Saturday, August 8, 2020

Conversation Starters

I hope you all enjoyed reading my Top 1000 Favorite Films list. Boy, it was a fun year and a half putting that together. If you haven't had a chance to read it yet, Head on over to my Mubi profile to read it. You can also find links to the list on my social media. This post may not make much sense if you haven't had a chance to read the list yet.

I have already received some feedback on the list and a common question that has come up is why certain films are missing. Fair question, even with 1000 spots there are a slew of classics out there and I can't fill an entire list up with them without the list itself becoming something insane to read. I do like hearing what other people like and what they'd put on the list, that's all just the nature of being of film fan. All that talk got me thinking though, and I want to turn the floor over to you guys.

I have decided to create "Conversation Starters." If you choose, you can pick a title off the 1000 Favorites list and send it to me. I will then review the movie for you, and discuss and defend why I put it on the list in the first place. This will be your chance to find out more about a title you are curious about or if you are just wondering how my funny brain works. Have at it. This is your time to delve into the list, and possibly find new recommendations.

I am throwing the whole list up for grabs. But keep in mind that most of the 21st Century stuff I have already written reviews for. So I hope you take the time to really dig deep into the list for suggestions.

Simply email me ( which movie you'd like me to discuss. I will get my thoughts written out as fast as possible. I hope we can have some fun with this.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Review: "Host" is fun COVID anxiety for the whole family!

Host Review
We are not quite through with this COVID stuff. That's unfortunate. It's tough having all these plans for a year, then watching them go down the drain. it's equally tough when not everyone around you is taking it seriously, because that only means this takes longer to get through. It seems no matter where you fall politically, this event is giving us all lots of anixety.

What I've found interesting throughout this whole ordeal is how horror movies and stuff like "Contagion" and "Outbreak" have been popular rentals. I guess that's one way to cope with this lockdown, but its not exactly something I'd do for myself. At least, that's what I told myself at the beginning of this whole mess. But I broke my one rule tonight. I read about this creepy little caper on Shudder. If you are unaware of Shudder and you are a horror fan, you better jump on the train. It's a streaming service that specializes in horror, mystery and suspense. It may be a niche streaming service, but there's no denying how well it caters to people who want it. Just like many streaming services, they've been offering their own content and one of the new movies released this week was "Host." A movie that is very timely for quarantine.

The movie takes place during the quarantine. Haley (Haley Bishop), Jemma (Jemma Moore), Emma (Emma Louise Webb), Caroline (Caroline Ward) and Alan (Alan Ermys) get together on a Zoom call. Not just to see each other again during the quarantine, but because Haley has hired someone who can communicate with the dead, and she's agreed to attempt to help the group contact the dead via Zoom. What could possibly go wrong, right?

The answer is plenty. Because one member of the group decides to goof off during the Zoom meeting. When they decide to try and contact a person who never existed, it opens the door for any spirit to penetrate their world. And when the group realizes how in over their heads they are, its too late and the audience is left with plenty of scares to deal with. This probably sounds similar to "Unfriended" which came out a few years ago. But the difference is simple; "Unfriended" was pure shit, "Host" is not. "Host" is effective. It features some striking scares. It's short, sweet and to-the-point as its only an hour long. But don't worry about the run time, there is enough terror in this one hour that is usually missing from most tedium scary movies each year. Because the movie is short, character development is etched in at a striking speed, but these actors get you to care about the characters fast. 

Just in case you need anymore anxiety for yourself, you can turn this one, dim the lights and enjoy the nightmares.


Friday, July 31, 2020

My Top 1000 Favorite Films

It's finally time everyone...

Published over at Mubi...

Have fun moving through the list. How many have YOU seen?

Saturday, July 25, 2020

What to expect from my Top 1000 Favorite Films List

On January 21st 2019, I posted the above image to my social media platforms.

Later on in 2019, I turned 30. I felt as if the 2010's was a decade which felt like I was leaving the young man I felt I had been for awhile behind and stepping into the shoes of someone a bit more mature. I was already a father by then, and another child would be entering my family in 2020. I remember turning 30 seemed like such a milestone age, and I was trying to figure out who I really was as a film fan, and how I could do something special for my blog.

Knowing how passionate I am about film, the question I get the most is "Shawn, what's your favorite movie?" Seems like a fair, simple question, right? Honestly, its the toughest question people ask me about film. Simply put, I am not a guy who just watches whatever new gets released each weekend and that's it. Sure, I love the new and that's certainly part of the cinematic diet, but I am constantly strengthening my film knowledge and language with a wide-range of vintage film each year. I usually see somewhere in the ballpark of 150-170 new releases every year, I have no idea what that number would be if I included films from other years I am seeing for the first time. You may also notice that when I discuss great film, I hate limiting myself. At the end of each year on this blog, its common to see a top ten. But you also get a Runner Up's list and sometimes another list of movies I didn't have room on either of those lists or I'll make a specialty list or I'll just throw the traditions out the window and post a top 20 or top 25. If my shelves at home have room for all the movies I love, why can't the lists I make.

I'm 31 years old now, and I want to take inventory on what I've seen so far. I also want to stop beating around the bush or talking around what my favorite films are. Sure, I maybe have come up with a "Favorite Films" list a time or two on this very blog. I always immediately regretted it though. I barely put any thought into those lists and they changed in my mind instantly. The world would make you think that the cinema is a small, but its anything but. The world of film is a vast ocean, so that can make it difficult to come up with a list of favorite films that's worth a darn. How does one qualify? How do you rank such a list? My greatest fear when making a Favorite Films OF ALL TIME list is that I may accidentally leave off something major. Even though its all opinion and those are different for everyone, I may personally feel bad for leaving it off.

All of these ideas were churning in my head on that day back in January of 2019. In an effort to confront the film fan I am after 30 years. In an effort to really deliver an effective, worth-while Favorite Films of All Time List that really explores the history and classics each era and genre while including as many "classic" films as I possibly could, I realized I had to go big or go home.

So a week from today, you'll be getting my Top 1000 Favorite Films of All Time list. The most ambitious thing I have ever put together. Anywhere. Ever.

Here's a couple things to think about before you read the list next week.

1. The List will be in Chronological Order. I have a dirty little secret for you. I hate ranking movies for lists. Sure, its been a tradition for film critics for ages and while I always took it seriously on my own website, I can't honestly say I really liked it. When I love a movie, I love it. That's it. I don't try to figure out where something ranks in the greater pantheons of other movies or even the genre. I just love something. I become addicted to the films I love, no matter the subject matter. With that said, taking 1000 movies and trying to rank them in any fashion seemed next to impossible. How would YOU personally rank a silent era film to a 80's slapstick comedy to a Korean horror film to a 21st Century superhero flick? Yeah, suddenly it sounds like quite the choir huh? Looking at the list chronologically, you'll understand that I have a deep passion for the films themselves, instead of trying to work through what is better. Plus, I think you'll enjoy looking through the great history of film and see just how each decade of film differed from the last.

2. As always, this is just me. I hope you read the list for fun. I hope you use it as a point of reference. I hope its a piece of amusement for you. As always, I am not trying to declare in any serious manner what THE BEST films of all time are. Simply put, despite seeing many films. I HAVE NOT seen every movie made so far. I never, ever will if I am being blunt with you. Get this though, you never will either. So how can one REALLY declare a best of all time if they haven't seen every film known to man? This is just me putting my first 31 years of film fandom into context and perspective. If you don't spot a movie on the list that you love dearly, don't fret. It's possible I haven't seen it. It's possible I like it too, I just didn't feel it belonged in front of 1000 other great movies. Or I may NOT like it. That's okay too. We don't have to see eye to eye. Something I've noticed too about movies is that they are time bombs. I know from experience that I may have just liked a movie when I initially saw it, but maybe loved it a few years later. Maybe I hated something I saw the first time, but ended up loving it the next time, and vice versa. That's not living a lie. Art hits us in different ways. Art is constantly changing. There are plenty of movies that will show up on the list next week that were unpopular upon release, but word-of-mouth over the years turned them into classics. How art hits people and when is something that is nearly incomprehensible, and its one of the joys of movies.

When a person makes a list of favorite films or favorite albums or favorite TV shows or favorite books or even favorite truly is a political act. You are showing the world what art holds more value to you. I think that's why people are so fast to get worked up on the internet when critics, big and small, publish lists like these. There is always this feeling that the writers we read should feel the exact same way about the movies we love. But that's not true, because art hits everyone a different way. I hope we can all keep that in mind when you read my list next week.

Also understand that my top 1000 is a giant list of recommendations, and with 1000 titles, you certainly have room to roam. Are you curious about movies that won several awards and constantly show up on AFI and BFI lists? Good! I have recommendations for you. Are you curious about genres that always go ignored during awards season? Good! I have recommendations for you. Interesting in something more experimental and avant-garde? Good! I have recommendations for you. Do you want to get your feet wet in the wide world of international cinema? Good! I have recommendations for you! Or if you don't care at all about any of that crap and just want to stock up on recommendations from the last 10-15 years, no problem in that department either.

Think of it this way. If I was teaching a class on cinema, this list would be your syllabus. If I had my own movie channel on TV, the titles on the list next week would be the films I would first try to get licencing rights to. If you were to ask me what the 1000 movies I think you should see before you die are, tune in next week.

This list took me over a year to put together because it was scrutinized upon, around the clock. There were titles on it that I originally had but took off. There were movies I watched in preparation for the list that never got on the list. There was plenty of re-watching of old favorites and plenty of tracking things I haven't seen that I felt might make the list if possible. It was a lot of fun work, but also a tremendous task. After moving and shuffling and shifting titles around, I finally reached a place where I told myself. "Shawn, this is the right version. Publish this list." So, I am and I hope you join me next week to find out what made the list. I'd love to hear how many you've seen.

Couldn't have said it better myself, Keanu.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

RIP Carl Reiner

I remember December 2001 quite vividly. Back then, you could sell a movie on great actors instead of nostalgia and brands. Funny enough, the movie that comes to mind when remembering that month and year was actually a remake. "Ocean's Eleven" from 2001 was at the top of my must-see list. It looked like a fun caper. With George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Julia Roberts, Don Cheadle, Bernie Mac, Scott Caan; I was already on board. I went the first weekend it opened. My expectations were met with flying colors, but the actor that stood out most to me wasn't any of the actors I listed above. Even though, I did enjoy each and every one of them during the movie. No, the actor who really made an impression on me was Carl Reiner. This is really going to show how much of a Millennial I am, but this was my first encounter with Reiner.

Carl Reiner's early work included such television shows as "Caesar's Hour," "Your Show of Shows" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show." He appeared in many movies, such as "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad World."

He also directed movies such as "Where's Poppa," "The Jerk" "Oh, God!" and "All of Me." He has a famous son named Rob Reiner, who has been an accomplished director for decades.

Carl Reiner was a comedic legend, may he rest in peace, and my greatest condolences to his family.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Michael Keaton Returns As Batman

There's no denying the fact that Michael Keaton is the World Heavyweight Champion of actors who have played Batman. Still to this day, Keaton is the most beloved man to take up the cape and cowl. Something that I feel I can't argue against. So of course, in this time of nostalgia and branding, Michael Keaton will be returning as Batman.

He will play the character again in the upcoming "Flash" movie, which will see Ezra Miller return as the title character and which will be set in the DC Extended Universe, sharing continuity with the films with Gal Gadot and Henry Cavill. They will be exploring the Flashpoint storyline, which involved the flash running so fast that he changed something in his past, which only had repercussions for not just his reality, but for multiple realities across the multiverse. If you don't follow the Arrowverse shows on The CW, DC comics has a knack for telling stories in which our favorite heroes mess with the multiverse. The multiverse being a concept where there are multiple earths across millions of realities. Which is why Michael Keaton's Batman can participate in the story.

While Michael Keaton returning as Batman represents something big in nostalgic popular culture, it throws up some red flags for me. The single biggest problem with DC movies thus far is how quickly they feel the need to jump the gun with their cinematic characters and stories. No other studio in the business seems to be reacting to other studios' success on the level DC and Warner Bros. does. DC comics is full of great characters, no doubt. But Warner Bros. seems determined to drop the ball each and every time out. Just look at the history of the studio with the characters for proof. There's a reason why Marvel got to where they are today, they took their time. I can tell it drives comic book fans mad having to sit through origin story after origin story on the big screen. The thing those fans have to remember is Hollywood is trying to make movies that appeal to both the comic fans and the general public. Because Marvel didn't make movies for a niche audience, because they showed the world how the characters are different and how they are alike, people have fallen in love with the Marvel world and their brand.

DC is always ready to just shoot from the hip with their concepts, and they just kinda pretend you know everything you need to know going in, which is why audiences and critics have been mostly left cold. The Flashpoint story is certainly cool, but I would much prefer Ezra Miller getting a solo Flash movie, away from the greater DC universe and the multiverse, in order to really get to know him as a character. Plus, it would be nice where we get a Flash-centric movie that doesn't feature characters already sucking all the air out of the room. Miller's Flash has cameo ed in "Batman vs. Superman," was apart of "Justice League" and will now get a solo movie that isn't totally his. Your mileage may vary, and that's okay, it just seems very problematic for my tastes.

The CW shows work better with their crossovers simply because we've spent so much time with the characters and we've taken the time with the development. If you want to get an audience involved with your character, you need to take that time. You need to make that development. You need your whole audience to care. If you do those things, the money and longevity in the franchise will be able to last in a meaningful way.

In late December, I published my 100 Favorite Films of the 2010's and one thing I talked about in that piece is how disappointed I was overall that the 2010's will mostly be defined as the decade of the fan. We got a decade full of nostalgia brought to life, but when you think about it, how many of those movies were really worthwhile? I don't mean to sound like a snob, because there were certainly some big franchise fair that made my top 100, but it was mostly smaller, character-driven original films. During this COVID quarantine, I've been pretty immersed in old Hollywood, before movies based on random pop culture really became a thing. A time when great actors sold a story, not "GUESS WHICH FRANCHISE/CHARACTER/WHATEVER WE ARE ADAPTING" and there was something wonderful about those movies on their own. I'd love to get back to a time where we told great stories, not just copied the past. Not just went after easy money by turning something random into a franchise. But as Hollywood reboots "Twister" for no reason, as Universal tries to fit their old Monsters into modern movies and as WB makes a sequel to "Space Jam" featuring seemingly every pop culture character they have rights to, it doesn't seem like that non-stop franchise mindset is going away any time soon.

Hollywood seems to think right now that if they adapt the right things, if they tap into the right nostalgia, or if they bring back the right passed treasures that people will automatically love it. Maybe they are right. I do see many people flipping for these movies, and it does seem that just merely seeing their favorite character come to life is enough to call a movie a timeless classic. Not for me. I need character and theme above all else. I need to character about the story being told. You maybe wired differently and that's perfectly fine. I just can't be won over simply because an actor I love is playing a character he hasn't played since the 90's.

I don't mind Batman showing up in a "Flash" movie, just as long as the movie is still about The Flash.

Monday, June 22, 2020

RIP Joel Schumacher

RIP Joel Schumacher

When we look over the filmography set by Joel Schumacher, he doesn't have the career that say somebody like Martin Scorsese or Steven Spielberg has. The thing is, now that Joel Schumacher has passed, I don't want his legacy to simply be "the guy who put the nipples on the batsuit." There were so many more movies to his name than anything Batman related in the mid to late 90's. I hope we take the time celebrate his entire career, because Joel was never a guy who simply did the same thing over and over again. 

Joel was the guy who made "The Lost Boys," an 80's horror movie that is a particular favorite of mine. There was the 80's teen comedy "St. Elmo's Fire." He made the 2004 rendition of "Phantom of the Opera," and that is definitely the musical, through and through. He also made the intense courtroom drama "A Time To Kill," which although uneven is certainly worth a look. None of the four of those movies have much in common with each other. So many filmmakers deal with the same themes and the same styles. You honestly can't say that of Schumacher.

One thing that has shocked me upon this research is that I had no idea he was a costume designer for Woody Allen's "Sleeper."

"Batman Forever" and "Batman & Robin" may not be very liked by all. I personally don't think the Adam West anesthetic worked with the Burton atmosphere. I do think "Batman Forever" is more silly fun, whereas "Batman & Robin" is just plain silly. Jim Carrey was a great Adam West era-style Riddler, it just didn't belong in the world already established by Burton. Seeing Tommy Lee Jones as a goofball Two-Face is something you have to see at least once.

At some point, you probably ran into a Schumacher movie or two. No matter if you liked them or not, you have to admit, they were wild rides. That's what Schumacher did best, made some rides. I hope you enjoyed the ride while it lasted.