Sunday, May 24, 2009

In Praise of Cheese

I love cheese. No, not the gooey stuff you put on crackers (although that is one of my favorite food groups). I'm talking about cheesy movies.

Delicious but irrelevant.

Merriam-Webster defines cheesy as "shabby; cheap". With all due respect to both Merriam and Webster, I have to disagree. While a cheesy movie can be both cheap and shabby, it doesn't have to be. A cheesy movie, in my decidedly less than humble opinion, is a movie that realizes what it is. A cheesy movie doesn't try to change the world, it doesn't try to open anybody's mind. It entertains without shame or apology. It's movie after all, not a politician or teacher. And there's nothing wrong with that.

I take a special joy in cheesy movies that I can't really explain. They're just so much fun. I get burnt out on movies that take themselves seriously and have a message but forget how to entertain. I like a low-budget wonder. (Can someone please explain to me why movies have to be so expensive to make. I truly do not understand this.) They're often more entertaining despite or (my favorite) because of their budgetary limitations. It forces filmmakers to be creative and solve problems without just throwing money at them which is responsible for more movie innovations than we're probably aware of.

Even if a movie does have a budget larger than a college student's income the cheese factor is still something to treasure. A movie that winks at the audience and says "I may not be the most important thing in the world, but so what?" Movies like "Snakes on a Plane" that are knowingly ridiculous are something that we have too few of in this world.

So in order to promote the cause of cheese, which is suffering from a negative image almost as bad as its edible counterpart, I have decided to have a weekly series of my favorite cheesy movies because you guys have to be sick to death of my lists and I am too.

First up in this, my first weekly post is...

Clue (1985)

I have a long-standing love affair with Tim Curry as do most people who've seen "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" and had confusing thoughts afterward. He's hilarious in this movie that is absolutely silly and ridiculous and best of all it knows it and embraces it. The movie uses the Red Scare as a backdrop but as Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren) says it's "...only a red herring". Make no mistake, this movie is about laughing and having fun, nothing else. Madeline Kahn is perfection as usual as Mrs. White and I have a special place in my heart for Michael McKean's role as the nervous Mr. Green. If you don't love this slapsticky masterpiece you might be a Communist and I'll be calling the House Un-American Activities Committee on you.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ultimate Break Up Movies

A month or so ago I split from my boyfriend of almost four years. (That's right, folks. Becky is single. Begin the man rush!) It was amicable and mutual, lacking most of the psychological drama that many break-ups entail but it was still hard to see such a large part of my life end. As usual in such situations, I turned to movies to help pull me out of my self-pitying cycle. So I thought I'd share my favorite break up movies for those going through the same fun time in their lives.

There is of course some criteria to determine which movies to watch.

1. Avoid anything that will remind you of the ex, like the movie you saw on your first date or the DVD he or she got you for your birthday, etc.

2. For the love of all that is good and holy, keep at least ninety miles away from anything written by Jane Austen, the Bronte sisters or Nora Ephron. These love stories about overcoming all odds will only depress you or give you false hope.

3. As a matter of fact, keep away from traditional love stories in general. Especially rom-coms. It will only damage your already fragile state of mind.

4. It's always fun if they're movies the ex didn't like. Right now I'm tending towards the cult movies like The Rocky Horror Picture Show, Psycho Beach Party or Cry-Baby because they're something I love-with-a-capital-L that my ex really didn't get at all. It's fun to relish in something you know they wouldn't have done with you. Also listening to that band that they hate (mine's Of Montreal) and eating that comfort food you were too embarrassed to eat in front of them (crab rangoons!) is liberating.

5. Serious dramas are best avoided unless you think watching someone else suffer will make you realize that you don't have it so bad. They're only for the brave.

6. If at all possible, make sure the movie includes a particularly sexy member of whichever sex you happen to fancy. Bonus points if there's a good sex scene.

So with those ground rules being set, let's talk specifics...

8. Cry-Baby (1990)

As previously mentioned, I LOVE a cult movie, especially one by John Waters. As an avid musical lover, it is just too much fun to watch the swoonworthy Johnny Depp (be still my heart) and company poke fun at them. I love all of the Grease references and the music is actually pretty darn good (yes, I have the soundtrack). Chalk this one up to silly campy fun.

7. Friday the 13th (1980)

I like a little gore in my cheer up movies, especially if it involves killing off sexually active teens. Makes me feel a little better about my own predicament. Really I would put almost any slasher flick here, but I have a special place in my heart for Friday the 13th. I sympathize with Mrs. Vorhees more than is probably healthy. She's a woman out there on her own doing what she needs to do to get her little boy some vengence. Who can't identify with that? It's always fun to be scared when you're feeling down. It gets your adrenaline pumping and makes you feel more alive.

6. Bridget Jones Diary (2001)
I know, I know it seems like I'm breaking my own rules with this rom-com but
hear me out. This is not a traditional love story. Bridget, our delightfully chubb
y (by Hollywood's standards anyway), loveable and relatable heroine, doesn't end up with the man that she wants (the ever sexy Hugh Grant, I know he plays the same character in every movie but God is he good at it). She has to end that relationship to be with the right guy for her (Colin Firth, one of the many unrequited loves of my life). So (follow me on this one) your relationship might have ended for a reason, maybe to open you up for an even better one.

5. America's Sweethearts (2001)
This one follows a similar line of reasoning as Bridget Jones (two people who want to be together shouldn't be so a new relationship can develop) and has the added bonus of a hilarious Billy Crystal. John Cusack plays his usual goofy neurotic self. I love this movie, even if it does include Julia Roberts (not my favorite). Hank Azaria makes one of my favorite cameos of all time as Catherine Zeta Jones's philandering boyfriend. Plus for any fellow movie lovers out there (and I have to assume that you are, otherwise why would you be reading this?) it paints a very realistic picture of the movie business as we rarely see it.

4. The Return of the Living Dead (1985)
There's really nothing better than a zombie movie to make you forget any troubles you may have, romantic or otherwise. For starters any time a character screams "BRAIIIIIIIIIINSSSSSSSS" in a film, I'm sold. This movie is just so delightfully silly and gory you can't help but love it. Also there's the added bonus of Freddy trying to eat his girlfriend, which is bad press for relationships if ever I've seen it.

3. Dead and Breakfast (2004)
If a bloody and gory zombie movie
with a hillbilly guitarist, David Carradine, and a "Thriller" dance sequence doesn't make you smile then you don't need a movie, you need Prozac. Also the scene whereDavid (Erik Palladino) kills
girlfriend Kate (Bianca Lawson) is
thoroughly cathartic. Make
sure to note how much of a badass
chick Ever Carradine is.

2. Young Frankenstein (1974)
Really you could put almost any Mel Brooks & Gene Wilder film in here but this just happens to be one of my favorite movies of all time. It's just so delightfully and knowingly silly. This movie can get me out of a bad mood even if my puppy just died. I love all of the sexual inuendos and the dance number is a classic scene for a reason. I highly suggest, if not this movie, then something this silly for any of those who need a pick-me-up. It's better than any amti-depressent I've ever heard of.

1. Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008)

This one helped me to get out of my own recent break-up funk and I show it to all of my friends who are going through the same thing. This movie follows the hilariously awkward and adorable Peter (Jason Segal, my favorite celebrity crush, he's like a giant teddy bear) through his own painful break-up. I return again to the theme of a movie showing a relationship fail for a reason. This
movie is so true to life (even with a movie star being the ex) that you'll cringe, cry and laugh uproariously and feel like you're not the only one out there who feels that way. Plus any movie silly enough to have a male full-frontal scene and a puppet musical (both of which apparently come from Segal's own life experiences) is sure to make you smile.

Well, I hope that helps someone out there! If you have any other suggestions that I missed let me know.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

[Insert Overused Sex Joke Here]

I saw an amazing concert in Atlanta not too long ago that was all about sex sex sex. The band was Of Montreal so that shouldn't be any surprise. (Their new CD Skeletal Lamping is fantastic; check it out.) But it got me thinking about sex in pop culture. More specifically sex scenes in movies. So I decided to do my favorite thing pretty much ever, make a list!

Some of these are fun, some of these are disturbing and some are just plain hot. All they really have in common is good old fashioned sins of the flesh.

So here we go my Top Seven Favorite Movie Sex Scences...

6 and 7. The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975)

There are a couple of sex scenes I wish to discuss in this, one of the greatest and most fun movies of all time. The first is just absolutely hilarious, as is much of the movie. Brad Majors (a**hole) and Janet Weiss (slut) are in their separate bedrooms when Dr. Frankenfurter comes to each of them and pretends to be the other in order to seduce them. I love this scene. It's not the sexiest thing on earth but it's still one of my favorite sex scenes, if only for the line "Coming!" It's just so ridiculous. My very first exposure to this movie was being told about this scene from a friend while listening to the soundtrack (thanks Kristen). I was absolutely shocked. Men and women have sex?! With people of the same gender?! Holy mackerel! That one threw my worldview for a loop. That same afternoon I was introduced to "Ta-ta-touch Me!" which is not so much a sex scene as a sex song. Susan Sarandon doesn't do too much with Rocky during the scene but she sure does sing about it. So, I'm cheating a little bit already but what the heck. My list, my rules.

5. Unfaithful (2002)

Not particularly original I realize but Diane Lane's flashbacks to her tryst with Olivier Martinez (has there been a sexier man since Cary Grant?) on the bus are just too good to ignore. As a completely heterosexual woman I cannot help but be mesmerized by Lane's face during her flashback. She is at once remorseful, delighted, giddy, guilty and of course sexy. But Martinez. Oh Olivier, what a lovely bit of eye candy he is in this movie. I do so love it when the traditional roles are flipped and the woman becomes more interesting than her seducer. Richard Gere's loss is the audience's gain.

4. Atonement (2007)

Two words. The Library. Dear God, the library. Kiera Knightly and James McAvoy are only really together for this one scene and what a scene it is. The whole beginningof the film is so stiflingly hot with sweat beading on everyone within frame that this scene feels like the only release. There is something so terribly sexy about being taken against a bookshelf like a naughty librarian. This scene reflects the immediacy of their passion. They can't wait for a time when they can be together alone. They need each other NOW. This is would be fine if it weren't for the conclusions drawn by Knightly's interrupting little sister which set up the tragedy of the story. The immediacy and the subsequent finality of this scene really stuck with me and made me anxious to get a job in a library with very sturdy walls.

2 and 3. Secretary (2002)

This movie is absolutely filled with sexuality, as any movie about love and sado-masochism should be. It would be difficult to pick just one scene in a movie which is bleeding sexual chemistry between Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader. Can I really choose this as one of my favorite sex scenes if there are only two actual sex (by sex I mean intercourse) scenes? It's my list and I say yes. There are two stand-outs in this one for me. The first is when Gyllenhaal and Spader have their first sexual encounter at his desk. The look of shock and curiousity on her face when he first spanks her is something to marvel at. What is so telling about the scene and the characters themselves is the moment after he's finished and they are both just panting and dripping with sweat and she reaches for his finger with her pinkie. It's a bit of foreshadowing for how their relationship is going to develop. The second scene is the only one in which our two main characters actually have sex. It's not a long scene, just a part of a montage really, but when they are having sex against the tree their is something so primal and, for lack of a better word, hot about it. I love this movie. Please don't be frightened off by it's decidely unique content. I think it's really a love story about how two people who need each other so badly can actually end up together.

1. Quills (2000)

I didn't choose scene because it's particularly sexy but rather because of the power that it has in it. This is a fantastic movie which doesn't seem to get the attention it deserves. Geoffrey Rush blew me away as the Marquis de Sade, Kate Winslet, always a favorite of mine, was absolutely charming as the curious laundress who befriends the famous sexual deviant and Michael Caine takes a disturbing turn as the true villain of the piece. Joaquin Pheonix makes the movie for me, though. His tortured turn as the abbe was perfect for the intensity he brings to every performance. And he is never more tortured than during his vivid fantasy involving him and Ms. Winslet's corpse. She has just been killed and is laying out in the chapel, naked save a silk shroud. He approaches her body weeping for the loss of not only her but what they could have been together. He kisses her chastely at first and then begins to remove the shroud. Your mind completely rebels against what you think he's doing and he's weeping afresh his pain now mixed with revulsion and disgust with himself but it's the only way he can have any part of her now. As he moves from kissing her to climbing on top of her there's a sharp intake of breath and she becomes animated and they begin to have sex. All she says is the last words he heard her say and the pain you feel as you realize that this scene is a fantasy is palpable. I burst into tears. It's such a painful moment when he wakes up and realizes that he never had her and never will.

Friday, October 31, 2008


Last weekend I saw The Nightmare Before Christmas in 3-D. I was very excited about it because it never played anywhere near Mac-Town the last time around (not even Atlanta, what's that crap about?) and it's one of my favorite movies of all time. It's an absolute holiday tradition for me. I watch it every October and every December as part of my holiday rituals.

It's a fantastic movie, well-designed, scored, written, acted and directed. I can find almost no faults with it. But it just doesn't lend itself well to 3-D. There were hardly any scenes which utilized the medium. The movie is already set up to bypass the need for it. Figures fly to the outside of the screen in order to simulate being three dimensional, something which is much more effective than the few scenes which were made three dimensional. The first and last time which used the three dimensionality effectively was the countdown to the film itself. A jack o' lantern pops out of a jack-in-the-box at the end of a countdown to put on your 3-D glasses. I literally yelped when it popped out. But beyond that there was simply no need for the 3-D. The film would have been much better served by a traditional screening. And the audience wouldn't have to wear the uncomfortable 3-D glasses (Although they looked much cooler than traditional ones, they itched my nose something fierce. Am I the only one here?).

I loved seeing the movie on the big screen for the first time but I just wish it had been the way it was meant to be seen.

Have a Happy Halloween Everyone!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I would just like to point out to anyone who cares that upon watching Psycho today on the big screen for the first time I discovered that Norman Bates wiggles his butt when he walks. Seriously, check it out.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Here We Go

This is my first blog. I know, I know, I'm late on the trend. Children who don't even have complete control over their bodily functions have blogs but I am just starting at the ripe old age of 21. Oh well, better late than never.

So this blog will deal with my love and obsession for movies. I say movies rather than films because I am not a cinema elitist. I have no qualms with film as escapism or silly predictable movies that film snobs love to sneer at. There is no such thing as high art or low art. If it entertains in any way, shape or form then a movie has done its job. If it makes the viewer think as well, that's just a bonus. There is no genre of film that I've found which I don't enjoy. Foreign, musical, horror, art house, romcom, action, bromance, slapstick, drama, period, chick flick, slasher, suspense, etc.; I love 'em all. There is something so magical about that moment when the opening title sequence flashes across the screen. I get a feeling like I'm being made privy to something special. There is no greater hope in the world than that which I feel as a movie starts. I give in to it as far as the creators will allow me. I try to remove myself from my life outside of the movie and let it fill my mind. It's like meditation for me.

Wow. That was sappy.

Sorry, I'll try to keep the gushing to a minimum in the future.

It being two days until Halloween, I figured I'd kick this blog off with something I love to do and read: Top Ten Lists. Of course, this will likely be the umpteenth Horror Movie List made this month, but I think it's fun, so what the heck.

Here it is, Becky's Top Ten Horror Movies

10. House on Haunted Hill (1999)

This movie is just ridiculous. It's a remake of what many consider a classic horror movie and not a very good one at that if the purpose of a horror movie is to frighten but for some reason I love it. It's hilarious, for one thing. Geoffrey Rush as Stephen Price is a riot with nothing but acid-dripping one-liners aimed at his wife, played by Famke Jensen. The movie is just silly campy fun with a bloodbath and creepy atmosphere to boot. My favorite kind of fun.

9. The Omen (1976)

I love the original of this franchise, although the 2006 remake was better than I expected. What makes the original so wonderful is Damien. There's just something about ginger kids. That kid is so eerie looking I nearly peed myself watching the final scene as an entirely too young to be seeing it girl. Is there anything more unsettling than a child who looks like he knows something you don't? It makes me want to get my tubes tied. Another prize scene is when the nanny hangs herself at Damien's birthday party. "It's all for you!"

8. Carrie (1976)

Like 95% percent of the teenage girl bracket, I felt awkward in high school, so the character of Carrie White hit a deep chord in me. I couldn't help but cringe during that uncomfortable shower scene. Watching an anorexic-seeming Sissy Spacek stumble around begging for h
elp as girls laughed and threw tampons at her is not a vision easily forgotten. I was cheering the whole time as she tormented the people who had made her life hell. God I wanted telekinetic powers. The final shocker dream scene at Carrie's grave definitely got me. I jumped about two feet. And what was with the dirty pillows? I have heard a lot of euphemisms for breasts in my time hanging out in the boys club but dirty pillows? Really?

7. The Ring (2002)

I don't care what you think about the whole American versions of Japanese horror thing. This movie scared the pants off of me. The little girl, Samara, freaks the crap out of me. The first time I saw it, I watched half of it through my fingers, clutching onto my friend's arm. It was like no movie I'd ever seen before. Whether you love or hate the Americanized Japanese horror movie trend it did introduce a whole new audience to a different and creative style of film they wouldn't have seen otherwise and The Ring was the first to do that.

6. Seven (1995) and Silence of the Lambs (1991)

These may not be traditional horror movies, more thrillers really but they scared me. There is something so disconcerting about Kevin Spacey's coldness in Seven that makes me shiver and Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter is iconic for a reason. But I think Buffalo Bill is where the true horror lies in this movie. He is so disconnected from his victims that he can't bring himself to think of them as anything other than "it". That sociopathic disconnect is unfathomable and terrifying to me.

5. Saw (2004)

This is a brilliant movie. It's that simple. The second was good but after that the movie lost its soul. The original was gory and disgusting to be sure, but it had a point. From the third one on it was like watching screen tests for the latest effects company. But the original is not
diminished by them. How genius is the character of Jigsaw and his motive for putting people into the situations that he does? You move from confusion to compassion to respect as the story of Jigsaw is unraveled. I'll never forget that ah-ha moment when the doctor and the photographer's story come together. And the soul-crushing sound of that door slamming at the end made me yelp right in the middle of the theater. Can we pause for a moment and consider the doll? Holy shit. I already have a thing about dolls and mannequins and the like (something about things that look human but aren't just get under my skin) and that one nearly killed me. I couldn't even watch the trailers for the longest time. When Jigsaw gets up from where he'd been hiding in the middle of the room the ENTIRE FREAKIN' TIME my mouth was open so wide I looked like a blow-up doll. I love this movie. It's perfect. What more needs to be said?

4. The Shining (1980)

It's such a quiet film for the most part that when that hellfire music comes in it invades your brain and fills you so completely that you feel like it will never end. There is nothing more terrifying than when Wendy discovers what Jack's been working on all this time, nothing but reams and reams of the sentence "All work and no play make Jack a dull boy" written over and over again in different ways and configurations. To realize that the person you're with has been going so insane and for so long is unimaginable to me. That beats the "Here's Johnny!" moment by a long run. There is something so real and so unsettling about the scene when Jack begins verbally tearing Wendy apart that I feel uncomfortable watching her helplessness. This movie is one of both Kubrick's and King's best. It knocks my socks off every time I watch it.

3. Halloween (1978)

I have a real love-hate relationship with this movie. It's a terrific movie but it has terrified me ever since I watched it at the age of seven and had to walk home by myself in the dark. Michael Myers never talks. Ever. It's so unnerving. He's a blank; no face, no voice, no reason, just death.

2. Psycho (1960)

I am a huge Hitchcock fan. I love him through and through. He's up there in my top five favorite directors. I've heard people say that Psycho is the first modern horror movie and it's true. Norman Bates is equal parts ridiculous and creepy making him so realistic it's scary.

1. Nosferatu (1922)

Vampires are kind of my thing. I have all of Anne Rice books, that is until she started getting all religious and dull, multiple versions of Dracula in my collection and am a huge fan of the recent vampirisation of popular culture. Nosferatu is simply the best and creepiest offering of one of my favorite genres. Max Schreck may not have been a vampire as another fun film Shadow of the Vampire suggests, but he certainly captured the feeling of one in Nosferatu. His physicality is so rodent-like that it strips away all of the sexuality and romanticism of Dracula, on which Count Orlock is based, and makes him far more terrifying and seemingly realistic. (Can you have a realistic version of something that isn't real?) Count Orlock is not someone who would seduce a young woman like Bela Lugosi. He is baser than that. He has to take her. That raw animalism is as frightening as a bear attack. F. W. Murnau created an eerie setting and style to his film but it is Schreck which pushes this movie into greatness. I could watch it over and over.

Well there it is. I hope you enjoyed it and maybe even agreed with it a little.
Have a happy Halloween!!