As I’ve said before, my biggest area of ignorance in film is old movies, particularly of the black and white era. I’m also not as big a comedy person; comedies are hardly ever a priority for me relative to other genres. All of which makes movies like Bringing Up Baby perfect for Shiran’s side of our tradition, as there’s pretty much no chance in hell I’ve seen it. Much like Howard Hawks’ other great screwball comedy His Girl Friday, Bringing Up Baby is marked by some committed and engaging performances and some terrifically-written wordplay. It serves as a great precursor to many of the comedy tropes we now take for granted (to the point of dismissal) but accomplishes them with a great deal of charm and grace.
With the anniversary of D-Day only a few weeks ago, and the 4th of July about to happen, I decided it was a good time to knock one of Steven Spielberg’s all-time great movies off of Shiran’s list. I’ve written about Spielberg’s work several times already, and will write about him further in the future I’m sure, and once again I am reminded just how amazing a filmmaker he really is. Saving Private Ryan is the sort of movie that only the best of the best could pull off, a technically amazing and morally complicated look at war. It should be the end of any discussion of Spielberg as a merely “sentimental” filmmaker, and a reminder of how talented the man really is, something that a startling number of my peers seem to forget.
10 Things I Hate About You is considered to be one of the quintessential teen movies, and I’m glad to say that it’s good enough to earn that distinction on something other than nostalgia. It’s sharply written (aside from the few needless and out-of-place Shakespeare quotes) and very well acted from a cast whose collective stature has grown considerably since this. It’s funny, engaging and even a little bit emotional, and I hope people remember that, much like Jaws and Star Wars, this is a film that’s leaps and bounds better than the derivative junk that is commercially engineered to emulate it.
While Bryan Singer’s career has become dominated by summer blockbusters of varying quality, there was a point during the ‘90s that he was an exciting new voice in twisty, dark thrillers. The Usual Suspects is the most recognizable of these, and aside from being a great film in its own right, it also holds distinction as being one of the few ‘90s crime thrillers that wasn’t trying to copy Tarantino. As something I’ve been meaning to revisit myself, I thought Shiran might appreciate this twisty little yarn and the great cast that’s caught up in it.
With Peyton Reed having just signed on for Ant-man, Shiran thought she would show me his best-known work in hopes of maybe combating my pessimism about Marvel’s choice to replace the irreplaceable. And post-Bring It On, contrary to popular opinion I actually feel ever-so-slightly more optimistic having seen Reed at work. In this teen movie that I would’ve assumed to be vacuous and bland, I found a filmmaker with some good visual and comedic instincts that need the right circumstances to be explored in full, and someone that might yet get us a decent Ant-man. But as for the movie at hand, Bring It On’s success lies more than anywhere else with its script, which sometimes tries too hard but that gives the whole enterprise a solid and fun direction.
Over the years, Dreamworks Animation has largely developed a reputation as being a lowbrow kids-only entertainment house, which is unfortunate because it’s probably kept some people from fully embracing their more fully-formed and distinctive works. How To Train Your Dragon is possibly the best film they’ve made so far, and with the sequel on the way I’ve been meaning to revisit it. Combining that with the fact I thought Shiran would like the central relationship of the story, it was a natural fit for our Movie of the Week
Over the years, Mike Judge seems to have developed a certain satirical voice. It’s hard for me to say for sure as I have very little direct experience with any of it, but there’s a clear voice at play even in what little I’ve seen. Perhaps the best and most famous example of this is Office Space, something I’ve seen pieces of on Comedy Central numerous times, and always wanted to see more of. Now that Shiran has finally satisfied that curiosity, I’m happy to report that Office Space lives up very well to its reputation, the one that all of you are probably very aware of already. But since I know you all care so much about my take on these things, I guess I better keep going.