Archive for December 19th, 2010

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The Fancy Plans Guide to AFI’s Top 100 Films: Volume 7

December 19, 2010

This undying series continues to march on, now up to 7 on the scale of “started-finished.” At this rate, we’ll be ringing in 2012 with our jetpacks or whatever, ignoring troubling (and often unreadable) signs of global warming/cooling/non-change and steadfastly ignoring the missing post for #41-50.

Yeah. And we’re going to keep fucking ignoring it until the series winds up. At that point, I’ll start referring to it as a “lost episode” and treat it as though I found it crumpled up in a drawer when I was looking for socks or bullets or condoms or booze.

Play catchup here:

Volume 1
Volume 2
Volume 3
Volume 4
Volume 5
Volume 6

Even Hitchcock's Spirograph doodles were hailed as "masterpieces" during his heyday.

61. Vertigo (1958)
Classic Hitchcock, dealing with mistaken identities, doppelgangers, semi-rare medical conditions and directorial cameos. A tension-filled suspense piece, revolving around a person seemingly inhabiting two bodies (or perhaps, two people sharing one body with the aid of some hair dye and a Tues-Thurs-Sat rotation or something), Vertigo takes a long (but not that long) look at obsession and the havoc it can wreak on the mental states of those involved, often reducing them to wandering state parks emoting and talking in non-sequiturs.

When people refer to something as being “Hitchcockian,” they’re referring to the psychological horror of situations like those mentioned and most likely not your penchant for stabbing people while they shower.

The Crying Game has nothing on the heartrending scene in which Hoffman gets felt up by Dabney Coleman to the haunting strains of Dave Gruisin abusing some sort of woodwind.

62. Tootsie (1982)
Following the cross-dressing groundwork laid by Some Like It Hot, Tootsie proves the age-old theory that men make the best women, especially in competitive arenas, which, in turn, follows the groundwork laid by Soul Man, in which C. Thomas Howell proved that white people make the best black people. (Of course, this also factors into the Wayans brothers’ White Chicks, whose late-period revisionism posited that black men make the best white women and Michael Winterbottom’s Nine Songs, which made the bold statement that normal people make the best porn stars.)

Despite Dustin Hoffman’s incredible ugliness, Tootsie was a box office success, making cross-dressing a go-to role for actors of a certain age/ugliness. (See also: Mrs. Doubtfire, which theorizes that ex-husbands make the best au pairs or Benchwarmers, which states that underachieving adults make the best youth softball teams.)

A love triangle for the ages: who will Love Interest #1 choose? Drunky McBagwaver or Ol' Squinteye?

63. Paint Your Wagon (1969)
Another quickie hammered out during the post-heyday of Hollywood musicals, taking full advantage of the American public’s willingness to watch anything that contained singing and dancing, even if it was all shoehorned into a genre that really didn’t lend itself to that sort of synchronized emotion.

Paint Your Wagon took viewers back to a simpler time, filled with simpler people living in a world free of stock market collapses and unpopular wars. A time when men were men and wore garters on their arms and women were women and wore overly-complicated dresses. A time when spontaneously (as indicated by the script) bursting into song was viewed as not “clinically insane” or “that part of Magnolia.” Kind of show-offy in all honesty, with a story that could have been told in half the time, if everyone would have just shut the hell up.

ELO: Live at Devil's Tower. (Or Daft Punk, if you prefer.)

64. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Spielberg’s pre-E.T. foray into the world of alien lifeforms, which is refreshingly free of central prepubescent characters and new-agey feel-good moments. This means no flying bikes or drunken telepathy, but on the other hand, it allows for more tone-deaf keyboard playing and obssesive mashed potato sculpting.

Suffered the misfortune of being released in the same year as Star Wars, whose pulp serial storyline portrayed outer space as being just like Earth (only darker), full of roaring engines and audible lasers. Because of this, Close Encounters’ deliberate pacing and suspenseful storyline look like your father’s Oldsmobile (i.e., ugly enough to make you want to park it at the back of the lot, but big enough to get you comfortably laid).

This eerily prescient poster foreshadows Jodie Foster's role in "Nell," where she played a feral child cursed with "moth mouth."

65. The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
The first motion picture to feature a sympathetic cannibal and win an Oscar (sorry, Alive), The Silence of the Lambs gave Jodie Foster one of the best written characters she’d ever played. The resulting popularity garnered her an enormous amount of goodwill, which she quickly squandered by playing a gibberish speaking feral woman-child in a shameless attempt to snag another Oscar for her work in Nell.

Anthony Hopkins, on the other hand, went on to play a variety of repressed Brits in a shameless attempt to snag an Oscar or two for himself, which would join his knighthood in the trophy case. The actor portraying serial killer Buffalo Bill went on to be known as the actor who portrayed Buffalo Bill in The Silence of the Lambs.

As the four floating heads hover menacingly overhead, Peter Finch finds himself trapped in a David Lynch dream sequence.

66. Network (1976)
No movie has done more to alter our collective perception of the nightly news than Network. Once viewed as infalliable and impartial sources of information, newscasters today are viewed as egomaniacal charlatans with misanthropic personalities and sizable drug habits. Those few who have managed to escape this perception are regarded as “bland” at best and “unwatched” at worst.

However, it would appear that most news agencies and their employees are unaware of this shift in mass perception and continue to present themselves as “fair and balanced” (FOX News), “CNN” (CNN) and “not completely unattractive” (your local news team).

Directly responsible for the overused “mad as hell” statement which the moviegoing public has chosen to apply to any situation (tax increases, being charged extra for cheese, being asked to phrase their answer in the form of a question) rather than in their actual context as the ravings of a suicidal madman.

The promotional poster would like to remind you that fuck you for not showing up on time.

67. The Machurian Candidate (1962)
Pitched as “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Kills People,” The Manchurian Candidate is one of the finest examinations of Cold War paranoia ever filmed and the only examination to feature the acting chops of a somewhat psychopathic, mobbed-up Las Vegas crooner. (Look for Wayne Newton in a small role as an Army psychiatrist.)

Despite its 67th-place finish, critics are still arguing about its inclusion on this list, citing its distinct lack of gratuitous car chases, gratuitious swearing or tastefully-lit gratuitious nudity. Others have cited its use of black and white film as a cheap ploy to “garner accolades” and disparaged its equally cheap crossover with Murder, She Wrote.

This dog runs on Freedom Fries.

68. An American in Paris (1951) An American Werewolf in Paris (1997)
The weak sequel to John Landis’ classic An American Werewolf in London, which wasn’t aided by the decision to release it 16 years after the original, utilizing none of the original writing or directing staff. This is compounded by the leads’ lack of chemistry oracting talent and use of almost-competent CGI.

Followed by several more sequels in the same vein (Ha! Oh, wait… they’re not vampires. Scratch that.), most of which went straight-to-internet (via DVD), including An American Werewolf in Stuttgart, An American Werewolf in the Matrix, An American Werewolf in Phoenix and An American Werewolf in Paris Hilton.

There never was a gunslinger like Carpal Tunnel McGraw.

69. Shane (1953)
Anti-heroic Western riddled with continuity errors. To wit:

“This doesn’t even mention the regrettable error in the final scene, where the climax is undercut by Van Heflin’s accent, which goes from Western American to Scottish to Klingon in a three-minute span. And let’s not even bring up the sudden appearance of a laser pistol in a baddie’s hand during the barroom brawl.”

Getting shot in the back while fleeing: the hallmark of the French "resistance."

70. The French Connection (1971)
The true story of Detective James “Popeye” Doyle whose tireless efforts and breathless car chases singlehandedly took down the heroin industry, freeing America from the clutches of the evil opiate and relegating its usage to rock stars (Pete Doherty, J. Spaceman, Axl Rose, Clay Aiken) and other fringe members of society (mainly Pete Doherty and his girlfriends).

-CLT

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Top 50 Tracks of 2010: Miniature Tigers – Gold Skull

December 19, 2010

14. Miniature Tigers – Gold Skull.mp3

The Tigers offer you their full attention (“I’m turning off my cellphone“) and some armchair REM analysis (“Dream of gold skull“) while copping a chord progression from the Statler Brothers which suits the dead-end meandering of the tune just fine.

Chillwave songsmith Neon Indian mans the knobs for this laid back track, buffing the uber-catchy near-pop gem to gleaming translucence. The lyrics don’t add up quite right but somehow still manage to convey the feeling that sometimes the only way to get away from it all is to draw the shades and stay the fuck home.

Pocket Tigers.

The rest of top 50.

-CLT