Thursday, May 28, 2009

Proofreading the World, Part 2: The Yearbook

My sister's final high school yearbook came home last week, the day after one of the student editors received a special award for her excellent proofreading, but I still found some not so worthy pages. These errors made me shudder while chuckling, or chuckle while shuddering you decide, and tell me which reaction you get.

All of the typos involved misspelled celebrity names. The first one I noticed was "Micheal Phelps." Twice. But the kicker on this is they spelled it correctly once on the same page. "Michael Phelps." But this year's popular musical artists must have hard names to spell, particularly, Briney Spears, Joson Mraz, and Josh Groben. My personal (least) favorite: they included this album cover for the artist they call Rhianna.

This just leads me into one of my personal pet peeves. Misspelled baby names. I hate it when parents assign their child a "unique" spelling of a name. Some names have legitimate variations, but mostly I just think parents are compensating for have the tenth Emily of the day by naming her Emmileigh. Spelling nightmare. I hate it. I'm sure you'll hear more about this soap box later.

The Best of the Best (with Honors): Part 2

Today's topic: Movies You Can Watch in Scenes

This list is inspired by the previous topic but takes it to the next level. Some movies are really great because you don't have to commit to watching the whole thing. You can decide, "Hey, I want to watch the part where..." You can also think to yourself, "I really feel like seeing so-and-so do such-and-such." And with the magic of DVD's, you don't even have to waste time finding the right scene: you can just skip right to it. Hopefully, this list will inspire you to watch your favorite sequences from movies that work equally well in segments.

1. A Christmas Story. This movie really is the ultimate segment movie. I have only watched this movie once straight through, but I'm fairly certain I've seen it at least twelve times. This is due largely to the traditional TBS Christmas Day 24-hour marathon of the film. You can catch the part where he visits the Santa from purgatory, the part where the dad receives the leg lamp ("fra-GEE-lay"), or, my personal favorite, the part where the boy sticks his tongue to the flagpole. Any other favorite scenes?

2. Napoleon Dynamite. What really qualifies this film for this category is its utter lack of a solid plot line. This movie, by nature, begs you not to watch it in one sitting. Lately, it's playing every other week on Comedy Central. Just this week, my mom found it on TV and asked me, while I was in the other room, which scene it was. As soon as the conversation started, I recognized from dialog alone one of my favorite sequences: Uncle Rico throws Kip's Steak at Napoleon. In fact, most of my favorite scenes feature Kip, although it still churns my stomach when he plays footsie with Lafawnda. This movie also inspires strong feelings: either you love it or hate it. Where do you fall on the continuum?

3. Night at the Museum. This movie has a much stronger plotline than the two previous movies (as well as its okay but over-hyped sequel), but its quotability really qualifies it for this category. I think it's fun to just watch the Ricky Gervais scenes, but you also have Ben Stiller's first scene as a night guard in an echo-y museum chamber or his attempts to pronounce "Sacagawea." Towards the end, it gets harder to find standout scenes while they're chasing Dick Van Dyke around Central Park, but even the interplay between Jedediah and Octavius is worth a laugh.

4. Home Alone. This movie is quite easy to watch all the way through, but has so many strong scenes that work alone. Obviously there's the final showdown, but honestly, the build-up to that is much funnier. Kevin's grocery bags breaking on the way home, Kevin being confronted by the robbers before he knows they're robbers, Kevin stealing a toothbrush, Kevin sledding down the stairs of his house, Kevin pigging out on junk food, Kevin shopping by himself and chatting up the check-out girl. But most of all, the way the filmmakers incorporated the scene from "Angels with Filthy Souls." Very clever, and with an equally good payoff in the first sequel. "Keep the change, you filthy animal."

5. Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Green Gables, The Sequel. These movies are so long that I never watch them straight through, but again, I've seen them plenty, thanks mostly to KBYU pledge drives. Now that I have them on DVD, I mostly skip to what I affectionately term, "The Gilbert Parts." Gilbert calling Anne "Carrots," Gilbert rescuing Anne from her watery grave, Gilbert applauding her poetry reading from his feet. Skipping to the Gilbert scenes is essential in the second film because of that huge chunk of time when Anne leaves Avonlea to teach school and almost falls for the old man (although the dance scene from that segment is worth watching to catch a glimpse of young Dave Foley as Anne's dance partner). However, I should give some credit to other characters. Diana plays a fine drunk, and I always nearly cry around Matthew's death, particularly when Anne and Marilla cry over it in the middle of the night.

To summarize, great "scene-only" movies usually have at least two of the following qualifications: 1. They have weak or gimmicky plotlines. 2. They are inordinately long. 3. They are frequently played on television. 4. They have very a high number of very quoteable lines.

Honorable mentions: Sleepless in Seattle, You've Got Mail, The Trouble with Angels

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Best of the Best (with Honors): Part 1

I think it's obvious I've stopped blogging for a while. I'd offer some lame excuse, but I don't believe in them. But I am willing to make up for it. I'll be posting my top five favorites in a variety of categories for the next few weeks. I'm taking the best new Facebook application--Living Social's Pick Your 5--to the next level. Face it: some things just can't be explained in quick phrase and a photo. And if you know me, you know I need more words than three to fully express myself.

Today's Category: Best Movie Scenes of All Time

This entry is dedicated to Zac Efron, star of the best movie I've seen in the theater in a long while. 17 Again features our current top heartthrob as a 37-year-old who gets transformed into his 17-year-old self. During the transformation scene, where Zac is wearing a full suit while in the shower, my sister leans over to me and says, "It's like Cary Grant in Charade." Sure enough; 17 Again pays an excellent homage to that Grant-Hepburn classic which is one of the entries in my top five list.

5. The closing scene of What's Up, Doc? I'm including the entire sequence at the airport and on the plane as a part of this selection, although some portions of it are more about wrapping up the film's many plotlines than the credentials that put this scene on the list. Mostly, I just don't want to exclude any of the perfect dialog delivery between funny lady Barbra Streisand and straight man Ryan O'Neal. Plus, Ryan's final line is delivered to deadpan perfection. Who doesn't love a guy with a few quirks, or one who's willing to make fun of his most famous role? And the final kiss is probably in the top five most unique and memorable on film, too. Overall, this scene qualifies because of how well it wraps up a great movie and pays tribute to other moments in pop culture.

4. The "mashed potatoes" scene from While You Were Sleeping. I've personally watched this scene dozens of times, and I've come to the conclusion that it achieves the perfect mix of dialog. There are at least three simultaneous conversations going on here; it's hard to determine the actual number because they blend together so seamlessly in the scene's payoff. Floating around in this dinner table conversation are some of life's greatest questions, such as "why are mashed potatoes so satisfying?", "are most good film actors tall?", "do guys like girls who remind them of their mothers or not?" and "why does Argentina have such great beef?" Sure, in this tribute it sounds more like a Will-It-Blend experiment gone wrong, but if you know what I'm talking about, you really know what I'm talking about, even though some people in the scene itself have no idea what they're talking about.

3. The "water lady" scene from Return to Me. This selection comes from another all-around great film that uses similar conventions to the previous film: a cast of great older actors who have nothing better to do than sit around philosophizing retirement. Return to Me has plenty of great scenes like that, but this one does not primarly feature that generation. Instead, this is the classic sequence where boy meets wrong girl and right girl at the same time. David Duchovny proves that it's okay for a guy to be totally transparent when showing he likes a girl, and the audience likes that girl right along with him because she gets an appropriate amount of vindication on "water lady." Anyone who's ever worked in a service industry will cheer for Minnie Driver's clever but subtle revenge.

2. The shower-in-a-suit scene from Charade. Cary Grant is just too adorable in this scene. His antics are a great way to comfort the tramatized recent widow played by Audrey Hepburn, queen of the brunettes. Forgive me for getting a little cheeky and/or English major-y on you, but I think showering in a suit is a symbolic way of saying, "You're more important than my well-tailored suit." Plus, it's a way of satisfying two Cary Grant fantasies in one magical scene: Cary Grant in a suit, and Cary Grant in the shower. Thirty magical seconds that have stood for over forty years. Plus, Mr. Grant is portraying a sharp dressed detective, and you should know by now that I have a soft spot for those.

1. The garage dancing scene from West Side Story, featuring "Cool." The single greatest cinematic sequence ever captured. In fact, if this scene were only five seconds long, it would still make this spot on my list, as long as those five seconds looked like this. The remaining Jets line up along one wall of the garage, squat down with loose arms, and move forward snapping and jumping over their arms like they're an invisible rope. I hope you know what I'm talking about, but if you don't, do yourself a favor and find out. Kudos to Jerome Robbins for being a genius. All choreographers bow at his throne. Kudos to Iceman for leading the Jets after Riff's untimely death. And for his intense eyes. And for executing this dance sequence perfectly. Crazy. Cool. Go.

(I know. It's not the same, but this gives you the basic idea of what I was trying to describe...)

Honorable mentions in this category include the train scene from North by Northwest, the presidential flashcards scene from That Thing You Do!, the mud fight scene from McClintock!, and the volleyball scene from Top Gun.