I Want You to Hit Me as Hard as You Can

I’m about to break the first rule of Fight Club. Fight Club fits into the 1999 trend of people who are fend of with their normal lives. It was far more aggressive than movies like Office Space or American Beauty. Eventually gaining a cult status despite polarizing reviews. Similar to David Fincher’s previous directorial effort SE7EN, the intense tone of Fight Club was a bit much for me. Fight Club is about a nameless insomniac narrator played by Edward Norton. His perfect materialistic life makes him depressed. So he seeks comfort from support groups he doesn’t belong to. A deceitful scam that ends the moment he meets Marla Singer. A down on her luck woman played by pre-Burton Helena Bonham Carter. Things really change when he meets Tyler Durden. A soup selling Brad Pitt that teaches him to stop caring about his megger positions. So they form the titular Fight Club as a place for men to let out their aggression. I enjoy masculine things as much as the next guy, but there’s no way I’d join a club like this. Eventually Fight Clubs esulates to the point it becomes a chaos spreading anarchist organization called Project Mayhem. Their sadistic activities are why I’d have a hard time rewatching Fight Club. However, the twist is another story. SPOILER ALERT! It turns out Tyler is a figment of the narrator’s imagination. Which was hidden in plain sight with quick splices at the beginning, Tyler never speaking to Marla, or the boss blackmail being compared to their first fight. I’ll admit it is a clever twist. As is the 90’s special effects and use of alt rock music during society’s collapse. Fight Club has well executed social commentary, but I’m more likely to follow the first and second rule.

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Tyler Durden prepares fight

Chihiro in Wonderland

Spirited Away is the perfect starter anime. Actually, any film by master Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki is perfect anime exposure. He’s even been Disney approved. Spirited Away is the first and so far only anime movie to win Best Animated Film at the Academy Awards. So even though it seems like foreign animation never wins, always remember that it is possible. Spirited Away was actually the first anime movie I’ve seen (aside from Pokémon). I’ve never been a huge anime fan, but there’s just something about Hayao Miyazaki’s work. Spirited Away is a lot like a Japanese Alice in Wonderland. It was made with the intention of giving 10 year old girls a heroine to look up to. Chihiro is an ordinary girl who sounds just like Lilo in the American dub. She becomes distant from her parents when traveling to a new town. Along the way ending up in a seemingly abandoned amusement park. Spirited Away deals with all sorts of themes steeped in Japanese culture. Some of which goes over my head. There’s gluttony for when Chihiro’s parents are turned into pigs. And Greed represented by most of the creatures that inhabit the world. It turns out Chihiro is in a wonderland where spirits take time to relax. At the center is a very Eastern inspired bathhouse. Chihiro is guided by mysterious boy Haku (who is also a dragon) and is protected by a worker named Lin. She also meets a spider man, frogmen, a stink spirit, and a particularly big baby. Chihiro’s biggest obstacle is losing her name to big headed witch Yubaba and facing a No-Face spirit consumed by consumerism. Spirited Away is weird, bizarre, odd, a little disgusting, and creepy. Yet it’s also fun, creative, inspiring, and stunning. The traditional Japanese animation is breathtaking. As is the ethereal music that really flourishes in quieter moments. Spirited Away is a unique experience, but one that deserves all the acclaim its been given.

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No-Face offers Chihiro some money

Well, Nobody’s Perfect

Some Like it Hot is hot hot hot. But seriously, this is one of the best films from the 50’s. I’ve seen many cross-dressing related movies and Some like it Hot is among my top favorites. For those who don’t know, Some Like it Hot is the story of two male Jazz musicians. Tony Curtis is sax player Joe and Jack Lemmon is his partner on bass. Joe and Jerry witness a crime (the “Valentine’s Day Massacre” to be exact) and go into hiding by disguising themselves as women. So they join an all-female jazz band in an attempt to avoid detection. Until Joe decides to pose as a millionaire in order to woo their lovely lead singer Sugar. This was the first Marilyn Monroe movie I’ve seen so I definitely love it for that. She was a true “Blonde Bombshell” that was gone too soon. Meanwhile hapless sidekick Jerry uncomfortably wins the affections of real millionaire Osgood. Uncomfortable because he doesn’t realize she is actually a he. Some might find the humor dated, but it’s just as funny now as it was back then. The misunderstanding is hilarious. It leads to one of the most famous movie ending lines of all time, “Well, nobody’s perfect.” The scene is so good that it even works without context. As it seems like Osgood doesn’t care if Jerry isn’t blonde, smokes, can’t have kids, or is a man? Fun fact, the movie was intended to be in color. The reason they made it in black and white is because the male actors looked too ugly as women. Some Like it Hot was way ahead of its time.

Joe (left) and Jerry (right) perform with Sugar (center)

Left Side, Strong Side

Remember the Titans is my favorite football/sports movie I’ve ever seen. I’ve never been much of a sports fan. I root for my home team of course, but that’s about it (I only watch the Superbowl for the commercials). So why watch Remember the Titans? Long story short, I first saw part of the movie in school. Then another teacher played it, then another, until I ended up watching it every time it came on TV. So I have my teachers to thank for my appreciation of the film. Not only is Remember the Titans an inspiring football movie, it’s also a perfect race relations movie. My favorite in fact. Even within the confines of a PG rated Disney movie. Remember the Titans is based on the true story of 1971 Virginia high school team the Titans. While not entirely accurate, the message remains the same. Alexandria is the kind of town that takes football very seriously. All of that is put to the test when the school becomes integrated. Even in a Disney production, Denzel Washington is as brilliant as ever. He plays newly appointed Coach Boone as a stern, but caring coach with the ultimate goal of bringing his black and white players together. Getting along with Coach Yoast is the first step. A very young Hayden Panettiere plays his daughter. It’s at football camp that team struggles before finally forging a bound and eliminating the racism between them. It’s simple, but I always appreciate a less heavy handed look at race relations. Notable teammates include Captains Bertier and Julius, colorblind offensive lineman Lastik, late addition Sunshine, and yes that is Ryan Gosling. The soulful music selection only enhances things. Remember the Titans earns its touchdown status.

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Coach Boone (left) conducts football practice

Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson

The Graduate was way ahead of its time. It’s all about a college graduate named Benjamin who has a tumultuous affair with his much older neighbor Mrs. Robinson. This was back before “cougar” was a common term to describe an older woman pursuing a younger man. I can relate to Ben, because I too am still trying to figure my life out. He receives advice (“one word, plastics”), but nobody listens to him except for Mrs. Robinson. True, most people only remember The Graduate for its famous quote “Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me” and its accompanying screenshot between Mrs. Robinson’s leg, but the movie has a whole lot more to offer than just that one scene. It’s actually quite revolutionary. Ben’s relationship with Mrs. Robinson eventually develops into a relationship with her daughter Elaine. Which leads to another famous scene involving a wedding that ends with that final shot on the bus. The Graduate was one of the first movies to have a single musical act score their movie. In this case, Simon & Garfunkel. Who gave us songs like “The Sound of Silence” and “Mrs. Robinson.” The Graduate is filled with subtle humor and an amazing filmmaking style. This was also the first of many Dustin Hoffman lead roles I saw that made me realize how great he was as an actor. The morals are kind of loose and the ending will definitely make you think, but The Graduate is still a classic that makes it all work.

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“Mrs. Robinson, you’re trying to seduce me”

Beep Beep Beep Boo Boo

Close Encounters of the Third Kind is the first science fiction film released by famed director Steven Spielberg. Despite being so well known for his sci-fi movies, they really only make up about a third of his career. His first alien film was a bit of a passion project that Spielberg really wanted to make ever since he fell in love with space at a young age. His fascination with possible alien lifeforms grew into the very slow building first contact cinematic feat known as Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A movie (I’m sorry to say) I found to be well made, but kinda boring. Maybe it’s just the fact that I didn’t grow up watching it like so many other Spielberg classics. Released the same year as Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind was seriously overshadowed, but its efforts didn’t go unnoticed. The title refers to the sequence in which first contact is established. The first kind is seeing, the second kind is evidence, and the titular third kind is contact. Spielberg favorite Richard Dreyfuss is a husband and father who sort of selfishly abandons his wife and kids in order to discover the truth. Mom type Melinda Dillon is a mother whose son is abducted in a creepy, but iconic scene with lights and all the technology malfunctioning. French and U.S. forces unite in order to better communicate with the UFO. The UFO itself is an impressive model with all sorts of colorful lights. While John Williams’ 5 tonal score is truly captivating. The aliens turn out to be simply designed friendly creatures all along. Although I wouldn’t consider it a top choice, there’s no denying the impact of Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

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The alien mothership lands in the desert

I Got You, Babe

It’s Groundhog Day! A truly innovative movie about the concept of a “time loop.” I don’t know for sure if Groundhog Day was the very first “time loop” movie ever made, but it is an innovator. Many movies after it have tried to use its formula, to the point where its practically become its own genre. Bill Murray plays a jerky reporter named Phil Connors who gets stuck reliving the same day in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania over and over again. First loop, he’s confused, second loop, he’s concerned, and then he realizes that he can do whatever he wants. Like punch the annoying Ned Ryerson, steal money, sleep with ladies from town, and eat whatever he wants. Eventually leading to him trying to woo Rita, the woman of his dreams. Then trying to kill himself in a variety of darkly comedic ways. Groundhog Day really makes you think about what you’d do if you could do whatever you want with no consequences. The strength of the movie is in how it handles this concept without being too dark. Most of the humor comes from the constantly repeating moments. Especially when Phil messes up on one day and has to redo it. Bill Murray is perfect in the role. Since he usually plays characters like this, who seem like jerks, but turn out to be nice guys. Groundhog Day is the original “time loop” movie that everyone should watch. See it again and again and again and again.

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Phil (human) drives Phil around (groundhog)

So Fetch

Mean Girls is the teen comedy of our generation. It has a cult following, its own holiday on October 3, and a stage musical. I’ll admit I wasn’t expecting much from Mean Girls before I watched it. I assumed it would just be like any other teen movie. Then I watched it… and I still didn’t get it. It felt like a lot to process. Then over time I started to understand it better and now it’s one of my all time favorite teen movies. I must have seen Mean Girls at least 20 times since I’ve watched it. I even bought the movie on DVD. Mean Girls is the brainchild of SNL alumni Tina Fey. It’s an adaptation of a book she didn’t realise had no narrative structure. Originally meant to be a raunchy R rated comedy, Mean Girls transformed into something better. Mean Girls is about the previously homeschooled math expert Cady (it’s pronounced like Katy) Heron. She has trouble fitting in at first, until she makes two friends that introduce her to “the Plastics.” Teen royalty consisting of dumb blonde Karen Smith, gossip girl Gretchen Weiners, and queen bee Regina George. Over the course of a full school year (Halloween, Christmas, and a school dance) Cady attempts to bring down Regina for being such a mean girl. Mean Girls is able to balance over-the-top situations with relatable ones. It’s endlessly quotable with lines like “That is so fetch,” “You go Glen Coco,” and “On Wednesdays we wear pink.” I would even say that Regina George is the greatest movie mean girl of all time. It’s also Lindsay Lohan’s last good performance (before she lost it). Mean Girls is so fetch!

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Cady hangs with the Plastics

P.S. I am not trying to make fetch happen.