- The Sword of Doom (1966) Starring NFD favorite Tatsuya Nakadai—who I actually haven’t named here, how have I not done that?! he’s awesome—as an extremely dead-eyed murder samurai, this movie has homophobia and a sexual assault in it, but all the other parts of it rule hard as hell.
- Hackers (1995)*: On its 25th anniversary with live cast commentary!!!
- Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)*: Everybody wants to make magical-kid movies like Miyazaki, nobody wants to make meandering unmarketable gentle conflict-free movies like Miyazaki.
- The Sweatbox (2002): I hope you made time to watch this after I linked to it back in September, because it got taken down again, but I will link it if it pops back up, because it is a fucking fascinating portrait of years-long, slow-motion institutional failure.
- Shaolin vs. Lama (1983)*: I don’t know if I noticed the first time (when I saw it at the Hollywood Theater) that Crouching Tiger (2000) referenced this movie’s “stealing the secret book” sequence very directly for its opening set piece.
- A Silent Voice (2016): Bittersweet anime with bittersweet anime club about bullying a deaf person and the consequences thereof; spent all its budget on beautiful sign-language animation and not enough on bringing actual deaf people into the creative process.
- Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner ( 2001): This movie deserves more than one sentence!
- Kwaidan (1954): Japanese folk-tale horror anthology with artificial-but-gorgeous sets and matte paintings, which I wish I’d actually written about in October, because it’s perfect for a spooky mood!
- Jennifer’s Body (2009): Karyn Kusama seems to have a gift for getting a fantastic central performance from an actress (Michelle Rodriguez in Girlfight , Megan Fox here), but I think the technical fundaments–sound mixing, shot composition, editing and story structure–hold up less well.
- The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020): The Netflix Christmasatic Universe posits a Europe with 43 tiny English-speaking-but-somehow-Catholic absolute monarchies and zero security personnel of any kind.
- Happiest Season (2020): There’s this meme image where Superman is exerting tremendous energy to stop a train from running over a child, and in this case the child is me, and Aubrey Plaza is Superman, and the train wreck is this napkin sketch of a movie.
- Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999): I didn’t know if I’d like this because I didn’t like the only other Jim Jarmusch movie I have seen (Only Lovers Left Alive ), but, however, it rules hard as hell.
- Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020): So many animators, musicians,
artists, performers and designers worked so hard on… this… attempt to lionize a Victor von Frankenstein figure (???), which displays zero trust in its audience, its own conceits, or its animators, musicians, artists, performers and designers.
- What’s Your Number? (2011): It’s a three out of ten.
- First Cow (2019): A beautiful movie about love and foreboding in which, I can promise you, no violence happens on screen, including to any animals, and especially to the cow.
I’m running the first (theoretically) paid ads ever on xorph.com, now. I don’t have any particular moral objection to ads; it just never seemed worth the trouble before. Until Clockers got boingboinged.
As Holly pointed out, I wrote 991 extremely short stories and she wrote 41 stories that interlock in a crossword, and yet the fanfic we did for a bad movie is what starts eating into our fifteen minutes. Internet is really weird.
I am listening, right now, to the live stream from a Canadian university radio station that is rebroadcasting our giggly high-noise recording of Clockers. At least the DJ (one “Jordie Sparkle”) asked our permission first. Wait, no, I meant “forgiveness, after they started, in the hopes that Clockers was CC-licensed because NFD is.”
Okay! Let’s go to the phones!
So some of you may remember that I like Hackers. I like it a lot. I realized some time ago that while I am not into Rocky Horror, if Rocky Horror was Hackers, I would be a full on costume-wearing hot-dog-throwing line-reciting fanboy. GET A JOB, I would shriek. YOU ARE IN THE BUTTER ZONE.
I recently moved to London and into a house where the function of the residents is, essentially, to egg each other on about goofy ideas. Catriona provided the idea of doing read-throughs of plays or movie scripts as a form of participatory recreation, and Holly asked if there was anything I’d like to toss in the prospective-script pile. Could it be really bad, I asked? Because there was one that could be funny.
Later, we were passing around emails about said read-throughs and a possible visit to a museum full of automata. Somehow Holly came up with the joke of steampunk “hackers” as “clockers,” constructing automata instead of programs. I laughed at it. Then I said “clock the Bigben!” Then I said “oh no,” because I really had more important things to do.
Instead, Holly and I spent a few weeks interpolating the movie script into 1860s London, replacing the absurd computer-feats with absurd clockwork and technobabble with Victorian slang. Then we revised and got it printed and got some friends to come over and wear funny hats, and this was the result: Clockers.
Of the people who did the read-through, only Holly and I had read the script or indeed seen the original movie beforehand, and they all did a fantastic job picking up multiple parts and figuring out what was going on. And putting up with my Matthew Lillard impression. Thanks again, guys, and let me know if you want a link under your name on that page.
Okay, my real top ten:
- Punch-Drunk Love
- Grosse Point Blank
- Spirited Away
- The Matrix
- Dancer in the Dark
- Toy Story 2 (or maybe The Incredibles, this one is pretty close)
Honorable Mention: The part of High Fidelity where Moby hits Tim Robbins in the face with a telephone
You’ll notice that only two of these movies are older than ten years, and none of them older than twenty. If I get through even a quarter of my Netflix queue this year, this list will probably change a lot; I become more aware daily that I haven’t seen most of the movies that I would like, particularly with regard to noir.
Still, I’d say seven of the above are unassailable. (Consider Hackers pre-assailed.)
It took what, ten years? But early indications are that the #1 spot has finally changed hands. The fact is I know I can’t trust my judgment in the immediate aftermath of a revelatory experience, especially one I’ve been anticipating this much, so I’ll have to wait and see it again before I can make this official.
But I don’t think I’ll change my mind. Sorry, Hackers. Brick is probably the best movie I’ve ever seen.*
* Disclaimer: do not ingest this recommendation without salt. Consider my previous favorite, and that any low-budget indie high school western noir with its own slang dialect and a protagonist named Brendan is pretty much made just for me. Side effects may include shortness of breath and a desire for subtitles. See our ad in Nature. Brick: Thick As What All.
To invite you to my birthday party is to hold you in high esteem. If you are reading this, you are a person of discerning taste, and are almost certainly invited to my birthday party. Michelle Kwan is, as previously mentioned, invited to my birthday party; so is Mindy Kaling, neé Chokalingam. Vincent Baker and televison’s Rob Thomas are invited to my birthday party. Maria and I watched P.S. last night, which has restored Laura Linney’s invitation to my birthday party, after a brief revocation involving The Mothman Prophecies. Tom Peterson of LEO Weekly is invited to my birthday party. Kelly Link and Emily Watson are each invited twice.
The obvious corollary is that mere joy or sexual allure are not enough to score an invitation–but being disinvited is not necessarily a slight. Hackers is not invited to my birthday party; it would spill soda on the ponies. M. Night Shyamalan has had his invitation taken away and put in my desk drawer until he makes a movie without a twist. The casts of Arrested Development and Firefly are invited to my birthday party, but only one at a time. We don’t want to lose focus.
The metaphorical birthday party we’re discussing here is not to be confused with my actual birthday parties, which are pretty much just like Tuesday Night Basketball except I get to go “whoo!” and think about death.
I never talked about Sad and Happy Movie Day! Sad and Happy Movie Day was great! In attendance were myself, Maria, Lisa, Scott and Will; Maria’s brother Michael showed up for the second movie. We watched City of God and Shaolin Soccer, as was foretold by the ancients–first one subbed, second dubbed, but the dubbing actually worked really well for SS. It added to the goofiness of a film that takes its goofiness very seriously. City of God was appropriately poverty-stricken and filled with violence by and against children. The ending was not actually sad, but maybe that was for the best. We are still testing our toes in this format.
The next SAHMD will probably be in two or three weeks, whatever’s best for most of us. Hackers has been pretty thoroughly shot down, because all my friends are worthless Philistines, but I don’t think anybody objected to What’s Eating Gilbert Grape. Are there any strong objections to that? What about suggestions for happy movies? Information access protocol!
OKAY SO. The first Sad And Happy Movie Day is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, June 25th, at… my apartment. Which needs to have a cool name for when it functions as a clubhouse. Maria, why don’t we have a cool clubhouse name for our apartment?
We hit play at 1 pm, so get there earlier if you want to kibitz. We will be watching (or, in Ian’s parlance, “reading”) City of God and Shaolin Soccer. Popcorn will be provided, but you’re on your own for drinks and candy. You may also want to bring one of those folding camp chairs, if you have one; as we discovered this past Tuesday, seating is limited.
You should come!
Possible lineup for the one after this: What’s Eating Gilbert Grape and Hackers?
I like movies. Sometimes, I hate movies, because I realize that hundreds of people spent a year of their lives each, along with tens of millions of dollars, making Son of the Mask. But I really do like them in general, even the kind of movies that wins Oscars. If I was in high school and Mr. Munson took two days out of Multicultural Literature (it was a great class, title notwithstanding) to have us watch Hotel Rwanda, I would be moved by it. I would tell my friends about it and do research to find out more about the situation. I would value the experience.
But if I’m sitting at home with nothing to do and I’m like “hey, let’s rent or go to a movie,” there’s no way I’m going to pick Hotel Rwanda. I just don’t hate myself that much. As a result, I never watch great movies and David Clark embarrasses me in Team Movie Pong.
Since my solution to many of my personal flaws is rigorous scheduling, here’s my idea: Sad And Happy Movie Day. Maybe one or two Saturdays a month, I’d get together with other humans (assuming I could trick anybody else into it) and two movies. One would be a great, depressing film about human nature, like Hotel Rwanda or Dancer in the Dark* or Boys Don’t Cry or The Mission. The other would be a goofy big-Hollywood popcorn flick, like Ocean’s Twelve or The Scorpion King. Maybe something chop-socky like Ong Bak, or something happy-indie like Garden State. Maybe Hackers, the foremost cinematic achievement of all time.
We would watch the sad movie first, and sit there slumped over, realizing that all human hope is a doomed, brief match-flare against the endless dark. We’d take a half-hour break to make popcorn and go get some Sourpatch Kids. We’d walk it off a little. Then we’d pop in the happy movie, laugh and ooh, karate-chop the couch and go home feeling generally not suicidal.
This is not something I will likely start soon, and if it does start I probably wouldn’t be able to host it myself. Still, would anybody else be up for it?
* Actually I am immune to Dancer in the Dark now, thanks to Jon, but I can still inflict it on other people.