Saturday, April 10, 2010

Director Oeuvre Rankings

I decided to rank some directors' films in order of preference. Read on, and let me know if there's any big names that I may have missed and should rank, or any major works I haven't seen yet.

Paul Thomas Anderson
2.Boogie Nights
3.Punch Drunk Love
4.There Will Be Blood
5.Hard Eight

Stanely Kubrick
1.2001: A Space Odyssey
2. Eyes Wide Shut
3. Barry Lyndon
4. The Shining
5. Dr. Strangelove
6. A Clockwork Orange
7. Lolita
8. Full Metal Jacket
9. Paths of Glory
10. The Killing

Tim Burton
1.Batman Returns
3.Edward Scissorhands
4.Ed Wood
6.Mars Attacks!
7.Pee-Wee's Big Adventure
8.Sweeney Todd
9.Sleepy Hollow
10.Big Fish
11.Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
12.Corpse Bride
13.Alice in Wonderland
14.Planet of the Apes

Quentin Tarantino
1.Kill Bill Vol. 1
2.Inglorious Basterds
3.Jackie Brown
4.Kill Bill Vol. 2
5.Pulp Fiction
6.Death Proof
7.Reservoir Dogs

David Lynch
1.Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
2.Mulholland Drive
3.Lost Highway
4.Inland Empire
5.Blue Velvet
6.Wild at Heart
9.The Straight Story
10.The Elephant Man

Steven Spielberg
1.Raiders of the Lost Ark
2.Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade
3.Close Encounters of the Third Kind
4.A.I. Artificial Intelligence
5.Jurassic Park
7.Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
9.Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
10.Saving Private Ryan
11.Catch Me if You Can
12.Schindler's List
14.War of the Worlds
15.Minority Report
18.The Terminal
19.The Lost World: Jurassic Park

Richard Linklater
1.Before Sunset
2.Waking Life
3.Dazed and Confused
4.Before Sunrise
5.School of Rock
7.A Scanner Darkly
9.Fast Food Nation
11.Bad News Bears
12.The Newton Boys

Kevin Smith
1.Chasing Amy
4.Clerks II
6.Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back
7.Zack and Miri Make a Porno
8.Jersey Girl

Michael Mann
1.Miami Vice
2.The Insider
5.Public Enemies
9.The Last of the Mohicans

Wong Kar-Wai
1.Fallen Angels
3.Chungking Express
4.In the Mood for Love
5.Happy Together
6.Days of Being Wild
7.Ashes of Time
8.My Blueberry Nights
9.As Tears Go By

Stephen Soderbergh
3.Full Frontal
4.Sex, Lies and Videotape
5.Out of Sight
7.The Informant!
8.The Limey
9.Ocean's Twelve
10.The Girlfriend Experience
11.Ocean's Eleven

Rainer Werner Fassbinder
1.The Marriage of Maria Braun
2.Berlin Alexanderplatz
3.Veronika Voss
4.Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
5.The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
7.The Merchant of Four Seasons
8.Love is Colder than Death

1.The Big Lebowski
2.O Brother Where Are Thou?
3.Barton Fink
4.Blood Simple
6.No Country for Old Men
7.The Man Who Wasn't There
8.Burn After Reading
9.Intolerable Cruelty
10.Raising Arizona
11.Miller's Crossing
12.The Ladykillers

Todd Haynes
1.Velvet Goldmine
2.I'm Not There
4.Far From Heaven

James Cameron
2.Terminator 2: Judgment Day
3.The Abyss
5.The Terminator
7.True Lies

Martin Scorsese
2.Bringing Out the Dead
3.Taxi Driver
4.The Departed
5.The King of Comedy
6.After Hours
7.Raging Bull
8.Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore
9.Mean Streets
10.The Aviator
11.Cape Fear
12.The Last Temptation of Christ
14.Shutter Island
15.New York, New York
16.The Age of Innocence
17.Gangs of New York
18.The Color of Money
19.Boxcar Bertha

Woody Allen
2.Annie Hall
4.Vicky Christina Barcelona
5.Everyone Says I Love You
6.Deconstructing Harry
7.Stardust Memories
8.Match Point
11.Love and Death
12.Small Time Crooks
13.Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex
14.The Curse of the Jade Scorpion

Alfred Hitchock
2.North by Northwest
3.The Birds
5.Rear Window
6.Strangers on a Train
7.To Catch a Thief
8.The Man Who Knew Too Much

Wes Anderson
1.The Royal Tenenbaums
2.Fantastic Mr. Fox
4.The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
5.Bottle Rocket
6.The Darjeeling Limited

Sofia Coppola
1. Lost in Translation
2. The Virgin Suicides
3. Marie Antoinette

Spike Jonze
1. Being John Malkovich
2. Adaptation
3. Where the Wild Things Are

Kim Ki-Duk
2.Samaritan Girl
3.Spring, Summer, Fall Winter...and Spring
4.Bad Guy
5.The Isle
7.The Bow

Park Chan-wook
2.Sympathy for Lady Vengeance
3.I'm a Cyborg, But That's OK
4.Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Lost - 'Happily Ever After' (6x11)

This week's Lost brought back perhaps the series' most beloved character, Desmond, and with him, the promise of some kind of major reveal about the time screwiness that's been going on in the alternate universe. As the episode ends, it seems like the nature of the alternate universe has finally been revealed, though questions certainly still linger. The final reveal is great, and fits with a lot of the ideas I've had about the series as a whole, but the episode itself doesn't quite make it to classic status thanks to it hitting a lot of the same beats we've already seen in the alt-verse throughout the season.

Let me start out with the big reveal, namely the nature of the alternate universe, and Desmond's purpose going forward in the season. It seems that the alternate universe is a world that shouldn't be, but was brought into existence through the detonation of the atom bomb on the island, which consequently uncorked the Man in Black and let him loose into the world. And, more specifically, it ensured that Jacob was not able to intercede in the lives of our main characters to bring them to the island. Without their destiny on the island, they have varying levels of success, but all seem to feel that something is missing in their lives, and they struggle to fill that hole in various ways.

The vague allusions of Jack looking in a mirror in the season premiere are expanded here to Charlie describing his vision of Claire, and Desmond experiencing a hallucinatory journey through his life in the core timeline. It seems that people who died in the main timeline are easier able to access their memories. Both Charlie and Faraday are aware that something is wrong in this world, that they're missing the love that gave them joy in the core timeline.

I'd argue that even more important than the specific love for Claire was the sense of purpose and feeling. The hallucinatory joy he talks about is what being on the island gave them all, it took them out of failed, troubled lives and gave them purpose and destiny. That's been one of my key readings of the show throughout, the idea that the island was not a curse, but a blessing because it let them all reinvent themselves and find a happiness that alluded them on the mainland.

That's why all the characters trying to leave the island baffled me, since things seemed so much worse on the mainland, that's why the entire atomic bomb plan made no sense, and now the results of the plan seem to reinforce the reading. At the core of the show was the conflict between Locke and Jack, between faith and reason. Locke had faith that they were on the island for a reason, and he exalted in the opportunities that it gave him. It took Jack a long time to come around to that viewpoint, but at this point in the run, he's taken up Locke's mantle and is advocating a surrender to destiny and service to the island.

So, the implication is that a life without going to the island is a colorless kind of hell where no one feels as vibrantly as they do in the main timeline, and the only way to tap back into that feeling is through love. The major question here is how does that fit with what we saw in the previous alt-verse stories. The early ones, Jack and Locke in particular, seemed to offer the alt-verse as an ideal world, where the characters are able to overcome the conflicts that defined them before the island and find happiness and peace.

However, perhaps that happiness comes at the price of greatness. You could admire Locke accepting his place in the world, but isn't that also a form of surrender? He's letting people tell him what he can't do and surrendering to an acceptable life, but one that's not all it could be. Would Locke rather have the adventure he had on the island or be happy with Helen? I'd argue that he'd probably be happier on the island. It would make sense that the two people who must wholeheartedly buy into Jacob's mission, Jack and Locke, would receive the greatest temptation from the Man in Black, the happy lives they never thought possible. If we get to the point where the characters have to choose between their alt-verse lives and their on island lives, it would make sense to give Jack the greatest temptation since he has the greatest faith.

One could argue that the island is there to let every character grow and be their best. Someone like Sawyer changed so much because of his experiences, and particularly his relationship with Juliet. All the characters who've stuck around and been at the heart of the show have become much more than they were at the beginning, they've felt more and opened up in a way we never saw them do in the flashbacks.

This episode goes on to posit love as the 'constant' for everyone, the thing they can hold on to to remain grounded as they drift further and further into the alt-verse. It's love that brings back Farraday's memories of who he used to be, and allows him to access the part of himself that was once alive on the island, the him that should have been. It's love that lets Charlie see his true self, and the same for Desmond.

At the end of the episode, it seems that thanks to meeting Penny, he has freed his consciousness to travel between the two worlds, and he will go on a mission in both worlds to warn everyone about how wrong the alt-verse is and try to save the main world. In the main universe, I'm guessing he's going to try to stop Smoke Locke from escaping, while in the alt-verse, he's going to try to make the characters remember the false nature of their universe. Ultimately, I'm guessing everybody will have to make some kind of choice between the alt-verse life and the main-verse life.

I think that this episode did do a great job of explaining and contextualizing the alt-verse. However, it didn't make up for a lot of weak stories getting here. Even in this episode, there's moments that seem meant to be surprising, like Desmond working for Widmore, that don't have much impact. The alt-verse only came alive when we saw its relationship to the main one, because that gives us a context for understanding how these stories matter. That's a lot more interesting than just seeing a bunch of characters who've died appear in random roles.

But, in general, this was easily the season's best episode, and if the rest of the series is centered around Desmond's mission, I won't be complaining. A lot of the Lost characters, even great ones like Ben and Farraday, are interesting on a conceptual level, Desmond is one of the few who engenders a really strong emotional connection, so he's a great 'constant' for the series itself, reminding us why we care even when the stories don't work so well.

The on island stuff this week was particularly fantastic. I love the return of the strange science experiments, the Watchmen evoking particle reactor and the strange Jurassic Park style setups. Widmore is killing it every week, and I'm eager to hear more about his overall mission, and perhaps get some more of his backstory.

So, the episode does answer a lot of questions, but much also remains unresolved. Particularly of interest to me is what will happen when we see Juliet in the alt-verse. She knows that the bomb worked to create the alt-verse, and was conscious of that in the main-verse, but will that transfer? And, will she be Sawyer's constant? Will he be tempted by her to accept the alt-verse, or will the producers play up the Kate/Sawyer thing again, as alluded to by the end of his solo episode.

We'll see I guess. I'm feeling a lot better about the show going forward. I think we could have gotten to this place in a much more efficient way, but at least things are looking good going forward.