tucker Must Die (2006)
  131. Johnny Mnemonic (1995)
  132. Just One of the Guys (1985)
  133. Kill Bill, Vol. 1 (2003)
  134. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (2004)
  135. Kindergarten Cop (1990)
  136. Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
  137. A Knight's Tale (2001)
  138. Kull the Conqueror (1997)
  139. Kung Fu Hustle (2004)
  140. Labyrinth (1986)
  141. Ladyhawke (1985)
  142. Latter Days (2003)
  143. A League of Their Own (1992)
  144. Legally Blonde (2001)
  145. Legend (1985)
  146. Liar Liar (1997)
  147. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
  148. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
  149. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
  150. The Lost Boys (1987)
  151. Love Actually (2003)
  152. Love Potion #9 (1992)
  153. Mad Max (1979)
  154. The Road Warrior (1981)
  155. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
  156. Masters of the Universe (1987)
  157. The Matrix (1999)
  158. The Matrix Reloaded (2003)
  159. Matrix Revolutions (2003)
  160. Meet the Parents (2000)
  161. Meet the Fockers (2004)
  162. The Mexican (2001)
  163. Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)
  164. A Mighty Wind (2003)
  165. Minority Report (2002)
  166. Miss Congeniality (2000)
  167. Modern Vampires (1998)
  168. Mommie Dearest (1981)
  169. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975)
  170. Monty Python: Life of Brian (1979)
  171. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
  172. The Mummy (1999)
  173. The Mummy Returns (2001)
  174. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (2008)
  175. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
  176. Muriel's Wedding (1994)
  177. My Best Friend's Wedding (1997)
  178. My Big Fat Greek Wedding (2002)
  179. Mystery Men (1999)
  180. National Lampoon's Vacation (1983)
  181. National Lampoon's European Vacation (1985)
  182. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
  183. National Lampoon's Vegas Vacation (1997)
  184. National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002)
  185. National Treasure (2004)
  186. National Treasure 2: Book of Secrets (2007)
  187. Ocean's Eleven (2001)
  188. Ocean's Twelve (2004)
  189. Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
  190. Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
  191. Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006)
  192. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (2007)
  193. Pleasantville (1998)
  194. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (2010)
  195. The Princess Bride (1987)
  196. The Producers (1968)
  197. The Producers (2005)
  198. The Proposal (2009)
  199. Protocol (1984)
  200. Psycho Beach Party (2000)
  201. Risky Business (1983)
  202. A River Runs Through It (1992)
  203. Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993)
  204. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991)
  205. Role Models (2008)
  206. Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (1997)
  207. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
  208. The Rules of Attraction (2002)
  209. The Rundown (2003)
  210. The Running Man (1987)
  211. The Scorpion King (2002)
  212. The Scorpion King 2: Rise of a Warrior (2008)
  213. Seven (1995)
  214. 17 Again (2009)
  215. Short Circuit (1986)
  216. The Simpsons Movie (2007)
  217. Sister Act (1992)
  218. The Skulls (2000)
  219. Sky High (2005)
  220. Sleepless in Seattle (1993)
  221. So I Married an Axe Murderer (1993)
  222. Southland Tales (2006)
  223. Spaceballs (1987)
  224. Spider-Man (2002)
  225. Spider-Man 2 (2004)
  226. Splendor (1999)
  227. Stand by Me (1986)
  228. Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979)
  229. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
  230. Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
  231. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986)
  232. Star Trek V: The Final Frontier (1989)
  233. Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991)
  234. Star Trek VII: Generations (1994)
  235. Star Trek VIII: First Contact (1996)
  236. Star Trek IX: Insurrection (1998)
  237. Star Trek X: Nemesis (2002)
  238. Star Trek (2009)
  239. Star Wars, Episode I: The Phantom Menace (1999)
  240. Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones (2002)
  241. Star Wars, Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
  242. Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope (1977)
  243. Star Wars, Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
  244. Star Wars, Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983)
  245. Stargate (1994)
  246. Starship Troopers (1997)
  247. Starship Troopers 3: Marauder (2008)
  248. Starsky & Hutch (2004)
  249. Super Mario Bros. (1993)
  250. Superman (1978)
  251. Superman II (1980)
  252. Superman III (1983)
  253. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
  254. Superman Returns (2006)
  255. Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
  256. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)
  257. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990)
  258. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: Secret of the Ooze (1991)
  259. Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles III (1993)
  260. Teen Wolf (1985)/Teen Wolf Too (1987)
  261. The Ten Commandments (1956)
  262. 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)
  263. Thelma & Louise (1991)
  264. 13 Going on 30 (2004)
  265. The Three Musketeers (1993)
  266. ¡Three Amigos! (1986)
  267. To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar (1995)
  268. Total Recall (1990)
  269. Trading Places (1983)
  270. Trekkies (1997)
  271. Trick (1999)
  272. Tron (1982)
  273. The Truth About Cats & Dogs (1996)
  274. Twilight (2008)
  275. Twilight: New Moon (2009)
  276. Twilight: Eclipse (2010)
  277. Twins (1988)
  278. Underworld (2003)
  279. Underworld: Evolution (2006)
  280. Universal Soldier (1992)
  281. Varsity Blues (1999)
  282. Virtual Sexuality (1999)
  283. Waiting for Guffman (1996)
  284. A Walk in the Clouds (1995)
  285. The War of the Roses (1989)
  286. Wayne's World (1992)
  287. Wayne's World II (1993)
  288. The Wedding Banquet (1993)
  289. Wedding Crashers (2005)
  290. West Side Story (1961)
  291. When Harry Met Sally (1989)
  292. White Christmas (1954)
  293. Wild Things (1998)
  294. Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
  295. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton! (2004)
  296. Wing Commander (1999)
  297. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  298. X-Men (2000)
  299. X2: X-Men United (2003)
  300. X-Men III: The Last Stand (2006)
  301. Y Tu Mamá También (2001)
  302. Yes Man (2008)
  303. Young Frankenstein (1974)
  304. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (2008)
TV on DVD:
  1. Angel - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
  2. Arrested Development - Seasons: 1, 2, 3
  3. Battlestar Galactica - Seasons: 1, 2.0, 2.5, 3, 4.0
  4. The Big Bang Theory - Season: 1
  5. Buffy the Vampire Slayer - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  6. Friends - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10
  7. Futurama - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4
  8. How I Met Your Mother - Seasons: 1, 2, 3
  9. Lois & Clark - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4
  10. Roswell - Seasons: 1, 2, 3
  11. The Simpsons: Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
  12. Smallville - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  13. Star Trek: Deep Space 9 - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  14. Star Trek: Voyager - Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7
  15. The Tudors - Seasons: 1
  16. The Venture Bros. - Seasons: 1, 2, 3