Thursday, March 28, 2013

22. Enchanted

2007; dir. Kevin Lima; starring Amy Adams, Patrick Dempsey, James Marsden
My views: 12

As I mentioned in my first post, I grew up loving Disney.  I've spent hours of my life analyzing the movies and  their characters, and my brother and I wrote several stories combining Disney characters from different films in alternate universes.  So when I found out that they were making a film that was basically a conglomeration of all the Disney princess films as if they took place in the real world, I was a little disappointed because I'd hoped to make that movie myself someday.  But I'm no filmmaker, and my film wouldn't have been nearly as wonderful as this.

This movie is like a big reunion for Disney movie characters and plot points.  A wicked royal stepmother, a handsome prince, a beautiful not-quite-princess, animals to help with the chores, a poisoned apple, a villain who turns into a dragon, true love's kiss...the list goes on and on.  I also love how many people that were involved in previous Disney films are in this.  My brother was quick to spot Jodi Benson, the voice of Ariel in The Little Mermaid, as Patrick Dempsey's secretary.  I noticed Paige O'Hara (the voice of Belle)'s name in the credits, but it took me a really long time to find her (she's in the soap opera Nathaniel watches in the motel room).  I thought it was quite fitting when I heard the unmistakable voice of Julie Andrews as the narrator.  I learned from the special features of the DVD that she wasn't the only Mary Poppins cast member to put in an appearance: one of the chimney sweeps is in the "That's How You Know" number, which is probably my all-time favorite on-screen musical number ever.  It's also one of the most-played songs on my ipod, which brings me to Alan Menken, the man who, as my sister pointed out the other day, "kind of saved Disney," and who quite appropriately composed this film's incredible songs and score.  I think it's his contribution more than anything else (with the possible exception of Amy Adams, who makes a fabulously convincing real-life Disney princess) that brings such an enchanting, Disney-esque feel to this film.

While this movie borrows a lot from other Disney films, it's still very much its own.  It took a story I thought I knew backwards and forwards and turned it upside down.  The beautiful not-quite-princess is transported from her fairy tale land of Andalasia into a dreadful place known as Reality.  At first she looks quite ridiculous, having no idea how to behave in the real world, but it doesn't take her long to figure out that she's a lot better suited for it than she could ever have imagined.  Enchanted came out when I was a senior in high school, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  I was terrified to grow up and face the world of adulthood, but if Giselle could make it in New York City, then maybe, just maybe, I could make it as an adult.

Friday, March 22, 2013

23. The Princess Bride

1987; dir. Rob Reiner; starring Cary Elwes, Robin Wright
My views: 11

It's hard for me to remember a time when I hadn't seen this movie.  It used to be on TV quite frequently, so I saw a lot of bits and pieces of it when I was growing up.  I didn't really understand all the stuff about trying to start a war, but I thought Wesley was one of the most attractive men I'd ever seen, and that ROUSes were the most terrifying things in the world.  Then, as I got older, I began to appreciate this movie more and more for its incredible script and the brilliant way the actors deliver the lines.

Most movies have a few really great lines that people like to quote a lot.  The Princess Bride is one of the few where practically all of its lines are quotable.  From short catchphrases like "As you wish" and "Inconceivable!" to dialogues like "No more rhymes now, I mean it!" "Anybody want a peanut?" to monologues like the one about mutton lettuce and tomato sandwiches to "Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die," the entire script is overflowing with wit.  And that, in a nutshell, is what I love about this movie.  I've probably mentioned it before, but I love films with good dialogue.  In real life, it's hard to come up with the right thing to say on the spot, but movies aren't real life, and people have time to think about what should be said in every situation.  It makes me really happy when writers use this to their advantage, and this film is a perfect example.  I'm not sure who made the decision to let William Goldman do the screenplay, but it was ingenious.  The film is significantly different from his book, but it retains his witty, satirical voice, which is the best aspect of the book in the first place.  And then there are the incredible actors who read the lines the way they were supposed to be read.  I mean, when you've got, in addition to Cary Elwes and Robin Wright, people like Mandy Patinkin, Wallace Shawn, Christopher Guest, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane, with Rob Reiner directing, you can't go wrong.

Another reason I really like this film is it appeals to a wide audience.  If you like romantic films, there's a great love story between a beautiful rich girl and her poor farm boy.  If you prefer action/adventure films, there are some pretty epic sword-fighting and chase scenes.  If you want something a little more heart-warming, you can focus on the grandfather who's reading a story to his grandson.  This is why I usually end up watching this film when I'm with a large group of people: it's something we can all agree on.  In addition, The Princess Bride's wide appeal and immensely quotable script make it one of the few I can recite without people looking at me like I'm crazy.

One thing people find out rather quickly when they get to know me is I recite movies a lot.  It goes back to what I said before; it's hard to think of something to say on the spot, but people who write film scripts get to think them through.  I also have a really good auditory memory (I'm not really sure if that's a thing, but I'm pretending it is), so if I hear a song or a line of dialogue a few times, I'm likely to have it memorized.  This is probably part of the reason I like musicals so much.  Anyway, as you can probably guess when I have movies like Neptune's Daughter in here, most of the time people have no idea what I'm talking about when I reference my favorite movies.  But The Princess Bride is a film that most people have seen and memorized lines from, and if they haven't seen it, they've almost certainly heard someone quote it before.  Like Monty Python and the Holy Grail, this is one of the movies that makes me feel less weird about being obsessed, because I'm not the only one.

Friday, March 8, 2013

24. Monty Python and the Holy Grail

1975; dir. Terry Gilliam and Terry Jones; starring Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones, Michael Palin
My views: 11

My mom took me to see this in a theater in the summer of 2001, before I started keeping track of the movies I watched or became obsessed with films. I had no idea that this was a cult classic or the ultimate nerd film or anything. I don't think I really got it, although I remember thinking it was quite funny. Actually the main thing I remember from that first viewing is jumping about 10 feet when a little white bunny suddenly leapt into the air and bit the head off of a knight.  I think I needed a little bit of time to think about this film after I saw it before deciding that, overall, I'd really enjoyed it. I've always liked quoting movies, and this has so many good quotable lines that I was bound to get into it.

I remember that I saw this in 2001 because that was the summer before I started sixth grade. Soon after watching this movie, I had to start attending middle school, which I was absolutely dreading. I loved my elementary school, and I was very comfortable there. The middle school was a big, daunting new place, and when I got there, I discovered to my dismay that in most of my classes, the only people from my elementary school were people I didn't know or some of the very few people I couldn't stand. I'm also incredibly introverted and hate meeting new people, so I was afraid I would never have any friends. But I met someone on the bus, and somehow we got around to discussing this movie, and that was all we needed. So I started hanging out with her group of friends. We would go around demanding each other's name, quest, and favorite color, shouting, "Ni!" and asking for shrubberies. I'm also pretty sure we all had mothers who were hamsters and fathers who smelt of elderberries.

I would love to be able to say that we remained best friends to this day and it's all because of this movie, but that's not what happened. By the end of sixth grade we had drifted apart and I'd started hanging out with different people, some of whom I am still friends with today, but none of whom had seen this movie. I don't remember if I watched it again in 2001 or 2002, but once I started keeping track I didn't watch it until 2005. I understood a lot of the humor better as a 15-year-old than I did as an 11-year old, and I've continued to watch it as often as possible, whenever I need cheering up or am in the mood for something fun. The humor is just so perfect I can't get over it. But I think at least some of my love for this movie comes from the fact that I was able to use it to make friends in sixth grade. And, of course, this movie is so popular and quotable that I've been able to connect with several other people on the basis of references to it. I think it's helped me realize the extent to which bonding over movies is possible, which is something I still exploit whenever possible. When I have to participate in one of those awful icebreakers where you have to say something interesting about yourself, I usually bring up movies. I hate small talk, so it's usually difficult for me to get to know new people, but if you've seen a movie I like I'll talk to you about it for days. This movie was one of the first to help me realize this, and I've never forgotten that.