Saturday, September 29, 2012

Top 12 M83 Songs

A picture I snapped of M83 at Coachella in April

I’m strict about dedicating this site to movies, because movies are my life. M83, however, is more than music. To me, they are inspiration. They are hope and sadness and desperation and peace.

Since discovering their work, M83 was quite literally influenced every single writing and film project I have been involved with. They are as much to thank for my creativity and passion for film as anything.

Tonight, M83 comes to my neck of the words, making it the third time I have seen them live. In the past five months. Rock ‘n’ roll.

And So it Begins is a movie blog. This is just a different angle of my process.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Top 11 Scenes from The Wire


I’m doing two things today that I never do: posting about TV and encouraging (some) people to not read a post.

I make it a habit of not posting about television shows, simply because I don’t watch a lot of TV. The Wire, however, is different. Anyone who has seen the show in its entirety knows that the hyperbolic praise it continues to receive is more than justified. Funny thing: a few days ago, I asked my friend (who is as obsessed with this show as I am) to randomly list his favorite scenes from the series. He quickly fired back 15 picks, none of which were on my list. Point is, the amount of remarkable scenes from The Wire is limitless, these are just the 11 that stick with me most.

Finally: please please please do not read further unless you have seen every episode of the show. I’m going to spoil many of the major (and best) events from the series, and believe me, they are far better off discovered in the context of the entire show. For fans who’ve seen them all, I hope you enjoy my picks. For Wire rookies, feel free to bookmark this post, marathon all of the episodes and come back later!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Top 10 Female Performances of All Time

The films were Tuesday, the men were Wednesday, and now I tackle my favorite female screen performances of all time.

Much like yesterday’s list, the first role listed here is my absolute favorite. The nine that follow are presented chronologically. I hope you enjoy. Thanks so much for reading!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

My Top 10 Male Performances of All Time


I’m running and gunning this week – out to set the record straight about the films and performances I love the most. Yesterday I ranked my favorite flicks of all time, today I tackle my favorite male performances. The ladies will be tomorrow.

Here’s how I want to play this: the first performance listed is my favorite male performance from a film. Ever. Period. The subsequent nine are listed chronologically, because my attempts to rank them were futile at best.

Hope you like the picks, and thanks to every one for your thoughtful comments yesterday!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

My Top 10 Films of All Time

It’s the question I’m asked most: what are your favorite movies of all time? I’ve answered it timidly, but today seemed like an appropriate time to finally hash it out.

The rule is that there are no rules. The year, director, genre – nothing is of consequence, these are simply my favorite films of all time with brief explanations why. Thank you, as always and forever, for reading!

And So it Begins… On its 5th Blogiversary

I’ve been hand writing movie reviews since Jan. 1, 2000. I have hundreds of notebooks filled with reviews, lists, director profiles – anything to keep my movie-freaked mind entertained while I was a teenager. When I got to college, more and more people began asking me what I thought of this movie, or that actor, and so on. So, five years ago today I decided to jump on the blog bandwagon and start And So it Begins.

Now, I wanted to do something cool for the five year benchmark, so for the remainder of this week, I’m going to be posting (what I think are) a series of bitchin’ Top 10 Lists that define who I am as a cinephile. The first one will be up later today. But for now, a story.

Movies have always been there for me. No matter what heavy shit life decided to throw, I’ve always found solace in the art of film. Writing is the same way. In high school, I discovered that writing was something I could escape into. So, in the beginning, this blog was merely a way to mesh two of my favorite things together.

For the first three and a half years, hardly anyone read this blog. I got a comment here or there, page hits broke a dozen (maybe), but it didn’t matter. I was writing about movies because it’s what I love to do. Once I became part of the LAMB community and started hitting Twitter aggressively, readership skyrocketed.

Which leads me to my main point. I started this blog because I find calm in writing, especially when I’m writing about films. The films motivate me, but you, the readers, encourage me. The support you’ve shown me, this blog, and, my short flick, Earrings, is something I continually hold in my heart and will never lose sight of. So thank you. Really, truly, thank you.

Last year on this date, I listed the movie blogs I read, and the reasons why I thought other people should read them too. But, quite frankly, there are just too many to list here now. But I do want to draw particular attention to one site, more as a plea than a recommendation.

Southern Vision. Tyler Atkinson’s ingenious Southern Vision has and will always remain one of the best film blogs I have ever read. Once I joined Twitter, Tyler and I became fast friends, finding a common ground in our love of indie/foreign/obscure/art house films, and a penchant for writing sardonic, honest posts.
Lately, Southern Vision has gone more or less dormant. And I get it, I really do. Blogging (and blogging well) isn’t easy. It’s a big goddamn commitment, and sometimes some of us need to take a step back and chill out. In the year and a half I’ve been following Southern Vision, Tyler has cranked out marvelous post after marvelous post, and the dude deserves a break. I just hope it isn’t a permanent one. Take as much time as you need, my friend, but I want to know what you think of The Master. I want to know if you’re as taken with Amour as you are with Haneke’s other films. I want to know if you think Cloud Atlas is a modern masterpiece, or wannabe pulp garbage.

I miss your film voice, and I want it back, if for no other reason than because I selfishly get a great deal of inspiration from it.

To Tyler and Diana and Sati and Stevee and Sam and Dave and Dan and Nikhat and Stephanie and Shantanu and Anna and Ruth and Stephen and Josh and Sam and Joe and Ethan and Matt and Gregory and Alex and Eric and Chris and Robert and all of you. Thank you.

(And, of course, to my mom and dad and Miguel and Evan and Taylor and my lovely Julie, thank you.)

Keep writing.

-Alex

Monday, September 24, 2012

Small Roles… Big Performances Blogathon


Ruth from FlixChatter has cooked up an ingenious blogathon titled Small Roles… Big Performances. The objective is simple: highlight the best performances by actors we don’t talk enough about.

Here are Ruth’s rules:
  • Highlight a supporting or cameo performance that did not garner awards attention
  • Not well-known actors are preferred
  • Highlight three performances max

Friday, September 21, 2012

Top 10 Movies About Addiction


I’m fascinated by the affliction of addiction. I’m enamored with the struggle, the pain, and, if it exists, the resurrection in overcoming.

Not-so-coincidentally, many of my favorite films focus on the varying types of addiction. In fact, since 2000, I believe only four films have been released that justify being labeled as a masterpiece. Among them, three focus on addiction. 

Dozens of films (and TV shows) are released every year that concern themselves with the tumultuous areas of addiction. Most get it wrong. Some get it right. Here are the 10 best I’ve seen.

Arbitrage


The word arbitrage is defined as the simultaneous purchase and sale of the same securities, commodities, or foreign exchange in different markets to profit from unequal prices. That’s about as breathy a definition as the financial plot of Nicholas Jarecki’s new thriller. Thankfully for us, Jarecki proves to be expert at handling and explaining the financial complexities that his anti-hero, billionaire Robert Miller (Richard Gere), gets wrapped up in.

Oh, and there’s more. Arbitrage is far more than a convoluted financial drama – that’s just what its plot is rooted in. But at its heart, this is a film about a man collapsing. Because he has to keep up appearances everywhere he goes, his outer shell displays exuberant poise. But inside. But inside, he’s crumbling.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Red Hook Summer


Red Hook Summer tells the personal kind of tale that is perfect for a Spike Lee film. It’s simple, urban, and daring. After straying from the formula that helped him reach acclaim, via the bank heist thriller Inside Man (which I love), and the WWII epic Miracle at St. Anna (which I hate), Red Hook Summer should essentially be a worthy return to form. Why then are a majority of film’s 121 minutes filled with nothing but dull, idle banter? Where’s the life? The pain and humor? Red Hook Summer is a Spike Lee film, all right, but certainly not the one I was hoping for.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

In Character: Christopher McDonald

If I ever felt the need to draft a list of, say, my 20 favorite living actors, there’s no question Christopher McDonald would be among them. I love everything about this guy. He’s hilarious, heartfelt, and equipped with a unique command of his craft, to a degree that everything he does, no matter how crazy, is done with conviction. Sure, he’s been in some dogshit films, but on that note, let me tell you a little story.

For whatever reason, I once decided to see the movie Awake in the theater. It was a horrible movie about a rich guy who is awake during his surgery, and thereby learns that his fiancé is attempting to have him killed on the operating table. Now, I knew this movie was going to be bad going in, but I went anyway. Midway through, who pops up but Christopher McDonald, pricelessly playing a surgeon’s assistant with a really bad drinking problem. Whenever McDonald was on screen, the movie was as alive as its title suggests. The man can make a movie worth it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

101 Cinematic Reasons Why I Love the ‘50s


1.     The first film I ever remember receiving was Cinderella. It is and was and will remain one of my favorite movies of all time. By far my favorite Disney.
2.     The fact that Sidney Lumet purposefully made the jury deliberation room physically smaller as shooting progressed
3.     Hitchcock’s pioneering use of the dolly zoom shot in Vertigo












Monday, September 17, 2012

Best Pictures: If I Chose the Winners

First off, let me say that I have no idea why I’m on such a Best Picture kick right now. I wanted to talk about what I thought were the most important Best Picture winners of all time, then I felt it was appropriate to discuss the least worthy. Now I want to tell you which films I would have chosen to take the top prize. Again, I have no idea why my recent Best Picture fascination took hold, but I’m going to play it out for a while longer.

Now, although I have seen every Best Picture winner, I certainly have not seen every single film that has been nominated for the Oscars’ top prize. Given this, it simply isn’t fair for me to say what “should’ve” won if I haven’t seen any of the other nominees. In short, the purpose of list picks up at the year 1939, when the actual winner is in bold, and my chosen winner is in yellow.

Enjoy, and share any and all thoughts/picks you have in the comments!

(For the record, of the 72 years I chose winners for, the Academy and I agreed only 23 times. Yikes.)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

10 Least Deserving Best Picture Winners


Earlier this week, I clocked which Best Pictures winners most shook up the Academy system. The antithesis to those game changers, as it were, are the least deserving winners of the top prize.

Now, please keep in mind that I’m not necessarily saying all of these films are horrible –in fact, most are rather solid – I’m simply stating that, given their competition, in no way did they deserve to win. I hope you enjoy my picks, and please feel free to list some of your own in the comments!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

10 Most Game Changing Best Picture Winners


A lot of good movies win the Best Picture Oscar. As do a lot of bad ones. And instead on harping on the best and crappiest of the lot, I thought it’d be fun to highlight 10 films that bucked the trend with their Best Picture wins and, perhaps, paved way for movies similar to them.

I think Schindler’s List is a perfect film, but it certainly didn’t change the Oscar game by winning an award everyone knew it was going to win anyway. Point is, this isn’t a list of the best films that have won the top prize, but rather the ones that broke the most barriers, for better or worse.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Why 25th Hour is the Most Important Film Ever Made About 9/11


Today is a lot of things. For many, it’s treated as a date of reflection. And because my general reflection on most everything somehow manages to fuse film into my thought process, I thought this would be a good opportunity to explain with Spike Lee’s 25th Hour is the most important film ever made about 9/11.

Monday, September 10, 2012

My Favorite Scene: the Silence of Tarantino


Quentin Tarantino’s films are known for many things: rapid-fire dialogue exchanges, operatic profanity, sneakily long takes, ceaseless pop culture references, and so on. All of these techniques have been discussed and dissected and scrutinized endlessly, but what rarely gets mentioned is Tarantino’s precise and beautifully timed bouts of silence.

Now, I don’t mean that every audio track on the soundtrack goes mute, but rather the character on screen falls silent. Below are three examples (and, subsequently, my favorite moment from each film) in which a character in a Tarantino film perfectly flexed the art of thinking. They say nothing, but they’re saying everything.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Lawless


Lawless is a western we’ve seen a dozen times over. That isn’t meant to sound like an indictment. More of a challenge, really.

See, if a movie with a story as old as the genre itself is brave enough to be subjected to criticism, then it better present its tale with heavy doses of revisionist flavor. If not, then we’re likely to become (and stay) bored. And as gently and accurately as I can put it, John Hillcoat’s Lawless is a fresh mix of both of those notions. Its story is tired, but its execution is refreshing, resulting in utter indifference. From me, anyway.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Imposter


The Imposter is the kind of film that, because of how well it is made and precisely it is executed, has the rare ability of redefining the documentary art form. At 99 minutes long, there isn’t a wasted sentence of juxtaposition or faltered cut in editing – everything works and flows as well as any recounted documentary of recent memory. It is, in a word, revelatory.

Bart Layton’s film (which, for the record, will certainly be on the shortlist for Oscar consideration) tells the story of how a teenage Texas boy resurfaced in Spain after disappearing three years earlier.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

In Character: Michael Clarke Duncan


I suppose I just thought everything was okay. That’s the world we live in. We hear news that a celebrity has had a heart attack, and once he’s said to be recovering steadily, we move on. Maybe it’d be wiser to speak for myself, but anyway I shape it, I’m goddamn sad that gentle giant Michael Clarke Duncan has left us.

Passing away yesterday as a result of the heart attack in had in July, Duncan is yet another well-revered celeb that has left far too soon. Although the majority of his many credits limit him to his massive physique, there are several roles in which Duncan was given a chance to flex all he had.

His acting was filled with the compassion and sincerity that was so apparent in how he chose to live his life. He will most certainly be missed.

Monday, September 3, 2012

15 Movies I’m Looking Forward to This Fall


This fall is shaping up to be as excellent as last year’s. Some seriously heavy hitters have flicks in the can that are circling the festival circuit, while others are saving their Oscar-friendly bait for the months ahead. Either way, I think we have some glorious movie months before us.

As a means of accompanying my previous post of the best that 2012 has offered so far, here’s what I’m most looking forward to from now until year’s end. Release dates are based on U.S. limited engagements. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Best of 2012 So Far


Every year, directly before the golden months of Oscar season take hold, I like to list the best films and performances I’ve seen so far into the year.

What’s interesting is, come January, seeing how many films on this list will remain part of my Top 10 of the entire year. By September of last year, I had seen The Trip, The Double Hour, The Tree of Life, and Incendies, all of which I hailed as one of the best films of 2011 as a whole.

Here’s what (and who) I’ve seen so far this year that I’ve loved. There’s a lot of repetition, but any way I look at it, out the films I’ve seen, these are the best. Titles link to my initial reviews.