All-Time Favorite Movies

I was thinking about this last night because, for whatever reason, the old film Summer Magic sprang to mind. I love that movie, but I almost never remember to put in on any of my favorites lists.

So I started thinking about other movies I’ve loved, ones that might not always end up on obvious lists. The Innocents, for example. Rope. Okay, that one could be obvious.

So here, in no particular order, are my all-time favorite movies . . . At least the ones I could think of while sitting here.

  1. Summer Magic–I spent a summer when I was 9 or 10 watching this repeatedly on the Disney Channel. I sing “On the Front Porch” to my daughter at bedtime each night.
  2. Rope–so tightly written and directed; a Hitchcock classic.
  3. The Innocents–Deborah Kerr stars in this old take on “The Turn of the Screw” and the result is awesome.
  4. Now, Voyager–I get sucked in every time.
  5. Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil–while I can’t love the choice to create a love interest for John, thanks to the stellar cast this film stands as one of the rare moments when the adaptation is as good as the book.
  6. Young Sherlock Holmes–probably the most influential film of my childhood; I used to come home each day and pop it in the VCR while I did my homework.
  7. Clue–still a go-to for stormy nights.
  8. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels–such a funny, clever little movie.
  9. The Uninvited–by which I mean the old 1944 film, which is truly spooky.
  10. The Haunting–the 1963 one, of course. So chilling.
  11. Raiders of the Lost Ark/Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade–okay, obvious again, but these two films were also backbones of my childhood. Raiders is the first film I can actually remember seeing in a cinema.
  12. All the fantasy films that came out around the time I was eight, including Labyrinth, The Neverending Story, and The Last Unicorn. These became sleepover staples.
  13. Anything starring Cary Grant.

There are others. I know there are. I keep wracking my brain over which movies I feel I absolutely have to own, you know, the ones I had on VHS and felt the need to convert to DVD and then (when available) Blu-Ray. That’s sort of the gold standard, isn’t it? Spending that kind of money repeatedly on something?

I could add more recent films that had an impact on me: Jurassic Park, The Matrix . . . These two hold the record for films I’ve seen in a cinema, 10 times and 7 times respectively. In high school it became a bit of a gag for my friends to take me, yet again, to Jurassic Park. That was back when movies stayed in the theater for more than two or three weeks.

And Gone with the Wind is what I curl up with when I’m sick. I tuck up on the sofa and sip tea and watch Scarlett manipulate everyone around her, everyone but Rhett because he’s her match. Too bad she doesn’t see the truth of that until he walks away.

In college my friends and I used to rent a bunch of movies at a time–we’d pick a genre and rent one or two films from each decade, then have a marathon as we worked our way through chronologically. I discovered a lot of great movies this way.

I knew pretty early on that I wanted to work in film and television (thanks, Mr. Spielberg!), and the above are just a handful of the reasons why. I’m lucky to do what I do, even in the modest amount that I do it.

My Doctor Who Movie Plot

Okay, so this is just off the top of my head because of course I’ve had a phone call: “All right, M, what would you do with this?” And I haven’t had any kind of time to really think about it, but . . .

We’ll skip Gallifrey for the moment. These things just tend to come off as cheesy anyway and will limit the audience potential. Also: budget concerns. So let’s get right to the Doctor being on Earth. Wherever, doesn’t matter, pick a place to film (a city, though; the more people in harm’s way, the better our hero comes off when he saves them).

So what’s he doing? Trying to fix the TARDIS, I suspect, so we’ll start him off gathering parts somewhere—a junk yard, a landfill, a Dumpster, doesn’t matter, just somewhere there might be, say, bums or homeless people or sanitation workers because here comes our inciting incident: the Doctor is going to do something strange and amazing that will set off a sort of panic. Pretty soon authorities will be hunting for him, and meanwhile he’s desperate to fix the TARDIS and what? Get back to the Time War maybe, something like that.

Yes, yes, so then we need to introduce our companion. Probably female. Someone who recognizes him from the news reports or the YouTube footage or whatever is going around. Ready to call the police when she runs into him, but of course he does something either to save or impress her, and she takes that split second to rethink things. Curiosity, cat, satisfaction, etc.

There will be the whole bit in which she’s not sure if he’s crazy or what but finds herself helping elude the authorities anyway because he swears that blue box can time travel—if only he can fix it.

We’ll want another threat as well, something unfriendly coming at the planet. The Doctor will get the TARDIS up and running, and he’s all ready to get back to that Time War, but finds himself unable to leave Earth in peril. So he takes up precious minutes/hours/days thwarting whatever threat we’ve stacked against the humans, and only then will he be able to get back to Gallifrey . . .

But he’s just slightly too late.

BAM.

He’s a homeless drifter, has a working TARDIS and a companion, and off we go to the next film (assuming there is one).

See? Not bad for sitting at my desk while two small children scream at me to help them with their puzzles and can they please have some doughnuts.

Doctor Who Movie Rumors

Okay, so this is something I find interesting: today I received an e-mail from Variety, to which as someone in “the industry” I subscribe. It announced that David Yates–helmer of some of the Harry Potter films–was teaming up with the BBC to do a Doctor Who movie. NOT one that has anything to do with the current television program, mind you. The movie would be all new, its own thing.

This makes sense in a broad audience appeal kind of way. You don’t necessarily want to launch a movie franchise that requires viewers to slog through a lot of backlog. Look at the X-Files movies. Hell, I watched that series and still didn’t understand those films. Never mind people who went in cold.

Now there’s no script and no cast yet, just some big names behind getting the project off the ground. (By the way, if they want a script, I’d be happy to oblige . . .) Other, previous attempts have not borne fruit, so there’s reason to think the odds of anything happening are 50/50.

But what I really find intriguing is the protest-too-much reaction I’ve witnessed on Twitter. So many people in the DW camp coming out and saying that it’s just a rumor, there’s nothing in it. Really? Because I can usually trust Variety. I won’t say they’re always right, but Yates had some quotes in there that made this project sound very possible. So why the fuss? Do they see this as a rival instead of a boost? Do they only want a DW movie if Moffat and Smith and co. are involved?

The issue of creative control is always a touchy one. And fan loyalty plays into the dynamics as well in terms of planning big projects. Anyone who’s had to adapt a bestselling, much-loved novel knows that. And here is a possible recasting of a cult classic television program, so there’s bound to be some strong feelings involved. Though in the end it’s a legal issue of who has rights to what, whose contracts say what and so on.

I, for one, am curious to see what comes of it, if anything. After all, people had reservations about the television show, too, when it rebooted in 2005. They had doubts when David Tennant was replaced by Matt Smith, too. But it’s all turned out okay so far. Why have so little faith now?

Wait and see is the watchword. (And maybe consider Benny Cumberbatch for the film version of the Doctor. We already know he can rock a scarf.)

Today: The Noughties Blogfest

This is the blogfest in which you list your favorite movies, music, books and so forth for each year from 2000 to 2009. Ah, a bygone era! (Visit Dave for more info.)

2000

This seems like so long ago. It was the year matchbox twenty’s Mad Season came out, and I remember the first time I listened to it thinking, What the hell is this? Because it didn’t sound anything like their first album. But I continued to listen to it; it fact, it was on almost constant rotation as I wrote my thesis. I also got to see them play in Amherst that year.

Also the movie State and Main. To this day it’s one of my favorites.

2001

Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. Right? Came out just before my birthday, and what a treat. I grew up listening to my dad tell the stories of the Hobbit and Middle Earth (I had only read The Hobbit, never the others), so this was special to me, to see it come to life in such a wonderful way.

Also: Alias. Loved that show. I want Victor Garber for an honorary uncle.

2002

Okay, I’ll go for something less obvious here. The Mothman Prophecies. That movie was seriously creepy. Oh, and the book Batavia’s Graveyard. More mainstream: The Two Towers, which is my favorite of the trilogy, and matchbox twenty’s More Than You Think You Are.

2003

Runaway Jury. I really enjoyed that movie (and not only because I was in New Orleans for some of the filming of it–more that I love John Cusack). And of course, in television, this is the year Arrested Development debuted.

Notable concert: matchbox twenty with opening acts Sugar Ray and Maroon 5.

2004

How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2. The Other Boylen Girl by Philippa Gregory. Also saw Rob Thomas play a special charity concert at the China Club in NYC, along with Jewel and Darryl Hall. Saw Jimmy Buffett play at Fenway Park. And got some of my first written works published.

2005

Rob Thomas’s . . . Something to Be. I saw him live again at Avalon in Boston and also saw U2 live in concert for the first time. Jude Morgan’s Indiscretion. Robert Downey Jr’s rising star with Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. And the return of Doctor Who to the television schedule, as well as the premiere of Bones.

2006

At this point I had an infant and did not have much time to watch or read or do much of anything, but I did go see V for Vendetta. And I read Stephen King’s Lisey’s Story.

2007

Hot Fuzz is a classic, is it not? And I loved Alison Weir’s book Innocent Traitor as well as Jude Morgan’s An Accomplished Woman.

2008

Cloverfield. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Weir’s The Lady Elizabeth and Stephen King’s Duma Key.

2009

A year for books: Shades of Grey by Jasper Fforde, One Day by David Nicholls, and Juliet, Naked by Nick Hornby.

Also, Sherlock Holmes. And Rob Thomas’s Cradlesong (saw him in concert again). And OneRepublic’s Waking Up.

Hallowe’en

Yes, I do prefer it with the apostrophe, thank you. The apostrophe shows a letter has been removed. That is the function of apostrophes.

I like Hallowe’en, I suppose, though I find the roots of the holiday more interesting than its current incarnation. My minor was ancient and classical history, after all; I’m designed to find old things interesting. (And yet I also study pop culture . . . So I guess I find some modern things interesting, too.)

I enjoy dressing up, and I like having an excuse for it at least one day out of 365. (When I modeled in college, I had more excuses to dress up but also never got to pick my own clothes, so that didn’t really count, I don’t think.) I’d be more excited about the whole candy aspect if I were a kid, but once you’re grown up and can have candy whenever you like, that part of Hallowe’en loses its shine. We’ll take the kids trick-or-treating tonight, though, and we’ll probably eat a fair amount of the candy that is collected if only to keep the kids from having too much of it.

On the other side of the holiday, I don’t like gory things. I find psychological thrillers are more to my taste. So while I’m happy to read Stephen King–and he can be graphic, but he does also have a relatively subtle touch and doesn’t tend toward gore for its own sake–I don’t go see movies like Saw or whatever. Just not at all my thing.

And tomorrow is All Saints’ Day. I will make a gris gris, probably out of the dried rose on my desk.

Magic: A Fairy Tale

I took my 5-year-old to see The Princess and the Frog back when it was in theaters a couple years ago. I can’t say he enjoyed it much, and the representation of “Shadow Magic” particularly confused and scared him a little. He asked me a lot of questions about it, and at some point I told him that the villain had been eaten by the bad magic because he had promised to feed it but didn’t. When this only caused more questions to arise, I came up with a story that went something like this:

Once there was a little boy who lived in a cabin in the woods with his mother. The boy helped his mother by doing things like cutting wood and working in the garden to make sure they had plenty of vegetables to eat. He milked the cow and fed the goat and pigs.

There were wild animals living in the woods around the cabin, and the boy’s mother often told him to beware of them. “Leave them alone and they’ll leave you alone. Never leave any food out where they might come to get it; we want them to stay away from the cabin.”

Because he wanted to be a good and helpful son, the boy listened to his mother. But one day while he was weeding the garden, the boy noticed a wolf standing on the hill by the trees. It was a beautiful wolf, but it was skinny too, and the boy felt sorry for it because he thought the wolf must be hungry. But the boy remembered what his mother had said and so ignored the wolf and went back to his work.

However, when it came time to feed the goat and the pigs, the boy saw the wolf was still there. And he decided it couldn’t hurt so very much to throw a little something out for the wolf to eat. So he did.

The next day, when the boy went out to chop wood for the morning fire, he saw the wolf again. This time it stood a little farther past the trees, closer to the cabin. The wolf was not really any less skinny than it had been before; the boy knew just one meal would not satisfy a wolf. But the boy ignored the wolf and went on with chopping wood, milking the cow, and working in the garden, until it was time to feed the goat and pigs again. Then the boy threw a little extra out for the wolf once more.

The next morning the wolf was halfway down the hill, sitting and waiting. The boy did just as he had before, completing his chores and then throwing food to the wolf. He began to wonder if maybe he could tame the wolf. What a splendid pet it might make! And a good watchdog as well.

The next day the wolf was right in the garden. Instead of waiting, the boy gave the wolf scraps from his own breakfast and tried to teach the wolf to sit and lie down. The wolf complied for as long as the boy had food to give, but once the food was gone, the wolf was no longer interested in learning.

On the next morning, the boy opened the cabin window and discovered the wolf sitting right beneath it. By this time the wolf was looking less skinny, and its fur was beginning to grow even more thick and lovely.

“I don’t have anything to feed you,” the boy told the wolf. “I haven’t chopped the wood yet, so there is no fire, and so no breakfast.”

The wolf watched and waited while the boy chopped wood. It watched and waited while the boy milked the cow while and his mother cooked the breakfast. But the boy was very hungry that morning and forgot to save any scraps for the wolf. When he went outside to work in the garden, the wolf followed him, growling.

“You’ll have to wait,” the boy told the wolf.

But the wolf did not want to wait. The wolf was used to being fed, and the more the boy fed it, the hungrier and greedier it became. So the wolf went to the pig sty and ate a piglet.

When the boy discovered this, he knew he could not keep the wolf as a pet, could not train it or trust it. He knew his mother had been right when she’d said he should not feed wild animals.

The boy looked and found the wolf lying in front of the cabin door. When the boy tried to step over, the wolf growled and snapped its jaws. So the boy went to fetch his axe. He swung the axe at the wolf, and the wolf jumped up and out of the way. It ran off into the woods.

Relieved, the boy thought that was the last he would see of the wolf. But the next morning it was again under the cabin window. The boy decided to ignore it. But when he went out to chop wood and milk the cow, the wolf followed. Finally, the boy told the wolf, “I have nothing to feed you, today or any day. And if you kill another piglet, I will use this axe on you for good.” Then the boy turned to go back inside to eat his own breakfast.

But as he did, the wolf lept on the boy and ate him up instead.

The idea was that dark magic might be tempting, but once you start to “feed” it, it will only want more. It will hurt the things and people you care for, and it will eventually hurt you, too. Idle threats won’t work against it; if you get mixed up in something like that, you have to be prepared to kill it outright if you want to be free. It’s an imperfect analogy, of course, but not all bad as a story.

Teaser Tuesday: Becoming Jane Austen

For those of you not familiar with it, Teaser Tuesday is when you take whatever book you’re reading, open it to a random page and blog two (non-spoiler) lines. Although considering I’m reading a biography of Jane Austen and she’s been dead for, like, a couple hundred years, I’m not sure how I could possibly spoil anything.

I’m reading Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence because it occurred to me a week or so ago that although I like Austen’s writing, I know very little about her. I mean, I know she never married and that she died of something like consumption or whatever, but that has been more or less the extent of my understanding. I did try to watch the movie Becoming Jane but turned it off because it was boring (or I wasn’t in the proper frame of mind, or both). The book, though, has been interesting. And as it turns out I was born 200 years + 1 day after Miss Austen. So that’s something.

Here now is the teaser, taken from page 132:

Jane and Cassandra were both still unmarried, and Bath was a magnet for eligible men. In the country the girls had little opportunity to meet prospective husbands, and it was by now clear that there was little chance of their being chosen by men in the Steventon neighbourhood.

Bonus Bad Movie

I can’t believe I forgot to put Lady in the Water on my list from yesterday’s Worst Movies blogfest. Or as my husband calls it, Ron Howard’s Daughter Is in My Pool. I love M Night–hey! we have similar names!–but this movie was just . . . It was awful. Really. A cute idea in theory but hamhandedly executed.

Or maybe I just really hate movies with so much water?

Worst. Movies. Ever.

It’s another blogfest! Courtesy of Alex J Cavanaugh: the ten worst movies I’ve ever had the misfortune to watch.

Now this list is supposed to be theatrical or DVD releases (no made-for-TV movies), but that’s all good since I don’t watch made-for-TV movies. I won’t attempt to put these into any real order; they were all awful–though I’m sure plenty of people might disagree. Without further ado:

  1. Vampire’s Kiss. Okay, so in the interest of full disclosure, I have an issue with Nicolas Cage in general. But even if I didn’t, this movie was terrible. For a long time I used it as the ruler against which all other bad films were measured, asking myself, “But was it as bad as Vampire’s Kiss?”
  2. Queen of the Damned. I love Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, which is why this movie pained me so terribly. It was an incoherent mishmash, and Stuart Townsend was all wrong for Lestat–I mean, they couldn’t even bother to try and make him blond? And yes, I do understand that as Aaliyah’s last big moment, this film has a special place in many people’s hearts, but let’s face it: it’s bad.
  3. Daredevil. So bad vampire movies can be followed by bad superhero movies. I cringed my way through this one, almost ending up curled under the theater seat in a sort of duck-and-cover move designed to save myself from its atomic bomb of bad.
  4. Van Helsing. Yeah, okay, more vampire stuff. Either I watch a lot of vampire movies, or a lot of vampire movies are just really bad. Or both. But this movie . . . They kept ending up in the water, for one thing, which got irritating after a while. And it’s such a shame because I do love Hugh Jackman, but ugh.
  5. Jackie Brown. I know a lot of people love this movie, but I’m not sure why. Then again, I don’t remember anything about it except that I absolutely hated it. My brain has wiped out all other memories related to this film, probably for good reason. Which is why I won’t tempt fate by ever trying to view it again.
  6. Atonement. Another movie with a lot of water. It was supposed to be all artsy and whatever, but it just ended up beating the audience over the head with its, well, artiness. I hate movies that do that (or books, or anything); it’s like they’re proselytizing or something. A movie shouldn’t have to work that hard to make its point.
  7. Underworld. We walked out of this one. That’s how stupid and bad it was. Just an utter waste of time.
  8. Borat. Another one we walked out of. And it wasn’t that we were offended; it just wasn’t funny.
  9. Cradle Will Rock. Oh my God, I’m such a big John Cusack fan. Seriously. But this movie was awful. Such star power put to such bad, bad use.
  10. The Secret Lives of Dentists. Also a big Denis Leary fan. But not here.

That’s ten. The first ten that come to mind, though I’m sure if I kept thinking, some of these might be replaced by others. I have a film degree, after all; I’ve seen a lot of movies.

I know that a few on this list are generally considered crowd pleasers and/or cult favorites. Meh. I can’t help the way I feel about these things.