No Particular Order: Pop Culture Things I’m Thankful For

Hello all and Happy Thanksgiving! Since I’m not doing a whole lot to celebrate the holiday, I’d like to put forth a few recent (or in some cases, not so recent, perhaps) film and television events and items that I’m very thankful for, as random as some of them may seem. Enjoy!

The Knick 

The Knick (which I’m one episode away from finishing season 1 of, so no spoilers in the comments and no making fun of me for being a very slow and lazy bingewatcher, either!) is one of my favorite new shows. I know it caused some derision, with many questioning whether Steven Soderbergh’s talents were well used or if the show was just an aesthetically pretentious repackaging of familiar tropes and character types. But, I think the show is gripping, disturbing, darkly and drearily beautiful, sophisticated, and fascinating as a look at barbaric, turn of the century medicine, in all its corrupt and cocaine addicted glory.

-go1_-_1080The camera’s movement, the tones and colors, and especially that eerie synth music that seems so ill-fitting and yet somehow works so well, all make the show a cinematic masterpiece of a serial drama, and even if Clive Owen’s Thackery seems to be a cookie cutter male antihero at times, he also plays the part extremely well.

3rd Rock from the Sun on Hulu

I watched this show a lot as a kid but a lot of its double entendres and brilliant observations about humanity’s stupidity were lost on me until now. I’m marathoning it on Hulu and the one thing that is really blowing me away (besides how truly hilarious the show was in general) is the gender critique in much of it– Sally, played by Kristen Johnston, was not a “women” on their home planet, and when she asks why she had to be the woman coming to earth, Dick (John Lithgow) says that she “lost.”


This is among many keen, critical observations of the social constructs surrounding gender that, logically, don’t fully make sense to these aliens, particularly Sally. She is forced to do “girly” jobs, is ignored by mechanics, and is denied simple soap by a cosmetic seller. She’s trying to understand gender and the differences between women and men by being thrown headfirst into the ridiculous regimes and expectations that (often unnecessarily) come with womanhood.”Why is my body so much higher maintenance than yours?” “The economy relies on it.” Indeed, it does.

The Pitch Perfect 2 and Jurassic World Trailer Premieres

I know I used to do Preview Review posts to talk about trailers, but these two deserve a place in this post while they’re fresh in my mind. I loved both trailers and know these two films will be my most anticipated releases of next summer.


Pitch Perfect 2‘s trailer made me giddy and ready for more catchy, catty fun– the Bellas are back and competing in the world championships, which means… a German rival team! (And my favorite YouTube star, Flula!) The aca-remix of Cups was a great way of easing into the rest of the trailer, which of course, get’s more epic and fun as it goes on. I really hope this sequel meets all the high expectations out there, because I’m not the only one who is aca-excited for this movie.

Watch here


Likewise, I think everyone is highly anticipating Jurassic World. Chris Pratt will no doubt be amazing in it, and the special effects look top-notch as to be expected– the shot in this trailer of the dinosaur leaping for his bait– a dangling shark– is just plain awesome. I’m such a fan of these movies and cannot wait for this one.

Watch here

And This Classic Fake Trailer Courtesy of Eli Roth


Ah, the Thanksgiving trailer from Grindhouse. I love this thing, and watch it every year on Thanksgiving– let’s face it, there are Christmas movies and Christmas HORROR movies. Heck, there are even slasher films that take place on Valentine’s Day and Prom Night. But no movies– not many of any kind– that are set around Thanksgiving. So logically, this hypothetical horror film is amazing. I don’t necessarily wish it were real, but I sure am thankful it exists.

Watch here

Well, thank you all for reading this random hodgepodge of pop culture stuff that I’m into right now and thus thankful for on a day like today! I am, above all else, thankful for you, dear readers and followers! Thanks as always for your patience and interest in my posts!

No Particular Order: Favorite Unconventional Romance Movies

In honor of Valentine’s Day, a totally socially constructed and commercialized holiday to remind couples to spoil each other and to incite single people to spoil themselves, I wanted to make a No Particular Order post that reflected the kind of off-beat, genre-blending (and bending), atypical romance movies that I often most gravitate towards. I’m not saying that more conventional romances are by any means inherently or automatically less worthy, but I do feel like that’s too simple and predictable an approach to take here, while on the other hand, if I were to make an anti-Valentine’s post entirely, that too would prove to be more than a little trite, wouldn’t you say? So, for the sake of compromise and specificity, here are my favorite unconventional romance movies!

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)


Okay so maybe I’m lying in this case when I say “no particular order,” because Eternal Sunshine is my all time favorite movie ever, so you’ll have to excuse the bias and my cheating in this way. This film is, to me, the ultimate romance somehow. Michel Gondry’s distinctly imaginative, hypnotic and strange style of direction paired with Charlie Kaufman’s witty and beautiful script coalesce into something altogether magical, colorful, and more or less science-fiction, but with an undercurrent of painful and nuanced realism to the film as well. It begs the question of what our memories mean to us or should mean to us or even what they serve to teach us, and if given the chance to erase them and start anew, would we end up on the same paths regardless? It is a non-linear tale of love but also of fate.

This sense of inevitability and whimsy is off-set by Joel’s memories of Clementine, memories which are often the least glamorous and most mundane aspects of a relationship, but it is precisely those moments of banality that seem to carry with them that much more weight– this is the film that taught me that maybe love isn’t so much a fairy tale but maybe it is after all eating at the same Chinese restaurant or pretending to suffocate each other with a pillow as a game. Even the memories themselves, as aesthetically experimental as they may be, are stylized in a way that makes them feel like they really are being played out in someone’s mind precisely as they’re shown to us. It is this balance of surreal, quirky fantasy of the film’s formal elements (that often come with the fictional procedure to erase precious memories), and the antithetical reality found within and outside of those memories: falling into a rut with someone only to fall in love with them all over again as if it were meant to be together all along. Plus, Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet give my favorite performances of their careers in this movie.

The Adjustment Bureau (2011)


Another romance that dabbles in science-fiction, I find this film to be mostly underrated. There are aspects of it that are admittedly silly (like hats and doors and rain), but as a sucker for the overall theme of fate, I really love this movie. I think Matt Damon and Emily Blunt have surprisingly good chemistry together and their dialogue as they get to know and like each other is, again, oddly real. And the premise– that our destinies can be set and further adjusted– is a fascinating thing to find our protagonists up against as they fall in love and, in doing so, jeopardize the very futures that have been determined for them already. It is suspenseful– with chases that bend time and space– and yet really truly romantic too, both traditionally so and also fittingly in the supernatural context and stakes, stakes which are thought-provoking but also immensely entertaining. I mean, watching Damon– who is at his most likable in this role, I’d say– do everything he can to make his own destiny against impossible odds to get the girl is probably the most romantic thing I can think of. And again, even while some of the science-fiction storytelling elements are less brilliant or sophisticated than they perhaps could have been, I think it is an otherwise well-done blending of two seemingly opposed genres.

(500) Days of Summer (2009)


The ultimate indie romance, this movie was best for me at a particular time and place in my life and I’ve since grown apart from it slightly, but I can still earnestly say it was one of the most unique and brilliant films I’d ever seen at that time. Say what you may about Zooey Deschanel’s manic pixie dream girl being unrealistic and problematic here, there was something empowering about the film at large in the way it ended (spoiler alert: Tom, played by the charming Joseph Gordon-Levitt, doesn’t get the girl– or at least, not the girl you think he will in a conclusion that is at once cheesy but also really unexpected). Another element I’ll always love about this film is that it too is non-linear. We see the stages of this relationship at high points and low points sometimes one right after another. Also, Marc Webb’s music video sensibilities are evident here: the scene where we are given a split screen view of expectations versus reality is formally playful but also unbelievably emotionally poignant. Even narrative or visual experimentation aside, the film has a kind of musicality to it, with a palpable but changing rhythm and a great soundtrack to carry it.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

ImageThis film is perhaps the most traditionally romantic of all my picks but there’s something about the temporal nature of love and the different forms it must take and go through as we age and grow that is so elegantly handled in this film. This is the movie that made me love David Fincher as a director, and I think I was enchanted by this film for a number of reasons. Visually, it is stunning– a sprawling and grandiose fairy tale but whose story is still, I would argue, far less idyllic than its tone would seem to suggest at times. From the very start, you know Daisy and Benjamin cannot stay together as long as an average couple could logically could– Benjamin, of course, is aging backwards which would put a damper on the whole courtship, wouldn’t it?

But that tension is what makes their love so endearing and heartbreaking to watch even during the portions of the film where their ages overlap and their stages of life do temporarily correspond. Because Benjamin, while aging, is getting younger and younger on the outside. Even when their romance must necessarily end, their love never does; Daisy takes care of Benjamin as he regresses into a child-like form physically but with the conditions of an old man, caring for him through bouts of dementia and acne simultaneously. Despite their obvious obstacles, their love seems essentially eternal and undying, and as cheesy as that may seem in comparison with my other choices on this list, it is its execution which I find to be so singular and powerful and meaningful in a way that more straightforward romances could never quite capture in the same way.

I think that is precisely why I love seemingly unconventional romances– the way they play with tropes of other genres as well as those more characteristically romantic tropes seems to really bring out the romance that much more. Maybe because those latter tropes are set against something else that contrasts and elevates them, or perhaps because the stakes are that much higher; either way, I always found these films to be more noteworthy than many of the cookie cutter romance films we are given, and often much more romantic too.

No Particular Order: Favorite Teen Movies

Inspired by watching Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982) with my friends last night, I thought it might be fun to compile a No Particular Order of my favorite raunchy, fun, smart teen films or movies that at least take place in a high school setting, since it is such a popular sort of set up at this point.

The list is pretty varied (in fact, one barely fits the generic markers other than its setting and cast of characters, but it was too good to not include) basically because I wanted to acknowledge and encompass some classics, but without being too predictable or redundant, so no John Hughes on this list unfortunately! But I hope you read on and enjoy my picks anyway!

Superbad (2007)


This is the ultimate teen sex comedy for the Apatow generation of movie-goers. It perfectly brings together the hormonal debauchery of teenage boys who are on the desperate brink of their transition from high school to college, with something more meaningful (maybe) than the humor that ensues from that; it’s a film that doesn’t just think with its libido, is what I’m saying, but also with its head and heart (at least sometimes). I think Jonah Hill, Michael Cera and Christopher Mintz-Plasse, along with Seth Rogen (who co-wrote the film with Evan Goldberg), Bill Hader and Emma Stone in scene-stealing supporting roles, are really responsible for this balance and I can’t imagine the film without their specific comedic sensibilities.

It’s a film which I’ve seen so many times and yet can watch over and over again still– there’s something about it that has just always felt classic and which has remained satisfying and wonderfully quotable even as I exited my own teenage years with no such adventures. Plus, it has given us some of the most uproariously and well-executed obscene high jinks in a teen movie ever, which again, really speaks to a larger canon of raunchy films in recent years but perfectly places those trends into a high school party setting and its pubescent set of circumstances.

Easy A (2010)


Easy A is even more smart and modern in some ways and makes a nod to the very fact that its main character– Olive, played by the incomparable Emma Stone in what is now considered to be her big breakout role– is not having the quintessential 80’s teen-movie experience. That’s probably why I love this movie so much though; it’s so witty and mature and its heroine is one of the most intelligent and funny we’ve ever been given in a movie of this kind since maybe Juno (but that’s also a loaded statement and problematic comparison, perhaps), embodied so perfectly by Stone’s usual sarcastic, subversive charm.

The narrative is framed through video blogging which is interesting and timely and also gives us the sense that our Olive has already learned some lessons and wants to teach them to anyone willing to listen, but the high school experience that has taught her these lessons seems just as nosy and toxic as ever here, while still somehow functioning within a plot that otherwise feels fresh and new. This movie never ceases to make me laugh, but it also succeeds at making us think about sex and rumors and judgments just enough, in a way that is refreshing and probably really important for its target audience.

Mean Girls (2004)


Speaking of importance, I’d argue that as endlessly enjoyable and quotable as this movie is, it is also the most groundbreaking within the genre (if we’re considering this to be a concrete genre anyway) and so crucial for the millennial Queen-Bees-and-Wannabes generation of teens to see, if not for the more significant messages and morals to be gleaned about catty teen girls and other assorted cliques, then certainly for the pop cultural powerhouse it has become today, ten years after its release.

Like Heathers for the 1980’s and Clueless for the 1990’s, Mean Girls gave teenage girls (and boys, even) a cruel and cautionary tale about vicious social sorting under the guise of humor; humor which is in this specific case laced with Tina Fey’s brilliant sense of scripting and timing, and which has become particularly memorable, iconic and beloved. This is Lindsay Lohan at her comedic prime too, with wonderful performances all around as she navigates a different kind of jungle than her home-schooled-in-Africa character Cady had been accustomed to at the film’s start. I think this movie is undeniably enjoyable but also more respectable than I wonder if some people realize today when they quote it with their friends, myself totally included in that.

 10 Things I Hate About You (1999)


In my personal opinion, the 90’s were really the decade where teen comedies as we might know them today really came into their own– I love John Hughes as much as the next person (well, perhaps not quite enough to squeeze any of his classics into this list, actually), but when I think of teen movies, I really do think of 10 Things I Hate About You. She’s The Man similarly tried to (and mostly succeeded) adapt a Shakespeare play (Twelfth Night) into high school terms, but it’s got nothing on its predecessor which adapted The Taming of the Shrew into those terms seamlessly and adorably.

The high school setting does not detract whatsoever from the spirit of misunderstanding, mismatches, and general silliness that Shakespeare’s comedies often exhibited; in fact, they come across with a pleasant, almost gleeful sense of innocence and charisma. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t also love watching it as a retrospective look at late 90’s fashion or more importantly for the sheer pleasure derived from some of the more silly but famous scenes the film boasts– in particular the many cute, romantic moments shared between Heath Ledger and Julia Stiles.

The Faculty (1998)


This is the item of my list which I referred to in my introduction, because it is clearly the black sheep of the bunch. This film is one of the first sort of horror/sci-fi comedies I’d ever seen growing up, and I loved it because it is fundamentally teens against adults, teachers in particular (all of whom have been taken over by evil aliens whom the students must defeat by working together). That in itself sets this film apart structurally from the rest– this film is about characteristically different teenagers coming together and fighting a mutual evil instead of the ever-typical stories that highlight, perhaps rightly so though, teenagers’ differences. Something I think these movies do all have in common at least to varying degrees and in obviously very different manifestations is the eventual coming together despite the previously-normalized high school social code that prevented them from doing so without some kind of catalyst. Even Superbad, though its ending is ambiguous somewhat, makes us feel like college won’t come between best friends Seth and Evan, and in Easy A, not everything is necessarily fixed fully but Olive is clearly making strides for everyone in what we hope and feel as viewers to be the right direction.

Anyway, what makes The Faculty so fun and so necessary for my list (beyond my genre bias) is definitely the campy quality that comes with putting this science-fiction foe into a high school context where, obviously, that is not usually the issue at all, and every teenage character here is surprisingly three dimensional and interesting as we watch them battle some pretty ridiculous, silly, scary aliens. The cast is great too, including Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood and John Stewart as one of the teachers. I love this movie, and the fact that it took place among teenagers in a high school made it qualify for my teen movie list. I hope my leaving John Hughes out is forgiven and that my choices were still hip, cool, and all-the-rage enough for everyone reading this.

No Particular Order: Contagion/Virus Films!

This list is a tribute to the five best films I can think of that make us fearful of our fellow moviegoers coughing a few seats away from us, in honor of this month’s upcoming indie horror flick from Eric England, Contracted, about a sexually transmitted… well, something horrific. I figure it’s appropriate even in the midst of The Walking Dead’s current “glorified cold,” as Glenn calls it.

Contagion (2011)


This film is Steven Soderbergh at his star-studded finest. He creates a tense and dramatic spectacle through his own stylistic choices but even more so thanks to his talented cast and their seamlessly intersecting subplots. This film makes my skin crawl with how realistic the horror of this disease really is, what it drives people to do, and the gripping mystery of where it even started. Like 1995’s Outbreak (which I would include separately on this list except I cannot remember enough to really talk about it as great length), the race between science against time never becomes easier to watch, but Soderbergh makes it entertaining at least as well.

28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later (2002 & 2007)


I decided to group these two together because in a way, I see them as two halves of a whole (despite the first being considered far more classic and revolutionary and not as concerned with playing by typical horror trope rules as the sequel). I think they both have merit, though, as zombie films and infection films. The fact that these zombies aren’t really undead but rather that they’re sick and ravenous and can run faster than they probably could while they were alive makes them super terrifying. And yet, the military state that we find ourselves in, as we often do during apocalypses of course, is perhaps the scariest aspect of either film.

Cabin Fever (2002)


Eli Roth was already in fine form here, giving the middle finger to the cabin-in-the-woods subgenre in the form of a disturbing and grotesque flesh eating virus. A particular scene of note would make any female cringe at the mere thought of shaving her legs. Plus, Eli Roth’s dark sense of humor helps us stay with the story, as paranoid or disgusted we may become.

Carriers (2009)


When I rented this little-movie-that-could, I was expecting the usual zombie apocalypse story. What I got instead was far more dark and nuanced, an expertly paced drama set merely against a horror backdrop. This story of friends fleeing a pandemic they soon realize is far more dangerous and inescapable than they feared, is emotional and avoids a lot of the things its genre usually demands in terms of structure, effects, and scares, but is satisfying nonetheless or perhaps because of this generic subversion.

Well that’s all folks! An honorable mention would be 2010’s The Crazies remake, but seeing as it isn’t really a clear cut disease, I left it out (despite it being a really worthy and genuinely creepy film).

No Particular Order: Halloween Edition!

Welcome to this special edition of No Particular Order in honor of my favorite holiday: Halloween!

There were many directions in which I could have taken this post– favorite horror movies, most underrated horror movies, scariest horror movies, etc. But I wanted the challenge of picking a few films which I deem perfect for Halloween but which won’t alienate your non-horror-fan friends. So, hopefully I’ll have picked a diverse little collection here of films that can act as perfect compromises, for those of you wondering what to watch tomorrow, that won’t bore the gore-lovers but which won’t gross out the more faint of heart which coexist in your group.

Creepshow (1982)


Written by Stephen King and directed by George A. Romero, this film is at once silly and scary and masterfully made if the masters were having fun with their work of course. Comprised of short stories which carry with them the legacy of cheesy horror comic books (which the overall structure of the film was trying to mimic), this movie still amuses me to this day in its gleeful representation of horror. Its special effects are just creepy enough to please people like me, who genuinely enjoy seeing a corpse tell us he got his cake, but also over-the-top enough to be seen as comedic, like harmless Halloween decorations brought to life. I will say, though, that the tales which are the most genuinely terrifying are those in which these effects are not relied on so heavily, such as the final segment which is enough to make anyone squeamish. So that is something to keep in mind. But overall, I think a film that is broken up so intentionally like this and which doesn’t take itself so seriously really lends itself to being a throwback, vintage tale of terror that can easily be accepted by just about anyone.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)


This film was my favorite as a child, the VHS nearly wearing out from my repeated viewings. So my opinion might be a little biased due to nostalgia, which I think is better than if my opinion had grown more jaded upon the film’s recent surge of merchandising. Anyway, this movie is perfect for Halloween but also for Christmas if your holiday film taste edges more toward the eclectic. I love this film for either holiday; it is appropriate for children, sure, but it’s also so dark and its whimsy so Gothic in nature, that anyone can love it, really. The way Halloween is represented in the film through the town and its characters is like an homage to the holiday, both its kitsch and its traditions. For all the effort and imagination that that took alone, not to mention that which the beloved songs and stop-motion fluidity required as well, I will always respect and enjoy this movie wholeheartedly.

Zombieland (2009)


In my humble opinion, this is a flawless film. Its script is witty. Its direction is just highly stylized enough for humor and effect (I mean, who doesn’t want their zombie survival rules to pop up on screen like that, or to see our protagonists destroy an outpost in semi-slow motion?) The cast (and cameo) is talented and just oozing with chemistry. This is a zombie comedy that gets everything right, and never forsakes one of those terms for the sake of over-emphasizing the other, and in fact, the two kind of aid each other, which is a rare and difficult feat for horror comedy genre hybrids in general. But in what other movie could we see a zombie kill of the week that is so hilarious and brutal that everyone watching is equally satisfied?

Shaun of the Dead (2004)


Working backwards to Edgar Wright’s first Cornetto trilogy installment, this is the original zombie comedy, with romance in it as well. The humor is as sly and odd as any other British comedy, but again, the zombies really add a component to the human interactions that makes them all the more hilarious, with higher stakes and certainly stranger contexts. To have an entire sequence involving hitting a zombie with billiard sticks to the precise beat of a Queen song coming from a jukebox within the story space was irreverent and brilliant. And above all, we really care about these characters. They can be stubborn and naive but with so much heart, that the zombies become simultaneously part of the joke as well as a true threat. In that way, the film is effective no matter what level you’re connecting with it on, because it does so well with incorporating and really respecting each genre it was marketed under.

Beetlejuice (1988)


One of my favorite things, and partly why I wanted to make this list as opposed to a straightforward horror movie list, is when horror tropes and images are made silly, morphed and transformed into something that is a humorously skewed self-reference. For me, Tim Burton’s Beetlejuice does this effortlessly and in fact relies on it for the duration of the film. Everything from Geena Davis and Alec Baldwin distorting their own faces for a terrifying effect, to the DMV-like space in the afterlife where they seek advice, come across as funny precisely because of how creepy it could have been when you truly think about it. To make horror into comedy as opposed to merely combining them takes innovation and perhaps a sick sense of humor, but the effect is one that is perfect for Halloween viewing; a kind of chilling but mostly nonsensical representation of things that could very well have been frightening. By making these things into part-homage, part-parody creates common ground between people who happily recognize the ideas being referenced and spoofed, and those who can now process those same ideas as something safe, now that they fall within a language of comedy that they can approach without fear.

I hope these recommendations are helpful and I especially wish everyone a happy Halloween! For those of you who were perhaps expecting a strictly horror movie post, you’ll just have to stick around and keep reading my blog; those kinds of topics come around far more often here, seeing as I need no holiday as an excuse to think them up! But seeing as Halloween can mean a lot of different things for different people, I thought I’d give my picks for some favorite films that are appropriate but more diverse in their genres as well. Enjoy!

No Particular Order: NY Comic-Con Edition!

Hello all!

I do apologize to any readers/followers for my brief hiatus: my two major undergrad research papers on horror films have been taking up a great deal of time, energy and overall brain capacity these past few weeks.

This weekend, though, I finally get to have a little break, thanks to NY Comic-Con! This is the biggest nerdfest of the year (besides its bigger counterpart in San Diego, of course) and you all should know by now that I mean this in the most endearing way possible. For this very belated edition of No Particular Order, I’d like to countdown my favorite pop culture things (television shows, specifically) that often make their way into the panel halls or onto the show floor, in preparation for this crazy weekend!

The Walking Dead


This past summer, after frequent nagging from people who claimed that “if anyone should be watching and loving this show, it should be you, Sara;” I mean, it has zombies, and everyone considers me to be the zombie aficionado (which is a weird thing to claim, perhaps). So clearly I was delayed, and I admit that. But after binge watching all three seasons, I was officially a fan: a mega-hooked, overly obsessive fan. I find everything about it nearly perfect, particularly the action-packed third season, during which I often found myself yelling, crying, and even laughing. I’m more than a little pumped to see the massive increase of walkers in the fourth season, premiering this Sunday on AMC. The characters grow more interesting and engaging and even those you hate end up being beloved, usually too late though (no spoilers here, but you know who I’m referring to if you watch the show). I will also admit that what really hooked me once and for all was episode 6 of season 1 at the CDC. Then, we had the Shane/Rick drama, an emotional and gripping storyline, with Shane being one of the most fascinating and complicated television characters I have ever seen. Plus, I love that the human drama, as in the CDC episodes, really sometimes takes terrifying precedence over the walkers, who are of course awesomely scary on their own. Greg Nicotero is a master at what he does.

However, I will say that in terms of Comic-Con, this show and more specifically its panel is the pinnacle topic and event of the weekend and therefore I probably will be skipping it: I just don’t have the patience, as devoted as I may be to the series, to wait for hours on end to get into a panel room which, chances are, I probably won’t even be able to get into anyway because the true die-hards will probably be camping out in that room from morning until night for their seats. It’s unfair but I will cope by getting my hands on some great merchandise, and I’m definitely wearing my “Property of Daryl Dixon” tank on Sunday.

Comic Book Men


In all honesty, my favorite aspect of this show is Kevin Smith… well okay, that and I’ve been to the Secret Stash before and it is a great store, combining two of my nerdiest loves: comics and Kevin Smith movie merchandise and memorabilia. I love that the show is like a geekier version of Pawn Stars, and the fact that a customer once sold them a book which I own (“Marvel Origins”, except my copy is a lot more tattered) was way too surreal for me. I will admit that I don’t watch the show religiously, but I’m hoping to attend the panel and possibly meet Kevin Smith afterwards. He is one of my all-time film heroes, from Clerks to his more recent foray into genre work Red State and everything in between. Reading his book “Tough Shit” was oddly inspiring for me, and I think people take for granted that Smith is smart, daring, and true to himself. Plus, anyone willing to sell their comic book collection in order to finance a film about nothing and having it become a beloved cult classic is certainly worthy of my admiration.



This show is impeccable and I am hoping to attend its Q&A panel on day 2 this weekend. What I love most about this show is the pacing–  the way jokes are seamlessly weaved throughout each episode thanks to meticulously planned animated match-edits and the actors’ own rhythms, making these animated characters some of the craziest on television and their banter certainly some of the raunchiest. I also love how there is a certain layer of satirical intelligence pulsating beneath even the silliest of jokes or story lines. The cold war/spy humor, for instance, or the strange pop culture references, are always adding to the weird but hilarious vibe of the show.

Adult Swim: Robot Chicken and Children’s Hospital


I think the future of comedy, as cliche as it may be to predict such a thing, lies in short form shows like Robot Chicken and Children’s Hospital. Then again, the humor in both is off-beat to say the least, and the kind of rhythm I alluded to in terms of Archer‘s comedic style is lost in both of these shows: in fact, if you go in expecting something remotely traditional or even slightly cohesive, then you will just come back out confused and violated. The one thing all these shows have in common are their references to pop culture, both current and maybe not so current; anyone recall the episode of Children’s Hospital that directly paid a kind of parodying homage to Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing? Or perhaps you were watching Robot Chicken wondering where the action figures She-Ra and Skeletor and the Smurfs were being dug up and dusted off from. Likewise, both these shows, each approximately 12 minutes long per episode, rely on and gleefully exploit a kind of short attention span from their viewers. That isn’t to say that these shows don’t have their own kind of intellect; to be as reflexive and self-aware of the media around them and to use these influences in such a clever and spoofing manner takes some major creativity and guts. And for that, I love Seth Green, David Wain and Rob Corddry (the latter two of whom I met at last year’s Comic-Con).

The League


This final spot on my list goes to the FX show, The League, partly to really drive home the fact that Comic-Con has a little bit of everything for everyone. When I saw that the cast of this insanely funny comedy was going to be there on day 3 of the weekend, I was ecstatic but should not really have been phased: the convention’s extended reach to all areas of cult and mainstream pop culture of all mediums and genres really makes itself apparent with shows like this. I love the series because it is mindless mayhem and, believe it or not, you don’t actually have to know anything about football, fantasy or otherwise. The cast is probably what makes this show for me though, so again I’m very excited that they’ll be there for a Q&A style panel. I love Nick Kroll especially, his evil sarcasm offsetting the kind of naivete of characters like Taco, played with a dumb kind of whimsy by Jon Lajoie.

Well that’s all for now! I’m going to try to get back to blogging more frequently and regularly. But for now, here was my little TV taste of Comic-Con and I couldn’t be more excited to attend this year and maybe blog about it afterwards!

No Particular Order: Friday the 13th Edition!

In this edition of No Particular Order, I wanted to do something Friday the 13th related, but found it too difficult to simply name a few favorite horror films, even if I narrowed it down to a subgenre. Then, my good friend MariAnne made a brilliant suggestion– what if I picked 6 horror movies that, while I may love them a lot of course, aren’t necessarily as pressure and stress inducing as having to pick a definitive top 6 because they’d be picked with the main purpose of spelling out the word “Friday”

So here we go!

F: Final Destination (2000)


I loved this film when I first saw it ages ago now, before it became another franchise filled with increasingly over the top exercises in creative killings. But the first entry is still fresh and fun on its own as a twisted and intricately violent tale of death and those who cheat it.

R: Return of the Living Dead (1985)


This movie is the ultimate zom-com. I haven’t watched it in years now, but it was the film that pretty much made me love the zombie-comedy crossover genre. It is totally ridiculous, with punk rock zombies that moan for “braaaaains,” and it makes for a perfectly odd black sheep entry in a long line of zombie flicks that take themselves, comparably speaking, far too seriously.

I: Insidious (2010)


This film is just plain awesome; James Wan takes a fairly simple and formulaic Poltergeist story and makes it satisfyingly scary by revamping and complicating the elements we went in expecting, creeping us out relentlessly until the chilling end. This is a particularly important film on this list considering Insidious Chapter 2 premieres in theaters today!

D: The Descent (2005)


Okay this was a tough one; The Devil’s Rejects (2005) was my other option, and I love it dearly. Rob Zombie mastered the art of creepy and crude comic violence with this, the more accomplished film in his two part saga. However, for the sake of recommending the truly scarier film beginning with D, I had to go with The Descent. The slow build pays off in this below-ground creature feature, filled with some of the most terrifying monsters ever and some awesome female leads. A third honorable mention would have been the always entertaining Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell (2009).

A: Army of Darkness (1992)


Okay, so maybe this film wasn’t so much horror as it was pure hilariousness but I still love it as the sort of culminating film in Raimi’s Evil Dead trilogy. I really have nothing more to say about it that isn’t self explanatory, it is just that legendary and an obvious choice for me for the letter A.

Y: You’re Next (2013)


Read my review a few posts down for more information on what about this film is so wonderful, but more or less: it flips the home invasion genre on its head with humor and an eerie sense of ease and more or less meta self awareness. And it’s still in theaters so maybe a double feature with Insidious Chapter 2 is in order for anyone reading this post and looking for some hope for the genre’s future in our cinemas today.



No Particular Order: Favorite Contemporary Foreign Language Films PART 2!

So last week I narrowed down my favorite foreign films of recent years from 10 down to 5 and then realized, well yeah that made my writing the post a little less daunting but I certainly have some films I felt too guilty leaving out to not make a part two of this category.

Old Boy (Korea, 2003)


When I first saw this film, I was simultaneously mesmerized and horrified. It goes beyond the realm of schlock and shock in its totally silly violence and taboo themes riding in an undercurrent of mystery that crests only to leave the audience stunned and still wondering. I’m sure many will see the Spike Lee remake starring Josh Brolin, but I preemptively urge you to watch this original at least first if not instead. It deals with themes of memory, family, justice and revenge being the most overt of all, as our main character is left in an apartment-like cell for 15 years only to escape and not only figure out why he was left there but to also punish those who left him there. The film is artful and interesting, creepy and exciting, and not for those with weak stomachs but nonetheless can be considered a revenge-horror film for the ever so slightly more art house inclined.

Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (India, 2001)


This film is so much fun, if you happen to have nearly 4 hours to spare. It is, if I’m not mistaken, one of the few if not only “Bollywood” films nominated for the best foreign language film Oscar. That’s a big deal! And it is worthy, trust me. This film cannot be described as anything other than epic; it retains that characteristic Bollywood excess, song and dance but it adds a component of underdog sports story to the plot and tone by centering the fairy tale with a cricket challenge to the Imperialist British. It will make you cheer, laugh, cry, and maybe even hum along if you’re into that sort of thing.

All About My Mother (Spain, 1999)


Almodovar may be an acquired taste but this film is so rich and varied and emotional that I’d be surprised to find someone who thought it was still too over the top for their liking. At this juncture in his career, Almodovar has provided us with a film about acting and pretending and all the roles we play, femininity and what it means to be a woman and a mother, as well as AIDS, choices, and children. It is a film which feels, for lack of a better word, complete, like we have been taken on a journey with these women who comprise the ensemble. And the journey is, par for the course, more enriching than the destination, but that isn’t to say that it doesn’t still take us somewhere by the conclusion nevertheless.

Beau Travail (France, 1999)


This film is about an ex-Foreign Legion officer recalling his life leading troops in Africa, and his odd relationship with one such soldier. Claire Denis is a disciplined master of each little thing in the film, which is what makes the fractured and oddly paced work so interesting to watch, making the male gaze into female gaze and giving us the most insane ending to a film, more like a coda, than any other I’ve ever seen. This little digression at the end is what sold and sealed the entire thing for me, not because it sealed it with a bow but because it took the loose and disjointed nature of the narrative and blew it even wider open.

A Separation (Iran, 2011)


This film packs so many punches emotionally and pulls you in basically effortlessly. It is subtle but substantial all at once, never too slow but also never skipping ahead over any single nuance or scene too quickly for you to not feel everything, and not just momentarily either– this is a film whose fluidity and thematic resonance will haunt you long after you see it.

There are obviously others which I love– Run Lola Run (Germany, 1998) being a sort of standard self explanatory answer for me personally. After so many courses centered on various “national cinemas,” is it any wonder I had to make a part two of this? Hope these recommendations aren’t too obvious or typical, seeing as some are award winners particularly among these five. But enjoy as usual anyway!

No Particular Order: Favorite Contemporary Foreign Language Films

Hello my lovely readers! My apologies for the less frequent posting; back in college, things are a little busy but my goal is to provide at least one post a week as well as a guest post every couple weeks or so on the wonderful blog, thefilmchair. Seeing as I haven’t even seen a movie in theaters in some time now, but will hopefully be seeing You’re Next tomorrow, I figured I can achieve my goal through some of my semi-regular posts as well as reviews when I can. And since school is where I actually watched most of the foreign films I’ve ever even seen, this seemed like a nice post in honor of returning to my rigorous academic life, which entails two seminars (where I’m trying to write both 15-30 page papers on horror films in some capacity, Writing for the Media in which I’m learning to be a journalist apparently, German Conversation and Composition so that I can continue watching German films, of which there are many on this list, with no subtitles, and tutoring a first year writing seminar about representing Italians in film. So I’m sure I’ll have plenty of filmy fodder to inspire me, time permitting)

Anyway, here are my favorite contemporary foreign language films in no particular order!

The White Ribbon (Germany 2009)

This film is a subtle and chilling powerhouse from Michael Haneke. His expertise as an auteur lies in his usually over the top tendency to consistently test viewers’ expectation and perception. Here, he does this by presenting a time and place he usually does not, while still maintaining his usual concerns and themes of youth and violence, just minus the media we usually find as the culprit, either overtly or lurking ominously in the subtext, in previous films like Benny’s Video (1992) and Funny Games (1997). Here, we’re presented in ice cold black and white a small village in pre-world war I Germany, where strange horrors are occurring and the children seem inexplicably linked to the odd events; the theme here of course being that their twisted and cruel psyches are only such because of the equally, if not more, twisted and cruel behaviors of the parents and adult townspeople raising and, arguably, caring for them. It is long and subdued but the acting is superb and you will feel suspicious and uncomfortable, which is all Haneke ever really wants isn’t it?

Head On (gegen die Wand, Germany 2004)

Fatih Akin’s skillful blending of Turkish and German cultures and sensibilities come together here in a Hamburg set tale of violent punk rock romance out-of-desperation, which tonally shifts in an abrupt and melodramatic way to Turkey itself, the assumed beautiful backdrop and the seedy underground it hides serving to emphasize the despair of true love found too late. The scene in which this shift takes place is particularly noteworthy. It finds Sibel, our female protagonist, having an uncharacteristically joyful time at a fair and buying Cahit, our brooding and short tempered male protagonist, a heart shaped cookie, all the while their marriage of pretense is on the brink of collapse just as that pretense was beginning to melt away; crosscutting shows Cahit’s feelings towards Sibel in a far more violent and fateful way. From there, the dreamy motown soundtrack is replaced with a heartbreaking mournful Turkish ballad as Sibel revels in teary self-mutilation, which we only see from outside the bathroom, making us all the more distant and obscured. This climactic and emotional sequence sold the movie for me. The second half after this is so filled with even worse self-destruction and a looming sense of pointless patience. You feel everything, which is what I love about this movie: it is so tragically beautiful in all its various tones that it is worth the many emotions we are thrashed around between as they are transferred flawlessly from the film to us.

In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong 2000)


Wong Kar-Wai may have hit it big with The Grandmaster this year but his true ultimate work is this gem of restrained and unrequited love. The tale of two neighbors whose spouses are cheating on them with each other is so carefully controlled with that harrowing theme song running throughout. It has been a long time now since I last watched it in full, but I can still remember the way every shot, every edit, and every colorfully composed interior drew me in and made me feel, and that odd sensation of simultaneous satisfaction and yet lack of fulfillment too makes this film so unique and exquisite.

Goodbye, Lenin (Germany 2003)

This movie is pure whimsy– it is perfect for a cold war history buff like me who also loves the late 1980s, early 1990s Berlin setting. Daniel Bruhl is comic perfection as a devoted son whose pro-communist mother falls into a coma and wakes up after the wall has come down. The presence of that specific east German brand of nostalgia is so striking and used so problematically, that you are given a new perspective on an old history lesson, as the east is hilariously and tellingly recreated so as not to shock her. Definitely a must see.

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia (Turkey, 2011)


This Turkish film is very much a fairy tale, rich with striking imagery as we slowly but surely get to know a group of men looking for a body in the Anatolian country side. The use of light and color are particularly notable, and the angelic but fleeting presence of a beautiful girl is all we need to know these men all have ghosts and demons of their own.

There are so many others I love so maybe I’ll make a part two of this category sometime but for now at least, here are at least five foreign language films that I love, in no particular order.

No Particular Order: Favorite Films of the 1970’s

This is a really hard list to come up with but that’s why I’m opting to come up with it first out of many list style posts I’m hoping to include on my blog now and again. My friend suggested to me I pick my favorite films from a given year, but the example she showed me was 1974 and I thought to myself, I could pick any year and have it be the easier route or I can take the whole decade of the 70’s which is certainly easier for me than a specific year within the decade but still a fun challenge.
So without further delay, my five favorite films of the 70’s in no particular order:

Taxi Driver (1976)
What can I say about Martin Scorsese’s violent and dreamlike masterpiece about a crazed and alienated war vet in the form of Robert De Niro, who wants nothing more than to clean the scum of the city streets in the 1970’s even if by questionable means? It is Scorsese at his early best. It is artful and interesting and never ceases to make me cringe and question so much: is the view of the city subjective? Is it the city or the war or something else all together that has led him to this point? And what about that ambiguous ending, which caps off a finale that feels otherwise quite like fantasy? It’s a neo-noir filled with jump-cuts and repetitions, and my personal favorite moment, a tellingly fluid moving camera that doesn’t even remain easily fixed on our flawed and broken Travis Bickle; as he makes a phone call, the camera pans to a long and empty hallway nearby. It is haunting. There’s just so much that is ripe for the film analysis picking!
It isn’t an easy film in that regard but somehow it is a classic, just as it deserves to be.

Mean Streets (1973)
Hate to put two Scorsese flicks in a row but when I think of the 1970’s and all the alienation and conflict of masculinity present in so many films of that decade, I can’t help but think of this auteur’s work specifically. Mean Streets is another classic and it established a lot of stylistic elements characteristic to Scorsese’s movies for years to come: tracking shots, the color red, and in particular here of course themes of Italian-American relations amongst men in the mob culture of an uncomfortably insular Little Italy, and even between man and God (which makes sense when one considers that Scorsese once wanted to be a priest)
Anyway, this film is less of a story and more of a snapshot– a portrait of Italian life and culture and all the criminality, vulnerability, and mixed allegiances inherent in that. It took me a second viewing for it to strike me as a masterpiece but once I realized how well paced and innovative the film really was, I appreciated it a lot more, plus it’s another movie filled with thematic and stylistic talking points, especially with the epic crescendo-like showdown of sorts that hurdles us towards the end of the movie, achieved through emotionally affective crosscutting.

The Exorcist (1973)
Oh come on, you didn’t really think I would forget this, did you? My mother, an avid fan (I’m talking like, scrapbook making, multiple in the theaters viewing, line reciting kind of fanaticism) showed the film to me at the ripe young age of 12 and it didn’t scare me in the sense that I had nightmares or was scarred by any means. But I feel like to say that about The Exorcist is to admit desensitization to classic horror, and for me that was not the case. I was not desensitized, but I certainly can say I was hardened. In a way, The Exorcist isn’t what started my love of the genre but it is a movie that is so singular, so important, and so scary for its time that it sort of affirmed my love for the genre. It is so well-done, and the kind of horror milestone where watching it now is less of a fright fest and more of a lesson in what it means to frighten and be frightened in the cinema, and how that style of moviemaking has evolved. Now, I would never want my assessment to be misconstrued as to suggest it doesn’t have truly horrifying moments still to this day, many of which were cut out and re-included for the director’s cut DVD. I cringe still when I know she’s about to be holding that crucifix soon and doing far worse with it than just that (and I’ll bet you thought I was going to mention the pea soup, didn’t you). But it is, to me, more of a film history marvel than it is something to create the kind of mass hysteria, controversy and derision that it induced at the time of its release.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder 1974)
When I first saw this film as part of the New German Cinema unit in my film history class, I didn’t know how to feel about it exactly. It was one of those films that is just so odd and makes you feel so separate from the characters (I mean, those long shots of Ali framed within doorways so many yards away from the camera shooting him is a prime example) while also making you feel somehow all too intimate at moments of raw tension. I think this strange balance is due at least in part to Fassbinder’s love of melodrama and his ability to take the melodramatic and present it in the most subtle and banal of manners. And that right there is why this tale of racism in Germany, told in a microcosmic way: through a middle aged woman who falls in love with a young Turkish man much to the chagrin of her grown children, is one of such beautifully awkward poignancy, the likes of which no one else could achieve so harmoniously.

A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Stanley Kubrick, a recognized master of his medium, plays with (ultra-)violence, humor, color, and film language (and spoken language as well, in service to the source material) here in this disturbing and fascinating adaptation. It is twisted and often hard to watch but it is also so well crafted that we can’t help but be sucked into the world it creates and presents. It certainly isn’t for everyone but fans of science fiction or young Malcom McDowell perhaps will appreciate the absurd and cynical dystopia that has given us so many pop cultural icons and images.