THE ESSENTIAL FILMS, PART 1 & WINDOWS LIVE

Greetings,

It’s been a busy last couple of days. But, in the midst of everything and the intense heat (only a month and a half until autumn, yeah!), I’ve been doing some thinking about some films that have made a profound difference to me. I have no idea why I’m doing this. Just for fun.

So here they are, in no particular order.

HEAT (1995)

What’s it about: Two men, a hard-boiled career criminal named Neil (Robert De Niro) who specializes in low-risk, high-yield robberies, and an intense, driven cop named Vincent (Al Pacino) who face off in a complex, morally ambiguous saga involving lots of other cops-and-criminal types, all set in the backdrop of a dark, moody L.A.

Why it’s awesome: Terrific story, great, multi-dimentional characters, a great-looking film that features one of the most incredible urban crime showdowns in film history, director Michael Mann’s finest work.

Why you should see it: One of the 1990’s best films, Heat’s neo-noir style and superb story makes it totally worth it.

ALIENS (1986)

What’s it about: The sequel to 1979’s landmark sci-fi/horror flick Alien, the sequel picks up right where Alien left off: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) has to go back to face her fears again on LB-426, now a colony for humans that has been overrun by those pesky, acid-filled Aliens.

Why it’s awesome: James Cameron accomplished what only a few films in a series have done before – written and directed a sequel that improves on elements of the original. Weaver is note-perfect as Ripley, the action is intense and anxious, the shock factor much higher than the original, and those Aliens have never been more scary than here.

Why you should see it: This is gripping stuff from the get-go. The feminist overtones of Aliens is interesting stuff for film critic-types, the action is mindblowing and it’s incredibly dark in tone and style. The aliens are also pretty friggin’ awesome.

MINORITY REPORT (2002)

What’s it about: a pre-crime detective named John Anderton (Tom Cruise) is framed for a murder is supposed to commit sometime in a few days – through the help of psychics or “pre-cogs” he attempts to save himself and figure out how he was framed.

Why it’s awesome: Philip K. Dick’s genius once again shines through here. Steven Spielberg directs this film as a kind of cautionary tale on the future: what happens when we put too much fatih into science? What is the nature of the spirit and flesh?

Why you should see it: Edgy, bold, deeply fascinating and full of interesting ideas on the nature of metaphysics and has some pretty cool action sequences too.

THE GODFATHER & THE GODFATHER, PART II (1972 & 1974)

What’s it about: The sprawling, lush story of the Corleone crime family told with expert flair, acting and writing. Simply put, some of the greatest cinema ever produced. If you’ve lived in a hole in the ground, check out the talent here: Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, James Caan, Diane Keaton, Talia Shire, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall…

Why it’s awesome: Have you ever seen a film once and been changed by it on a deeply personal level? This is the one that did it for me. I saw these films back when I was 14 and it was one of those moments when I realized how much I loved the movies. Evoking a spirit of America (and begging some interesting questions about how much the mob was actively involved in the building of America) that exists only a romanticized, mind’s eye sense of the term, these films are must-sees for anyone.

Why you should see them: See above.


L.A. CONFIDENTIAL (1997)


What’s it about: Based on a James Ellroy novel, three cops – Bud White (Russell Crowe), Jack Vincennes (Kevin Spacey) and Ed Exley (Guy Pearce) – try to piece together a conspiracy over murders of local mob boss Mickey Cohen’s associates. A very moody, post-war L.A. never looked so good.

Why it’s awesome: Because it doesn’t let up for a minute in action and story. If you turn away for a moment, you can miss something. The performances are amazing, particularly Kim Basinger’s remarkable comeback role as Lynn Bracken. The look of fedora-wearing, seedy underworld-dwelling L.A. in the 1940s is amazing. Film noir at its finest.

Why you should see it: Nominated for about a billion Oscars in the Titanic onslaught, this is the film that should have won Best Picture that year. Extraordinary in every respect, it’s a very complex story that rewards on multiple viewings.

INTERVIEW WITH THE VAMPIRE (1994)

What it’s about: Louis (Brad Pitt) is a 200-year old vampire who visits with a reporter (Christian Slater) one night and tells an incredible story about his origins as a vampire; the cruel, demented ways of his creator, Lestat (Tom Cruise), his tortured relationship with his adopted daughter Claudia, among other things.

Why it’s awesome:
Anne Rice’s world never looked better than here. An atmospheric, incredibly dark and visceral story, these vampires are morally complex, interesting creatures who evoke powerful emotions and fascinating stories. A bloody romp done with expert work by director Neil Jordan.

Why you should see it: One of the best vampire movies ever made that, while genuinely scary, is fascinating about death, sex, immortality and the nature of evil.

V FOR VENDETTA (2006)

What’s it about: Evie (Natalie Portman) teams up with a one-man army, code named V (Hugo Weaving), in overthrowing the fascist British government of the near-future, run by a crazed madman (John Hurt).

Why it’s awesome: Intense action sequences and some really cool discussion of ideas on politics. Great performances all around. While critics didn’t like all the dialogue and felt it was a bit plodding here and there, I really liked this flick.

Why you should see it: Well, to be honest, I can’t say this will be for everyone’s tastes.

More to come…

WINDOWS LIVE: I’ve tried it but I’m growing frustrated with the new Windows Live email format. You see, as part of Microsoft’s rebranding efforts in preparation for the debut of Windows Vista next year, MSN Hotmail is being changed into Windows Live email.

Right now, Hotmail has the option to go into Beta mode to test Windows Live email. But, unfortunately, it has some tweaks that need to be ironed out, specifically in the layout of the email. So, I had to switch back to Hotmail mode today in order to delete some old messages and organize my email a bit.

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