Don’t Mind the Tall Dark Stranger

Megamind (2010)

Megamind (2010)

As their home planet died, Megamind (Will Ferrell) and Metro Man (Brad Pitt) were sent to Earth, where the two outsiders embarked on opposite paths. Metro Man became a beloved super hero, while Megamind chose a life of villainy.

After discovering Metro Man’s weakness, Megamind sets a trap and destroys his nemesis, but without his noble counterpart, he grows bored and listless.

When Reporter Roxie Ritchi (Tina Fey) inspires him to create a new superhero, a yin to his yang, Megamind accidentally bestows super powers on her lazy cameraman Hal Stewart (Jonah Hill), who rejects Megamind’s hero training and becomes a super villain named Tighten instead.

With Metro Man out of the picture, the only one who can save Metro City from Tighten’s evil plan is Megamind.

David Cross is hysterical as Megamind’s lackey, Minion, the chemistry between Fey and Ferrell is excellent, and Pitt’s disillusioned super hero is fantastic. Most super heroes struggle to balance their personal desires versus the needs of the world, but ultimately choose to embrace their destiny as Savior because the good of the many outweighs the good of the few, but, refreshingly, Metro Man rejects this formula.

Unfortunately, Despicable Me (2010) cast a considerable shadow over the film. Both feature villains who transform into heroes to save the world and supporting characters named Minion, but Megamind is a more straightforward parody of the superhero genre which nails its subject matter and asks thought-provoking questions about purpose and identity.

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)

When Alfie (Anthony Hopkins) is reminded of his mortality, he begins a regimented exercise program and leaves his wife of forty years, Helena (Gemma Jones) for a younger woman, Charmaine (Lucy Punch).

When the promiscuous Charmaine gets pregnant, Alfie wants a DNA test to confirm his paternity, but she refuses the test because she finds the child’s paternity irrelevant.

After their separation, Gemma relies on Cristal, a fortune-teller with dubious connections to the afterlife, to guide her in her new life.

Alfie and Gemma’s daughter, Sally (Naomi Watts) is married to Roy (Josh Brolin), a once heralded novelist, who blames his wife for his inability to write a second novel. He obtains the manuscript of man killed in a car accident and claims the work as his, but unfortunately, the man survived and will soon expose Roy as a fraud.

Meanwhile, Sally contemplates an affair with her boss, Greg (Antonio Banderas), but learns he’s already sleeping with her assistant. Determined to make something of her life, she asks her mother for a loan to open her own art gallery, but is denied because it’s a bad astrological time according to Cristal.

This film is Woody Allen’s most straightforward flirtation with nihilism. Very little done in this life has any real permanence. Homes will rot, works of art will be forgotten. Our favorite writers will fade as new authors take their place and fill the holes in our heads.

Ironically, the film opens with a quote from one of the few people to achieve a real measure of immortality. Five hundred years later, Shakespeare’s plays are still performed and discussed. Even nonreaders hold his name with reverence and awe.

But in the end, the bard may have been more right than he realized. Recent studies indicate fewer and fewer liberal arts colleges require a course in Shakespeare. Some people may make a louder sound or get angrier, but in the end it still means nothing; in the end, we all get a visit from the tall, dark stranger.

Best of the 2010s

Incendies (2010)

Incendies (2010)

When Nawal Marwan dies, she leaves instructions for her twin children, Jeanne and Simon, to find their father and half-brother.

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Best of the 1900s

Explosion of a Motor Car (1900)

A car explodes for no apparent reason, and the body parts of its passengers slowly fall to earth.

This short film, directed by Cecil Hepworth, illustrates fear of technology was as prevalent one hundred years ago as it is today and stands as a stark reminder Tarantino and Saw are merely the latest manifestations in cinema’s long fascination with the macabre.

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Best of the 1910s

The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (1910)

I’m a huge fan of the fantasy world Frank L. Baum created: his books, the authorized sequels by the “Royal Historians of Oz”, The Wicked Years, and the miraculous 1939 film.

This isn’t the best adaptation of his most famous tale (Toto is replaced with a cow and Dorothy meets the scarecrow in Kansas before arriving in Oz). However, the joy of the material bleeds through and makes it more captivating than it should be, showing how fertile it would become for the imagination of others.

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Remind me why The Babadook always follows the Tracks

By the Law (1926)

By the Law (1926)

Five prospectors head to the Yukon. After one of them kills two of his compatriots, the survivors, a husband and wife, subdue him, but, isolated from civilization, struggle deciding how to proceed. Should they extract justice or wait weeks for the authorities to come?

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Don’t open the box, unless you want to know what’s inside

Pandora's Box (1929)Pandora’s Box (1929)

Lulu (Louise Brooks) convinces her former paramour, newspaper publisher Ludwig Schon, to marry her, but when he comes home and finds her with her “first patron,” they fight and she accidentally kills him.

Convicted of manslaughter, she goes on the run. When her limited money runs out, she turns to prostitution, and her life ends tragically at the hands of Jack the Ripper.

Remarkable in its era, this melodrama features an unrepentantly independent and sexually liberated woman. The film works because Brooks is captivating and possesses a rare ability to be overtly sexual without being slutty. We want her to find happiness despite her selfish, borderline abhorrent behavior. We’d like for her to escape her tragic fate, but we don’t pity her because she earned her demise.

This film was succeeded as my favorite film released in 1929 by Applause.

Big or Little? Who Cares?

Little Big Man (1970)

Ten-year old Jack Crabb is abducted by Pawnee Indians and raised by their leader Old Lodge Skins (Chief Dan George). “Rescued” by the US Calvary, he lives with Reverend Silas Pendrake and his wife Louise (Faye Dunaway). When she attempts to seduce him, he runs away, briefly working with a snake oil salesman before reconnecting with his long-lost sister, Caroline who wants him to be a gunslinger.

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Wandering In the Company of Four Horny Men Named Riley

Horns (2014)

Horns (2014)

When Ignatius Perrish (Daniel Radcliffe) proposes to his longtime girlfriend Merrin (Juno Temple), she rejects him, telling him she loves someone else. The next morning, Merrin is found dead and everyone in town, except for his childhood friend Lee (Max Minghella), believes a spurned Ig murdered her.

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Best of the 1920s

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

Francis recounts the time he exposed Dr. Caligari as a murderous sociopath who hypnotized one of his patients to commit his crimes. As he finishes his story, we learn Francis is actually patient at an insane asylum and his account is his latest delusion.

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