30-Day Movie Challenge: Week 3
You've seen it on Facebook! You've seen it on Twitter! Heck, you might have even seen it on Instagram! Now you can join along with us as Kino Club 313 shares our own choices and thoughts each week in June. Check out our picks for week 1 (days 1-7) HERE, and week 2 (days 8-14) HERE.
Day 15: a film that makes you happy
Title: The Last Black Man in San Francisco
Director: Joe Talbot
Blurb: I seriously considered including this film in last week’s list for Day 14: a film that made you feel depressed. That isn’t really a contradiction, though, because The Last Black Man in San Francisco is a film that made me feel a LOT of things. To anyone that knows me, the fact that I cried A LOT during this film isn’t surprising. The surprising thing, though, is how hard it was for me to stop crying after the credits rolled. I cried for Jimmie losing his home, for Mont losing his best friend, but also happy tears because this is just such a beautiful, wonderful treasure of a film. Watching it is like being granted privileged access into someone's childhood memories, dreams, insecurities, and fears.
Director: Jonathan Lynn
Blurb: I can’t imagine someone watching Clue and NOT finding it relentlessly hilarious. Between the amazing cast (Michael McKean, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd), the frenetic pace, and the unpredictability, it’s a film that makes me happy every time I watch it. I’ve never been one of those film nerds that can regularly quote films, but this might be the one I can quote the most.
Day 16: a film that is personal to you
Title: Winter’s Bone
Director: Debra Granik
Blurb: I’ve only seen Winter’s Bone once. I’m not sure if I could stomach it again. The film is visceral, bleak, gray-hued, depressing. But it is also the only film I’ve ever seen that felt true to my own experience of growing up rural, white, and poor. Although my life was never quite as dramatic as Ree Dolly’s (poignantly portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence), the look and feel and grit of her home and family struck a nerve with me. Poor, rural folks are often either romanticized or caricaturized in film – Winter's Bone refuses to do either.
Title: Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon Year: 1985 Director: Michael Schultz Blurb: Like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, I have a lot to say about this movie. And, again, it will probably be a part of my dissertation. For a film that’s, in theory, part kung fu, part Blaxploitation, part musical, it’s doing far more than anyone would expect with questions of racial authenticity, cultural appropriation, and internal and external constructions of identity. Also, it’s just cool as hell. But it’s the previous elements that make it personal to me, for a few reasons. One, as a biracial kid growing up with my white family, Leroy Green’s struggle to be accepted by the world around him for who he is struck a chord. It’s one of the first movies I remember seeing with a hero who looked like me (and, for real, representation matters). And it was screening this film for Kino Club 313 that led not only to my involvement with the student org that hosts this blog, but also helped to solidify just what it was in film and media studies that I wanted to focus on.
Day 17: favorite film sequel
Title: Wayne’s World 2
Director: Stephen Surjik
Blurb: Wayne’s World 2 might actually be funnier, to me at least, than the first film. The new characters introduced are alone enough to float a somewhat flimsy premise: Wayne and Garth must put on a rock concert. Why? Because it came to Wayne in a dream. Del “I had to beat them to death with their own shoes” Preston, Honey Hornée, and Bobby Cahn (played as sleazily as possibly by Christopher Walken) are hilarious additions to Wayne and Garth’s band of misfits and burnouts. Also, Charlton Heston! Freakin’ MOSES shows up in a film from the same guy that produced Coneheads and Stuart Saves his Family.
Title: The Dark Knight Year: 2008 Director: Christopher Nolan Blurb: There is a common argument that this is much more of a Joker movie than it is a Batman film, and to be fair, Ledger’s performance is incredible. But focusing solely on that ignores how great the other characters and performances are. While Batman Begins sets up Bruce Wayne and the world of Gotham city, this is the movie where it all comes together and every character is at their best. From Michael Caine’s Alfred, Gary Oldman’s Gordon, to Aaron Eckhart’s hugely underrated turn as Harvey Dent (which is amazing, regardless of whether or not his time as Two-Face is given short-shrift) this is, to me, the ultimate Batman movie.
Day 18: a film that stars your favorite actor/actress
Title: Cool Hand Luke
Director: Stuart Rosenberg
Blurb: I have had a big crush on Paul Newman since I was a teenager. Cool Hand Luke-era Paul Newman or Nobody’s Fool-era Paul Newman, you ask? Doesn’t matter. He was a handsome devil at any age. I watched Cool Hand Luke the first time in a high school writing about film class, and not only was I mesmerized by Newman’s performance as the titular Luke, but it was also one of my first experiences of really thinking about how film can generate empathy and help us question the cruelty and hardness of the status quo.
Title: Grosse Pointe Blank Year: 1997 Director: George Armitage Blurb: It’s been awhile since John Cusack was my favorite actor (an unending stream of films in which Cusack sleepwalks while wearing a black baseball cap, black headscarf, or, inexplicably, both will do that) but for a solid decade he starred in some of my favorite movies. From the mid-80s to the mid-90s, he specialized in playing a nice guy who, really, was kind of an asshole and, as a nice guy who, really, was kind of an asshole, I could identify with that. I could just as easily have put High Fidelity, Say Anything, Better Off Dead, or One Crazy Summer here, but Grosse Pointe Blank has one of my favorite moments in cinema. Cusack plays Martin Blank, a guy who stands up his prom date to run off to join the military and eventually become a hitman. Through a series of events, he returns to his hometown in time for his ten-year reunion. While there, one of his friends hands him their baby to watch for a minute. As “Under Pressure” plays, the camera alternates between the baby (as a symbol of life and innocence) and Cusack (whose existential crisis has forced him to confront the lame excuses he’s used to rationalize the taking of lives for money) and the soundtrack and cinematography coalesce into a “moment” that hits me in wherever my emotions exist every time.
Day 19: a film made by your favorite director
Title: They Live
Director: John Carpenter
Blurb: To be honest, I don’t know for sure that John Carpenter is my favorite director. It’s a question I haven’t really revisited since I decided that Cameron Crowe was my favorite director in like 2002 because I was a teenager obsessed with Singles, Say Anything..., and Almost Famous. How I’ve gotten so far into a Ph.D program in film without considering my favorite director is a mystery, but for right now I’m going to say Carpenter. They Live is one of my all-time favorite movies, and I think its Carpenter’s most politically incisive and inventive films. Plus, who doesn’t love an 8-minute long fight scene?
Title: Rope Year: 1948 Director: Alfred Hitchcock Blurb: Favorite director is a hard category, and it’s probably a bit lazy, on the surface, to pick Alfred Hitchcock, but for a long time two of his films - this and Rear Window - were my two favorite movies. While the latter is more of a recognized classic, this one is more of a gimmicky exercise in suspense. Two friends, loosely based on the killers Leopold and Loeb, murder their best friend, hide his body in a steamer trunk, and then serve dinner on it to his friends and family. Hitchcock once described suspense as showing two people having dinner and cutting to a ticking bomb under the table, and in this case the ticking bomb is visible to the audience through the entire film. The gimmick is that Hitchcock shot the film as one continuous take (in reality, there are a handful of somewhat obvious hidden cuts). What elevates it, for me, is Jimmy Stewart as the professor/mentor of the two killers, who, they believe, would approve of what they’ve done. The moment where he realizes not just what they’ve done, but his own culpability, is brilliantly performed by Stewart. While I’ve gravitated more towards Shadow of a Doubt and Vertigo over the years, this is still one of my favorite movies.
Day 20: a film that changed your life
Title: Sorry to Bother You
Director: Boots Riley
Blurb: Bear with me, but I need to brag a little bit here. Back in April 2019, I helped organize a film screening and talk with Boots Riley at Wayne State. It was, by far, the largest and most successful event I’ve planned in the last five years of organizing film screenings, conferences, and the like. And it all started with me sitting in a movie theater, watching Sorry to Bother You, and thinking “holy shit, this is unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.” My desperate urge to talk, think, and learn more about Riley and his debut film is what led to me reaching out to him in the first place. Not only is Sorry to Bother You the film that led me to meet Boots Riley and become more invested in labor organizing and socialist activism, it is also the craziest, coolest, deepest, weirdest thing to grace a movie screen in...ever?
Title: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off Year: 1986 Director: John Hughes Blurb: It might be going a bit far to say this movie changed my life, but I did spend a substantial chunk of my high school career skipping school. At the time I probably thought of myself as a Ferris, but in reality I was Cameron - perpetually depressed, a bit of a hypochondriac, and really just wanting to stay in bed so that I could avoid facing the world and my problems. I’m much better now.
Day 21: A film that you dozed off in
Title: Man with a Movie Camera
Director: Dziga Vertov
Blurb: It is probably sacrilegious to publish this on a website that is literally named for Vertov and his merry band of kinoks (Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s). Even though I recognize the genius of Vertov’s cinematography and editing, 68 minutes without dialogue, characters, or plot is a HARD sell for a modern movie audience. I’ve even had trouble staying awake through Man with a Movie Camera when I was the one *teaching* the class (please don’t tell my students).
Title: Vampire in Brooklyn Year: 1995 Director: Wes Craven Blurb: Not just once, but three times. I first saw Vampire in Brooklyn in theaters, started dozing off about twenty minutes in, and left. I rented it a few years later, started watching it, and fell asleep. Just last year I tried watching it on a streaming service and got bored and started dozing off about twenty minutes in, and shut it off. Aside from 2001: A Space Odyssey, I’ve never tried, and failed, so many times to watch a movie (though I’m getting up there with The Shining, too). Someday I will make it through at least one of these movies.