Without Fear

Ryan K Lindsay – Writer

Month: January, 2013

Black Swan – A Study of Argento Duality

Black Swan is one of those films that just hollows you out and fills you with something else. I couldn’t tell you what that something is because I refuse to analyse it, and it’s probably different for each person. But to summate, the movie is sublime genius on display. It’s a drama, a psychological horror, an adaptation of ballet, and a movie that will leave you thinking for hours.

The basic tale is one of Nina, a ballet dancer coveting the lead role in Swan Lake. As she gets the role, her world begins to crumble. That’s about it. One aspect of this film I loved was that it isn’t mainly concerned with narrative, it’s about theme and structure. This is the type of movie tomes could be written about. I dig that. Especially because it has meaning and yet is still immensely watchable.

We come into the story almost blind with little back story to give what follows any context. This feels purposeful and gives the events, which become more and more disturbing, an ethereal quality. You never know if what you see is actually happening or not. This is the first case of duality seen on the screen, we have to discern what we feel is fact and what is fiction. Lies and the truth are not so easily navigated as you can’t trust their presentation. Nothing is what it seems so that gives everything the possibility to be exactly what it seems. You take away from each scene what you want to believe.

Darren Aronofsky clearly knows the works of Dario Argento because he channels them so well. Sexuality is just as horrifying and manipulative as horror. Scenes of seduction can be equally as harrowing as any scene of violent interaction. You might draw conclusions between lust, love, and hate in a triangle of human emotion. Natalie Portman’s character, Nina, simply does not know how to express herself in an intimate way. She is repressed and it may be because of her mother, played with stone cold emotion and face by Barbara Hershey, or it could be something else from her past, which we do not know about. We know Nina used to scratch herself but we do not know in what context or when or for how long. It is left open to interpretation. We know it must have been bad because her mother comments on it and inspects Nina’s back when she shows marks on her shoulder blade.

It is interesting to note that Nina’s father is neither seen nor mentioned. He is out of the picture and that leaves the home front with one crucial dual axis, mother and daughter. What was, what is, and what will invariably be. It’s a scary mirror of age and intent that shows each character for who they truly are. One wants to be the other but both end up really hating the other, and themselves.

The comparisons between the actual ballet, Swan Lake, and the narrative of this movie are well meted out. You can see this movie as possibly the greatest adaptation of a ballet story to the screen ever. This comparison is obvious but still something to completely marvel at. Aronofsky manages to relay the narrative of this play to the screen with a chilling surreality to the events. He also still films ballet dancers and makes it all mesmerising and riveting.

Nina is so clearly the white swan, pure and elegant, but unable to do the fun things black swans can. She is repressed, disconnected, hidden. And the interesting thing is that she cannot act like a black swan. She does not have that sort of action within her. There is no fooling as the black swan, yet they can easily act as white swans.

Lily is the black swan of the tale, and played with gleeful abandon and darker eyes by Mila Kunis. She can pretend as the white swan for others but her black swan ways show through. She lures Nina into temptation, drugs her drink, shows her another world and life. Something that clearly affects Nina as she then engages in a steamy late night hook up with Lily. Or at least thinks she does. It’s uncertain yet neither confirmed or dispelled completely. The act of sexuality, graphically shown, isn’t important so much as Nina’s lust for it is. She is being changed inside, she is becoming the black swan. There will be no more need to act the part if she is it.

Aronofsky makes many smart choices in this film and making so much seem real is one of them. His handheld camera makes for a film that feels intimate, so when Nina’s legs break into the angles and shapes of a swan’s it all feels too real. As her scratches open up for Cronenbergian infiltration, it’s all starkly shown on the screen. There isn’t any true horror in this flick (not by horror film standards) but make no mistake that this film is indeed horrifying. You need to let go and allow the film to grip you, own you, and do what it will in front of you. Do not look away.

The transition of Nina from simple and innocent to complicated and dense is shown literally and through metaphorical visuals. Which is which is a concept up for grabs. I like not really weighing myself down with what matters, or what might be ultimately important, but rather concentrating on what is just stunning to observe. Real or not, we know what it means and Aronofsky makes everything mean something.

For Nina to become successful in her portrayal she needs to commit. She cannot fake her way through so by showing her transformation as something literal, and visceral, you get the feeling there is commitment involved. Nina ends the movie as a completely different person from where she started. This becomes true of all great artistic pursuits, you must commit yourself entirely. It’s sad to watch Nina fight with herself but her dedication is the victor in the end. She will do whatever it takes.

The final lesson of the film is that the largest barrier for anybody in any pursuit they chase will invariably be themselves. Others may hinder or hurt but the final self-killing act can only come from within. It’s a smart concept and one that plays well to this tale. Nina constantly projects her fears and anxieties as others out to chop down her dreams but it is only ever herself acting as a deterrent. The more people you know, the more you know this rule to be universal. Everyone has moments where they hold themselves back. It so rarely occurs as lesbian trysts and gloriously glowing black swan feathers, but it is the reason why so many fail. They fail on the inside first. So, as the dual nature of life goes, people also first succeed on the inside.

As Nina becomes the black swan, the transformation kills the white swan. That’s generally the nature of their relationship, they rarely coexists and the black swan laughs as they murder. Though it’s not really murder, just forced suicide. White swans are undermined and confused and manipulated until they do the deed themselves. The end of this film shows that to be true, just as it is in the actual ballet performance.

In nearly every scene, there is a mirror present. Duality within the world can be seen, from many angles, and it can be present but not all will see it. The world constantly evolves to contain the dual sides of everything and it’s such a norm that no one questions it anymore. Out with the old, in with the new/the queen is dead so long live the queen. Adages old and true and taken for granted. One of the most intriguing dual roles in life is that of knowledge, inferred and implied. They so often do not align and yet can become so potent in their effects. Which brings another dual role, cause and effect.

Black swans can be smart to abuse implied knowledge in the eyes of the inferential white swans. They don’t actually commit the cause but they know the effect they want, via a sordid and twisted path. This can become even more confusing when the black and white swans reside within the one person. Can they coexist? Do people transform from one to the other or is it a matter of dabbling in the black ways that kills the white within us?

You can see duality in the screen when parts of this are confusing and uncomfortbale and through it all this might be one of the sexiest movies ever made. There’s true emotional gristle and lust on the screen and it’s not set through a Hollywood filter. This is pure, and so not what you expect, but it’s real.

Natalie Portman really is committed to this role. She doesn’t play this as a possibly sci-fi escapist role, no, this is a terrible story of a descent into oneself. A portrait of a mind determined to win when every fibre knows it will lose. Eventually. She is the perfect white swan and yet hides the black swan so secretly within her eyes and her motions. When the black swan does come out there is a considerable change in atmosphere and tone of her performance.

Mila Kunis plays the bystander, externalised black swan, to perfection. She looks just that bit sexier than Portman, acts just a touch more in tune with her own powers. As a duo, Portman and Kunis are completely in synch to show a duo out of synch.

This movie shows every frame as if it just came from deep frozen storage. There is little fan fare, even in the poetic ballet moments. This is simply presented, a pledge, and the turn happens as you go along but the prestige is all inside your own mind (to borrow from another, equally great, movie). Aronofsky makes this look like a forgotten Argento movie, a Polanski experiment, a video nasty before people knew they were making video nasties and played up to the role. Yet it doesn’t feel like homage at all, it feels like Aronofsky learnt from the best and then became the master.

To become great you must first kill your father, then your master, then your god. Aronofsky does this of all the psychological movie masters and rises triumphant in this story that transcends the screen and will play in your mind for a long time after the white light brings the credits. Portman’s Nina follows a very similar path to her success.

It is quite telling, though, that Nina might envision plenty of violence but the only person she truly hurts is herself. Though she does harm her mother, the only person who loves her. You can see that anyone’s self-destructive behaviour will only hurt themselves and the ones who love them, a sad but true fact.

The musical score accentuates every scene as it rips from Swan Lake, but plays certain tracks backwards or with distortion. This movie takes a classic and messes with it, in so many aspects, to make something greater than the source. It infuses this tale with more of a stark 70s vibe as if it were made for a handful of dollars in a drug fugue by a bunch of people determined not to work within the system.

Black Swan is a truly haunting adaptation. This is gripping cinema at its most stripped down. There aren’t massive action sequences or reams of expositional dialogue that are easy to follow. Instead, there is the tale and we who watch it. What happens between these two entities is kind of on us. And I like that, a smart movie should only aim for a smart audience. Easily one of the best, greatest, most ambitious, and purely brilliant films I have seen for a while. If you have not seen this movie then you don’t yet understand what cinema really can be.

SURVIVOR – at Challenger Comics

SURVIVOR is a six page comic short about fatherhood. It looks like a space tale, feels like one too, but it’s really just about fatherhood. And fear.

SURVIVOR – at Challenger Comics

awesome panel - survivor

click through to story

I was lucky enough to have Daniel J Logan illustrate this story and he took it to a whole new level. I loved his initial designs and the pages came out so damn fine. For all the design and world building on display, it’s actually the emotion that shows through and delivers the bomb on the final page.

I was lucky enough to get this short onto the slate over at Ryan Ferrier’s readchallenger.com publisher site. Ferrier’s a cool dude and I love the other amazing things on that site. A masterclass on all kinds of comics. Take a slow look around.

Go read Survivor, it’s completely free, and I hope you dig the end. Dig it like a hole.

The Ides of March – A Study In Back Stabbing

Goddamn, this movie is wickedly smart.

Clooney has put together an ode to the 70s political thriller. This flick is as sharp as the knives that stab backs every day. Especially in politics. As far as political thrillers go, this one is a grainy shot noir with far too much daylight and just the right amount of character actors.

We open on Clooney as Mike Morris on the run for the highest office in America. He’s got the sort of buzz we most recently saw with Barack Obama. He’s the next great hope of truth and change in a stagnant pool of lies and static policy. He’s everything we want him to be, which of course means he probably isn’t the product were being sold in record amounts. But that comes later. For the intro, we get plenty of ClooneyPolicy which is definitely enough to make you think, if not necessarily agree with every step of his plan. You could be forgiven for thinking this is Clooney’s audition for office. Though, to be honest, his policy will reach more people (and people of the future) through the cineplex than it would through actual politics. Bravo to Clooney for being so subversive in propagating his vision of the future.

Beneath Clooney is Ryan Gosling’s Stephen Meyers. The superstar campaigner who knows exactly what to do in every situation. The charisma of this role is effortlessly conveyed by Gosling (an actor I just can’t bring myself to call The Goose, though he certainly is golden). Gents, you will love Gosling in this role. You will also feel for him because the destructive narrative is mostly set into effect by two of his actions.

These two actions, basically Gosling meeting with two different people, kickstarts a series of perforated backs and devious machinations that you expect to be behind the scenes of every political campaign and love to find out about afterwards. Part of this is Gosling’s fault, some of it was just stupid chance and poor decision work.

Two small yet crucial roles are portrayed to seedy and worldweary perfection by Paul Giamatti and Phillip Seymour Hoffman. There is a reason these guys get the best character roles and headline the best indie flicks – they know their game and are so diversely and consistently reliable that you are almost guaranteed a slice of genius in your film. Both men are old school campaigners, guys who have seen it all, know all the tricks, and Gosling should have known to still pay his respects and play it clean. He’s good, one of the best, but that’s just of the new class. The old class, guys who graduated through soupy decades of politics, would always have ways of schooling the young pups who represent the downfall of the old guard.

Gosling becomes connected to a young campaign intern. That word alone, intern, holds so much negative political cache now, and this isn’t any different. The snappy banter of the politicos volleying back and forth gives way to the scenes Gosling and Evan Rachel Wood share. The pacing drops to an afternoon canter and the camera is suddenly close to let us know this is personal. We aren’t after sexuality here, or the romantic lure of flirtation. The scenes capturing this connection show you Gosling letting his guard down. This is his downfall, actually being human for a succession of moments.

The narrative drive of this flick is tight. It’s only 100 minutes and everything rockets by effectively because not a single scene is superfluous. The entire movie is a series of building blocks that entertain on their own but build to a cohesive whole. More stories should work this way. There isn’t a big action piece or a filibuster because the genre demands it. Every word is meant, needed, enjoyed. Characters are all introduced effortlessly, the complication is pretty easily dropped in, and the conclusion will provide a great discussion on the drive home.

For my money, I think the hint to knowing what Gosling does at the end is in his last words before going in front of the camera. He tells Ida, “You know you’re my best friend.” The press is his friend, and he’s about to make it work for him. What would come after those actions I don’t know, and I’d like to think the poster holds a strong clue toward that.

Aside from the slick narrative, the superb acting, and the delightful script, you will watch this movie again because it is so damn well made. The simple cinematography evokes the 70s in a way that replicates and doesn’t just homage. Clooney isn’t making a pastiche of cliches, he is crafting a masterpiece simply using techniques and skills from decades ago. This movie could have come from a Hollywood brat and yet none of them possess the skill to pull this off right now. They are in different stages of their careers while Clooney is still hungry for it.

Clooney might just be one of the most influential filmmakers right now, while never really influencing the box office or public trends at all. No one is going to write about Michael Bay; I’d gladly read all about how Clooney puts these gems together.

There really isn’t anying wrong with this movie. You could pick a few slight holes but you’d mostly just be an ass for trying. Some of the progressions in the plot of Wood are a little quickly pushed but I’d prefer that brevity which then correlates to speed of the main plot. Watching Gosling crest the wave and then get dumped only to have his infected corpse poison the town’s water supply is the sort of hour and a half I can always find time for.

The Ides of March is an absolute must see. It’s a smart flick that wants you to think about what’s going on as well as apply it to your actual world. This might be fiction but the meaning of it is all too real. Watch this flick, be entertained, and learn about the world. There is no greater cinematic treat to enjoy.

Buy a ticket, sit down in the cinema, and feel like you just went back to the paranoid 70s where flicks showed the worst in the world and inspired you to do your best.

The Martin Scorsese Movie List

Alright, here’s a long one. Scorsese is a king of cinema, probably my favourite of the movie brats, and he’s been chugging along for a while now. As always, the list is mine, and probably only mine, feel free to tell me yours with comments or links.

1. Taxi Driver

2, Raging Bull

3. Goodfellas

4. Mean Streets

5. The Departed

6. Shutter Island

7. The Last Temptation of Christ

8. After Hours

9. The Aviator

10. Gangs of New York

11. Casino

12. Cape Fear

13. The King of Comedy

14. New York, New York

15. Bringing In The Dead

16. Kundun

17. The Age of Innocence

NA. Boxcar Bertha

NA. Who’s That Knocking At My Door?

NA. Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore

NA – Hugo

Thoughts.

I’m shamed to have a few entries I have still to see. Getting my hands on copies of these has always proved problematic. Lame. Though, from all I know of them I don’t think any were going to nudge into the top ten anyway, so no worries.

Taxi Driver is one of those movies where it might not be Scorsese’s absolute best flick but it certainly resonates with me. What does it say about a teen when this flick really inspires him (to create, not to be the main character…)?

I have dropped Casino pretty far down purely because it’s Goodfellas Lite and shall be treated as such.

It’s strange putting all these flicks together like this, you realise Scorsese has plenty of good flicks but only  a small handful of great ones. I’d say six – which is actually probably more than so many other directors. Who wouldn’t kill to have six absolute classic movies out there forever with their name on them. I guess I’m just used to thinking of Scorsese as this visionary and it’s surprising to see so many films you like but don’t love.

I do think Scorsese would be one director who people will have plenty of variations to their own list, perhaps that’s his power.

Man, The Departed really is that good. I think it can stand up as a Scorsese classic. Go rewatch that flick and tell me it’s not satisfying and engrossing. Though it never felt to me like a ‘Scorsese’ flick – it doesn’t look or feel like him but the acting is superb.

Mean Streets is one I haven’t seen in ages. That movie is worth all the hype.

After Hours is one that’s good but it will never find its audience. You can love it for that reason, sure, but that doesn’t actually make it great.

Raging Bull might be the best flick on this list. It’s structurally superb.

The Big Shave doesn’t count for this list. But it’s awesome and you should see it.

The music flicks don’t count for this list. Deal with it.

Bringing In The Dead was one I was keen for back in the day but have no desire to revisit.

Gangs of New York feels like it should have been better but it just wasn’t. And Scorsese getting to collaborate with Daniel Day Lewis should have been a complete win.

Shutter Island will finally get what’s coming to it in a few years. Maybe by then people will actually understand the ending.

I liked The Aviator. It’s bold in a fair few ways.

I want to see Hugo. Eventually.

I want to see Boardwalk Empire even sooner.

This is my list, what’s yours?

The James Cameron Movie List

C’mon, I’m a kid of the 80s, of course I got this list in me. I don’t think Cameron is the greatest director in the world but there’s surely no doubting he’s one of the finest visionaries of the business. The man sees in leagues and astronomical units. His movies are complete spectacle and success, even if they lack heart most of the time. I’ve enjoyed enough of his flicks to want to put them in order so let’s make with the fun.

1. Aliens

2. The Terminator

3. True Lies

4. The Abyss

5. T2

6. Titanic

7. Avatar

8. Piranha 2: The Spawning

Thoughts.

Aliens is just about the greatest sci fi action flick ever made. There’s nothing but love for that movie right here because it manages to deliver a decent cast, and rounded characters, all while nailing some chilling and very cool fight scenes. This is the ultimate for what it is.

I would often flip flow between the Terminator flicks and in the end I have to cede that the first one is vastly superior. It’s actually a good flick, and the cast all sell the grittiness completely. It’s so good it actually made Arnie count on screen, something which hadn’t really happened before. And you know what, Arnie is great in this role. Make of that what you will.

Man, I love True Lies. There’s something about it that just speaks to me. I think it’s the fact Arnie, again, actually gives this role what for. Bill Paxton is superb in his little role. Tom Arnold is so great in this movie, it’s like he saved up all his tickets in life and spent them right here. Even Charlton Heston as the grizzled old Nick Fury is genius. Jamie Lee Curtis dancing certainly didn’t hurt it’s hopes with me. This movie is collectively so much better than people remember, or give it credit for. It might not be ‘better’ than some of the other stuff on the list but I certainly like it more.

The Abyss is one of those deceptive flicks that tends to be forgotten. Go back, take your time, and see how enjoyable it really is. Again, it’s the acting that sells it as Ed Harris finally comes into his strength on screen, and Michael Biehn is used in a completely different way. There plenty to love in this one, too.

T2 is a movie that has not aged well for me. The effects are good, and the bombastic nature is still as you remember it, but it’s not that great. It’s certainly not as good as the first one but it just feels so dated to me. The first one is kind of 80s/timeless whereas this one is a real 90s slice of life. I just don’t know how much I dig on that.

The bottom three are an eclectic bunch. Titanic is a good movie, I’ll give it that much. The pure majesty of what Cameron brought to the screen has to be respected but he also carved a damn fine love story into that sinking hull. It’s not to be underestimated.

Then there’s Avatar. Man, that’s just not a good flick. The script is pretty garbage (unobtanium, seriously?) and while it is put together quite well it’s not actually that good. How it made so much money is beyond me. I guess with the cost of 3D being so crazily expesnive it must have only had to sell half the amount of tickets to eclipse Titanic. The shame.

Then there’s Pirahna 2. I saw this one years ago, haven’t seen it since, and it wans’t good. It had the Jamaican guy fishing with dynamite, or was that one of the Jaws sequels? It’s so hard to tell your aquatic slasher flicks apart sometimes. All I know is this one isn’t as good as Joe Dante’s first outing.

I like that Cameron has his usual players in Biehn, Lance Henrickson, even Schwarzeneggar. Not to mention Wild Bill Paxton. Cameron works well with them and they deliver every time.

I do find it interesting that Cameron has only ever really peddled in sequels and remakes. The Abyss and Avatar are his only original ideas. One of them is cool, the other interesting but definitely not well written.

I still don’t understand how Avatar got all that Oscar attention. It’s not a good flick and yet I guess money can buy you love.

Say what you will about Cameron’s King of the World moment when he won the big Ocsar, at that moment he was right.

Cameron has definitely given cinema more than he’s taken so for all that I’m happy to have watched all his films. Though not perfect, they’ve certainly added high quality concepts, technology, and acting performances to the pantheon of the visual arts.

This is my list, what’s yours?

My Little Pony Micro-Series #2 – Rainbow Dash

In March of 2013, IDW are publishing a comic I wrote. I would love you to consider picking up a copy.

The My Little Pony Micro-Series #2 – Rainbow Dash one-shot is written by me, with art by Tony Fleecs, and edited by Bobby Curnow. There are three covers; one by Amy Mebberson which is a cool, almost chalky number, one by MLP Senior Storyboard artist Sabrina Alberghetti, and also one coming from Tony Fleecs which you will see soon but I have already seen and am deeply in love with. You will need this cover in your life.

You can see the ad for the book in Preview below, I took a snap at my LCS.

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The solicitation text reads:

The next in a series of spotlights focusing on everyone’s favorite Ponies! Rainbow Dash takes her job patrolling the skies very seriously, but she may have met her match when a group of mischievous cloud gremlins threaten to block out the sun! Rainbow Dash will have her hooves full when it comes to these pint-sized menaces!

My pitch for the issue was a cloud full of gremlins that feeds on negative energy. I then worked very hard to make a script that’s insane levels of fun, while also having a few serious and kind of scary moments, and also offering something for the parents reading it with their kids — or on their own 🙂

This book is an all ages affair, buuut, if you know your quotes then you’ll see some pretty cool nods to all sorts of subversive fare.

Mostly, this book is just fun. I had far too much fun writing it and I hope you all dig it.

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It would be golden if you would head into your Local Comic Shop and preorder a copy for March. As you know, publishers only print enough copies based on what’s ordered and their orders come from cmoic shops. If everyone waited until the Wednesday it dropped and hoped a copy would be there they would miss out because IDW wouldn’t know they needed to print that many. If you let your LCS know you want a copy, they pass that info on to IDW, and then plenty more get printed and you are ensured on.

Thanks for your time.

Enjoy.

The David Fincher Movie List

I don’t think many argue that Fincher is a modern master. He’s become a mainstay at the Oscars. It’s strange that he’s been working the game for around 20 years now. Wow, time flies. As always, the list is mine, and probably only mine, feel free to tell me yours with comments or links.

1. Fight Club

2. Se7en

3. Zodiac

4. The Social Network

5. Panic Room

6. The Game

7. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

8. Alien3

NA – The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Thoughts.

It says something that he doesn’t churn out the movies so quickly. The man has a finger in every pie when he puts something up on the screen. I like that.

I’d say Fincher has 3 classic movies. No more, no less.

Fight Club AND Se7en are both perfect movies. I just prefer Fight Club slightly more though I’ll admit Se7en is just that step better in almost every single way.

Fight Club is one of very few movies that is so clearly better than the book.

Se7en is just one reason why Andrew Kevin Walker needs to write more movies. I wonder what he’s done lately…

Panic Room came with such hype on the script, it sold for so much and got fast tracked, but it really is more of an elevator pitch than a full script. Such a shame because I love Koepp. Love him.

The Game is a solid and good movie. No more, no less.

Look over many of Fincher’s movies, he nearly always has a big sacrifice at the end. I even worked, ages ago, on an essay about Fincher and the Art of the Sacrifice. I never finished it, and probably won’t.

There are some absolutely cracking scenes of acting in The Social Network. Strangely, I’ll think of that movie for its acting and script but not really its direction. It felt like Fincher just got out of the way, really.

It would be interesting to list the best acting performances under Fincher, there’d be plenty of people crowding for the top three spots.

Alien3 might have been a good movie but it just isn’t. Deal with it. You can’t rag on a flick and then when the director blows up as one of your favourites retroactively change your mind because you want to like his ‘old stuff’. Alien3 just doesn’t work, or maybe it’s just so far deep in the shadow of the first two that it’s barely visible. It’s a shame Alien couldn’t put together another classic sequel. Though how many flicks get one great sequel, it should count itself lucky and not push its luck.

Benjamin Button just didn’t grab me. It’s technically sound and Pitt really is good in it but it rang hollow for me. It is what it is and I accept it.

I would pay to see Fight Club remade exactly, with the same crew and script, but with Pitt and Norton swapping roles. That would be glorious.

Zodiac is the JFK of serial killer movies. It’s glorious, rewatchable, and downright brilliant. It’s like the sleeper hit of Fincher’s career because it seems so many ignore it.

I couldn’t get through the book of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Not sure that makes me want to catch the flick at all.

This is my list, what’s yours?

The Kevin Smith Movie List

Not the greatest director but a guy close to my adolescent heart.

1. Chasing Amy

2. Clerks

3. Dogma

4. Mallrats

5. Zack and Miri Make A Porno

6. Jersey Girl

7. Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

8. Clerks 2

9. Cop Out

NA – Red State

Thoughts.

Man, you list all his flicks like that and it’s suddenly not so impressive. There’s only one classic movie on that list and it sits at the top. Clerks is close, maybe even there, but it doesn’t quite feel as definitive.

But the rest of the list isn’t bad, it’s just not cinema defining. There’s a lot of good flicks there, and a lot of laughs. But it’s a simple list. I mean no disrespect saying that.

Dogma could have been such a dominant flick, and if a smarter and more mature director had handled it I believe it surely would have been. There’s some rock solid gold in there and then there’s Silent Bob and a shit monster and a lot or purile stuff that just drags it down. Especially the more it ages. I like this movie, a lot, but it could have been masterful.

Mallrats is one of those flicks I watched on loop as a teen. It was just like candy, so easy to take in. There are plenty of faults but who cares when you have Jason Lee doing what he does there? Spout all the theory you like at it, Lee nails that flick.

I really wanted Zack and Miri Make A Porno to be on the same level of Chasing Amy and you can see it wants the same thing. It just doesn’t quite get there. Heartbreaking, really. Again, the immaturity drags it down. That whole taint intro just lost me.

I’m honestly torn with Clerks 2, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, and Jersey Girl. Those films all just about tie because any given day I could rotate their order. They wouldn’t climb any further on the list, and certainly wouldn’t sink any lower, but they have the ability to shuffle.

Clerks 2 made me laugh. It’s nothing special but it does what it sets out to do, it makes me laugh. I also like the heart at the end of it. Donkey scene is another in a long string of examples where Smith just couldn’t help himself. Shame.

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back was the Mallrats for my uni days. Perfect hangover fare. It’s got plenty of insider laughs, and the Good Will Hunting sequel will always make me laugh, but otherwise it’s thin.

I don’t hate Jersey Girl. I kind of like it. There’s some very quality real moments in there and Affleck can act, dammit.

Cop Out was simply dire. The script was just so bad and cliche and terrible and superfluous. A movie I will most likely never watch again. If I’m lucky.

The sequence in Zack and Miri where Rogen gets dragged out of the room by the porn star to The Pixies’ ‘Hey’ is probably Smith’s greatest cinematic moment. It’s a Scorsese moment, man. It shows me what Smith really could do and be and then it breaks my heart because he never really gets there anywhere else. Chasing Amy excluded, obviously, because that is the greatest movie ever made.

I’m not being sarcastic, Chasing Amy is a phenomenal. That flick has unbelievable heart and just nails every scene. Pound for pound one of the best scripts of all time.

I haven’t seen Red State yet but I listened to all the film school podcasts about it and I’m pretty pumped for it. Could be very cool.

That’s my list, I’m really interested to see if you even have one for Smith. Let me have it if you’ve got it.

The John Carpenter Movie List

You might not think he’s a master but he is. The man has done more than you can imagine and now we’re all going to pay him some respect. This list goes out to Fangoria, without whom I would not have known nearly enough.

1. The Thing

2. Escape From New York

3. Halloween

4. They Live

5. Big Trouble In Little China

6. Christine

7. In The Mouth Of Madness

8. Dark Star

9. Body Bags’

10. Starman

11. Assault On Precinct 13

12. The Fog

13. Elvis

14. Escape From L.A.

15. Village Of The Damned

16. Someone’s Watching Me

17. Prince Of Darkness

18. Vampires

19. Memoir Of An Invisible Man

20. The Ward

21. Ghosts of Mars

Thoughts.

You know what’s awesome? I haven’t actually seen The Ward but I put it in the list because I have seen Ghosts of Mars and it only stands to logical reason that The Ward is better than that steaming, fly-swarmed pile.

The Thing is both the technical best and my favourite. It’s pretty much perfection.

Why is Escape From L.A. with the letters for the location? It wasn’t Escape From N.Y.

I’d Say Carpenter has five absolute classic movies, if not actually perfect ones.

Well, maybe four; I just love They Live so much. It’s the one movie I want to remake because it could work so well. And I’d keep Rowdy Roddy Piper on in some regard. And I’d make him fist fight, for reals, for at least 12 minutes in front of the camera.

Don’t even ask me why Body Bags is so high. Seriously.

I’m sure I remember reading somewhere that someone thought James Woods might even get an Oscar nod for his turn in Vampires. Ha. HA.

Carpenter is one of those few director’s who got his name into the title. How the hell did he manage that?

Carpenter should only be working with Kurt Russell – the stats don’t lie.

No, his Masters of Horrors episodes don’t count, they’re episodes.

But, for the record, I liked Cigarette Burns and thought Pro-Life was garbage.

Dark Star certainly has something about it, you gotta admit that.

Christine is surprisingly effective at capturing the tone of the book. People rag on it but more because it’s about a devil car. That’s not Carpenter, that was right there in the source material.

Halloween is the business. And it stands up.

In The Mouth Of Madness is so close to being great. So close, yet not.

If you don’t enjoy Big Trouble In Little China then I just don’t know what to do with you. Jack Burton is one of those icons who has become his own trope.

Snake Plissken must be in my top ten favourite movie characters. It’s like Kurt Russell playing Nick Fury, as written by Warren Ellis.

It’s interesting that the top flicks of this list are all so different, we have; sci fi/horror, action/sci fi, horror, sci fi/parody, and action/parody. That’s some wide net Carpenter is casting.

If there was a Music of John Carpenter Movies laser show I’d be there every week.

Dark Star really is incredibly inventive. Watching it always make me want to go out and shoot a flick.

Even as a teen, I was interested to see Escape From L.A. had the same script structure as Escape From New York. Seriously, watch one after the other, they follow the same structure completely but with new charcaters and action set pieces slotted in. Not that I’m complaining.

I always wonder if they’ll get back to the next Escape movie with Escape From Earth. I could be down for that, Russell going Eastwood style.

Man, if you’d told 80s Fangoria that Carpenter was eventually going to remake Village of the Damned they would have been so psyched. So sad, then, that it just wasn’t what we all wanted it to be.

For a master, Carpenter has a lot of dreck in this list. That’s such a shame.

And for those who haven’t seen it, Ghosts of Mars is really bad. Terribly bad. Possibly Bottom Five worthy bad. Yugh.

But I should end with a good note so I’ll mention those top five again. That’s an awesome top five to have and I hope Carpenter is a very rich and happy man right now.

This is my list, what’s yours?

The Christopher Nolan Movie List

Everyone loves Christopher Nolan. I rarely hear anything bad about him and it’s with good reason. The man is a freaking genius. And that’s not hyperbole. He is wicked smart and his movies always reflect this. It’s nice to look through a director’s movies and really have enjoyed all of them and had so many conversations about them.

1. Memento

2. The Prestige

3. The Dark Knight

4. Inception

5. Batman Begins

6. The Dark Knight Rises

7. Insomnia

Thoughts.

I watched Memento at uni with a bunch of mates. As soon as it ended we spent hours talking about it. That alone is why it’s a brilliant movie but when you seriously deconstruct the tale it’s great.

I’ve heard some people say Memento isn’t a good tale it’s just nifty because of how it’s told. To them I say, yeah, but it is made so though genius use of the form through which it is played out. It’s like good writers being able to command a comic page and do something new with it, Nolan does that but with film. It’s to be respected. It’s like Pulp Fiction. Those stories aren’t amazing to perfection, but the way they are woven creates a tapestry you just gotta love.

Oh, imagine Christopher Nolan and Brian K Vaughan collaborating. On anything. I’m going to be sad all night now thinking about this.

I’m sure I might cop some flack for The Prestige rating higher than TDK but, seriously, The Prestige rocks hard. That movie is very rewatchable and that says a lot because this flick really punches best on its first viewing. I got on a kick with this flick over summer and watched it like 2-3 times while doing stuff. It just hits home with me.

Insomnia just sticks out on this list like a sore thumb. It’s not bad, far from it, but it’s just not on the same level at all. It’s like Nolan had to do something for the studio, he did it, now they leave him alone. If only it was always that easy.

The Batman movies feel like films. Burton brought the caped crusader onto the big screen but Nolan made films about him. Those films aren’t perfect but they get judged as so because they’re the closest superhero flicks to get there but nonetheless without all the reverse hype that sees it fashionable to bash these flick now I still got a lot of respect for them and love them a lot.

The Dark Knight is a great flick and I’d wager about 80% of that is truly due to Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker. But Nolan still brought so much game to that flick, his action is gritty and real, and his sense of world fits perfectly.

Inception is an awesome movie. I’ll state that upright. It’s tight and smart and dense but most of all I think it succeeds because through it all it is fun. It’s a cerebral Bond movie for a generation that wants to tune out but can’t because this movie changes it up every fifteen minutes.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is a great actor. That is all.

I’d pay good money to see Nolan make a Parker movie with Gordon-Levitt. You know you’d fund me paying it on Kickstarter, as well.

While everyone was fawning over David Fincher and drowning him in their forced expectations, Christopher Nolan slipped out there and became the best creator of his generation.

I’m also waiting for Nolan and Guy Pearce to work together again. Damn, movies like Memento do not come around often enough.

The Dark Knight Rises was exceptionally enjoyable. It had some major issues but I can shove those aside because I’m digging on enough of the other stuff. Interesting that Nolan managed to get Tom Hardy’s Bane to follow up Ledger’s Joker. That’s impressive.

Nolan is one of those directors where just talking about his movies makes me want to rewatch them. All of them. The guy makes movies that are smart yet constantly rewatchable.

This is my list, what’s yours?

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