50 films | #47

rushmore by wes anderson

"i saved latin. what did you ever do?"

the countdown of the 50 best films i have ever seen continues with wes anderson’s sophmore effort rushmore. put on your blazer and tie and join as many clubs as you can…

what makes rushmore so great is the way it twists all the conventions of the genres in which it plays. it’s a high school comedy, but it’s placed in a school we’ve never seen with characters we’ve never encountered. it’s a romantic comedy/drama with a love triangle so bizarre that it’s hard to believe all three people involved would ever meet in real life. it’s a quirky independent film with heart, that never falls into any cliches or traps like so many films of the same ilk. it’s a film that so many films have tried to replicate (thumbsucker, norman, submarine, rocket science, juno), but few have failed to achieve the same success (if any)

this film set the standard for style and substance of later wes anderson, which almost became a trap for him the way twist endings were a trap for shymalan. he was pigeon holed as the quirky director with odd characters who say irreverent things and then ends a movie with a slow motion shot. while that may be true (i’m looking at you steve zisou), it doesn’t make this movie any less great. it doesn’t fall into the same trap that life aquatic and darjeeling may have fallen into. in those films, the heightened realism and heightened characters in both films leave you feeling detached. these characters and situations are heightened but only just enough to elevate the action.

i saw rushmore for the first time while i was in high school, so it may have resonated more effectively than if i had seen it later in life, but i love these characters. i love max and his crazy desire to fit in anywhere. i love howard’s post-midlife crisis and search for something meaningful in life. nothing about this film seems fake or forced. it’ll make laugh, it’ll make you cry, but most of all it’ll make you think. well, maybe not, but it’s a darn good film nonetheless.

50films | #45

wall•e by andrew stanton

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"wait, that doesn’t look like earth. where’s the blue sky? where’s the grass?"

earth has become a desolate wasteland where the only creature left is a trash compacting robot.  humans float around in a utopic ship with machines that caters to their every need, so much so that no human interaction exists.  humans become fat and lazy, and earth becomes a distant memory.  it sounds like the description of a dystopian sci-fi film directed by kubrick, where the moral is that the world is a cold dark place with no morals.  but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

wall e is a story of redemption.  a story that no matter what the circumstances, there is always hope, always a way to return to whats right.

i remember watching in the theater and being completely captivated by the way pixar was able to make me fall in love with robots.  robots!  there’s something beautiful about the way a robot whose job it is to clean up our mess of a planet methodically collects and preserves history.  he finds objects he finds interesting and keeps them.  he watches musicals, love dances, and has genuine human emotion collected from the remains of our collective consciousness.

the film is beautiful and poignant.  heart warming and thought provoking.  and any movie that has a scene where you ask a computer to “define dancing" is alright with me.

50films | #48

titicut follies by frederick wiseman

"i need help, i just don’t know where i can get it… well, you’ll get it here, i guess”

our trip through my fifty favorite films has us on the mental hospital for the criminally insane and the direct cinema masterpiece, titicut follies…

frederick wireman is probably the master of direct cinema.  direct cinema is basically fly-on-the-wall filmmaking, where the filmmakers try to capture reality as it takes place.  they try to make as little an impact on the action as they possibly can, and simply sit there and record it.  wiseman has made over 40 films, but his first, titicut follies, has to be his best.

titicut follies takes place within the walls of a massachusetts “hospital” for the criminally insane.  it chronicles the patients, the caretakers, and the guards (all of the terms are used loosely).  titicut follies is filmed with such an evenhand that it can come off cold and distant, which only amplifies the appalling behavior of which the patients or inmates are treated.  they are physically assaulted, kept in their cells completely naked, and verbally tormented throughout the film.  at no point do the guards seem to even notice (or care) that cameras are catching their actions, and no attempt is made to answer the question of how any of these actions are helping the patients.  i mean this is a hospital right?  the film almost never was able to be seen because massachusetts tried to stop is distribution.  wiseman, a lawyer turned filmmaker (opposite of me), was able to get it released almost 30 years after filming it, only after patients died because of the treatment they received at the hospital.

titicut follies is a difficult film to watch.  there are numerous scenes that are so shocking to the conscience that you almost loose it when you remember that this is actually happening.  it’s a depressing look at how inhumanely people can treat other people.  wireman never preaches, never tells you what to think, but just lets the camera and the action speak for themselves.

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