Toy Story 2 (1999)

Well, after a crazy couple of holiday weekends I am attempting to get back on schedule with my reviewing of the IMDb’s Top 250 movies of all time. Though I’m sure I’m going to fall behind again. We close on our new house on Friday and then the next two weeks will be a blur as we move all of our accumulated crap across town. But this isn’t a Christmas card… on to the review.

I was and am a fan of Toy Story. It was magical. A great story which birthed a whole genre of animation. It came out when I was 12. I was a little bit older than it’s target audience, but I was still too young to recognize the significance of this groundbreaking film.
However, when rumors of Toy Story 2 began to circulate, even at my tender age, I was already jaded enough with production companies money-making tactics to know not to expect much. The original plan was for Toy Story 2 to be a direct to DVD release. To this day, Disney has only created one worthwhile sequel without the help of the masters at Pixar, that being Fantasia 2000. To illustrate my point, let’s briefly review Disney’s track record with sequels.
The Rescuers Down Under
The Return of Jafar
Aladdin & The King of Thieves
Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World
The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride
The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea
Lady and the Tramp II: Scamps Adventure… I could go on, but I think I made my point.

So when the folks at Pixar brought the script and some storyboards for what would eventually become Toy Story 2 to Disney, they made the smart decision to pour their resources into this sequel. Most sequels simply dilute the story and characters like too much water added to good Scotch. But not all sequels are bad. The best sequels take the original film at face value and then seamlessly expand from there with a movie that stands on it’s own merit instead of being propped up simply by the success of it’s predecessor. For instance, I loved Terminator II: Judgment Day from the moment I first watched it, but it took me several years to build up a desire to watch the original Terminator.

So what about Toy Story 2 earned it a 100% fresh rating from the aggregated rating site Rotten Tomatoes? Well, to answer that question I re-watched the movie a few times, some with my kids and some by myself. And I think it comes down to two main issues which play themselves out over and over again in this film. First is the film’s ability to entertain both the young and the young at heart. My kids love it because even though it is now over 10 years old it looks great with an attention to detail that Pixar has become known for. The colors and textures are light years (no pun intended) better than the original, and that’s saying something because it was beautiful and the improvement came in just 4 year’s time. Also, my kids are continuously quoting lines from these movies, and I believe it’s because the movie isn’t pandering and condescending to “their level.” The dialogue is incredible for a kids movie and it is carried by a voice cast that has expanded its diversity to include Joan Cusack. But my kids watch it over and over and hear different things every time. The story is easy enough to understand that you could follow it even if the sound on your TV went out, but everything about the story is enhanced because of the humorous and touching script.

I love the movie because of the little movie homages, the inclusion of “Also Sprach Zarathustra” from 2001: a Space Odyssey in the opening video game sequence, Rex chasing after the car in a nod to Jurassic Park, and the hilarious twist that Zurg didn’t kill Buzz’s father… he is his father! When my kids watched The Empire Strikes Back for the first time and Vader spills his big secret, one of my kids said it’s just like Toy Story. Speaking of twists, though I can’t remember the first time I watched this film, I am willing to bet that I was surprised at the devious selfishness of Stinky Pete. And even though we are used to movies like this now, this one is simply action packed, with at least 5 distinct chase scenes, two shootouts, several covert operations, and epic surroundings for all of the above make this movie one that I find it hard to rip myself away from.

But not only is this story entertaining for all ages, but it is a classic because it is so well done and we can see the shadows of many Pixar greats yet to come in it’s deep library of scenes. I don’t know that we would have had the emotionally crushing opening montage from Up were it not for the “When She Loved Me montage in Toy Story 2. The same goes for the door warehouse chase scene from Monsters, Inc. It would have been impossible had Pixar not broken ground in Toy Story 2 with the chase through the airport baggage area. Also, think of as many animated films as you can that have made you want to both laugh and cry, applaud and think, remember and wonder. I would be willing to wager that almost all of those films are from the storytelling magicians at Pixar. They just have the ability and lack of inhibition that lets them expertly dive into issues that most animated or childrens’ films won’t touch. Issues like loss, rejection, abandonment, fear, identity, purpose, and love.

Just take this film for example and you will see Woody’s crisis of purpose as he battles with a desire for eternal life and fame. But to get it he must reject the very reason he was made, as he taught Buzz in the first film, life isn’t worth living if you aren’t being loved by a child. At the same time, the roundup gang treats Woody as if he is the promised messiah who has come to save them from the darkness and loneliness of storage. There is the mistaken identity of Buzz, and the matter of who is the real Buzz is not determined by who has the cooler tool-belt, but which action figure bears the name of their owner. This is a unmistakable Christian ideal, we are who we are not because of some inherent goodness in us, but because we bear the name of Christ.

Who knew that a simple movie about the secret lives of toys could go so deep as to teach its viewers something profound about themselves. That is the art of film-making, the magic of Pixar, and the reason why I can’t stop watching movies. Because movies have this ability in common with Scripture. I love Scripture because it can destroy me one minute as it reveals my sin, then restore me as it reveals my Savior. And I keep watching movies because I hope that the next one will cut me open to my core and teach me a little bit more about myself. If my kids watch the Toy Story movies and want to act like Woody or Buzz, that is fine with me, because both characters exemplify the type of behavior and strength and purity of character that I wish everyone had and pray that my children will develop. I can’t say that about every cartoon character. The thing that makes Toy Story great is the desire it creates in its viewers to not only observe greatness but to pursue and attain it.

Movies Set at Christmas

Merry Christmas everybody. While my wife watches A Christmas Story (1983) for the 10th time and the kids fall asleep among the wrapping paper, I am thinking about movies that are either set at Christmas or remind us of Christmas without being “Christmas movies.” You won’t find the traditional Christmas favorites on this list, but you might find some fun movies to watch with your sweetie on a cold winter night.

5. Gremlins
What better than a movie that had trouble getting past the MPAA because they believed it was too scary for its target audience. This movie doesn’t even make me think of Christmas, and I didn’t even watch it until I was in college. But who wouldn’t want to get a cute fuzzy monster like Gizmo under their Christmas tree. In fact, I think it was partly because of this movie that Furbys became popular 15 years later.
4. The Family Man
Jack (Nicolas Cage) is given the chance to live the life that he could have had if he had followed his heart. It is a retelling of It’s a Wonderful Life. The film emphasizes the importance of having family and friends in your life. Christmas just happens to be the backdrop for this hypothetical journey. Don Cheadle as the street wise angel really makes this film.
3. Batman Returns
Everyone has had a Christmas when they got one too many pairs of socks or when their crazy relative has a little too much egg nog and started spilling all the family secrets. That’s nothing compared to Christmas in Gotham City. The Red Triangle Gang jumps out of a giant present, mess up the Christmas decorations and attempt to install the super creepy Penguin (Danny Devito) as mayor. It’s not all bad however, it inspired a crazy woman to make a homemade skin-tight shiny black leather cat suit.
2. Trading Places
It’s a simple concept. Take a well-to-do Harvard alumnus named Winthorpe (Dan Aykroyd) and set him up for a fall. Then take a street bum Billy Ray (Eddie Murphy) and put him in his old job to see if he can make it on the stock exchange. Pretty soon, Winthorpe’s a suicidal gun-toting thief dressed as Santa and Billy Ray’s scolding house guests for making a mess of his nice clean rug. Throw in Jamie Lee Curtis as a lady of the night and you have a heartwarming holiday classic. Or not.
1. Die Hard
Holiday office parties are the best! The boss gets tipsy, you see a whole other side of your co-workers, and international terrorists take everyone hostage in the office building! Well, at least that last one sounds fun for John McClane, a New York city cop who is attempting to surprise his estranged wife on Christmas Eve. But instead of a gift, he brings the pain. Who needs a “ho ho ho” when you can have a “yippie kai-yai motherf***er.” And McClane gets into more mischief around Christmas in Die Hard 2, but I think by Die Hard with a Vengeance he learned to stay home for the holidays.

These are some of my favorites. Can you think of some others?

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

I’m really glad I decided to tackle this mountain of film called the IMDb Top 250. In this post, I want to take a closer look at#248, Shadow of a Doubt. I consider myself a Hitchcock fan, but this is one of his masterpieces that I had never seen before. I’m not sure why I avoided it for so long, perhaps it was simply lack of opportunity. But no one has an excuse to not see this film. Heck, you don’t even have to pay for it. You can watch the whole thing right now on YouTube. In fact, Alfred Hitchcock on The Dick Cavett Show in 1972 said that Shadow of a Doubt was his favorite of all his films. Being familiar with his films and sharing his dry and bleak sense of humor, I can see why.

The actors were superb, famous in their time, but not superstars. Teresa Wright, who remains the only performer ever to be nominated for Oscars for her first three films (The Little Foxes, Mrs. Miniver, The Pride of the Yankees), stars as young Charlie (Charlotte) who is tired of being a ordinary girl in an ordinary family. She believes that inviting her Uncle Charlie from Philadelphia will invite some much needed happiness to her depressing surroundings. But Uncle Charlie, portrayed superbly by Joseph Cotten who had a role in Citizen Kane and starred in The Magnificent Ambersons, has his own secret reasons for leaving Philadelphia to stay with his sister in Santa Rosa for an undetermined amount of time.

Hitchcock collaborated with Thornton Wilder, author of Our Town, to portray Santa Rosa, California as Hometown U.S.A. With warm lighting and a friendly atmosphere, they deliberately makes us prefer the small Santa Rosa to the cold and industrial backdrop of Philadelphia. Hitchcock wanted to slowly introduce some darkness to these bright and cheerful surroundings. This was a social commentary in his day. While this film was produced and released in 1943, it is set in 1941. Many people my age wouldn’t even blink at the simple two year difference, but anyone who lived during those two years knows that they weren’t ordinary years. The bombing that occurred on December 7, 1941 irreparably changed the world the same way that the arrival of Uncle Charlie did that peaceful family and especially his admiring niece Charlotte.

Critics were quick to call this film cynical or morally vague, words that would come to characterize Hitchcock’s style of film-making, but in the wake of the great depression, a gruesome war, and the ever-present fear of nuclear holocaust the world itself became much more cynical and morally vague.  Much like Uncle Charlie, Hitchcock entered our country in a time of peace, as a welcomed guest, and he forever changed our whole way of thinking about movies.

As we get closer to Christmas, I know that I will inevitably see at least a scene or two from Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. If you think about it, Hitchcock is like the anti-Capra. Another classic-film lover named Bill Wren said on his blog Piddleville, “Shadow of a Doubt presents us with an almost quintessential American town of the 1940′s. It’s almost Capra-esque. In a way, Shadow of a Doubt is George Bailey’s Bedford Falls from It’s a Wonderful Life except where Capra brings an angel to it, Hitchcock brings the devil.”

The singular flaw that prevents Shadow of a Doubt from being one of Hitchcock’s elite is the completely formulaic and totally unnecessary romance. It feels totally contrived and out of place. Perhaps this was Hitchcock’s way of showing that although young Charlie has grown through her ordeal, she hasn’t yet grown enough to see that the addition of others to your life will not make you happy if you cannot first be happy alone. If this was his aim, he was very subtle. Today, they would make a sequel in which we find out that her love interest is in fact a serial killer himself.

So what happens when young Charlie realizes the truth about her beloved Uncle? Will she get a chance to reveal his secret, or will he choke her into silent submission? I won’t ruin that ending of the movie for you. Take an hour and a half off and watch it yourself. By the end, you will be humming the Merry Widow Waltz and contemplating the state of the world. What do you think of Uncle Charlie’s assessment of our lives? “You live in a dream. You’re a sleepwalker, blind. How do you know what the world is like? Do you know the world is a foul sty? Do you know, if you rip off the fronts of houses, you’d find swine? The world’s a hell. What does it matter what happens in it? Wake up, Charlie.”

Thanks for watching with me. Next week provides a jump from pre-television wartime to fun loving computer animation and offers a much more lighthearted film, Toy Story 2. I hope you’ll join me.

My Sassy Girl (2008) – Review

After watching the Korean version of My Sassy Girl, I was doing some research and found out that, because of the popularity of the film in Korea, a remake was made in 2008. It was originally slated for a full theatrical release, but the negative response after the trailer below came out, was enough to force it into a bare-bones direct to DVD release.

I totally agree that the trailer was less than satisfactory. But the problem was that no one even gave the movie a chance. They immediately began to compare it to the Korean version; and in doing so they lost the ability to view the remake on its own merits. While it is a remake of the basic plot and story, many of the social and cultural ideas present in the original simply don’t translate well across the gap. In some ways I would have liked to see the remake depart even more than it already does from the original script and story.

The remake stars Elisha Cuthbert. She is probably best known for her role as a former porn star in The Girl Next Door, but Jack Bauer might have to kill you for thinking of her that way since she also plays his daughter on the hit TV show 24. Cuthbert revisits the role made famous by Jeon Ji-hyun. In the original, this character was nameless; but in the remake, she was given the name of Jordan Roark. Jeon Ji-hyun was more than simply sassy, she was insane. She didn’t playfully slap, she delivered full right hooks. And all of that physical comedy just made me dislike her more. I personally preferred Cuthbert’s performance. Her physicality was more flirtatious, although she was more verbally abusive than her nameless counterpart.

I couldn’t place the lead actor until I searched for him on IMDb. His name is Jesse Bradford, and he’s best known for his role in Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers and Bring It On. But I remember him best in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet where he played the very small role of Romeo’s manservant Balthasar. Bradford plays our leading man, Charlie Bellow. Charlie is almost nothing like the original’s Kyun-woo. He was a slacker engineering student and a womanizer, but Charlie is a business student who wishes to get a management job at the tractor company who had employed his father for decades. Charlie is also whitewashed to become the typical lovable yet naive guy-next-door, and all of the characters more carnal tendencies have been forced off on a completely useless best friend character.

I loved the cinematography of this film, it was a delight to look at. Yann Samuel the young French director behind Jeux D’enfants (Love Me If You Dare) filmed in the rich colors of the fall to signify the transition of our characters. These two meet in the general “opposites attract” pattern,, and the audience is led to believe that Charlie through his calculated work ethic will add some much needed structure to the unbridled enthusiasm of Jordan. While Jordan in turn will provide Charlie with a passion for life and the ability to think outside the box his parents have created for him. These two would have had some kind of obstacle to overcome, then one or both of them would realize that they are made for each other and would reveal it to the other in a grand fashion. Oh wait, that is exactly what happens in this movie. In fact, this is a purely according to formula romantic comedy if you stop watching after one hour. But as the couple is dancing the night away, reunited in their love, the story keeps going. And it’s not showing the happily ever aftermath of their romance. This film is more like real life, our couple has more obstacles to overcome.

I was entertained, but thoroughly unsurprised for the first hour. Though, because I knew the original, I wasn’t surprised by the ending either. I knew that unless those responsible for the remake were completely inept, this was going to get a lot deeper before the curtain closed. And it did. I can’t ruin the ending for you; you’ll have to splurge and pick this one out of the $3 bin at Wal-Mart. It is very entertaining and touching. And it was refreshing to watch a romance that was more than physical. In fact, in the original, they never even kiss. While the American version was not that conservative, all they add in this version is a kiss. My only complaint about the last thirty minutes of the film was that it only lasted thirty minutes. As in the original the couple agrees to part ways for a certain time, but the American version shortens this time to one year instead of two and in another case shortens a year to only one day. The time of their relationship was shortened as well. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this condensation. Perhaps a long relationship without sex is anti-American.

I think the producers and distributors of this film made a big mistake by listening to the opinions of the elitists who saw the original and thought that American audiences would have been better served by a dubbed version. I don’t think that most Americans have an issue with foreign film, most just can’t relate to foreign issues. The original film was edgy because of the role reversal of the male and female in a male-dominated Korean society. But in a country that preaches gender neutrality and equality, seeing yet another woman walk all over a weaker male character wasn’t edgy or even entertaining. But I don’t think that people gave this a chance, it is a better romantic comedy than most of the mindless drivel filling the theater. Oh well, what can you do?

If you’re watching the IMDb 250 along with me, the film for this next week is one off the few Alfred Hitchcock movies that I haven’t seen, Shadow of a Doubt (1943).

My Sassy Girl (2001)

With a little spare time on my hands, I got to watch #249 on my list. It is a wonderful little Korean romantic-comedy called, My Sassy Girl. And at 137 minutes I needed all the spare time I could get. That’s right 2 hours and 17 minutes! In all fairness, I did watch the director’s cut which was about 20 minutes longer than the theatrical release, but I can see the guys cringing now. A rom-com with the same running time as Mystic River and Dune. But despite its length, it was actually quite good.

First Half

Let me be the first to say that I am not a fan of the contemporary romantic comedy. They are overly-formulaic, cliched, mindless, and saccharine. The plot structure of all romantic comedies follows the same basic structure. Boy meets girl (or vice versa), then there is some sort of spark. Either they hate each other, or they instantly fall deeply in love. But either way, they have a conflict. Some sort of roadblock to their blissful romance. And usually, through a series of generally funny (sometimes touching) events, one or more of the characters goes through a personal change. This change dissolves the roadblock and the couple can live happily ever after. If it doesn’t end happily ever after there is still a message of the power of love to conquer all. This structure isn’t inherently bad, it has just been overplayed.

So what makes My Sassy Girl different from the sea of pabulum that floods theaters every year? I’m talking about movies like: Monster-in-Law, Must Love Dogs, Failure to Launch, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Music and Lyrics, Good Luck Chuck, 27 Dresses, Fool’s Gold, Made of Honor, The Proposal, It’s Complicated, Leap Year, and Valentine’s Day. I’ve seen all of those, and most are watchable and some are even entertaining, but none of them rise above mediocrity. It’s like eating a turkey sandwich on Thanksgiving when you really want a feast.

To examine why this film is better than the rest I must examine what makes a movie great in the first place. In other words, what is it that most people are looking for when they watch a movie? The easy answer to that is entertainment, but I believe that a larger goal is escapism. We watch movies to be transported from the monotony of our lives for a couple of hours. A great film is written and acted well, and successfully creates an engaging experience that captures the viewers’ imagination and sustains their interest. The best films do this with skill and artistry and will emotionally move the viewers and give them something to think about. These movies stay with you, long after you leave the theater.

Is My Sassy Girl one of these movies? At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I don’t really think so. I am tempted to sing the praises of this film because it was well received in Korea when it was released, and nearly every critic loves it. But I personally think that foreign films are up there with modern art, jazz music, and anything French on the “I pretend to enjoy this because it makes me feel superior to you” list.

Second Half

Let me introduce you to Kyun-woo. He is our slightly perverted, mostly innocent, slacker leading man (think Seth Rogen in Knocked Up). This film (based upon a series of supposedly true stories posted on the internet) tells the story of the first and last time that he falls in love. One day, on the way to pay his grieving aunt a visit he saves a beautiful drunken girl (whose name we never learn) from being hit by a subway train. She stumbles about and after vomiting on a fellow passenger she points at Kyun-woo calling him “Honey,” then passes out on the floor. Unable to leave her in this state, he picks her up and carries her to a motel where instead of receiving a thank you, he gets a large hotel bill and a night in jail. This unnamed sassy girl calls him after he gets out and tells him to meet her at a coffee shop. There she orders for him and forces him to pay then calls him a liar. Later, after confessing that her boyfriend has just broken up with her, she passes out again. Being a gentleman, he takes her back to the same hotel. And as he takes care of her, he vows to heal her sorrow.

I don’t want to spoil the film, though I doubt many of you will ever watch it anyway, but these two grow closer through some funny, touching, and painful moments. This girl is not just sassy, she is downright violent. But despite her inability to handle her liquor and her love of beating him, his affections for her grow. That is until she has him write a letter expressing his feelings for her. She writes a letter as well, and they meet to bury these letters under a tree where they will meet in exactly two years to see if they are meant to be together. And just as they met in a train station they part ways in a train station, their destiny hanging in the balance of two years time.

As in most romantic comedies there is a element of personal change. During these two years our slacker becomes a success. He improves himself in almost every way and he arrives at the tree exactly two years later to reunite with his lost love. I refuse to tell you whether she comes or not. You’ll have to watch it for yourself, but remember this movie is not your average romantic comedy. Expect the unexpected.

Overtime

I enjoyed My Sassy Girl because it was deeper than your average romantic comedy dealing with issues of grief, destiny, and time travel (seriously). But that being said, I disliked the overall tone of the film. I’m no male-chauvinist, but if I had a girl that treated me as badly and humiliated me as much as she does him, I would leave her, forget about destiny. That was one of several cultural roadblocks that made this movie hard to watch (especially the first half). Also, I’m sure this is a cultural thing too, but I didn’t feel like the film flowed very well. It was choppy in portions, and dragged on in others. I appreciated the length of time that was represented in the film as it made everything more plausible. I’m not one of those, “If its got subtitles, it ain’t fit to watch!” types, but the film itself was just too long.

This one is worth a watch, it is a beautiful and moving love story. But I’m still not sure why it did so well in Korea, outselling Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter which were playing at the same time. Perhaps what the film’s leading man says is true, “Koreans like melodramas.” It’s still pretty hard to find this film in American markets, so many will settle for the American version which was released direct to DVD in 2008. I’ve seen them both and I’ll tell you what I think about that version and how it stacks up against the original in my next post.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

Well, it is time to get my countdown underway. Let me remind you that I am working my way through the IMDb Top 250 list as it appeared on November 15, 2010. I had to do this because of the flexible nature of this online user generated list. In fact, even after only one week, The Nightmare Before Christmas has moved up to #249, and if you look at it today, the list (particularly here at the bottom) may look much different.  So, I will do my best to add other films that jump on and off the list while I am on this journey and we can watch them together once my journey is through.

This movie was released when I was ten years-old, and I remember wanting to see it not so much because of the animation technique or the big names attached to it, but because I thought the Burger King watches that my friends had were cool. I was not allowed to watch it at that time, because my parents thought that it was too dark and frightening for kids to watch (the same reason Disney pushed its release off to Touchstone Pictures). It wasn’t until I was well into high-school and my goth phase that this movie once again caught my eye.

Burton’s Batman was one of my favorite movies in Middle School. I remember coming home from school popping Batman in the VCR and being thrilled by Michael Keaton and Jack Nicholson. When I later found out that the same mastermind who directed Batman, Beetlejuice, and Edward Scissorhands, was the man who dreamed up this film, I had to see it. I remember getting wrapped up in the gorgeously dark scenery so skillfully and painstakingly created through the use of stop-motion animation. I remember tapping my toes to the addictive music of Danny Elfman. I simply enjoyed it, filed it away as a pleasant holiday movie, and went on with my life.

As I watched this magical film again today, I was struck by a few observations.

First, it was NOT directed by Tim Burton. Everyone ties The Nightmare Before Christmas to Tim Burton. While he wrote it and produced it, it was directed by a man whose name isn’t even in most movie fan’s vocabulary. Henry Selick. Do a quick IMDb search, and you will see that Henry Selick had just as much to do with the look and feel of Nightmare as Tim Burton did. He adapted Roald Dahl’s James and The Giant Peach long before Burton tried his hand at Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And he skillfullly directed the wonderfully rich and dark Coraline. Clearly this film is great because of its collaboration. Tim Burton’s concept and characters, the lyrics and music of Danny Elfman, and the hard work and dedication of hundreds of artists are held together and made better by the creative glue of Henry Selick’s direction.

Also, watching this film again, I had all sorts of thoughts about the nature of Halloween vs. Christmas, the commercialization of Christmas, and the feelings of longing for something more fulfilling than the amusement of fright. But the biggest thing that caught my attention was the wordplay in the title. It is a cute and clever twist on the first line of the well known 1823 poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas.” But it got me thinking if there was something deeper in the title. What is the nightmare before Christmas? Is it referring to Halloween? Jack? Perhaps the nightmare is that sense of longing that Jack and Sally feel. But because I have Movies on the Brain, my mind cross-referenced to a scene in the 1997 Steven Spielberg movie Amistad where one of the slaves is looking through a Bible illustrated with drawings of biblical events. One slave says to the other that he is beginning to understand this book. As he shows the other slave a picture of Christians being attacked by lions in the Roman Coliseum, He says, “Their lives were full of suffering. Then he was born (pointing to a picture of baby Jesus in the manger), and everything changed.”

Do you see the connection? Jack Skellington (The Pumpkin King) is revered in his native Halloweentown, but he has grown tired of the same old routine. While wandering through the forest, he stumbles across and opens a portal to Christmastown. He is intrigued and impressed by what he feels in this magical place. Although devoid of any reference to the Christian origins of Christmas, besides a quote from the kidnapped “Sandy Claws” who shouts, “Haven’t you ever heard of peace on earth, good will towards men?” Jack’s feelings aren’t totally dissimilar to the emotions that accompany the new birth. Much like Jack Skellington, our lives are empty and we continually search for something more until we stumble across the meaning of Christmas. Sadly, the true meaning of Christmas is never unearthed but it still raises all sorts of ideas about the comparison of the death symbolized in Halloween to the life that is found in Christmas. Our lives before Jesus are the real nightmare before Christmas. Our lives were filled with suffering then Jesus was born and everything really did change.

Not all of my posts will be this religious in their thrust. That is just what came to my mind. Join me next time for #249 the Korean Romantic Comedy, My Sassy Girl. I’ll probably watch the American adaptation of the same title as well to compare them. See you then and remember, there is no cure for movies on the brain.

IMDB Top 250

My wife just finished reading Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. The book was inspired by her quest to cook her way through Julia Child’s Mastering The Art of French Cooking. In turn, the book inspired an excellent movie by the same name, featuring the Oscar nominated performance of Meryl Streep as Julia Child.

Oddly (for my wife at least), she liked the movie much more than the book which she struggled to even finished. But it has inspired her to think about cooking her way through a cookbook of her own (not Julia Child’s but Betty Crocker’s) and chronicling her quest in her blog http://mauldinfamily.wordpress.com.

What does this have to do with movies? Well, her idea (or borrowing of another’s idea) made me want to work my way through another list. But since I can’t cook very well, I’ll stick to movies. At first I thought about working my way through one of Leonard Maltin’s books out of the desire to inspire a novel called Logan & Leonard. But after that illusion faded I settled on another list.

At first, I thought about the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Movies list. But that would limit me not only to 100 movies but to 100 American movies. Then it hit me. The IMDB Top 250 is probably the most well-known movie list in the world. It has been composed by compiling the votes of hundreds of thousands of normal moviegoers. In other words, this is a list for normal people and not some elitist movie-critics list.

I’ve already seen a good number of the movies, but I will blog my thoughts on all of them. I have not yet decided whether to do it as a countdown, alphabetically, or chronologically. The nature of the IMDB list makes it more complex, it constantly changes based upon user votes. Movies can drop off the list or get added at any time. I will decide in the next couple of days and begin my journey.

I’m sure that my ADD will get the best of me at times, so I’m not setting a hard and fast goal of a year or anything crazy like that. However, I will try to watch at least one movie a week and post a blog on it. It will not be a formal review, though I will post links to others reviews of it. At that pace, it will take me until sometime in 2015 to finish the list. So spread the word, and feel free to take the journey with me.

Everything I learned, I learned from the movies