A brief look back at 3171, Year of Our Lady of Discord*

* For my less imaginative readers, 3171 in the Discordian calendar was 2005 in the Gregorian calendar.

In 2005:

Sadam Hussein was tried for crimes committed against humanity during his time in power,

YouTube was launched,

Prince Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles,

Former FBI agent Mark Felt publicly identified himself as Deep Throat,

Terrorists attacked the public transport system in London,

Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans,

The Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published twelve controversial drawings of the prophet Muhammad,

Angela Merkel was elected Chancellor of Germany,

Johnny Carson, Arthur Miller, Hunter S. Thompson, Teresa Wright, Johnnie Cochran, Terri Schiavo, Pope John Paul II, Saul Bellow, Anne Bancroft, Luther Vandross, James Doohan, Peter Jennings, William Rehnquist, Robert Wise, Rosa Parks, Eddie Guerrero, Pat Morita, and Richard Pryor died.

Harold Pinter won the Nobel Prize for literature.

Crash upset favorite Brokeback Mountain for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Dan Rather retired as anchor of the CBS Evening News.

After sixteen years, Doctor Who returns to television.

Carrie Underwood won the fourth season of American Idol.

Logo, a TV channel dsigned to appeal to LGBT audiences debuts.

Lost wins the Emmy for Best Dramatic Series.

Weeds, Battlestar Galactica, Prison BreakBones, Supernatural, How I Met Your Mother, Criminal MindsThe Colbert Report, and Deal or No Deal debut on American television.

While NYPD BlueThe OsbournesStar Trek: Enterprise, and Six Feet Under air their final episodes.

This is a list of my top ten movies released in 2005. Continue reading A brief look back at 3171, Year of Our Lady of Discord*

The Quest — Episode 1

When people here about my borderline insane quest to watch ten thousand movies, their initial reaction is skepticism. They think I’m either kidding or I’ve lost my mind.

After they realize I’m serious, the questions begin. Why are you doing this? How do you have time? What movies have you seen? What’s your favorite movie? What do you think of X? What did you think of Y?

These conversations with my friend, Rev. Ben Acton, led to this podcast where I’ll augment my impression of some movies and explore my obsession with greater detail thanks to his probing questions.

This is Episode One of The Quest.

Green with Fury

The Green Berets (1968)

The Green Berets (1968)

Colonel Mike Kirby (John Wayne) arrives in South Vietnam to lead a group of Special Forces while embedded journalist George Beckworth (David Janssen) reports on the conflict. Through a series of skirmishes with the Viet Cong, the film attempts to demonstrate the heroism and honor of American soldiers.

I liked George Takei as Captain Nim, a former Viet Minh Officer who joins the American effort against the communists, and David Janssen, fresh off his career defining work in The Fugitive, is very good as the idealistic reporter. The incident with the orphan, Ham Chuck, is a heavy-handed but fair exploration of the human costs of war.

Unfortunately, this long film too slavishly followed the outdated formula of Wayne’s previous films The Alamo (1960) and The Longest Day (1962), and contemporary critical reaction was not kind. Roger Ebert gave it 0 stars and included it among his most hated films. Fifty years later, its defense of American involvement of Vietnam is more quaint than offensive, but it’s still not a very good movie.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) has come a long way since the initial film in the series, which felt like Death Wish (1974) on steroids. The second film upped the apocalyptic imagery but maintained a gritty realism. The third film abandoned realism in favor of campy 1980s over indulgence.

This is a hybrid between the two extremes. The spectacle of the Thunderdome grounded in grime and dirt, like Lawrence of Arabia (1962) on acid.

The impressive spectacle masks the film’s serious issues. Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) has an instantly iconic look, but the character is flat and made the transition from barely surviving to rebellion leader in record time. How long has she been content to eke out an existence in the desert until she suddenly remembered her heritage and set out to find her home?

Immortan Joe, the film’s villain and Mad Max’s version of The Governor, is easily the most fascinating character in the film, and I wish the film had given us more of him.

Max, Furiosa, the Five Wives, Joe, and Nux, are all looking for a place to call home in a world where home no longer exists. If the film had focused on the psychological struggle of its characters as they adjusted to their new reality, it could have been something special, but, instead, the characters are excuses to pass the time until the next action set piece. I liked the action; I liked the endless car chases; I also like chocolate, but I don’t eat chocolate for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Exhilarating action, and creative post-apocalyptic imagery make this hollow, soulless film an enjoyable, but unsatisfying experience.

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.

Continue reading Best of the 2010s

Best of the 1900s

The Fat and the Lean Wrestling Match (1900)

In the early days of cinema, while the rest of the world’s filmmakers were acting more or less like amateur documentarians, Georges Méliès was pushing the boundaries and capabilities of his craft to explore what a camera could do.

His background as a magician fueled an interest in how a camera could be used to trick an audience. As a result, his films are more interesting than the simple slice of life films of the Lumiére brothers and Edison Studios.

Méliès’s pervasive sense of humor and energy still radiates one hundred and fifteen years later in less than ten minute bursts, prefiguring Vine and YouTube. Four generations later we’ve come full circle.

Continue reading Best of the 1900s

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.

Continue reading Best of the 1910s

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?

Continue reading Remind me why The Babadook always follows the Tracks

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.

Continue reading Big or Little? Who Cares?