Hello, friends! This week, Enter the Movies turns five years old. It's very hard for me to believe that just five years ago I was starting this blog with a very humble (and poorly written.... not that that's improved much) review of Iron Man 3. This blog has been a wonderful outlet for me to express my thoughts and opinions on a host of films - over 400 and counting - and I sincerely hope you have enjoyed reading it as much as I have enjoyed writing it! From the bottom of my heart, thank you so, so much for sticking with me all this time. What started as a school project has emerged into a (mildly!) successful blog with a decent amount of views. This blog has let me maintain friendships with those of you I may not have otherwise, and it's helped me create some new ones along the way. The future is bright here at Enter the Movies. I have recently started volunteering for some local film organizations in Cincinnati, most notably Cincinnati World Cinema and their new movie theater, The Garfield, which deals primarily in documentary and foreign cinema, and I have no intention of slowing down my consumption/reviewing of mainstream studio films. The last five years have been a blast on the blog, and I can't wait to see what the next five years have in store!
To celebrate the anniversary, I thought it would be fun to make a few lists discussing cinema both personally and relating to the blog. Lists include films that inspired me personally, as well as (in my opinion) the best movies that I have had the opportunity to review on this blog. Among others. So grab your popcorn and enjoy my celebration of my obsession's (quantifiable) fifth anniversary!
Five Favorite Movie Moments
Let's start with some of my favorite movie moments over the years. None of these are in any particular order. I can (and often do) rewatch these scenes over, and over, and over, and over....
Armie Hammer Dancing in Call Me By Your Name
Any look at the end of a Damien Chazelle film
The speeches of The Wolf of Wall Street
Opening of Baby Driver
The sandstorm scene from Mad Max: Fury Road
Opening of Gravity
It would be kind of unfair to not mention some of my all-time favorite movie moments, including.....
"No, Mr. Bond, I expect you to die!" as it was one of the first times I actually thought to myself "How is this invincible character going to get out of this situation?" - from Goldfinger
"Introduce a little anarchy" as it is arguably the best monologue from what is still the best performance I have ever seen in a film. It's all in the hands, man. - from The Dark Knight
The jailbreak scene in The Fate of the Furious as it is the embodiment of the over-the-top, mindless action we crave in our summer blockbusters. (Words cannot describe how excited I am for the upcoming The Rock / Statham Furious spin-off) - from The Fate of the Furious
King Theoden's speech / charge in Return of the King because it is still my favorite movie speech of all-time. - from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
"I'm funny how?" because everyone could use more Joe Pesci in their life. - from Goodfellas
Five Favorite First-Watches
I've had a lot of great first-watches over the years, here are some of the ones that really stood out!
I was lucky enough to go into this Blomkamp film completely blind, and was greeted with one of the sharpest left turns I've ever seen. Featuring a breakout performance from Sharlto Copley, (a man who is notoriously one of the hardest people to work with in the business) District 9's sharp left turn caught me totally off-guard and gripped me for the rest of the film. In my opinion this is still the best project Peter Jackson has ever been a part of not named (the original) Lord of the Rings.
Yes, this Christopher Nolan film holds a special place in my heart because I was lucky enough to see it at the beautiful Landmark cineplex in the heart of LA on its opening night. I was in a packed house in one of the most gorgeous movie houses in the country watching a film who's first-watch is pretty unforgettable as it is. (Definitely the best within Nolan's catalog in my opinion.) When you add the stunning location, you end up with one of my favorite first-watches ever.
Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith
This first-watch makes the list because it was my very first opening day screening. My mom took me, a newfound teenager, to see this film on its opening day, and I liked it so much that the film's poster became a birthday present later that year. (It's still hanging in my old room to this day.) This was one of the early times where I realized I may have a soft spot for this whole cinema thing, but combine it with the allure of a packed theater full of Star Wars fans looking for anything to ease the pain of the previous two installments, and you get one of my favorite first-watches.
The Hateful Eight
Another first-watch at The Landmark in LA, I was fortunate enough to watch the latest Quentin Tarantino flick in beautiful 70mm, complete with an overture and intermission. At the time The Landmark had been recently(ish) renovated, and the whole "screening movies in 70mm" idea was very foreign to cineplexes, so this marked the first time I had ever seen a film in 70mm. Needless to say, it was one of my favorite first-watches ever. While no 70mm viewing has ever matched this one, (I've also seen Phantom Thread in 70mm in that very same theater) it does add a strong sense of prestige to the screening, in addition to the extra level of immersion. If you haven't seen something in 70mm yet, I highly recommend it. (While it's not quite the same, the closest 70mm theater to Cincinnati is at the Indianapolis State Museum IMAX Theater.)
Ahhh, yes. You had to have known this one was coming sooner or later, right? I was lucky enough to see The Room for the first time at a midnight screening at Nashville's beautiful indie arthouse theater, The Belcourt. The majority of the packed house were all-to-familiar with the film commonly referred to as "the Citizen Kane of bad movies" and I knew I was in for something special when the first thing the moderator for the screening said was, "If you're in this theater to actually watch The Room, you can leave now." The level of audience participation with this lovably horrific film is something I'll never forget, and if you've never experienced it yourself then WHAT ARE YOU DOING GO FIND THE NEAREST MIDNIGHT SCREENING OF THE ROOM RIGHT NOW. DRIVE 300 MILES IF YOU HAVE TO. You'll thank me later.
20th Century Women
Ok this one requires a bit of explanation. A depressed and frustrated me walked into my favorite Regal in Nashville (Opry Mills ftw) the day after Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016. On November 9 I was at one of my lowest points - wondering how a nation could dismiss someone like Hillary Clinton primarily because of her womanhood and elect a man with the maturity of a young child - and was just looking to take my mind off things with the latest thing from A24 to hit cinemas. I was greeted with a beautifully uplifting story, and simply perfect for that moment. The film featured one of my single favorite characters ever put on screen, Abbie, (coincidentally played by now indie-darling Greta Gerwig) as well as other intelligent, powerful, and complicated women. This first-watch is the embodiment of why I love cinema, and one that I'll never forget.
Also wanna give a shoutout to a few other films for providing me with a first-watch I remember fondly:
Titanic, because watching a film crew literally sink a life-size replica of the RMS Titanic on screen is something I'll never forget, even if I was only 6 at the time.
Saving Private Ryan, for being my very first R-rated film. (I was like 8 at the time and was freaking out over the fact that it was rated R. It was a different time, Oscar. It was a different time.)
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 for being my favorite midnight screening. Sure, it's not a great film by itself, and it did start a very unfortunate (and hopefully already over) trend with two-part finales to the big YA adaptations of the early 2010s, but watching this with a huge group of friends from my dorm in a packed theater in Harrisonburg is still a memory which I look back on fondly.
The Five Worst Movies I've Reviewed
Might as well get it out of the way now and talk about the worst films I've seen since I started this blog.... uggggghhhhhhh
I Love You, Daddy
While most of these lists are not in any particular order, this film is, without a doubt, the worst film I have ever seen. (or reviewed) As much a jumbled mess as it is culturally insensitive. Louis C.K.'s vile mansplaining film featuring a repugnant "love story" between a Woody Allen-like character and C.K.'s daughter, this story made me so upset I had to stop it at several points so as to not throw my computer halfway across the room. The women, who in C.K.'s disgusting mind offset the vile subject matter, were clearly forced to read scripted lines written by C.K. himself, and the film was doomed to the depths of hell even before Louis C.K.'s own disgusting behavior became public. Now, unfortunately, this film is back at the forefront (least for me) thanks to C.K.'s misogyny-fueled attempted "comeback," when all I want to do is put this, and C.K., out of my mind forever.
Hey, at least this film did create to my go-to disgusted look, courtesy of Pamela Adlon.
Sicario: Day of the Soldado
Speaking of culturally insensitive films, we have 2018's Sicario sequel, Sicario: Day of the Soldado. A #MAGAs wet dream of what illegal immigration leads to and what our southern border looks like, this film has one of the most culturally insensitive openings I've ever seen as writer Taylor Sheridan (and director Stefano Sollima) turns illegal immigrants into suicide bombers in the south, complete with a sequence where they blow up a Wal-Mart. And if you think the cultural appropriation goes away after that, don't worry! It doesn't. This disgusting film came out right as our current president was separating children from their families at the border, which certainly didn't help its case. There are few films I have ever wanted to walk out of a theater during, however Sicario: Day of Soldado was definitely one of them.
Independence Day: Resurgence
Hey, remember when 21st Century Fox decided it was a good idea to remake one of the campiest films of the '90s 20 years later? I don't.
Speaking of good ideas, let's pair Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence in a big budget movie set in space, and forget to spend money on literally any other aspect of this film. That'll go over well, right???
Kirk Cameron Saves Christmas
Just watch this trailer and tell me to my face that this can be a good movie. You can't do it. It was so bad that even Kirk Cameron was like "Bruh, I gotta take a break from this whole acting thing for a few years."
Also gotta condemn one of my favorite punching bags on this blog, Adam Sandler. Films like Grown Ups 2 were so bad that Sandler escaped the studio system and signed over his rights to Netflix. Even though that deal was massive so I'm sure he's REALLY struggling right about now....
The Five Best Movies I've Reviewed (in my opinion)
And now we talk about the films who's praises I've been singing for years, and will continue to do so for years to come.
La La Land / Whiplash
I routinely call La La Land the best film I have ever reviewed on this blog, and likely will continue to do so. The film creates a visual spectacle surrounded by an engrossing love story portrayed by two charming and charismatic leads, all wrapped up in one of my favorite scores of all-time. What's not to love? Also, Whiplash will be used in the same breath as La La Land thanks to one-part gut-wrenching story and one-part "the intimidating presence of J.K. Simmons."
Arguably the most culturally significant film released in the last five years, 2016's almost-not-Best-Picture Moonlight has not only been indie-darling's A24's most critically successful film, it rocketed one of the most talented filmmakers in the business, Barry Jenkins, into superstardom. All while telling an emotionally devastating, thought-provoking, and flawlessly executed story. The beauty of this film is in its minute details, and since its release it has done nothing but shine brighter as one of, if not the, best film of this decade. While I still prefer La La Land over Moonlight personally, I know I am also allowed to be wrong.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Likely the best film I've ever seen from a technical perspective, my top film of 2015 earns a well deserved place on this list. George Miller's third installment in the Mad Max trilogy was one of the gutsiest films to be produced, featuring a production cycle that was actually held up on multiple occasions because the area was physically unsafe thanks to freaking war. Not to mention maintaining the cars was the very definition of a nightmare. But somehow, despite the adversity, George Miller managed to craft one of the craziest films I have ever seen on top of its sheer visual brilliance. Oh, and the score is my favorite of the past five years, so that's a nice thing to have in your film too.
The first perfect score I ever handed out on this blog, Alfonso Cuarón made himself a household name with his seventh feature film, 2013's Gravity. To this day, almost five years later, this film still holds up remarkably well from a technical standpoint, and is likely the best space movie ever made. (To date, at least. *Looks at First Man*.....) Sure, its story is..... a little dull, but the technical execution here is breathtaking, with Cuarón's hand on the steering wheel. I still don't know how they got some of these shots....
I think 2015 was probably the best overall year for cinema on this blog. Between this, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Big Short, Straight Outta Compton, Room, AND Ex Machina? Man, that's a lot of great cinema for one year. Spotlight is probably the film that has most changed my life personally in the last five years. A stunningly dramatic interpretation of one of the most shocking exposés ever written, Spotlight shows how you can take a seemingly mundane story - tracking a story over the course of almost a year - and makes it gripping in every sense of the word. Couple that with the fact that this film (and story) highlights the ugliest parts of the Catholic church, which are (sadly) still very relevant today, and it's tough not to include this one on the list.
A big-time honorable mention here goes to Phantom Thread, which was my number 1 film of 2017, and featured two of the best performances I have ever seen in a film between Daniel Day-Lewis and Vicky Krieps.
Also, speaking of ridiculous production cycles, Richard Linklater's Boyhood has to receive a mention thanks to its legendary 20-year production cycle.
Another one to worth mentioning (recency bias aside) would be my best film of 2018 so far, Bo Burnham's Eighth Grade. What a spectacular directorial debut from the former YouTube star.
Five Films that Inspired Me
To close out the retrospective, I wanted to take a moment and talk about some of the films that inspired me before I started writing this blog. These are just a few of the many films that I hold in high regard.
My first run-in with "found footage" films, this little 2008 film from Matt Reeves, Drew Goddard, and J.J. Abrams took me completely by surprise when I first saw it ten years ago. (It's also the only film I've reviewed on two separate occasions on this blog. Fun fact) It jumpstarted the careers of Lizzy Caplan and (for better or for worse) T.J. Miller, and still has one of the scariest scenes I've ever seen a movie. (You know the one) I think this movie caught lightning in a bottle when it first came out, and certain aspects of it are certainly dated now, but I still love it. This is still one of my favorite sci-fi movies of all-time.
Martin Scorsese Films
I know I'm cheating with this one, but Martin Scorsese is my favorite director of all-time. You honestly want me to pick only one of his films? Taxi Driver. Raging Bull. The Wolf of Wall Street. The Aviator. Hugo. Casino. Mean Streets. Goodfellas. How am I supposed to pick just one? Alright, well if I HAD to pick one to be my favorite, it would probably be Taxi Driver. Featuring an iconic performance from Robert De Niro that ensured he would never be referred to as "the guy from The Godfather: Part 2," Taxi Driver is a haunting character study that was inspirational for dozens of future filmmakers. with the famous "You talking to me?" sequence continuing to be a pillar of internal monologue sequences. Also the film features a VERY young Jodie Foster and has one of the last scores from the greatest film composer of all-time, Bernard Hermann, so there's that.
The Social Network
This film is primarily here because it has EASILY the best trailer ever made, but I think it is still the best film of this decade that I've seen. (Though Moonlight does have something to say about that.) A once-in-a-lifetime collaboration between my favorite screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin, and one of the most meticulous directors out there, David Fincher, The Social Network was the launching pad for the careers of Andrew Garfield and Armie Hammer, which is worth the cost of admission alone. Not to mention it has one of the best scores of recent memory (certainly the most groundbreaking) from Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. All that aside, the collaboration between Sorkin and Fincher has proved to be one of the best collabs ever, and even though another collaboration would never reach the same hemisphere as The Social Network, I still really, REALLY, want to see it again.
The Bond Movies
So if you asked me what's my favorite movie franchise of all-time, I would say, without hesitation, James Bond. I discovered the franchise long ago at one of the lowest points of my entire life, and was inspired by the fictional hero. After all, if James Bond can talk his way out of being sliced in two by a lazer, why can't I make it through the next day? For almost 6 months, every Thursday night was Bond night at my late uncle's house as we went through each installment in the franchise, and at the time I didn't have much else to look forward to. Sure, there are many problems with this franchise, particularly around its awful treatment of women. (Which it's still having issues with to this day, unfortunately.) But I will never forget the uplift this franchise gave me at a time when I needed it the most. Hopefully the franchise can figure out how to make itself more gender inclusive in the future!
Also, for anyone wondering, Goldfinger is my favorite Bond movie. Gert Fröbe is SUCH A GREAT villain!
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
We've come to it at last. The film that is, in my opinion, the greatest movie I've ever seen. How do you make every second of something that's 251 minutes long engrossing? I have no freaking clue, but every second of that legendary extended edition (263 minutes long with the extra credits) is exactly that. The film still looks great almost 15 years later, (even better than The Hobbit trilogy, which is pretty amazing/depressing when you think about it) and features iconic performances from everyone involved. I mean, c'mon! There's like 20 people in this thing who's careers were defined by the Lord of the Rings trilogy. How many movies can say that? Also, I've been mentioning musical scores throughout this post....well, in my opinion, this film features the single greatest score ever put on film, highlighted by one of the greatest musical sequences of all-time. The goosebumps in this sequence are so real that I STILL tear up. It's indescribably magnificent, and puts the cherry on top of one of the great films of Hollywood cinema.
Well, thanks so much for reading everyone! I had a blast writing this retrospective, and I hope you enjoyed reading it as well! It's been a great couple of years here at Enter the Movies, and I am very excited to see what the next five years have in store. On to 2023!
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