Thursday, September 26, 2013

Classics: A Review of The Nightmare Before Christmas By Lauren Ennis

The hills are alive with creepiness
For generations of children, fairy tales have served as an introduction to the art of storytelling. The most enduring fairy tales are those that combine memorable adventures with timeless life lessons. Unfortunately, many children’s films and books have lost sight of the function of stories to teach while entertaining, and are little more than time consumers. One recent film, however, managed to relay a classic fairy tale message while telling an innovative tale. 1993’s The Nightmare Before Christmas is a truly unique film which takes the familiar clichés of family films and turns them upside in a way that audiences won’t soon forget.

The film opens in typical fairy tale fashion with a narrator transporting the audience to a magical world in which each holiday has its own unique universe. The narrator then introduces the audience to Halloween Town and its host of ghoulish inhabitants as they celebrate their annual Halloween spectacular. At the helm of the festivities is the “Pumpkin King”, skeleton Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon). Despite being the town’s undisputed master of fright, Jack is a sensitive and creative soul in desperate need of understanding. While the town’s residents see his enviable success and categorize him as someone “who has it all”, Jack is actually in the midst of an existential crisis. Although he is aware of and grateful for his success, he finds himself unable to gain any satisfaction in his life and finds himself becoming increasingly apathetic. Fellow outsider Sally (Catherine O’Hara), a Bride of Frankenstein-esque rag doll, understands Jack’s isolation but is unable to overcome her crippling shyness in order to reach him.

After going through the motions as head of the Halloween festival, Jack goes for a long walk in hopes of clearing his mind, and stumbles onto Christmas Town. For him, Christmas Town represents all of the excitement and wonder that is sorely lacking in his own life. He becomes determined to take the magic of Christmas and bring it to his fellow Halloween Towners. Unfortunately, the locals are unable to grasp the concept of Christmas, and can only view it through their Halloween influenced perspective. Frustrated, Jack sets out to discover the true meaning of Christmas and bring it to his town. Of course, like the other Halloween Towners, Jack’s world view is influenced by his Halloween experiences, which causes him to misconstrue the rituals and traditions of Christmas, including the role of Santa Claus (Edward Ivory). Because of his own indifference towards Halloween, Jack assumes that Santa must be equally tired of managing Christmas and in need of a vacation from his holiday duties. He then enlists the help of juvenile delinquents Lock, Shock, and Barrel to bring Santa to meet with him so that they can arrange to switch holidays. This leads to the kidnapping of Santa Claus and his eventual imprisonment in the lair of homicidal gambler Oogie Boogie (Ken Page). When Jack’s Christmas goes horribly awry, it is up to him and Sally to rescue Santa and save Christmas.

In the twenty years since its release, The Nightmare Before Christmas has become a fan favorite amongst both children and adults. One of the key reasons behind the film’s popularity is its universal theme of being true to yourself regardless of the consequences. While the importance of remaining true to yourself is often repeated to children in conventional tales, the film’s use of truly unique characters ensures that the message rings true. “Be true to yourself” is not a convincing argument to most children when it is coming from a perfectly proportioned Disney princess whom children cannot imagine ever felt like outsiders. This same message is far more relatable when delivered by a diverse group of well meaning, but misunderstood creatures. As a result, children can easily relate to and identify with the film’s characters and are more likely to take the film’s central lesson to heart.
One of these things is not like the other...

The film also serves as a reminder to adults to keep their sense of childhood wonder and passion alive. Jack’s greatest obstacle in the film is not Oogie Boogie as the plot would suggest, but is actually his own set of personal demons. After spending countless years conjuring the same scares and pursuing the same goal, he begins to question the meaning and value of his life. This existential crisis mirrors the same dilemma that adults often face when confronted with life’s disappointments. Like Jack, many people find themselves wishing that they could live someone else's more exciting and satisfying life. Although we need variety and new experiences to grow as people, it is even more crucial that we learn to see the beauty and excitement in our own lives. The film demonstrates this fact when Jack saves the day by embracing his Pumpkin King persona. At the film’s finish, he realizes that he does have a worthwhile life and resolves to make next year the ‘best Halloween ever’, proving that he has finally learned the importance of appreciating what he has.

The film also uses its unique tale to reach out to those suffering from depression. At the start of the film, Jack’s behavior and thought processes are those of a text book case of depression. The culmination of his symptoms causes him to feel isolated and unable to find any enjoyment in activities he once loved. To those suffering from depression, this is an all too familiar state of mind, which requires a great deal of effort and help to work through. Because the film is directed towards children, it explores the issues surrounding depression without coming across as preachy or alienating viewers through ‘after school special’ style theatrics. The film’s kid friendly happy ending also shows that there is always hope for a better tomorrow even if it doesn’t feel that way today. For children who grew up with the film and faced depression in their adolescence and adulthood, the film is a friendly reminder that they are not alone and that having depression, or any other mental illness, does not make them less of a person.

Its combination of an intelligent script, awe inspiring visuals, and a sincere message makes The Nightmare Before Christmas a true family classic. The film is equally entertaining for both children, who will be struck by the catchy songs and unique character design, and adults, who will appreciate the films’ use of internal conflict and darker themes. This film shows just how innovative and inspiring family entertainment can be when in the right hands. So kick off your Halloween season with Jack and Sally, I assure you it will be all treat.

Inspiring Goth girls everywhere

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Retrospect on "Sleeping Beauty" (2011)

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A Retrospect on “Sleeping Beauty”

By: Brian Cotnoir

     Hey All I’m doing another Retrospect on a film I’ve already reviewed.  I decided to re-watch and re-review the 2011 Australian film “Sleeping Beauty”.

My First Impression of the film

How I loathe this film.  I swore after first seeing the trailer for this film that I would never see it.  “Sleeping Beauty” (or “50 Shades of God Awful” as I like to call it) is bad!  I had one reason—and one reason alone—to see this film and that reason is somebody told me that actress Emily Browning was completely naked for a good portion of the film.  That was the only reason I had to want to see this film, and nothing else.  Nothing in this film—besides Emily Browning—was good or “enjoyable”.  The story had too many plot holes, the dialogue made no sense, and it was really freaking boring!  I tore this film to shreds, and I stand by it.  This film had almost no redeeming qualities.

It's So Awful!

My second impression of the film

     So sometime down the road, someone I knew told me they were thinking about checking “Sleeping Beauty” out after reading my review of it, and I told them that it was not worth checking out unless you had a fondness or attraction to Emily Browning.  Somewhere along this discussion I made a comment—jokingly—that the only way I would probably ever see this film again is if I had it on mute the whole time, and what started as a joke took on a life of its own and I decided to re-watch “Sleeping Beauty” in its entirety with the sound off.   
Burning money?  How appropriate, this all the film really did!
    You know what; I actually liked this film slightly better with the sound off.  I didn’t have to listen to any of that awful dialogue, and it was just fun to make up dialogue to the film myself.  Besides that, an added benefit to not having any sound to distract me, I began to notice all the subtle movements of the camera and actors in the background.  It was actually more entertaining that way.  Not to mention I still got to see my porcelain skinned goddess on screen in all her glory.             

What I’d do to make the film better

     Remove all spoken dialogue from the film.  That is the worst part of the film.  I would just have nobody in this film speak, and just let people create their own little stories going off of the actions and facial expressions of the cast. 

My final impression on the film

I did the same thing after watching this film....paaaiiinnnn
I would actually recommend that more people try to watch “Sleeping Beauty” with the sound off at some point, or to just grab any random film and watch it with the sound off and see how much new stuff you notice in the background or how many funny lines you can come up with for the film.  There were still some boring at points in the film, but once those passed it was somewhat tolerable to watch.  So it should come as a surprise to none of you, that I still don’t care much for this movie, it’s a pile crap, and if Emily Browning wasn’t in it, I probably would have never seen it at all.  It’s just an awful film.  I can’t remember the last time a film caused me such great mental anguish.

My Original Review of "Sleeping Beauty" (2011)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Classics: The Life Lessons of Don Vito Corleone By Lauren Ennis

Even the cottonball cheeks don't diminish his badassery
The Godfather trilogy is often considered an American version of the Shakespearean tragedy. Despite the story’s pulp fiction roots, the Corleone family saga is one rife with love, loss, corruption, ambition, and loyalty. The overarching theme of this sprawling multigenerational tale is the importance of family. In keeping with this theme, it is the example of family patriarch Don Vito Corleone that influences his children’s actions both within and outside of the family. Despite his distinctive role as the head of a mafia family, many of the Don’s lessons to his children prove to be surprisingly universal. Through the film’s enduring popularity, many of these life lessons have entered the realm of popular culture and public consciousness. And now, without further delay, here are three of the most effective and timeless lessons from everyone’s favorite Godfather whom no one can refuse (spoilers warning, read at your own risk):

1.     Vengeance is a hollow reward: In the first film’s opening scene, the local undertaker, Bonasera, begs the Don to avenge his daughter’s attempted rape and brutal beating. Bonasera insists that the perpetrators must be killed if justice is to be served. Don Corleone refuses to have the men killed, observing that Bonsera wants revenge and not justice. He reminds Bonasera that his daughter is still alive and as a result, killing her attackers would go beyond the call of justice. He then agrees to punish the men but not kill them, thus providing justice without vengeance. After the Don is shot in retaliation for refusing to invest in a rival family’s drug operation, his children struggle to agree on what course of action the family should take. As weak-willed Fredo is sent to fill a menial job in Las Vegas and estranged son Michael attempts to remain on the fringes of the family business, the decision is left to hot tempered Sonny and adopted son Tom. Sonny immediately gives in to his emotions and demands vengeance, while Tom advocates for a more level headed approach that will maintain peace between the city’s ruling mafia families. Although Sonny’s reaction seems the most natural given the circumstances, it is Tom’s consistent refrain that “this isn’t personal” that echoes the Don’s own sentiments. Sonny’s retaliation goes on to start a city wide mafia war that results in massive losses on all sides; including his own life. Following Sonny’s murder, Don Corleone realizes that seeking vengeance will only lead to more senseless bloodshed and instead opts for a truce between the Five Families.   During the conference between the Five Families, one of the rival Dons demands a guarantee that the Corleone family will not seek revenge. Don Corleone then agrees to this demand saying, “You talk about vengeance. Is vengeance going to bring your son back to you? Or my boy to me?”. This response reminds the conference members that there would be no point in any of them seeking further vengeance, as revenge would not change the past or erase the losses that they have suffered.

The lonesome Don
2.     Never forget where you came from: At the start of the first film, Don Corleone is taking requests for favors from various members of his community. While it is stated that according to tradition the Don cannot refuse a request made on his daughter’s wedding day, the fact that he maintains this tradition demonstrates his desire to remain in touch with his roots. The Don is certainly powerful enough and feared enough to maintain control of his territory without resorting to personal kindnesses. Instead of ruling his empire strictly through fear, however, he earns the respect and gratitude of  his community by remaining in touch with their needs and doing his best to fulfill those needs. It is this policy of earning rather than demanding the respect of those loyal to him that allowed the Don to begin his ascent as the head his own Family and retain this position into his old age. When Michael takes his place as head of the family following his father’s death, it is his inability to replicate his father’s human connection that ultimately proves to be his undoing. Throughout the second film, Michael’s growing isolation is juxtaposed with his father’s active role in his family and community. For example, while Michael cannot take the time to work on his failing marriage, Vito is repeatedly shown interacting with his wife and children. Because Vito experienced a humble life before his eventual rise to power, he is able to appreciate the struggles of those around him and makes a point to remember where he came from. As the son of a Don, however, Michael has only known a life of privilege and power, and cannot comprehend any other life. As a result, Michael treats those around him with indifference and regards them as pawns in his quest for power. It is this disregard for those around him that leads to his betrayal by several family members and sets him on the path to a life of solitude. By refusing to follow his father’s example, Michael seals his own fate and condemns himself to a life that cannot be shared or enjoyed.

3.      There is nothing more important than family: Over the course of the turbulent decades in which the trilogy takes place one thing remains certain; the importance of family. In one of Part I’s early scenes, the Don is asked to assist his godson, Johnny Fontaine with his floundering singing career. After he addresses the immediate problem of Johnny’s career, he asks if Johnny has been spending time with his family. Although Johnny seems to dismiss his godfather’s inquiry as a casual question, Don Corleone reminds him that “a man who doesn’t spend time with his family can never be a real man”. In flashbacks to the Don’s early life in Part II, it is revealed that he was driven to pursue the life of a Mafioso not to obtain material wealth or power, but in order to defend his family. During his childhood in Sicily, young Vito suffers the loss of both his father and brother in a local mafia war before witnessing his mother’s murder at the hands of the local Don. After suffering the loss of his family, he vows to protect those closest to him. When he starts his own family in New York, he fulfills the promise he made to himself years earlier by refusing to let his family suffer at the hands of the local mob boss, Fannucci. After Fannucci demands that Vito pay a tribute that his struggling family cannot afford, Vito becomes determined to eliminate Fannucci and the threat that he poses to his family. When he has reached old age in Part I, he reveals to Michael that his goal as  Don was to provide a better life for his children in which they would not be forced to answer to local bosses and rely upon violence to survive.   This revelation reveals Don Corleoene's unique perspective on family and the American Dream and elevates him from typical mob boss to the complex cinema icon who has continued to captivate audiences for over forty years.
One big mafia family

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A review of "The Broken"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of “The Broken”

By: Brian Cotnoir

See it!  It's Art, not Porn. I swear!
     When I was in college my favorite film was this unknown Independent film made in 2006 called “Cashback”.  “Cashback” was originally a short film that was made in 2004 and it actually received on Oscar Nomination for Best Short Film.  The film was so well liked and popular that the film’s Director, Sean Ellis, managed to secure funding to turn his short—twenty minute long—film into a full-length feature.  I absolutely adore and enjoy this film.  It was a film that I’d watch over and over again and each time I would notice something in the film that I didn’t notice before.  I forced all my friends and family to watch this film with me because I wanted to show them how great of a film “Cashback” actually was, and this was the first film I can ever remember seeing that made me feel “intelligent” and like a “film aficionado” because of how well it was made. Two years after the release of “Cashback” Sean Ellis wrote and directed another film—the film that I am reviewing today—called “The Broken”.  So did this up-and-coming director that I had such a great admiration for directing one of my favorite’s films of All-Time have a successful follow up? Well...                             
This film is a bit of a mind-f*ck, but not in a way like Christopher Nolan’s “Inception”, but more in a it’s “too open to many different interpretations” Lars Von Trier’s “Antichrist”.  So with that being said, the story of “The Broken” follows the life of a British radiologist named Gina who seems to have a typical life until one day she notices a woman on the street who looks exactly like her and has a car and a boyfriend exactly like hers.  So Gina follows this mysterious woman and discovers that she has her own apartment and a picture with her father.  Gina becomes concerned and takes off in a frantic fear.  She eventually get’s into a serious car accident and when she wakes up she tries explaining to people what she was doing before the accident. Gina seems a lot more paranoid after the accident and believes that there are other doppelgangers that look like her, her friends and her family, are escaping from portals to another world via mirrors and that they want to take over the lives of the people who they look like. Many doctors believe that Gina, possibly, suffered some brain damage or trauma from the accident and that’s why she’s acting so paranoid, but is there a possibility that the person Gina saw is a doppelganger who escaped via a portal between a mirror and the real world, and who wants to take over Gina’s life.                                        
Yeah, know one smiles in this's very dreary
    So this film, like Sean Ellis’s other film has amazing cinematography.  The shots of the car accident are done so well (though they do get a bit repetitive throughout the film).  There are a lot of cool aerial shots of the city of London as well throughout the film.  Also, the shots of the mirror world looking in on the real world are also done well, it’s almost like this mirror world is underwater they are that cool.  The story though falls flat.  Now it’s not that the story isn’t great because it actually is a very interesting story; the idea that there is another world located within a mirror where the people in the mirror world all yearn to escape and take over the lives of the people they look like.  Unfortunately, this film doesn’t have a lot of consistency.  Early on in the film there is no suspense, and you can pretty much figure out everything that’s going to happen.  Then towards the middle of the film it’s all suspense and all drama, then towards the end it goes back to no suspense.                                             
Worst Heroine Ever!
The characters aren’t really that memorable or likeable.  Everyone just seems so bland and uninterested.  I mean the only really differences between the characters and the doppelgangers is that the doppelgangers don’t talk when their on screen.  That’s really the only difference we get between the two.  Also the dialogue, especially early on in the film, is incredibly boring.  Ninety-percent of the dialogue at the beginning of the film is all small-talk and nothing interesting is being said, I was just so bored the first hours of this film and I was waiting for something to happen.                                              
Sean Ellis, a promising young director
    This film has a great idea, but I just feel that it wasn’t executed as well as it could have been.  I think somewhere down the road, I will definitely want to do a Retrospect on this film to see if I had missed something that I didn’t notice the first time I watched this film.  This is not a bad film, but I just feel like the symbolism and the sub-plots are way too intelligent for a lot of people and I think a lot of the ideas and elements that Sean Ellis put into this film will go way above most people’s heads and will leave them more confused than anything.  Should you want to see this film?  I think yes, you should.  If anything you should watch it just for it’s amazing cinematography.  I think everyone should go out and see the films of Sean Ellis.  Don’t just see this film, but make sure you check out his film “Cashback” as well.  He is a brilliant and relatively unknown filmmaker and I think we can expect big things from him in the future, and who knows; maybe somewhere down the road, Sean Ellis will get some funding and he could do a “re-boot” or “re-make” of “The Broken” to tie up any loose ends or clear up parts of the plot.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Classics: A Review of Dead Poets Society By Lauren Ennis

Carpe Diem!
When one thinks of the word education, one most often imagines students sitting at desks practicing language, mathematics, science, and history. This image captures much of the modern public education experience, in which students gain knowledge in an approved set of subjects in order to pursue a career or college degree. This conventional approach to education is turned on its head, however, in the coming of age classic, Dead Poets Society. Over the course of the film, charismatic English teacher John Keating instills in his students a passion for “poetry, beauty, romance, love…what we stay alive for”, and teaches them that education is about far more than facts and figures. By the film’s end, even the most hardened viewers will be tempted to seize the day and make their lives extraordinary.

The film begins at the start of the school year at the fictional 1950’s preparatory school, Welton Academy.  The film immediately introduces the audience to the drudgery of life at Welton as the boys start the year with formal welcoming ceremonies and introductions to rigid courses. The atmosphere at the school quickly changes, however, when the students attend their first session of Keating’s (Robin Williams) poetry class and discover that their teacher possesses even more contempt for the school’s restrictions than they do. Keating’s first lesson includes instructing students to tear the foreward chapters out of their textbooks and reminding them of the importance of ‘carpe diem’, or seizing the day.

Over the course of the school year, Keating’s teachings prove to have an immense effect upon his students, as he consistently encourages them to challenge themselves and pursue a passion for life. Anxiety ridden Todd (Ethan Hawke), for instance, slowly emerges from his emotional shell and discovers both a talent for poetry and the confidence to pursue a social life on campus. Similarly, dutiful son Neil (Robert Sean Leonard) attains the courage to defy his father (Kurtwood Smith) and pursue his passion for acting, while awkward Knox (Josh Charles) uses his new knowledge of poetry to woo a girl (Alexandra Powers) at the nearby public school. Even the popular and charismatic group leader, Charlie, (Gale Hansen) steps outside of his comfort zone as the class clown to revive Keating’s old club, the Dead Poets Society. The club quickly becomes a haven for the boys, in which they can temporarily escape from their controlled lives through the freedom of literature. Obstacles arise, however, when the administration becomes critical of Keating’s methods and the nonconformity that they are inspiring in his students. Tragedy strikes when one student finds himself unable to reconcile the life of choice and opportunity that Keating has shown him with the constrained existence that society is forcing upon him. The ensuing ramifications force both students and teacher to confront the restrictions of the outside world and question the merits of a 'live to the fullest' philosophy.
Oh captain, my captain
Although numerous films have chronicled the influence of passionate teachers upon their students, few have done so as effectively or realistically as Dead Poets Society. Unlike other teaching films, which show students accepting a new teacher’s unique philosophy almost overnight, Keating’s class initially scoffs at his unconventional ideas before slowly incorporating them into their daily lives. Similarly, the students’ views evolve over time, rather than changing in an immediate revelation, as they come to terms with the hindrances of the privileged lives that their parents have planned for them. The film is particularly realistic in its inclusion of students who have not been influenced by Keating. Cameron, for example, proves to be the group’s skeptic throughout the story when he hesitates before joining the club and later betrays Keating in order to avoid being punished by the administration. Cameron’s presence reveals that while Keating is an effective teacher, he is not perfect and cannot reach every student. As a result, the story remains relatable without compromising its inspiring message.

In an effort to appeal to modern audiences, many recent school films focus upon teachers working with at-risk urban students. Although these films tell important and interesting stories, they often portray characters as types instead of people, and define them by the topical issue that they represent. After seeing numerous films that have resorted to stereotyping, it is refreshing to see a school film that avoids tacking on current issues in favor of telling a compelling story. Because the boys each have their own distinct personalities, it is much easier for the audience to be engaged in their activities than if they were relegated to the roles of stock characters such as “the teen parent”, “the drug addict”, or “the gang member”. The film’s efforts to create an original narrative are further aided by its setting. By setting the story at a boarding school, the screenplay can place almost total focus upon the students without involving their families and back stories. Similarly, the 1950’s setting enables the narrative to place the black and white views of the administration in the greater context of the severe views of Cold War America . Through its combination of dynamic characters and a rich sense of time and place, the film provides audiences with an engrossing story that relates an important message without sacrificing any subtlety.

The cast provides excellent performances that are by turns comical, charismatic, compelling, and haunting. Robin Williams perfectly captures the spirit of adventure that enables Keating to inspire his students, while also imbuing him with the necessary wisdom to lend his advice merit. Robert Sean Leonard nearly captures the film from Williams as he shows the torment behind Neil’s easy going persona. Gale Hansen and Josh Charles provide necessary comic relief in their portrayals of rebellious Charlie and awkward, love-struck, Knox. Ethan Hawke’s role as cripplingly shy Todd is truly a breakout performance in which he speaks volumes as a man of few words.

Dead Poets Society has remained a favorite amongst teachers and students since its initial release in 1989. The film has lost none of its resonance over the years, and its central message of ‘seize the day’ remains as crucial as ever. Through its realistic portrayal of adolescent confusion and discovery, the film reminds us of our own search for identity and the importance of remaining true to ourselves as we grow older. Join Keating and his class as they live deliberately and suck the marrow out of life. They just might teach you to look at the world in a different way.

No matter what anyone tells you, words and ideas can change the world

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A review of "Come Out and Play"

Confessions of a Film Junkie: A review of Makinov’s “Come Out and Play”

By: Brian Cotnoir

Children.  Aren’t they just the most terrifying thing ever?  I don’t actually think that all children are terrifying, but you have to admit that in this day and age that there is just something about seeing large groups of young children congregating together that just seems so sinister.  You also have to admit that kids today are completely different than the kids that you grew up with.  It’s scary when you read a newspaper article about some 13-14 year old kid who committed an armed robbery or a murder, or worst and makes you say to yourself: “What happened in your life that drove you to become so evil at such a young age?”  It’s sad really.  Now, I ask you: what would you do if you were stranded on a dessert island with dozens of children who were trying to kill you?  I ask that because that is the plot to the film I’m reviewing this week, Makinov’s “Come Out and Play”.                                
    So the story is set in Mexico.  A couple is on vacation and is looking for a little bit of fun before the wife gives birth to their third child.  The husband has heard that there is an amazing “Carnival” celebration on a secluded island called Punta Hueca.  So he rents a small motorboat and they set off for Punta Hueca.  The couple arrives to find that the island is virtually deserted except for groups of young children that they see wandering about the island.  The couple is about to find out that the children of Punta Hueca have a little game that they like to play and they are to become their next victims.          
Out-lander!, Tenemos a su mujer
So yeah, it’s kind of like Mexican “Children of the Corn”.  It has some interesting add-on’s to the plot though.  I definitely feel that being stranded on an island with a group of homicidal children is scarier than being stranded near a corn field with a group of homicidal kids.  So why are the kids of Punta Hueca killing all the adults?  No one knows!  There isn’t a single reason given.  It all started on a night two weeks earlier when all the children on the island got together and started killing their parents and since they’re just kids, whose really going to stop them?  The big question asked by all the adults in this film is “Who could ever kill a child?”.  That is a difficult thing to wonder; who could ever kill a child?  I can’t think of any worst crime than maliciously harming a child and I can’t speak for everyone in the world, but you know what, if I ever came across a group of 40+ kids armed with knives, guns, and other weapons, I think I could find it in my heart to forgive myself for the sake of my own survival.  Plus, I’m pretty sure most of the world would be willing to turn a blind-eye to the whole incident.                                       
Oh, so Now you decide to run???
    Now, I found it hard to feel sorry for our main characters at times.  Seriously, if I were to arrive on an island and see no residents except for a few children, my first instinct would not be to explore, it would be; “screw this place.  I’ll come back later, when the party starts”.  Not only do our two main characters decide to explore the island, but after discovering no people at the bar, the beach, a general store, and a hotel they still don’t get it!  Again, if you’re on an island and the only people you’ve come across is a few kids who won’t talk to your or answer your questions that is your cue to get your crap together and leave!  They don’t realize what little demons these children are until they witness an old man getting bludgeoned to death by a group of these kids.  They had so many opportunities to run and survive early on in this film and they blew every chance.  The husband eventually grows a pair and uses a gun he found at a police station to open fire on the kids in an attempt to escape.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this excited to see a child get shot in a film.                                  
Yeah, it's basically is a rip-off of "Children of the Corn"
    So how about this film?  It’s okay, but I think it could have been made a lot better.  Why were all the kids driven to commit murders?  How about a little motive, please?  And you know what else, I’m kind of hoping that there’s a sequel in the works to this film.  I think one could be made, giving the films ending.  So if you see “Come Out and Play” and you like it, good for you, if you don’t, I totally understand what you’re getting at.  Most importantly, the next time you see a group of children walking through your neighborhood, turn around and run like hell!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Top 20 Most Important Films that you will ever see in your life time

Confessions of a Film Junkie: The Top 20 Most Important Films that you will ever see in your life time.

A Joint Review by: Brian Cotnoir & Lauren Ennis

Let us start out by saying that this review was no easy task.  Normally on this site, we only do Top 5’s, but then the Film Junkie got the Idea to do a list of The “Top 10 Most Important films you will see in your life time”.  That was too difficult because there are way too many good movies out there.  So we decided to bump it up to a Top 20 List.  We each came out with our own Top 20 List; of the forty films we selected we only agreed upon 5 of them.  So then came two days of debates, arguments, and compromises and eventually we agreed upon the rest (without killing each other no less).  So after that came the monumental task of how we were going to rank them.  Surprisingly enough, we agreed on the Top 6, and then after that it was back to more turmoil and arguments, but by day’s end we had agreed upon our list.                                        
    This list was compiled by the two of us (The Film Junkie & Miss-E) and these are what we believe are the Top 20 Most Important films you will see in your life time.  This is our opinion on what we feel are the 20 Most Important films that you will see in your life time.  We hope you enjoy our countdown and if you haven’t seen any of the films we mentioned in our countdown we would seriously recommend all of them.

#20- The Dark Knight (By: Brian Cotnoir)

“The Dark Knight” is more than deserving of the #20 Spot on our list.  Director Christopher Nolan took characters created by comic book writer & artist Bob Kane decades ago and managed to completely re-invent them, while at the same time keeping them true to their roots.  This was the first superhero film that I can remember seeing that was a straight-up for adults only type film.  Before this “superhero films” catered only to young children, but this film went to some dark places and dealt with a lot adult content and situations.  Heath Ledger was absolutely terrifying as “The Joker”, and is one of the few villains in films that might actually have a bigger fan base than the actual superhero.  This film changed the genre of the “superhero film”.  Every “superhero film” that has come out since “The Dark Knight” aspires to be just like it, and many other strive to be even better.  This film was a game changer and helped revolutionize an already popular film-genre.  

#19- Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (By: Brian Cotnoir)

This film is the kind of stuff that dreams are made of.  Based off of the popular children’s book by Roald Dahl, “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory” is an ideal film not just for kids, but for everyone.  It has laughs, it has scares, it has drama, it has mystery, it has songs, where can you go wrong.  Just looking around the chocolate factory you see all this amazing and almost magical seeming objects.  The characters all have their own distinctive personalities that range from likeable to memorable.  Every time I watch it I am sucked into its creative story and enchanted by this world of “pure imagination”.

#18- Fantasia (By: Brian Cotnoir)

This spot was actually a toss-up between this and another Disney animated film (“The Lion King”) but Miss-E and I eventually agreed that “Fantasia” was a much more important film than “The Lion King”, though I still feel obligated to give “The Lion King” an honorable mention.  This animated Disney feature took a number of different chances that could have ruined film animation forever, but when the ideas of and animations of Disney Studios came together with the music performed by conductor Leopold Stokowski and Philadelphia Orchestra it was magical.  Walt Disney was the first person to ever have the idea of a having a “Feature Length” animated film, so this idea was still pretty new in 1940.  Fantasia was a wonderful collection of short animated films accompanied by great works of classical music and featured no dialogue whatsoever.  Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get young children to sit through an entire film where there is no talking? Not only did, Walt Disney and his crew create a cinematic masterpiece with “Fantasia”, but they also managed to resurrect the career of Disney’s most beloved character, Mickey Mouse. “Fantasia” is a film continues to inspire and entertain generations of people over 70 years later.

#17- Bonnie & Clyde (By: Lauren Ennis)

The moment that Faye Dunaway gleefully informs a local gas station attendant “we rob banks”, the viewer knows that we are not in standard gangster film territory anymore. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde proved to be one of the most violent, rebellious, and fascinating films not just of the decade, but of film history. The film traces the rise and fall of bank robbing lovers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow as they trek across the 1930’s mid-west in search of fame, fortune, and the latest thrill. Although the plot contains various historical inaccuracies, it remains true to the anarchic spirit of the Barrow gang and views its anti-hero’s with the same ambivalent fascination that the Depression-era public once did. The film broke new ground in technique as well as narrative by utilizing the editing and cinematography techniques of French New Wave films. The film marked a turning point for the careers of stars Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, and Estelle Parsons (who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her role) as well as for post-studio system. From its opening frame to its inevitable conclusion, Bonnie and Clyde is an all-American thrill ride that still manages to shock and awe today.

#16- The Artist (By: Brian Cotnoir)

It’s not a question of “did you like ‘The Artist’”; it’s a question of “how much did you freaking LOVE ‘The Artist’”.  This 2011 French Film took the world by storm by winning a number of prestigious awards.  Including Academy Awards for “Best Picture”, “Best Director” (Michael Hazanavicus), “Best Actor” (Jean Dujardin), “Best Score”, and “Best Costume Design”.  What makes this film so great is that it is glorious homage to the early days of film and cinema, and even though it is a French Film it still widely represents what many consider to be “The American Dream”.  The idea of coming from a small town and going to Hollywood, USA to become a star on the big screen is a dream and fantasy that practically everyone has hoped for, and “The Artist” is a perfect representation of that dream. 

#15- Snow White & the Seven Dwarves (By: Lauren Ennis)

This film is the one that started it all; at least as far as animated films are concerned. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs’ release in 1937 marked the start of a new era in filmmaking, and cemented Disney’s reputation as the leader in family entertainment. Despite the fact that is based upon a children’s fairy tale, the film held the title for a surprising number of firsts including first full-length animated feature to be released in the United States, first film to have a soundtrack album, first film to have merchandise available at its premiere, and first animated film to be selected for the United States’ National Film Registry. The story follows the familiar plot of the fairy tale as the wicked Queen tries to assassinate her step-daughter, Snow White, in order to remain the fairest in the land. The film even includes the more gruesome aspects of the original story such as the Queen’s hiring of a local Huntsman to kill Snow White on the condition that he return with her removed heart as proof of his success. The film’s animation remains as lush and sophisticated today as it was upon its initial release, making modern CGI animation pale in comparison. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is a prime example of quality family entertainment and the magic of Disney.

#14- Pyscho (By: Brian Cotnoir)

Director Alfred Hitchcock took Horror film making to the next level when he made “Psycho” in 1960.  “Psycho” was a Horror film unlike any other.  No longer were the “Universal Movie Monsters” the only frightening thing on screen.  Hitchcock had the brilliance to make his villains they every day things and every day people, and he sent terror into audiences across the land when this film was released.  The films antagonist, Norman Bates was largely inspired by American Serial Killer Ed Gein, and was wonderfully portrayed by actor Anthony Perkins.  This role was no easy task for an actor especially for when he played this role.  To this day, I still say that Anthony Perkins gives the best acting performance I have ever seen in a film in “Psycho”.  If you are a fan of Horror films and you have not seen it “Psycho” you simply must, and please, for the love of your God, do NOT see the 1999 re-make with Vince Vaughn as Norman Bates...You Have Been Warned @_@.

#13- Spartacus (By: Lauren Ennis)

In 1947 the House on Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) began an investigation into the influence of communism in the film industry. This investigation included a series of hearings which lasted through the remainder of the 1940’s and entire 1950’s. Ultimately, these hearings caused a massive panic which led several prominent professionals to turn against their colleagues and report them as communists. Although there was often little to no definitive evidence to support the claims presented to HUAC, numerous professionals were exiled from the film industry. In order to maintain employment despite their blacklisted status, many screenwriters would submit their scripts under false names or the names of other, politically acceptable, writers. One such screenwriter was Dalton Trumbo, who was blacklisted in 1947 and forced to write under pseudonyms and other writers’ names in order to continue working. Upon completing the script for the gladiator epic, Spartacus, Trumbo planned to go about his usual practice of writing under another writer’s name. Star and producer Kirk Douglas, however, had grown frustrated with the stifling working conditions in Hollywood and determined that Trumbo would receive full screen credit for the script. The title hero’s revolt against his Roman enslavers can easily be viewed as a stand in for Douglas and other film professionals’ stand against HUAC. The film’s role in history directly parallels its themes of sacrifice, loyalty, and freedom as the film’s cast and crew joined together and risked their careers for professional freedom, in much the same way that Spartacus and his comrades risked all that they held dear for personal freedom. Despite initial protests, the film went on to become a critical and financial success and encouraged other films to utilize the work of blacklisted professionals, effectively breaking the blacklist, and beginning a new era in Hollywood history.

#12- Star Wars (By: Lauren Ennis)

Due to its pulp fiction roots and numerous failed entries into the genre, science fiction is often maligned as juvenile and cliché. In the 1970’s, science fiction was largely considered a fringe sub-genre aimed towards children. In 1977, however, Star Wars became a surprising smash hit that brought science fiction into the cinematic mainstream.  Merging themes and motifs from such diverse sources as Greek epics, Christian-Judeo traditions, and modern history, the film weaves a tale that is thematically familiar despite its aesthetic innovation. The story begins as Princess Leia sends resistance plans with a desperate last resort plea to exiled Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi before being arrested by agents of the Galatic Empire. The message is inadvertently received by desert farm boy Luke Skywalker, who sees the princess’ plight as a way out of his dreary rural life. After his aunt and uncle are found murdered by Empire agents seeking the princess’ secret plans, Luke accompanies Obi-Wan (now a retired recluse) on a quest to rescue the princess and stop the advancement of the Empire’s army. The film was a box office smash hit that was followed up by two sequels and three prequels. The characters, costumes, and quotes have since become integral parts of American popular culture that are regularly referenced, parodied, and imitated. Since its initial release, Star Wars has become a sci-fi icon that continues to influence the genre and remind audiences of the wonders that can lie in a galaxy far far away.

#11- Titanic (By: Brian Cotnoir)

When this movie was released in 1997 it was huge!  Director James Cameron nearly bankrupted 3 Major Film studios trying to make this film, and even after it was completed many film critics were under the impression that this film was going to be the biggest film flop in history.  Oh, how they were wrong. Upon it’s release, “Titanic” became the Highest Grossing Film of All-Time (only to be outdone by “Avatar”, another film by James Cameron) and it was the first film to eclipse One-Billion and unheard of and un-thought of amount of revenue for a film to make.  Not only that, but it won a record tying 11 Academy Awards.  It is a film that takes one of the biggest disasters in World History and adds a great fictional romantic story that continues to fill it’s audiences with awe an inspiration.

#10- The Godfather Parts I & II (By: Brian Cotnoir)

Okay, so it might be cheating to count two films as one, but in all seriousness both of these films are fantastic.  For me, personally, I think the Godfather Part II is better than Part I, but I knew if we left “The Godfather” off this list that it would be something we’d never hear the end of, so we decided to include both of these films for the #10 Spot.  “The Godfather” Parts I & II are the detailed accounts of the Corleone’s—an Italian American Family that’s primary business is organized crime.  “The Godfather” Parts I & II are fantastic Gangster/Crime films and feature many great actors including Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert DeNiro, and a slew of other talented actors.  These are ideal films for anyone who is a fan of the “Gangster Film” Genre.  This is the Gangster Film that all other Gangster films aspire to be like, and for me personally, I have started a tradition with my family that we watch at least one of “The Godfather” movies on Thanksgiving.

#9- Metropolis (By: Lauren Ennis)

Today, dystopian tales are rampant in science fiction and fantasy. These films generally depict a not too distant future in which one group of people is enslaving another through the use of ultra-modern technology and mass manipulation. The successful formula for dystopian fiction has been utilized so many times that it seems as old as fiction itself. In reality, these tales in many ways owe a creative debt to a more recent source; the 1927 silent classic Metropolis. The film relates the epic struggle of upper class elite and lower class workers for control of the futuristic city of Metropolis. The city is run by Joh Frederson, whose son, Freder, has recently been exposed to the plight of city’s workers after meeting reform minded worker Maria. Horrified by what she tells him, Freder determines to learn about the workers and their hardships by posing as a worker himself. While Freder is leading his double life in the city’s slums, Joh concocts a plan to turn the workers against Maria so that his elite class can maintain control of the city. The plan quickly spirals out of control, leaving it up to Freder and Maria to unite the city’s classes and prevent a civil war. Despite its sometimes predictable plot that echoes the biblical tale of Christ, Metropolis manages to tell a convincingly futuristic story, which also comments on the issues of its day. In many ways, the film parallels the social and economic unrest of 1920’s Germany, and foreshadows the strife that was to come in the 1930’s. Interestingly enough, despite its warnings against totalitarianism, the film was a favorite of Nazi dictator Adolph Hitler, who saw its message as a parallel to his own skewed world view. The film’s set designs and visual effects are just as stunning now as they were in 1927, and enable viewers to become completely engrossed in the film’s futuristic world. The film’s exploration of technology as both an enslaver and a liberator also remains relevant in an increasingly technology reliant world. Although today’s dystopian stories feature digital inventions that are far more advanced than the machines envisioned in 1927, Metropolis remains a truly innovative work of art that, though often imitated, cannot be replicated.

#8- The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari (By: Lauren Ennis)

Long before a little boy saw dead people, Norman Bates covered up his mother’s crimes, and Keyser Soze ruled the criminal underworld, there were the exploits of a carnival barker and his clairvoyant somnambulist. 1920’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari is often considered both the first true horror film and the first film with a twist ending. By the first reel, the film sets itself apart with its surreal sets that seem more like something out of a nightmare than a living reality. In this bizarre world of twisted objects and jagged surfaces, Francis stares longingly at a woman who was once his fiancée. He then flashes back to when he and Jane were happily engaged and the mysterious Dr. Caligari’s carnival came to town. Francis attends the carnival with his best friend and former romantic rival, Alan, and they watch a show featuring Dr. Caligari’s somnambulist, Cesare. Caligari claims that Cesare is a psychic who has been asleep for his entire life, but can still answer any question correctly. Alan daringly asks if Cesare can predict when he will die, to which Cesare replies that Alan will be dead “at first dawn”. Though he and Francis initially laugh about the show, Alan is dead the next morning. Francis assumes that Cesare and Caligari are behind the murder and sets out to bring them to justice. After several twists and turns, a final twist is revealed that brings the entire plot into question. Prior to The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, films were straightforward stories that inspired little discussion or debate. With its shocking final twist, however, the film led the way for other twist based films that continue to surprise, baffle, and frustrate audiences today. While the film’s extraordinary set design was too surreal to influence other films, its cinematography provided the basis for the play on light and shadow of German Expressionism, which would eventually lead to the invention of film noir. Although modern cinema may not be as innovative as the filmmakers of the silent era envisioned, it would certainly be a far less interesting medium if not for The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Fantastic Sets and Cinematography 
#7- Casablanca (By: Lauren Ennis)

Here’s looking at you, kid; round up the usual suspects; we’ll always have Paris; play it, Sam; I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship. These lines have become so ingrained in popular culture that audiences sometimes forget that they all came from one film; Casablanca. Despite the fact that it is one of cinema’s most popular romances, Casablanca is actually much more than a simple love story. The film chronicles the transformation of a jaded American expatriate into a passionate member of the Allied cause as he reunites with the love of his life, only to give her up for the greater good. The film serves as both an enormously entertaining story on its surface, and a fascinating political allegory as resistance member Ilsa inspires isolationist Rick to rejoin the cause. The cast and crew reportedly resented working on a film with an unfinished script that they assumed would be a flop. Through a combination of excellent writing, superb performances, and memorable atmosphere, however, the film went on to become one of Hollywood’s greatest successes and happiest accidents. As time goes by, it is clear that Casablanca is far more than a story of “three little people”, and it is little wonder why when audiences hear the word ‘classic’, they instinctively think of Casablanca.

#6- Modern Times (By: Brian Cotnoir)

Charlie Chaplin directed and starred in a number of important films in his illustrious career.  With titles such as “City Lights”, “The Great Dictator”, “The Kid”, and “Limelight” Chaplin is one of the biggest stars in Hollywood History.  His best film though has to be 1936, “Modern Times”.  In the film Chaplin lovable “Tramp” character satires the rapid industrialization of World.  Now you can look at this film as one of two ways, this is either Chaplin’s last “Silent” Film or his first “Talkie”.  It’s tough to distinguish because it really depends on who you ask.  The film doesn’t have actual dialogue, but it does feature sound effects and music.  Not only that, but I’d say it’s more Chaplin’s last “Silent Film” because his only real dialogue in the film is a song he sings at the end of the film. “Modern Times” truly was the end of an era (at least for Silent Film making in Hollywood) and Charlie Chaplin struck cinematic gold with “Modern Times”.
The Tramp Finds the Right (First) Words

#5- Gone With the Wind (By: Lauren Ennis)

Clocking in at nearly four hours and filmed in breathtaking Technicolor, this film truly is the mother of all epics. Gone With the Wind traces twelve years in the life of Scarlett O’Hara as she evolves from pampered Southern Belle to iron-willed woman against the backdrop of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The success of the Pulitzer Prize winning novel it is based upon, combined with the studio promoted ‘search for Scarlett’ guaranteed that the film would be a box office success. Even today, the film maintains the record for highest ticket sales, beating the likes of top grossers Titanic and Avatar. Gone With the Wind is far more than an example of fine marketing, however, as is evidenced by the way that it continues to inspire audiences. Despite its epic length and status as a period piece, the film never drags or falls flat, instead becoming more interesting as its characters grow and change in response to the obstacles that life forces upon them. Family saga, romance, war story, coming of age tale; Gone With the Wind is all of these and more, making it a film with something for everyone that is truly worth giving a damn about.

You Tell Her, Rhett!

#4- Birth of a Nation (By: Brian Cotnoir)

America's 1st sad.
Not only is this the oldest film on our list, but it also has the distinguished honor of being the first “Blockbuster Film” in history.  This was the 1st film in that made a lot of money; people lined up around the block waiting to see this film. This film was considered so important that it was even the 1st film ever to be screened in the White House!  So what is the plot to this monumentally important film?  It’s the tale of the Ku Klux Klan defending and protecting their town from a group recently freed slaves during Southern Reconstruction.  Wow, just wow.  It’s pretty sad, to think that the worlds 1st majorly successful film is praising the Ku Klux Klan.  This film was directed by Hollywood Legend D.W. Griffith and features the acting talents of Lillian Gish and even features John Ford (who is known more famously for winning the Oscar for Best Director 4 times) in an un-credited role as one of the Klansmen.  The film also didn’t feature any black actors, but rather white actors in black face.  Upon seeing the film for the first time, President Woodrow Wilson remarked: “It’s like writing history with lightning, and my only regret is that it is all so terribly true” know I think the President might have been a bit of a racist.  Well despite its content, “Birth of a Nation” is still an important film.

#3- To Kill a Mockingbird (By: Lauren Ennis)

At first glance, it is difficult to understand how mild mannered lawyer Atticus Finch managed to surpass the likes of Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Rick Blaine to top the American Film Institute’s recent list of 100 greatest heroes. Upon closer examination however, it is clear that Atticus is the best man for the title. In the 1963 film To Kill a Mockingbird, Gregory Peck plays lawyer Atticus Finch as a man of humbleness, courage, and integrity. The film tells the tale of six year old Jean Louise ‘Scout’ Finch as she comes of age in rural Alabama in the early 1930’s. Throughout the film, Scout and her brother, Jem, turn to their father, Atticus, for guidance, advice, and an example to live by. In the film’s most notable sequence, Atticus agrees to defend Tom Robinson, a local black man falsely accused of raping a white woman. Over the course of the trial, the Finch family is harassed by the local townspeople, who refuse to see past their prejudices to the truth of the case. While race remains a controversial topic even today, To Kill a Mockingbird was particularly daring for discussing racism in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement. At that time, segregation still ruled the South and peaceful demonstrations were often met with violent retaliation. One of the most notable aspects of the film is its ability to convey the importance of justice and the horrors of racism without resorting to preaching or grandstanding. Through its understated approach to a complicated topic, To Kill a Mockingbird matches its Pulitzer Prize winning source material and sets the standard for heroism in film.

#2- Citizen Kane (By: Brian Cotnoir)

Orson Welles debut film “Citizen Kane” is considered by many to be the Greatest Film of All-Time.  It has been ranked at the #1 on the list of the Greatest Films of All-Time by the American Film Institute (AFI) and the late Roger Ebert said that it was his Favorite Film of All-Time.  The life story of a newspaper tycoon named Charles Foster Kane is loosely based off of the life of William Randolph Hearst.  Orson Welles co-wrote, directed, and starred in this film and he was only 25-years-old.  What a major accomplishment to achieve and at such a young age.  This film was innovative and it was all surrounding the mystery of what did Charles Foster Kane’s final words mean (which, I have to be honest I was disappointed with the ending, but other than that it was great).  The only thing that I find most amusing about this film is for all the praise it receives and all the people who decree it to be the “Best Film Ever”, the fact remains that “Citizen Kane” did not win the Oscar for “Best Picture” in 1941.  That honor went to John Ford’s “How Green Was My Valley”.  Obviously, it wasn’t green enough because years later we are still praising Orson Welles and “Citizen Kane”, and you know what, I’ve never even seen “How Green Was My Valley”.  I don’t even know what it’s about.

#1- The Wizard of Oz (By: Lauren Ennis)

MGM dedicated this film to “the young in heart”, and no film captures the innocence and wonder of childhood quite like The Wizard of Oz. From the moment that Judy Garland appears on screen with Scottish terrier Toto, the audience is transported back to the carefree days when we really could find any excitement we sought in our own back yards. The story follows restless Kansas farm girl Dorothy Gale on a series of magical adventures in a land ‘over the rainbow’, as she attempts to defeat a wicked witch and return home. The film perfectly encompasses the desire to experience life beyond the confines of the familiar and the wisdom that comes from knowing that there truly is no place like home. With several generations growing up watching and loving The Wizard of Oz, nearly every aspect of the film from quotes, to costumes, to songs has become iconic to the point of entering the realm of national culture. Cinema is an art that is meant to transport viewers into another world beyond the one in which they are living. No other film transports its viewers as effectively as The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy opens her door to a colorful land and we all realize that we aren’t in Kansas anymore. 

Sing Judy, Sing!