Saturday, July 26, 2008

Down to the Nitty Gritty

We've only got a few genres left for the best/worst movies list, so let's make them count!

Oh, and I forgot to include 'First Blood' in the list of action movies that almost won. It's the first Rambo movie, and it's fantastic, mostly because it really isn't a Rambo movie. It's about post-Vietnam America, and its hostility towards the veterans after they came home. How that transformed into a series that inspired that scene in UHF, I'm not sure.

I also forgot to include 'Pirates of Penzance' in the list of comedies that almost won. If 'musicals' had their own genre in this list (I didn't include it because it crosses too many different types of movies) this would have won.


Horror is a weird genre. It can mean many things to different people. Hell, horror is close to 'suspense' in many ways, except instead of a tense courtroom scene, Jason breaks a teenager in half.

Okay, it's not exactly subtle, but it's a genre that's always been with us and always will be with us, as long as the censors allow it. Of course, it isn't so much because they're great movies, but because they're cheap to make, and always draw crowds. Here's the best of them.

Honorable Mention: Evil Dead 2

Evil Dead 2 can really be seen as the 'upgraded' version of Evil Dead 1, and in either case, they were moldbreaking movies. They combined horror and comedy, along with exciting cinematography and special effects. Of course, the real reason the movie is so great is because it's almost a superhero movie as well. Instead of following a villain, the movie follows a larger than life hero, Ash. Of course, this hero is far from invincible, but he never backs down from the forces of evil, and you sympathize and cheer him on during every step of the adventure.

Yes, Army of Darkness was also really good in exactly the same way, but Evil Dead 2 seems to do more with less, and unlike Army of Darkness, never really betrays its genre by falling into ridiculous madcap comedy. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but Evil Dead 2 is a better horror movie, in the pure sense. If you can really consider a horror movie 'pure'.

Best Horror Movie: The Birds

Better than Psycho and Vertigo combined, 'The Birds' is one of the most unique horror movies ever made. On paper, it sounds ridiculous, worthy of only a midnight silly movie marathon, but Hitchcock pulls it off with style. It's beautiful, suspenseful, and despite all logic, successfully makes birds seem scary.

It's admittedly a little slow at the beginning, but all Hitchcock movies are. It's his way of building suspense, until it escalates into a horrifyingly violent and gruesome finish.

Of course, what really makes 'The Birds' work so well isn't just that it makes birds scary, but that it exposes our own vulnerability. We think we're perfectly safe, living our peaceful lives in the middle of suburbia, but all it would take was a single attack, even by something as seemingly innocent as birds, and we'd be torn to pieces.

We've grown soft. Not only as a race, but as a culture, and Hitchcock exposes this vulnerability in masterful fashion.

Almost Made the List:

Darkman (an underrated horror/thriller with a hero that rivals Ash, merely out of pure rage. I'd still like to know how he pronounces words so well without lips though. Look for Bruce Campbell's cameo at the end.)

Deathrace 2000 (Roger Corman's best, which is kind of like saying 'Newark's best tourist attraction', but he does a really good job here, mostly in thanks to David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone. You know what you are? A BAKED POTATO!)

Army of Darkness (a gloriously immature film, with all the action and comedy you could ever want, with a completely believable and sympathetic hero that embodies the perfect 'macho guy' persona. There's a completely unnecessary rape scene though, which really spoils the zany, fun atmosphere. I'm not sure what that was about.)

The Shining (the closest of all the 'almost won' movies to winning, in any category. It fell short simply because it's more 'visually stunning' and 'brilliantly performed' than actually horrifying or scary. At most, it's just startling and confusing. It's still a fantastic movie though, and no matter what anyone says, it's better than the book.)

Child's Play (before Chucky was driving Britney Spears off cliffs, he actually starred in a wonderful movie. A good deal of the suspense is lost now that everyone knows 'Chucky' is alive. In the first movie, it seems at first that the kid who owns him is killing everyone...until the brilliantly startling scene where Chucky comes alive.)

Wicker Man (almost a suspense movie, but it manages to cross over into horror. Ignore the Nicholas Cage remake, we're talking about the original here, starring Christopher Lee. It's the only good horror movie I know that's about human sacrifice, and not fantasy sacrifice either, but the way it actually used to be.)

Halloween 1 & 2 (1 is better than 2, but the movies work great as a double feature. It's far more realistic and subtle than the other 'unkillable' maniac movies, which is why I really like them. The musical score is legendary, and the opening scene is thoroughly disturbing in every possible way.)

Freddy Versus Jason (It's better than any other Freddy or Jason movie, although it's more 'silly' than 'scary'. Freddy steals the show, but Jason works well as his foil.)


Dishonorable Mention: Q

It'd be the worst if it weren't so laughably horrible. David Carradine acts as if he's performing at gunpoint, ready to run out the door at any moment, in a desperate move to remove himself from the movie.

Okay, the movie is about a 2 bit hood who is easily the least likeable character in all movie history (although for some reason I get the feeling he was supposed to be a 'funny' character) who finds the nest of a giant killer bird, that a killer cult is sacrificing people to. That's about it really. There really isn't much else to say. The special effects are hilariously bad, with stop motion special a 1982 movie. If it were only a little funnier, it'd be a parody. As it stands, it's merely an incredibly feeble attept at a horror movie.

Worst Horror Movie: Anything with Psychopathic Snobs

My least favorite genre of all time, which includes Natural Born Killers, the Devil's Rejects, The Doom Generation, and virtually anything by Rob Zombie.

The Psychopathic Snob genre is built on the idea that serial killers are really neat people that we should all emulate. The movies don't stop at glorifying violence, but portray the serial killers as renegade folk heroes, who can hardly be blamed for the occassional moral lapse, such as beheading a hooker.

How could they possibly justify this opinion? The core of the Psychopathic snob genre is built around this idea: "It's alright for me to murder people, because 'blank'."

Blank could be a disfunctional youth (which ignores all the people with childhood problems who didn't grow up to be cannibals), but that's not nearly as disturbing as the almost common excuse that it's okay to be a psychopathic killer, because other people are worse.

The 'worse' people are guilty of crimes including, but not limited to: being rude, demanding payment for goods and services rendered, being poor, having sex out of wedlock, taking drugs, having innapropriate relationships with farm animals, taking bribes, being mean, and having different political opinions than the director.

The essence of the psychopathic snob genre is the same as a superhero movie. The director sees people he doesn't like and thrashes out at them with pitiless murderous thugs, represented as nothing less than princes among men, which only goes to show how warped and disturbed the minds of the creators really are. It humanizes the maniacs by dragging everyone else down to their level, until good and evil are meaningless, and all that matters is who looks the coolest while disembowling innocent civilians.

If you think any past or childhood trauma can justify mass murder, you should not be allowed to make movies. Yes, that includes you, Oliver Stone. I'm telling your mother.

Best Samurai/Western Movie

It's really the same genre. Cowboy movies are an essential piece of American cinema, but the style and stories were lifted directly from the older black and white Samurai movies of Japan. Dark, mysterious heroes, troubled by haunted pasts and besieged by wicked men.

I prefer Samurai movies, overall, mostly because Cowboy movies often seem just a tiny bit cowardly. The heroes are nothing short of pillars of moral and physcial perfection, and the bad guys are so ridiculously bad, that the audience isn't allowed to even consider sympathizing with them. It wouldn't be any worse than action movies if they didn't dwell on it, but Cowboy movies are willing to spend half the movie showing how 'bad' the bad guy is. That's drifting a little too close to the 'psychopathic snob' genre for my taste. Tell a story, show me why the hero is good. Merely killing 'bad guys' is not enough to enoble them.

Anyway, here's the best of both sides of the world:

Honorable Mention: Yojimbo

Very very close to being the best of the genre, but the competition is pretty tough. Yojimbo started the 'wandering' hero movie genre, and has been remade more times than I can even count (although I didn't care for Fist Full of Dollars). Our hero isn't clearly a hero at first, but it unfolds slowly as the movie progresses, as he slowly tears apart two rival crime families, from the inside out.

The hero, Sanjuro, is just as vulnerable and human as he is powerful, making him one of the best heroes of cinema history. Unlike the Clint Eastwood remakes, you can tell that Sanjuro is truly making a sacrifice by choosing to fight, when most other people would run...especially when one of the villains shows up with a revolver. Great movie.

Best Samurai/Western: High Noon

This movie blew me away the first time I saw it. Instead of a young, renegade hero, our Sheriff is just a normal man who stood up to evil...only to see the villain freed by a loophole in the court system. No problem right? Sure, the bad guy is coming back for revenge along with three of the meanest men of the west, but the town will stand along side him and help him bring them down again...right?

Painful truths overcome traditional cinema idealism, as the town in which he saved slowly, one by one, begins to abandon him. Everyone encourages him to run, because no one wants to stand and fight, not when he's the target of the danger, instead of the town itself. Gary Cooper gives the performance of a lifetime, as the heroic Sheriff who discovers that the town he saved...isn't willing to save him in return, not when they seemingly don't need to.

Without giving too much away, our hero spends the movie trying to gather support of the town and his new bride, only to find them distant, and his wife (who is a pacifist Quaker) not understanding why he doesn't run. One of the best lines of the movie is from the main character's ex-girlfriend, to his new bride, after the bride asks why he's fighting, when he could just easily run. In response, the ex says,

"If you don't understand, then I can't explain it to you."

In a genre that's all about smashing the hero's nobility right into your face, it's wonderful to see a movie where his heroism is subtle, and Gary Cooper plays the part with masterful ability. The main song 'Do Not Forsake Me' is synonymous with the genre thanks to this film, and the last twenty minutes are arguably the best final act in movie history. Your jaw will not leave the floor until the ending credits.

Almost Made the List

Unforgiven (Clint Eastwood's best, with some of the most flawed and believable characters in the genre. If it were only a little faster paced, it might have won.)

Sanjuro (the sequel to Yojimbo, and almost as good. The ending scene is nothing short of spectacular, although the rest of the movie is slightly forgettable.)

Seven Samurai (destined to make the list, but a little too depressing and downbeat to make it one of the best. Still, Kurisawa's directing is some of the best in cinema history.)

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (a very good movie, although I'm not convinced that Clint's character is as good as the movie suggest, and the 'bad' character is a little tacked on. Eli Wallach's character, 'the ugly' really steals the show, as we see he's bad, although not quite evil, and the movie thoroughly shows how he got that way. I'd go as far to argue that he's the real main character of the movie.)


Dishonorable Mention: The Magnificent Seven


Nope, I'm standing by that assessment. It's a bad movie. It's shallow and cowardly in all the ways I hate the Western genre for. What really makes it stand out as a poor movie is how inferior it is to Seven Samurai, the movie it was based on. In all honesty, this is really what drags the movie down. Watching the director and actors attempt to recreate a masterpiece into an American cowboy movie is heartbreaking. It's like watching someone try to 'fix' the world's largest house of cards while wearing mittens. Only it drags out over several hours.

Unlike Seven Samurai, the movie doesn't stay long enough with any one character for their personalities to really shine through. Most of them are summed up in short, shticky scenes, where they're personified by a personal trait, rather than their personality.

The bad guy is not only completely unbelievable, but idiotic as well. He degrades down to a Saturday morning cartoon style villain, where the story has to include 'excuses' for him to keep sparing the heroes, to keep him from easily winning.

I didn't enjoy a single moment of this movie, and I can't see how anyone really can.

Worst Samurai/Western: The Gunslinger

Roger Corman at his worst. Yes, Roger Corman decided he could make a western. It's so bad, it's almost laughable, if it weren't so boring.

You'll call every plot twist long before they happen, you'll cheer when the supposedly 'sympathetic' characters get gunned down, you'll laugh at the horribly disastrous continuity and direction errors, and finally, you'll wonder who's still alive in town at the end. Isn't everyone dead? Is the new Sheriff the Sheriff of himself now?

Yeah, that's an MST3K joke, but it's the only way to watch the movie. If only they MSTied the Magnificent Seven...


Murder, mayhem and Muppets. What better genre to round out the list?

Honorable Mention: Spirited Away

A brilliant and thoroughly enjoyable masterpiece, filled with fantasy, childlike wonder, and a believable main character that isn't an idiot, despite being a child. The violence almost keeps it from being a family movie in the traditional sense, but it's not like 'Alice in Wonderland' is much better. Uplifting and entertaining, with very well defined characters and brilliant imagry. As a bonus, despite being a Japanese import, the voice acting in the dubbed version of the movie is some of the best I've ever seen. It's a must see for the whole family.

Best Family Movie: The Incredibles

Pixar never fails to disappoint, and the incredibles is their best movie of all. I can't think of a movie that's just as entertaining for kids, parents and teenagers all at the same time. It's the closest thing I've seen to the 'perfect' movie, in the sense that it has something for absolutely everyone.

Honestly, it's really hard to find anything wrong with the movie. Some of its plot hooks are a little silly (legally, you can't hold it against someone for saving your life...although you might be able to argue that they weren't legally qualified to attempt), what's with all the really short characters, and...Gazer beam? Who thought that name was a good idea?

Really I'm just nitpicking. It's hilarious, action packed, exciting, and includes the best villain in Disney history. The Incredibles also goes a step further, and actually succeeds in being poignant, and brave enough to suggest that it's alright for people to excel, and be better at things than other people.

"Everyone's special, Dash."

"That's the same thing as saying no one is."

Oooo...and that line was from a kid. Priceless.

Almost Made the List:

Most of the Muppet Movies (They're all great, but not quite as great as the original Muppet Show or Sesame Street.)

All the Wallace and Grommit movies and shorts (they haven't made a bad one yet. If you haven't seen 'Curse of the Were-rabbit', I'd go check it out now. Right now. Go to netflix. I'll wait.)

Aladdin (most of the newer Disney films are really good, but Aladdin's the best of them. It's hysterical and fun for the whole family. Beauty and the Beast is also really good, and Hunchback of Notre Dame was much better than expected.)

Nightmare Before Christmas (a difficult movie to define, but overall the most pleasantly disturbing family movie ever made, to boot. Everything about this movie is great...if only it weren't so over-hyped, it might have rated better.)

Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory/Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (they're both great, although the newer version is barely a family movie. Gene Wilder manages to outperform Johnny Depp, although the second movie was more thoughtful, and loyal to the original book. If we were looking for a movie where the remake was just as enjoyable as the original, this would probably have won, right alongside...)

The Christmas Carol/Scrooge (I prefer the musical, but they're both very well made, and enjoyable for the entire family. My only complaint with the original is that the 'poor' Bob Cratchett appears to be living in a mansion, and my only complaint with the musical remake is that I now pray nightly for Tiny Tim's death.)

Wizard of Oz (just a silly family movie, all things considered, but a great one)

The Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (a little ridiculous, racist, preachy and slow to start, but the movie really succeeds in showing us now only how/why the people are bad, but also how they can change, not only for the good of the town, but for their own good as well. Yeah, it's preachy, but they actually have something worth preaching.)


*dons protective gear*

Dishonorable Mention: Princess Mononoke

I hate this movie.

The main characters aren't believable, the strong and independent princess is quite weak and in need of a man to save her, just like in most anime. Japan wouldn't know a strong female character if it hit them in the face...okay, Chihiro in Spirited Away was good, but that's it.

The worst part of the movie is it constantly beats you over the head that nature is magical and wonderful, and that humans are horrible monsters for destroying it.

Listen: nature is a brutal and heartless place, and giving animals noble personalities doesn't change the fact that there isn't a single pig on earth that wouldn'd eliminate an entire species in exchange for a mouthful of food.

Animals aren't noble. Only people have the ability to be noble, and the movie misses that point even worse than 'Ferngully'. Plants and animals don't have thoughts, beliefs or morals, and giving the 'nature spirts' deep meaningful personalities and tragic deaths merely belittles humanity.

Sigh...I don't want to go too much on a rant here (we don't need another political blog), but Princess Mononoke focuses on how bad we are to the animals...and you know what? I don't care. Fuck that giant wild boar. What's he ever done for us? The real issue is how destroying the environment hurts ourselves, and our fellow human beings. This movie couldn't missed the mark more if it tried. I could have forgiven it if it were actually entertaining...but it isn't.


*bricks thrown by fanboys fly over head*

Alright, it's now time to alienate the rest of my readers.

Worst Family Movie: Miracle on 34th Street (original or remake, doesn't matter)

There is no Santa Claus. There just isn't. I'm not anti-Christmas, but this movie is based solely around lying to children. What about those ones who've almost stopped believing? Those are the ones the movie rushes in for, to ensure that they'll keep believing no matter what...

Sick. Sick. SICK!

There's something seriously wrong with this movie. Oh sure, there's many Santa Claus movies, and 'Polar Express' wasn't much better in many regards, but this movie insults me on a moral and spiritual level.

The worst is the big final speech, where the lawyer states to everyone, in the middle of court:

"Isn't a small, wonderful lie better than a hard, painful truth?"






I wish I could've been in that courtroom. How dare he suggest, in a court of law, that lies can replace the truth. That horrible ugly truths are inferior to the shiny, wonderful tripe that he's selling. That convictions and deeply held beliefs are just 'too hard' to deal with, and explaining every difficult situation with a colorful 'magical' answer is so much better.

This movie sickens me, especially since it's targeted at kids. For an antedote, read or watch Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. That book also explains why it's important to have Santa Claus and believe in him, but it also explains why. It isn't just an easy little lie to tell kids, simply because telling the truth is more difficult.

That's really the essence of the movie: Santa Clause is great because it's easy. Not easy for kids, but easy for adults. It's easier than convincing kids to be good without reward or punishment. It's easier than accepting the fact that most bad deeds go unpunished. It's easier than accepting the world for what it really is.

That's just sick.

Well that about wraps things up! All that's left for next week are...TWO BONUS GENRES YOU WOULDN'T EVEN THINK OF! DUN DUN DUN! ^_^

Saturday, July 12, 2008



The categories drama, mystery and suspense are a little difficult to divide up, but ultimately I've decided to have drama as one category, and mystery/suspense as another. The only real difference between mystery and suspense being whether you know who the murderer is or not. Anyway, here's drama.

Honorable Mention: Casablanca (1942)

A classic, and for good reason. Bogey's at his best, improvising lines that are now considered classic (if you read the original script, you'll find that none of the really good lines in there). Everything about the story is completely believable, from the hilariously creepy French policeman, to the heartbreaking romance, to the suprisingly well portrayed friendship between him and Sam (it's unusual to see a cross-race friendship in older movies without them relying on master/servant fact, it's unusual to see it even now), and fantastic performances all around. It's subtle, believable, and deep. A must see.

Best Drama: Miller's Crossing (1990)

When will Hollywood get it? The best heroes are VULNERABLE. Not weak, but human, and prone not only to make mistakes, but also fail. This story is about imperfect human characters, one of which is having a crisis of conscience, which he himself describes as being similar to running through the forest, trying to catch his hat. Again, it's subtle and brilliant, with a perfect atmosphere and as many laughs as there are tears.

As an added bonus, watch for John Turturro's character (you might remember him as the wacky federal agent in 'Transformers'), who skates the line between lovable, detestable and pathetic with flair. His begging in the woods is nothing short of the greatest instance of begging in movie history.

Almost Made the List

Metropolis (the greatest silent movie ever, but a little too slow to rate higher, as it was filmed before the invention of 'pacing')

Godfather 2 (I don't care for the other Godfather movies, but the second is brilliant, mostly in part to offense Mr. Pacino)

Scent of a Woman (See? There was no offense. His last speech is pure gold, and falls somewhere between a furious tirade, and a heartbreaking confession. The co-star couldn't out-act a brick though, so it's not worth a victory)

12 Angry Men (a very good movie and an excellent play, but some of the actors are a little lacking...but only by a little bit)

Citizen Kane (incredibly dense, but very well performed by everyone involved. The scene between Kane and his last wife, where their marriage finally falls apart, is perfect)

Touch of Evil (Orson Wells is back again, this time as a sympathetic villain that rivals Turturro's. Rivals, but doesn't quite defeat)


Dishonorable mention: Parts, the Clonus Horror (1979)

This movie is just plain stupid. They clone people for extra organs, but create this isolated community to hold them in, feeding them lies to keep them under control. Where's the payoff? Isn't it easier to just replace people than cloning backup organs for them? Can't they just clone the organs and not the rest of the person? Why not keep them lobotimized (they lobotomize the clones if they become unruly, but they never explain why they don't do this from the start)? Why lie to them about the world? Why not tell them the truth, but keep them isolated until you need them? None of these questions get answered, and instead we watch Peter Graves be evil, and the secret organization work like idiots. They don't even have security cameras in the offices, for Got's sake.

As a bonus point, as stupid as this movie sounds, the creators of the recent movie 'The Island' decided to rip the concept off completely, right down to every stupid twist. The movie bombed, and they got their pants sued off. Sweet. If only the same fate befell...

Worst Drama: Patch Adams (1998)

I don't blame Robin Williams for this movie. He did what he could with it, and gave a better performance than in Bicentennial Man or Jack. This movie was garbage from the ground up.

It starts off fairly well, as we see some honestly funny scenes with the impatient and flawed Patch Adams, but the world quickly divides into two groups: satan worshipping baby killers, and people who worship Patch Adams as the second coming of Christ.

This trumped up, shameless ego pic is about Patch Adams being zany, breaking all the rules, committing countless criminal offenses, and being worshipped for it like a God. I hate Patch Adams. Not just the movie, but the man himself. He even put in the tragic death of his real life lady friend, only to reveal her darkest secrets to the moviegoing public, and exploit her death as a cheap excuse for his own soul searching. Fuck you, Patch Adams. She deserved better.

For Christ's sakes, even the dying angry patient, who turns around and becomes happy, spends his last moment with...his wife? Kids? Priest? No! Why Patch Adams of course! God's gift to the world, to be loved unconditionally, and act as both our personal jester and surrogate priest. Remember, any mention of God, religion or spirituality is prohibited in this movie, as nothing is allowed to take any attention or love away from Patch himself.

Haven't had enough? The big trial at the end is BS. In reality, they weren't trying him for his 'renegade' hospital or his methods, they were trying him for stealing supplies and hospital funds! That's a pretty good reason to have a trial, all things considered.

Everything about this movie is shameless and dumb, but it's not really Robin Williams' fault. His only crime was not turning the part down. This movie would have been nothing without him.


I admit, this category is a little light, just like Sports. Perhaps it's because romances don't actually work the way they do in chick-flicks. Of course, real fights don't work the way they do in movies either, but at least you get explosions and guns being fired while leaping through the air. Chick-flicks get conversations. Great.

Honorable Mention: Annie Hall (1977)

Every Woody Allen movie is a completely honest confession. Understand this, and you'll understand the man. His personal failings aside, Woody Allen is a brilliant director, who took a mediocre concept for a murder mystery, and instead turned it into a completely neurotic romance that borders on being the most honest in movie history. It isn't always pleasant or pretty, but from beginning to end we see a romance build up and ultimately fail, and their failures and difficulties are always created by themselves, rather than chance or circumstance. It's hilarious, brilliant, and it even includes Shelley Duvall in a see-through t-shirt.

There will be a time and place to talk about my Shelley Duvall crush, but now is not the time...but didn't anyone else think she looked cute in 'The Shining'? No? Huh.

As a bonus, there's a scene in Annie Hall where Woody Allen panics when he's supposed to accept a big award, and ultimately doesn't go because he's afraid. What's the bonus? Annie Hall won 'best picture' at the Oscars, and he did exactly the same thing in real life. As I said, Woody's movies are all confessions.

Best Romance: The Princess Bride (1987)

Yeah, it's not a romance in the traditional sense, but it isn't really a comedy or fantasy either. This movie is about love, not just the love we feel during romance, but the love we feel for our family as well. Imigo's love for his father is just as important as Westley's for Buttercup, and drives the plot along perfectly. Cary Elwes gives the performance of a lifetime...actually, everyone involved does. Mandy Patinkin (Imigo...yeah, his name's 'Mandy'...poor guy) really steals the show though, and helps the 'action' elements hold up. It's so classic there's no reason even to quote it. We all know it by heart.

Why do I consider this movie a romance? Because the movie wouldn't have been great if the romantic aspects weren't so believable, mixing need, desire, bitterness, faith, and devotion in perfect harmony. It would have still been alright, but the romantic aspects bring the movie to life. It's the chick flick we can all agree on.

Almost made it:

West Side Story (arguably better than Romeo and Juliet itself, but the romantic aspects fall flat in places. The smaller support characters really drive the show)

My Best Friend's Wedding (painfully honest and bittersweet, just like Annie Hall, and it's Julia Roberts' best...which is kind of like saying a movie is Keanu Reeve's best, but what the hell?)

Sleepless in Seattle (I'm not a Tom Hanks fan, but he works well in this movie. What works best is they take time to show both sides of the romance, which is always believable...except in Bill Pullman's pathetic 'nice guy' acceptance at the end. Come on Lonestar! Grow a pair! At least get drunk and punch the waiter, for Christ's sake.)


Dishonorable Mention: Titanic (1997)

What a horrible movie. Mediocre performances all around, a villain that they refuse to allow to be sympathetic in any away (just like in Patch, they won't let anything detract from the main romance), with an INCREDIBLY long run time. The boat sinking scenes are fine, but anything involved in the 'romantic' aspect of the plot is pathetic. Almost as pathetic as...

Worst Romance: Moulin Rouge! (2001)

It takes a special amount of shamelessness to have an exclaimation mark in your title. Instead of celebrating this shamelessness, like in 'Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!', Moulin Rouge acts like a drama geek with a moderate to severe cocaine problem.

The musical numbers aren't bad, but the movie constantly expects to be wacky-zany and be taken completely seriously as well. One scene the main girl is whoring herself out to strangers, the other she's dying, the next she's falling in love with the hero, only to then bounce around like a pogo-stick. The movie simply tries to do too much, and be too much. No matter what mind set you're in, you're going to leave disappointed, as the movie can't decides what it is, ultimately making it nothing.

Yeah, it hardly seems enough to make it 'the worst', but the last straw is their constant repetition of the phrase 'truth'. They say everything about their life and work is about truth. Bullshit. Yeah, I said it. Bullshit. Their version of truth is that lovers stay together in perfect relationships forever, are paid ludicrous sums to sing and dance, and should be revered every moment for it.

The villain (who I fully empathize with) thinks the truth is that the kid is a nobody, the girl's a prostitute, and since he's paying for everything, including her services as a prostitute, then he should recieve the goods, services and sexual favors that he's paid good money for.

Can we really blame him?


I'll admit it, I love these movies, especially old film noir. Good acting, great directing, great plots (although the sex and controversial parets of the original stories are always cut out), and gloriously sexy women who didn't have to show a lot of skin in order to get men interested. Anyway, here we go:

Honorable Mention: Laura (1944)

This used to be my all-time favorite movie, and it's still my second favorite, overall. It's a brilliant story that may sometimes seem clicheyed, simply because this is the movie where all the cliches come from. They all were stolen from here. It's a standard detective story, with the hero falling in love with the girl, only this time the girl's already dead. As our hero unravels the events of her life through a series of flashbacks described by other people, he begins to fall in love with her personality, even though he's only seen her through her large portrait. Clifton Webb is hilariously icy, and a young Vincent Price plays a charming lady's man (if you can believe it). The main detective is cool, calculating and like in all great movies, subtle. He doesn't shout his feelings. You have to infer them from his actions. The movie honestly gets better every time I see it, and is dwarfed only by...

Best Mystery/Suspense: Murder My Sweet (1944)

This movie is perfect. Everything about it is fantastic, and Dick Powell portrays Detective Phillip Marlowe better than any other actor in history, Bogey included. The plot is tight and hilarious, with good amounts of suspense and classic lines, such as:

"He was doubled up on his that bag-of-old-clothes position that always means the same thing: he had been killed by an amateur. Or by somebody who wanted it to look like an amateur job. Nobody else would hit a man that many times with a sap."

It's a great detective story that's just as funny as it is exciting. Phillip Marlowe started the 'detective monologuing' cliche, and nobody does it better. It's a must see for all detective movie fans, and the book it's based on, 'Farewell My Lovely' is just as good (although the ending is very different). It's my favorite film of any genre, hands down.

Almost made it:

Going to be a lot. Sorry...

Chinatown (Jack Nicholson is fantastic, and it's far more realistic and tragic than your standard detective movie)

The French Connection (almost an action movie, with one of the best car chase scenes of all time, and a spooky ending I did not see coming)

White Heat (James Cagney becomes a mobster movie legend, and for good reason. He's so believably unhinged, it's frightening. It's fantastic from beginning to end, and the hero is really an afterthought. It's all about the villain here. "MADE IT MA! TOP OF THE WORLD!")

The Professional (The oddly offputting romantic untertones aside, this movie is brilliant. It's a bizarre tale about a loveable assassin with a minor mental disability who adopts a 12 year old girl who falls madly in love with him (although his feelings are always platonic), while thwarting a hilariously over-the-top corrupt cop. It's a unique gem, only limited by unsettling feeling throughout)

The Third Man (Brando steals the show as the charismatic villain, but it's also a great movie overall. Be sure to check out the ferris wheel scene. ^_^ The music also compliments things well, and the ending is both sad and poignant. Great flick.)

The Usual Suspects (A great movie that's a little too clever for its own good, but still a great flick overall. "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled, was convincing the world he didn't exist." Great line. Great movie)

The Big Sleep (a great Bogey movie by any standard, with one of the best final scenes in movie history, but they cut half the plot out of the movie to make room for more romance. Even with those deleted scenes, you won't understand anything if you haven't read the book. Hell, half the plot points don't make sense unless you understand that the first murder victim is both a pornographer and a homosexual, and since it's an older movie, both points were completely cut out)

The Maltese Falchon (if you're looking at drama/suspense, you're going to get a lot of movies that start with 'the'. Bogey is once again fantastic, with another great ending, and surprisingly believable plot. Every detective movie like this usually ends with either the hero falling madly in love with the girl, or the girl turning out to be pure evil. This is one of the rare movies that has the courage to do both.)

Road to Perdition (underrated film, with great direction, and fantastic scenes between Tom Hanks and Paul Newman. Both actors go against type, and add a lot to the movie, which would have been great in any case. We also learn an important lessons for gunfights: don't hide behind anything made of glass.)


Whew! Never thought I'd get through the 'almost made it section'. Here's one that definitely didn't make it:

Dishonorable mention: The Big Sleep (1978)

But Max, you said this movie was good!

Check the year. Yup, in the same year I was born, an ancient Robert Mitchum was convinced that he could play Phillip Marlowe in a modern day update of the story, set in England. Nevermind that the pornographer sub-plot doesn't make sense in the present, that the film is filled with grade-Z actors, that they destroyed the power of the 'little man' death scene, or that they made the bad daughter who's supposed to be gorgeous rather 'plain', and the good daughter who's supposed to be plain rather 'gorgeous'. Really gorgeous, in fact. Everything else is just plain stupid...although it is more faithful to the original story than the 1944 version.

As an added dishonor, Jimmy Stewart...that's right, 'It's a Wonderful Life' Jimmy Stewart is horribly miscast as the old, dying patron of the hiring family. Every line is warbled out weakly, with no anger, bitterness or passion. Jimmy was simply the wrong man for the job, plain and simple. Has this great actor ever done anything worse?

Worst Mystery/Suspense: Vertigo (1958)

On IMDB, this movie is #39 on the greatest movies of all time. It's considered by some to be Hitchcock's greatest film of all time. My favorite Hitchcock film isn't even in the top 250.

Please, everyone do what you can to fight the war on drugs. A mind is a terrible thing to waste.

Seriously though, this movie is so ungodly slow you would hardly believe it. If they aren't driving around in cars, listening to pointless stories or hamming it up for the camera, then they're merely setting the story up for one of the stupidest twists in movie history.

Vertigo makes NO sense at any point, from start to finish, and although Jimmy Stewart does an okay acting job, the plot's too weak to support it. The only redeeming part is the ending, where Jimmy's corners the villain, and forces himself to face his fear and relive the worst moments of his life, all for the sake of finding the truth.

This is ruined, sadly, but the horribly unclimactic ending afterwards, that explains and resolves nothing. What happens? How do things resolve? The movie gives you the finger, that's what happens...alright, the very last scene is a beautiful one, with Jimmy standing out on the ledge, but it takes far too long to get there.

Next time:

I butcher more classics, and go on to the final genres: horror, family and samurai/western.

Having said that all in one sentence, I now have to write, direct and star in my own horror/family/samurai/western. Wish me luck. ^_^