The Threeway: Top 3 Spielberg Movies (Adam’s Take)

I’ve said it before – I’m a card carrying member of the Church of Spielberg. I can wash away his big misfires as things he didn’t really direct. Seriously, you think he was really on set for “Lost World: Jurassic Park 2”? Hell no. Maybe that one scene where the van falls into the tree (with the spiderweb/cracking windshield) but that’s about it. Same with “Crystal Skull.” The scene with Indy and Mutt on the motorcycle through campus – yes. Anything else? No.

Even the movies I wouldn’t put on this list are amazing:

  • Close Encounters of the Third Kind
  • Color Purple
  • Schindler’s List
  • Duel
  • Jurassic Park
  • War of the Worlds
  • Adventures of Tintin
  • War Horse
  • Saving Private Ryan

Any other filmmaker would love to have those on his resume. For Spielberg, those are in the “also ran” pile. Hell, that doesn’t even get into films like:

  • Munich
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
  • Catch Me If You Can

The fact is – he is the man. Enough of my man crush on his cinematic excellence. Onto the official Top 3:

3) “Raiders of the Lost Ark” – If Adventure Had a Name… It Must Be Indiana Jones! Sure, that’s a tag line from one of the other ones, but I don’t care. Raiders is pure awesome. The movie is carefully constructed. One scene gets your heart racing, the next allows you to catch your breath. The next scene kicks in adrenaline, the next settles back down. Only, the “coming down” scenes get shorter and the “blood pumping” scenes get more complex, until we hit the face-melting final.

Best Scene: The opening or the The Opening of the Ark. I’m not sure which. Both are iconic and incredible.

2) “E.T.” – If I created this list a few years ago this movie would have sat at #1. I love “E.T.” It captures a childhood sense of wonder that few movies ever have. Spielberg films the movie from a child’s perspective (ground up camera work – you don’t even see the “bad guy’s” face until 3/4 of the way through the movie) and it is lit with awe. The lightning style (lots of search lights coming from behind objects) will become a Spielberg trademark, but it was never done better than right here.

Best Scene: Towards the end as the kids are trying to get E.T. back into the forest. The “Man” is after them. What’s a group of punk kids harboring an Alien supposed to do? FLY! As E.T. lifts their bikes up over the police blockade… I still cheer.

1) “JAWS” – This movie has shot up my list of all time favorites in recent years. I don’t know why, but it took me awhile to fully understand its brilliance. We all know the story on how they didn’t show the shark much because the mechanical shark didn’t work well. Whether the decision was conscious or just dumb luck doesn’t matter. What does matter is the result.

Hitchcock once said “Their is no terror in the BANG, only the anticipation of it.” I think Hitch would have loved “JAWS” (it’s possible to say that “JAWS” was an extension of “The Birds” in terms of nature turning against man). There is terror in a shark. There is pure terror in the anticipation of the shark.

Best Scene – to prove that… there’s a scene where there are two people trying to catch the shark. It’s night and they are standing on a pier. They throw a pot roast into the water (on a hook) and tie the chain to the dock. The shark comes. Eats the roast and takes off – pulling the pier apart! One fisherman is in the water. As he starts to swim back we see the dock turn around. His friend starts yelling “SWIM! FASTER! DON’T TURN AROUND JUST SWIM!” His friend knows the dock turning means the shark has turned and is now after his friend.

The glorious thing is that throughout the entire scene… we never see the Shark. Not one dorsal fin. It’s exhilarating.

What do you think? Your top 3 Spielberg films?

Cocktease Fanart of the Day – Transformers/JLA (Updated)

Reblogged from Bendis’ tumblr:

Green Lantern Optimus? Hell and Yes.

SWEET PROTOFORM PRIMUS, WHY IS THIS NOT A REAL THING?

Update:

CBR has a few more details and some sweet closeups of Prime and Megs. Apparently this was an actual pitch that went nowhere. It’s official. DC hates money.

In Joss We Trust

Wait, wait wait… aren’t I the same guy who wrote the “mehVengers” counterpoint column that enraged so many? (Hint: yes) Now I’m here proclaiming the virtues of Joss? Yup.

Here’s the thing. I’m a big Joss fan (and I loved “The Avengers.”) But, I’m selfish. I’d rather see quantity of output from his creative mind. We know we’ll get quality from him as well. But, I’d rather get 22 hours of diversion from him a week. Not two hours every three years.

Word comes out today that ABC is moving forward with the new Marvel TV show “SHIELD.” (Shocking. Disney owns ABC and Marvel, corporate synergy FTW!) Bonus is that Joss is at the helm (which we knew would be the case). And he’s co-writing it. And, he’ll likely direct the pilot.

Hulk Smash!

That gets me excited. A new Joss show. On a network that will give the show a chance (not place it in a death time slot, show episodes out of order, give it proper promotion, etc.). This is what I wanted to see when Joss signed on for “Avengers 2.” I’ll see the movie but I’m far more excited about the show.

 

Perfect Movies: The Sting

Note: A majority of this entry appeared on chud.com years ago while I was a contributor there. However, given it is a Perfect Movie, I felt it fitting to retrofit slightly and post here. You can go to CHUD to read the original, complete with snarky screen caps.

Let’s get this out of the way right now: I absolutely love this movie (the theme song is a ring tone on my phone), mostly because there aren’t too many other movies I feel are more deserving of the title “Best Picture.” There are times in the award ceremonies where that term doesn’t always mean what I think it should. The Best Picture should be one where all the individual elements of a film (acting, script, directing, cinematography, etc.) are all individually great and, when they are combined, form something greater than the sum of its parts (much like Voltron). “The Sting,” does exactly that. (As fate clarifies this for me – I’m watching the 2011 Best Picture winner “The Artist” literally right now as I type this and.. it is safe to say that “The Artist” will not be featured under the Perfect Movie banner.)

“The Sting” is the ultimate con movie. This is different from a heist movie (like “Ocean’s Eleven”) in one very important way. Con men (according to lore and displayed in “The Sting”) never robbed from anyone (like Danny Ocean’s crew does). Instead, the grifter uses a mark’s greed against himself, and ends up swindling the mark for a lot of money.

That’s a very subtle difference, but it is necessary to understand. The grifter has an interesting moral center. In “The Sting”, both Newman and Redford portray that attitude very well. Neither is about to rob someone outright – but they will set up an elaborate con to swindle someone out of money. Outright stealing, in their mind, is wrong – but staging an elaborate play that makes the mark hand over the money – that’s OK.

That notion is one of the things that makes “The Sting” such a wonderful movie. The characters come from a shady world; but one different than viewers were used to seeing. Looking back through film history, we see an oddity in the early 70s. The “Godfather Saga” reigned supreme, winning the Best Picture Oscar in 1972 and 1974. “The Sting” is almost the anti-“Godfather”. Where “Godfather” is serious, “The Sting” is whimsical; where “Godfather” had amoral characters the “Sting” had characters who conducted illegal activities while adhering to a strict moral code.

There are plenty of characters in “The Sting”, but ultimately the movie is boiled down to three of them. First is Henry Gondorff (Paul Newman), who plays an old con man who is imparting his knowledge of the Big Con onto a young apprentice, Johnny Hooker (Redford). Their mark is a criminal, Lonnegan (Robert Shaw).

Each of the actors handles their characters brilliantly. Each is played with style and gusto and creates a life for the character. The entire cast is great in the movie – but the interplay between the three principles is magic.

Part of the reason the interplay is so good is because of the acting. Another reason is the fantastic script they had to work with. The script not only creates great characters – but an interesting story for them to play in.

As the Con unfolds it seems something happens to the screenwriter (David Ward). At some point he realizes that, as he sets into the third act, he has this great twist planned for one of the characters – Lonnegan. After all, he is being conned. The audience, however, is completely aware of it. Not only that, we know every detail. The audience has been involved from the first step and knows every aspect of the plan.

This is a problem for the screenwriter. If everything unfolds as it should – there is no real payoff for the audience. At that moment the screenwriter must realize there is another mark: The Audience. Some vital piece of information must be held back and a misdirect thrown out – so the audience thinks they are seeing one thing, and in reality seeing something different.

In this case it is whether or not Hooker will rat Gondorff out to the Feds. This notion becomes a part of the movie and ultimately is used as a device to feed the audience some misdirection. It works perfectly too. The audience falls for it (as does the mark in the film). The result is giving the audience a little something extra that wasn’t expected. The screenwriter cons the audience perfectly for a better payout.

Another aspect of the film that is just perfect is the score. All the music was old ragtime music by Scott Joplin, dropped into the film. Even though ragtime was no longer popular during the time “The Sting” takes place, it doesn’t matter. In this case the music isn’t there to strengthen the time period of the movie, as much as it is to accentuate the feeling of the movie.

“The Sting” has a great feel to it – and that feeling is one of the reasons it still works today. Much like “Ocean’s Eleven” was a few years ago, “The Sting” is cool and fun. Even the sets and the camera work in the movie are lively. Again, every aspect of the movie is great on its own accord, and plays into the mastery of the film itself.

Director George Roy Hill did a fantastic job with making all the various elements of the movie fall into place. Everything was perfect, from the cinematography to the acting to the music. That’s what I mean by a “Best Picture.” Not (necessarily) when all the elements of a movie come together to form something great, but when each individual piece is great and they come together to form something perfect.

The Splash Page: Green Muslim

Has a ring that can create anything. Uses it for tattoos.

Did you really think we’d get through another week without either DC or Marvel pulling some sort of idiotic publicity stunt?

This week it’s another go-round on the DC Diversity Carousel of Unprogress. Since New 52 has launched, they made Starfire into a sex-starved alien maniac, shoved Harley Quinn into some sort of weird BSDM outfit, introduced a literally flaming homosexual Green Lantern, and now…well…

What you’re seeing on the left is DC’s attempt to diversify its Earth-based GL Corp (and why are there so many humans in a supposedly intergalactic organization?) by introducing a character of Middle Eastern descent.

Wearing a ski mask.

Wielding a gun.

BECAUSE OBVIOUSLY THE WAY TO SHOW THAT YOU’RE INCLUSIVE TO PEOPLE OF ALL CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS IS TO MAKE A MINORITY CHARACTER LOOK LIKE HE’S ABOUT TO ROB A LIQUOR STORE!

Can we go back to shoving Starfire into progressively smaller bikinis? Misogyny in comics I can at least understand. This – I don’t see how this made it past anyone in the editor’s bullpen.

Sunday Showdown: AFI vs. IMDb (#96)

Do the Right Thing (AFI) vs. The Sting (IMDb)

If you had asked me a few days ago which of these movies I would choose as this week’s winner, I would’ve told you The Sting, even though I hadn’t even seen it. I had seen Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and knew I didn’t like it.

Let me start with The Sting (1973). I thought it was great. It is just the type of film I like for a nice, relaxing evening with my DVD player: entertaining, well-acted, a few twists to keep you on your toes. Nothing that requires deep thought. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. Who doesn’t love a young Robert Redford and Paul Newman?

Now: Do The Right Thing (1989). I saw it back in the early 90s. In all the brilliance of my 19-year-old self, attending a primarily white college in a primarily white portion of North Carolina, with all my first-world country, white-girl problems, I wrote the film off as being dated and irrelevant to anything happening outside of Brooklyn, NY.

As a matter of fact, if you had asked me to describe Do the Right Thing before I re-watched it yesterday, I would’ve said it starred Flavor Flav and was about how all white people were bad.

I was wrong.

Yes, the movie has giant boomboxes and huge jewelry and really bright clothing (although no Flavor Flav). And yes, the movie is about racial tension.

But no, the movie is NOT about black people being right and white people being wrong. The movie is about doing the right thing, but how knowing what is the right thing, is rarely clear.

(As another of my many asides, the most striking part of Do the Right Thing for me personally was the Korean family attempting to persuade the mob that they were “black too” and how the mob finally agrees. As a mother with two Asian children, I wonder what racial groupings my kids will identify with most when they get older, or if they will learn to use racial groupings to their advantage in different situations as the Korean family did in the film…)

So although I wouldn’t say I really enjoyed Do the Right Thing I can definitely say I am glad I watched it again. This film epitomizes why I am going through these movie lists: to force myself to view great films that I would never otherwise watch because I think Flavor Flav is in them.

This week’s winner, because it made me think, is Do the Right Thing. (Although I know at least one of the Double A’s is not going to agree – but who cares). This puts the score at: AFI – 4, IMDb – 1.

Next week: The Last Picture Show (1971) vs. the German Expressionist classic Metropolis (1927). I’m not familiar with The Last Picture Show at all and have never seen Metropolis in its entirety, so should be interesting.

Don’t Take the Detour

There’s a great disturbance in the Force. As if we needed more proof that Lucas is off his rocker… now comes a new show for the Cartoon Network: Star Wars Detours. And…. holy hell:

Words fail me. This… this… SEE! NO WORDS! This makes “Attack of the Clones” look like sheer awesome. (BTW – I used “Attack” as my reference because it really is the bottom of the barrel of the Star Wars Saga. For those who think otherwise… you’re just wrong.) At this point, I think we can safely say that Star Wars has jumped the Rancor.

I can say that the child inside me is crying, but what’s the point? Honestly, the kid inside me no longer cares. Hell, my kids don’t even care. I’ve tried indoctrinating my five year-old into the Star Wars Universe more than once. We watched “A New Hope” at his school (with other kids). He liked it – but it wasn’t the Gateway Drug he needed. “Clone Wars” on DVD? Nope. Star Wars Weekends at the Disney Hollywood Studios? Meh, in his mind. I even shelled out for “Phantom Menace” in 3D. Again, there was enjoyment (as much as possible with that one) but no further love. My point is… maybe it is time we all just stop caring. Lucas obviously has.

Any rate, this… wow. Where to start? Let’s start at the top. I assume that King George isn’t really involved in this. He saw something shiny and jumped at it. What’s his end game here? I can only assume one thing… NEW TOYS! Seriously, what else is there? There’s no way anyone has watched this trailer and thought “yeah, we need for 13 episodes.” But, my big takeaway from that preview? New character design (wretchedly awful character design, but new character design nonetheless).

The bigger problem is in conception. “Detours” comes from Seth Green (although it is an official LucasFilm production). Seems like “Robot Chicken” caught the eye of Uncle George and he said “yeah, let’s make that.” Only he missed the point. “Robot Chicken” is funny in doses and when the topics change. The “Star Wars” specials had a diminishing margin of returns already with each sketch (that’s an economic term for ya. Google it if you need to be edumacated). Creating a second hand off shoot of that… Is like taking a detour when you don’t need to.

Streaming Saturday: Breaking Bad

Walter doesn’t give a good god damn about your excuses for not watching his show.

My singly most satisfying television addiction of the past year has to be “Breaking Bad.” Found it on Netflix after half-listening to a review of the Season 4 finale on NPR. I had previous knowledge of the show: “Chem teacher gets diagnosed with cancer, makes meth to provide a financial cushion for his family…” Interesting; but darker than what I wanted at the time. Then, in the review, I started hearing terms like “super-villain” and “transformation” thrown about and my Nerd-dar started to perk up. Maybe there was more to Walter White and his trip down the rabbit hole than I’d assumed. Now, I don’t need spandex fisticuffs or insane powers in every fictional universe I peruse (it helps, but I dont need it); but if you can give me a solid story where a character stands out as if he was someone from a comic, while still existing in a realistic simulacrum of our reality, well then I’m yer Huckleberry.

So I started with the first episode. And Walter made me cringe. His milquetoast attitude, his seemingly ridiculous decisions…but there was something in Cranston’s portrayal of the titular character, something sharp and multi-faceted just under the surface, that I stuck around for the second episode. Then the third. Then the fourth.

I woke up halfway into the fifth episode, paused it, slept, and hit the queue the very next day; picking right up where I left off. You won’t want to watch this series, you’ll want to mainline it like one of Walter’s bags of blue meth. The action is horrifying. The motivations worse. The characters are all reprehensible. But you just can’t stop watching. You’ll ally yourself with one set of characters, then another, then back to the originals. And you’ll know you’re being manipulated grossly by a superb creative team. But you’ll keep watching anyway because you’ll be totally addicted by then and you’ll need your next fix.

Speaking of…

The Splash Page: Iron Land

Well that’s actually pretty nice…

Here we go again (man, I didn’t think I was going to have this much material this soon).

OK – so Marvel saw what an absolute shitfest the New 52 has been for DC. It alienated fans, didn’t draw in new readers, and just confused the shit out of everyone. So they stayed the course, kept tilling their little plot of continuity on their acreage, and decided to do a half reboot of their titles called Marvel NOW!

…*facepalm*

The worst news, of course, was that Greg Land (the entire reason that I stopped reading most Marvel comics – not that I don’t enjoy traced over pornface for every. single. character.) would be loosed on one of the best performing, best written characters in the entire Marvel stable – Iron Man. “But, Anthony!” you say “At least it’s Iron Man, right? He can’t pornface up Iron Man!”

HAHAHAHAHA – come with me, my naive little grasshopper. Continue reading