A sampling of staff favorites
It’s Saturday folks, and you know what that means. Today is the official start to Labor Day Weekend! The 3-day weekend marks the de facto end of summer. While a good chunk of your time will be spent outside grilling and drinking, you’re not going to be outside the entire 72 hours. Let’s not pretend like you aren’t going to be in a meat coma at some point. And what better way is there to pass that time than watching a movie?
Myself and the other writers at Holyfield want to help you with your movie selections. We came up with the concept of our own Movie Watcher’s Club. It’s not entirely different from what we do with our Weekly Playlist. Moving forward, during the first Thursday of each month, the writing staff will put together their selection of films and provide a write-up. For the most part, each list will have a theme. For example, the themes for October and December will obviously be “horror” and “holiday” films, respectively.
September’s list doesn’t have a distinct theme, per se, and will be “staff favorites.”
Here at Holyfield, not only do we love sports, music, and television, but we also love movies. With that said, let’s get into our staff favorites!
Director: Greg Mottola
Writers: Seth Rogen, Evan Goldberg
Stars: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
We’ve all seen it, and many of us still quote it on the daily. Serving as the launching pad for its three gut-busting leads, Superbad is a coming-of-age, high school romp that took the world by storm. The film achieved both critical and financial success. Released almost ten years ago to the date, if you’ve yet to indulge in one of Judd Apatow’s finest works to date, consider this your wake up call.
The Wizard of Lies (2017)
Director: Barry Levinson
Writers: Sam Levinson, John Burnham Schwartz, Samuel Baum, Diana Henriques
Stars: Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer, Alessandro Nivola
Wizard of Lies is an HBO film starring Robert DeNiro as Bernie Madoff, the former fraudulent businessman who orchestrated the largest Ponzi scheme in US history. Instead of delving into the circumstances that led to his 135-year jail sentence, the Barry Levinson film focuses on the impact Madoff’s betrayal had on his immediate family: two sons and wife, Ruth, portrayed by Michelle Pfieffer.
DeNiro does a masterful job of somehow playing in between villain and someone the audience sympathizes with, as the film jumps in time from an inside-prison interview to the deception he kept from loved ones. Meanwhile, Pfieffer plays a torn mother, trying to decide between her husband and her two sons as the aftermath of the arrest tears apart their family in the public and from within.
DeNiro’s Madoff shows a character knowingly do evil, but in his eyes protecting his family from the illegal activity. He is shown making excuse after excuse as he fails to realize how deep his deception impacted them. We realize his villainy came in the form of his excuses, in his willingness to hurt the ones closest to him and rationalizing his greed by keeping them in the dark. We all know the name, but HBO added depth and true storytelling to the infamous character.
The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
Director: Wes Anderson
Writers: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman
Starring: Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman
While I was torn between a number of films, none of them are as diverse in tone as The Darjeeling Limited. I’ve got a larger Wes Anderson piece in the works, so consider this to be a preview of the final product.
The Darjeeling Limited is the most underrated film in Anderson’s strong catalog. He stood out with Rushmore and rose to fame with The Royal Tenenbaums, but his story of three brothers on a train in India has stuck with me the most. The film is anchored by the incredible performances of Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman. Anderson’s directing is as meticulous and satisfying as ever, weaving in and out of the train’s compartments with calculated grace. His attention to framework is fascinating so pay close attention to how he sets up his shots.
The story is a reunion of three brothers who are still struggling with the death of their father. It’s a character study regarding how people cope. It has Anderson’s signature comedic touch, full of quick, witty dialog, and humorous mannerisms. It isn’t as timeless as Royal Tenenbaums or a game-changer like Rushmore but I consider Darjeeling to be his best work mainly due to its condensed nature and the depth in which he explores his main characters.
Field of Dreams (1989)
Director: Phil Alden Robinson
Writers: W.P. Kinsella, Phil Alden Robinson
Stars: Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Ray Liotta
“If you build it, he will come.” These words from a mysterious voice are what inspires Iowa farmer Ray Kinsella (Kevin Costner) to construct a baseball field in the middle of his cornfield. A film Frank Capra would be proud of, Phil Alden Robinson brilliantly combines baseball and family dynamics to create a film steeped in sentimentality. Ray continues to receive more messages from this “voice” throughout the film. What do they mean? Who is this “voice” speaking to him? Along with a stellar supporting cast, including the always fantastic James Earl Jones, Ray sets off on a journey he will never forget.
I know I never have.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Charlie Kaufman, Michel Gondry, Pierre Bismuth
Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson
I’m going to start this off with my favorite movie of all time. For those who haven’t seen it, Jim Carrey’s character, Joel, wakes up to discover that he has completely forgotten the last two years of his life. This is the result of a treatment he had recently undergone to have his now ex-girlfriend, Clementine (Kate Winslett) erased from his memory. Joel decides to get the procedure only because he learns that Clementine has erased him from her memory.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a highly regarded classic as it tells a story of love and loss in a unique and ironically memorable way. Right away, we learn why Joel and Clementine aren’t great together. As we go further and further into Joel’s memory, we weirdly start rooting for the couple. All the little, cute intricacies of their relationship are endearing and resonate with the viewer.
I can’t say enough great things about this movie. It’s thoughtful, funny, and clever. Furthermore, it’s romantic, sad, and artistic, as well as impeccably acted. The movie even ends on a happy note. Or a sad note, actually; depends on which side of the fence you end on with these characters. This, more than any other film I’ve seen, tackles what it’s like to lose somebody. Using the literal erasing of somebody as a metaphorical vessel is a genius move that shows exactly just how weak we as normal humans can be. Eternal Sunshine explains the reasoning for why we simultaneously want to lose somebody, but can’t help but want them back.
Blade Runner (1982)
Director: Ridley Scott
Writers: Hampton Fancher, David Webb Peoples, Philip K. Dick
Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
Thursday evening, I went to Alamo Drafthouse to watch the 4K restoration of Blade Runner: The Final Cut. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve watched this film. I’ve seen the director’s cut, the final cut (obviously), and clips of the original theatrical release with the voice-over narration. I own Blade Runner: The Final Cut on Blu-ray, and the DVD before that. It’s safe to say that I enjoy this film.
There was a bit of skepticism as I walked into the theatre-related to the 4K. I mean, how much better can Blade Runner look? Boy oh boy my skepticism was unwarranted. The film was drop-dead gorgeous, simply stunning. I was in awe every single time there was a shot of the Tyrell Corporation. If you have never seen the movie before — this also applies to people who have seen it as well — I strongly recommend your first experience with Blade Runner be the final cut in 4K and in a movie theatre.
Blade Runner is a science-fiction staple. If you love the genre, you’re more than likely going to love this film. Its visually beautiful and the score is iconic. The last scene of the film is memorable, forcing the viewer to ask the title question of the book it’s based on: “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?”
Our lists will be organized at Letterboxd for those who want to interact with them as they do with our Weekly Playlist. Furthermore, if you click on the links for each film, it will take you to its Just Watch page that tells you where you can watch the movie. With that information sorted out, go enjoy some great movies and stay tuned for October’s list!