My Favorite Opening Scenes

There’s something about an opening scene. They say first impressions make or break a relationship and while in film there is a bit more wiggle room, an opening scene is a great way to hook in your viewer from the get go. There have been plenty of great scenes of the years that open up great films. This list comprises my personal favorites. I also feel the need to keep opening credit sequences out of it so no Se7en, Catch Me if you Can, or Lord of War. I’ll be searching for each scene of youtube so if you haven’t seen the film and don’t want to be spoiled of anything, please don’t watch the video. Here we go…

Incendies

This is definitely my favorite opening in any film, although not by much. The combination of Radiohead and the slow close up of that thousand yard stare are just powerful as hell. You don’t know who the kid is yet, you don’t know why they’re getting their heads shaved, but you know they don’t want it. You know that something is changing inside. It’s gorgeous.

Inglorious Basterds

I couldn’t find the full scene, but the above video is good enough. The humor, the intensity, the introduction to one of the greatest villains of all time…this scene has everything. It’s almost a perfect way to start a film that will end up being Tarantino’s best film. I actually think it works without the entire rest of the film. It stands alone. I saw this movie for the first time after midnight in my theater and it hooked me in. I was set. Still crack up at the pipe reveal.

Zodiac

I still get chills down my spine when I see this movie and it starts from the beginning. The tracking shot from the car while “Easy to be Hard” by Three Dog Night plays in the background and fireworks go off in the background COMPLETELY cement you into the summer of 1969. Michael and Darlene are on an awkward date and you can feel its awkwardness right up until our black mystery car pulls up behind them. “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. Unforgettable. Every time I hear this Donovan song I think of this scene. Goooooooood byyyyyye.

The Dark Knight

The silent opening. The zoom in aerial shot filmed in glorious IMAX. The speculative banter about The Joker. Even the guys doing the job for him don’t know who he is. The backstabbing and William Fichtner being a badass with a shotgun. The scene above cuts off before The Joker reveal but it’s still breathtaking to watch. Nolan may be in a bit of a slump recently but this film alone cements him as a world class filmmaker.

The Social Network

You gotta include a dialogue scene. Simple. Two people at a table talking that eventually leads to a breakup. I don’t know if it’s the dialogue in this scene that makes it amazing or the acting so I’ll just meet myself in the middle and say that they both combine to form just a fantastic look into the mind of Mark Zuckerberg. It’s alos one of the first glimpses at Rooney Mara who would later be an Oscar Nominee. The scene cuts off but I also love Mark walking home to his dorm in the snow while Trent Reznor’s score plays in the background. That makes two Fincher openings on my list.

28 Days Later

I couldn’t find the full scene or really any part of the scene besides what I found above but you get the point. Jim wakes up in a hospital, before Rick Grimes did, and nobody is around. What follows is a creepy as shit sequence as Jim walks around a vacant London. There is no green screen. London is empty. Godspeed You! Black Emperor blares in the background and still nobody around. One of the creepiest scenes in film.

A Clockwork Orange

Strange. Hypnotic. Creepy. Kubrick sets the tone with one long stare from Malcolm McDowell. The music combines with Alex and his Droogs for an iconic opening at the milk bar.

There Will Be Blood

It’s amazing that without a single word of dialogue, we know all we need to know about Daniel Plainview. Jonny Greenwood’s score blasts your ears from the get go and we get to see just how far Daniel is willing to go, or crawl, to get to the top. He’s smart. He’s ruthless. He’s business. Incredible direction from PT Anderson.

Magnolia

Awesome three story coincidence introduction that has nothing really to do with the film’s plot or story arcs. They’re just examples of how life can be funny and tragic sometimes. The scene is narrated by Ricky Jay and for some reason his voice is the only voice I can see making this film what it is. I believe all three stories are true too. Or at least somewhat true. The video above is all I could find. It’s the final story. The Sydney Barringer suicide.

Drive

Super tense opening getaway scene from Drive may be one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. I mean cool as in “that dude is one cool, fly, motherfucker”. He’s never out of control of the situation or his car. He’s all business. I’m a sucker for characters who are all business. The tick tick score is also awesome.

UP

It stills knocks me on my ass. Every, damn, time. I actually teared up watching it again just now. I cried my damn eyes out in the theater and every single kid in the theater was silent. The parents were sobbing but the kids were silent. They just couldn’t grasp the emotional impact of what they just saw. This is tied with Finding Nemo as my favorite Pixar films.

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Underrated Acting Performances

Holy Shit. It’s been a long three weeks since my last post. My apologies. I’ve been working through some personal thing recently. I haven’t been watching many films and the ones I have been are older and have been talked to death. For the first time in my life, I’m watching the Indiana Jones Trilogy. I know, I know. I think I just missed the boat when I was little and whenever it popped up on television, it was in the middle or something so I didn’t watch it. Last Crusade is next and so far I enjoyed the hell out of Raiders and was very disappointed by Temple of Doom. It wasn’t that it was a bad film, more of a movie that just doesn’t hold up to something like Raiders. All the humor seemed forced and was made worse by two incredibly annoying supporting characters. I also saw Interstellar and was left baffled by it which is why I have not written about it yet. That is coming though.

Today, I decided to do a little feature about underrated acting performances. These are personal choices and by no means a definitive list. Each one is a shining example of a role that was either completely forgotten by everybody or only appreciated by certain people. Let’s get into it…

Jack Lemmon in “Glengarry Glen Ross”

One of my favorite performances ever. At this point in his career Jack didn’t have to prove a thing to anybody but the old man pulled this incredibly layered performance out of his hat. I love the incredible amount of sadness in his eyes during every scene. He really needed those leads.

Olivia Colman in Tyrannosaur

I could have went with Peter Mullan in this film as well but I think Colman outshined him. This little seen film from actor Paddy Considine punched me in the gut the first time I saw it and I couldn’t shake it for days. Colman was just simply devastating. People need to see this one.

Ted Levine in Silence of the Lambs

What can I say? I think the man got robbed of a best supporting actor nomination in a film that seemed to get nominated (and win) for pretty much everything. He made Buffalo Bill into one of the most frightening characters ever in a film that he shared with probably THE most frightening character ever. Levine has a creepy voice to begin with but he took it to another level with Bill.

Paul Dano in There Will Be Blood

Another straight robbery of a nomination. Dano was the absolute reason why that film has the reputation it has. Like Daniel Plainview, the viewer grows to loath Eli Sunday that we can’t help but not be shocked during the famous ending. The scene with Plainview in the church is one of my favorite scenes of all time.

Denis Levant in Holy Motors

The driving force behind one of the most batshit crazy films I’ve ever seen. The man plays like nine different characters ranging from old men to leprechauns. He approaches each role with absolute dedication and really transforms with each one following. He plays the damn accordion and then gets stabbed. He was incredible in an incredible film.

Jennifer Connelly in House of Sand and Fog

I still have only seen this film once. That’s how much this wrecked me. The story surrounding Ben Kingsley and his family was sad enough but the real kick in the gut was watching Connelly come to terms with her life that she no longer has control of. She has always been a good actress but I feel most will remember her going ass to ass in Requiem rather than delivering a knockout performance in this film. The scene with the gun and the car killed me.

Michael Shannon in Take Shelter

I think I could have really put any Michael Shannon performance on this list and it would have been applicable. This is my favorite though. His breakdown at the community dinner scared the shit out of me and made me realize what a dangerous mental illness schizophrenia is. That isn’t a spoiler per say, rather a nod at Shannon for perfectly portraying what paranoia can do to a person.

Sam Rockwell in Moon

This will be short because I don’t want to give anything away to people who haven’t seen the film yet. Let’s just say Rockwell knocks it out of the park with a duel role. The film has now reached a sort of cult status on the internet and for once I totally agree to it being there.

Stephen Mchattie in Pontypool

The dude was born for this one. McHattie plays a shock jock DJ in this unconventional zombie film. He’s in almost every shot and carries the film which takes place entirely in a radio studio. The film may have a bad ending, but the premise and McHattie’s performance make it a cool watch.

Lubna Azabal in Incendies

One of my top ten favorites movies. Azabal is a force in this once. Her character goes through so much shit over the course of the film that only an incredible performance could have kept the film centered. The bus fire scene stands out a lot as well as her time in the prison. Incredible performance in an amazing film.

Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead

WHY DOESN’T ANYBODY TALK ABOUT SHAUN? His performance is my favorite part of this entire film that while remains hysterical, also goes into some very serious areas with the whole living dead eating people and stuff. Pegg is at his best when Shaun gets pissed off and of course at the end with Ed. The dude can flat out act.

David Carradine in Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2

He steals every single scene he is in. The showdown at the end of Vol. 2 is my favorite part of both films and it’s all because of Carradine. It’s a shame the guy had to go all crazy masturbation death on us because he coudl have really been something else towards the end of his career. Bill may have been a bastard, but he was a cool as shit bastard.

Michael Parks in Red State

The dude is batshit crazy. He made the entire film for me and is to this day the best example of a lunatic cult leader that doesn’t go too over the top or cartoony. He scared the shit out of me.

Colin Farrell in In Bruge

One of my favorite “comedies” or at least favorite screenplays. Farrell, who has the real life personality of the guy who comes to your party whom you hate automatically, just flat out delivers a genuine knockout performance. His portrayal of working through a serious depression is something that I’ve come to relate to in recent events. He may be dead inside from killing a little boy but that doesn’t mean he won’t do coke with a midget.

Michael Caine in Children of Men

The bright light in a bleak dim world. I love Michale Caine in this film. We don’t know him for that long but when we leave him we feel the greatest gut wrenching sadness. That’s acting. It’s one of my favorite small roles in any film. Pull my finger.

My Favorite Horror Films of All Time : Classics and Hidden Gems

It’s October. While I haven’t been watching as many horror films as I should be watching. Instead, I thought I’d take some time and share my thoughts on what I consider to be the essential and underrated horror films that I’ve seen. These films are in no order besides the order that I remember them. As a sidenote, I didn’t include Cache or The Night of the Hunter because I don’t feel they fit as true horror films. Enjoy and please let me know what I missed or goofed on in the comments.

We Are What We Are

I was blown away by this film when I first saw it. The ending shocked me and the acting and pace of the film created a perfect cloud of suspense. I like my horror films to be a bit crazy and this film managed to hit the perfect note on the crazy scale.

The Act of Killing

A documentary can’t be a horror movie you say? PSHHHHHHHH! If you watch this film and tell me that there isn’t an ungodly amount of horror in this film then your soul is black and void. The film scared the absolute shit out of me. The scariest part is that it is all real. This shit actually happened.

The Loved Ones

Batshit. Totally effin batshit film. It’s fun. It’s horrifying. It’s Australian. I can’t say enough about this one. Actually, saying any more than what I have already said will give too much away. Jus find a way to see this one.

Kill List

Easily the scariest final twenty minutes in a film I’ve ever seen. It threw me for a loop for fucking days. One of the few films that completely changes genre in the final twenty minutes. The film is brutal and provides, along with the ass clenching suspense, one of the most what the fuck endings ever. It’s a treat.

Rosemary’s Baby

Classic horror. You don’t need blood thirsty monster or ax wielding maniacs to deliver a truly frightening experience. Polanski may be an asshole, but the guy knows how a craft a truly creepy and unsettling film.

The Changeling

Perfect ghost story. It doesn’t get overly ridiculous and happened to cast one of the best actors working during that time George C. Scott. I inspect houses for a living. The big, old, vacant ones still give me the creeps due to this film.

The Shining

What can be said that hasn’t been said a thousand times. It is in my top five films of all time. It’s THE perfect horror film. Don’t agree? Maybe I should…correct you.

The Thing (1982)

Like The Shining, another perfect horror film. The special effects haven’t been done as good since and most likely will never be as good in a horror film. You ain’t getting Wilford Brimley’s blood and Kurt Russell sports the greatest beard ever committed to film. It’s amazing.

The Innkeepers

I love Ti West. He’s my favorite horror director working today. This is his slowest and creepiest. It builds perfect tension and features two characters who act like real people instead of horror devices. It’s another perfect ghost story and makes me want to work late nights in an empty hotel.

House of the Devil

Ti West’s homage to 80’s slasher films with a great twist ending. Tom Noonan should be cast in ever horror movie ever and the film also has probably the best and most alarming jump scare in film…twice…60 seconds from each other. If this film came out in the 80s it would be an instant classic.

28 Days Later

It took me YEARS to see this movie. The trailer scared the absolute shit out of me as a kid. The image above gave me nightmares for weeks. When I finally sat down to watch it, the most unique “zombie” film of all time opened my eyes. Alarming, horrifying, and loaded with emotional scenes. The empty London scenes are iconic.

Shaun of the Dead

Hilarious? Yes. Scary as shit and full of amazingly serious situations and acting from all involved? Also yes. I still think it’s the best traditional zombie film of all time. The fact that it’s hilarious only adds to its brilliance.

Psycho

What can be said? It changed the game forever. A work of genius.

Jaws

My favorite film of all time. Words can’t explain the amount of enjoyment I get from it. I’m still scared swimming in the ocean.

Alien

I love space horror, even the bad ones. This isn’t a bad one. It’s a brilliant one and among my most watched films of all time. The blu ray version of this is incredible.

The New York Film Festival Preview!

Friday night is opening night of the NYFF! I already grabbed my ticket for “Gone Girl” premier which has me pretty fucking excited. I’m going to try to grab cheaper tickets for “Inherent Vice” and “Birdman” but it’s looking like I’ll only be seeing one of the big three. I am however going to try to pick up some tickets to some lesser known films during the next three weeks. I may be somewhat broke, but I’m hoping to see three or four films this year to go along with the Gone Girl premier. In case any of you are near the tri-state area and are thinking about attending this years festival like I am, here are, along with the big three, my most inticiapated films at the 2014 NYFF!

Gone Girl

Fincher is one of the first directors to really get me into film. I grew up being blown away by “Fight Club” and even though my liking for the film has subsided (I still like the film, just not as much as I did in High School), his filmography is filled with incredible works. Zodiac and Se7en are two of the darkest and bone chilling films I’m seen in mainstream film and that credit goes to Fincher. His ability to invoke dread and suspense through perfectly lit backgrounds has always impressed me. Benjamin Button and Dragon Tattoo were huge disappointments but this new film looks like a return to form for the director. I can’t wait for Friday.

Inherent Vice

Paul Thomas Anderson is my favorite living director. Every single thing he has made is a damn masterpiece. If I wasn’t such a broke bastard I would be 1st in line to see his new film, a film which I know nothing about. I won’t watch the trailer if one ever comes out. I won’t look at the production photos that leaked. The image above is the only thing I know about the film besides the cast. I like it this way. I’d rather just be immersed in his films rather than wait for parts I liked from the trailer. I can’t imagine a world in which I’d like a film better than There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, or The Master but the fact that I know he can out do himself only cements him as the next coming of Kubrick.

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)

I love depressing films. Naturally, this fact means that the films of Alejandro González Iñárritu have struck a particular chord with me. When I heard that he was making a film that would star Michael Keaton as an out of work actor who used to play a super hero called Birdman and that the whacked out, bizarre, hysterical film would be edited in a way that it looked like it was done in one shot, well, I fell love. I fell in love with the idea. The film is closing out the festival and snagging tickets will be hard. I’m going to try though. Keaton looks like he might grab an Oscar nomination and the whole film looks bonkers. My kind of film.

Others that seem interesting…

Citizenfour

A documentary about Edward Snowden from director Laura Poitras. The Oscar nominated documentarian flew to Hong Kon to interview Snowden and while she was there, captured the unfolding of what we know as the life of Edward Snowden. The film is apparently a once in a lifetime film that captures the reaction of the world and Snowden as he continues his quest for freedom.

’71

Tells the story of an Irish soldier who was abandoned by his unit during the riots of 1971 in Belfast. The film looks like a tense action thriller and has tickets available right now. This is one that is definitely doable as far as price and ticket availability goes. It helps that it looks pretty intense as well. The film stars Jack O’Connell.

Foxcatcher

The film has made its round on the national/international film festival circuit and seems to be finding its final resting place before official release at NYFF. The film, lauded by some, shunned by others, offers without a doubt a lock for Best Actor during the academy awards with Steve Carell playing the insanely creepy John du Pont. Some of you may know the true story behind the film but for those who don’t I’m not going to spoil anything. I would also avoid the trailer because it seems to give away too much. Bennett Miller knocked it out of the park with his first two films, Moneyball and Capote, and I’m looking forward to seeing this one. The film is going to be playing towards the end of the festival.

Hill of Freedom

I’m a huge fan of Korean cinema. Sang soo Hong may not be as well known as his Korean contemporaries but his films such as “Woman on the Beach” and “In Another Country” were both well received. Having not see either of those films, this may be as good a starting point as any. The film is shot in a frenzy of non linear scenes as our protagonist tries to sort out letters sent to her from her lover after she drops them. She is sorting the chronology and the viewer is given the same task. I love the concept.

Map to the Stars

Cronenberg has always been hit or miss with me. I love History of Violence and Videodrome but found Cosmopolis and A Dangerous Method to be somewhat disappointing. However, the man is a daring filmmaker who doesn’t shy away from doing something out of the ordinary or considered taboo. I like striving for something different which is why I’m interested in this. The cast includes Julianne Moore, Robert Pattinson, John Cusack, and Mia Wasikowska. The story is about a hollywood family and the lives that are lived within that family.

TV Review : The Leftovers/Pilot

Considering we are in the midst of a revival of the golden age of television, I will be taking a break from film to talk briefly about the new HBO series, The Leftovers, brought to us by the man whose work I love to hate, Damon Lindelof. After being blasted with the promo for three months in a row, we’re finally left with an actual look at this new series which tries to answer the question of why 2% of the worlds population decided to just get up and Houdini the fuck out of here. It’s the sort of premise that I’m totally into. I’ve been into mysteries for as long as I can remember but sometimes Mr. Lindelof tries way too hard to be mysterious. As long as aliens don’t pop up, I feel like this is an idea that hopefully will get me to ease up on the man.

Well, huh?

I have no idea what is going on in this. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. I’ve always been into not having things spoon fed to me on a silver platter. I like to try to figure things out for myself. The first episode revealed the big disappearance and the aftermath three years later, but that’s about it. We don’t really know exactly who the GR cult is or what they want although I’m sure it has to do with the fact that they didn’t ascend to some other plane of reality. The show speculated on why there are rabid packs of dogs running around and honestly that makes sense. It seems to be symbolism of chaos and order, a dilemma that police chief Garner, played wonderfully by Justin Theroux, seems to be wrestling with. The end of the episode was in my eyes a very good sign that Garner is starting to see things clearly. He chose order over chaos.

Very intriguing show so far that has sunk its hooks into me. It isn’t a groundbreaking show yet, but it’s certainly something to think about and take a journey with.

SUDDENLY I’M HIT.