Wednesday, September 12, 2018

10 Movies that Affected Me (2/3)

I'm happy with the first list of 10 movies I came up with, but I kept thinking of so many more great movies that I had to post another list.

So here's the first of round two:

1) The Princess Bride (1987)

In my mind, this movie is one of the most quotable in the universe. From "Anybody want a peanut?" to "You killed my father, prepare to die!" to "Rodents Of Unusual Size? I don't think they exist," to "He's only mostly dead; mostly dead is partly alive!" this movie kills it every time. It always makes me laugh. One of the interesting things is that I haven't seen any of the cast in much, but they play all the characters so well. Even the smallest of roles leave a significant impression, and it's that kind of character development that I aspire to create in what I write.

And of course, this movie is also based on a book I never read (maybe I need to step up my pre-viewing game?).

2) The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005)

Now for something COMPLETELY different... a horror movie, but one with an actually interesting story. I don't watch horror movies much, but I went through a phase with my friends in middle school where we watched The Ring, The Grudge, this movie, and the next one in this list.

Don't get me wrong, this movie scared me just as much as any horror movie might (I can still vividly recall the final scene of her possession, and the one where everyone's eyes go black in her classroom and she freaks out), but the related real-life court case made it 10 times more interesting (this was also the beginning of the brief period of my life where I was considering law as a career). That and the religious aspect and the really humanizing scenes with Emily just added to the complexity of the film. 

I couldn't tell you any of the actors in it off the top of my head, and I only watched it once, but this was a fantastic movie.

Oh, and it also had some beautiful sets and cinematography.

3) The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Some people talk a lot of smack about this one, but I think it kind of pioneered the whole homemade horror film technique (setting the stage for movies like Paranormal Activity, which I hated for multiple reasons but made $193.4 million at the box office in 2007).  Plus it had everyone going for a while about whether or not it was "real." 

What impressed me about this movie (and any good horror movie I guess) was its ability to make the little things super scary -- without music. Granted, the characters still exhibit some Class A stupidity that's unfortunately typical of this genre (which I realize more and more each time I watch it), but the creepiness of it all was at least able to mask that aspect on first watch, which is a big part of why it affected me.

4) Million Dollar Baby (2004)

So I've actually enjoyed several boxing films (such as this, The Fighter and Cinderella Man), which always kind of surprises me since I definitely don't like to watch those kinds of events in real life. With big names like Clint Eastwood (can you believe I've never seen any of the Dirty Harry movies?), Morgan Freeman (whatever you think of him now, he's still a great actor), and Hilary Swank (yay femal protagonists!), you'd probably think it would be a good movie, but the emotion in this movie is what drives home its greatness. This is the only movie that has ever made my dad have to leave the room for fear of crying (in my presence), so that also speaks to the power of this movie.

I only saw it the one time, but I may have to watch it again.

Also based on a book I've never read!

5) The Bourne Identity (2002)

I can't believe this movie is already SIXTEEN YEARS OLD. This movie probably should've made the first list, because it was an instant favorite of mine. Amnesia as a plot device had been done before and continues to be used today (for better or worse), but in this film (and actually the whole series), it really worked for me. I'm kind of a sucker for romances, sure, but I especially like it in the thick of an action movie like this where it's not totally useless -- it's not just the director or whoever saying, 'oh we need to throw in a sex scene or something to make it watchable for the women' (which is totally sexist I know).

But honestly, it was Bourne's own journey in finding himself that intrigued me the most. Who cares if his skills are a little bit impossible?

6) Gattaca (1997)

I don't read a lot of Sci-Fi but I apparently love to watch it. This one was an instant favorite, as much for the premise as for performances by Ethan Hawke and Jude Law. I would say they're definitely two of my favorite actors, and at least for Hawke, that probably started with this movie. I thought the set and the colors worked really well with the filming, and I loved the meticulousness with which Vincent and Jerome kept up their facade. The whole "unfairness" of it all was also an interesting layer to the plot, and made me think about the reality and potential reality of that kind of discrimination.

In my mind, this movie is really a lot about second chances -- what we do with them, how we handle them -- and I love that.

7) Arrival (2016)

Alien movies are another genre (sub-genre?) that I don't typically like (I guess I'm particularly impressionable when it comes to scary/creepy movies and it affects me for a long time), but this one was different. Honestly I'm not super impressed by Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker is hit or miss for me, but I really enjoyed Amy Adams performance and the unique portrayal of extraterrestrial life. This movie also had a sort of time twist (a la Inception or Interstellar) at the end that I wasn't expecting.

In short, this was simply a good film.

8) Her (2013)

Apparently I'm into AI movies, although I'm still not sure if I *like* this movie, per se. I haven't seen a ton of Joaquin Phoenix movies, but I have liked the ones I've seen (this, Signs, Walk the Line, I guess he was in Gladiator??). I was definitely weirded out by the whole guy-in-love-with-an-operating-system thing (which is basically the deal in Blade Runner 2049 too), but he (and Scarlett Johansson) played it really well, so that I was actually sad for them when it didn't work out (much less creepy than Ex Machina, for example).

And, the color and simplicity of the poster speaks to that quality in the film, too, which I enjoyed.

9) The Matrix (1999)

I wish I would've seen this when it came out, or shortly thereafter, because I think it would've been even more impactful around Y2K, but I didn't see this classic until... I think I was in high school, maybe even college.

I'm not even sure what there is to say about this movie, because, like Inception, it has a great cast and a unique storyline and interesting visuals and action and romance... I mean, pretty much everything.

Plus, it's even generated a meme or two :)

10) The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Like Christopher Nolan, I have to ask... does Wes Anderson make "bad" movies? The cinematography is so beautiful and strange and simple and unique that I just love the spectacle of movies like this, but I also happened to enjoy the story and the acting. I loved seeing Ralph Fiennes as a real person, kind of a good guy even (rather than Voldemort), and of course Jude Law again. I was also moved by the romance between Agatha (Saoirse Ronan) and Zero, but the humor in this movie is perfect, too. Plus, all those cameos!! And of course the villains, like the ones played by Willem Dafoe and Adrien Brody.

Really, there's nothing wrong with this movie. It's comical, sad, romantic, thrilling -- flawless.

Stay tuned for the third installment of Movies that Affected Me!

10 Movies that Affected Me (1/3)

Corbin Saleken (director of Patterson's Wager, whom I met at a film festival I was covering for the local newspaper) challenged me to post 10-movies-that-affected-you-in-10-days to Facebook, and I enjoyed it so much that I decided to blog about it, so here goes:

1) Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986) 

Matthew Broderick was probably my first Hollywood crush, and the movie has a kick-ass soundtrack. It's still one of my favorite feel-good films. My sister bought me this poster when I was in high school, and it is now on the wall of my classroom.

(I couldn't find the poster I wanted in the resolution I wanted
but hopefully you recognize these people)

2) The Breakfast Club (1985)

My love for all things 80s started with the music I heard on the radio stations my parents listened to when I was like 10, and was cultivated by two of my best friends in middle school. Halloween freshman year, I dressed up as Bender in what may have seemed like a typical 14-year-old personality-defying move for my teacher-kid self, but I also felt like he had the most depth as a character.

Anyway. Another feel-good film for the list.

3) The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012)

I tried to pick movies that hadn't previously been books, then I realized most of my favorite movies are based on books...oh well. Anyway, this movie impacted me because A) it was Emma Watson's first Hollywood movie since Harry Potter, and I was excited to see her able to play a different (American) role, B) it has a great soundtrack (you may be sensing a pattern here), and C) (the most significant) the story dealt with issues I hadn't really been exposed to at the time; I hadn't read the book before I watched the movie, and while I know it's still a "dramatized" version of reality, I realized my high school experience was vastly different (and much more positive) than that of most people, especially outside of my home state.

4) Good Will Hunting (1997)

I was only FIVE when this movie came out, but once I got around to seeing it as a young adult (high school maybe?), I'm pretty sure I had one of those 'how did I not see this sooner' reactions. I mean, Matt Damon + Ben Affleck + CASEY Affleck (who I didn't even realize was his brother/an Affleck at the time) + Robin can that not be enough to make you want to watch a movie? But also, that student-teacher kind of relationship that doesn't come around very often; the one where they each really care about each other, and even though they both piss each other off at some points, they both grow and learn from each other.

Plus, it has some great one-liners (and more-than-one-liners).

5) A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany = one of my favorite actor combos (Master and Commander ALMOST made this list). Bettany isn't even credited on the poster/DVD cover but his character lends such realism to Crowe's character's mental illness that he totally should be. We all know geniuses pretty much have to be "crazy" on some level, but this movie played it well enough for me to believe what Nash saw was real for so long (I didn't know the story before I watched the movie). Great film all around.

Also note that this is an ENGLISH MAJOR raving about a math movie ;)

6) Inception (2010)

I mean really, how could this not be on your list?! This movie blew the world's mind EIGHT years ago and it still blows my mind. Stellar cast, amazing soundtrack (that DIDN'T include indie/pop/80s songs), beautiful graphics and creative cinematography...I should just stop talking because nothing I say ever does this movie justice. But MAN did I love that mind-bending ending. (I also like rhyming, did you know?? 😉)

And really, is it possible for Christopher Nolan to make a bad movie? I don't think so.

7) The Prestige (2006)

I almost couldn't pick between this and The Illusionist and was going to post both, but since I'm trying not to double up on actors, I went with this one (you'll understand that comment in a moment). These magical movies came out the same year and I saw both in the same weekend I think, but The Prestige wins because... well I'm not exactly sure, but I did appreciate the Tesla reference (I did a project on him in high school or middle school) and later, the David Bowie cameo (I didn't even NOTICE at the time!). Even though this WAS technically based on a novel (that I never read), I felt like it was a really original story brought to life by two actors I didn't really expect to play rivals in such a way...

Also, though I don't think I like Christian Bale as a person, he's really good at playing rage-filled characters heading toward crazy (The Machinist comes to mind -- and so would American Psycho if I could bring myself to watch it).

Anyway. Great movie that really kept me on the edge of my seat and surprised me at the end. I need to watch it again.

8) Fight Club (1999)

I was very late to the party on this one, and looking at the poster, you might imagine my skepticism. Sure, Brad Pitt and Ed Norton (before I really knew who Norton was), but soap? What? Needless to say, this movie was not what I expected. You can't tell people much about it without spoiling it, I think, but I hope it's not too cliche to say that this movie was ahead of it's time (or maybe it was right on target and I don't know my movies). See, these are the kinds of movies that make me appreciate all the things you can do with a film, and even make me want to get into the industry somehow. Not seeing that in my future at the moment, but still. The desire is there.

In short, I guess I kind of like movies that can trick me, as long as it's not a cheap trick (ha, see what I did there?).

P.S. This was also based on a book I've never read 😅

9) Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

 Yep, I went with the sequel. And I've gushed about this movie (and Ryan Gosling, as more than a heartthrob) on this blog so I'll just link that here.

All I would add is that I watched it again recently, and that scene where he really believes he's human still crushes me every time. Also, Jared Leto is SUPER creepy in this movie, and I'm always impressed by actors who can do that (I try not to think about WHY they can do that...). Plus, the cinematography and sets and all that are AMAZING.

And though the first Blade Runner is based loosely on a book (I started reading Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and put it aside after like 2 pages), this one really stands all on its own.

10) Cool Hand Luke (1967)

There are not many "old" movies that I have been able to appreciate, but this was one of the few. I totally had a crush on Paul Newman (who was WAY too old for me when I first watched it), because I mean seriously, he has the most beautiful blue eyes ever, but this movie also stuck with me because of its in-your-face kind of challenge against authority. That was something that maybe resonated with me, even as a kid? I was probably in middle school then, sooo no exposure to prison/prisoners at that point, but that preteen angst, y'know? There's something to that...

Anyway. It's a great movie with some great one-liners, one of which I feel is a mantra of mine: "What we have a communicate."

Check out the next 10!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

TBT: A Dictionary for Writers and Printers

More hashtags! Here's a new/old book of mine for #ThrowbackThursday, purchased in a kitschy little bookstore in Daylesford, Victoria, Australia this summer.

I looove old books!

The funny thing is, we had just talked to a guide at Cape Otway National Forest about the word "aborigine" when I flipped to the this "a" page and found this:

I love etymology!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Tuesday Tunes: "There is nothing new under the sun..."

Heard this song on the radio for the first time the other day...

... and I noticed the first five notes of the verse sounded awfully familiar!
(Compare the first line of the song above, from 33 to 35 seconds, with the first line of the chorus from the song below, about 53 to 55 seconds.)

Spanish Gold is only like three years old, and they're ripping off a one-hit wonder from the 80s?? Seems desperate. Although, maybe they're banking on the fact that 1984 is now THIRTY-THREE YEARS AGO, and their audience is too young — and too uncultured! — to know this creepy classic?

Who knows.

I've also wondered about The Black Keys' "Fever" (2014) and Peggy Lee's "Fever," (1959, cover of the 1956 original by Little Willie John) but I can't actually put my finger on (or ear to) the similarity between those two, beyond the name(s) of the song(s).


I heard on the radio the other day that Portugal. The Man's new hit, which I referenced a few posts ago, apparently "borrowed" the melody from a much older song. At first, my love for that song totally deflated. Then I did some research (I mean, Googled it and read the Wikipedia entry, then went to YouTube), and found that the "borrowed" song — "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvellettes — didn't really sound like "Feel it Still" at all. But the band said it! They're the ones that volunteered the information! Right?

Anyway. This has me wondering how many new songs are really just recycled old songs and what constitutes as copyright violation or plagiarism and what doesn't.

Anyone know the rules or have a philosophical opinion on that?

Monday, October 16, 2017

MCM: Ryan Gosling

So I meant to post this last Monday — the day after watching "Blade Runner 2049" in theaters — but then I got super busy, so...

This week's #ManCrushMonday, because I'm running with the whole hashtag thing, is Ryan Gosling.


Yeah yeah, he's the one with the "Hey Girl" smolder of magical memedom, but as I said on Instagram, my love for him is as an actor today, and not from "The Notebook" (which, again, I hope he someday lives that down). His performances in "Drive" and "Ides of March" (though I wasn't much a fan of the story of the second one) are spot-on and largely unromantic. Plus, if you've seen him in "Crazy Stupid Love" (OK, another RomCom, maybe not a great example) and "Nice Guys," hopefully you've experienced his rolling-on-the-floor-laughing kind of humor.

But the latest blade runner movie was on a whole other level of intense and phenomenal acting. His portrayal of a stoic *spoiler* replicant who cracks with the understanding that he might have been *spoiler* born is nothing short of spectacular. I hope that he, like Ben Affleck and Matt Damon and Ryan Reynolds even (though I think he still has a ways to go) can break out of that cute, quiet guy role and show people how serious of an actor he is. 

Plus, he's a great interview (and he plays great piano!!) :)

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

WCW: Lauren Graham

Don't think I've ever made a #mcm or #wcw post on social media...but to use a cliché, there's a first time for everything!

I only started watching "Gilmore Girls" for the first time this year, right before the reboot came out on Netflix. I fell in love with the show on episode one, and quickly realized that, for once — and in contrast to at LEAST the last two seasons of "Once Upon a Time," my other TV addiction — it was largely because of the writing. GG is the best-written show I have ever seen/heard. The original, that is; the reboot was jarring and weird, complete with that ridiculous musical that took up like 1/3 of one of the four episodes (which Lauren apparently enjoyed, but I fast-forwarded through on the first viewing, something I have literally NEVER done before).

So, even though I pretty much hated every bit of the reboot, I still wanted to read her latest book, the memoir-ish one called "Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls." I finally got around to it this weekend, and I was not disappointed. At first, even as I read the first chapter, I worried it would be another fluffy celebrity slushpile in disguise, but it wasn't. Lauren Graham is as sharp (maybe more so) and witty as the character she played so well for so long. Great advice, pretty woman, decent writer (maybe I should give her more credit?). Plus, I found out her beau went to my alma mater! So cool!

Here are some gems I captured while reading:



If you're a writer, actress or fellow creative trying to make her way in the world, check out this book! And let me know what you think!

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Ultimate Glory

What a great name for a memoir, right?

No, it's not about Valhalla, but in some ways it might as well be.

A post shared by Caitlin Buxbaum (@chitlinfork) on

I discovered this book after I had sprained my ankle this summer, two days before an Ultimate tournament I had been looking forward to for weeks. There was no way I could play, so naturally, I threw myself into living vicariously through any means necessary and available. I do this when I can't do a thing, like sing or play guitar or run or ski or play ultimate — I must suddenly become an expert on the subject by all my book learnin'. (I did also find a documentary on Ultimate's beginnings, narrated by Alec Baldwin, which I have yet to watch.)

My searching expanded from Facebook, where a friend posted an article about one of the greatest Ultimate players of the day, who I later found out hailed from my home state of Alaska! Then of course I read more articles and discovered that Joel Silver, the guy who produced "The Matrix" (AND "V for Vendetta," "Die Hard," and the first RDJ Sherlock movie) is also credited with the invention of Ultimate Frisbee! On the east coast, in 1968/69 (the latter year claimed by stereotypical college-age Ultimate players who prefer dirty humor). Look it up.

"The author, wallowing."
The above photo depicts David Gessner, the author of Ultimate Glory: Frisbee, Obsession, and My Wild Youth. The other photos you see in this post also are from the book (screenshots from the e-version), and offer a taste of the sport for those unfamiliar with it.

What these images don't show you, however, is the utter artistry of Gessner's writing, his dedication to the craft of composing sentences that describe the spiritual — yes, I said spiritual — side of Ultimate. Few amateur players, I think, experience Ultimate in the way Gessner has; few professionals, even, might share his mystical view of what some still deem a ridiculous sport. But I'm telling you, this guy nails it.
Ultimate Glory, as Gessner says early on, is not a history of Ultimate. There are pieces of that within the story, but the book is really about Gessner's journey through life, of which Ultimate was (is?) a big part. He made a lot of mistakes, pulled a lot of pranks, spent a lot of his time under the influence and depressed, but along the way he managed to be a respectable player (in terms of skill, maybe not personality...) and an amazing writer.

Honestly, I'm amazed I didn't dogear more of the pages with all it's poetic prose and witty wisdom (is that a thing?), but here are a few of my favorite passages — see if you can guess why:

From "East Coker" by T.S. Eliot

So, lots of different kinds of highlights you can see here (hopefully). Maybe less about Ultimate than you expected?
In any case, if you are a literary type or a Frisbee fanatic (or, preferably, both), you should read this book. Or if you're just curious about this mythic sport thing! Give it a go. See what you think. And then let me know!