Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top 11-25 Favorites

What do your favorite movies say about you?

Our favorite movies are loaded with subconscious connections to our own ways of thinking and our own lives.  And that’s why no movie critic can ever truly release a list of the best movies ever made.  Because that list would simply reflect that critic, not the general population. 

After having recently posted my own Top Ten favorites (Movie Guy, at Your Service: My Top Ten Favorites), here in my 300th post on Scenic Route Snapshots, I am now releasing the list of my Top 11-25 favorite movies of all time:

#11) About a Boy

#12) Elizabethtown

#13) A Christmas Story

#14) Zoolander

#15) Supersize Me (assuming that documentaries count)

#16) Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

#17) Mrs. Doubtfire

#18) That Thing You Do

#19) The Wedding Singer

#20) Big

#21) Dumb and Dumber

#22) Napoleon Dynamite

#23) The Breakfast Club

#24) Pineapple Express

#25) One Hour Photo

I have been asked several times about my Number Four favorite movie of my all time, Sideways (2004).  It’s one that most people who I know in real life didn’t like, if they’ve even seen it.  I can totally see why people wouldn’t like it- a bipolar lead character (Miles, played by Paul Giamatti), a sex-crazed idiot sidekick (Jack, played by Thomas Haden Church), a good bit of comical frontal male nudity (by the man who played Tom on LOST), and no definite plot.  But I do solidly love this movie.  In fact, I also give it the award for “The Most Re-watchable Movie”.  And surely that’s another reason it ended up as #4. 

In keeping with the theme of this post, I am choosing to use Sideways as an example of how a favorite movie can say a lot about the person who loves it. I’ve said before that what makes a good movie is not its actors, budget, or plot- but instead it’s all about the characters (and of course the actor’s ability to act). 

Sideways is a character movie.  The main four characters (and pretty much only four characters of the movie) are all believable.  None of their lives are impressive.  They are very ordinary people.  And they are all quite flawed and that makes them more human than a lot of movie characters.

It wasn’t until I saw the movie for the 10th time, last weekend, that I finally picked up on the toned-down parallel between the types of wine and the characters, as well as the amount of passion for wine they had compared with their desire for meaningful human relationships.

I love the fact that the movie takes place in Napa Valley and integrates the culture of wine tasting.  It’s such a beautiful, unique place.  I was intrigued by Napa Valley the first time I saw the movie in 2005. 

Of course, three years later I conveniently married a girl from Sacramento, which means that I’ve been able to go wine tasting several times out there where the movie was filmed.  Just as Sideways makes it seem cool to take a road trip through Napa Valley and taste wine, the truth is, it really is that cool.  A perfect place for a road trip and a perfect place to get lost (which we do just about every time we go out there).

If nothing else, Sideways plays out like an adult, R-rated version of Dumb and Dumber.  The climax of the movie makes the “naked in public” nightmare a reality when Miles (Paul Giamatti) has to sneak into a house to retrieve Jack’s (Thomas Haden Church) wallet, after Jack just woke him up in the middle of the night after having ran several miles naked from across town. 

The entire soundtrack of the movie, with one exception when the song “Two Tickets to Paradise” is heard in the background of a bar, is jazz.  I like jazz a lot.  That’s one of the reasons I’m such a fan of The Pink Panther cartoon show.

Lastly, if it weren’t for a few scenes where Jack uses a cell phone, the movie could have very easily taken place in 1993.  Or 1989.  Or 1986.  Sideways has a really timeless, classic feel to it. 

So in review, the random elements of the movie that subconsciously connected to my own life were the following: a character-driven plot (I’m a people person), parallels between the wines and the people who drink them (I love undertoned themes), remniscent of Dumb and Dumber (obviously another one of my favorite movies), retro feel (I’m a fan of time travel), a jazzy soundtrack (it’s groovy), a beautiful location (that also doubles as my wife’s hometown region), a road trip driven-plot (I love road trips) and a scene involving a man having to run naked in public (I have that “naked in pubic” dream several times a year, and I plan to do a post on it soon).

How does a movie become a favorite?  It’s all about those subconscious connections between our own lives and the images, moods, and stories we see on the screen.  Either they’re there or they’re not.

LOST Recap: Finale- “The End”

I loved it.  Absolutely.  And I believe it was the best, and really, only way, to end the show.  But it just took me 24 hours after watching to understand why.

The entire show was just about Jack Shephard.  Everything else, including the island and its ability to heal people and time travel, the Smoke Monster, the Dharma Initiative, the Others, Jack’s friends, Jack’s enemies, the light in the cave… All of it were the parts of Jack’s life that ultimately mattered to his existence.

In the likeness of the movie Vanilla Sky, when you’re dead, it’s all over- so why focus on the character’s earthly life after they die?  But the writers of LOST took that concept to a new level by acknowledging that all the mysteries, actions, heartaches, and triumphs all boil down to one thing- the people that were involved in your life.

Even Vincent the dog’s best purpose on the island was to comfort Jack as he died.

I definitely plan to write much more in the near future answering the remaining questions about LOST: Why was The Man in Black never given a name?  Who was the first protector of the island?  Did it really matter that Desmond and/or Locke typed the code every 108 minutes?  What was really accomplished by Juliet sacrificing her life by detonating the bomb in 1977?

But as for today, I think it’s more important to focus exactly what happened in the finale.  The most begging question is what’s up with the flash-sideways?

The first time we saw the characters of LOST in the finale season, they were on the plane.  Note there were never flash-forwards or flash-backs during the flash-sideways, indicating no past or future in that timeline.  They weren’t reincarnated, having to live their lives all over again, in this version with the island being sunk.  The alt-reality was simply an “acknowledge your dead and that your life mattered” precursor to the afterlife, often referred to as “purgatory” or “the waiting room”; it started with the plane ride.

Keeping in mind that life on the island (and “the real world”) continued after Jack died, that Hurley and Ben served as the island’s protectors for the rest of their lives, that Claire, Kate, Sawyer, Richard, Miles, and Frank all left the island and lived normal lives back in the United States or wherever they chose to re-establish their lives… they all still died at some point.  Most of them of old age, living to be in their 70’s.

And once they died, before going to Heaven, they were reunited, having the blessing remembering how they mattered to each other.  And since time, in essence, doesn’t exist in the afterlife, they all met at the same time, since it didn’t matter that Jack died 40 years before most of them did.

But because Jack was the main character of the show, the show stopped with his earthly death.  The rest of the living characters lived their rest of their lives and eventually died, the show just didn’t continue to follow their earthly lives.

So when Jack died in 2007 (three years after originally crashing on the island), and (say, for example) that Kate died in 2051, they met at the same time in “the waiting room”.  (Because time doesn’t exist after earthly life ends.)  Then they went on to Heaven with the rest in the church.  (And Ben went once he was ready.)

The writers were clever to utilize a nearly universal belief that there is some sort of life after death.  The episode was quite saturated in Christianity (which was a smart idea since most of America identifies with some version of it), yet didn’t write off other popular international religious beliefs, thanks to the “major six religions of the world” stained glass window in the church.  The point wasn’t to depict any religion’s specific teaching on the afterlife as specifically accurate, but to instead play and expound on our perceived general ideas on life after death and the importance of the people in our lifetime after we die.

I don’t see how LOST could have ended any other way.  Yes, technically “all our questions” were not answered.  But it involves using our imaginations and clues from the show to fill in the blanks, as we as Losties have been doing the whole time.  It will bring me much joy to take matters into my own hands by filling in these blanks with many more LOST posts to come.

Comments welcome.

(They will most likely be spun off into a new post if they are interesting, insightful, or raise a good question; or instantly deleted if they are full of nerd spite: “NO!  You’re wrong!  What really happened was…  Looks like you never thought of that while trying to make your weak point, did you?…”).

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37320802/ns/today-entertainment/

Facebook is a Middle School Talent Show

I put together the top five reasons why facebook seems dull, come lately.


I have been on facebook since April 2005, going on five years now. Back then, in a simpler time, the site was only for college students. No quizzes. No lists. Just the facts. An Atari version of what we now know facebook to be.

And it was fine except for one thing: I could only be friends with people from college. No family. No friends that weren’t currently enrolled in a college. I wanted more “friends”. I wanted to catch up with the cast of characters that made up my entire life. I wanted to collect them.

So as facebook grew from a dorm room project into a million dollar operation and then to a billion dollar business, I got my wish. Plenty of “friends”. Not restricted to colleges.

Since 2005, I have watched facebook defeat Myspace in a tortoise versus the hare race, turning Myspace into nothing more than a creepy old house that no one wants to go inside of anymore. Facebook has for all practical purposes become the new e-mail, the new photo album, and the new substitute to actually calling people on the phone.

Facebook is the undisputed champion. Yet a few nights ago one of my actual real life friends asked in a status update on facebook if he was the only person that thought the site seems like it’s getting dull.

I agree with him. But here’s the thing. It’s not really facebook’s fault. Part of it is us and part of it is our “friends”. Sort of like a middle school talent show. I can’t blame the school if the entertainment itself isn’t good. Sometimes there are more baton twirlers than garage rock bands.

I have compiled the top five reasons why facebook seems dull, come lately:

1) Random friends we barely remember from grade school aren’t quite as interesting as we gave them credit for in our nostalgic minds. They grew up. They have families. And we’ve got nothing to say to them. Because everything we would want to know is there on the info tab on their profile.

2) Those same random people tend to be the ones who constantly do those annoying quizzes and games. Yes, I do hide the quizzes and games on my Live Feed. And yes, I could just delete those people altogether. But I don’t. Somehow I would feel guilty. Their only crime was making me look at the new pig they got for their farm.

3) The Status Update option causes many people to think that the rest of the world sees them as a celebrity. There are enough reality shows that we are ashamedly addicted to. We don’t need another one that tells us when our lab partner from our 9th grade science class is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Or that it made him thirsty. And we definitely don’t need him doing the most cliché thing on facebook status updates: On Monday, saying, “Ugh, I hate Mondays. On Wednesday, “Hey ya’ll, it’s Hump Day!” And Friday, “TGIF”. Sunday night, “Ugh, it’s almost Monday again.” Thanks Sir Idiot, that really added a lot of value to my life.

4) Just like Wikipedia and YouTube, we eventually milk facebook for all its worth. There’s nothing like those first three fascinating months of using facebook. But after reading the profiles and seeing the pictures of everyone we actually care about, the only thing really left to do is come back in a few weeks when they all have new pictures and info.

5) The friends we regularly communicate with on facebook are coincidently our real life friends anyway. Sometimes it’s actually easier just to send a facebook message than to send a text or find a convenient time to call. We get distracted by all our facebook friends and their shenanigans but ultimately it comes down to the true core of why we like facebook in the first places. Our actual friends and family.

Like boy bands, social networking websites have an average lifespan of five years. But I see facebook as the exception. After all, facebook gives us the creative control to hide, delete, and regulate the content we see in front of us. For us all to abandon facebook the way we did Myspace, it would take a social networking website that is substantially better than everything facebook currently is and offers.

And I know for me, it took almost five years to get nearly 700 “friends”. I’d hate to start that process all over again.

What kind of praying mantis are you?

Manspeak, Volume 1: Humor

It was April 2002 when I first learned/realized that humor is an expected male trait. My sister and I went to this $5 concert some new young musician guy was doing in Birmingham, AL. Supposedly he was about to make it huge and this show was to thank the local radio station for being the first to play his songs. It was none other than the pre-Jessica Simpson, pre-Jennifer Anniston, pre-tattoo sleeved John Mayer.

For months following the concert, I was unable and unwilling to remove his No Room for Squares album from my CD player. I picked up on the fact this 24 year-old kid swam in something I could relate to, and it wasn’t just our shared love of the year 1983. He spoke my language. The third track, “My Stupid Mouth”, had a line that said, “I just want to be liked, just want to be funny, looks like the joke’s on me”. That’s when I realized that I was not alone in that I felt responsible for having to be funny, because I am a guy.

While no doubt there are countless social expectations from the female gender, one that is not important and vital is humor. That’s a guy thing. Compared to the overwhelming number of male comedians, it’s more difficult to find successful female comedians. The ones I can think of right off, are not the norm for what is considered feminine: Ellen DeGeneres, Rosie O’Donnell, Wanda Sykes, and Roseanne Barr.

I’m a personal fan of Ellen. I watched her talk show every day my senior year of college. She’s like one of the guys. And I think that’s why I relate to her so much.

The big exception to this “guys have to be the funny one” rule of comedy is Friends. Three men, three women, and they’re all funny. The show was co-written by a man and a woman. That 50/50 designation of both the actors and writers was part of the massive success of the show. Both men and women could relate to the humor and the characters. Even Seinfeld had a 3 to 1 ratio of male to female actors. Friends broke the mold.

Yes, attractive and feminine women can definitely be funny: Anna Faris, Tina Fey, Cameron Diaz, and Chelsea Handler. But I still see a tom-boyish quality about them. Where it at least seems like they grew up with all brothers. And for every one exception, there are five Seth Rogen’s, three Jon Stewart’s, and four Adam Sandler’s.

Men are expected to be funny, at least in some degree. Even Ben Stein, as dry and drab as he is, is still hilarious. (“Bueller? Bueller? Anyone? Anyone?”) And the Terminator in his violent mission of destruction, right before he returns to the police station by running a squad car through the glass doors and blows away all those in his path, declares, “I’ll be back”. That, is funny.

While this may put extra pressure on a guy, there is a trade-off. Guys don’t have to find the perfect pair of shoes to match every “cute outfit” they own. Or give birth.

“If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything.” –Marilyn Monroe

All pictures with the “JHP” logo were taken by Joe Hendricks Photography:

Blog- www.photojoeblog.com

Website- www.joehendricks.com

 

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