More directors!

James Cameron
2008-2012 output: Avatar
The best action director of all time in my opinion, he would need to direct more than one flick every decade to make the cut. But what a film!

Edgar Wright
2008-2012 output: Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World
Again, I almost included this guy in the Top 10 because of how damn much I love “Scott Pilgrim”, but PTA-excepted, I made the conscious decision to focus on filmmakers who’ve made at least 2 or 3 great movies since 2008 for the Top 10. Not that it’s easy to make one kickass flick like “Scott Pilgrim” – many directors never manage to pull off something like that in their whole career. But that just makes it all the more impressive when somebody goes out and knocks a few out of the park in a row.

Baz Luhrmann
2008-2012 output: Australia
I’m always this close to including him in the Top 10 (“Moulin Rouge!” remains the best movie I’ve seen in the past decade and change), but mate needs to make more films! At this point, he’s less productive than Terrence Malick! And “Australia”, while wonderful, is no “Moulin Rouge!”.

The Coen brothers
2008-2012 output: Burn After Reading, A Serious Man, True Grit
They’re this close to Gods status – they have made one of my all-time Top 10 faves after all, i.e. “The Big Lebowski” – but they whiff a bit too often to make the pantheon.

Martin Scorsese
2008-2012 output: Shine a Light, Shutter Island, A Letter to Elia, Hugo, Living in the Material World
Like his contemporary Spielberg, Scorsese has directed his share of masterpieces in the 70s, 80s and 90s, while also falling on his face a few times. But unlike Spielberg, Scorsese isn’t currently experiencing a creative renaissance in my opinion. I mean, he’s still technically a brilliant director and I do adore his documentaries, but 1999’s “Bringing Out the Dead” is the last non-fiction feature of his that has knocked me on my ass. So no Top 10 status for Marty.

David Cronenberg
2008-2012 output: A Dangerous Method, Cosmopolis
On the basis of the astonishing “Cosmopolis”, I almost put him in the Top 10. But the so-so “A Dangerous Method” instantly reminds us that Cronenberg isn’t always on his game and can make some somewhat dull (though not uninteresting) work at times. Still, I mostly love his Viggo Mortensen cycle – 2 out of 3 ain’t bad, and Viggo’s actually awesome in “Method”, so…

Woody Allen
2008-2012 output: Vicky Cristina Barcelona, Whatever Works, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Midnight in Paris, To Rome With Love
Not a classic in the lot, and at least one mediocre title, but I remain impressed by Woody’s capacity to deliver a film a year, every year, and even his lesser efforts are still enjoyable enough. Best in show these last 4-5 years: “Midnight in Paris”, obviously.

Terrence Malick
2008-2012 output: The Tree of Life; upcoming: To the Wonder
He’s a lot more productive than he used to be, though he’s hardly Woody Allen yet. “The Tree of Life”, while not perfect, is still breathtaking. On a moment to moment basis, Malick almost qualifies as the best filmmaker in the world.

Wes Anderson
2008-2012 output: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom
Against all odds, Anderson’s stop-motion woodland creatures movie might just be my favourite of his so far, and I also greatly enjoyed his latest, “Moonrise Kingdom”. In both cases, he proves once again that he’s by far one of the most visually distinctive filmmakers working right now. 

Spike Jonze
2008-2012 output: Where the Wild Things Are
Only one feature in the last few years, but it’s effin’ amazing and his still-impressive music video work (e.g. Arcade Fire’s “Scenes from the Suburbs”) makes him a worthy inclusion.

Gaspar Noé
2008-2012 output: Enter the Void
Not a lot of films qualify as groundbreaking, visionary, game-changing. Noé’s latest does.

Kevin Smith
2008-2012 output: Zack and Miri Make a Porno, Cop Out, Red State
I adore the guy, but maybe more because of his body of work in general than just his movies (though “Red State” is super badass), i.e. his podcasts, live appearances, books, TV shows, comic books, etc.

Robert Zemeckis
2008-2012 output: A Christmas Carol; upcoming: Flight
He’ll always be one of the greats for me, if only for directing one of the most influential movies of my childhood (“Back to the Future”) AND one of the most important ones of my teenage years (“Forrest Gump”). But while I like his trio of 3D mo-cap flicks a lot, James Cameron’s “Avatar” has kinda made them a footnote now. Looking forward to his return to live action, though!

Danny Boyle
2008-2012 output: Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours
His first two flicks from the mid-90s are stone-cold classics in my book, his subsequent ones not so much, but I truly loved “Slumdog Millionaire”.

M. Night Shyamalan
2008-2012 output: The Happening, The Last Airbendner
He used to be a God for me, but I’m kinda tired of defending his lesser work… He needs to deliver another masterwork à la “Signs” or “Unbreakable” soon to qualify again.

Best Movies for Children

The best movies for children are those which appeal to a dual audience. Timeless children’s classics are just that “ timeless “ because they are made to be watched and enjoyed by the whole family through the ages. Children’s author C.S. Lewis once wrote that œa book that is worth reading only in childhood is not worth reading even then; the same can be said of films as well. That is why some great children’s titles in film have endured, and will continue to endure, more than others.

It’s hard to choose a top title from Disney’s huge range of successful children’s films, but there are some that have a wider and longer appeal than others. The cream of the crop has to be animated classic The Lion King, which appeals to both genders and to any age, with adult themes that can be understood by and yet not frightening for younger children.

Disney simply cannot be avoided when considering children’s films, with hundreds more traditionally animated movies like The Lion King. When it comes to CG animation, however, there is only one film (and hugely successful franchise) that made animation studio Pixar, now a part of the Disneyverse, a huge household name in children’s films. It is, of course, Toy Story “ one of the only film franchises where each sequel has been almost as good (if not as good!) as the first.

Speaking of hugely successful series, Dreamworks animation is another provider of great children’s films, with their iconic title being Shrek and its successive instalments. Although in the past Dreamworks has struggled to match Pixar’s success in children’s output, How to Train Your Dragon is another example of a top quality children’s movie from this studio and should be on every parent’s list as one to watch.

All of these titles and many, many more are all available now from online rental service LOVEFiLM. As a member of LOVEFiLM, you can have movies delivered directly to your door, or instantly watch them online thanks to the LOVEFiLM Player. Whatever your preference, visit www.lovefilm.com now to learn more.

Disaster/Masterpiece: Freddy Got Fingered

It’s been advanced that insanity and genius are two sides of a same reality, two somehow intertwined extremes. Tom Green’s oeuvre is a good example of that. From his original Canadian show to its reinvented MTV version, Green made a name for himself by pulling the most demented stunts, be it humping a dead moose, putting a horse’s head in his parents’ bed à la Godfather or making a one hour special about his real-life removal of a cancer-ridden testicle. Some will dismiss it all as the work of a wacko, but others find it brilliant in an admittedly very quirky way. I fall in the latter category, finding Green to be a fearless performer with an intriguing vision. He made his big screen debut in a bit part in “Superstar”, then stole and ran away with “Road Trip”, and finally with “Freddy Got Fingered” (which he co-wrote and directed in addition to playing the lead role), he’s come up with, in his own words, “the stupidest, most disgusting movie you’ve ever seen.”

Green stars as Gord Brody, a 28 year-old slacker who finally leaves home to go to Hollywood and pursue is dream of working as a cartoon animator. Of course, making it as an artist is not that easy, and Gord finds himself rejected by a studio executive (Anthony Michael Hall) and stuck in a cheese sandwich factory, a dead-end job if there ever was one. So he returns to Portland and moves back in his parents’ basement, much to the disenchantment of his father (Rip Torn). Dad wants him to get a job, but Brody prefers to take it easy drawing his “doodles”, skateboarding with his best buddy (Harland Williams) and hanging with his wheelchair-bound rocket scientist girlfriend (Marisa Coughland). Henceforth begins a war between father and son where no blow is too low, be it destroying Gord’s skateboard ramp or denouncing Daddy as a child molester who fingered younger brother Freddy (Eddie Kaye Thomas) – hence the title.

“We got the idea of writing our own comedy that would be a mockery of conventional comedies.” – Tom Green

The film starts off with a familiar tone, that of many an ’80s teen comedy, with an early scene showing Gord skateboarding through a shopping mall while a security guard chases him. Then his parents wave him goodbye as he leaves home, and then… He stops his car by a farm, runs up to a horse, grabs its erect penis and starts jerking it vigorously! How many ’80s comedies provide such a sight? Right there, you know if this movie is for you. Unsurprisingly, many people aren’t interested in a picture featuring interspecies hand-jobs.

For instance, if you look it up on Rotten Tomatoes, you’ll see that “Freddy Got Fingered” has received nearly nothing but brutally negative reviews. To many a film reviewer, it seems this is the bottom of the barrel and then some. James Berardinelli wrote that he has “gotten better entertainment value from a colonoscopy”. Owen Gleiberman not only panned the movie but went on to write that Green had “a hyperactive computer addict’s stringbean body, a wimp’s receding profile (his goatee seems to be shouting, “I know I’m here to fill out this guy’s loser face!”), and the rabid, staring eyes of a deranged lizard.” It culminated with the film “winning” five Razzie awards, including Worst Picture of 2001.

Well, I beg to differ. Yes, Tom Green’s directorial debut is juvenile, vulgar, generally sloppily crafted, offensive and thoroughly idiotic. Then again, it’s one the most hilarious movies I’ve seen in recent years, and Green is rivetingly grotesque. Critic Roger Ebert loathed the film but accurately described it as a “milestone of neo-surrealism”. Indeed, for every gross-out scene involving a bloody deer carcass or whatnot, we get delightfully absurd moments like Green playing keyboards with strung up sausages or the “backwards man”.

I truly believe writer-director-star Tom Green has done something special here. Even if you don’t find his humor funny, his film is still spectacularly offbeat. There’s all this weird and weirder stuff that keeps happening. But then again, it actually holds itself, there IS a story. A nice story, about a man-child who wants to be an artist but whose ambitions are squashed by his father, who wants him to quit dreaming and get a job. There’s even a love story, and it’s actually sweet how Betty inspires Gordy to not give up. Of course, all this generally degenerates into insanity, but this is a Tom Green movie after all!

“It was vaguely autobiographical and vaguely nonsensical at the same time. The main character is a small-town boy from Oregon, not Canada, who tries to prove himself to his dad by coming to L.A. to make it as an animator, not a comedian.” – Tom Green

Another thing that’s notable is how personal a film this is. On the DVD commentary, Green talks about how he really does love skateboarding and flipping creamers (!) and how he had to move back into his parents’ basement when he was struggling to find a way to get paid to be stupid.

Green is an artist. At least, you can’t deny he has a wild imagination. The things he does with his voice, his body, his face… Or, going back to his screenplay, it’s hard to fathom how he can come up with bits of dialogue like this particularly zesty one, from a scene where Gordy tells his mom she deserves better than his dad: “If I were you, I would show him that I deserve respect. If I were you I would go out, I’d have sex with strange men, I’d have sex with basketball players. I’d have sex with Greeks, men from Greece.”

Here’s a rather classic scene, the son telling his mother she doesn’t have to put up with her abusive husband, yet look how Green goes out on a tangent way into too-much-information territory!

That back and forth between sentimental and bizarre, which goes on through the whole picture, is what does it for me. Like, when Gord delivers a baby, cuts the umbilical cord with his teeth then swings the poor little bastard around in circles, that’s just the set-up. Where it gets hilarious is when it cuts to the heartfelt aftermath, with touchy-feely music on the soundtrack, the mother crying and Gord saying, “I saved the day… I saved the day.”

“I wanted to make something where people walked out of the theatre saying, “What the fuck was that?” – Tom Green

Mission accomplished, sir! The many people who hate the movie and the few, like me, who love it all agree on one thing: this is one hell of a weird flick.

ELVIS: THE FILMOGRAPHY

In one of the deleted scenes found on the “Pulp Fiction” DVD, Mia asks Vincent Vega a series of questions sorting out his “types”, pop culture-wise, like “If you were Archie, who would you fuck first, Betty or Veronica?” The big one, of course, is The Beatles or Elvis? “Now, Beatles people can like Elvis. And Elvis people can like The Beatles. But nobody likes them both equally. Somewhere you have to make a choice.” Personally, I adore The Beatles and consider them to be among the most brilliant artists of the 20th century, yet Elvis still one-ups them for one simple reason: he’s Elvis frickin’ Presley. You can’t beat that!

Elvis’ body of work might be mightily uneven and he became grotesque in his later years, but I can’t look at 1956-1968 Presley and call myself anything other than an Elvis person. There was something infinitely fascinating in Elvis during his prime, with his exceptional good looks, his overflowing charisma and the pure soul he put into every performance. If we’re referring to his live shows of the 1950s and ‘60s, I’m sure many would be of the same opinion as me, but to some degree I’d also extend this to his film work. Granted, most of the films he was involved with were cheesy B-movies, but he always managed to elevate them to a category of their own, the “Elvis flick”. These are not masterpieces, but they always pack in lots of pretty girls, goofy charm and cheerful musical numbers, which is more than what you get from most pictures.

After getting his start in the 1956 western “Love Me Tender”, Presley mostly focused on recording, touring and doing his military service in Germany. Then came the 1960s, and Elvis practically became a full-time Hollywood star, doing 27 movies in the decade. This period of his career concluded with “Change of Habit” in 1969. His recording career having been revived by his 1968 Comeback Special, Presley made that last movie then spent the last years of his life doing countless sold-out concerts.

***

Love Me Tender (1956)
Loving You (1957)
Jailhouse Rock (1957)
King Creole (1958)
G.I. Blues (1960)
Flaming Star (1960)
Wild in the Country (1961)
Blue Hawaii (1961)
Follow That Dream (1962)
Kid Galahad (1962)
Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962)
It Happened at the World’s Fair (1963)

Fun In Acapulco (1963, Richard Thorpe) 64

WHAT: A hammy but pleasant diversion full of sun, music and beautiful girls.
ELVIS’ CHARACTER: A former circus acrobat working first as a boat hand then as a singer in hotel lounges and restaurants south of the U.S. border.
THE GIRL(S): Elsa Cardenas as a lady bullfighter and the ravishing Ursula Andress as a hotel social manager.
THE MUSIC: Many enjoyable Latin-flavoured tunes where Presley is backed by a Mariachi band. These include songs such as Marguerita, Bossa Nova Baby (which has Elvis hitting the keyboards and bongos) and Guadalajara (sung by Presley in Spanish) as well as a few silly ditties performed by Elvis on a bicycle or in cars (“There’s no room to rhumba in a sports car”!).

Kissin’ Cousins (1964, Gene Nelson) 21

WHAT: A dumb, rather dull hillbillysploitation comedy.
ELVIS’ CHARACTER(S): An Air Force officer on a mission to convince a Smoky Mountains family to allow the army to build a missile base on their land AND one of the hillbillies he meets up there.
THE GIRL(S): Yvonne Craig and Pamela Austin as Elvis’ giggly cousins from the mountains, Cynthia Pepper as a female officer, and a whole bunch of horny “Kittyhawks”.
THE MUSIC: Smokey Mountain Boy sung while Elvis is driving a Jeep, One Boy, Two Little Girls and a few others tunes serenaded to the cousins, Barefoot Ballad, Once Is Enough and the title song during the climactic hoedown.

Viva Las Vegas (1964)
Roustabout (1964)

Girl Happy (1965, Boris Sagal) 57

WHAT: A beach party film set in Fort Lauderdale during Spring Break.
ELVIS’ CHARACTER: Rusty Wells, the leader of a rock & roll combo hired by a Chicago club owner to chaperon his daughter Valerie.
THE GIRL(S): Shelley Fabares as Val, plus former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley as another girl Rusty has the hots for.
THE MUSIC: The title song is played by Rusty and his musicians in matching yellow jackets at the Chicago club, Spring Fever while they drive to Fort Lauderdale, the enjoyably silly Fort Lauderdale Chamber of Commerce by the motel pool, Startin’ Tonight, Wolf Call, Meanest Girl in Town and I’ve Got to Find My Baby at the Fort Lauderdale club where Rusty’s band performs, the very sexy Do Not Disturb in a motel room late in the evening, Do the Clam on the beach at night, etc.

Tickle Me (1965, Norman Taurog) 44

WHAT: A light-hearted contemporary western with almost as many fisticuffs as musical numbers, that somehow turns into a “Scooby-Doo”-style ghost town treasure hunt.
ELVIS’ CHARACTER: A cowboy who gets a job at a ranch/health spa for women until the rodeo season starts.
THE GIRL(S): Jocelyn Lane as a gorgeous aerobics instructor, Julie Adams as the owner of the ranch/spa, and a whole bunch of horny guests.
THE MUSIC: (It’s A) Long Lonely Highway sung out the window of a moving bus, It Feels So Right performed in a saloon, (Such an) Easy Question under a tree, Dirty, Dirty Feeling while Elvis is feeding horses (one of whom actually joins in to sing the final word of the song!),Put the Blame on Me during a fantasy sequence set in the Old West, I’m Yours during a luau, etc.

Harum Scarum (1965)
Frankie and Johnny (1966)
Paradise, Hawaiian Style (1966)
Spinout (1966)
Easy Come, Easy Go (1967)
Double Trouble (1967)
Clambake (1967)
Stay Away, Joe (1968)
Speedway (1968)

Live a Little, Love a Little (1968, Norman Taurog) 53

WHAT: A dorky but amusing and sexy screwball comedy.
ELVIS’ CHARACTER: A photographer who juggles two full-time jobs.
THE GIRL: Michele Carey as a daffy, manipulative cocktease who owns a big ass dog.
THE MUSIC: Edge of Reality during a dream sequence, A Little Less Conversation during a groovy ’60s party scene, etc.

Charro! (1969)
The Trouble with Girls (1969)

Change of Habit (1969, William A. Graham) 65

WHAT: A cartoonish but well-meaning “message” picture that attempts to channel the spirit of the ’60s counterculture, from women’s lib to the Black Panthers.
ELVIS’ CHARACTER: A caring M.D. who devoted his life to helping the disadvantaged.
THE GIRL: Mary Tyler Moore as a nun who leave the covent and her habits to go help people incognito in an inner-city clinic.
THE MUSIC: A rollicking rendition of the Motown-esque Rubberneckin during a bedroom party, an amusing performance of Have a Happy on a carousel, Elvis singing Let us Pray during a church service.

BONUS!

Elvis: The Miniseries (2005, James Steven Sadwith)
[ Starting backstage at the ’68 Comeback Special with Elvis Presley (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) having doubts before hitting the stage in front of an audience for the first time in 7 years, it then flashbacks to when he was a young man still living with his parents (Camryn Manheim and Robert Patrick), going on to chronicle the cutting of his first records at Sun Studio with Sam Philipps (Tim Guinee), his rapid fire rise to fame thanks in part to the business acumen of Col. Parker (Randy Quaid), his controversial performances in which he drove the girls crazy with his “wiggling”, the buying of Graceland, his stint in the army, his crush on a pretty 14 year old called Priscilla (Antonia Bernath), his years making movies in Hollywood, his affair with Ann-Margret (Rose McGowan), his growing addiction to pills, etc. As you can see, the screenplay is episodic, and the direction doesn’t rise above average network TV miniseries level, but the production values are decent, Elvis’ story is captivating enough on its own and the songs are awesome, natch. Most importantly, JR Meyers is perfectly convincing as the King, conveying both his cocky charisma and his good ol’ boy earnestness, plus how he got all out of control later on in life. All in all, this is pretty much as good and maybe even better than “Ray”, “Walk the Line” and the other recent musical biopics. ]

Ralph Arida’s reviews

THE LINCOLN LAWYER

Despite its predictability and lack of originality, it still manages to be quite entertaining.

LIMITLESS

Yet another movie that mistakes its premise for its plot.

A PERFECT GETAWAY

Maybe a little less plot exposition and a little more flesh could have, for once, made this thriller a memorable one.

OBSESSED

The only reason why people will go see this film is to see Beyoncé kick the shit out of some white bitch for trying to steal her man.

MARTYRS

Pascal Laugier’s film stands more as a psychological experiment than as a horror film, testing its viewers’ tolerance and limitations.

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3D

A bloody and side-splitting rollercoaster ride from hell.

SEVEN POUNDS

Overdramatic, overindulgent and overacted, “Seven Pounds” is simply overweight.

CADILLAC RECORDS

One of the most deliciously melodious biopics to have hit the theatres in a long time.

EAGLE EYE

With each movie, LaBeouf slowly establishes himself as the new generation’s leading man.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN?

While questioning the movie’s relevance as well as the filmmakers’ mental sanity, I could not help but laugh wholeheartedly.

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS

It’s kind of like Vegas: an addictive guilty pleasure.

10,000 B.C.

A prehistoric film done by cavemen.

PARANOID PARK

Although not the most accessible, it is an unquestionable masterpiece.

THE BANK JOB

What is the obsession with robbing banks in the movie business?

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

Although quite entertaining for a period drama, it shamelessly diminishes the gravity of its subject matter.

SEMI-PRO

Ferrell is very funny in this film, but feels reduced to being the film’s clown instead of its lead.

PENELOPE

Starts off as a cute and heartwarming film beaming with humor and charm, but ends up relying too much on the familiar.

VANTAGE POINT

It succeeds as a great action movie, a compelling edge-of-your-seat thriller and mindless entertainment with a hint of realism.

JUMPER

It prioritizes the uninteresting rapports between the two leads and completely neglects its supernatural premise.

PERSEPOLIS

The storytelling is so honest and heartfelt, that even a cynic would embrace this movie unquestionably.

SEX AND DEATH 101

The movie feels like a collage of under-produced skits, that in the end make the movie feel disjointed and boring.

CLOVERFIELD

Makes a monster destroying New York City look convincingly real, and brings you on a hell of a ride doing so.

Ralph Arida’s Oscars

Behind every film critic is a hidden and guilty desire to be a part of the Oscars’ jury and decide who gets the much-coveted award. There is also, in my case, the strong need to shove the academy’s political antics up its voters asses, as each passing year I find myself disappointed at the nominations and flat-out disgusted at some of the winners. I also do not understand the academy’s acute lack of memory, as usually any movie that is out in theatres before September, whether it is the best movie of the year or not, is completely neglected by the academy. So here is my own personal list of Oscar nominations (based on what I have seen of course) featuring some brand new categories:

Actor in a Supporting Role:

Steve Zahn- Rescue Dawn
Jason Schwartzman- The Darjeeling Limited
Javier Bardem- No Country For Old Men
Albert Finney- Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
Hal Holbrook- Into the Wild

Actress in a Supporting Role:

Joan Allen- The Bourne Ultimatum
Meryl Streep- Lions for Lambs
Tilda Swinton- Michael Clayton
Hope Davis- The Hoax
Cate Blanchett- I’m Not There

Actor in a Leading Role:

Chris Cooper- Breach
Ben Kingsley- You Kill Me
Tommy Lee Jones- In the Valley of Elah
Viggo Mortensen- Eastern Promises
Joaquin Phoenix- We Own the Night

Actress in a Leading Role:

Christina Ricci- Black Snake Moan
Parker Posey- Broken English
Naomie Watts- Eastern Promises
Angelina Jolie- A Mighty Heart
Katherine Heigl- Knocked Up

Writing (Original Screenplay):

In the Valley of Elah
The Darjeeling Limited
Rescue Dawn
Black Snake Moan
You Kill Me

Writing (Adapted Screenplay):

Atonement
No Country for Old Men
The Bourne Ultimatum
There Will Be Blood
Into the Wild

Cinematography:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
Rescue Dawn
No Country for Old Men
Zodiac
3:10 to Yuma

Film Editing:

The Bourne Ultimatum
A Mighty Heart
Rescue Dawn
Eastern Promises
No Country for Old Men

Animated Feature Film:

Ratatouille
Persepolis
The Simpsons Movie

Direction

No Country for Old Men
Into the Wild
Rescue Dawn
American Gangster
The Darjeeling Limited

Best Picture:

No Country for Old Men
Black Snake Moan
Rescue Dawn
Atonement
The Darjeeling Limited

Most Overrated Movie at the Oscars this Year:

Juno
Surf’s Up

Most Absurd Nomination at the Oscars this Year:

Surf’s Up- Animated Feature Film
Ruby Dee- Actress in a Supporting Role- American Gangster

Biggest Shun at the Oscars this Year:

Rescue Dawn
The Darjeeling Limited
Black Snake Moan

Happy Oscars!
Ralph Arida