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The end of the road. I made it. Suck it, doubters!

This is it. Unless I decide to post an epilogue, which I may do (spoiler warning: I probably will.)

If you have read this long, or just jumped in recently, or just stumbled across this one and are wondering who this dude is, I extend my gratitude. There’s a lot of personal stuff in here that may not interest you in the least, or I might have said something bad about a movie you like, and I most likely got some facts wrong about some of these movies, so I apologize for that. Basically, when you write a post a day for 30 days while life is going on, you don’t really tend to spend a lot of time on research.

I like the topic for this final post, because it’s not “A film with a number in it,” or “A film that I liked the soundtrack more,” or “A film where the good guys blow up a ship to deactivate all the bad guy robots at the end.” It’s a film with my favorite ending. This is definitive. Of all the movies I’ve seen, which ending do I like the best? I mean, they all have an ending. Which one is the best?

Sometimes, even good movies have not-so-great endings. I hate to beat the dead DC horse, but Wonder Woman was great until the end, when the big bad was revealed to be a pasty, old British dude, and then he and Wonder Woman have a pointless CGI fight that you have no doubt she is going to win. There is drama when Chris Pine sacrifices himself to destroy the evil gas canisters, I guess, but by that point, I was kind of checked out. The old dude as the God of War just took the wind out of my sails. There was really no reason for that twist other than to throw in a twist. I would rather it had been the original guy that she killed earlier.

So what film has my favorite ending? There are plenty of movies that, if I’m zipping through the Guide, I’ll stop and watch the end of it, just because it’s cool, but not always. Take The Untouchables, for example. The real part to watch is the gun fight in the train station, where Kevin Costner is trying to catch the baby carriage rolling down the stairs and not get killed. You don’t really need to see the actual end of the movie, where Al Capone is thrown in jail, because you’ve already seen the best part.

But enough about bad endings. Which ending is my favorite?  I love the ending of Jaws, as I wrote about on Day 7, but I obviously can’t go back to that well, and would I say it’s my favorite? I always liked the ending of Pulp Fiction, literally the final shot where Jules and Vincent stand at the door of the diner that has just been held up, look around for a second, simultaneously tuck their guns in their shorts, and walk out. That is a wonderful beat after all that you have seen happen in that movie. But not my favorite ending.

I’m picking an ending that really wraps up everything that has taken place in the movie itself. It is one of my favorite movies, and I could have picked it for a film I never get tired of, but I saved it for the end because that’s where it deserves to be. Best for last.

The Shawshank Redemption

To be clear, I’m not talking about when Morgan Freeman finds the volcanic glass and the money and journeys to  Zihuatanejo. That’s a great moment that obviously had to be there, but it’s more of an add-on. The real climax, the greatest moment in this, and almost any other film, is when Warden Norton throws Andy Dufresne’s chess piece at the poster of Raquel Welch, and it doesn’t bounce back, but goes through the giant hole that Andy had carved into his wall, the hole that he escaped through the hole that he had been digging for 20 years. He then broke open a sewer pipe and crawled through, “a river of shit and came out clean on the other side.”

The real kicker was that it wasn’t that he just escaped. That would have been cool enough, believe me. But Andy had been laundering money for the Warden, and so had created a false identity to use as a front. After escaping, Andy visited a dozen banks as this false man and withdrew almost $400,000 of the Warden’s money. And just to really kick him in the nuts after twenty years of torture, Andy mailed evidence of all the corruption and murders that went on at Shawshank, and the scumbags who ran the place went to jail. Except Warden Norton. He refused to go quietly, preferring instead to kill himself. In a film with so many great lines, my favorite one might be Morgan Freeman’s narration when it came to that:

Red:I’d like to think that the last thing that went through his head, other than that bullet, was to wonder how the hell Andy Dufresne ever got the best of him.   

As I said, this ending brings so many elements of the film to bear. 

  1. The fact that Andy is not only keeping the Warden’s finances clean, but he also is forced to keep his clothes and shoes clean, as the Warden asks him to bring his suit to the laundry and shine his shoes. Andy takes those with him when he leaves so he can look professional when he visits all those banks. 
  2. The fact that Andy had an interest in Geology, and asked Red to get him a rock hammer so he could carve chess pieces out of rocks. Of course, it was that rock hammer that he used to carve through his wall, and his knowledge of Geology that helped him realize it could be done.
  3. The fact that Andy hid his rock hammer inside a carved out Bible that the Warden had given him. And which chapter did he start his carving? Why, Exodus, of course. And on the night he made his escape and made off with Warden Norton’s money, he replaced his accountant’s log book with that same Bible, leaving a note saying, “Warden, You were right. Salvation lay within.” Brilliant.

There’s so much more I could talk about with this movie, but you get it. There’s a lot of themes and a lot going on, but the central theme is hope. Geology didn’t just help Andy realize that the rock hammer could help him tunnel through his wall, it gave him hope that he could. Andy and Red talk about hope a few times, and Red cautions him that hope is “a dangerous thing.” Andy was a little more positive about it, but that’s probably because he had that rock hammer, and he knew one day, he would get out of there. Or at least, he hoped he would. 

In the end, in his note to Red, Andy tells him that “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” Shawshank isn’t just a great movie with a cool ending. It’s a parable about having hope. Andy didn’t just resign himself to being in prison for the rest of his life. He got the prison a new library, he got a few inmates their high school degrees, he got himself a way to get some free money, and he got his rock hammer. And he got out of there. He did all that because he had hope. And it all paid off, literally.

Thanks again for reading all these. If you enjoyed my movie rants, let me know in the comments and check out my other stuff via this handy linktree thing I got going on. Tune in next time, folks. 

Keep on keepin’ on.          

Wow. The penultimate post!

So, they hit me with a positive one for the second-to-last one; A movie that makes me want to fall in love. Yes, very positive, but kind of silly. Again, I want to take it in the spirit it was intended, because most romance movies or, even worse, romantic comedies make me want to never watch another romantic movie again. They are usually incredibly formulaic and stupid. I’ve already written about how Garden State would have been a much better movie, and gotten the same result, if they had taken Natalie Portman’s character out entirely and made it a buddy flick about two guys traveling around New Jersey looking for jewelry and salvation. But people think they have to throw a little romance in because it sells tickets, I suppose?

I was thinking of picking Toy Story 2 or  3, which made me fall in love with toys again. Or maybe Natural Born Killers, since it was one of my favorite movies and I wanted to work it in here somewhere, and technically Mickey and Mallory are a great couple. But no, like I said I wanted to take the prompt in the spirit it was intended. So, I’m going with…

(500) Days of Summer

Yes, the movie is about a failed romance. That’s what makes it fun. Seeing Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s Tom follow Zooey Deschanel’s Summer around like a puppy dog when she has flat-out said she is unavailable to him could have been tough to watch, but the way it is presented, totally out of sequence, makes it entertaining. Also, romantic comedies have taught us that the guy always ends up with the girl at the end. The Narrator actually plainly states at the beginning that this is a boy meets girl story, but it’s not a love story. Tom himself, in his great “I quit” speech as he’s leaving his job writing greeting cards that things like those lame cards and movies are the problem, because they set you up to believe in something that isn’t really true. Sure, love happens, but not the way it is presented. So, it could make for a depressing movie.

Still, Tom is so endearing that you root for him, despite Summer’s claims that she doesn’t want a relationship. In one of my favorite scenes, Tom is out with another girl, the incredibly attractive Alison, and all he can do is complain about Summer:

Tom: She took a giant shit on my face. Literally.

Alison: Literally?

Tom: Not literally. That’s disgusting. Jesus. What’s the matter with you?

Meanwhile, Summer is being 100% honest with him, despite the fact that they are carrying on what most would describe as a “relationship,” and what Tom definitely sees as one. Not only is she afraid of that label, but we find out in the pivotal scene near the end, after Tom has discovered that she is now married, that she feels for her husband “what I was never sure of with you.” She doesn’t really say it in a mean way, she just didn’t love him. It’s a tough pill for anyone to swallow, but yes, the girl Tom followed around for 500 days and thought was the one, and did have shower sex with, did not feel the same for him. You can call her an evil bitch if you want, but she felt how she felt. The nice thing is that she credits Tom for helping her open up to see that fate can intervene and you can randomly meet the love of your life in a deli, when a guy asks you about the book you’re reading. Sometimes, that’s how relationships work; one that isn’t going to work out can guide you to the next one that does. She says, “I kept thinking “Tom was right.’… It just wasn’t me you were right about.”

So, of course, after that revealing conversation, Tom is at a job interview and meets Autumn, and we can assume that this time, she will feel the same way he does. Or not and the result will be the same, but the next one…

Of course, I enjoyed this movie because I was like Tom, and I think most of us have been there at some point in our lives, pining for someone who is emotionally and romantically unavailable to us. And sometimes, that person will tell you as much, and then get drunk and make out with you, and you think, “Ah-ha!” But it doesn’t change how they feel. They wake up in the morning and everything is the same. And, like Summer, they meet someone else, and you are a bit confused, because what do they have that you don’t? You have bonded with this person. But, again, like Summer, they just knew what they were “never sure of with you”; that new person was the one.  

And hopefully, if you stop pining for something that was never there, you find someone else, too. That’s the other fun part of this movie. Tom’s adolescent sister points out that he’s remembering the good times with Summer, but that he may want to take a closer look. That’s good advice for most situations, but especially times like these.

See, I didn’t pick this movie necessarily because it made me want to fall in love, but because it gave me hope that it could happen. Because that’s what happens when you look closer, and see what’s really there.  

I will close by saying that after 29 days of these, this is the first time I wrote about a movie and wanted to watch it after. So, that’s pretty cool. Come back tomorrow for the big finale! In the meantime, check out all my stuff via linktree.  

I was going to make a 28 Days Later joke here, but it turns out I’ve never seen it, so…

So, they wait until near the end to make me write about a film that makes me uncomfortable, trying to see if I’ll crack. You won’t get me, 30 Day Film Challenge gods! I shall overcome!

Even as I type this, I’m not 100% sure which movie I’m going to pick. I have a few choices in my head, but there’s a difference between a film that makes me uncomfortable and one that is just plain bad. For example, I was going to pick Leaving Las Vegas, the film that actually earned Nicholas Cage an Oscar for Best Actor, which I feel like the Academy kind of wishes they could take back at this point. But I can’t really say that the film makes me uncomfortable because I only saw it once, and all it made me feel was annoyed. I remember kind of rooting for the alcohol.

That’s kind of another issue, really. Does a film “make” me uncomfortable if I saw it once and never really thought about it ever again? I guess that’s semantics. I should look at the prompt in the spirit it was intended, right? I need to pick an “uncomfortable” film. Not any recent Tom Cruise movie simply because he makes me uncomfortable. And I hear what everyone says about how great all the recent Mission Impossible movies are, but the dude is whacked and I just can’t look at his stupid, de-aged face anymore. It can also be said that, yeah, we found out that Kevin Spacey is a creep, but I still can watch his movies and enjoy them without thinking about that. I mean, it would seriously take Spacey murdering my whole family to make me stop watching The Usual Suspects.

The other issue that I have with picking an “uncomfortable” movie is that, for the last twenty years or so, I have kind of avoided movies like that. Maybe I saw enough of them in the 90’s, or I got too into comic book movies and couldn’t go back, but whatever the reason, these kinds of weird, art-house flicks just don’t do it for me anymore. I guess that’s why I never did anything with my film degree.

The good thing is, wannabe auteurs made enough of them back in the day to tide me over. Since I was a film student in the 90’s, I wanted to further my education by seeing these gritty, dark art house movies. And out of all those, the one that made me really uncomfortable was Kids

I was certainly what you could call a late-bloomer, so watching these teenagers romp around New York, doing drugs and deflowering virgins was bad enough. When the main “kid,” Telly, contracts AIDS, but continues to have unprotected sex with people, that just ramps up the tension. When he has unprotected and unsolicited sex with Chloe Sevigny, who had been the “good girl” who was trying to abstain from all of the horrible things these guys were doing, including sex, but passed out at a party, well, that just put me over the top. And when these little bastards start beating people up with their skateboards? I’m not generally upset by violence in movies, but, good lord.

I don’t really have much good to say about this movie, in retrospect. It’s well-made, and introduced the world to both Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, so that’s cool. I have no real desire to watch it again, but I will say that of all those uncomfortable movies I watched from the mid-90’s to the early 2000’s, while I was “educating” myself, this is the only that I still think about often and cringe. So that’s why I had to pick it.

Come back tomorrow for the pen-ultimate post! And go to my linktree. Please.  

Day 27. I’m assuming I’ll make it at this point, but maybe I’ll just quit tomorrow, just because. I remember quitting nursery school when I was five. Why change now?

This is a funny one because, at this point in cinema history, all films should be visually striking on some level. Even indie directors who have almost no money can film a movie on their phone and edit it on their Macbook. Even in big budget movies, you still see bad CGI and weird shots that make you wonder who messed up, but I always laugh when I tell someone that a multi-million dollar movie was bad, and they respond with, “Well, the special effects were cool.” Of course they were cool. This wasn’t a few guys sitting on a boat off Martha’s Vineyard, trying to get a broken mechanical shark to somehow look menacing. Hundreds of people sat in front of really powerful computers 16 hours a day for months on end, pouring over every frame. And for the money we spend just to watch it, every movie should be visually stunning.

So, I wanted to pick something that stands out, something that still wows me at this stage of my life after all the visually striking, special effects blockbusters I’ve seen.  But what movie does that? To quote Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller in Saving Private Ryan (Go back a couple days and check out my Private Ryan post), “It’s like looking for a needle in a stack of needles.”

But speaking of Spielberg movies. there is one that continues to stand out to me as visually striking, nearly 30 years after it was made:

Jurassic Park

I have seen this movie many many times, on big screens and small. Again, go back to Day 24 if you want to read about how I used to go into the theater I worked in every night to watch the big T-Rex scene, even though I was supposed to be working (To be honest, there wasn’t a lot to do while the movies were going on. We only had two screens.) If I am channel- surfing and I see it on TV, I always stop and watch at least some of it. I have seen every re-release or special anniversary screening that was available to me. I’ve maybe seen at least parts of this movie a thousand times, and never once did I watch it and think, “That dinosaurs didn’t look real.”

Before the movie was released in June of 1993, we had seen James Cameron’s aliens and George Lucas’ Rancor, and some Godzilla movies featuring guys in rubber suits acting as giant lizards smashing model cities. This was something new; animatronic dinosaurs combined with this revolutionary technology called CGI to make some really bad-ass-looking creatures. It’s so brilliant that our excitement mirrored the characters on the screen when they marveled at John Hammond’s technical wizardry. Thankfully, none of us had to worry about the philosophical consequences of Spielberg’s actions. 

Of course, we had seen CGI as far back as Tron in the early 80’s, but nothing had been done on this scale, and combining the CGI with the animatronic dinosaurs made by the best effects team in Hollywood, made for spectacular visuals. Spielberg wanted to make a monster movie, like the Godzilla movies he grew up with, but he didn’t want his dinosaurs to be monsters. He wanted them to appear real. No guys in rubber suits smashing models. He wanted Jaws on land.

It worked, to the tune of $1.029 billion gross, including the re-releases and 3-D version released in 2013, and people weren’t paying all that to see Jeff Goldblum, despite his amazing performance.. It was at one point the highest grossing movie of all-time. Many films have surpassed that number since, but none are as awe-inspiring to me as this one.

Also inspired my favorite meme

Just a couple more days. Check out the linktree now before it’s too late!

Happy 4th (Observed). Here we are at Day 26. Almost to the end. I may even miss all this posting.

Nah, I’m kidding. Duh.

For today’s post about a film adapted from somewhere else, I had a lot to choose from. Seriously, almost every movie is based on something else, or a sequel, or a reboot, or a reimagining. It would have been more of a challenge if they asked for a totally original movie. I honestly can’t remember the last one of those I saw.

For this, I decided to go with The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, the 2013 version, since I’ve never seen the original, but it’s pretty cool that a 1939 short story from The New Yorker has spawned two films, and apparently the term “Mittyesque” has officially entered the English language, referring to (according to Wikipedia) “an ineffectual person who spends more time in heroic daydreams than paying attention to the real world.”

The cool thing about the Ben Stiller version (and maybe the Danny Kaye one. Who knows?) is that he’s only ineffectual at the beginning, and he daydreams to basically cover up these inadequacies,  but as the story progresses, he becomes, as described by Patton Oswalt’s Todd Mahar from eHarmony, “like Indiana Jones decided to become the lead singer of The Strokes or something.” By the end, he doesn’t have to daydream at all. The movie intertwines this transformation he goes through with the ending of his job at Life magazine and his attempts to woo Kristen Wiig, which, yeah, of course. In actuality, he’s also doing all this because he never really got over his Dad dying when he was 17, which forced him to get a job and be responsible rather than go out and have fun with his buddies. For a movie that is seemingly about a dope who spaces out a lot, that’s pretty deep.

Much deeper, it seems, than the original James Thurber story it is based on, although, again, I never read it. According to good ol’ Wikipedia, it’s about a man who is taking his wife into town so she can get her hair done and they can do their weekly shopping. Each mundane detail about the trip inspires a daydream in Walter’s head. When his wife complains about him driving too fast, he starts to imagine he is a Navy pilot flying a hydroplane. After driving past a hospital and putting on a pair of gloves, Walter envisions himself as a doctor performing a surgery that only he is capable of. This sounds like a pretty interesting short story, and although it is apparently one of Thurber’s “acknowledged masterpieces,” it wouldn’t be very cinematic by today’s standards. So, Stiller and company had to jazz it up a bit.

The story’s Mcguffin is that Walter must find famous photographer Sean O’Connell who has taken an amazing photo that is to be the cover for the final printed issue of Life Magazine, which is going all digital. Trouble is O’Connell doesn’t really stay in one place very long, but Wiig’s Cheryl playfully suggests that Walter “follow the clues” and track him down like a detective would, simply because she’s taking a class on mystery writing and it seems like a fun thing to do. Walter ends up in Iceland, then Greenland and then the Himalayas, and almost gets eaten by sharks and caught in a volcano. He finally finds Sean photographing a rare snow leopard. By the end, Walt has a pretty full resume to bring to his next job interview after Life shuts down. And best of all, he ends up with Kristen Wiig!

No offense to James Thurber, but this is what an adaptation should be. So many movies that are based on books get lambasted by the book’s fans for being too different, sometimes with good reason and sometimes not. In this case, you couldn’t take Thurber’s short story beat for beat and make it into a movie. Or if you did, no one would see it. First of all, I love the modern updates that they put in (eHarmony, Life Magazine, Cinnabon). More importantly, characters in movies have to change, otherwise why would we watch this? Walter becomes a better and cooler person, but not to gain the love of Cheryl, but to resolve his own issues. Not only because he never got over his Dad dying, but because most of his professional life has been spent in the background working at Life as the Negative Asset Manager. Negative Asset. The job title itself says it all.

But the point, as he discovers, is that he did that job so well that Sean O’Connell trusted him to do the right thing with this all-important negative that was to be the final cover, “the quintessence of life,” as Sean puts it. Sean doesn’t tell him what the subject of the photo is, but we find out at the end, along with Walter and Cheryl when they find a copy on a newsstand, that it is a photo of Walter, doing his job looking at photo negatives. Because there are no unimportant jobs. In the end, Walter Mitty done did good.

That’s all I got for today, come back tomorrow for Day 27. And check out the linktree while you’re out here.

11:01 by my clock. But I made it!

So, a movie that doesn’t take place in the current era, I wish I could pick Independence Day, but that probably doesn’t count. I guess in 1996 that was the current era, but what is the current era, anyway? Does a galaxy far, far away count?

Instead, I’m going to pick one of my favorite movies that I was hoping to be able to squeeze into this challenge, which I happened to be watching a little of last night, Saving Private Ryan.

I remember seeing this movie a couple times in the theater in 1998 because I liked the message, I liked the action, and I liked Steven Speilberg. It’s really so well-made that the only flaw I can see was how white Matt Damon’s teeth were, considering he just survived D-Day and probably a few months without access to a toothbrush. But it’s a movie.

I guess my real criticism revolves around Matt Damon’s casting in general. Not the man himself, because he was fine. But in all the hype for the movie, I read that he was in it, and by the time you get into the movie itself, it’s pretty obvious that he will be Private Ryan, since you have met every other character and he ain’t one of them. I wish they had kept it under wraps so the audience would be surprised when they found out who Private Ryan, but Damon was fresh off his Good Will Hunting Oscar, so I get that he would be part of the marketing plan.

So, enough of the criticisms. This is still one of my favorite movies, because the character work and performances and the general feel of the battle scenes, Thankfully, I have never been in any kind of battle, but this seems as real as it gets I remember reading at the time, when this movie unbelievably lost the Best Picture race to Shakespeare in Love, that it was too predictable, and that it was basically two huge battle scenes and not much else. First of all, anyone who went to high school and read Shakespeare in English class should have realized every key point in Shakespeare in Love. Secondly, the stuff sandwiched between the two incredible battle scenes is where the meat of the movie is. That’s where you find out that Tom Hanks’ Captain Miller, who seems like an incredible soldier who was born to be in the military, was a high school teacher back in the States (I wonder if he taught his students Shakespeare.) You find out about the bond that develops between soldiers, and that they really aren’t doing any of this because they feel bad for Private Ryan’s mother, who had already lost all her other sons in the War, but because they were in fact soldiers, and because they hoped that it would earn all of them the right to go home. However, when they do reach Ryan, and he refuses to go home with them, because he wants to stay with his fellow soldiers and see this fight through to the end, they decide to stay and fight with him. Because that’s what heroes do.

There are so many other small moments in this movie that make it so much more than two big battles. Like when the medic played by Giovanni Ribisi tells his fellow soldiers that he used to sometimes pretend he was asleep when his mother would come home from her late shift at the hospital, even though he knew she just wanted to chat to him and see how his day went, and minutes later, he is killed in a skirmish that was seemingly avoidable, and cries for his mother with his dying breath. Or the German soldier that Captain Miller lets go, after the urging of poor Corporal Upham. And it is later that same soldier who fires the fatal shot that kills Miller. And it is then Upham, who had not fired a weapon since basic training and had been rendered so scared during the final battle that he couldn’t even move, costing his fellow soldiers precious ammo, who kills that German soldier, who he had earlier implored his colleagues to set free.

I’m not even sure I’m describing all that happens in this movie very well. Just do yourself the favor of watching it, and pretending that it won Best Picture.

Thanks again, happy 4th, and come back tomorrow.

Come on. It’s Saturday. Nobody is reading this, right?

At first, I didn’t know what to say for this one, a movie I wished I saw in a theater  So I of course turned to Google for some inspiration. A lot of the lists that are out there cover recent epic movies that definitely make for good theater experiences. I know that because I saw most of them. I did not see Inception in a theater, so I could say that but I feel like that would be taking the easy road.

The thing about those internet lists, on sites like Buzzfeed or wherever, is that they were made by people a lot younger than me, who were probably too young to see Jurassic Park in a theater during its initial run in 1993 (or maybe weren;t born yet, since I just did the math.) Not only did I see that in theaters many times, but I worked in a movie theater in 1993 and 1994. It was a small, two-screen theater that was trying to get people in, mostly so they could make money on concessions (Theaters rarely make money on the actual tickets, and this one never did.) So, a full year after Jurassic Park was released in theaters, my theater was showing it for a mere three dollars. The tactic worked, as it was almost always a sell-out, and if I was lucky enough to be on usher duty that night, I would go into the theater at the famous T-Rex scene and watch it with the people. I did the same thing when my theater showed Pulp Fiction for the adrenaline shot scene. The tension in the place was palpable.

It is with that firmly in mind that I decided not to pick a recent technical marvel, but a movie that I wish I could have experienced in the theater with other people the way I experienced Jurassic Park and Pulp Fiction all those nights almost 30 years ago. But what movie should I go with as a great experience when it was released in theaters? Something like The Exorcist, or 2001: A Space Odyssey, or Gone with the Wind? All great experiences, I’m sure, that no one had ever seen anything like before. But no, this is my pick and, as a fanboy, there’s only one movie I can go with.

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

But let’s not stand on ceremony here, to quote Bane, one of my favorite movie villains, it was and in my mind always will be named just Star Wars. Truly, no one had seen anything like this movie in 1977; the space battles, the light-sabers, a villain as cool as Darth Vader, and this was way before George Lucas went back and dicked around with it. That’s the best thing about this movie: it was cool before all that. The argument could definitely be made that all that actually made it worse.

But the thing that I really wish I could have been around for (I was just over 1 year old when it hit theaters in May of 1977) was that people were walking out of the theater after seeing this movie, walking right back to the box office and buying a ticket for the next screening. Can you imagine doing that today? Well, I bet it was pretty rare back in 1977, too. That’s how cool this movie was back then, and still is. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, Star Wars is the second highest grossing movie of all-time, behind only Gone With the Wind, which came out in 1939, and let’s face it, there weren’t a lot of other movies to see back then. They also didn’t even have TV, so what the Hell were people supposed to do? Talk? So, basically, I’m going to call Star Wars #1 on a technicality. I mean, the movie changed the game. Let’s give it #1 just for that.

But aside from the money, what I really want is to go back to 1977 and cheer my ass off along with everyone else in that theater when the Death Star blows up, and then turn back around and do it again.

So, another one down. Come back for the holiday edition tomorrow! And linktee me!

Day 23. But the weekend is coming! Can I make it?

This is a weird one.Obviously, there are oodles and oodles of directors who have passed on, so I could just pick Orson Welles and Citizen Kane and start celebrating the 4th of July early. But you don’t want that, do you?

You do? Oh…Anyway, if you’re still reading, then get ready for my pick for a film by a director who is dead, Ed Wood’s Plan 9 From Outer Space. Or Glen or Glenda. Or Bride of the Monster. Or any of his crappy movies, really, but for the sake of the Challenge, I’ll go with Plan 9.

I don’t remember when I first heard of Ed, but it was probably around the early to mid-90’s in my rebellious Bad Movie Phase, which okay, pretty much continues to this day. In the years where most kids my age were trying to score booze or drugs or whatever, my friends and I would try and find bad movies to watch and make fun of. I know that does not make me sound very cool, but it was definitely fun. And this was where my appreciation of Ed Wood’s movies began. I also loved Tim Burton’s biopic, and keep your eyes peeled to for our episode on that movie (as soon as I’m done editing it.)

So, the quick rundown on Ed was that he was at one time declared The Worst Director of All-Time by everyone in the world, and Plan 9 was once considered the worst movie. He’s probably been replaced by Tommy Wiseau and The Room in most people’s eyes since then, but Ed was the original. People were going to see his movies in art houses at midnight long before Tommy was even born. If you watch interviews with Tommy now, he pretends to be in on the joke, like he was intentionally making a bad movie to entertain people, but we all know that making movies was his dream and then when everyone laughed at him, to avoid embarrassment, he laughed, too. Ed Wood never admitted to making bad movies. He just kept trying to make better ones.

Ed was obviously quirky, but he had a personality that drew others to him and got them to keep coming back to help him make these terrible movies. When questioned about the poor special effects in his movies, he would preach that filmmaking is about suspension of disbelief. Oh, and did I mention that he was a cross-dresser? Yep, he had his quirks.

The funny thing about Plan 9 to me is that there are more ridiculous plots out there. The idea of aliens trying to resurrect dead to conquer earth ain’t so bad. I mean, there’s a whole bunch of alien invasion movies where the aliens’ plan is basically just to blow stuff up. At least Ed came up with a story. The problem was he had no training in actual filmmaking, no skill for directing, and no talent for writing. He just had an idea and a dream. Kind of like George Lucas.    

Plan 9 From Outer Space was to be his opus. But even with financing from a local Baptist church and the last footage shot of his dear friend Bela Lugosi, he still managed to make a pretty bad movie. I wouldn’t call it the worst movie of all-time, though, because to be honest, even Ed made worse movies. Sadly, after Plan 9, he started down a road of semi-pornographic movies, eventually making actual porn after around 1960, plunging into alcoholism and dying penniless. It’s kind of a bummer of an ending to his story, one that Tim Burton didn’t really cover in his movie. But that’s not the way Burton wanted to go, and that’s probably for the best. Ed was a positive guy, so he wanted to make a positive film about him.

I can’t even really recommend watching Plan 9. People say it’s so bad it’s good, but it’s really just bad. The real reason I picked this one, though, was because without Ed Wood, the whole sub-genre of “SO Bad They’re Good” movies maybe wouldn’t exist. Well, they would, because there are so, so many bad movies out there, but people probably wouldn’t appreciate them the way they do. At least, I probably wouldn’t. So, instead of recommending Plan 9, I recommend finding some other bad movie, inviting some friends over, since the country is opening up again, and having a few drinks and watching the Hell out of that thing. If you have never done that, then let me tell you from firsthand experience, few things bring friends together more than a good bad movie.

Home stretch. Don’t forget to come back tomorrow. And linktree!    

Dursin’s getting upset!

I actually was glad to see this prompt, because it made me think of my favorite line in the first Avengers movie, when Captain America suggests that Bruce Banner get angry, and Banner responds, “That’s my secret, Captain. I’m always angry.” And then…

I guess that proved that he could turn into The Hulk whenever he wanted? I don’t know, but it was a cool moment because everyone loves Big Green.

But yeah, my reputation, when it comes to movies or anything else, is that I’m either kind of grumpy or generally angry all the time. Obviously, this is an exaggeration because I see myself as a regular, down-to-Earth person, however I will admit to wanting people to adhere to the rules of society and when they don’t, well, I get a little peeved. Then I go a little George Costanza for a few seconds and it quickly fades.

Very few people have seen me get really angry as an adult. When that happens, I don’t actually say anything. To paraphrase Bruce Banner again, “You wouldn’t like me when I‘m silent.”

When it comes to movies though, some of them do make me a little angry (or annoyed, or miffed or whatever) because, like society, there are rules to follow to make them good, and when those rules aren’t followed, they can be bad. Sure, a creative writer or director can play with the structure a little, but the good ones usually stick to it.

For example, I was always taught in my screenwriting classes that you know a script is well-written if you flip it around and it still makes sense. The textbook case they always gave was One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Basically, if you turn it around and write it from Nurse Ratched’s perspective and make her the protagonist, then this crazy R.P. McMurphy is coming in and screwing everything up. I’m not sure if that’s what that Ratched Netflix show was about, but I kind of doubt it. A more modern example is Thanos, the utilitarian who seeks to save the universe by eradicating half of it, so we’ll have enough resources to go around. He is definitely, like all good villains should be, the hero of his own story.

But this isn’t always done well, and such was the case in this movie that made me really angry back in 2007: 


Before I begin shaking my first at the clouds, I want to point out that this movie stars the actor now known as Elliot Page, but who in 2007 was known as Ellen Page. I have nothing bad to say about Elliot, and I applaud his recent gender reassignment. But when I use the female pronoun in this rant, it’s because I’m talking about the character of Juno, who was decidedly female. On to the fist-shaking…

If you haven’t seen it, or have forgotten it like I wish I did, Juno is a 16 year-old girl who is impregnated after one attempt at sex by her friend Bleeker, played Michael Cera, who isn’t really playing anyone at all other than Michael Cera. Juno decides, at the abortion clinic, to have the kid and give it to a couple looking to adopt. Despite the fact that she is described as being pretty intelligent, she finds a couple, Vanessa and Mark, in the back of a Penny Saver and meets them. They seem like a nice couple, played by Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman, and they try to navigate this whole process together. Yay?

Not so fast. As we get to know them, we find that there are some cracks in their marriage. Vanessa is a bit controlling and really into being a mother, while Mark is a little more “meh” on the subject. It’s not really even the kid that Mark isn’t into. It’s more that Vanessa is literally making him throw away or hide all of his stuff because of it. And it’s not like he was playing with G.I. Joes or anything (which also wouldn’t be that bad). He had a few guitars and had a thing for horror movies, which he shared with Juno. His job, by the way, was composing musical jingles, which isn’t exactly what most musicians set out to do at 16, but it’s probably a steady gig, so why Vanessa was so flustered about him having instruments around is beyond me. But hey, those are the characters as written, and you have to have conflict.

The movie takes a weird turn all of the sudden when, just before the baby is due, Mark tells Vanessa that he is leaving her to figure his life out. He says he doesn’t really want to be a father right now and has other stuff he wants to do first. Juno literally watches the marriage fall apart before her eyes, and that’s a real bummer for her, because she was holding them up as the standard for how marriage could be. Sorry kid.

This is where I feel the movie went downhill, and made me angry. Instead of portraying Mark as this poor guy in turmoil, who just doesn’t want to be with his controlling wife anymore, and decides he better end this now before the kid arrives and he’s trapped, and making him the hero of his own story, they decide to go the basic route and just paint him as a cowardly man-child who leaves his beautiful, hopeful wife right before all her dreams are coming true. And I’m not necessarily saying that he’s not a cowardly man-child. I’m just saying it’s not written well enough to show any other perspective. They clearly want you to think he’s a dick.

Lots of Gifs today

And before I get anyone else as angry as I am, Vanessa is pretty much a caricature, too. She is the sort of fun-killing fish-wife that permeated movies for decades before a few smart women came along and said, “Hey, we’re people, too! And we can be funny!” I know the movie is about Juno and her journey, but I also learned in Screenwriting 101 that there are no insignificant characters, but Mark and Vanessa are total affectations that you could have pulled out of any 80’s rom com.

But what really makes me mad? Juno won the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay that year. Looking at the other nominees, I don’t know who else I would have given it to, but just about anything would have been better than this. Did not one Vin Diesel action movie come out that year? The dialogue, especially the stuff given to Juno’s Dad, is that terrible, cutesy stuff that was kind of funny in the early 90’s when it was new and different, but died out when people realized that no one actually talks like that. And the plot? Teen pregnancy? Really? Best Original Screenplay? What’s original about this? It’s basically every Lifetime with better actors.

I better stop now before I go all George Costanza.

We’re in the home stretch, though, so come back tomorrow and check out the ol’ linktree for comics and T-shirts.   

This is definitely the home stretch.

I thought this was a funny prompt, because I think we have all fallen asleep watching a movie at one time or another, and it doesn’t necessarily say anything about the movie itself. It could mean you were just tired. I remember going to the movies the day after arriving in Los Angeles, thinking that it would be cool to see a movie in Hollywood, not realizing that jet lag hits you a day later. I bought a ticket for Wag the Dog, starring Dustin Hoffman and Bob DeNiro and written by David Mamet. I excitedly got my popcorn and sat in my seat and waited to see what it would be like to see a movie in the city where movies were made (There’s really not a huge difference.) The lights went down and I conked right out. I woke up for the closing credits, and have yet to ever watch a frame of that movie. And I love David Mamet, so it wasn’t a reflection on the movie. I was just pooped.

I’ve also definitely done that thing in a movie theater where you fall asleep for what seems like a couple minutes, and you wake up and the movie is in a completely different place and you don’t know if you fell asleep for half of it or the story just took a wild turn. It makes for an embarrassing post-movie conversation on the ride home, that’s for sure.

Most of the time, however, I don’t really remember the movies that I’ve fallen asleep in, because most of the time I fall asleep, then wake up, and go, “Well, I guess I needed some sleep.” No harm, no foul, really, unless your uncle was the director or something like that.

But I do remember specifically falling asleep in the theater at The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I remember a little of the beginning, and then the end. And this movie is about five thousand hours long, so that was no small nap.

The funny thing is, I have no real regrets about it, other than the money spent on a movie I didn’t see. I went to see the movie on a Friday night after a long week at work, but really because I like going to the movies and I thought I’d give it a chance. Spoiler warning, but I didn’t love the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They were fine, technical marvels, but I never read the books, so I have no attachment to the story, and don’t really love fantasy, so there you go. I also think they’re too God-or-whatever damn long!

Still I wanted to give The Hobbit a chance because, well, I guess because I’m nice like that? I actually do remember starting to drift off and not even fighting it, because I knew I had a couple hours to go and fighting sleep is always a losing battle anyway, and I wasn’t concerned with missing much. I’m pretty hazy on the whole plot but what I do remember is that they started walking at the beginning to get the ring. When I woke up near the end, they had reached a point where they could no longer walk because they had to reach some mountaintop that was really high and there was a canyon or something. So, Gandalf used his magic to summon some big birds to fly them to the top. Now, again, I’m fuzzy on the details, but from my perspective, if you can magically summon birds to fly you places, why walk all that way and waste everyone’s time? Why not just fly there in the first place? I’m sure there was some explanation in the movie about why they had to do that, so please explain it in the comments if you know it, but from what I saw, the whole journey could have been avoided. Maybe that’s why it was so unexpected, because they didn’t really have to do it.

Ok, are you ready for my Dad-Joker closer? Yes, I missed most of this movie, but I “didn’t lose any sleep over it.”

Eh? Eh? Come back tomorrow and head over to linktree for more Dursin.