Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Moving Movies

Not movies that move you, but movies to watch while you're in the middle of a move, or more specifically, when you're in the middle of packing. It's not as arbitrary or as simple as you'd think. DVDs are amongst the first things I pack, simply because they're easy to get into boxes and by packing them together, I reduce risk of damaging the cases. I also have more of them than pretty much anything, including clothes and books.

So, during my last move, it became a question of which films to leave on the shelf. I have pretty specific criteria when it comes to this situation. Since I would likely be packing as I watched, the films in question had to be familiar, so I didn't get distracted or miss key plot points because I was seeking out the elusive end of the tape roll. While not necessary, it helped if a movie didn't have a particularly complex plot or if it hung on an episodic structure, so that I would feel more comfortable popping in and out. Some of the movies had to be talky or heavy on music so that I could enjoy them while I wasn't able to see the television.

Below is the list of some of my selections. If they occasionally seem to contradict my criteria, well... that's that, I guess. Films I actually watched during the move are marked with an asterisk.

His Girl Friday / Bringing Up Baby
The brilliant thing about a good Howard Hawks comedy is that you can miss half the dialogue and still get double what other films typically have.

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring*
This would be even more perfect if I didn't have to switch discs halfway through, but we cannot have everything. I also made a point to watch all the easter eggs on all of the trilogy discs.

Zombie Apocalypse*
"I could kill you now, but I'm determined to have your brain!" I probably like this movie more than it has any right to be liked, as it's a pretty threadbare merging of the zombie and cannibal subgenres, both of which were en vogue in Italy at the time this was made.

Dr. Horrible's Sing-along Blog* / Firefly: The Complete Series* / Serenity*
Technically, my girlfriend watched Firefly on my Mac and I hovered during packing breaks. And I didn't so much watch Dr. Horrible as I did listen to MP3s of Commentary! The Musical, a fairly ingenious creation of Whedon and Company where they perform an entire plotted musical as a commentary track (and which, incidentally, has more songs than Dr. Horrible itself).

Stop Making Sense*
I watched this four times while packing. Can you blame me? The way this concert moves, the way it progresses -- it fills me with joy. Somehow they take something intricately choreographed and planned (nay, plotted) and make it seem so spontaneous. One of my favorite moments happens during a song transition, although I forget which one. David Byrne, who's sweating profusely, starts a meandering jog around the microphone as he loosens his collar. Except he's not meandering. He's circling. It takes a little time for that fact to kick in, but this is not a random "shake off the tired" motion, but a planned move. Each revolution becomes tighter and clearer, picking up the beat of the next song as it goes. It's at that moment when it becomes clear that this isn't just a well-planned concert. It's a work of genius and we're all lucky that Jonathan Demme was on hand to capture it for posterity.

Singin' in the Rain / The Muppet Movie / The Court Jester*
Joy on a digital platter. Like a warm, musical, dorky blanket.

5 Dolls for an August Moon
Mario Bava's variation on Ten Little Indians was a project he didn't want to direct and didn't really care for. From my review: The resulting film is a whodunit that doesn’t care who did it, a thriller lacking in actual thrills. It is also a strangely affecting experience that improves upon repeated viewings. By de-emphasizing all that we would expect emphasized in a thriller, especially since the status quo for a good director with a bad script is for style to run amok over substance, Bava forces us to consider the film almost as free jazz, randomly weaving in and out of a set template and letting the audience find their own points of interest. If you just relax, go with the flow, disregard silly things like plot, and soak up the masterful cinematography by Bava and long-time DP Antonio Rinaldi, you’ll find a lot worth revisiting.

North by Northwest
I know the rhythms of this movie like I know the beats of my favorite songs. The pinnacle of Hitchcock's action-thrillers.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail*

Josie and the Pussycats*
I love this movie so much. Sure it's glossy and bubble-gum, but it's also kinda subversive. Massively underseen upon its release (probably because of an extremely misleading advertising campaign), this deserves to be rediscovered. It has rock'n'roll, broad satire, and more plot than you'd expect from a movie based on an Archie comic. Earlier this year, I made a fanvid for this movie, which I've embedded below:

Ocean's Eleven (2001)
I love listening to the actor's commentary on this, because Brad Pitt's sardonic wit runs rampant. He says early on that he's doing it as sort of a "Mystery Science Theater 3000" thing and while he's never tears the film apart, his general sense of humor is in the same vein. Matt Damon is on hand for more serious recollections of the production and Andy Garcia occasionally chimes in to remind us that he's there.

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