Category: Friday Five

Friday Five: This Means War

I’ll try to revive the Friday Five today. Lately, I’ve seen several movies either set in a war or dealing with the aftermath of a war (M*A*S*H, Best Years of Our Lives). So how about a war thread? They can be about a war or the aftermath; they can be pro- or anti-war. Inspiring or harrowing. This list quickly got out of control, so I narrowed it to movies that focus on the military in particular, therefore excluding films like Gone With the Wind, where the war is just part of a bigger film or movies like The Pianist, which are more focused on the Holocaust. YMMV.

My five?

Saving Private Ryan: I can still remember how devastated I felt walking out of the theater. The recreation of D-Day was so harrowing that veterans started having flashbacks. It changed the way action films would be filmed forever (although, unfortunately, its red-headed stepchild was the fast-edited shaky cam action scene that you can’t see).

Patton: George C. Scott. That is all.

Letters from Iwo Jima: I know a few people had issues with this one because it is told from the POV of the Japanese. But I found it brilliant and touching, with some incredible performances. Flags of Our Fathers is not bad, either.

Das Boot: Feature film or the entire mini-series. Another film told from the point of view of our Axis enemies but another film that emphasizes the common soldier who is motivated less by ideology than by his sense of duty and his band of brothers.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World: How good was this film? I read the entire Aubrey-Maturin canon because of it. Just a great film. Also worth your time: A&E’s Horatio Hornblower made-for-TV movies.

Honorable Mention: Platoon, The Longest Day, A Bridge Too Far, Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia, Gallipoli, The Big Red One, Full Metal Jacket, Apocalypse Now, Black Hawk Down.

Friday Five: Oscar Upsets

Oscar nominees came out earlier this week. I don’t take the Oscars terribly seriously anymore since they’ve long since beclowned themselves. Even the people I know who watch it do so for the spectacle and the celebrities. But I did get to thinking: what are the worst Oscar winners? You can pick anything: directors, actor, actress, best special effects if you’re that passionate about it.

My five?

Shakespeare in Love over Saving Private Ryan: This is really what motivated the post. Shakespeare was a decent but forgettable movie. Even now, I can barely remember what it was about except that Gwyneth Paltrow took her clothes off. Saving Private Ryan was an extraordinary movie that changed war films forever. Everything since has followed in its large boot print. I’ve watched it half a dozen times and it is still shattering. This abomination of a pick was when I stopped caring about Oscars.

How Green Was My Vally over Citizen Kane: Green is actually not a bad movie. But Kane was great and changed film-making. And the Hollywood celebs, who always tell us how brave they are, geeked when Hearst told them to.

Annie Hall over Star Wars: Hey, I’m Jewish. I like Annie Hall. It’s not a bad movie. It’s even good. Star Wars, however, was a great movie.

Crash over Anything: Crash was a movie I liked on initial seeing but came to dislike the more I thought about it. It is lessons about race taught with a sledge hammer. Any of the other four nominees would have been better. Revenge of the Sith would have ben a better choice.

Meryl Streep’s Thatcher caricature in The Iron Lady: I realize I am out on a limb on this and much of my ire is for the movie itself, which seemed to enjoy Thatcher’s senility more than her extraordinary career. But while Streep looked and sounded like Thatcher, she carried none of the presence that Thatcher did. I know people who met Thatcher and every single one — even those that hated her — talked about how compelling a figure she was, how she absolutely commanded the attention of everyone in the room. Streep … didn’t. In a career filled with great performances, this was the one the Academy recognized?

Honorable Mention: The Greatest Show on Earth over anything else. Forrest Gump over Shawshank Redemption. I Just Called to Say I Love You over Purple Rain — really? Gandhi over ET — even Attenborough said this was a bad choice. Driving Miss Daisy — seriously? A Beautiful Mind over Fellowship of the Ring, which had the knock on effect of denying an Oscar to Master and Commander. Rain Man over Dangerous Liasons. I could go all day.

Your five?

Friday Five: Toys!

Been a while. Christmas is upon us. I was shopping yesterday for Sal 11000 Beta as well as her various cousins and was thinking about some of my favorite toys as a kid. So about a Friday Five on that? What were you five favorite toys as a kid? Doesn’t have to be some expensive thing from Toys R’ Us. Could a be a bike, army men, refrigerator box, puppy. Anything that showed up under your Christmas tree or at a birthday and gave you years of joy.

My five?

Fisher Price Castle: They don’t make they anymore because the people are small and they’re worried kids could choke on them. But this was a fantastic toy, especially because the parapets were the perfect height for army men. My brother and I got years of enjoyment out of this.

Anything Star Wars: We had small die-cast vehicles and the action figures, of course, and a very awesome Hoth base that had falling ice bridges (also good for army men). I can close my eyes and hear us skittering the die cast models across the kitchen floor and a voice says, “You idiot! You realize what those would be worth now?”

Lincoln Logs Today’s Lincoln Log kits are, frankly, an abomination. They include about six long pieces and 407 little one-notch links. The sets call for building houses that consist mostly of towers of the little links with a few crossbars so they don’t fall apart unless breathed on incorrectly. Screw that. Give me a tub with 200 pieces and I’d be happy.

Lego ‘Nuff ced. Lego was so well made that even decades of marketing and management have yet to screw it up.

Cardboard Bricks My parents bought these when I was every young. They were basically sheets of cardboard with bricks drawn on. You folded them up into the correct shape and built stuff. My brother and I painted controls on them when we built spaceships and stacked them up for army men.

What were your five?

Friday Five: Holiday Films

It’s been a while, so let’s go with your five favorite holiday films. They can either be so sentimental that you need an insulin shot before watching or so cynical they make Machiavelli seem like a pollyanna. You can also be very loose in your definition (I ran across a list that had “Die Hard” as a holiday movie. Yes.)

My five?

Planes, Trains and Automobiles: I saw this in the theater long ago and have rarely laughed so hard. As time has gone on, the jokes have stayed just as funny but I have more appreciated the movie’s heart. John Candy and John Hughes at their best.

The Nightmare Before Christmas: Tim Burton’s movies are a lot more sentimental than they are generally giving credit for.

Miracle on 34th Street: The original.

Bad Santa: I like this movie a lot, but mainly put in here to break up the treacle of my previous and next choices.

It’s a Wonderful Life: So sue me.

What are your five?

Friday Five: Guilty Pleasures

I’m a bit late with this today but figured we can use the mental health break as we close in on the election. Today’s five is movies that are guilty pleasures.

By “guilty pleasure” I mean a movie you know is not a classic or enriching or a “feeelm”. You might even go so far as to say you would be mildly embarrassed to be caught watching it. But it will be warming your DVD player more often than, say, Citizen Kane. Or if you’re channel surfing and find it, you’ll stop. It’s something you put on when you want to turn the brain off.

My five?

Kick-ass: This may not quote fit the category but, to quote me:

I have this rated 7/10 and that’s probably my ego insisting that I can’t like it as much as I do. This was just so much fun to watch. I know Roger Ebert and others were appalled by a young girl spewing profanities and murdering roomfuls of bad guys. And if I took it seriously, I would be too. But the movie is so ridiculously over the top, so obviously satirical, I was able to enjoy it on its own terms. I hope we see a lot more of Chloe Moretz, who is utterly charming.

Moretz was also excellent in Hugo.

The Mummy: Roger Ebert famously said of this: “Look, art this isn’t. Great trash, it isn’t. Good trash, it is.” It’s ridiculous and silly and bit impossible. I’ll watch just about anything with Rachel Weisz in it, but this is one of my favorites. It’s absurdly fun. Brendan Frasier has probably been in more guilty pleasure movies than anyone in Hollywood.

There’s Something About Mary: My dad sent this to me out of the blue for Christmas one year. It’s not art by any means. But it’s the Ferrelly Brother’s best so far. It understand the principle rule of gross-out comedy: having a basic sweetness about the characters.

Commando: I debated putting Predator here but that movie has too much going for it. Commando, by contrast, is just dumb. Arnold blows away about six hundred guys because they kidnapped his daughter. Dumb dumb dumb. And totally unashamed. And I probably watch it about once a year with a grin.

Young Sherlock Holmes: As a Holmes fan, I should be outrageously outraged about this. But it has a great sense of fun. My brother and I loved this as kids and used to re-enact the mummy sacrifice scene with my sister’s dolls (she didn’t think was such a hot idea).

Honorable Mentions: A host of 80’s films: War Games, Real Genius, the Last Starfighter, Goonies. If it was made in the 80’s and has cheese spilling out of the camera reels, I probably like it.

What are your five?

Friday Five: Scary Movies

Halloween is next week, so why don’t we have a Friday Five on the five movies that scared you the most. Note that I’m not saying “best horror movies”. Coppolla’s Dracula is a fine movie but it didn’t scare me. I mean five movies that really frightened you, at least for a while.

My five?

The Exorcist: I still have trouble sleeping if I think about it too much.

The Others: Wonderfully suspenseful and creepy. Probably wouldn’t scare me as much the second time.

The Shining: Didn’t creep me out as much as the book did, but still plenty of nervous chills.

Psycho: The thing is: I knew everything about this movie going in. And I was still on the edge of my seat for the entire film. I literally gasped out loud when Norman’s “mother” raced out of her room and stabbed the detective.

The Day After: Not a conventional horror or suspense film, so maybe it shouldn’t be on this list. But it’s depiction of a nuclear attack is still chilling and frightening years later.

What are your five?

Friday Five: TV Ain’t So Bad

I mentioned this in the TLC post this week, so thought I’d bring it out. I don’t watch a lot of current TV as what little I see is of low quality (and I don’t have HBO). But that probably means I’m missing more than a few good shows out there. With 187,324 channels, something’s gotta be good, right?

So what are your five favorite current TV shows. It can be a sit-com, a drama, a news hour, Monday Night Football, whatever. It just has to be something that’s been in broadcast relatively recently.

My five?

Doctor Who: I’ve made no disguise of my love of the show. The current version, under Stephen Moffat, is excellent.

Game of Thrones: I’ve just finished Season One on DVD. While I think it revels too much in sex and violence and I have a sinking feeling everyone I like is going to end up dead, it’s still an utterly compelling show.

Mythbusters: Still good, after all these years.

South Park: Ditto. They pull no punches.

Sherlock: Another Stephen Moffat entry, but damn, this show is good. Benedict Cumberbatch is rapidly becoming my favorite Sherlock Holmes.

To be fair, these are probably the only five shows I watch consistently, apart from when Sal 11000 Beta has My Little Pony on. There are some shows I just haven’t had time to get into that I’d probably like: Parks and Rec, Louie, Big Bang Theory. I figure I can watch them in ten years when the iBrain 5 can beam them straight into my cerebral cortex.

What are your five?

Friday Five: SciFi/Fantasy

I’m liking these Friday Five threads. If nothing else, they allow for a little more fun and sunshine in a frustrating political time. We can argue tooth and claw on one thread about foreign policy and then join together in, say, our hatred of Battlefield Earth.

Today’s is top science-fiction or fantasy films. Broad swathe but only films, not TV series. You can lump series together, as I have, or consider them as separate films, as pleases you. I wrote a very long post on this for my own site, so I’ll just summarize here:

2001: As much out of respect as anything else. It’s one of the few that I would classify as a great “feeeelm”.

The Lord of the Rings: Yeah. The trailer for the Hobbit looks good. I’m still not seeing three movies, but the trailer looks good.

The Star Wars Trilogy: Empire is what elevates this one to the top three.

Pan’s Labyrinth: Wonderfully visionary and I always find something in my eye in the final scene.

The Harry Potter Series: Amazing what you can do with good writing and acting, isn’t it? more here for the whole being greater than the sum of its parts.

You can read the long post for any honorable mentions.

What are your five?

Friday Five: Uplift

A rough week. Protests in the Middle East over a stupid “film”. Four good Americans dead in Libya. The anniversary of 9/11. Time for a mental health break. And we’ll make it a good one.

How about the five most uplifting movies you’ve ever seen? This could be five films that made you feel good about America, about yourself, about God, or whatever. Documentaries or feature films. They could have made you cry or laugh. Just five films you would pop into the DVD player if you needed to feel better about life and the kid used the CD of Beethoven’s 9th as a coaster.

My five?

Schindler’s List: Most of the movie is brutal, obviously. But the finale, when the actual Schindler Jews appear and put rocks on his gravestone (a Jewish tradition) is so moving that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it or even thought about it without something in my eye. Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan has a similar effect on me. It’s a crushingly brutal movie. But the very end makes me so proud to be an American and so proud of that generation. Band of Brothers, also, at the end, when they reveal the names of the old men who’ve been talking between the episodes and you realize they made it home.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Cliche? Oh, yeah. You bet. There’s a hilarious scene in the teaser for a Cheers episode where the gang are all mocking the movie. And at the end, they are all running out of the room because they have something in their eyes.

Apollo 13: Before Ron Howard’s movie came out, I saw a documentary on the lost moon mission. Gene Krantz broke down in tears when talking about seeing the parachutes open and knowing they’d made it. The ending is good, yes, but the entire movie is an ode to the space program and the people who so ingeniously solved every problem physics could throw at them. See also The Right Stuff.

Close Encounters of the Third Kind: Yeah, another Spielberg one. It was this or ET.

To Kill a Mockingbird: Someone recently quipped that Atticus Finch was not only a model for every lawyer but a model for every father. I love both the book and the film and can’t wait until Sal 11000 Beta is old enough for them.

Honorable Mention: Tree of Life, Children of Men, Pan’s Labyrinth, Rocky, Shawshank Redemption, Casablanca, Star Wars.

Friday Five: Worst Movies

So I’m feeling positive today. Nice late summer day in central Pennsylvania. Sal 11000 Beta has started kindergarten. The RNC, for all the criticism. gave me some hope for the Republican party and I’m eagerly looking forward to watching the Democrats look stupid next week.

So time to bash. The Friday Five’s been positive; let’s find five things to dump on this week. What are the five worst movies you’ve ever seen. They can be badly made. They can be so bad it’s funny. They can have desecrated a book you like. Or they can be political annoyances.

My Five?

Battlefield Earth: This is almost “so bad it’s good”. This came on HBO quite a bit when the cable company had mistakenly given me access and I was finishing my dissertation. It’s the Springtime for Hitler of movies: just so awful, in every respect, that you can’t look away.

Death Becomes Her: I’ll quote myself: I never thought I could despise a film with Isabella Rosselini in it, but there you go. Not even so bad it’s good. Just bad bad bad unwatchable.

Shining Through: It probably isn’t this bad, but I spent the entire movie laughing at the plot and at Melanie Griffith’s “german”. Read Mr. Cranky’s review.

Showgirls: “Oh, it can’t be that bad,” we said. “It’s got lots of naked women, so we can at least watch,” we said. “Jesus God, turn this crap off!,” we screamed. Girls Gone Wild has better writing.

Batman and Robin: I could have put lots of bad sequels here. But B&R was so bad, so miscalculated, so epically horrible it almost killed the Batman franchise. It took Christopher Nolan’s genius to bring it back.

I’ll throw out out a dishonorable mention, which is Jerry Maguire. I know a lot of people love it. I know people who would list it as their favorite film. And I can look a little more objectively and see some good parts. But I couldn’t and can’t stand it. And it’s made worse by people trying to convince me to like it. Maguire, more than anything else, made me more sympathetic to people who hate films I love. Star Wars haters must know a thousand times my pain.