Paul’s 2017 Academy Award Predictions

 

 

I love the Academy Awards. I know that the Oscars are becoming less and less relevant to film enthusiasts, especially since the awards are just seen as Hollywood patting themselves on the back, but that was never what the Oscars meant to me. I’ve always seen the awards as a celebration of everything film, both new and old. If it was just about the awards, we would not get the hosts talking about how cinema has effected them, or tributes to movies from the past or particular genres, or the Lifetime Achievement Award (which is going to Jackie Chan this year).

There is a love for movies from the Academy Awards. And while the winners of the evening often use their moments to make statements about the world (I can garauntee at least three winners will slam Trump in some way), I try to not let that overshadow the festivites and the passion for cinema.

It is because of this undying love for movies that I am pleased to go through my predictions and picks for this years’ Academy Awards. As always, I will list who I want to win the award regardless of how likely it is they will win, who should win as an unbiased point of view while looking at who truly deserves to win, and who actually will win that award. I will also not be looking at any of the documentary awards or shorts, since I know nothing about any of those categories (although I do expect “O.J.: Made in America” to win Best Documentary).

And for the record, I did see all nine films nominated for Best Picture, but not every movie nominated for an award. Strangely enough, I only saw one of the performances nominated for Best Actress, yet saw every performance nominated for Best Actor. With all that said, let’s start by looking at –

 

Best Cinematography –

Who I Want to Win: “La La Land”

Who Should Win: “Arrival”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

The beginning of a trend you will notice this year – “La La Land” dominating in almost every category it is nominated for. The reason for this is because Hollywood has always loved their musicals, and they are legitimately difficult to pull off in terms of cinematography, choreography, acting, pacing, editing, lighting, production design and so many other aspects. The fact that we have not had a good musical in a while is going to help out “La La Land” significantly.

 

Best Costume Design –

Who I Want to Win: “Fantastic Beasts”

Who Should Win: “Fantastic Beasts”

Who Will Win: “Jackie”

I liked the costumes in “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” so I’ll be rooting for it. But I doubt a fantasy film will walk away with this award.

 

Best Editing –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “La La Land”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

The editing in “Arrival” added to the films’ pacing and sense of mystery, so I applaud “Arrival” for that. But “La La Land” is going to clean house this year.

 

Best Makeup and Hairstyling –

Who I Want to Win: “Star Trek Beyond”

Who Should Win: “Star Trek Beyond”

Who Will Win: “Star Trek Beyond”

The aliens in “Star Trek: Beyond” were impressive, and most of them were not done digitally. That makes them even more impressive in this day and age.

 

Best Music –

Who I Want to Win: “Lion”

Who Should Win: “La La Land”

Who Will Win: “Lion”

I think the Academy is going to feel bad for giving “La La Land” so many awards that they’ll decide not to give them one of the smaller awards. This is one I see going to a different movie, and “Lion” has the best chance to get it.

 

Best Original Song –

Who I Want to Win: “Can’t Stop the Feeling”

Who Should Win: “How Far I’ll Go”

Who Will Win: “Audition (The Fools Who Dream)”

This one could be either “Audition” or “City of Stars” but I was more impressed by Emma Stone’s rendition about a town full of people who want more out of life. That being said, I wouldn’t mind if it went to “Can’t Stop the Feeling” or “How Far I’ll Go” either.

 

Best Production Design –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “Fantastic Beasts”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

Musicals have owned this category in the past, and I don’t think “La La Land” will be an exception.

 

Best Sound Editing –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “Arrival”

Who Will Win: “Deepwater Horizon”

Like last year, I’ll point out the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing – Editing is the creation of the sound effects, Mixing is combining all those sound effects into one coherent piece.

 

Best Sound Mixing –

Who I Want to Win: “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Who Should Win: “Hacksaw Ridge”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

 

Best Visual Effects –

Who I Want to Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Should Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Will Win: “The Jungle Book”

Nothing would make me happier than to see an animated film win Best Visual Effects, especially one like “Kubo and the Two Strings” which was the most visually unique movie of 2016. But I don’t see the Academy giving it high marks due to being animated, so I’ll pick “Jungle Book” for basically creating a whole new world.

 

Best Animated Feature Film –

Who I Want to Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Should Win: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Who Will Win: “Zootopia”

Again, “Kubo and the Two Strings” getting some form of recognition would be amazing due to how creative and imaginative it was with the whole paper concept. But it’s not Disney, and the Academy rarely gives out this award if Disney is involved. What’s even worse is that “Kubo” is up against two Disney films this year, “Zootopia” and “Moana.”

 

Best Adapted Screenplay –

Who I Want to Win: “Lion”

Who Should Win: “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: “Moonlight”

Now we start getting to the bigger awards.

I feel bad for “Moonlight” because it is the most honest and respectful movie of 2016, but I don’t see it winning many awards this year. This is one that it probably will win though.

 

Best Original Screenplay –

Who I Want to Win: “Hell or High Water”

Who Should Win: “The Lobster”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

A musical winning Best Screenplay? Yeah, with the great dialogue between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, I could certainly see that happening.

 

Best Directing –

Who I Want to Win: “Moonlight”

Who Should Win: “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

The acting was the most consistent and moving in “Moonlight” but “La La Land” will get the edge for directing a cast of thousands to sing and dance.

 

Best Supporting Actress –

Who I Want to Win: Naomie Harris from “Moonlight”

Who Should Win: Naomie Harris from “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: Viola Davis from “Fences”

Now, onto the acting awards and while the supporting awards are wide open, Best Actor/Actress are pretty much sealed up at this point.

Naomie Harris had the most difficult performance to deliver out of the candidates this year, which is why I give her the edge. But Viola Davis will walk away with the award for having to compete with Denzel Washington’s hardened jerk of a husband and come across as fiesty and strong.

 

Best Supporting Actor –

Who I Want to Win: Jeff Bridges from “Hell or High Water”

Who Should Win: Dev Patel from “Lion”

Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali from “Moonlight”

This is the one award I’m not entirely convinced on. On the one hand, Jeff Bridges gave one of my favorite performances of 2016, and Dev Patel stole the show in “Lion.” But Mahershala Ali came across as the most kind soul in a film full of twisted individuals. His character makes a lasting impression on you and Ali’s performance is the reason for that.

Best Actress –

Who I Want to Win: Emma Stone from “La La Land”

Who Should Win: Emma Stone from “La La Land”

Who Will Win: Emma Stone from “La La Land”

Part of the why I say Emma will win is because she’s the only one of the five nominees I’ve seen. But another is that she admitted to how difficult the song and dance numbers were for her. Sweating buckets after just a few minutes of physical workouts, turning beat-red quickly into a dance sequence, and yet making it all look so elequent.

 

Best Actor –

Who I Want to Win: Ryan Gosling from “La La Land”

Who Should Win: Casey Affleck from “Manchester by the Sea”

Who Will Win: Casey Affleck from “Manchester by the Sea”

The only reason I want Ryan Gosling to win is so “La La Land” can sweep the Academy Awards. For those unaware, a film “sweeping” the Oscars doesn’t mean it wins every category it is nominated, for but to win the five biggest awards of the night – Best Screenplay (Adapted or Original), Best Director, Best Actress, Best Actor and Best Picture. It has only happened three times in the history of the Academy Awards (1934’s “It Happened One Night,” 1975’s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and 1991’s “Silence of the Lambs”) and I want to see another film do that. “La La Land” might be our best chance to sweep, but that means Ryan Gosling will have to outshine Casey Affleck, the very clear favorite to win that award.

 

Best Picture –

Who I Want to Win: “Arrival”

Who Should Win: “Moonlight”

Who Will Win: “La La Land”

And so we come to the final award of the evening and one that isn’t nearly as open as the past few years. Last year was close between “Spotlight” and “The Revenant,” while 2015 had “Birdman” against “Boyhood.”

If it is a competition between two films this year, it would be “La La Land” and “Moonlight,” with a favorite leaning far more in the musicals’ favor.

“Arrival” was the most relevant movie of 2016, while also being a wonderfully entertaining science fiction film. But that sci-fi element is going to turn the voters away and ultimately “Arrival” is just happy to be nominated, along with “Lion,” “Hidden Figures,” “Fences” and “Hell or High Water.”

“Hacksaw Ridge” gets a slightly better chance than the others due to being a war movie, but not one that particularly stands out above the other films nominated this year. It adds diversity and could slip into win some minor awards, but certainly not Best Picture.

“Manchester by the Sea” is the underdog to Best Picture, but I think it’s too depressing to win the category over some of the other films nominated. Honestly, I would rather see “Lion” or “Hidden Figures” win Best Picture over “Manchester.”

“Moonlight” is the most artistic and honest film of the year and it deserves to win Best Picture. The performances all hit their marks, the cinematography was inventive for this subject matter, and it didn’t feel the need to explain how every character was feeling, letting the film show us a characters’ emotions rather than being told their feeings. “Moonlight” is the outside favorite to win.

But, with all that being said, “La La Land” pretty much has this award locked up. If there was a theme throughout most of the films nominated for Best Picture, it is one of sadness and depression, especially in films like “Manchester by the Sea,” “Fences” and to a lesser extent “Hell or High Water.” But “La La Land” is the counterpoint to all that, a colorful, vibrant, dream-like movie that celebrates classic musicals while also not being afraid of the real world. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Academy loves it when a Best Picture nominee honors Hollywood in some way, as we saw with winners like “Argo,” “The Artist” and “Birdman.” I think “La La Land” will be joining that category.

And those are my picks for the 2017 Academy Awards. I know I am leaning far too much on “La La Land,” but I honestly see the Academy adoring the film like they did with “Mad Max: Fury Road” last year. Will “La La Land” sweep the Oscars or will they try to show a bit more diversity? Only time will tell and we will find out this Sunday.

 

Paul’s Top 5 films of 2016

 

 

In my look at the best of 2016, I mentioned there were about four films that stood out to me as truly great movies. These are movies that I will happily come back to years from now and look back on them with fond memories. But, to round this out, I will be doing my top five best films of 2016.

Keep in mind that I have not seen every movie of 2016 that I wanted to see, including “La La Land,” “Moonlight,” and “Manchester by the Sea” so this list might have some other films added to it later on. But for the time being, these are the five best movies that 2016 had to offer.

At the end, I’ll also be including an honorable mentions list with films there were good, even great in some ways, but did not make the list for one reason or another. I will also be linking each pick to my original reviews, to offer a more expansive opinion on each pick.

 

Number Five: *Tie* “Deadpool” and “Captain America: Civil War”

Okay, I’m cheating with this one by making it two movies, but I honestly could not pick which was the best superhero movie of 2016. Two vastly different movies with entirely different agendas, yet weirdly enough they are equally entertaining.

“Deadpool” takes what Marvel has been making superhero movies for the last eight years and turns it on its head and gives it a good kick in the nuts. While not deep or complex on any sort of level, the raunchy humor, over the top gore and action and a quirky Ryan Reynolds that never lets up make “Deadpool” one of the most unforgettable experiences of 2016.

 

 

“Captain America: Civil War” on the other hand is the most complex and character-driven Marvel film yet, where we see these heroes at their most vulnerable. We see the guilt and regret everyone goes through, in a world that demands this type of power be put on a leash. This is a story driven by revenge, while also giving us some down-to-earth performances from the entire cast. Not to mention, when this movie wants to be entertaining it pulls out all the stops and gives us some of the greatest sequences Marvel has filmed yet.

I honestly cannot choose between the two, so I’m just giving the number five spot to both movies. Both films are a sign that the superhero genre is evolving and still capable of thrilling us in whole new ways.

 

Number Four: “Don’t Breathe”

While this is the most simplistic movie of 2016, it was also a rewarding one. Set in a small yet high-tech house where nearly every appliance or object comes into the plot, we witness a home invasion tale involving two equally guilty parties, while sympathizing with both sides. Each side takes violent actions, mostly out of fear and confusion, but all they want is a fulfilling life that they are not getting and this is the only way they know how to live. Always smart and atmospheric, constantly building up the tension with great camerawork and music, “Don’t Breathe” is one of the more underrated classics of 2016.

 

Number Three: “Hell or High Water”

The more I thought about this modern western, the more it grew on me. This is one of the more subtle films of the last few years, where little is explained and more is shown through the acting of Chris Pine and Ben Foster. The environment is also key to “Hell or High Water,” as we see a starving Texas that is slowly being killed by the bank. Some of the more beautiful shots in this film are of the lives either being destroyed or what little remains of life, like the cattle farmers running from the flames or the vast empty planes with rusting trucks and tractors. This makes Pine and Foster’s journey less about revenge and more of redemption. Certainly worth checking out.

 

Number Two: “Shin Godzilla”

I adored “Shin Godzilla” from start to finish. A new take on Godzilla, both in terms of character and concept of the monster that makes this one fresh and intelligent. This Godzilla is a terrifying creature that is always evolving, and we see a world that is unprepared for such a creature become paralyzed with fear and indecision, caught up in the bureaucracy of minutiae. Every scene with Godzilla utilizes his size and mass to great effect and leads to the best cinematography of any Godzilla movie. The film is also unbelievably nostalgic without ever drawing too much attention to it, with its use of music, sound effects and Godzilla’s evolution. What “Shin Godzilla” lacks in characters, it easily makes up for it in style, atmosphere, and tone. Even if you’re not a fan of Godzilla, this is a smart, well-shot monster movie that anyone can appreciate.

 

Number One: “Arrival”

For my number one pick, I went with the most important and relevant movie of 2016. A movie that is akin to others like “Contact” and “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” while showing us the strength in kindness, understanding, and communication. But the timing on “Arrival” was everything, coming at a time when the future looked bleak and in pieces, this film reminded us of hope and faith in all of mankind.

If there is a common theme among my top five films of 2016, it would be smart, well-thought-out movies that consider every scene, action, and line of dialogue important to the story and how the movie is effected by the world around us. Whether that is two brothers looking to redeem themselves in a forgotten land, a democracy responding to a living monstrosity, or how the entire world would react to aliens and their message.

If 2016’s year of cinema was anything, it was smart.

Honorable Mentions:

“Kubo and the Two Strings”

“10 Cloverfield Lane”

“Hail, Caesar!”

“Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them”

“The Accountant”

 

Editorial – “Shin Godzilla” and the Beginning of a New Age

godzilla-resurgence

It has come to my attention that, while the overwhelming majority thought “Shin Godzilla” was a solid film that blended the terrors of giant monsters with the triumph of overcoming them, while also paying loving tribute to the films that came before it, there are some who were thrown off by the film in many ways. Some hated the cast of thousands that had no development and no reason to care for their struggle against Godzilla, while others thought it was filled with too much political discussions and not enough monster action.

But the most common complaint I’ve heard is that “Shin Godzilla” does away with the traditional style of daikaiju filmmaking, in other words suitmation. In this film, Godzilla is not some guy in a rubber suit, like he was in the previous 28 Godzilla movies, and is instead mostly a computer generated image. In fact, almost all the effects in this film were generated by computers.

Did you know that almost every tank used in the first military confrontation with Godzilla was a CGI creation? I didn’t know that until I watched a behind-the-scene clip on YouTube that showed how some of the effects were created, and it went into detail on how the tanks and helicopters were made.

godzilla-and-tanks

Some people hate that a film style drenched in tradition and style would forgo all of that and use a modern creation. A style that goes back to the 1950s and was used all the way through the mid-2000s, and it is missing from the latest entry in the Godzilla series.

And while I see where these people are coming from and the importance of sticking to tradition, I don’t think “Shin Godzilla” would have been nearly as effective if this Godzilla was a guy in a rubber suit. If anything, “Shin Godzilla” showed the potential of CGI in Japanese monster movies and how you can do things that were never possible before.

Let me ask you a question – Before “Shin Godzilla,” what was the most recent big daikaiju movie that came out? In Japan, Godzilla hadn’t been seen since 2004 in a film that nearly killed the franchise, “Godzilla: Final Wars,” Gamera has been missing since 2006 with “Gamera: The Brave,” and Ultraman has been mostly limited to television. I bring this up because it shows that daikaiju movies died out around the mid-2000s.

There are plenty of explanations for this, including an overabundance of monster movies at the time, a lack of original stories and far too many retreads, but it was clear that around 2004, box office numbers were declining with daikaiju films and reviews were not great either. Part of this could have been that the CGI seen in other big budget films, like “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and “King Kong,” were blowing away anything Japanese studios could make and they didn’t have the money to compete with the American studios were creating.

godzillas-breath

With so many films using CGI, we became accustom to that, and got use to filmmakers using that imagery to create things that we could have never seen otherwise. Because of that, audience didn’t want to see guys in rubber suits anymore.

Honestly, I don’t blame the filmmakers of “Shin Godzilla” for using mostly CGI to create Godzilla. Toho had been using small amounts of CG in the Godzilla films since “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah,” as well as every movie in the 2000s. Sometimes it is easier to get Godzilla’s size and scale across when you’re not bound by a guy in a rubber monster suit.

If you have the technology to do so, why not use it? If you want to get people interested in daikaiju movies again, you’ve got to find new ways to captivate them.

What I found the most impressive with “Shin Godzilla”‘s CGI is how well it complimented the cinematography. There were dozens of shots in this film where you see large-scale camera movement or shots with miles of city-wide destruction. There’s one shot entirely out of the side of a car, as it starts pretty far away from Godzilla, but drives closer to him, until its right next to his massive leg and caught in his trail of destruction. Or another shot where all you can only see Godzilla up to his knees, but the camera focuses on the cars and chunks of building that his feet are kicking up as he moves across the landscape.

shin-godzilla-1

These shots would have been impossible to achieve if Godzilla was a suit.

I cannot recall much dynamic camera movement in previous Godzilla films. There were a few times where the camera would pan left or right a bit, but the camera was mostly static, especially in the early Godzilla movies. I understand why – they can’t move the camera too much because the set isn’t that big. But with “Shin Godzilla,” all of Toyko is this movies’ set.

I was blown away when I got to see Godzilla from so far away and then up-close and personal in the same shot, especially since Godzilla hardly moved in that shot. The camera is so dynamic in “Shin Godzilla” that you could have told an entire story with just the monster clips, and it would have worked out spectacularly. It was breathtaking to see a monster film where the camera movement had no limits.

On top of that, the filmmakers of “Shin Godzilla” set out to give us a Godzilla that benefited from CGI. This Godzilla has tiny skeleton-like hands that couldn’t have worked for a suit actor’s arms, and a tail that moves more than the rest of the body. He has an insanely long neck, leading to a head that has teeth everywhere, an absurdly large mouth and smallest eyes you can imagine. Not to mention, this is a constantly mutating creäture.

Is this Godzilla possible through suitmation? Sure, anything is possible, in fact a few shots in “Shin Godzilla” where they used a large puppet. They even made a full-body suit for the newest Godzilla. But they mostly stuck with CGI, to keep this Godzilla’s bodily exaggerations going.

I don’t think a little Godzilla mutating into a bigger Godzilla in the middle of a bustling city would look convincing if done using suitmation.

godzilla-first-form

Which brings us to my biggest point – There are so many things you can do with CGI that would be ridiculous otherwise. I don’t doubt the power of suitmation and how clever it can be, fifty years of daikaiju filmmaking prove that, but “Shin Godzilla” proves that using CGI can be as clever. It can be used to give us impossible creatures in realistic settings, and to be combined with cinematography to give us something we’ve never seen before.

Computer generated imagery has come a long way since its conception. While there were dark days of CG, where it was everywhere and everyone thought they were an expert on it leading us to some crappy action/adventure and fantasy movies, we are now at the point where we can have entirely CG characters interact with real actors and be just as emotionally invested in them as any other character.

Any film that uses CG to make a talking racoon and a tree who are best friends, and make them the most interesting characters in the film is using CGI to its greatest potential.

Because computer generated imagery isn’t just a cheap way out of actually creating something. It is a filmmaking tool, just like a camera, lighting and an editing device. It can be used well or poorly, depending on the filmmaker. If you use it badly, it’ll stick out the like a sore thumb and break the illusion of cinema. But if used properly, then you expand your landscape and allows you to show the audience more before.

There’s no denying the appeal of the classic Godzilla movies, especially for someone like me, seeing those rubber suits and hand-crafted sets, where you can see all the hard work in the construction of the shot alone. The charm of those films may not be present in “Shin Godzilla,” but it is replaced by a new charm. One that speaks to the digital age and takes full advantage of using mostly CGI, through cinematography, monster design and atmosphere.

So, with the success of “Shin Godzilla” and its use of CGI, what does all this mean for the future of daikaiju filmmaking? I think that filmmakers are going to become far more clever and find new ways to blend computer imagery with suitmation. Just because one film found success in a new way doesn’t mean they’ll abandon the old ways. I do think this means we’ve entered a new era for daikaijus, one of exploration and possibly experimenting with combining styles. And with Toho planning on more Godzilla movies in the future, I am certainly looking forward to what is in store for us.

 

Rotten Tomatoes and its Influence

rottentomatoes

Recently, I’ve noticed a pattern developing in movie blockbusters. In the past couple years, movies like “The Brothers Grimsby,” “Hardcore Henry,” “Rachet & Clank,” “Demolition,” “Aloha,” “In The Heart Of The Sea” and “The Last Witch Hunter” all under-performed at the box office, while films like “Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens,” “Zootopia,” “Inside Out,” “Deadpool” and “Captain America: Civil War” have made far more at the box office than anyone expected, especially films like “Zootopia” which has made over $336 million in the United States, $993 million worldwide.

Normally, films like “Hardcore Henry” or “The Brothers Grismby” would have been number one at the box office on their opening weekends, due to gimmicky filmmaking concepts and lots of ultra violence, or well established actors in leading roles like Sasha Barha Cohen. Sometimes it can be associated with poor timing, like in the case of “In The Heart Of The Sea” coming out so close to “Star Wars,” but even then the numbers were still poor, grossing less than $35 million on its opening weekend.

There could be a number reasons why this is happening, but I have noticed a correlation between the failure of smaller blockbusters and the success of others – Rotten Tomatoes.

To give you an idea, here are some of the scores of these recent box office flops – “Hardcore Henry” now holds a 48%, “In The Heart Of The Sea” has 42%, “Aloha” maintains a 20% and “Demoliton” comes in at 50%. All considered flops and failures by Rotten Tomatoes standards.

Now here is some of the scores for recent successes – “Star Wars” still has 92%, “Inside Out” and “Zootopia” both bolsters a 98%, and even “Deadpool” holds strong at 83%.

Based off of this information, if a blockbuster scores better on Rotten Tomatoes, then it is more likely to succeed at the box office, no matter what time of year it comes out. And the opposite also seems to be true as well – the lower a film scores on Rotten Tomatoes, the less likely it will do well at the box office.

xmenandalice

Take one of the most recent weekends for example, which saw the release of two blockbusters – “X-Men: Apocalypse” and “Alice Through The Looking Glass.” Both come from franchises that have previously proven to be financially successful and have some pretty big name stars, including Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and Johnny Depp. Yet it was the mutant based action film that far exceeded the numbers of the adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s work, with “X-Men: Apocalypse” bringing in $65.8 million and “Alice” only managing $26.9 million. It should also be noted the recent “X-Men” movie holds a 48% on Rotten Tomatoes, while “Alice” has a 29%.

Not very great scores for either film, but both are new and everyone has seemingly already seen “Captain America: Civil War” and those who were interested in “The Angry Birds Movie” has went to it already, those two were the best options for Memorial Day weekend.

But once again, the higher rated film on Rotten Tomatoes outgrossed the lower rated one.

Of course, this isn’t always the case. There have been times where a lower rated film on Rotten Tomatoes outgrosses the higher one, with the biggest recent example being “Pitch Perfect 2” out-performing “Mad Max: Fury Road” on its opening weekend, even though the film many critics said was the best film of 2015 was nearly 20% ahead of the Anna Kendrick/Rebel Wilson sequel. This is by no means a perfect system, but then again there have been plenty of terribly rated films in the past that were box office juggernauts (I’m looking at you, any film directed by Michael Bay).

So, how is this happening? In the past, people have researched which film they will see over the weekend from home, but are unsure of how they’ll like the film and are taking a risk by possibly going to see a movie they won’t enjoy. But now we have smart phones that we have with us all the time. We can go to the movie theaters without deciding what to see in advanced, and pick which movie sounds the best while driving over using our phones.

For people who are undecided on which movie to see, they might turn to Rotten Tomatoes, where they can not only read what other people have said about the movie, from both critics and normal people sharing their thoughts, but they can also see those thoughts summarized into a nice little percentage that can be compared with other movies. And it seems we are now at the point where audiences are more likely to go to the highest rated new blockbuster.

chinese-audience-watching-a-3d-movie

Let’s say that you wanted to go to the movies this last weekend, and you weren’t a die-hard fan of the X-Men or the works of Lewis Carroll, but you had already seen “Captain America: Civil War” and “The Jungle Book.” Would you wing it and randomly pick one of the two new films and hope that you picked the better one, or would you look up how both films are scoring online and go with the movie that is doing better?

I say this because it is similar to my routine of checking out the newest films, although I will do it more often than most other people because I’m obsessed with cinema. Usually every Friday, I will see how each of the newest blockbusters are scoring on Rotten Tomatoes to see if there are any films worth going to see. Because sometimes I won’t be interested in seeing a blockbuster based on the trailer and info I’ve been given about the film, but it will score well on Rotten Tomatoes, like “Zootopia,” and I’ll be convinced to go see it in theaters.

I can guarantee you that I’m not the only movie-goer that does this. It is safe to say that Rotten Tomatoes has not only changed how we critique films, but also how well a film does at the box office.

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Do you think the reason “Terminator: Genisys” never got number one at the box office during its time in theaters was because of competition? Possibly, but another big contributing factor was its low 26% on Rotten Tomatoes. By that point, films like “Jurassic World” and “Inside Out” had been in theaters for a while, so “Genisys” shouldn’t have had much in the way of competition. Yet it got fifth on its opening weekend, losing to “Inside Out,” “Jurassic World,” “Ted 2” and “Max.” Not “Mad Max: Fury Road,” just “Max,” about a dog that was in the army.

We live in a world now where the newest Arnold Schwarzenegger film can be outgrossed by the “American Sniper” of dog movies.

So, with Rotten Tomatoes seemingly having a big influence on how well movies do at the box office, the question is whether this is a good thing or a bad thing? I believe it is a little bit of both.

The bad thing Rotten Tomatoes influence is that it can over-hype some of the newest films. Take “Zootopia” for example, with its 98% and overglowing reviews. It is amazing that an animated film can be enjoyable to watch for so many people. But then step back a bit and think what that 98% means. Rotten Tomatoes is saying that “Zootopia” is a better film to watch than any film with a lower score than it.

And here is a list of movies that have a lower score than “Zootopia” – “Pulp Fiction,” “Forrest Gump,” “Fargo,” “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Exorcist,” “Die Hard,” “The Hunt For Red October” and every single Indiana Jones movie.

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Now I’m not saying “Zootopia” was a bad experience, but a better film than “Fargo” and “Raiders Of The Lost Ark”? Not even close. It seems like people got so excited about the unique animation and setting that they forgot its just a simple buddy-cop movie.

Part of this could be due to when these films came out. All the films I just mentioned were released long before Rotten Tomatoes was ever around (with the exception of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” but we don’t talk about that one), so people have had a longer time to think about these movies, as well as offer up contrary opinions. But with movies like “Zootopia” and “Inside Out,” we haven’t had nearly as much time to think of the negatives. We were so blown away by their creativity and imagination that we don’t realize if the film will hold up years from now.

In other words, Rotten Tomatoes is focusing on the present and what people want now. If a movie was released a long time ago, it will naturally score a much lower rating. They’re less concerned whether a film will be classic.

Personally, I don’t listen to Rotten Tomatoes when it comes to classic films that is from 1995 or older, around the time the internet came into power. Reviews for those types of films tend to be either biased or far fewer. For example, one of my favorite guilty pleasures, “King Kong vs. Godzilla,” only has a 33% on Rotten Tomatoes, with only 12 overall reviews. Whereas a current film like “Captain America: Civil War” has 310 reviews, giving it an overall score of 90%. Unless it’s an undisputed classic, like “Citizen Kane” or “Casablanca” the further you go back in film history, the less you’ll see of it on Rotten Tomatoes.

As for the benefits of Rotten Tomatoes influence, we now live in a world where film critics have a big say about which movies we go see. Critics have always had somewhat of an influence on what we watch, but only to those who search for critical analysis. To people who care about what the critics have to say about any particular movie. But with Rotten Tomatoes, the general film-going audience can get the idea of what critics are saying, whether they know it or not. Some people might only be interested in a movies’ percentage, but they’re also listening to what critics and others have said.

We can now finally listen to “The Critic” thanks to Rotten Tomatoes. “If the movie stinks, just don’t go.”

Overall, I’m more than happy to say that Rotten Tomatoes has changed the way people use film criticism. The whole point of critiquing a movie is not just to share your thoughts and opinions with others, but also to offer others with a better idea what films to watch and what to avoid. To give filmmakers, both current ones and aspiring ones, a better understanding of what it takes to make a film that resonates with audiences and will last beyond our lifetime. It is nice to see film criticism being taken as more than just angry typing and obsessed fans, but as a community full of passionate people who love what they do.

To see that community having an influence on what films people end up seeing is wonderful to witness.

 

Toshiro Mifune Vs. Takashi Shimura

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When you think of a classic Japanese actor, who is the first that comes to mind?

Some might go for a modern pick, like Ken Watanabe from movies like “The Last Samurai,” “Inception” and Gareth Edward’s “Godzilla,” but most film buffs out there probably have a different actor in mind – Toshiro Mifune.

Mifune starred in sixteen of Akira Kurosawa’s films, where he played lead roles in “Yojimbo,” “The Hidden Fortress,” “Throne Of Blood,” “Sanjuro” and “Red Beard,” while also playing pivotal roles in “Rashomon,” “Stray Dog,” “Drunken Angel,” “High and Low” and most notably as Kikuchiyo in “Seven Samurai.”

Outside of Kurosawa films, Mifune played the lead role of Musashi Miyamoto in the Samurai trilogy, had a short career in American films, including a WW2 survival tale with Lee Marvin called “Hell in the Pacific,” and had been offered the roles of both Darth Vader and Obi-Wan Kenobi in the original “Star Wars.”

For me, Mifune is the most intense yet passionate actor I can think of, both in and out of Japanese films. He often said so much without hardly saying anything, through body movement. Characters like Kikuchiyo and the bandit from “Rashomon” jumped around like they were always on caffeine, ready for the next piece of action. But then these characters could turn on a dime, taking that intensity and turning into a quiet calm that you think he’ll never break out of.

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Within a single swift movement, Toshiro Mifune could show compassion, anger, regret and sadness, like his speech in “Seven Samurai” about the craftiness of villagers and their need to pillage and steal when no one is looking, yet it was the supposed-protectors, samurais, that made the villagers that way.

This shining example of acting proved that Mifune was one of the greatest actors of all time.

However, Toshiro Mifune is not my answer to the question at the beginning of this post. As captivating and enthralling as he was, there is one other Japanese actor that I would say is greater – Takashi Shimura.

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In many ways, Shimura is the Yin to Mifune’s Yang. Two immortal Japanese actors, with entirely different styles of acting. While Mifune was intense and loved to get in people’s faces, Takashi Shimura was often laid-back and spoke with his eyes and smile.

Shimura starred in 21 Kurosawa films, including “The Quiet Duel,” “I Live In Fear,” “Drunken Angel,” “Rashomon,” the lead samurai Kambei in “Seven Samurai,” while also played roles in many Toho films, including Dr. Yamane in “Godzilla” and “The Mysterians.”

While Mifune’s speech in “Seven Samurai” is a standout example of his acting ability, Shimura’s introduction in the same film stands out just as much. We watch as this old man, without even speaking, as an entire village surrounding him, as he cuts off his ponytail, shaves his head and simply asks for some food. We find out that a sacred thief has kidnapped a little girl and is held up in the town’s church, with a knife to the girl’s throat.

Shimura’s plan is to pose as a priest, offering the man and girl some food, while trying to talk him down peacefully. Unfortunately, the thief resorts to violence and he quickly finds out that he is dealing with a deadly samurai. We see a man who has seen far too much violence for one lifetime, but realizes that it is often necessary to protect the innocent.

Rather than using his body movements to express himself like Mifune, Shimura uses the pauses between his sentences, as if he is contemplating how the situation will work out. This makes Shimura excel at quiet and often reserved characters, one’s who have a lot to say but know when and when not to speak.

I would compare Toshiro Mifune’s acting to Robert De Niro, a man known for his hidden anger yet never loosing sight of his compassion for others. Both of these men could fly off the handle one moment and be sobbing a minute later. While Takashi Shimura’s comparison would be James Stewart, as they both had a tendency to play the every-man, a character that faces problems and conflicts that we all face in life. He shares our thoughts, our feelings, our anguish and our turmoil.

The problem with comparing Mifune and Shimura is, as I said previously, they are two entirely different actors. While the two played opposite one another multiple times in films like “Stray Dog,” “Seven Samurai” and “Drunken Angel” (where oddly enough, the roles that Shimura and Mifune often play are reversed), trying to say which is better is like asking if Robert De Niro is a better actor than James Stewart.

Part of this is because these two come from different time periods of Japanese filmmaking. Shimura’s career began in the silent era in 1934, getting his big break in 1936 with “Osaka Elegy,” heavily dependent on the lack of audio and facial expressions. Mifune’s began in the late 1940s, after World War II, with his first major role coming in 1948’s “Drunken Angel.” By the end of the war, the Japanese film studio was in shambles, much like the country itself, and the Japanese people needed someone tougher and experienced to look up to, which Mifune exemplified.

So with two different backgrounds of acting, distinct acting styles, and contrasting types of film genres they excel in, this makes comparing the two difficult.

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I give the edge to Takashi Shimura for one reason – His role in Kurosawa’s “Ikiru.”

In a tale of identity, regret and longing for a purpose in life, Shimura gives one of the most moving performances I’ve seen. The strange thing about this role is that Shimura hardly says anything for the first third of the film, and can’t seem to find the right words for the rest. Instead, we rely on the utter shock on his face as he learns that he has six months to live, his pools of sadness when he realizes that he hasn’t done anything with his life, and the sparks in his eyes when he understands that it is not too late to make a difference in the world.

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Takashi Shimura’s role paints a picture of a man who has wandered for thirty years, and only recently found the beauty of life, wanting to share that beauty with the world before it is too late. If it were any other actor in “Ikiru,” the film would not have been half as good. Shimura’s touch of sincerity and compassion makes “Ikiru” one of the greatest films I have seen.

For me, that same compassion and kindness is what puts Takashi Shimura just above Toshiro Mifune. They’re both actors I don’t mind putting in the Hall of Greats, and as the two most notable Japanese actors, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the man who could reduced me to tears with a nothing more than a smile and glimmer of hope.

 

Paul’s 2016 Academy Award Predictions

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With the Academy Awards approaching, it is about that time again to go over my predictions for this years winners.

As I’ve said previously, 2015 was a wonderful year for cinema, and a fair amount of the best films this year got a lot of nominations. Personally, I would have liked to see a bit more diversity in other categories, but most of the nominated films do deserve to be in their respective categories.

To me, it looks like this year of the Academy Awards appear that they will be continuations from last year, and giving long-time artists their respect. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu and “The Revenant” seem to be in position to dominate just like “Birdman” did last year, while Sylvester Stallone practically has the Best Supporting Actor award already. I’m looking forward to Best Original Score this year, because it comes down to two masters of their craft – Ennio Morricone and John Williams.

With all of that said, let’s take a look at my predictions. As with the last few years, I’ll be skipping documentaries, shorts and foreign film categories, since I know nothing about them. Although, it does sound like “Son Of Saul” will win Best Foreign Film based off of what I’ve heard.

Best Cinematography:

Who should win: “The Revenant”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

While I adored the cinematography in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” there is no doubt that “The Revenant” was more impressive. The fight scene with the bear holds everything you need to know about why it has the best camera work of the year, as we watch this visceral and violent scene takes place, all without cutting away.

“The Revenant” is full of great examples like that, and like “Birdman” last year, this will help it achieve victory in this category.

Best Costume Design:

Who should win: “The Danish Girl”

Who will win: “Cinderella”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Hard to say on this one, since I have not seen “The Danish Girl” or “Cinderella,” but the Academy tends to love big period piece dramas like “Cinderella,” especially when each character has their own unique dress in trying to show off the other. Plus, the level of extravagance is taken to a whole different level by adding director Kenneth Branagh, who takes the visual style of a Shakespeare play and amps it up to 11.

I predict that will be reflected in the Academy’s decision.

Best Editing:

Who should win: “The Big Short”

Who will win: “The Big Short”

Who I want to win: “Spotlight”

To me, the editing was the best part of “The Big Short,” and one of the standout examples of editing in 2015. “Spotlight” had some wonderful editing as well to keep everything contained so well, but “The Big Short” used editing to help advance the story. That gives it the win in my eyes.

Best Makeup and Hairstyling:

Who should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

No one’s ever heard of “The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window and Disappeared” so it won’t be winning this category. I can’t recall that much of impressive makeup in “The Revenant,” other than Leo being covered in blood and lots of hair. So, by default, “Mad Max: Fury Road” has this one sealed up.

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Best Original Score:

Who should win: “The Hateful Eight”

Who will win: “The Hateful Eight”

Who I want to win: “The Hateful Eight”

This is the one that I’m really looking forward to. It will come down to two composers this year, Ennio Morricone for “The Hateful Eight” and John Williams for “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

Let that sink in for a minute.

This year, we are witnessing the composer of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly,” “Cinema Paradiso” and “The Thing,” go up against the composer of “Jaws,” the Indiana Jones movies, “E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial” and every Star Wars films. Morricone is back in the genre that he excels at – Westerns. While Williams is back to composing arguably his greatest score. We are watching two legends of film scoring going at it here, and it could go to either one.

I think it will go to Morricone, because of the legacy that he has left. The Academy loves to give it to very old people who have never won the award, or haven’t won it in a long time. John Williams already has more Academy Awards than Meryl Streep, so to give it to an 87-year-old man whose career started in the early 1960s in Italy would be wonderful to see.

Best Original Song:

Who should win: “The Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

Who will win: “The Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

Who I want to win: “The Writing’s On The Wall” by Sam Smith

I’m going with the song that I enjoy listening to. I’ve never heard of the other ones, so that might be swaying my vote. But Sam Smith is well-known now and everyone loves the Bond songs.

Best Production Design:

Who should win: “The Martian”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

For me, the film that ends up feeling the biggest with the most impressive size, scope and feel to it wins this category. I felt that, of these five films, “Mad Max: Fury Road” had that in spades, but I doubt the Academy agrees with me on that.

“The Martian” should win because it felt like it was taking place on different planet, while still feeling down to Earth. The production design was simple, yet effective. But I think it’ll go to “The Revenant” for the vast distance that the film covered and making it feel like a vast untamed wilderness.

Best Sound Editing:

Who should win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Before I go into my predictions, I feel like this needs to be addressed – What is the difference between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing? Over the past few years, I’ve seen this question come up a lot and people asking why they don’t just combine the two awards together.

Here’s the difference between the two. Sound Editing is the creation of all the sound effects for a movie, outside of the music, including additional dialogue recording, or ADR for short. Sound Mixing is combining all the sounds of the film, sound effects, music, dialogue, etc., into one solid coherent piece. In other words, the editing is about the guys who make the sounds, while the mixing is for those that put it all together.

Anyway, I would love to see “Star Wars” win this one, for recreating all the classic sounds of Star Wars while updating it. But it will probably go to “The Revenant” because duplicating the noises of the wild tends to rather difficult, especially when you’re trying to recreate a wilderness that hasn’t existed for hundreds of years.

Best Sound Mixing:

Who should win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Who will win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

Who I want to win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

Again, with the distinction between Sound Editing and Sound Mixing in mind, I have to give this to the film that made its sound as amazing to listen to as the visuals were thrilling, “Mad Max: Fury Road.” As great as the sound was for “Star Wars,” the sound of “Mad Max” has grown on me and has stuck with me as long as the everything else about this masterpiece has.

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Best Visual Effects:

Who should win: “Ex Machina”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Star Wars: The Force Awakens”

The bear will give “The Revenant” the win on this one.

Best Adapted Screenplay:

Who should win: “Room”

Who will win: “Room”

Who I want to win: “The Martian”

And now we begin to come down to the final categories, starting with the screenplay awards.

“Room” will take this one due to Emma Donoghue, who wrote the novel, returning to write the screenplay. That is a big deal, since nothing would be lost in the adaptation. This one comes down to how faithful the screenplay is to the source material, and “Room” will get extra points by getting the same writer as the novel.

Best Original Screenplay:

Who should win: “Spotlight”

Who will win: “Spotlight”

Who I want to win: “Spotlight”

I know this may look like it comes easy for “Spotlight” but this one was tricky.

There are a lot of well-written original films this year, including “Inside Out’ and “Ex Machina”‘s dialogue. But “Spotlight” took years of material from the Boston Globe, took everything to heart, and did there best to stay accurate to reality without diluting the story and message. It is original, yet at the same time, it is an adaptation of reality.

Best Animated Feature:

Who should win: “Inside Out”

Who will win: “Inside Out”

Who I want to win: “Inside Out”

This is the no-brainer pick this year. While “Inside Out” will face competition from “Anomalisa,” this is Pixar doing what they do best. Pixar always has this category wrapped up, and this year will be no different.

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Best Directing:

Who should win: Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight”

Who will win: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: Tom McCarthy for “Spotlight”

And now the big ones. This year, most of the awards are pretty difficult (aside from one). There are many nominees that are worthy of winning, and it can be difficult if the Academy wants to give it to those that deserve it or those that they know about.

With that said, Tom McCarthy should be the favorite to win this award, by making a film that feels less like trying to recreate reality and more like actual reality. But Inarritu is the favorite to win this award, as I’m sure the Academy would like to give the award to someone two years in a row.

Best Supporting Actress:

Who should win: Kate Winslet from “Steve Jobs”

Who will win: Kate Winslet from “Steve Jobs”

Who I want to win: Jennifer Jason Leigh from “The Hateful Eight”

This one is hard, because of all the nominees, I’ve only seen three of them – Rachel McAdams, Kate Winslet and Jennifer Jason Leigh. McAdams was good, but nothing spectacular, I don’t see “Spotlight” winning any of the acting awards. Jason Leigh was amazing to watch as she seemed to love playing the bad guy and took delight in making someone’s life a living hell.

But Kate Winslet gave that movie the necessary heart that it needed, as she kept Steve Jobs in check. If it weren’t for her, Fassbender’s performance would have been too sharp and unforgiving. I’m giving it to Winslet.

Best Supporting Actor:

Who should win: Sylvester Stallone from “Creed”

Who will win: Sylvester Stallone from “Creed”

Who I want to win: Sylvester Stallone from “Creed”

When it was announced that Sylvester Stallone was nominated for Best Supporting Actor, at an event that is normally very quiet and very reserved, the crowd erupted in a standing ovation. If that isn’t a give away clue that Stallone will win this award, I don’t know what is.

Stallone easily has this one for giving the best performance out of anybody this year.

Best Actress:

Who should win: Brie Larson from “Room”

Who will win: Brie Larson from “Room”

Who I want to win: Brie Larson from “Room”

Like with Best Original Screenplay, this is not an easy pick, but Brie Larson will win this award.

This year, it comes down between Larson and Cate Blanchett. What gives Larson the advantage is that Blanchett won the award two years ago for “Blue Jasmine,” so that might sway some voters. Same with Jennifer Lawrence for her role in “Silver Linings Playbook,” and Charlotte Rampling and Saoirse Ronan are a little too low-profile to win this award. Larson has won several awards for her performance already, so I think that helps out as well.

Best Actor:

Who should win: Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Revenant”

Who will win: Leonardo DiCaprio from “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: Matt Damon from “The Martian”

Finally, Leo will win one!

At this point, the voters feel sorry for Leonardo DiCaprio. Six times he has been nominated for Best Actor, and he has never won. While “The Revenant” was not his best performance in recent memory, it was still a captivating performance that had little to no dialogue from him. He will get this one more out of sympathy and not earning it.

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Best Picture:

Who should win: “Spotlight”

Who will win: “The Revenant”

Who I want to win: “Mad Max: Fury Road”

And so we come to the biggest award of the night. With eight nominees, this year it comes down to two films – “Spotlight” and “The Revenant.”

As much as I would love “Mad Max: Fury Road” to win the award this year, the Academy is probably turned off by it being one extended car chase sequence through a post-apocalyptic future. It is the one of the most technologically impressive films this year, but it will not win Best Picture.

“The Martian” has some tough competition, having a similar plot to “The Revenant” but that western survival tale still being fresh in people’s memories. This one could be sneak up on other awards, but not here.

“Room” is certainly the indie darling this year, but I don’t think the Academy will look at it beyond its screenplay and Brie Larson’s performance. It is the underdog nominee in this case, but its chances are slim.

“The Big Short,” “Brooklyn” and “Bridge Of Spies” are just happy to be here.

That leaves us with the final two, and I’m still unsure about who is going to win. My gut reaction is to say that “Spotlight” should win Best Picture for being the most respected and well-put together film of 2015.

But, the Academy is still high on Inarritu winning everything for “Birdman” last year, and to be able to come out with another high-profile film so quickly. The Academy is going to eat up Leonardo DiCaprio and the cinematography is impressive, to say the least.

Therefore, I believe that “The Revenant” will win Best Picture for 2015. I will have my fingers crossed in the hopes that either “Spotlight” or “Mad Max: Fury Road” can win the award, but the Academy is too much in love with Inarritu for the film to fail.

But we will find out very soon if my predictions are accurate. Because on Sunday, the 88th Academy Awards will take place and the best that cinema has to offer will be crowned.

 

Paul’s Favorite Films – Common Themes

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This final entry in my favorite films countdown is going to be different from the others. I would like this one to be as interactive as possible, because I want your input and thoughts. If you have extensive film knowledge, or even if you don’t and only know about these 25 movies I’ve mentioned simply through my reviews, I want to hear what you have to say.

 
The question I’d like to ask is – what do you think are the common points that connect these films together? What do any of these 25 films have in common, if anything? You don’t have to relate all 25 together, but I would like to see what you think even two of these films share. This could be anything from common plot points, to characters, themes, atmosphere, message, tone, production values and anything that you can think of.

 
And, for those that do have a massive film knowledge, there is an optional question – With these common points in mind, what other movies can you think of that also share those points? Just to give myself some recommendations for the future or to possibly rethink another film in a whole new light.

 
I’ll give this a starting point and talk about the most common type of story throughout my favorite films – the misfit in a world of misfits.

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There are several of these twenty-five films that focus on a particularly strange character, for one reason or another, in a world that is either full of characters that are strange of a different variety or characters that contrast the protagonist. At times, his/her behavior is not so different from a passionate and driven individual, but in a world where that is frowned upon, this character is seen as an outcast.

 
Jefferson Smith was ridiculed by the majority of Congress in “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” for staying far too close to the ideals of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, just like Edward D. Wood Jr. was never taken seriously in “Ed Wood.” Both of these characters stayed true to their passions and outlook on life, even when everyone seemed to be against them. In a way, they are both films about fighting the system for ones’ beliefs.

 
Other examples include Marge Gunderson and her husband Norm being the only competent and intelligent people in “Fargo,” Tobey Maguire and Resse Witherspoon being literally from a different time in “Pleasantville,” WALL-E being the only creäture to have come in contact with Earth for over 700 years, and of course Kanji Watanabe in “Ikiru” daring to challenge the bureaucratic symbol of Japan when he realizes that he has so little time left to live.

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We also see this go to opposite extremes with characters like Bruno Anthony in “Strangers On A Train” and Reverend Harry Powell in “The Night Of The Hunter.” Two characters that have a lot in common, but are also radically different. They are in love with themselves more than anything else and love what they do. They both have silver tongues, but to varying degrees. Harry Powell can convince just about any body to join his side by using religion and God to his evil benefits, while Bruno is more crazed and people are merely fascinated by his theories.

 
Characters like Kanji, the Tramp in “City Lights,” Marge and George Bailey in “It’s A Wonderful Life” are not afraid to challenge what is expected of people. One could say that they live in a world separate from the one they inhabit, and wish to show everyone else the benefit of this other world. One free of hate, greed and selfishness, and instead replaced with self-less passionate people.

 
Which brings me to the next common theme throughout most of these films – hope.

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Perhaps there is a subconscious reason why I chose “Son Of Godzilla” and “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” of all the films in the series to be on this countdown that even I wasn’t aware of. Not because I think they’re the best Godzilla films, but because they are the two most optimistic of the series. For a series that includes nearly thirty movies of a giant monster destroying Japan, those are the two that choose to show mankind battling these monsters in a whole new way and focus on making a better world for the future.

 
“Son Of Godzilla” does this through not only the human endeavors to perfect a weather machine and make lands in Africa and South America fertile, while “Mothra Vs. Godzilla” has a theme of removing distrust in the world for the sake of protecting humanity. That a world divided is much more easily conquered and that the biggest threats can only be taken down together.

 
We see hope shine in so many of my favorite films. Hope for George Bailey and the struggle of man against the industry in “It’s A Wonderful Life,” hope for the Tramp and to not judge others by their status in life in “City Lights” and hope for the survival of the human race “WALL-E,” so that they can understand there is a lot of world out there.

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To opposite ends of that, we have films like “Apocalypse Now” and “Ran,” which were founded on pillars of hope and kindness, only to watch it all turn sour and rotten. In the case of “Ran,” Lord Ichimonji was blinded by pride and love for his sons to see that they were greedy selfish people who wanted nothing more than control over the entire kingdom, even if that meant destroying everything their father worked for. “Apocalypse Now,” has hope in the characters that travel down this navy patrol boat, as they want to get this done and over and move on to the next mission. But as they travel further down to the river and into the maws of hell, we see them turn to desperation and drugs, in trying to hide from the tragedies they’ve witnessed.

 
But if there was a common type of story told throughout my top 25, it would the tale of a “loner,” like Kanji Watanabe or Marge Gunderson, as they put their beliefs and morals on the line, against a threat that is not uncommon. It could be something as simple as cancer or their own greed, like “The Treasure Of The Sierra Madre.” And as the film progresses, we learn this loner is not unlike us and their struggle is just as simple.

Or, to put it in the terms of one of my favorite quotes, these characters are realizing they don’t want to merely survive, but to live.

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Some of these characters knew from the beginning what it meant to live, like Marge, and is content with her life with Norm, despite everyone else in the film trying so hard to get “a bit of money” and failing at it. Others realize it over time, like George Bailey, who is so caught up in his work that he never realized just how big of an impact he had on Bedford Falls until he saw what the town would be like if he never existed. There are even characters that try their best to live, given their surroundings, like L.B. Jefferies in “Rear Window,” as he makes up names and back stories for every one of his neighbors.

Then you get characters like Norma Desmond in “Sunset Boulevard” who is merely surviving, but lives in her own twisted world where she is the living the dream and can’t wake up from something that has since turned into a nightmare.

But these characters are fighting for something the chance to live, and to give this chance to others as well. Whether they are running from giant monsters, hiding from a shape shifting alien or loving every second of the gangster lifestyle, there is something worth fighting for in all of their minds.

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Anyway, those are the common threads I noticed between most of my top 25 favorite films. There are a few more obvious ones, like how James Stewart is in four of these films or reoccurring directors like Alfred Hitchcock and Akira Kurosawa, but I decided to go with something a little more interesting.

What do you think my 25 favorite films have in common? I would really like to hear what everyone has to say and I cannot wait to see the varying responses. And remember, if you think there are any other films that aren’t mentioned in my countdown but you think I might enjoy due to those commonalities, be sure to mention those.