Signs of a Delusional Mind
These are the chronicles of the esoteric . . .
fine fifteen, part 2
Welcome to the second edition of Eric's Fine Fifteen. Without further ado, I shall jump right into it.
This film is considered by most a classic, in every sense of the word. But not only that, it is a leader in visual performance. The movie which won this slot is Jurassic Park. As far as book-to-movie adaptations go, I believe this one would also come out near the top; while it's been some time since I've read the Michael Crichton thriller, I do remember it being pretty faithful to the atmosphere and characters - I don't say plot because I don't remember what all was altered (I do know however that the second movie dropped a few subplots from the book, but ones that were not necessarily crucial - and really, all adaptations do this). For a movie made in 1993, the visual effects were beyond its time; watch it now and they're still stunning (which makes me believe they actually created dinosaurs for this movie). The plot, in my opinion, was rather original and intelligently executed, thanks in part to the excellent source material. Further, it most certainly stands out as a maverick among its genre, with a multitude of undertones (science fiction, drama, romance, comedy) expertly combined, while still maintaining an overall suspenseful ambiance. Lastly, it subtly - and decidedly not so subtly - raised science-related ethical questions before the full-blown onset of stem cell and other similar research; in this way, it plays as a good commentary on the scientific community: despite our (educated) theorising and hypothesising, one never truly knows what the outcome will be.
This particular movie made it in here last minute; it otherwise would've been at the top of the 'almost made it' list. Despite its squeezing in, it managed to make it to number twelve. It is the head of a reboot to a franchise that's been around since 1962 when Sean Connery played the lead. While I've never been a big fan of James Bond (likely because the renditions of my time were more and more like the Batman and Robin of the series - i.e., horrible), Casino Royale caught my attention. I've watched this movie a number of times and I enjoy it every single time. I'm told the characters and stories of this one follow the original books quite a lot more closely than the first films. And I rather like the atmosphere it creates - the action, the dialogue, the romance, the espionage, the suave nonchalance, all the chase scenes (parkour!), and even the suspenseful, if at first confusing, poker game! This here is a very sophisticated action movie, and Daniel Craig is definitely James Bond to me in the way Christian Bale is Batman. Brilliant movie. And now I feel like watching it again.
This spot flip-flopped between two movies by the same director, but ultimately The Village won out - and not simply because it is the first movie that began the Friday afternoon hang-outs between me and my now wife. The Village is a romance movie in a way no romance movie ever has been (that I've seen). Like Million Dollar Baby, this movie is ostensibly one thing, but is in fact another - and this is a realisation I only came to while working on an assignment for my Film and Faith class a few years ago. The Village plays out as a thriller, but is written as a love story: the movie is really about the relationship between Lucius (Joaquin Phoenix) and Ivy (Bryce Dallas Howard) amidst the uneasy truce between their village and the mysterious creatures in the forest around them. The film is beautifully shot with colourful cinematography nearing that of Hero. Moreover, its story handles love in a noticebly delicate and nuanced manner; the obvious, innocent love between Lucius and Ivy is paralleled by the unspoken, forbidden love of their parents - a love poetically restrained. Additionally, the overall story stands as a commentary on seclusion from the world, and Noah Percy (the mentally ill character played by Adrian Brody) is the element that exposes the faults - he is hindered by an incapacity to understand and know how to cope with the darker side of (his) humanity which, in the end, the founders of the village are ultimately attempting to do - while the woodland creatures represent the corruption, false and true, present within our world. But, as the blind lover risks her life for the medicines to save her dying beloved, we see that the overtones are of love and not of a fright-fest. I could actually go on about how great this movie is and all the various subtexts it contains, but I'll leave it at that for now. But not before I mention that if there's a way to poetically depict a stabbing (weird, I know), this movie pulls it off.
This is, I think, the only movie on the list I will never watch with my wife. Not because I don't want to, but because it would be far too disturbing and creepy for her - and not even becuase it's all that terribly disturbing or creepy. Okay, actually, it has some disturbing content, but for me The Cell is an innovative movie. Despite what many may say, Jennifer Lopez actually does a decent job acting in this movie; the person I had trouble (and still sometimes have trouble) taking seriously is Vince Vaughn (Is he good actor? Sometimes I can't tell...). Overshadowing the two is the always brilliant Vincent D'Onofrio. This movie is my first exposure to Tarsem Singh - and his first major project (he's only worked on five, four of which are as a director, and three of which I've watched and love). His cinematography is breath-taking; his imagination, epic. J.Lo plays the lead as a social worker adept at an experimental Matrix-like technology who is convinced by an FBI agent (Vaughn) to use her 'special method' to enter the mind of a newly and suddenly comatose killer in order to find where his last victim is being held (and tortured). The images that follow, while grandiose, are somewhat graphic in nature. Herein lies another movie which plays on my interest of differing realities, albeit less so than others - there are a few moments in the movie which are reminiscent of the Star Trek: Voyager episode, 'Waking World' because the danger is that a 'user' can potentially forget they're not in reality. They even need a wake-up signal. Aside from that, they need to 'plug in' to each others minds, but only the dreamer has the upper hand, as it is they who can shape the sleeping reality as they see fit. But I really can't rave enough about the imagery (for any of his movies) as there are so many scenes of such amazing visuals beyond description - they truly are experiences; this is in fact his trademark and largely what keeps me coming back. This is of course not to say that the story isn't well written, but the cinematography is almost like a lead character in and of itself. It's an engulfing movie, one in which I can't watch snippets of because I'll inevitably need to watch the whole thing (it's happened... twice).
The last movie you'll get from me this week is an obscure, but hiliariously strange film called Pootie Tang. Oh, Pootie. How could any movie-list of mine be complete without Pootie Tang? This movie is beyond brilliant - it is in a category of its own (quite literally). As a mild parody of 'black movies,' the humour goes from quite strange to over-the-top and it's for this reason I couldn't help but love it instantly. Every time I watch this movie I just fall in love with it all over again. The dialogue, the characters, the story and the execution of it all - it's just all so intentionally bad that it's actually quite amazing. There are so many parts of the movie that are too good, and I want to watch them all again right now. The tag-line definitely rings true for both Pootie and the movie itself: 'Too cool for words.' It's such a shame that Pootie Tang was not well received. I will always love Pootie. Sa da tay, my damie. Sepatown.
And there you have it, Fine Fifteen Thirteen through Nine. I hope you enjoyed this edition. Tune in next time when I throw at you the next five. They're gonna keep on being amazing. Believe me, I know. I wrote this.
What I find interesting is how many of these favourite movies I do not own: Jurassic Park, Zoolander, Pootie Tang, and I only own a burnt copy of The Cell and a VHS (!) of Generations. For shame, Eric Jordan. For shame.