Tag Archives: Tim Burton

Adventures in Flickcharting: Mars Attacks!

Sometimes I see a movie that I don’t really feel that inspired to write about (usually because I liked it well enough but didn’t feel too strongly about it), but this year I want to make a conscious effort to write more for the blog and I also have been wanting to incorporate Flickchart more into my posting somehow. Flickchart is a website for ranking movies: it gives you two movies and you choose which one is better (or which one you like more – the best vs. favorite discussion is an old standby among die-hard Flickcharters and one I won’t get into just here except to say that I personally rank on Flickchart according to what I like/enjoy the most, not according to what I think is the best). Over time and many rankings, it builds a list of your favorite movies based on your rankings. One thing I really like about Flickchart is how it presents you with two films that you never would’ve thought of in the same context at all and forces you to really think about them in relation to each other. I don’t really believe anymore in the value of the minute rankings it ends up with, but as a macrocosm of taste and as a method of thinking about films in a context you otherwise wouldn’t, it has worth.

With due props to my friend Travis McClain who has pitched this format and uses it sometimes for his own reviews, I’m going to try this series charting how a newly-watched movie enters my Flickchart. When you add a movie to Flickchart manually, it goes up against a series of films strategically spread throughout your chart. For example, in the first ranking, it will go against the film in the very middle of your chart. If the new film wins, it will go against the film equidistant between the top and the middle. It continues like this until it finds its correct spot in your list. In my case “correct” is kind of a general term, because my chart is kind of messy once you get below about 500. But the point of this approach in this series is to compare the new film with the existing films as I go along, which will hopefully give me something to write about those films that I don’t have too much to say about.

First up – Tim Burton’s 1996 alien invasion parody Mars Attacks!

mars-attacks-retro-quad

The Film

In this spoof on low-budget science fiction films of the 1950s, especially Ed Wood’s infamous Plan 9 from Outer Space (from which the Martian spaceships are directly lifted), spaceships clutter the sky over Earth. The US President (Jack Nicholson) attempts several diplomatic meetings, each one agreed to by the Martians, who then proceed to blow everything to hell. Eventually the situation devolves into all-out zany war.

When we watched this, I thought it was the last film standing between me and seeing all of Tim Burton’s feature filmography. But I forgot about Dark Shadows. So I’m still one dubious film away from adding Burton to my 100% Club. I enjoyed Mars Attacks!, mainly for the anarchic glee the Martians seem to take in shooting everything up. You’d think after the first time, the humans would’ve realized that the Martians couldn’t be taken at their word to honor diplomatic procedure, but nope. I also enjoyed seeing pretty much every actor in Hollywood cameo in this thing – it’s really ridiculous, and I didn’t know most of them were going to be in it when we started. I should point out that I also have a lot of fun with the kind of bad sci-fi this film is sending up, including an un-ironic love for Plan 9.

How It Entered My Flickchart

Mars Attacks! vs Branded to Kill

AiF-Mars-Attacks-vs-Branded-to-Kill

The first matchup is the most important – it determines whether a film will move its way up in the top half of the chart or drop into the obscurity of the bottom half. That said, moving into the bottom half of my chart isn’t that bad a deal, because I watch far more films that I like than that I don’t like, so the middle of the chart isn’t really the tipping point between liking and disliking for me. Branded to Kill is a Japanese New Wave film by Seijun Suzuki, one of three Suzuki films I’ve seen and definitely the weirdest so far. It’s like a cross between a gangster film and Un chien andalou. I don’t get it, but I do like it, and it gets a lot of style points, which help it beat Mars Attacks! Mars Attacks! is a lot of goofy fun and it’s more narratively comprehensible, but I can’t pass up the evocative style of Branded to Kill.

Branded to Kill wins, and Mars Attacks! gets an initial ranking of #2951 (out of 3375).

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Scorecard: June-September 2013

This has been a long time in the works. Even after I decided to just go with picture instead of blurbs and the whole bit, it still took me like two weeks to put together. Lots of interruptions lately. The baby is crawling, and she has the best cord-finding radar I’ve ever seen. Anyway. Not a lot of films watched the past few months, but a good variety, I think. Unsurprisingly Joss Whedon comes out on top.

What I Loved

Much Ado About Nothing

Ed Wood

The World’s End

Fort Apache

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Scorecard: July-October 2012

Four months at a whack here, but really, I haven’t been watching all that much, thanks to sleeping almost all of the time and lacking the attention span for more than 30-minute TV shows when I AM awake (see why here). Interestingly, all of my “loved” films this time around are 2012 films. That’s strange and weird to me, especially since I watched a few “unassailable” classics, but I’m being honest about how I felt about them at the time I watched them. Also, there’s a preponderance of new releases anyway since going to the theatre tends to keep me awake and engaged a bit more right now than watching films at home, so I’ve watched fewer films at home than usual.

What I Loved

Cloud Atlas

I’d heard everything from “mind-blowing masterpiece” to “vapid, messy drivel” about this film coming out of TIFF, so I had no idea what to expect when I went into it. As you may have guessed, I’m far closer to the “mind-blowing masterpiece” side of the scale; in fact, as of right now, it’s sitting atop my Top 2012 Films list. I read the book a couple of months ago in preparation, and I’m sure that affected how I received the film – I didn’t actually love the book, largely because I felt like it was more of an exercise in pastiche, more interested in proving David Mitchell’s chops at imitating different styles of writing and less interested in actually making meaningful connections between the different stories. The movie still has the different styles, but less pronounced (because it’s difficult to get such things as “19th century journal” and “epistolary novel” to translate to film stylistically), and the stories are all intercut with each other, a brilliant way to strengthen and highlight the thematic tissue connecting the stories. Putting the music of the Cloud Atlas Sextet front and center lends the film a symphonic quality heightened by the editing to create something that as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts, which is exactly what I was missing from the book. It’s rare to say, even for a non-book-purist like me, but in this case, the movie is easily better than the book – quite a statement especially for a book that many people have long considered unfilmable. Well done.

2012 USA. Directors: Andy & Lana Wachowski & Tom Tykwer. Starring: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Jim Broadbent, Hugo Weaving, Doona Bae, Jim Sturgess, Ben Whishaw, Keith David, James D’Arcy, Hugh Grant, Susan Sarandon.
Seen October 27 at AMC Burbank 16.

The Master

I came into The Master with some trepidation, since I’m just about the only person on earth who really disliked There Will Be Blood, and I wasn’t sure if PT Anderson could get back on my good side or not. Thankfully, he did, and while I would say I only “really liked” The Master when first leaving the theatre, thinking back on it and talking about it has raised it my estimation a LOT. I might still like Magnolia (see below) a bit better of PTA’s films, but it’s close, and so far The Master is probably the best movie of the year for me. The interplay between Phoenix and Hoffman is incredible – two actors at the top of their game, playing off their very different styles (and very different characters) against each other. Amy Adams holds her own as well, which I didn’t expect. And the jittery camerawork/focus underscores the story – really, the character study – perfectly. Images, lines, contrasts, outbursts, quiet moments – they’ve all come flooding back to me without warning over the weeks since I saw the movie, and that’s what I call a sign of a great film. Great enough I might be willing to give TWBB another chance. We’ll see.

2012 USA. Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams.
Seen September 15 at Arclight Hollywood.

Argo

With Argo, Ben Affleck cements his career as a director even further, proving that while many of us have lost faith with him as an actor, when he’s behind the camera, he can do little wrong. This time he’s in front of the camera as well, which worried me a little (I didn’t see The Town, which also had him as actor-director), but he comes through in both roles. Taking a side story from the Iran Hostage Crisis of six Americans who managed to escape the embassy and hide out in the Canadian ambassador’s house, Affleck plays an extraction expert whose crazy plan to get them out involves a fake movie for which they will be the fake scouting crew in Tehran. The film’s seemingly unwieldy combination of real-life political thriller (which is highly tense and dramatic) and Hollywood show biz story (which has a good deal of comedy) comes together perfectly, while Affleck and Co’s eye for period ’70s detail puts him right up there with Soderbergh. An old-fashioned thrill ride with a great cast.

2012 USA. Director: Ben Affleck. Starring: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy.
Seen October 13 at AMC Burbank 16.

Looper

This has been my most-anticipated film ever since I first heard about it more than a year ago, thanks to my abiding love for Rian Johnson films (I loved Brick more than The Brothers Bloom, but they’re both really good), Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and time travel. I successfully avoided almost all the marketing for it, so I went in pretty cold, and I’m glad I did. The story is more about Gordon-Levitt’s character development (thanks to the incursion of his future self in the form of Bruce Willis) than time travel itself – in fact, Johnson actually wisely refrains from getting into the nitty-gritty of the time travel, which keeps the focus squarely on the characters, and I liked that. There are a few plot holes if you analyze the time travel too deeply, but I don’t think they ultimately matter in terms of the character-focused story, and the combination of character drama and action flick with just a touch of sci-fi works really well.

2012 USA. Director: Rian Johnson. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt, Jeff Daniels, Paul Dano, Piper Perabo.
Seen September 29 at AMC Burbank.

Premium Rush

Bike messenger Joseph Gordon-Levitt rides his bike around NYC at breakneck speeds, trying to deliver a life-or-death package, avoid the dirty cop trying to catch him, the real bicycle cop he pissed off, and fight a rival bike messenger for the affections of his girlfriend. And it’s pretty much non-stop adrenaline from start to finish. That’s about all you need to know. This is an old-fashioned B-level genre movie, and it hits every note right. Sure, it’s got nothing deep going on, but it doesn’t try to be any more than it is and for 85 minutes of pure fun, this kind of thing is hard to beat for me. And Michael Shannon is awesome in this kind of no-holds-barred role (he’s always awesome, but he’s all kinds of fun when he really lets loose).

2012 USA. Director: David Koepp. Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Dania Ramirez, Sean Kennedy.
Seen August 8 at AMC Burbank.

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