My Top Ten Background Movies

So I’m hungover this morning, and the reasons why are really quite irrelevant at this point, as it’s nearly three in the afternoon and I’m back into my pajamas for the second time today. In my drug-addled lethargy, I opened my laptop to try to get some work done, and decided to put a movie on in “the background.” Most people I know do this fairly regularly. For some reason it makes you feel like less of an oxygen-waster to have DVD plugged in rather than just turning on the television. It’s nice. It really helps me balance my day. It’s a distraction from whatever tedium you’re trying to work through. You can tell yourself: “I’m going to plug in Braveheart and work/study/clean throughout the whole thing.” Bam. Two VHS cassette tapes later and you’ve spent a good three hours getting shit done. So what characterizes a good background film?

You need a film that you can not pay attention to for a good ten, fifteen minutes at a time, and then tune into again and know exactly what’s what and who’s who and why the hell they’re doing whatever they’re doing. This familiarity is essential: whether it be because you’ve seen the film a million times; it’s full of familiar tropes and cliches and conventions; or, it’s so slow-paced that a single event takes a good ten, fifteen minutes to occur. So, these are my top ten background films… please tell me yours in the comments!

10. Once Upon a Time in the West Continue reading “My Top Ten Background Movies”

The Decade in Film: Crime, Crimefighters, Crime, and More Crimefighters

The Bourne Effect

The Bourne IdentityThe spy for the 21st century was not James Bond, but Jason Bourne. The grittiness, global perspective, and moral quandaries of the Bourne triology (The Bourne Identity, The Bourne Supremacy, and The Bourne Ultimatum) instantly rendered James Bond moot. In following with the general post-9/11 trends, the Bourne films did not present the now-outdated black and white world of evil master criminals with the unquestioning moral righteousness of the government agents, but rather a corruption-from-within trope that proved much more relevant. A refashioned reboot, starring new 007, Daniel Craig, went back to the beginning with Casino Royale, and was a direct response to the success of the Bourne films. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Crime, Crimefighters, Crime, and More Crimefighters”

The Decade in Film: Introduction

Throughout the great interwebs are a million articles on the best films and best television shows of the decade. As arbitrary and meaningless as it is to divide human history into ten year periods, each decade’s zeitgeist doesn’t magically change over night as December 31st becomes January 1st. Attitudes and values evolve over time, and with the speed of global communication in the 21st century, that evolution is happening faster than ever. If we need to pin down a moment our current world became the one it did, beyond a shadow of a doubt it’s 9/11. Continue reading “The Decade in Film: Introduction”

My Top Ten Films of the Decade

There’s been a lot of these lists floating around lately, obviously due to the impending end of the so-called Noughties. (Personally, I much more interested to see if that name sticks.) For something so recent, everyone’s list is bound to be different. We don’t have the benefit of time depth to lend an objective weight to the proceedings. We don’t have the hindsight of sixty years to realize how influential something like Citizen Kane became. We can’t know what films will stand the proverbial test of time to become the eventual classics our grandchild will moan and fidget through. We can’t know what blockbusters and Oscar-winners will simply drop from remembrance all together (although my money’s on Transformers and Crash, respectively). It’s simply too soon. Thus, I’m hedging my bets. Continue reading “My Top Ten Films of the Decade”

Overused Songs in Film and Television


Pop music and films are like peanut butter and chocolate – well, maybe not quite. That implies some sort of undeniable cosmic, fated force drawing the two together like soulmates. Pop music and films are more like peanut butter and banana – still pretty damn good. There’s something about the perfect pop song synchronized beautifully with a key moment or epic montage that can prove iconic. Stealer’s Wheel will never sound the same after Quentin Tarantino got his hands on “Stuck in the Middle With You.”

“It’s time you got over ‘Taking Care of Business,’ Hollywood.”

But what about when several filmmakers grasp on to the same catchy ditty? What songs have been so overused that they border on cliché? Some of these songs are used so repeatedly that they become shorthand for what the scene in the movie is supposed to encapsulate. It’s a shame, as many of these songs were used brilliantly the first time, or even the first few times. After awhile, though, these songs are so overused that they are almost expected; they can’t even be used without irony. They are parodied so often that the parody itself becomes a cliché, and that parody gets parodied, and that parody gets parodied and so forth in an ever-rambling hall of postmodern mirrors. In effect, the song gets ruined. Or is in great risk of being ruined. Continue reading “Overused Songs in Film and Television”

The Twenty Most Epic Moments in Lord of the Rings

Ah, The Lord of the Rings. The epic to end all epics. Cinema experienced a resurgence in the epic genre during the nineties and early noughties, which really culminated in LOTR. Can you think of anything more epic or more recent? Nothing can top it.

In an attempt to get some work done yesterday, I put The Lord of the Rings on in the background. I got through the entire trilogy over the course of the day. I was over-caffeinated and far under the average levels of human normalcy. During nearly twelve long hours, as I got some writing done, and my roommate went about the course of her day – coming and going, leading a far healthier social life than me – we geeked out just a little bit too much. The progress tracked on Twitter, I’ve come up with the 20 Most Epic Moments in The Lord of the Rings. Without further ado:

20. Arwen’s Watery Horsies Take Out the Nazgul Continue reading “The Twenty Most Epic Moments in Lord of the Rings”

My Top Ten Antiheroes

Ever since Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, there’s always been a certain je ne sais quoi about a well-wrought antihero. Whether cheeky rogue or bloodthirsty tyrant, an antihero is a welcome deviation from the white-hatted norm. At once both appalling and subversive, a good bad guy / bad good guy always proves a more interesting character than the morally unambiguous square-jawed hero. There’s something relatable in their flaws, something endlessly intriguing in their motivations; unique in each of their psyches that layers their story, that gives extra weight to their performance. We can learn their lessons or appreciate their many dimensions.

Continue reading “My Top Ten Antiheroes”

My Top Ten Animated Films

I watched The Triplets of Belleville for the first time a week or so ago, and, as expected, I was blown away. “That makes the top ten,” I instantly thought, which led me to consider what my top ten animated films actually would be. I had to think long and hard about this, and I intentionally tried to cut down on my Disney. Disney films usually are pretty good, but they’re just so… (to borrow a phrase from my roommate)… vanilla.

First things – this list is by no means an attempt for a holistic, omnipotent judgment swung down on animated films everywhere, this is simply the top ten animated films as chosen quite subjectively by me. There are gaps in my cinematic experience (i.e. I’ve yet to see Waltz with Bashir, and my knowledge of Japanese animated classics is regretfully limited).

Continue reading “My Top Ten Animated Films”

Film Fonts Dos and Don’ts

Sometimes I see a film where I wonder if there was anyone that film passed through in the journey from set to screening that had even the most remote knowledge of typography. If you’re going through the pain and torture of creating a film (I know that pain and torture, I make films myself), it’s not that much more difficult to dedicate a little extra effort to the credits. Simply inserting whatever font in Final Cut works is really just half-assing it. Let’s be honest. So, yes, I can be a bit of a typography geek, but there really are some basic typographical rules that one should adhere to:

Continue reading “Film Fonts Dos and Don’ts”

Breaking the Fourth Wall

So there was an episode of Lost that aired back sometime in the spring that bothered me. To expand upon what I wrote back then, I want to talk about the improper use of breaking the fourth wall.

You know those moments in films, they are there to shock you. They shake you out of your seat! They add to the realism of the film! They highlight the tragedy and/or humanity of a life lost by an explosive device and/or hand-made prison shank! They bring the experience of exploding death right into your living room! They can break the fourth wall.

Continue reading “Breaking the Fourth Wall”