Why “Nightcrawler” Is A Better Movie Than It Should Be

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One of the best perks of being a member of the Writer’s Guild (a union for writers; feel free to snicker here: sitting in a cozy coffee shop typing is sorta like digging for coal or installing sheet metal – we laborers must unite!) are the screeners we receive every December.  The Writer’s Guild holds its own awards, and members are given DVD copies – “screeners” – of Academy Award-type movies (war; holocaust; slavery; Historically Important Stuff) to watch, as the label says, “for your consideration.”

So when Jake Gyllenhaal’s thriller “Nightcrawler” arrived the other day, I had to scratch my head.

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#37): The Joy of Gene Kelly on a Rainy Day

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The first major rainstorm of the season is hitting Los Angeles today and most of us are welcoming the rain with open arms since we’ve been in the middle of a severe drought.

But no one has arguably been happier to splash around in the rain than Gene Kelly in the 1952 MGM musical Singin’ in the Rain. This is one of the most memorable numbers from what I, and many others, consider to be the finest movie musical of all the time. Take a look at the clip and see if it doesn’t make you want to go out and do some frolicking of your own while being pelted by precipitation:

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies (#36): Lauren Bacall Teaches the World How to Whistle

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On the heels of the death of Robin Williams, we lost another icon yesterday—the great Lauren Bacall.

Bacall was working as a model when director Howard Hawks cast her in her first film, 1944’s To Have and Have Not, opposite her future husband Humphrey Bogart. The movie made her an instant star and if you need proof of it, check out this famous scene from the film: “You know how to whistle don’t you, Steve? You just put your lips together and blow.”

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies (#35): ‘The Karate Kid’ Turns 30

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Yup, the original The Karate Kid turns 30 this Sunday—having been released on June 22, 1984. In a summer that unleashed some high-profile tent pole pics including Ghostbusters, Gremlins and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, this was a true example of a “sleeper” hit. The Karate Kid came in under the radar to turn into an unexpected hit; leading to three direct sequels and a reboot which will soon get a sequel of its own.

Even as a child, I initially had no interest in watching The Karate Kid. For one thing, the title was stupid. The Karate Kid? What kind of dumb title was that? And it stars that wimp from The Outsiders and the funny Japanese guy from Happy Days? Not as interesting as the first choices for the roles—Charlie Sheen and Japanese legend Toshiro Mifune. Plus even at that young age, I instinctively knew that the story of an “Oriental” mentor playing second fiddle to the white hero was problematic.

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies (#34): The Best Movie Summer Ever!

Bestof1984_article_story_largeOn this Throwback Thursday, thought it’d be an appropriate time to write about the greatest summer movie season ever, which took place exactly 30 years ago. Yes, I am here to proclaim that 1984 was the best summer for movies in the history of movies. End of argument. ‘Nuff said.

Need proof? Here are just some of the films that were released in the summer of 1984: Ghostbusters, Indiana Jones and the Temple Of Doom, Gremlins, The Karate Kid, Purple Rain, Revenge of the Nerds, Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Inception Dreamscape, Top Secret, Beat Street, Bachelor Party…and I could go on, but you get the point.

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies (#33): Gordon Willis’ ‘Manhattan’

One of the greatest cinematographers in the history of movies passed away at the age of 82—Gordon Willis.

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If the name isn’t familiar, his work most certainly is. Some of the films he shot include The Godfather trilogy, Annie Hall, All the President’s Men, Klute, The Parallax View and The Devil’s Own.

It’s hard to pick one quintessential Willis work or clip, but if I had to, it would be the opening montage of Woody Allen’s Manhattan. Willis’ black and white images married with Allen’s words and Gershwin’s music creates a “dream” version of New York that for many people is still the embodiment of all that is beautiful and moving about the city.

The Most Epic Video You’ll Ever See If You Love Movies!

Holy shit. Speechless. Dizzy. Giddy. Goosebumps. These were some of the things circling through my head after watching this most epic of mashup videos. Inspired by Steven Jay Schneider’s incredible book series, 1,001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE (BEFORE YOU DIE) , this video contains an additional 215 extra titles to illustrate the the sheer, visual and aural brilliance of the most powerful medium of human civilization.

Edited by Johnathan Keogh, it took him over a year to create this video and damn, he did a fine job. It is literally a rollercoaster, mind fuck, movie explosion and the best 10 minutes you’ll see in quite awhile. If I was living in A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, captured and brainwashed by having my eyes pried open, then I can imagine watching this video.

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#32) Doody in the Pool

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Harold Ramis passed away at the age of 69 and considering how integral his movies were to my youth, it wouldn’t feel right to let this moment pass without a small acknowledgement of his legacy.

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He wrote, directed and/or starred in some of the greatest comedic creations of the past three+ decades including Animal House, Meatballs, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters, Stripes, Groundhog Day and Analyze This, among many others.

It’s hard to pick one favorite moment from his many wonderful films, but the following scene from Caddyshack (Ramis’ directorial debut) is as brilliant a comedic sequence as any I’ve seen: A ritzy country club swimming pool, a discarded Baby Ruth bar, the theme from Jaws and the perfect tag at the end from Bill Murray who’s never been funnier and you have pure comedic gold.

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#31) Bruce Lee’s Mirror Maze

The late, great Bruce Lee would have turned 73 today if he were still alive. Regular readers of our blog know that YOMYOMF would not exist without his influence so I pay tribute to him today.

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My favorite Bruce Lee moment comes in 1973’s classic Enter the Dragon. It’s the climactic fight between Lee and baddie Han and it takes place in a mirror maze. Bonus points if you can spot the phrase that launched YOMYOMF:

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#30) ‘Call Me Kuchu’

My fellow Offender Anderson Le, who is the head programmers for the Hawaii International Film Festival, invited me to serve on the feature documentary jury during last year’s fest. I’m grateful he asked me for a number of reasons (including the fact the fest takes place in beautiful Oahu), but especially because it gave me the chance to watch some great documentaries I might otherwise not have been exposed to. And one of them was Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall’s moving Call Me Kuchu.

The film, which is currently in theaters in New York and Los Angeles, documents Uganda’s anti-homosexuality bill and the activists who fought against it including David Kato, the first openly gay man in that country. Kato was murdered in January 2011 during production on the film.

While we’re still debating issues like same-sex marriage in the U.S., it’s even more disheartening to see what life is like in Uganda for the LGBT community (referred to as the kuchus) where homosexuality is illegal and punishable by sentences that include serving 15 years in prison and, for women, the practice of “curative rape” i.e. being raped to turn you straight.

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#29) The Best Worst Bond

With some of the best reviews of the whole James Bond series (not to mention it’s massive commercial success), Skyfall has brought the British super-spy back in a big way. But no matter how good his latest adventure may be, nothing will take the place of the Bond movie that holds the most special place in my heart…1985’s A View to a Kill.

Now, why oh why would I have such fond feelings for what many consider to be the worst Bond movie ever (well, if you discount Die Another Day)? Here’s what critic Pauline Kael had to say about the film in her New Yorker review: “The James Bond series has had its bummers, but nothing before in the class of A View to a Kill. You go to a Bond picture expecting some style or, at least, some flash, some lift; you don’t expect the dumb police-car crashes you get here. You do see some ingenious daredevil feats, but they’re crowded together and, the way they’re set up, they don’t give you the irresponsible, giddy tingle you’re hoping for.”

1,001 Reasons I Love Movies: (#28) Tony Scott’s Sicilian Connection

Like a lot of people who love movies, I was shocked to hear of director Tony Scott’s suicide on Sunday. This was a filmmaker who not only helped “invent” the modern action film with movies like Top Gun, but who was still relevant all these years later–his last film 2010’s Unstoppable (starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine) was a box office hit and thoroughly entertaining to boot.

My favorite Scott movie is True Romance and my favorite moment in that film is the Sicilian scene. Christopher Walken’s Sicilian mobster confronts Dennis Hopper—to learn the whereabouts of Hopper’s son played By Christian Slater. Hopper knows there’s no way Walken is going to let him live so he decides to get in one last jab by way of writer Quentin Tarantino’s brilliant monologue explaining the heritage of the Sicilian people in…well, let’s say un-P.C. terms.

As great as Scott was with an action sequence, I think this scene represents him at his best. The way he retains the scene’s simplicity—never losing the focus on the actors and the words—yet still bringing his own style and sensibility is a joy to behold. This is what the movies are all about: