Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Movie Challenge Game, 10 years later

Around 2003, I played a little game with my brother, Adam; Allen, my boyfriend at the time; and our friend and fellow Rice alum Shreyas. Basically we each had to pick a movie that we thought the others would not necessarily watch on their own, but would enjoy. It was an "expand your horizons" challenge. Everyone had to watch all the movies by a certain deadline and report back with thoughts. Whoever picked the movie that everyone agreed was the best would "win" the challenge.

For some reason I thought about the movie challenge yesterday. 10 years later, this is how I would rank the movies we watched:


Best: Donnie Darko (Shrey's pick)

I have the sense that Shreyas assigned this movie while it was still a bit underground, an underrated sleeper and not yet a cult classic. But maybe not, maybe he was just hipper than us back then, living in SF, spinning tracks and whatnot. I loved it at the time and still think it's great -- I rewatched it within the past six months. I love this kind of creepy, soft sci-fi, philosophy-of-mind movie, and it's rare to find one that's not too bro'ed out, you know? I love the female characters in this movie (Jena Malone as the girlfriend, Drew Barrymore as the teacher, Maggie Gyllenhall as the cool sister, Mary McDonnell as the intense, unflappable mom, "Roberta Sparrow"...)

Tie for Medium: Grave of the Fireflies (Adam's pick) and The Company (mine)

Grave of the Fireflies is an anime movie about the atomic bombings in Japan. It's horrifically sad (especially so because it's about children, a brother taking care of his little sister, a setup that gets me every time) and I would never want to see it again. One or two particular sequences have haunted me for years. I wish there were more war movies that focus on civilians, families, wives (not just soldiers, generals, men!).

The Company is a Robert Altman movie about a ballet company. It's fictional but done in a documentary style, sort of inconsequential but lovely to watch. I haven't watched it again since the challenge, but I would like to. There is one particularly amazing scene, a duet between Neve Campbell (who is professionally trained as a dancer) and another guy (is a dance for two called a duet?) on an outdoor stage, and a storm blows in as it's happening, so there's this tension where you think someone's going to fall as the leaves blow up and the stage gets wet, and in the audience all these people are popping umbrellas open, holding their breath(s). Come to think of it, I'm pretty sure James Franco plays Neve's boyfriend, a chef.

Worst: The Limey (Allen's pick)

It was a struggle to even remember the name of this movie. I don't remember anything else about it, except a male lead with an accent. Maybe it's good and I just wasn't paying attention. If so I failed to live up to my part of the game. Sorry, guys.

15 comments:

  1. Grave of the Fireflies is not about the atomic bombings in Japan, but about the firebombing of Kobe. For an anime story about a child surviving the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, you may want to check 裸足のゲン (Hadashi no Gen).

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    1. Gah, sorry! Clearly my memory detail erodes after 10 years. Still, horrific/harrowing. Is Hadashi no Gen good?

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    2. I last saw it 17 years ago and it was already old at the time. But yes, it was very good. And just as harrowing as Hotaru no Haka.

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  2. I love The Company, and yes, especially the scene with the duet on the outdoor stage in the wind and rain. (I remember they danced to a solo cello playing the song "My Funny Valentine.") And yes, James Franco is in the movie. Malcolm McDowell plays the director of the balley company.

    I've never seen Donnie Darko, but your comments about it here have got me intrigued now.

    I'm pretty sure I've seen The Limey, though I also don't have a strong recollection of it. The lead actor was Terence Stamp. First thing I saw him in (many years ago) was Billy Budd, an early 1960's film of the Herman Melville story. He was also in Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, which I've seen a little of. The other movie I remember him from specifically is Wall Street -- he plays the British investor who's in competition with Gordon Gekko to buy some company. I've liked him in the movies I've seen him in, though The Limey was a kind of forgettable movie.

    If I were going to pick a movie for a game like this, the first one that comes to mind is Bagdad Cafe.

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  3. I want to defend The Limey, which I consider Soderbergh's best film and one of Hollywood's best of the past 20 years - your ex was right. The first time I saw it I snuck in during the middle after another film and reading a tepid review and didn't make much of it. On video I watched it perhaps 30 times or more. It's probably a guy film, but it features the early exuberance of Sarah Flack's editing straight out of the Brown Semiotics dept, who'd go on to do Lost in Translation and Marie Antoinette, with lots of montages incorporating Terrence Stamp, his memory, his fixation finding out the truth about his loss of his daughter while in jail. Soderbergh had cut sex lies, Kafka, and King of the Hill himself, for Out of Sight (also very good) and Erin Brockovich he got the legend Anne Coates (Lawrence of Arabia) who improved things especially with Out of Sight, with Flack's over the top debut The Limey in the middle. Peter Fonda, the villain, is a Hollywood mogul who'd marketed the sixties, romanticizing the age in his mansion while turning to money laundering. It is a vehicle for Fonda, Stamp, and Leslie Ann Warren, who plays Stamp's daughter's drama teacher, who along with Luis Guzman heps Stamp satiate his curiosity. It doesn't look like much at first but it grows on you.

    You know there's a Brazilian woman Suzana Amaral who went to NYU Film in her mid forties when she had eight kids - in Jarmusch's class in the late 70s - graduated, went back to a TV job in Brazil, saved up the money to buy the rights to Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star, and released it in 1986. I saw it and it's good (my challenge pick).

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    1. Oh, is it a Soderbergh movie? I'm not a big fan. Something about his style rarely resonates with me.

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  4. If you want something less harrowing, try Studio Ghibli's other movie from the same period, My Neighbor Totoro. It's set in postwar Japan about two young sisters who have a mysterious encounter while their mother is recovering from tuberculosis in the hospital. (Miyazaki's mother had spinal tuberculosis when he was a child, and I think his father was a less genial version of the absent-minded father in this movie.) My very favorite Miyazaki movie, also from around the same time, is Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind, about a teenage girl who communicates with animals, deals with a very nasty female general, avenges a murdered princess...and saves the world.
    Oh, and on a perfume note: Any thoughts on the Atelier Cologne Absolute line? I'm dying to try them, but they're not available in any stores around here (Tried Vanilla Tobacco from Tom Ford, and it's dry down smelled like a big sack of wet cedar chips...not good.)

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    1. The Atelier line is pretty nice! They are carrying them online at Sephora now. Orange Sanguine is a nice bright blood orange scent, and the newish Rose Anonyme is good, though it doesn't last very long on me. I also like Trefle Pure, which is very green. I haven't tried all of them though.

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  5. Weirdly this just showed up in my feed. In any case, The Limey is terrible.

    You might enjoy playing Parental Film Fest, in which you and (a significant other/good friend/whomever) ask your parents their favorite film, and then you watch them all, and that's how you find out which parents are better than the others. Except it didn't work, my mom is cooler than my dad but her favorite movie is this realllly slow biopic about Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings so there's no way she could've won.

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    1. Ha! Finally someone who appreciates Soderbergh as little as I do.

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  6. Not liking Soderbergh is like not liking mexican food: impossible, and absurd.

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    1. Took you six months to come up with that one?!

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    2. Braw some of us got stuff to do besides read this blog yo.

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