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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Number Nine, Number Nine Number Nine...

The second in a series of what Flickchart says my top ten films are.
9. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003)
Directed by Peter Jackson. Written by Peter Jackson, Fran Walsh, Philipa Boyens and Stephen Sinclair [Two Towers only].
Starring Sean Astin, Sean Bean, Cate Blanchett, Orlando Bloom, Billy Boyd, Christopher Lee, Ian McKellen, Dominic Monaghan, Viggo Mortensen, John Rhys-Davies, Andy Serkis, Liv Tyler, Elijah Wood.
  Yeah, I know. Flickchart has this as three films, but I count this as one giant film dispersed over a two-year stretch. Mostly because it's one giant story that had to be segmented because a ten-hour film wouldn't be commercially viable. It's okay if you don't consider it one film, though. I don't mind.
  Oddly enough, this is the only real nerdtastic entry in my top 10 (with the possible exception of number 4, stay tuned....), but it's got enough nerditude for at least ten films. I remember waiting for this to come out and almost dreading it because I was afraid it would fail to live up to my expectations. And Roger Ebert's lackluster 3-star review didn't help. It took about ten minutes to quell any misgivings I had. And that includes eight minutes of prologue, which I think is unnecessary but still beautiful to watch. According to the DVD commentary track by Jackson, Walsh and Boyens, prologue was at one point mandated by the studio because the suits were afraid general audiences would be lost from the beginning and would be playing catch up when they should have been watching the movie. This is a real concern, but I think the prologue is a mistake because it puts the audience ahead of *every other character* in the film. After that eight minutes no character knows as much as any given viewer, and this robbed us of--among other things--the pleasure of sharing an "Oh, shit" moment with Frodo Baggins as he realizes that he possesses the most sought-after item in the entire world. Move the exposition in the prologue to the scene in which Gandalf sits down with Frodo at Bag-End, and everything works.
  Despite the amount of space I'm dedicating to this complaint, it's just a quibble. I love this film unabashedly and I could easily watch the whole thing every six months and not get tired of it. I don't do this, of course, because I'm afraid I'll get tired of it.
  Here's a thought. Is the 'Lord of the Rings' the best film ever made in which the fate of the world is at stake? Not that it has much competition. 'Dr. Strangelove,' maybe? Look at the Sight and Sound Polls or Ebert's Great Movies or The Spectator's 50 Essential Movies or a dozen other 'Best Of' lists and you'll see a paucity of worlds in peril. Coincidence? I don't think so, but I'm not sure why.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Movies, movies, movies...

  I started this blog back in January as a way to keep my writing skills sharp. In the meantime, I've been writing other stuff and been neglecting my faithful readers. (Note: I have no idea if I have any readers, but I'm pretending I have at least two.)
  A few months ago I signed up for Flickchart and discovered it to be a fun way to simultaneously catalog my movies and rank them in order of my favorites. And considering how long it's been since my last post, I think I now have an excuse to write some more and Flickchart is my springboard. I'm going to blog about my top ten films, at least one a week starting with....

 10. Notorious (1946)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Ben Hecht.
Starring Ingrid Bergman, Cary Grant, Claude Rains, Leopoldine Konstantin.
  Now, let's talk McGuffins. If you like McGuffins as much as I like McGuffins (hell, I even like typing the word 'McGuffin') then this is the film for you. What's a McGuffin, you ask? A McGuffin is anything in a story that drives the plot and it doesn't matter what it is. If you need an example, look no farther than the uranium ore from Notorious. You know, the stuff in the wine bottles? I don't blame you for forgetting, in fact, if you get to that scene and you actually care what's in the bottles, you're missing the point.
  This is but one of my theories about what separates good filmmakers from bad ones. It's a complex issue, but it boils down to this: The bad filmmakers try to make you care about the uranium ore, while the good ones know that it's about Alicia and Devlin and Alex and Alex's creepy mother.
  I could go on and I probably should, but what else remains to be said about this film? The three minute kiss that really isn't. Cary Grant as his most ambiguously slimy/charming (sorry, 'Suspicion'). The unbearable tension at the bottom of a cup of coffee.

  See you next week for number 9.