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Welcome. I am Caley Middleton and this is a glimpse into my world. You'll see what I see, defile what I defile, eat who I eat. I really can't fathom why you'd stop by, but if you do please leave comments! I absolutely crave, attention.

Saturday, July 31, 2004

The Best Movies of 2003.
(Part 1)

The problem I find with Best of lists, is that they are always restricted to December/January. They're good informing you what's out there, but pretty impossible to compare with. Especially when you live in a town like Kelowna. I believe that something like 4 out of Ebert and Roeper's Top Ten of 2003, actually made it to theatres here before their list was announced. So, instead of restricting my list to the movies that just happened to make it to Kelowna before the end of 2003, I thought it best to hold off on my list until I had a chance to cover most of the films of 2003 that I'd wanted to see. Now, some movies I had to shoehorn into 2003. Whenever possible I went by release dates or else the date of Roger Ebert's reviews. Ultimately, though, I didn't want to slight any movies I felt were deserving of praise, just because they weren't available the previous years, so don't go all crazy and yell at me for picking movies that were "technically" released in 2002. I tried my best. Anyways, here are numbers 25 thru to 21.

25. 28 Days Later (Dir. By Danny Boyle). So, the apocalypse is brought on by hippies? I can dig it. Seriously, though, this one of the best horror/zombie movies I have ever seen. I’m not a big fan of the genre, but this was really good, with some really neat touches. The story goes that some environmentalists try to free some lab animals and unwittingly destroy all of the world in the process by unleashing a killer virus. Jim (played by Cillian Murphy), wakes up in a hospital, and finds no one left. He eventually gets attacked by some virus-sufferers (but for the purpose of the rest of this write-up they will be referred to as zombies from now on), and is saved by Selena (Naomie Harris) and Mark (Noah Huntley). Eventually, after hooking up with some other survivors, they follow a radio signal and hopefully toward more survivors, but more likely toward more trouble! Seriously, though, this is a very good film. In particular one scene toward the start where Jim walks though a deserted London as a song by Godspeed You Black Emperor swells to a mesmerizing crescendo. A very good soundtrack, some funny elements, but ultimately a disturbing, creepy horror film, that’s more than worth the viewing.

24. City of Ghosts (Dir. By Matt Dillon). Not so much a film as a travelogue of sunny Cambodia. Maybe, not a great one, as I can’t see what would motivate one to visit Cambodia after seeing this, what with the thugs, prostitutes, crooked French eatery owners, thieving monkeys, and bad hotels. But, I enjoyed this one. It has a great soundtrack, highlighted by a Cambodian rendition of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides. This is the story of Jimmy (played by Dillon), a con man involved in an insurance scam with Marvin (the always fascinating James Caan), who has to flee to Cambodia in order to evade the authorities and get his share of the profits. Of course, everything goes wrong. The scenes of the captured prisoners begging for their life and being tortured has grown in creepy resonance in the wake of the videos we’ve seen as of late out of Iraq. But, the plot is really second rate compared with watching some very talented actors (the aforementioned Dillon and Caan, joined by Gerard Depardieu, Stellan Skarsgard, Natasha McElhone and newcomer Kem Sereyvuth) create some very intriguing characters, in particular Depardieu’s Emile who runs an eatery and tosses out bad seeds while carrying his children, and seeing a part of the world not often seen outside of war movies.

23. How to Deal (Dir. By Clare Kilner). I figured that the reason I enjoyed this was solely because Mandy Moore is pretty, and fun to watch as an actress. But, I now have to give some credit to Director Kilner, as well as the film, itself, after seeing the awful Chasing Liberty, which also starred Moore and had me praying for some of the neat touches or fun of this film. How To Deal tells the story of Halley (Moore) a high-schooler with divorced parents who has a rather, not entirely undeserving cynical view of love. Gradually, she’s worn down by free spirit Macon (Trent Ford), and finds herself falling for him...for a while. This is not a “G reat” film, but it is fun. Moore is her usual loveable self, but is supported by a fine cast that includes Allison Janney, Alexandra Holden, and Dylan Baker. The is also an amazing shot outside of funeral in the rain. The film is not without its flaws, especially the irritating Grandmother abusing her medicinal marijuana who embodies every terrible stoner stereotype perpetrated by Cheech and Chong, but is ultimately fun, surprisingly touching, and not a bad way to spend your time.

22. Elephant (Dir. By Gus Van Sant). Van Sant’s Elephant is a hard film to pin down. It’s a recreation of a day in a high school that ultimately erupts into a shooting, just like the Columbine murders. The best word to describe Elephant would be ‘sparse’, there is not an abundance of dialogue or music, the performances are solid but unspectacular, not surprising considering the parts are all played by non-actors that Van Sant cast, and the film is very careful not to offer up explanations, reasons, or answers. It does show the eventual killers playing violent video games, but does not make it clear whether the games motivate their violence, or their inclination toward violence motivates their interest in the games. It’s an abosluttely beautifully shot film with long tracking shots that make the school look like an absolute cavern, which is how it often feels for a number of these students. It is all at once, beautiful, amusing, but finally disturbing. Yet, I still remain on the fence about it. In an interview, Van Sant said that he didn’t know what motivated the killers in Columbine to do what they did, so how could he attribute motives to the killers in his movie. While I applaud his courage, I remain unsure of whether or not that was the right way to make a film about Columbine. When you don’t lay some blame or responsibility in a film of this nature, you run the risk of glorifying what happened. While I found Elephant to be disturbing, there remains the possibility that future school shooting perpetrators might find the film inspiring or the glorification that they themselves seek.

21. Bubba Ho-tep (Dir. By Don Coscarelli). Utterly ridiculous and weird, while at the same time quite funny, and, surprisingly touching. Bubba Ho-tep rests on the principle that Elvis (played here by the incomparable Bruce Campbell) never died, rather, he switched places with an Elvis impersonator because the fame became too much for him. With an agreement in place to switch back whenever he wanted, what the real Elvis didn’t know is that the impersonator had a bad heart. Now, Elvis spends his days in an old folks’ home, pining for his libido. That would be a hard enough plot pill for some to swallow, but when you add in that Elvis’ best friend is an aging black man (Ossie Davis) who claims to be John F. Kennedy, but they dyed him black, and that they do battle with a mummy who is terrorizing their rest home, it’s a challenge for anyone to take seriously. But, the movie isn’t simply about being absurd. Davis and Campbell play their characters as humans rather than caricatures. However, the biggest shock to me is that the mummy actually looks good! With a silly storyline, such as this, it would be easy to aim for cheesy, and put a guy in a campy, old-fashioned suit, but, instead, the movie provides a pretty scary-looking villain (even when his dialogue is not). So, yeah, this movie is not going to appeal to everyone, but if you chuckled once in reading this outline, than there is a pretty darn good chance you will enjoy the movie.


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Dude, where's my czar?
-Actualy category this week on Jeopardy
Inspired by Sean, here are some of my best-ofs, thus far, for this year.
Top 6 Albums
6. Piebald, All Ears, All Eyes, All the Time  {Not as good as 'We Are The Only Friends That We Have", but what is, really?  This album is still quite good, and will likely still squeak into my top ten at the end of the year, catchy, fun poppy punky}
5.  The Streets, A Grand Don't Come For Free  {This album flip flops for me.  Sometimes, I find it to be a pretty damned fun concept album, at other times I find it to be 60-70% unlistenable}
4. Various, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Soundtrack  {Normally, I don't include soundtracks in these things, and I probably won't by the end of the year, but I thought it deserved some recognition.  The very last song (called something like Elephant Parade or something) is probably the prettiest 26 seconds I will hear all year.}
3. Wilco, A Ghost Is Born {This makes it here largely on the heels of the opening song "At Least That's What You Said" which is just amazingly good.  Now, I haven't listened to this album since the week I bought it, but I'm sure I will revisit it soon.  It really is good, I think}
2. Kanye West, The College Dropout  {The first I heard of Kanye was "All Falls Down" which frankly, I found to be pretty dull.  Then, I heard "Jesus Walks" and became all turned around on the subject of Kanye.  This is probably my favourite hip hop album since Jay-Z's Blueprint 2: The Gift and the Curse, something which probably means nothing to you, but lots to me.  Don't be surprised to see this have risen to my favourite album of the year, by the end of this year.}
1. Modest Mouse, Good News For People Who Like Bad News  {Modest Mouse always underwhelmed me in the past.  The Moon and Antarctica was a good album with a great song (The Stars Are Projectors), but I hardly ever revisit it, and it would be doubtful that it would sneak into my top 50 of all time.  Again, though, Modest Mouse have ridden the wave of a great song (Float On), but this time they surround it with a stellar album.  There are a couple tracks on here that I would probably, given the option, chuck by the wayside.  But so far, this year, no other album screams "Album of the Year" like this one.
There are a number of albums I'm looking forward to hearing, and could definitely take over this list.  Some are out already and I just can't find them here, others are supposedly to come.  Some of these include: Phoenix, Last Days of April, Interpol, Sigur Ros, The Album Leaf, Jimmy Eat World.
I should be back sooner rather than later, maybe even tonight if I get the chance. With a list of my top 5 movies of this year, and amended Top 10s from last year, and maybe even, fingers crossed, a top 50 album and top 50 movies of all time list.  Lists are fun.  Maybe this time I can offer a little better commentary on all of them.  Anyways, my dad wants me to go help him buy some cement, so I'm gonna make like a tree and get the hell out of here.