Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Prodigal Son Returneth

Well, I'm back! I got in on early flight today (was actually supposed to get in yesterday but my initial plane was delayed) and after a little nap I am back at the keyboard and ready to return to the world of film blogging.

This past week-and-half has been a tremendously significant one not only for me personally (in ways that I will not go into here but you will hopefully hear about before too long) but also for the arts/entertainment world at large. Apparently a lot has happened while I was away. Cinema Fushion announced the official Online Film Community Top 100, the seventh and final Harry Potter bok finally hit shelves, Lindsay Lohan was arrested (again) and we lost some great cinematic figures including cinematographer Laslo Kovacs and directors Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni (I was also dismayed to hear about the passing of the great late night talk show host Tom Snyder). Part of me wants to write something about any or all of these artists/entertainers but the combination of fatigue, jet lag and a crippling lack of words compels me to leave it to others to say things about recently departed souls.

Finally, tomorrow begins my month-long examination of the films of Steven Spielberg so I need to get plenty of rest tonight just to get prepare for that. In the meantime I just wanted to say it's great to be back and it seems as though you all managed to find ways to get along just fine without me. ;)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

"I'm on vacation!"

This isn't an appointment. I'm just dropping by.

See you in a few days. :)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What are the chances?

Figured I'd throw this out there before leaving on my trip.

I just couldn't help wondering what the odds were that within the span of two days (48 hours) my two least favorite directors (Michael Bay and Eli Roth) would both write letters to two movie critics (Bay to Jeffrey Westoff of the NW Herald and Roth to Don Kaye of MSN Movies) who dared--DARED--to say something negative about their latest movies.

A quick thanks to Jim Emerson for bringing this mathematical wonder to my attention.

"We're from out of town."

Vacation starts tomorrow.

I'll try to check in from time to time.

Otherwise, see you on the 30th! :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Latest Movie Quiz

Dennis Cozzalio has done another one of his great movies quizzes over at Sergio Leone and the Infiled Fly Rule. I love filling these things out (my first two can be found here and here). These were my answers this time around.

1) Favorite quote from a filmmaker

"Light is life." --Spielberg

2) A good movie from a bad director

Red Dragon: How that hack Ratner was able to fashion a film that was just as good (arguably better) than Micheal Mann's Manhunter is beyond me. Then again, with a story by Thomas Harris, a script by Ted Tally, cinematography by Dante Spinotti, a music score by Danny Elfman and a cast that features Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Harvey Keitel, Ralph Feinnes, Emily Watson and Phillip Seymour Hoffman, I guess a retarded monkey could've directed that movie and it would've turned out good.

3) Favorite Laurence Olivier performance


4) Describe a famous location from a movie that you have visited (Bodega Bay, California, where the action in The Birds took place, for example). Was it anything like the way it was in the film? Why or why not?

I remember visiting the Statue of Liberty once when I was a kid and as I looked over the side of the island into the rocks far below I wondered to myself: "How the heck did Daryl Hannah manage to climb up this in Splash?"

5) Carlo Ponti or Dino De Laurentiis (Producer)?

De Laurentiis because he produced the '76 version of King Kong.

6) Best movie about baseball

The Natural. That movie is magic. Pure magic.

7) Favorite Barbara Stanwyck performance

It's hard to beat Double Indemnity.

8) Fast Times at Ridgemont High or Dazed and Confused?

Spicoli all the way, dude!

9) What was the last movie you saw, and why? (We’ve used this one before, but your answer is presumably always going to be different, so…)

The last film I saw in the theatre was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (which I liked) and the last movie I saw on DVD (for, I swear, about the zillionth time) was Midnight Run. I love that flick.

10) Whether or not you have actually procreated or not, is there a movie you can think of that seriously affected the way you think about having kids of your own?

When I watched The Pursuit of Happyness a while back (a story which very closely parallels my experiences with my own father) I realized that if I ever have children, I would do anything for them. Absolutely anything.

11) Favorite Katharine Hepburn performance

The Aviator

12) A bad movie from a good director


13) Salo: The 120 Days of Sodom-- yes or no?


14) Ben Hecht or Billy Wilder (Screenwriter)?

You do realize that this question is impossible to answer, right?

15) Name the film festival you’d most want to attend, or your favorite festival that you actually have attended

I've always wanted to go to Cannes but I doubt that's ever going to happen. Setting my sights a little closer to home, Sundance would be nice.

16) Head or 200 Motels?

How about getting head in 200 motels?

17) Favorite cameo appearance

There's a scene in The Great Muppet Caper where Miss Piggy is desperately trying to get to an English art gallery in order to foil a jewel robbery. She asks a truck driver (played by Peter Ustinov) if he would kindly give her a ride and he refuses. Frustrated after several attempts to be nice, she throws open the door, grabs him and with her trademark "Hiyaaaaa!" hurls him out of the cab into a nearby pile of garbage cans. While Miss Piggy drives away, Ustinov tries to get to his feet, banging into the cans in the process, when suddenly the lid of one of them flips open and Oscar the Grouch pokes his head out. "Hey, what's all the racket?" he says. Peter looks at Oscar and asks "What are you doing here?" Oscar turns to the camera and replies, "A very brief cameo." Peter also looks at the camera and mutters "Me too." They really don't get much better than that.

18) Favorite Rosalind Russell performance

I know this is pathetic but I have yet to see a single film with Rosalind Russell in it (though His Girl Friday is very high on my list).

19) What movie, either currently available on DVD or not, has never received the splashy collector’s edition treatment you think it deserves? What would such an edition include?

Like a lot of folks I've been waiting for a definitive edition of Blade Runner with all previous versions (domestic theatrical cut, international theatrical cut and the so-called "director's cut") on it as well as features on the making of the film. Also, I'd like to see a nice DVD release made of Branagh's four-hour version of Hamlet. Fortunately, both of these situations are soon to be remedied.

20) Name a performance that everyone needs to be reminded of, for whatever reason

Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler. My reasons are here.

21) Louis B. Mayer or Harry Cohn (Studio Head)?

Louis B. Mayer because he inspired Michael Lerner's performance in Barton Fink.

22) Favorite John Wayne performance

The Searchers. I mean, come on.

23) Naked Lunch or Barton Fink?

See #21.

24) Your Ray Harryhausen movie of choice

Clash of the Titans.

25) Is there a movie you can think of that you feel like the world would be better off without, one that should have never been made?

This is tricky because I do indeed believe that there are some movies that ought not to have been made... just as I feel there are some things that are better not being said or done, some events that were better off never happening and even some people that the world would've been better off if they'd never been born. On the other hand, I also believe that everything happens for a reason and although that reason might not be apparent to us now, I am convinced that there is one. Thus, for every seemingly empty, immoral, destructive, bleak, depressing, random, arbitrary and meaningless thing that happens or gets created, there is purpose to its existence. Thus, given my limited perspective, I don't know that I am ready to say which works of art I think should never have been made. I just don't think I'm qualified to do so.

Having said all that, I think I could've done without Hostel.

24) Favorite Dub Taylor performance

I love the episode of The Cosby Show where Cliff's father Russell keeps trying to give an old friend of his named Slim Claxton (Dub Taylor) 50 dollars that he owes him but Slim keeps refusing it because he's had good luck ever since he gave Russell that money. At the end of the episode, Russell slips the money into Slim's coat pocket while he's in another room. Slim comes out and is about to leave when Vanessa enters all upset because she didn't make the cheering squad. Slim says he has something that will "cheer her up" and he hands her the fifty. As she bounds up the stairs Slim turns to a shocked Russell and laughs heartily. Whenever I see Dub Taylor in anything, I can't help but think of that scene. So warm. So funny. So full of life. I think that's how he'd want to be remembered.

25) If you had the choice of seeing three final movies, to go with your three last meals, before shuffling off this mortal coil, what would they be?

Perhaps I'm taking this question too seriously but I'm guessing that if I am having three "last meals" it means that I know I'm going to die soon. Whether it's an execution for some crime I committed (or perhaps didn't commit but have been found guilty of anyway) or I know I have some disease that's going to take my life in a very short period of time, I suspect I'm gonna want to see something that features a character going bravely to their own death and/or reminds me that this life is not all that there is. So, I'd probably end up watching something like The Mission, The Shawshank Redemption and The Passion of the Christ or perhaps E.T. and Schindler's List in place of one or two of those. I know that's more than three, but I guess I'd have to wait until I got there and just see how I felt. The truth is I'd probably rather be spending time talking with my loved ones than watching movies anyway.

26) And what movie theater would you choose to see them in?

I've always wanted to see a movie at Radio City Musical Hall but I doubt I'd be able to properly enjoy it under those circumstances. Don't get me wrong. The Rockettes are great but I'd prefer to see them before my last hour on Earth.


A) Your proposed entry in the Atheist Film Festival

My problem, speaking as a theist, is that I tend to sift all my experiences (including my analysis of art) through the "lens" that God does exist and any ideas to the contrary are mistaken. Thus, when a character says that he/she doesn't believe in God, I interpret that merely as the character saying it and not necessarily the film/filmmaker saying it. I realize that Ingmar Bergman's and Woody Allen's movies pose the possibility that he doesn't exist (or at the very least they question his existence) but to me that's different from concluding his non-existence. Personally speaking, the concept of a universe without a creator is just incomprehensible to me. So, I don't know that I'd be the best person to select an entry for an Atheist Film Festival... or even, quite frankly, that I'd really want to.

B) What advice on day-to-day living have you learned from the movies?

Whenever I crack an egg I always hear a voice with a French accent telling me to do so quickly; in other words, execute it with mercy, like "ze guillotine" (as in Billy Wilder's Sabrina).

Also, I don't smoke cigarettes but I have on occasion puffed on a cigar and each time I did I remembered Gene Hackman's advice in Young Frankensetein: "Don't inhale until the tip glows."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's All Around You

More often that not the special features found on DVD's aren't really that special. The "behind-the scenes" featurettes, for example, are usually little more than extended studio-sanctioned commercials for the movie. Characterizing them as "puff" pieces is being extremely kind to them. Sometimes a DVD extra will actually go more in-depth into the film and reveal something truly interesting, though perhaps not always flattering, about its production (Laurent Bouzerau does a good job of this I think). On rare occasions, though, a bonus feature will have little or nothing to do with the film itself but will expand upon the ideas contained within the movie in an original and intriguing way. Children of Men includes a feature called The Possibility of Hope in which director Alfonso Cuaron examines the themes of his film in a manner that only he can. It is an excellent documentary and Ted writes a good complimentary piece about it over at The Cinematic Art.

The following 7-minute clip is a rather humorous and eminently entertaining, but still thought-provoking, animated short that appears on the unlikely DVD Final Destination 3. The title is "It's All Around You" (in reference to death) and I must say that I quite liked it. Finding it recently was like unearthing a precious stone inside of a big dung heap.*

*I should mention that despite the varying quality of the three FINAL DESTINATION movies, I do have a lot of affection for them (particularly the first one which I find to be one of the most under-appreciated horror films of recent years), not least of all because in addition to involving the usual horror-movie subjects of good, evil and our own mortality, they also deal with frightening, but nonetheless important, concepts like pre-destination and human freedom.

Monday, July 16, 2007

My 100th Post!

There've been quite a few "hundreds" flying around here at my blog lately. First there was my top 100 list followed by my bottom 100 and now this: my 100th post. Another landmark for Windmills of My Mind. I wanted to celebrate it with something special. So, I guess this is as good a time as any to let people know that I'll be taking a vacation here shortly. My first "real" vacation (wherein I actually go somewhere for an extended period of time) in a long while. I'll be leaving this Friday to visit friends and family out in Indiana and returning on July 30th. In the interim I do not know how often I will be able to get to a computer so the frequency my blogging will most likely decrease significantly during that 10 days.

I realize there's been a lack of "substantial" posts here ever since the Filmmusic blog-a-thon (essays about something really interesting, provocative, etc) and I apologize for that. Part of the reason is because I've been expending a lot of energy preparing for my upcoming trip and part of it is because... well, I am essentially "saving up" a lot of my mental powers for the entire month of August when "31 Days of Spielberg" will be occurring. I know I'm going to need all of my intellectual abilities for that immense undertaking and I want to be ready. This is part of the reason why I planned my trip such that the Spielberg project launches almost immediately after my return. By that point I think my faculties should be at their full capacity.

I would also like to take the advantage of this 100th post to thank all of the readers who have been kind enough to follow this blog in the nine months since I started, as well as the fellow bloggers who have linked to my site, blessed me with questions and/or comments to my posts, participated in my blog-a-thon and just generally made me feel warm and welcome to the blogosphere. Without readers a blog is nothing more than a personal diary and I am grateful that there are people out there willing "to lend me their ears" to hear what I have to say (or to be more literal and less "literary", who lend me their eyes to read what I have to write).

So, thank you. Here's to the next 100 posts. I hope they're even better than the first hundred. :)

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Books and Movies: Enemies That Never Were

This post was originally going to be just a straight reaction to the fifth Harry Potter film but as I began drafting a lot of my ideas/responses, I found my words gradually veering into a treatise on our tendency to compare movies with the books on which they are based and why I find that to be such an empty endeavor that ultimately does a disservice to both. So I decided to go ahead and "bite the bullet" and just put down my thoughts on that subject.

About ten minutes into Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (the fourth entry in the series), Harry and his friends attend the 422nd Quidditch World Cup. The movie then immediately cut to afterwards and I remember at that moment sitting in the theatre overhearing a teenage girl in the row behind me whisper to her companion: "Oh man. They didn't show the game." Two things crossed my mind at that point. 1) "Oh no. Unlike me, these girls have actually read the book and I'm gonna have to endure the entire movie listening to them whine about how it's different" (which, thankfully, didn't happen), and 2) "I am so glad I don't read these books before I see these movies." I mention this anecdote only because this Friday I went to see Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and heard two girls (for all I know it could've been the same pair) whispering behind me at a certain juncture in the film. I couldn't hear what they were saying but I knew that tone all too well and although I didn't have the first thought this time I did have the second one.

I'm sure you've heard this statement before: "I'll wait for the movie." Oftentimes when one hears it one immediately makes assumptions about the individual who expresses such a sentiment. They must be lazy and/or illiterate Philistines with short attentions spans who don't want to take the time or effort to simply sit down and read something; they'd rather let someone else do the work for them and wait for a movie adaptation to get made. I know I think those things whenever a student comes into the video store asking for John Ford's Grapes of Wrath or Michael Mann's Last of the Mohicans, not because they are great movies but because they have a book report due the next day. And yet, as time has gone on I've found myself operating by a mantra that is--if not identical--rather similar to it: "I always wait to read the books until after I've seen the movie." To many this may seems backwards but to me it feels like the most logical approach to take and my reasons are as follows.

One of the things I have observed in numerous conversations with people over the years is that 99% of the time, folks who read the books first are dissatisfied with the movies. This leads me to one of two conclusions: a) moves are always automatically inferior to the books upon which they are based because cinema is an inherently inferior medium to literature or b) something else is going on. Since I absolutely refuse to accept the former, I am forced to go with the latter. So, what else could be going on? Why is it that people seem to always prefer the original books to their movie incarnations? My theory is simply this..... because they read the books first. They imagined what the characters looked like and how they dressed at any given moment, they heard their voices speaking the dialogue recorded by the author, they saw the events described on the page unfolding in their own minds and the filmmakers weren't able to capture what they envisioned in their heads. The objectification of their fantasies on the movie screen fell short, as they had to. They really couldn't do otherwise. Our imaginations are always going to be more wild, more vivid and more personally satisfying than anything any director could ever put on screen.

There is something else at work here too though. By definition, the accumulation of human knowledge is such that we build upon former knowledge. The formation of new ideas and concepts naturally comes from previously held ones. Thus, when we evaluate something we do so on the basis of our earlier experience. We see a Harry Potter story told cinematically and we can't help but analyze it through the "lens" of the book we read, it is the standard by which we judge the movie. Does the movie make us feel the same way the book did? Is our favorite moment from the book present in the movie? These are often the questions we find ourselves asking rather than questions about how well the movie functions in itself . This is why I tend to think people confuse the ideas of a movie being a good adaptation and a good incarnation.

A good adaptation is a something that stays true to the source material, that captures the "essence" of the original story, that maintains the integrity of the characters/events and which satisfied a fan of the book. In other words, that changes as little as possible. A good incarnation, on the other hand, is a movie that works on the basis of its own merits, that does not depend on the book for its good qualities. It may alter the story, characters, structure or details of the original book (either subtly or drastically) but in doing so it creates something wholly original that is quite excellent on its own way. I think these are significant distinctions to make because a film can be a great adaptation and a lousy movie. Likewise, it can also be a lousy adaptation and a great movie. Is it possible to be both? Sure, but it is rare (the BBC Pride and Prejudice mini-series being, in my mind, one of the few examples). What is unfortunately not nearly as rare, though, are movies that totally suck as both. I gave up a long time ago comparing books with movies, but sometimes it just can't be helped. Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is one of the greatest books I've ever read and Roland Joffe's movie is one of the worst films I've ever seen. It was not only a lousy adaptation, it was a lousy movie.

Buried at the back of this conversation regarding books and movies is, I think, an unfortunate prejudice that seems to peek its head out occasionally. If a person is obsessed with movies to the point that their knowledge is encyclopedic, they are called "geeks" and looked on with pity or told they need to get a life. If a person is obsessed with books such that their knowledge is encyclopedic, they're called "educated" and made into college professors. Is this fair? I don't think so, but it's a reality. Literature is still esteemed as a higher, purer form of art and communication than cinema is. It's sad but true. The written word has been around for thousands of years while the moving image has only been around for about a hundred, so it's had a bit more time to get a reputation and gain a following.

At this point I should probably confess my own prejudices on the subject. I am not much of a reader, or at least not as much as I would like to be. Despite attending a liberal arts college where I spent four years reading the greatest books ever written, I am (and always have been) a more audio/visual person. It's just the way I'm oriented. I watch far more movies than I read books (although I am currently reading a fascinating book on Michael Eisner and his tenure at the Disney company; it may prove to be the subject of a future post) and as such I know more about movies and I prefer movies. However, I would NEVER say that movies are "better" than books. I may happen to like movies more but to say that they are inherently superior to books is absurd (although I know there are people who believe books are inherently better than movies). Books and movies are two completely different art forms with their own unique rules, conventions, language forms, etc. They both have strengths and weaknesses. One is no better than the other any more than photography is superior to painting, or sketching is inferior to sculpture.

This brings me to a rather important point. Since cinema and literature are such radically different art forms, why do we feel the need to compare the two? People don't often compare a work of sculpture with a painting, do they? Normally not, because they realize the criteria for evaluating the two is so different that such an enterprise would be futile. Especially since--and I firmly believe this--the qualities that make a work of art truly great (i.e. brilliant, timeless, etc) are going to be unique unto the format in which that work of art is created. I have long been convinced of this. The things that make any book a masterpiece have to be elements that are specific to writing. Same with movies. This is why, I think, no truly great book (Crime and Punishment, Les Miserables, The Sun Also Rises) will ever be a truly great movie. They might become decent, perhaps even good, movies but they will not be great. They can't be. Crime and Punishment was meant to be a book. The written word was the medium in which that particular story was meant to be told. Dostoyevsky knew it and that's why there will never be a definitive movie version.

Some people might argue that there are glaring exceptions to this. Grapes of Wrath, Gone with the Wind and To Kill a Mockingbird are all hailed as great books and their corresponding movie versions also seem to be great as well. How do I account for this? Well, firstly I have to acknowledge the possibility that such critics are correct and that these films are indeed exceptions to the rule... but they are rare. Secondly, I have to propose the possibility that in any or all of these cases, either the original book or the movie adaptation is not truly great. In fact, one of the things that I have often wondered about To Kill a Mockingbird (one of my favorite films) is whether or not it is a truly great film or whether it's source material was simply so excellent that even a decent adaptation couldn't help turning out quite good. In other words, did the greatness of the book simply "rub off" on the movie. I still haven't made up my mind about that (it should be noted that I saw the movie before reading the book).

Consider for a second what it would be like going the other way. A phenomenon that has long been in practice (although Woody Allen's character in Manhattan "can't comprehend it") is movie novelizations. I used to collect a number of these when I was younger and sometimes, on rare occasions, they lent some insight into the film that I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. Usually, though, they were redundant. Plus, none of the novelizations I ever read were for great films. I don't even know what such a thing would look like. (Citizen Kane: the novel?) No, it seems to me that great films don't make great books either. I do think, however, that mediocre books, supermarket trash novels, short stories or novellas usually serve as better source material, because a potboiler or short story usually has a "germ" of an idea but doesn't utilize it as well as a movie could. In a movie, a premise with promise can be expanded on, developed and enhanced rather than having to be condensed, simplified and composited as films tend to have to do with large books. Some of the best films I've ever seen (The Godfather, Jaws, The Shawshank Redemption, Psycho, Schindler's List ) all came from books/novellas but they were (at best) pretty good. Yet they made for great films... not least of all because the filmmakers made changes. In all of these cases people who might've simply wanted "the book with pictures" would've been sorely disappointed. What they got instead, however, were films that retained what worked about the original incarnations and added elements of their own that elevated the material. These filmmakers understood that creating a great final product was preferable to simply doing a faithful adaptation. William Goldman (who is both and author and a screenwriter) understood this as well when he said "In adaptation, you have to change things. In any adaptation you simply must." In the changing, these movies ended up being better movies than the books were books (notice I did not say that the movies were "better than the books," that's a whole different statement).

So, what purpose are we really serving when we pull completely different entities out on the table and try to determine which is "better?" My opinion is that we are ultimately serving no purpose whatsoever. For some reason we are creatures that just like to compare things. It satisfies a rather juvenile tendency that goes back to our childhoods ("Who's better: Spider-man or Batman?"). Sometimes the comparisons might be based on some sort of miniscule connection between them but oftentimes it's pretty arbitrary. Forget apples and oranges. One might as well compare apples and rocks. I long for the day when people are finally going to be able to say: "You know what? The book and the movie are both good in their own unique ways. It's not that one is necessarily better than the other, they're just different." No more comparing, no more contrasting, no ranking... we approach things individually take things on their own merits (or lack thereof) not on the basis of something else which may (or may not) be connected to it but in a tenuous way.

This is why I choose to see the movies before I read the books. Not because I am lazy, not because I am illiterate and not because I think movies are always "better" than books, but because I want to be as open as possible to where the movie will take me, to have as few expectations for the experience the film will provide, to be able to see the flaws contained therein without having a "manual" to refer to in order to make them clear to me. I went into it Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix knowing extremely little about what would happen (aside from the death of a major character which is pretty hard not to know about, even if you haven't read the book). Consequently, I didn't have anything to compare it to other than the previous Harry Potter movies. I still haven't read any of the books other than the first one (which I did so after seeing the movie naturally). Many of the reviews I've read from these films mention differences from the books, differences which were lost on me. However, judging it simply on the basis of being a good movies, I thought it worked quite well (arguably the best one so far), though I have no idea how good it was as an adaptation.

I find that in following this pattern it is much easier for me to enjoy the movie for what it is and then, if I think it's worth it, to read the book afterward and discover some of the subtleties that had to be cut from the movie for whatever reason (time, simplicity, etc). One thing that is certainly true is that books are able to contain more information than a movie can. Again, in some people's minds this makes them "better" but, as I said, I think this just makes them different. So, while I'm not ready yet to call a ban on reading all books before seeing their movie counterparts, I would recommend people try as best they can to stop using the books as criteria in evaluating the movies. If you avid readers and filmgoers are able to be objective enough in your analysis of any given film to not use its original book as part of your "measuring stick" but simply try to determine whether the movie is good as a movie, then I implore you to do so... whatever it might entail (for me it entails watching the movie first). Try writing a review that doesn't even mention the book. It may be difficult--perhaps even impossible--but it is worth trying and, frankly, it has to happen if film criticism is ever going to achieve the stature I think it deserves, which is one equal to (but different from) literary criticism. No more cries of "the book was better" or even, as can be occasionally heard, "the movie was better." Books and movies ought not be competitors and they should never have been pitted against one another in the first place. They are two excellent art forms that each have their own place in our world. They're not enemies... and they never were.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Music for Windmills

The last time I added any tunes to my jukebox widget was during the Filmmusic Blog-a-thon so I figured it was about time to do so again. First, though, I have to undertake the unpleasant business of bidding farewell to a cue that has mysteriously disappeared since I first posted it: Jerry Goldsmith's love theme for The Russia House. Since I'd feel guilty not having at least one Goldsmith composition on here I've decided to replace it with the theme from Basic Instinct.

Instead of adding six songs by different composers I have decided to add one single song which essentially functions like six... or seven or eight or twenty. I am putting up the 4-minute medley arranged and conducted by John Williams for the 2002 Oscar telecast. It is comprised of twenty-three separate melodies taken from various movies, including two rather well-known studio fanfares and a few themes which have been added to this blog already (Williams even featured some of his own work). See how many of them you can recognize.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Secret is Out!

Since the project has now officially been announced, I can finally reveal that my recent top 100 list was more than just a reaction to the AFI's latest broadcast. It was also my contribution to a poll being conducted by Cinema Fusion on the "Online Film Community's 100 Greatest Movies Of All Time." Over 50 participants submitted their top 100 picks and any given movie had to be included on three different lists in order to make it to the next round. I was just e-mailed the final nominees (502 total) and was pleased to discover that 90 of the 100 titles I mentioned were included. Along with a number of truly great films, there were also a few odd choices on there and, as Ed Copeland points out, a preponderance of "newer" movies. I'll admit it's always seemed to me that as a movie-watching culture we tend to have a rather short term collective memory. I mean, apparently three people thought that Anchorman was one the finest films they'd ever seen but Harold Lloyd's Safety Last or Francois Truffaut's Day For Night were not. Oh well.

Anyway, the deadline for the poll is July 15th and shortly thereafter the final 100 should be unveiled. I am very curious to see what it turns out to be and awfully excited that I got to play a part in it.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Der "Acht Dinge" Meme

Okay. Okay. I can take a hint.

Over the past two weeks I've been tagged by five different people with the same meme, so I can't ignore it any longer (the price of fame I guess). It's called the "8 Things" meme (although I like how Nate over at Film Experience changed it to "8 1/2 Things" to keep it consistent with a film theme) and here are the rules:

1. We have to post these rules before we give you the facts.
2. Players start with eight random facts/habits about themselves.
3. People who are tagged write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules.
4. At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

So, here they are. Eight things you always wanted to know about me but were afraid to ask:

1. I don't remember the first movie I ever saw. In spite of (or perhaps because of) a lifetime of watching movies, I honestly couldn't tell you what my first movie-watching experience was... either in the theatre or at home. The earliest cinematic memory I have is sitting in the theatre as the end credits of The Muppet Movie start rolling, so I assume I must've watched the whole thing. I do remember the first R-rated movie I ever saw (and it was on the big screen too) but unfortunately I can't say it was something cool like Blade Runner or First Blood. No, it was a Chuck Norris action flick called Invasion U.S.A. I was nine years old. My dad took me to see it and at the time I thought it was awesome. I have since tried to view it again with little success.

2. I've never been outside the United States. Aside from driving through Canada with my family once for a couple hours (we visited Niagra Falls) I have yet to leave American soil.

3. I gotta dance. I've never been especially athletic (like all young boys I played little league baseball and did a bit of golf in high school, but that's it), but in my freshman year at college I finally discovered what I consider to be my "sport": ballroom dancing. I was invited to a friday night dance by a friend and I immediately fell in love with it. The fact that I was even willing to give it a try had a lot to do with the fact that a few months earlier I had seen the Astaire/Rogers musical Top Hat for the first time and the "Cheek to Cheek" number (which I had seen previously in Woody Allen's Purple Rose of Cairo but without context) was so captivating to me that I said to myself "I wanna learn to do that."

4. I failed my driving test four times. The first time I failed the written exam. When I went back I failed it AGAIN (although this time by one question only). The third time I passed the written part but failed the driving test (backed up onto a curb which I guess is an automatic "fail"). The fourth time I went I passed the driving test but failed the eye exam. Finally, on my fifth visit to the DMV, I got my license. Good thing too or they would've had to start giving me my own parking space.

5. I have a freakishly good memory for totally insignificant things. Because of my inability to play sports I was not the most popular kid in school, but I was not necessarily disliked either. I had two talents that kept me from being a total outcast. 1) I could draw pretty well and 2) I could recite entire movies. The latter came in especially handy on long school bus trips when my friends would get bored and say "Damian, do Back to the Future." So I would. I would go through the entire film scene-by-scene, enacting every line of dialogue, voice inflection, pause, sound effect and music cue (the sad part is that I can still do it). This ability has helped me tremendously in learning my lines (and often other actors' as well) when I participate in local theatre productions.

6. I can't wear shorts. I don't even remember the last occasion when I didn't wear long pants. Where this eccentricity comes from I have no idea. Maybe I'm just self-conscious about my legs. Maybe I just think I look better in pants. I don't know. At any rate, it's not the most comfortable habit in the summertime I'll admit, but some of us sacrifice comfort for fashion. As Billy Crystal says: "It is better to look good than to feel good... and I still look mah-velous."

7. I once met Ben Stein. I was working in the video store one night when he came in through the door with his wife and I thought to myself "Wow, that guy looks remarkably like Ben Stein" (he wore the ratty sneakers with the nice suit and everything). When he asked if we were still open and I heard that indelible voice for the first time, I realized immediately that it really was he. I guess he was hungry and, being that we were one of the few places in the area still open, wanted to know if we had anything to eat. I told him the only snack we have in our store was popcorn. He asked if there was salt on it and I thought "Uh-oh. He's not gonna want to eat it if it's salted." I told him there was a little bit on there and he asked if I could put MORE on. So, I held the small bag open as he took the shaker and dumped lots of salt into it. I asked his wife if she wanted some as well but she neglected. He then offered to pay for the popcorn (since he wasn't renting or purchasing anything) and I told him it was on the house. He said, "Well, thank you. This is the nicest thing to happen to me in Corvallis so far." As soon as he was gone I was on the phone calling friends and family ("You'll never guess who was just in the video store...!"). Of course, half of them didn't believe me. "What the heck is Ben Stein doing in Corvallis?" was their most common question. Since I didn't ask him I didn't have an answer. Part of me wished that I'd had a camera in the store so that I could prove he was there. The next day I was working with another employee named Meredith when he and his wife came back. This time they actually wanted to spend some money at our store (they bought a used DVD copy of Gosford Park). I turned to Meredith and said "Please, tell me you have a camera in your purse." She nodded and when Ben asked if he could have more salty popcorn I said "Sure, If you'd be willing to do me a favor... have your picture taken with me." He agreed and the rest is history. I didn't let on the night before that I knew who he was because I figured celebrities probably have to put up wth that kind of crap all the time ("Hey! Hey, Ben! Say 'Beuler!' HA!"), but on the following day I told him that several of my friends didn't believe me when I called them after he left (which made his wife laugh) and asked him what brought him to Corvallis. He said he was shooting a promotional video for Hewlett-Packard. So now I had an answer (and photographic evidence) for any more skeptics. It's the only time I've ever really met anyone famous.

8. I know a little German (he's right over there). Aside from English I don't really know any other languages, although I took a couple years of German in college and still remember a tiny bit of it (or "sehr bischen" as they say). Hence, the title of this blog entry.

So, there you have it. More about me than ever you ever needed (or wanted) to know. All that remains is for me to name eight other bloggers. If you've already been tagged with this meme, please forgive me.

1. Dan at Cinemathematics
2. Ross at Rued Morgue
3. Cineboy at Pilgrim Akimbo
4. Campaspe at Self-Styled Siren
5. J.D. at Joe's Movie Corner
6. Neil at Bleeding Tree
7. Emma at All About My Movies
8. Keith at Reel Fanatic

Saturday, July 07, 2007

The Reluctant Savior

Most of the time, when someone announces a blog-a-thon, I find myself agonizing a long time over what to write about, but when Emma of All About My Movies proposed her blog-a-thon celebrating the “performance that changed your life,” my mind went immediately to the one given by that tall, dark and handsome Irish actor Liam Neeson when he portrayed the title character of Oskar Schindler in the film that, as I have said many times, changed my life (and not in the sense that it made me want to become an actor or be involved in filmmaking because I wanted to do those things already: no, this effect was far more profound): Steven Spielberg’s masterpiece Schindler’s List. Incidentally, trying to describe why an actor’s performance is important to you is like trying to put it into words why a particular piece of music is so meaningful. One ends up describing their own thoughts, feelings and reactions to the piece more than they end up describing the piece itself. Thus, as I attempt feebly to communicate why Neeson’s work in this film is so brilliant, I ask for your patience and understanding.

By now everyone is familiar with the story of the German war profiteer who started out exploiting Jewish labor in his munitions factory for his own personal gain but who eventually used the factory as a means to save the lives of over 1,100 Jews from the Nazi’s genocide. In fact, we’ve probably heard it so much that we’ve lost our appreciation for what a truly remarkable story it is and what an incredibly brave and risky thing Schindler did. The transformation from a vain, selfish, egotistical industrialist to a heroic, noble and self-sacrificing “savior” is the central journey of the film’s protagonist and it is captured beautifully in Neeson’s bravura performance. The changes in Schindler’s character are subtle, almost imperceptable, upon first viewing. Some critics have written that his conversion seems forced and unrealistically “jumpstarted” by a single experience (his witnessing of the Krakow ghetto liquidation). While it is true that the liquidation sequence could be pinpointed to as the first indicator that there is humanity within Schindler that has yet to manifest itself, his alteration is far from over at that point. Schindler begins by doing little things for his workers, minute acts of kindness (a scrap of food to a starving prisoner here, an encouraging kiss to a girl there, etc) that mean so much to them in the midst of all the opression and persecution. Throughout it all, Schindler is very careful so as not to seem like a Jew-sympathizer knowing that it could easily jeopardize his position, reputation and life. The scene where he shouts angrily at Itzhak Stern (Ben Kinglsey also giving an excellent performance) about how his factory being considered a “haven,” and he being considered a “good man,” is extremely dangerous to him is an indicator that he still has a ways to go to becoming a truly changed individual. And yet his words seem to ring hollow in that scene, as if he were trying to convince himself more than anyone else. Despite his efforts to the contrary Schindler could not deny his sense of injustice and compassion the way the Nazis had long since lost touch with theirs. Schindler says "War only brings out the bad in people. Never the good, always the bad. Always the bad." This is not true, of course, because the war brought out the best in Schindler.

You are probably thinking, however, that most of this comes not from the work Neeson did as an actor but from Steven Zaillian’s script. This may be true but it is Neeson’s performance that lends credibility to thre writing, that brings the words to life, that makes Schindler into a believable, thinking, feeling human being and not just an “idea” of a certain kind of human being. Neeson’s body language, vocal tones and facial expressions help “sell” his own commitment to the role and make us as an audience believe that he is Oskar Schindler and not just Liam Neeson pretending to be Oskar Schindler. Some of his most sublime moments in the film come not from a line of dialogue delivered in a conversation or a gesture which he performs but rather from a quiet moment where he doesn’t really do or say anything, the camera merely rests on him as he thinks something. The look on his face, for example, when he sees the girl in red for the first time walking the street is a great bit of silent acting but his expression later in the film when he sees the girl in red later in the film is exceptionally powerful and breaks my heart every time I see it. It beautifully captures the many changes Schindler underwent in the interim and shows that Neeson is doing more than just acting in this film. He is being.

Much has also been said of Ralph Fiennes’ magnificent turn as the evil Amon Goeth and indeed it is a frightening portrayal and serves as an excellent counterpoint to Schindler. It has also been said that Feinnes’ performance is actually superior to Neeson’s. Perhaps, but one must remember that Feinnes’ character is a little more clearly defined that Neeson’s. Goeth is a psychopath, a man who uses his rank as an excuse to inflict the kind of inhuman cruelty and wickedness on others that only the darkest and most depraved person can. His character is by no means "one-note" and is certainly never uninteresting or un-engaging, but his motivations are clearer and his “arc” (what little there is of one) much simpler. Schindler is a far more complex, intriguing creation and Neeson hits all of the ambiguous, and at times seemingly contradictory, aspects of his personality. In many ways, Neeson’s job was harder than Feinnes.’

Probably the one scene that has garnered the most criticism of the film (although criticisms have also been aimed at the Auschwitz scene and the bookending color sequences) is Schindler’s final breakdown. Some have said that this was the most unnecessary, cloying, sentimental moment in the film (a place that Spielberg just couldn’t resist going to) while others have found it a very inconsistent thing for Schindler (an admittedly proud man) to have done. Though I will say more about it during "31 Days of Spielberg” this August, I am one of the precious few who happens to believe the scene is not only far from unnecessary, it is actually essential to the film and it's main character, both as a catharsis for the audience and as the completion of Schindler’s transformation. The meltdown may not have happened in reality as it is depicted on screen, but at least one witness has said that Schindler could be heard saying "I could've got more out" as he climbed into his car to depart. So, the sentiment was accurate if not the details of the situation. The weight of Schindler's emotional outpouring is aided in no small way, again, by Neeson’s amazing performance. Indeed, I can’t watch the scene (nor barely think about it) without crying. It is the final dramatic moment of an extremely gifted actor giving a richly textured performance in an exceptional film. I realize, of course, that the Oscars don’t ultimately mean anything but how Neeson wasn’t awarded the Best Actor Award for his work in this movie (it was given to Tom Hanks for Philedelphia was) is incomprehensible to me. Then again, Peter O’Toole didn’t win for his oustanding work in that other cinematic masterpiece Lawrence of Arabia , so I guess Liam is in good company.

The “I could have done more” scene (as it has come to be known) is, for me, the culmination of everything Schindler, Neeson and Spielberg are doing in the film up to that point. It is the expression of Schindler’s identity as a truly righteous person. This is mainly why it is the performance (and the movie) that changed my life. True goodness is something that I don’t think we see enough of in cinema anymore. “Niceness” and/or “political correctness” we see all the time but real, genuine, sincere, heartfelt kindness, charity, virtue and pure moral goodness has become just as much a rarity in movies as it has become in reality. In a world of increasing selfishness and cynicism perhaps the very concept of pure goodness and virtue has become suspect (or at the very least "boring") to a "hipper" and "smarter" culture and I can’t help but feel that without compelling examples being reflected in art to help inspire us, how can we even know what it is that we are aspiring to? More than anything else, the representation of Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s film (and I realize that it is different from the actual Oskar Schindler who was an even more flawed, complex man than he was depicted in the film) provides an ideal, a goal for the way human beings ought to be… even if it is, unfortunately, not the way they often are. The work of Liam Neeson in Schindler’s List made me want to be a better person. How many films and/or performances can you say that about? Here is a man that, in the end, always wanted to do more. There was always one more righteous act to perform. No matter how many lives he saved, no matter how much money he spent, it would never have been enough. Oskar Schindler just couldn’t do enough good. May that truly be said of all of us too.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

The Awe-inspiring Beauty of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

A couple nights ago I re-watched the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy movie on DVD and was reminded of something that I hadn't thought about since I saw it in the theatre in 2005. Despite the fact that I had never read the book, heard the radio show nor seen the BBC-TV mini-series, and had virtually no knowledge whatsoever of the stories, characters and worlds created by Douglas Adams ("42" was really all I knew going into the movie), the film looked intriguing to me so I was willing to give it a try. Incidentally, sometimes I feel that knowing nothing about a film prior to seeing it is actually preferable (I saw The Usual Suspects and The Fisher King in this manner) because one has no expectations and is more or less willing to go wherever a film takes them.

Anyway, I rather liked it. It was not without its flaws, of course, but I thought it was clever, humorous--in that very dry, British way--and actually kind of "cool" too (sort of Monty Python meets Men in Black). Some folks have said the movie changed the book so drastically that it doesn't even qualify as a "real" adaptation whereas others have said that the filmmakers at least captured the spirit of the books. Since, as I said before, I never read the book, I had nothing with which to compare it. I was only evaluating it as a movie and from that perspective, I thought it was pretty good. I'm not sure that I "got" everything in it since there were moments that didn't particularly strike me as funny (just odd and/or random) but 1/3 of the audience would laugh hysterically. I realized that these individuals were familiar with the previous incarnations of the story and were watching a whole different movie than I was.

One of the aspects of the film that I particularly enjoyed was the quirky, but very striking, aesthetic that the filmmakers adopted (alien creatures with massive bodies but long, thin little arms; spaceships consctructed in the simple, but still unusual-looking, shapes of cubes and spheres, etc). It fit with the eccentric nature of the story and consequently ended up looking like few sci-fi films I had ever seen before. What I wasn't prepared for, though, was a sequence that would actually provide one of the most satisfying cinematic experiences I would have in a theatre in a long time (SPOILERS FOLLOW).

It begins with the character Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) being stranded on a frozen planet with Marvin (played by Warwick Davis, voiced by Alan Rickman) lamenting the fact that he's going to die lost and alone with a "manically-depressed robot," when a stranger named Slartibartfast (the great Bill Nighy) shows up and asks Arthur to accompany him. He takes him to a room where a number of glass cases display models of custom-designed planets made by the company which Nighy works for.

It should probably be mentioned that by this point in the story the Earth and everything on it has been destroyed (Arthur and a woman played by Zooey Deschanel are the last surviving humans; not a pleasant prospect I know) and it has been revealed that although it was scheduled for demolition anyway (to create an intergalactic bypass), it was authorized by the President of the Galaxy (the fantastic Sam Rockwell) who didn't even bother to read the order before signing it. Apprently he thought it was someone wanting an autograph. Admittedly, this is a hysterical concept but it is also, quite frankly, rather depressing. As I sat in the theatre I found myself not finding the idea that my home planet was destroyed because of a paperwork error that funny anymore. At least when Lucas blew up Alderan in Star Wars there was a deliberacy, a malicious intent behind its dsetruction, and the ones who did it were going to be made to pay before the film was over.

Anyway, Arthur and Slarti climb into a yellow mechanical lift which slowly moves through a door into a tunnel (amusingly, just as another one is arriving through another door like a ride at Disneyland) and down a tunnel. As it rather quickly gains speed, Arthur starts to get afraid and Slatri tries to prepare him for what he's about to see, but neither Arthur nor I could've possibly been ready. In a few short seconds the lift passes out of the tunnel and one of the most overwhelmingly beautiful sights I've ever seen on the silver screen appeared.

Arthur uncovers his eyes and is so awe-struck by what is all around him that he becomes visibly moved. Slarti laughs and exclaims "Welcome to our factory floor!" as they continue to move through the massive chunks of whole worlds being built.

Roger Ebert wrote in his review of Pixar's Finding Nemo that the film had "an unexpected beauty, a use of color and form that makes it one of those rare movies where I wanted to sit in the front row and let the images wash out to the edges of my field of vision." That's how I felt at this moment watching Hitchhiker's Guide.

Soon, Slarti says to Arthur "Look familiar?" Arthur turns and sees...

...the Earth.

Slarti explians that this isn't the "real" Earth but actually their back-up planet ("Earth Mark 2") and what follows is a series of funny, and sort of sweet, images of Slarti's crew "finishing" the Earth (filling the oceans with water, painting canyon rocks, etc). Now, I don't mind confessing that at this point I actually got a little emotional. I had resigned myself to the fact that, in the universe of the movie, the earth had been destroyed and wasn't coming back. So to see it again was not only pleasantly surprising but bizarrely touching. I guess the saying is true that we never really know how much we value something until it's gone. I find it sort of ironic that Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy accomplished in a matter of seconds, with a few well-executed special effects and a great music score by composer Joby Talbot, what it took the entire documentary of An Inconvenient Truth to do... for me anyway.

I realize, of course, that a few small stills cannot possibly capture the power of these moving images (nor, I would argue, could watching the film on DVD even). To fully appreciate it in all its glory I think one would have to see it on the big screen and not know that it's coming... as I did. Every now and again it's good to be reminded of why movies are meant to be seen in the theatre. Sometimes the spectacle is the movie and there are some cinematic experiences that just can't be felt or properly appreciated otherwise. This scene in Hitchhiker's Guide is, I would argue, just such a moment. I was too young (only a year old) to see the original Star Wars when it was released and by the time I did get to see it on the big screen (after watching it on video so many times) the opening image of the giant ship passing overhead had become such a part of our culture that it virtually lost its impact. Still, I hear people tell stories of seeing that film when it was released and being utterly blown away by that shot. The best I can do I guess is try to imagine what it might've felt like, but if the sensation was anything like what I experienced at that moment in Hitchhiker's Guide, it must've been magnificent and awe-inspiring.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Said Ben Franklin to John Adams:

"Don't worry, John. The history books will clean it up."


(and God bless America)

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Damian's Bottom 100

"Talk about the wrong stuff."

With alternative top 100 lists floating around the internet (my own can be found here), and because listmaking is fun, I thought it might be interesting to go the other end of the spectrum and name the 100 absolute worst movies I've ever seen. So I decided to undertake such a task and I must say, the experience proved rather cathartic (I feel like I've exorcised a demon of some sort). These are not the movies that are "so bad, they're good." These are the ones that are just bad. These films are not only truly awful, they are actually painful to watch. These are the ones that arouse great anger inside of me when I even think about them. As Roger Ebert famously said, these are the movies that "I hated. I hated, hated, hated, hated, hated these movies." These are not guilty pleasures. These films are just guilty. Period.

Now, you may think that it's a complete waste of time for a person to list the worst movies he's ever seen and you'd be right, but it's minimal compared to the amount of time I wasted actually watching all of these debacles (or in some cases, thankfully, only a portion of them) and if I can prevent even one person out there from taking a chance on any one of these films, it will be worth it. Nevertheless, read ahead at your own risk. You might be reminded of moviegoing experiences that you desperately tried to wipe from your mind and if I happen to resurrect past traumas, I am not taking responsibility for it. You have been warned.

Incidentally, there is no ranking on this list. I did not agonize over how to arrange my picks. To riff on my friend Piper's words, the hundredth is just as worthy of contempt as the first (although whenever someone asks me what's the single worst film I've ever seen, I immediately respond with #1). The "order" is virtually random. I only numbered them so as to make sure I didn't exceeed my limit of 100 because God knows I could've easily kept going. If some of you happen to find a few of your personal favorite titles on this list, please know that my intent is not to offend. I'm just calling 'em as I see 'em, so if one of your "top 100" happens to be on my "bottom 100," you have my apologies... and my condolences.

100. John Carpenter's Vampires
99. Alien Resurrection
98. Lethal Weapon 4
97. Mrs. Winterbourne
96. Daredevil
95. Guess Who
94. Charlie's Angels
93. Scooby-Doo
92. Lara Croft: Tomb Raider
91. Godzilla (Roland Emmerich's)
90. Universal Soldier
89. Herbie Fully Loaded
88. Garfield
87. From Justin to Kelly
86. Plan 9 From Outer Space
85. The Cable Guy
84. The Wild, Wild West
83. Enemy of the State
82. Gone in 60 Seconds
81. Pearl Harbor
80. On Deadly Ground
79. Hostel
78. Deep Blue Sea
77. 1941
76. Pink Flamingos
75. Urban Legend
74. Superman IV: Quest for Peace
73. Monkeybone
72. The Ring
71. Poseidon
70. Serendipity
69. Monster-in-Law
68. Virtuosity
67. Clifford
66. Batman and Robin
65. I Know What You Did Last Summer
64. Jaws: the Revenge
63. Waterworld
62. Mac and Me
61. XXX: State of the Union
60. Rush Hour 2
59. Independence Day
58. Sphere
57. Toys
56. Heavyweights
55. Striking Distance
54. True Lies
53. Sleepers
52. Nobody's Fool (w/ Paul Newman)
51. Men in Black 2
50. Event Horizon
49. Hardball
48. The Fifth Element
47. EdTV
46. Caddyshack 2
45. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Ron Howard's)
44. Eight Crazy Nights
43. Mars Attacks
42. Jakob the Liar
41. Apt Pupil
40. Battlefield Earth
39. The First Wives Club
38. Natural Born Killers
37. Pocohontas
36. Spy Hard
35. The Wedding Planner
34. Jabberwocky
33. The League of Extraordinary Gentlmen
32. Beverly Hills Cop 3
31. Evolution
30. Hollywood Homicide
29. Ladder 49
28. Congo
27. Bio-Dome
26. Dreamcatcher
25. Mulan
24. Strange Days
23. Pirahna 2
22. Celebrity
21. Ali
20. The Bachelor
19. Dragonfly
18. The Postman
17. Mission to Mars
16. Dudley Do-Right
15. Hide and Seek
14. Joe vs. the Volcano
13. Me, Myself and Irene
12. Rock-a-Doodle
11. Matilda
10. Wrongfully Accused
9. The English Patient
8. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
7. Pleasantville
6. Small Soldiers
5. The Waterboy
4. Fantastic Four
3. Underworld
2. Zoolander
1. Armageddon

Runners up: (films I didn't think of until after I finished the list) Lady in the Water, Conspiracy Theory, Super Mario Bros., Topaz, Romeo + Juliet, Love's Labour's Lost, Howard the Duck, The Scarlet Letter, Casino Royale (1967), Legends of the Fall