Posts Tagged ‘movies’
Posted on August 22, 2017 - by writerman
This is something I wrote for the fine people over at The Black List as part of their series on Essential Rock & Roll movies. It concerns a very important piece of modern American cinema.
It wasn’t easy to choose my essential rock movie. A complete compendium of my favorite rock and roll films would play like one of those AMC 48-hour movie marathons.
Looking for the ultimate concert film? Try THE LAST WALTZ. Into rock journalism and Elton John sing-alongs? Hit up ALMOST FAMOUS. Do you love cheeky British blokes and breaking the fourth wall? Check out 24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE. Want to laugh your ass off? SPINAL TAP. Love punk? WE ARE THE BEST! Top Five lists? HIGH FIDELITY. Searching for the greatest rock and roll movie of all time? Allow me to direct you to the 17-minute magnum opus that is HEAVY METAL PARKING LOT.
But, if you’re looking to understand the very nature of rock and roll and how it defines us and shapes the world we live in, then only one film will do:
I know that sounds like the setup for a joke that ends with “…NOT!” But I’m being totally serious. Sure, it might be the goofiest rock and roll movie ever made, but take a second (or third or twenty-seventh) look and I think you’ll find that it understands the transformative power of rock on a profound level. Hear me out…
In my first year of junior high, someone spray-painted BLACK SABBATH RULES on the front of our school. I’m from a small town in northern Canada, so this caused quite a stir and sparked a lot of anxious PTA meetings. Was heavy metal music corrupting our kids? Did Ozzy really bite the head off that bat? Was Satan to blame?
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I know the guy who did it. And he wasn’t evil or dangerous or in the service of Beelzebub. He was a smart, awkward, gangly teenager who discovered something amazing the first time he listened to Sabbath’s Iron Man: his true self. Those snarling power chords gave him something to believe in. A tribe to belong to. A refuge from a harsh, uncaring world. For teens, finding the music that speaks to you and rocking out is a sacred rite of passage on the path to independence and adulthood.
When I look at Wayne Campbell, I see all of that. For me, he perfectly captures what it’s like to be a dorky teenager (albeit one played by a 29-year-old) finding your place in the world, guided by an unshakeable belief in the power and purity of rock and roll.
The first time I saw WAYNE’S WORLD, I loved it because these guys were such an honest, hilarious depiction of the headbangers of my youth. And for the epic “Bohemian Rhapsody” scene. But watching it again recently, I feel like it offers something more:
Wayne and Garth are all of us.
They rock against the forces of conformity. They stand up to the Man. They chase their dreams, even when the rest of the world looks down on them. They drive a frickin’ AMC Pacer. They love each other. But also something greater than themselves. They say they’re not worthy, but we know that they are. They want to boldly go where no man has gone before, but they’ll probably stay in Aurora.
Give this movie another look and I bet it will surprise you. It might happen.
Yeah, and monkeys might fly out of my butt.
Posted on July 3, 2014 - by writerman
On Friday, April 25, I became a dad for the first time.
One of the things no one tells you about being a new dad (probably because it’s tremendously unimportant in the grand scheme of things) is that you can’t take a newborn baby to the movies. The thing is, I really love going to the movies. I love everything about it. The huge screen. The surround sound. The trailers. Sitting in a sea of strangers as we all watch the story together. Stuffing my face with popcorn and m&m’s.1 Going to the movies is one of my favorite things in life.
I don’t know if it’s The Grass is Always Greener Syndrome™, but it seems like a lot of high-quality popcorn flicks full of monsters, superheroes, dragons, witches, monkeys, undercover cops, next-door neighbors and even Tom Cruise are hitting the screens this summer. And because I won’t be back in a theatre until the meatball is a little bigger, here are my Top 10 movies that absolutely, positively need to be seen on the Big Screen.2
Go to the movies, people. Go.
10. Brazil (1985)
Terry Gilliam had to be on this list, because everything he does is meant to be seen on a 70-foot screen.
9. Spellbound (2002)
Not an obvious choice, but seeing this little documentary about the Scripps National Spelling Bee was one of the best in-theatre experiences I’ve ever had. Watching these kids try and spell words you’ve never even heard of was surprisingly gripping and had the entire audience on the edge of our seats and cheering for the winners (and losers) right up until the final minute.
8. Unforgiven (1992)
Sorry John Ford, but for me the Western that plays the best on the big screen is a bleak, unromantic take on the genre from Clint Eastwood. Props to unsung screenwriter David Webb Peoples , who not only wrote this fantastic movie, but also two sci-fi epics that almost made this list – Blade Runner and Twelve Monkeys.
7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Once in a while you get blown away by a really smart, well-written movie, and it inspires you to race home to your desk and get to work on your latest script. Rarer still are the ones that make you want to go home and burn everything you’ve ever written, because none of it can ever measure up to the picture you just saw. Well played, Charlie Kaufman.
6. Fargo (1996)
The Coen brothers are best known for their little movies with big stories, but a few of their movies are fantastically cinematic. Oh Brother Where Art Thou is gorgeous to see and hear, but the way Fargo made the landscape and the weather into characters in the movie makes it their best big screen effort for me.
5. Alien (1979)
I love this movie for the performances and Ridley Scott’s vision of a broken-down filthy future, but that’s not why it needs to be seen on the big screen. The next time the Arclight or another cinema near you has a special screening of the original Alien, I dare you to sit in a dark theater and watch it again. It will scare the living shit out of you.
4. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
The first Star Wars will always be my favorite, but waiting in line for Empire on opening weekend was probably the most excited I will ever be at a movie theater. And it did not disappoint. The effects, space battles and father and son moments blew my 8-year-old mind almost as much as this behind the scenes photo of Chewie and Leia is blowing yours right now.
3. Lord of the Rings: Part One (2001)
Come back with me, to a simpler time. A time before the interminable sequels and the neverending story of The Hobbit movies. A time when a wingnut director from New Zealand turned my favorite book ever into a really, really great adventure movie. About twenty minutes in, I turned to the person next to me and whispered excitedly, “This is so good!” #boromirforever
2. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)
When I was in college in Vancouver, there was an old second-run theater downtown that used to play Indiana Jones marathons on slow nights. Three movies for the price of one! We used to go early to catch all of Raiders and the opening sequence of Temple of Doom. Then, we’d head out to grab something eat and get back in time to watch the end of the second movie and settle in for Last Crusade. Good times.
1. The Matrix (1999)
I did not expect to like this movie. All I remember about the ad campaign is hearing Johnny Utah say “Whoa” again and again. And yet, when the lights went down at the Capitol 6 and Trinity and the Wachowskis reinvented the fight scene, I was converted. Fifteen years later, it still holds up remarkably well. I know they play it on cable TV all the time now, but if you are watching bullet time at home, you’re doing it wrong.
- Seriously – my mother-in-law taught me this trick (she may have even invented it). Pour m&m’s into your popcorn bag and eat them together, in big handfuls. It will change your life. [↩]
- Fully aware that 2001 is missing from this list, but that’s only because I’m saving it for Top 10 Movies to Watch Stoned [↩]
Posted on March 28, 2012 - by writerman
I cannot guarantee the quality of this film,1 having only seen the trailer, but what a fun premise:
Totally stoked to see this one on the big screen.
Also, more than a little jealous that I didn’t think of it first.
You know someone’s got a great idea for a movie when it makes you want to go home and destroy everything you’ve ever written because it’s not original enough. In fact, the last time I was tempted to burn all my scripts was the night I saw this movie for the first time.
Well played, Derek and Colin.
Enjoy the trailer!
Posted on January 12, 2012 - by writerman
The hardest thing about putting this top 10 list together was narrowing it down to less than eleven movies. Chalk it up to my protracted adolescence or perpetual immaturity, but I just frickin’ love movies about high school. That said, this is a Top 10 list. So there will be no “honorable mentions” and no ties for 10th place. Ten movies – no more and no less.
I am, as they say, a stickler for the rules. And so, in spite of my enthusiasm for so many movies that did not make the list, I will not mention the one that set the template, or any movies involving pies, football, selling your underpants, remarkably articulate pregnant girls, the Ramones, Charlie Sheen, buckets of pig’s blood, and definitely not that one with the time machine.1
10. Clueless (1995)
This movie gets a lot of props for being a Jane Austen remake and for giving us all the 411 on how the cool kids talk, but the reason it landed in my top 10 is because of Alicia Silverstone’s amazing performance as everyone’s favorite spoiled, selfish, rich, shallow, vapid, vain, self-centered, clueless and yet somehow still loveable high school girl.
9. Superbad (2007)
The most outrageously profane movie on this list, Superbad makes the top 10 for bringing simplicity, sweetness and an endless parade of dick jokes back to the high school comedy. And, for introducing “cockblock” into the common vernacular.
8. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)
Nearly 30 years later, Fast Times is largely remembered for the iconic scene where the white guy from Beverly Hills Cop fantasizes about a half-naked, underage Phoebe Cates and her red bikini. That moment has been imitated countless times since then, but the rest of the movie still holds up for it’s hilarious but unflinching look at real high school issues like drug use, abortion and ordering pizza to history class.
7. Heathers (1988)
The fashions are so 80’s, but the themes are timeless:
I mean, who hasn’t fantasized about murdering that evil bitch and the asshole jocks who terrorized their high school? Right?
6. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
The Internet tells me that this movie inspired the term “The Napoleon Dynamite Problem”, the phenomenon whereby “quirky” films such as Napoleon Dynamite, Lost in Translation, and I Heart Huckabees prove difficult for researchers to create algorithms that are able to predict whether or not a particular viewer will like the film based on their ratings of previously viewed films.
Also: your mom goes to college.
5. Dazed and Confused (1993)
Richard Linklater’s best movie, Matthew McConaughey’s finest performance, and the greatest use of Foghat in the history of cinema, Dazed is one of those rare movies that gets more and more fun the more times you watch it.
4. Election (1999)
Sure, she was pretty good in that movie about Johnny Cash, but for my money this is the performance that should have earned Reese Witherspoon her first Oscar. Pick Flick!
3. The Breakfast Club (1985)
Oh John Hughes, how could we possibly ever forget about you?
2. Rushmore (1998)
When I scribbled down a first crack at my top 10 high school movies, I left Rushmore off the list altogether. Which is odd, because it’s actually one of my favorite movies of all time. I guess that’s because it doesn’t really feel like a high school movie, even though the main character wishes he could spend the rest of his life in high school. Still, it gets the #2 spot here for giving Bill Murray a second act, but mainly because it’s the funniest movie about love, hate, jealousy, rivalry and revenge I’ve ever seen.
1. Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
This movie is the shit.
Seriously, anytime there’s a midnight screening of Ferris in town just give me a call and you’ll get to hear me say:
- Or the other one with the time machine. [↩]
- On a personal note, it was Ferris Bueller himself who inspired me to start cutting class back in the day. Of course, I got busted a lot more than Ferris and I sure as hell never got to drive a convertible Ferrari. [↩]
- Just last month, I picked up the menu at a pizza joint and ordered the “Abe Froman.” [↩]
Posted on December 28, 2011 - by writerman
The mall is a madhouse, the house smells like pine needles, the fridge is packed with leftovers and I’m full of turkey and pie, so it must be time to count down the Top 10 Christmas Movies of All Time…
10. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1993)
9. We’re No Angels (1955)
No, not the shitty remake with De Niro, Sean Penn and that girl from Blame it on Rio. Number nine on my list goes to the original, featuring Bogie and Peter Ustinov as a couple of escaped cons from Devil’s Island who may or may not be angelic.
8. A Christmas Story (1983)
Because you gotta respect a kid who knows exactly what he wants for Christmas:
“A Red Ryder carbine-action, two hundred shot Range Model air rifle with a compass in the stock and a thing which tells time.”
7. Die Hard (1988)
You probably forgot that this 80’s gem takes place on Christmas Eve, what with all the gun fights and explosions and Alan Rickman’s groovy accent. But if John McClane’s dirty undershirt is good enough for the Smithsonian, then this movie is good enough for the Top 10 Project.
6. Catch Me If You Can (2002)
Certainly not Spielberg’s finest work, but definitely one of his most fun. Though only marginally related to Christmas, this based-on-a-true story caper has loads of style and charm to burn, making it a perfect holiday treat.
Plus, Tom Hanks tells the greatest knock-knock joke in history:
5. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
The first time I saw this classic was the first year I brought a girl home to spend the holidays with my family. In honor of her family’s tradition, we sat down and watched It’s a Wonderful Life (her very favorite movie) all together. By the time George Bailey stood on the bridge, my mom was banging around in the kitchen, my dad was snoring, two of my brothers had left to do something “less boring” and I had perfected my Jimmy Stewart impersonation. She didn’t speak to me for two days.
In that girl’s defense, since our awkward holiday screening, I’ve become a real fan of the movie. Sure, it gets a little syrupy now and then, but Jimmy Stewart is fantastic, Mr. Potter exudes pure evil as a classic movie villain, and between you and me, Donna Reed is a fox.
4. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This one beats you over the head with the Bible a little harder than I usually enjoy, but the righteous dance party, the little tree that could, and Vince Guaraldi’s Second Greatest Christmas Soundtrack of All Time2 more than make up for the Sunday School flashbacks.
3. Elf (2003)
Fifty years from now, when everyone has forgotten about Ricky Bobby and Ron Burgundy, this is the role Will Ferrell will be remembered for. And I don’t mean that as a dig – he is magically naive and innocent and hilarious in this movie. Also, high fives to Jon Favreau for casting James Caan as his dad and writing a scene where my girlfriend gets to sing in the shower.
2. Bad Santa (2003)
This movie is full of a hundred fucking genius moments, but this one has a special place in my heart:
WILLIE (mumble) What the fuck is it? KID A wooden pickle. Willie stares at it. WILLIE Why'd you paint it brown? KID Not paint. It's blood from when I cut my hand when I was making it for you.
1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)3
Technically a TV special, for my money this is the best Christmas movie ever made.
Thanks Dr. Seuss!
- The woman in my life may never forgive me for excluding Emmet Otter from this list, but I had to go with Gonzo and Fozzy. [↩]
- Listen to Mr. Presley sing Number One right here. [↩]
- We don’t talk about the Jim Carrey remake. [↩]
Posted on May 1, 2010 - by writerman
Today two friends from Vancouver are jumping on a plane, headed for the tiny West African nation of Liberia to take pictures, make a film and try to rediscover a place that has radically transformed since they grew up there in the 70’s.
I’m stoked, proud, nervous and excited.
Also a little jealous. Partly because they are going to Africa, a place I have an almost-unhealthy obsession with. But mostly because in a previous life, I used to go places and shoot little movies and spend endless hours in editing bays and attend film festival screenings and Q&A sessions and their adventure makes me miss those times.1 But enough about me. This is about Jeff & Andrew:
The film is called Liberia ’77.
The caption below is copy / pasted from the website. I strongly recommend you check it out, follow their exploits or even throw a couple of bucks their way if you dig what they’re doing.
Thirty years after a bloody coup and two brutal civil wars devastated the country, Canadian writer and photographer Jeff Topham returns to the place he grew up, to rediscover the tiny West African nation that so profoundly impacted his life — and to make a documentary. In a journey to reconcile gaps between what he remembers, what he knows from his father’s photographs, and the true history of the country, Liberia ’77 is an adventure for us all — an exploration of the importance of history, environment, art, and family in defining our lives. Also there will be chimpanzees and maybe some surfing…
Good luck boys!
- Although, not the times when the bank called because you funded post-production with your Visa and the licensing fee you got from that little station in Australia was just barely enough to make the minimum payment… [↩]
Posted on July 4, 2009 - by writerman
In the tangled jungle that is Los Angeles, people love to ask this one:
“So, what are your favorite movies?”
In the real world, this is a perfectly legitimate question that perfectly legitimate people ask one another all the time. But in the Hollywood World, this is a very loaded question. Depending on the location, time of day, and which one of you is expected to pay for that 15-dollar salad you’re picking at, the subtext of that question could be…
Do I want to work with you? Do you have taste? Do I really want to read the script you just handed me? Should I trust your opinion on the script I just handed you? Should I give you my cell number? Will 10% of your salary cover the payments on my new Lexus? Should I invite you to join my writer’s group? Should I sleep with you?
Whenever I am confronted with that question, I find myself ill prepared and I end up stumbling and rambling and naming at least one picture that I haven’t even seen. But no more! Today, I start the official Writerman “Top 10 Project” – where I put down my favorite movies right here on the Internet for all to see. Of course, I reserve the right to flip-flop1, change my mind, edit or revise this and any other Top 10 lists anytime I please. That’s what makes it a “project.”
So, without further preamble, here it is: the inaugural list of the Writerman Top 10 Project.
My Top 10 Favorite Movies of All Time
In alphabetical order2
- Bull Durham
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
- Finding Nemo
- Pulp Fiction
- Raiders of the Lost Ark
- Stand by Me
- Star Wars3
- The Princess Bride
- In fact, after reading the list over, I’ll probably change it tomorrow. I mean, not a single Coen brothers, Hitchcock or Bogart movie? What jackass made this list? [↩]
- Picking 10 was hard enough, surely I can’t be expected to rank them. [↩]
- If you have to ask which one, we can never be friends. [↩]
Posted on April 2, 2009 - by writerman
Started working on a new script the other day. It’s set in a high school, and since I’m definitely not in high school anymore, I’ve been using it as an excuse to watch old episodes of Freaks & Geeks, turn Sunday into a John Hughes movie marathon, and hit the midnight screening of the Breakfast Club at the Regency Fairfax. Good times!
Now I know some people worship at the altar of the Geeks and the Freaks, and I can respect that. It was a great show. But I bet if you ask Judd Apatow, he’d agree that John Hughes is clearly the master.
There’s just no denying that every teen movie and tv show made after 1984 is heavily influenced by Mr. Hughes precarious balance of realism, comedy, and melodrama. In fact, I’d argue that the influence of Hughes’ movies extends beyond the screen. If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, there’s a good chance Sixteen Candles or Weird Science or Ferris Bueller had a direct impact on your young life.
- How many preteen geeks enrolled in computer classes in the desperate hope that someday they could make their very own supermodel, just like Anthony Michael Hall?
- On a personal note, it was Ferris Bueller himself who inspired me to start cutting class. Of course, I got busted a lot more than Ferris and I sure as hell never got to drive a convertible Ferrari.
- I even have a friend who, to this day, dances (un-ironically) just like Molly Ringwald in Breakfast Club.
To be fair, Hughes isn’t perfect. Maybe Andie should have ended up with Duckie, and maybe it was kind of anti-feminist when the basket case got a makeover so she could make out with Charlie Sheen’s brother. But for my money, John Hughes was one of the best and most influential writer/directors of the late 20th century.
Thanks John. We won’t forget about you.
Posted on October 6, 2008 - by writerman
Back in 1978, a young guy named George called up his friends Steven and Larry to discuss an idea for a new movie. The three of them sat down and George told them all about a swashbuckling archeologist with a bad attitude and a great hat who went by the name of “Indiana Smith.”
If that sounds familiar, it’s because the I’m talking about George Lucas, Steven Spielberg and Lawrence Kasdan, and the story that came out of this meeting would become one of my favorite action movies: Raiders of the Lost Ark.
I haven’t seen it in a while, but when I was in college in Vancouver, there was an old second-run theater downtown that used to play Indiana Jones marathons on slow nights. Three movies for the price of one! We used to go early to catch all of Raiders and the opening sequence of Temple of Doom. Then, we’d head out to grab something eat and get back in time to watch the end of the second movie and settle in for Last Crusade. Good times. I know the truly hardcore nerd would have sat through all three, but I’m just not a big fan of Temple of Doom. Sorry, Steven, I know your wife is in it, but even the Babe couldn’t hit a home run every time he stepped up to the plate, right?
As it turns out, these early discussions were recorded, and recently some hard-working nerd has transcribed every single word. So now we can all read about how the story came together, how Spielberg hated the name “Indiana Smith” and pushed Lucas to come up with something better (I think you know what I’m talking about), and how they had so many ideas for the first movie that they needed to make two sequels just to squeeze it all in.
Plus, someone even took the time to assemble a bunch of the original concept sketches for the character, from back before he looked like Han Solo:
I can take no credit whatsoever for this discovery. I just read about it on the Mystery Man’s blog. But I strongly recommend. If you’re an Indiana Jones fan, an action movie geek, or just a writer looking for a new way to procrastinate, check it out:
Posted on August 30, 2008 - by writerman
I can’t hardly wait til this one hits the theatres. Not sure about the hipster soundtrack, though. Which begs the question:
What is more lame?
a. That they set the entire trailer to an Arcade Fire song?
b. Or, that I instantly recognized it?