Twenty First Century Films

popcorn

Movies aren’t what they used to be.

This is the GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION!

Movies suck.

What did you binge watch lately?

There is NOTHING to see at the movie theatre!

Can I borrow your Netflix password?

Movies, in general, have taken a critical bashing as of late and it’s not entirely unwarranted. Let’s face it, the Suits are drunk with sequels and superheroes and don’t really give a hoot what makes sense or doesn’t if it can deliver millions of bodies in potential theme park rides, sequels, spin-offs and merchandise.

Oh how the mighty have fallen #TeamJen #Argowho?

Oh how the mighty have fallen #TeamJen #Argowho?

Films have taken on the business school lingo of a precious asset – a property that exists not solely for its financial value at the theatrical box-office or, heaven forbid, its creative content. Rather, they are seen in most of the top towers and executive suites as a commodity to be leveraged into many, many smaller and larger off-springs –much like a Triple Crown winning horse that is put out for gelding after it serves the greater good.

That’s fine. For them. But it’s not the entire story of 21st century film.

Quite randomly last week I came upon a new list put out by the BBC. NO, DON’T STOP READING! This list actually applies to you – the moviegoer. Or more broadly, the movie fan. Instead of surveying critics and audiences to compile a list of the 100 greatest movies of all-time, or some such subset that would spotlight drama, comedy, action or presumably, even porn or snuff films in the future, they tried something novel. (Note: No, not an actual novel, as in reading – we all know no one does THAT anymore).

Why read when you can see Emily Blunt in the movie version? #duh

Why read when you can see Emily Blunt in the movie version? #duh

Yes, the Brits had the tenacity to compile a list that I, Mr. Movie Fan, had never seen before. That would be the top 100 films of the 21st CENTURY.

Huh? What is that – a list of 10, or maybe 20 movies, most of which none of us have ever seen before? Or want to see? No, surprisingly not at all.

Okay, technically the list is of 102 films and it does stem from 2000-2016 which means the first year it charts is technically not a part of the 21st century – which began in 2001 (Note: Apparently 2000 was an irresistible film year one couldn’t turn away from). But who really cares? The point is, this is a very narrow period where 177 film critics from every country in the world (Note: Antarctica was the exception, which brings up the whole question of climate change and access we don’t want to get into) actually agreed there were 100 plus movies, many of them AMERICAN, that are actually worth watching, remembering and…wait for it…HONORING.

Believe it Olivia.

Believe it Olivia.

In case you are wondering – no, there is not a sequel in the bunch.

In case you are further wondering – yes, there is exactly ONE superhero film in the bunch and you probably have already rightly guessed which one is indeed The ONE. (HINT: Uh no, it’s not The Matrix. Plus, Neo is not really a superhero and anyway, he first appeared in 1999. As for the 2003 sequels – well, let’s not go there).

Which is the pill that helps me take a nap?

Which is the pill that helps me take a nap?

What this list reminds us of is that – WAIT, there are lots of movies I’ve enjoyed in the last 15 (okay 16) years. Sure there are too many clunkers, or cynically made assets. But maybe, just maybe it’s worth forgetting the Netflix password every once in a while and instead go out to an actual theatre before the art form, as we know it, dies altogether. Or worse yet – becomes solely a corporatized asset.

Please be good. Please be good. Please be good. #clingingtohope #heygirl #lalaland

Please be good. Please be good. Please be good. #clingingtohope #heygirl #lalaland

A complete list will be shared below but how about just the top six right here?

  1. Mulholland Drive (2001, David Lynch)
  2. In The Mood for Love (2000, Wong-Kar-wai)
  3. There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas-Anderson)
  4. Spirited Away (2001, Hayao Miyazaki)
  5. Boyhood (2014, Richard Linklater)
  6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry and written by CHARLIE freaking KAUFMAN, OKAY?)

All of them original, beautifully made and meaningful. Are they my top six or your top six? Perhaps not. But they are inarguably as good as many of the classic movies from decades before.

Added bonus: This phrase being added to our world.

Added bonus: This phrase being added to our world.

Certainly, any LIST inherently has its head-scratchers and personal duds and this one is clearly among them. Notice I stopped at six because #7 is Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, which you couldn’t pay me enough money to endure five minutes of ever again. Perhaps this confirms the long held belief that I am a philistine, but that is not the point. We all have our personal Trees. And in fact, I’d pay to watch other glorious Malick films such as Badlands and Days of Heaven over and over if you didn’t bring up the subject of #7 ever again.

That dinosaur sequence though. #neverforget

That dinosaur sequence though. #neverforget

As for some others The Coen Brothers’ No Country For Old Men and Inside Llewyn Davis ranked #10 and #11 respectively. David Fincher’s Zodiac was #12 and Alfonso Cuaron’s brilliant Children of Men was #13.

 You want less, well, pretentious? (Your word, not mine). Pan’s Labyrinth was #17, Mad Max: Fury Road was #19, The Social Network was #27, and Wall-E was #29.

Favorites of mine like CHARLIE freakin’ KAUFMAN’s Synecdoche was #20, while Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation was #22, Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master was #24, Christopher Nolan’s Memento was #25 and Pedro Almodovar’s Talk To Her came in at #28.

Let’s also give separate credit to The Dark Knight at #33 because, well, think of the odds against the whole thing working the way it did when there was merely a blank page and no real concept but a history of…ASSET. 

See Ben, this is how it’s done.

See Ben, this is how it’s done.

As I continued down the list I came across any number of films (40, in all) I hadn’t seen, some I really didn’t care for (Okay, I admit it – I’m too old for Wes Anderson) but others I had forgotten had come out in the not so distant past. Of the latter how about: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, City of God, Brokeback Mountain, Melancholia, Moulin Rouge, Inglorious Bastards, The Great Beauty, The Hurt Locker, Her, Amelie, The Pianist, Ratatouille, Finding Nemo, Spotlight (Note: I have a very short memory) and Requiem for A Dream.

What pleased me most about this list is that it coincided with the first week of the fall screenwriting class I teach.  The list of top 100 films on everyone’s mind are usually the 1, 2, 3 classic movie punch of Citizen Kane, The Godfather and Casablanca. Certainly, these are all great, timeless movies – as are many of the others on that usual classics list.   But for young people – as well as for some of the rest of us – consistently remembering these as the best of what the big screen has to offer can’t help but feel a little depressing at some point. Because it evokes a golden age that is long gone and, very likely, will never return.

Le sigh.

Le sigh.

This is why the BBC did Americans and moviegoers worldwide – not to mention the future of film – a great service by compiling this new grouping of films. Perhaps it doesn’t evoke a new golden age (though maybe it does) but it does prove the movies are alive and well and can be for some time to come. Though only if we get out our pods and mosey on down via our people mover of choice to check some of them out. Judging by the newly motivated faces on some of my students perusing the list, this will continue to happen in the near future. But at the very least, we could give them a little help.

Drunk in Trump

Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 12.33.41 PM

When poet-songwriter Gil Scott-Heron wrote the iconic anthem The Revolution Will Not Be Televised for his 1970 debut album it was in response to everything the small screen was NOT showing about the civil unrest of the late sixties.   It was also a not so gentle reminder to his peers to get out into the streets and to participate. Racial inequality, campus unrest over social issues – none of it could be addressed if the people who wanted change the most simply sat there and watched only small snippets of action of what broadcasters chose to show them.

Needless to say, times have changed.

In 2016, the Revolution IS being televised, tweeted, snap chatted, vimeo’d, texted and emailed – 24/7. In fact, we are getting so much revolution these days that it has created a new normal of constant change and unrest that we get to see happening everywhere at any time that we so choose.

Me, every time I turn on the TV

Me, every time I turn on the TV

Turkey in the streets, 84 plowed down by a truck-driving terrorist in Nice, the premiere of an all female Ghostbusters, world leaders on parade, celebrities undressed and regular people having sex – it’s all available. In fact, it’s often unavoidable.   All you have to do is click on one key or website you had or hadn’t intended and you will likely stumble upon any or all of the above.

That’s why it’s now time to DRINK.

Yes, drink.

It doesn’t have to be liquor. Or wine or beer.

A malted will do. Even an ice cream soda, a Mountain Dew or a Tab – yes, Tab.

Gurl, it's gonna be a long week

Gurl, it’s gonna be a long week

That was what my Mom and her friends drank back in the sixties when they wanted to escape from reality and lose weight at the same time. Sure, it was infinitely unhealthy in large doses – just like booze – but also like booze it somehow made you feel better and tasted good on ice. Not to mention, it had the added plus of coming in a pink can. How gay (meaning happy) is that???

I’m going to need a SH*T TON OF TAB this week to get through The Republican National Convention. Or as you all will soon be calling it – MEET THE TRUMPS! Though it’s tempting to now refer to the Donald as Mrs. Pence, in honor of the off-brand safe choice he made this past week when he selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence as his professional spouse and running mate, let’s resist the urge. Since Pence, just like the governor’s botched attempt to legalize discrimination against LGBT people with his heinous religious freedom law last year, will quickly fade into the background.

Because in the coming days it will be: ALL TRUMPS, ALL THE TIME.

Time to fire up the grill! #gagme

Time to fire up the grill! #gagme

This is opposed to Donald Trump, most of the time.

An abridged speaking list (courtesy of the NY Times) on the revolutionary Big Four Networks’ TV this week, all of whom will be broadcasting the Republican National Convention live in prime-time, reads:

Monday Night: Melania Trump (the romantic spouse)

Tuesday Night: Donald Trump, Jr. (aka Patrick Bateman 2.0a) and Tiffany Trump (aka Marla Maples’ daughter though named after Tiffany & Co.), Instagram star and model.

Watch out Kylie! #getitgurl

Watch out Kylie! #getitgurl

Wednesday Night: Eric Trump (aka Patrick Bateman 2.0b and renowned big game hunter)

Thursday Night: Ivanka Trump (the favorite progeny though not necessarily mine, even if she is married to a too smart for his own good Jewish boy). And finally, DT himself, which could give you the DTs if you weren’t already so used to him.

It almost makes you long for the halcyon days of Ivana, doesn’t it? Though not quite.

Clearly, it is impossible to run away from them since you take your life in your hands these days travelling out of the country on a plane, not to mention your patience. So here are some games, suggestions and strategies on how to cope – or to at least get through it.

Monday Night: As a prelude, go to this link and watch Maya Rudolph tell you about Melania Trump’s Edible Diamonds. This is to be done prior to her speaking so whatever words she does manage to say, will wash down more easily.

Extra crispy

Extra crispy

And if that doesn’t work, you might try a White Russian. Of course she isn’t Russian. She is from Slovenia. The drink is in deference to her husband’s admiration for Putin.

Tuesday Night: Prior to any family member you’re gonna get Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s talk so you might want to start the evening with a bowl of turtle soup. But don’t have too much because, as my Dad always tells me, ‘soup fills you up.’ Though you don’t want to hear Donald, Jr. on an empty stomach. Instead, perhaps this clip of Oscar winner Christian Bale in American Psycho?

Drink of choice? What else, scotch neat. Down it in five gulps – one for each of DTjr’s children – yes, HE has five kids – five. More. future. Trumps. On second thought – try five scotch neats. Every time he says – well, anything.

Which should prepare you for Tiffany.   Just stare at her twitter photo below and note that aside from being a model and social media star she is a student at the University of Pennsylvania. Then have a soy mocha latte – half caf – in her honor. You need to sober up but you also need to sleep tonight. You’re only half-way through this…schedule.

Wednesday Night: Newt Gingrich opens up the prime time slot and will no doubt tout his support of Trump(s) to speak for the silent majority of real America. Both Ted Cruz and Gov. Pence, each of whom will follow, will no doubt echo this thought. To keep yourself alert, make a list of all six wives that combined Newt and Donald have wed and answer for yourself this question under each name – What were/ARE they thinking? Meaning the wives, not the two older men – whose combined ages are now a sprightly 143.

Of course, nothing can truly prepare you for a speech by Eric Trump. He’s 6’5” tall and a big game hunter who likes to pose for pictures with dead animals he’s shot, sometimes along with his brother.

I JUST CANT

I JUST CANT

Perhaps a…Bloody Mary to wash him down? (Note: Virgin, if you’re not old enough to drink or have sworn off alcohol, though that’s inadvisable at this point). Every time the name Trump is mentioned all night. That should get you nice and lubricated, or at least give you enough of a sugar high to not care about anything else except yourself for the rest of the evening. Which, in some way, is keeping with the true theme of the night, isn’t it?

Thursday Night: The Finale. Time to break out the champagne when Ivanka comes on. Seriously. She’s the ideal. The beautiful daughter her father desires would she not be his beautiful daughter. The heiress, the smart female corporate tigress, the new Mom. Heck, she’s even friends with Chelsea Clinton! Or is she? Perhaps, they merely know each other and are cordial. Though it is not entirely inconceivable that at some point in the future their children will have a play/nanny date.

Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew EWWWWWWWW

Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew Ew EWWWWWWWW

Still, it does seem like Cristal (that’s champagne at its best) is in order. Or maybe even Korbel if that’s all you can afford. That seems likely given how good the economy is for the average person. Which is what the message of the week will be, anyway. Cristal for everyone by 2020!!! We Are All Trumps!

This will take you right into Donald, Sr. In order to soften the blow of him either reading from the teleprompter or talking off the cuff – because each is equally painful –prepare a picture of Mariska Hargitay beforehand and kiss it every time he says Law and Order.   Or bellows it. Then chug back some more Cristal, put on Madonna singing Like A Prayer whenever Hillary Clinton is derided for being weak and stupid and pray that there is, indeed a God. And that SHE is listening to you. And not Mrs. Pence.