Let’s take a little break from the horror that is American politics, in favor of another type of horror. It’s Halloween, and I’m here to help you find the perfect movie for your next graveyard smash. From John Carpenter’s 1982 THE THING (my all-time favorite) to more recent classics like IT FOLLOWS and THE BABADOOK, here are a few of my favorite horror movies of all time.
If you’re like me, you have zero intention of seeing 13 Hours, Michael Bay’s new right-wing fantasy porn flick. Maybe, like me, you’ve sat through four incomprehensible Transformers movies (owing to a borderline masochistic need to stay up on pop culture) and thought, “The only thing that could possibly make these worse is if they carried a more overt and deceptive endorsement of Republican conspiracy theory.”
However, like me you might have concerns about the effect it might have on our upcoming election. So I give you a handy guide to the coded messaging of 13 Hours, from Matt Gertz at Media Matters, the hero who watched this thing so we won’t have to. Continue Reading
Time again to look back at another year and the entertainment media it produced. Rather than do a bunch of entries with different top things, I thought I’d cover it all in one post–and I’m not even going to explain why I like all the things I do, I’m just giving you the list and you can draw your own conclusions. Continue Reading
Rolling Stone has published their list of the “50 Best Sci-Fi Movies of the 1970’s,” and it’s an enjoyable read, even if (as a friend, novelist Gene Pozniak observed) their top five does seem intentionally obtuse. Outraged debate generates more clicks than consensus does, I suppose.
Personally, I can’t argue too much with Alien taking the top spot. The collaboration between Dan O’Bannon’s expert storytelling, H.R. Geiger’s super-disturbing visual design, and a pre-masturbatory Ridley Scott* is about as close to perfect as special effects in the 1970’s would allow. It spawned a formula that would be followed by almost every rubber monster movie for the next two decades. Okay, maybe Jaws did that–but Alien was nearly as influential.
No, my complaint with Rolling Stone’s list is how many movies aren’t even science fiction–including the movie most people are infuriated to see in the #5 spot, Star Wars (A New Hope, to the true geeks among us). Continue Reading
There’s been a lot of controversy about American Sniper, and I think rightly so. What’s being sold to Americans as the real-life story of a great war hero is largely fictionalized and distorted, a movie that elects to glamorize war when war was what destroyed its hero*. The thing is, a lot of the controversy has taken the form of character assassination against Chris Kyle, and I think that’s wrong. Whether he lied about events in his life, whether he was less than honest about his book proceeds, Chris Kyle is not what’s wrong with American Sniper.
Kyle was human, he had good and bad to him, and did good and bad things, the way any real-life human does. Where people should take issue is with the movie, largely because of what it’s doing with Kyle.
* An aside here: What’s most disappointing to me is that Unforgiven, Eastwood’s best movie, is perhaps the most brilliant film ever made about the way violence and killing destroy a man’s soul. One has to wonder whether William Munny would think Chris Kyle was a hero. I’m pretty confident I know his answer. Continue Reading
Over at the Atlantic, Christopher Orr has been celebrating 30 years of Coen Brothers movies by revisiting one Coen film per day. I don’t have much to add here, I just want to recommend that you go read it, because it’s great. And thorough.
As big a Coen fan as I am, I realize I’ve only seen about half of their movies. I may be having a little Coen film fest of my own in the near future. This will not stand.Photo from Flickr user Tom Francis, used under Creative Commons license
*Oh my God… It’s full of spoilers.*
From the moment I heard that Ridley Scott was returning to the Alien universe, I was excited. With each news item I read – it’s a prequel! It disregards every sequel! It won’t show a single face-hugger, xenomorph, or queen! – I grew more encouraged. Going in, I wanted very badly to love Prometheus. In the end, I will say that it looked fantastic, it was entertaining, but overall I was disappointed.
Alien is one of my very favorite movies, a masterpiece of claustrophobic atmosphere and artistic design that takes a simple concept and executes it well. Alien, however, benefits at least as much from the storytelling skill of Dan O’Bannon as it does from Ridley Scott’s directing. Prometheus may have Scott, but in place of O’Bannon it has Damon Lindelof, who is a master of making the vapid seem complex. Good science-fiction, even if it’s mostly meant to horrify or thrill, is meant to make you think. Bad science-fiction asks you not to think, because thinking will make it fall apart at the seams.
The 21st Century has brought us a generation of writers who have mastered “counterfeit depth.” They’ve studied works with complex backstories and world-building, learned what those look like, and plant clues and red herrings throughout their work that make it appear mysterious. Continue Reading
Went and saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe last night with my friend Alex. Not bad; very faithful to the original book, with a few cheesy chase scenes and things thrown in to add excitement. I read the book recently (for the third time–I have a terrible memory for all but summary and major details in literature) and it was pretty interesting to see the whole thing played out on the big screen.
I read recently where C. S. Lewis was strongly opposed to having his books adapted to film. His greatest objection was that talking animals never looked right in the movies. Mind you, Lewis died before CGI special effects, so his reference for talking animals was from “Mr. Ed” and “Lancelot Link, Secret Chimp.” Nowadays it seems like they can make almost anything talk, emote, and look convincing–and in this movie, they do. Beavers, a fox, wolves, a horse, a gryphon–even floating leaves talk. All in all, it looked pretty good. I would say ‘cheesiness’ was among the least of the film’s problems.