The late, great Ray Harryhausen. (1920-2013)
When I was a little kid my grandpa showed me King Kong, the 1933 one. King Kong doesn’t look real, but it looks good, because it looks right. Looking ‘right’ is the key.
Special effects are perhaps film’s biggest point of separation from the other arts. In literature, if you want a monster in your story, you just describe it. But a movie has to convince you what you’re looking at is real, even when you’re looking at the most not real things humans can dream up. This takes a perfect synthesis of human imagination, technology, and innovation.
Continue reading Special Effects: Why They Look Right When They Look Right
In my earliest Smug Film piece, I reviewed a movie called ATM and introduced this idea of ‘Roomies’—movies where the characters are trapped in some kind of room and the whole point is figuring out why they’re there and how to get out. Exam, The Breakfast Club, and Cube are some popular examples. Now I’m going to introduce you to Twisties, which have become quite prevalent lately.
I saw the Tom Cruise movie Oblivion in the theater by myself. I like going to the movies by myself. It’s cool. There’s something about being by yourself in the grandeur of the theater that always reminds me how much I want to make movies.
Continue reading Twisties: Why ‘Oblivion’ And Many Other Movies These Days Suck
The cinematic powers-that-be tend to decree that Citizen Kane is the best movie ever made, or sometimes Raging Bull. I don’t have a problem with that appraisal. It’s fun. Lists are fun—they expose people to cool movies they may not have heard of, and cause debates over who’s the most badass horror villain from the 80s, or what the best movies for libertarians are.
However, what is annoying is that whenever these movie freemasons decide that Vertigo is the third-best movie of all time or something, it causes all the opinion-scavenging cinephiles-in-training to rant their little hearts out about how The Rules of the Game or whatever really deserves to be ranked third-best. These lists also do a good job of tricking people into thinking The Godfather is artistically superior to Back to the Future, which is ridiculous.
Continue reading The 10 Best Movies Ever Made
Field of Dreams. The undisputed king, for sure. But here’s ten other great ones.
It was a really tricky thing putting this together because they’re ranked on niceness, not goodness. Number two and number five are the best movies on the list. But they aren’t the nicest.
Niceness is even harder to define than coolness. Niceness is a warm and fuzzy feeling that a lot of art can generate. Probably the most popular example would be Norman Rockwell paintings. Niceness, like coolness, taps into our primal brains somewhere. We’re wired to feel it because it connects us to each other. But the problem with niceness is that it borders so heavily on cheese. Cheese done right is transcendent. But cheese done wrong is, well, cheesy.
Continue reading The 10 Nicest Movies Ever Made (If These Movies Don’t Make You Cry, You Have a Black Heart)