America, as a whole, hates station wagons. But instead of despising the wood paneling, the center-of-gravity elevating roof loads and the smell of cheap vinyl seats, we should be clinging to every bit of wagon-dom that we can — who knows how much longer they’ll be around? Fortunately for history’s sake, they’ve made their mark in a handful of great movies and TV shows, not just as family haulers but as quick and capable chase vehicles and hero (and antihero) steeds of choice.
Go, Speed, Go!
One of the most iconic cars the world has ever seen doesn’t even exist. It’s sleek, has a three-pointed front end, a huge red M emblazoned on the hood, myriad gadgets like saw blades and a periscope and sometimes has a little kid and a crazy chimpanzee in the trunk. It’s Speed Racer’s Mach 5, and both the car and its super-skinny driver made an indelible impression on me as a boy. More than candy and snow days, I longed for the next episode of Speed Racer with its high drama, fast cars and peril on and off the track.
Nurture Your Independent Streak
Scan the news coming from the movers and shakers in the movie press, and you’ll be sure Sundance 2014 was a bust. Money (surprise!) is apparently the new measuring stick for the festival. We can thank the Little Miss Sunshine VW bandwagon for that. It’s true that studios and Weinsteins of the world kept their wallets generally cheekside — who isn’t these days — but plenty of standout films were still shared with audiences throughout the week in Park City. Of the 121 in the lineup, here are some standouts worth hunting down in 2014.
Seeking the Reel Deal
This year was the 30th anniversary of the Sundance Film Festival, when Park City, UT, becomes the center of the celluloid universe and nearly 50,000 people descend on a mountain town of 7,500 inhabitants. Sundance is widely considered the most important film festival in the U.S., the incubator for films that resonate deeply in American popular culture. What’s more, the festival makes for a raucous week in the Wasatch Range. We were on hand this year to see how it all works. Here’s our guide on where to stay, what to eat and, most importantly, how to go about your festival week.
Think First Shoot Later
Here they are. Not this one. That would be thriller, singular. We’re talking about thrillers, the action genre’s brainer little brother, and the subject of the tenth and final installment in our Definitive Men’s Movie Collection. Like actions, thrillers get your blood pumping, though they use more subtle tactics — suspense over pyrotechnics. We’ve heard it said that with thrillers, you don’t need to pay for your whole seat — just the edge. That’s silly, because most theaters make you pay for your whole seat regardless, but we understand the sentiment. Have we saved the best for last? You decide.
Director of Programming for the Sundance Film Festival
Trevor Groth first visited the Sundance Film Festival in 1989 at the age of 17. The experience changed his life, eventually leading him to a job as Director of Programming at Sundance, presiding over the strategic planning and selection process of the now-iconic film festival. Translation? He’s paid to watch and discuss movies produced by the planet’s most talented filmmakers and then picks which movies the world should definitely see. We caught up him in the middle of the 2013 festival to pick his brain about his process, how to experience the festival right and the state of the indie film scene at large.
Around the World in 50 Movies
When most of us hear the word “movie”, we think of Hollywood — fair, given the global domination of Hollywood-produced Spielberg and Harry Potter films, but perhaps a tad ignorant, considering India’s Bollywood produces twice Hollywood’s output every year and reaches a larger audience. As demonstrated by the quality of the films in the Streaming Cinephile piece that we posted a while back, foreign films deserve a place in the spotlight. But while that list only featured foreign language films available for streaming on Netflix, this list features the top foreign language films, period.
What to See, Read and Hear
There’s too much damn information floating around these days: interesting things to read, beautiful places to see, impressive figures to remember. Lucky for you, your weekly digest of culture starts right here. This week, it’s all about the ever-burgeoning film-festival-meets-ski-bunnies: Sundance.
All's Fair in Love and Films
You know the one I’m talking about. The first. The one that made you say, “oh, so this is what everyone’s on about.” When she smiled, you wanted to laugh, and when she laughed, you wanted to laugh, too. That’s l’amour. Love, for you non-francophiles. Nothing like it in the world. Nothing can bring you so high, and then drop you so low.
Romance movies aim to capture this ride — the highs of love found, the lows of love lost, and everything in between. They help us see that the elusive (feeling? emotion? noun?) happens to everyone — sometimes when we least expect it — and makes us do and say crazy things. They prove to us that we’re not alone; love shapes our lives, changing everyone it touches, sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse. We feel you, Joseph Gordon-Levitt. We know your pain.
Capturing the Drama of Real Life
As any second grade teacher knows, children learn what they want to learn. Bobby doesn’t feel like learning division today? Not gonna happen. Unless…well, unless he learns without realizing it. The old pill in the ice cream trick, so to speak. Swallowing the medicine in the guise of something delicious, the innocent Bobby gets what…
Come on in, the blood's fine
Horror movies aren’t for everyone. You’ve heard it a million times, or else you’ve said it a million times: “I just don’t like them”. Oh really? You don’t like The Shining or The Exorcist or Shaun of the Dead or Psycho? Those are horror movies, jacko, and you like them. Admit it.
Out of This World
Part five of our series covers sci-fi and fantasy movies. Of all our sections, this was the most difficult to create: not because we argued over the selections (though we did), but because we argued over where to draw the line on what constitutes sci-fi and fantasy. For instance, does Richard Linklater’s cerebral Waking Life…
Grow Old, But Don't Grow Up
The fourth part in our series covers family movies. They’re the ones you loved as a kid, but haven’t revisited since because, well, your office buddies don’t want to watch Bartok the Magnificent. But with Thanksgiving approaching, there’s no better time to dust off these old classics with loved ones. Family movies provide lighthearted laughs in abundance, and sometimes tears as well (damn you, Up!) They scrub away the confusion of adult life and remind us what’s important. In fact, some of life’s most important lessons are hidden in their colorful scenes. More importantly, the really good ones are fun to watch at any age. Just try not to start bawling when Mustafa eats it.
Are You Not Entertained?
While many of our lives resemble dramas, or comedies, our society has thankfully evolved to a point where many of us avoid daily physical danger. Yet, strangely enough, the human animal craves danger. We get a thrill from adrenaline. To fill the void in our safe, vanilla lives, we turn to action. Is it wrong…
Throughout the selection process we kept echoing the same mantra: “Is this really that good?” The answer was consistent: shouts of “it’s hilarious!” were parried just as assuredly by “it sucks!” Comedies, we quickly discovered, are just as diverse and polarizing as dramas. Really the two aren’t so different. The best of both make us…
Life with the dull bits cut out
Good movies bring art to life, combining audio and visuals (and occasionally smells, as in the case of 1959’s disastrous AromaRama and 1960’s Smell-O-Vision, may they forever rest in peace) in ways that push the limits of human imagination. They require little effort to watch, yet have the power to change a life. They represent…
Subtitles are no excuse
In the golden age of the so-called “art cinema”, college-aged cineastes and middle-aged professorial types needed only to congregate at the local repertory theatre for a fix of the latest and greatest in international film. They could catch a Bergman-Fellini double feature and wile away the evening in a coffee shop discussing the Christ-figure symbolism or whatever. “If only I had lived then”, laments the modern cinephile, “what films I could have seen.” Our young moviegoer, correct though they may be to bemoan the passing of Truffaut’s heyday, has forgotten one thing: a vast library of international movies are available to watch instantly with the stroke of a keyboard, granted they’re already paying for access to services like Netflix, Hulu Plus and Amazon Prime. The same goes for you, Mr. Ignorant Summer Blockbuster. You too can become a film snob — with very little actual work.
But nothing’s ever that easy. The plight of the internet age is not access but selection. We’ve done some of the heavy popcorn lifting for you and picked out forty of the best foreign films available for instant streaming today. Go forth and become a global movie connoisseur.
Nurturing Cycling in an Unlikely Place
Jonathan “Jock” Boyer was the first American to ride in the Tour de France and later left the the U.S. to create a cycling program in war-torn Rwanda. What he found there was a group of young men with incredible pasts and immense talent. Rising From Ashes follows the formation and growth of Team Rwanda all the way from an idea to a continental powerhouse.
Blue Water, White Death
The history of shark movies is littered with some good, some bad and some very ugly films. Before Sharknado, before Open Water, even before Jaws, there was Blue Water, White Death, which may just be the greatest shark movie ever made.
It's got you surrounded
Film fans scramble for the enhanced viewing experiences of 3D and IMAX, though they’re charged a premium. There’s a new technology trickling its way into movie houses across the globe, though, that represents another leap forward in cinema viewing — and it’s all about sound. It’s called Dolby Atmos. We experienced the next evolutionary step in surround sound firsthand — here’s what we think.
Name ten action movies and you’re nearly guaranteed to hit one that Steve M. Davison has nearly been killed in. He’s logged 166 titles as a stuntman or stunt coordinator, including some absolute classics like Behind Enemy Lines, Planet Terror, Gone in 60 Seconds, Scarface, and, most recently, the very stunt-filled A Good Day to Die Hard (now out on Blu-ray & DVD). The veteran badass sat down to chat with us about hairy moments on the job, getting into the stunt business, and working with big-name directors.
Why the wolf pack's third outing marks a bad day for comedy
This weekend, director Todd Phillips, who’s already set a new model for comedy success in many respects, will gain another distinction when his most popular film series joins a rare — and terrible — group of humor franchises that make it to a third outing. He hopes The Hangover: Part III avoids the doomed flight path flown by the others. I’m praying he fails.
GP tallies the hits and misses of the season
Nowadays, no summer preview would be complete without a mention of the movies. Mother nature’s decision to crank up the thermostat and the possibility of BBQ ribs for lunch provide all the natural motivation society needs to bunker down in a cool dark room to watch
Megan Fox sweat on cars 120 minutes of explosions. We love a good superhero flick as much as the next guy, but massive marketing budgets shouldn’t be the only thing coaxing you into a theater seat this summer. This season has its fair share of CGI orgies and deep think pieces that don’t rhyme with “fan of seal” — and none of them should be missed.
Far over the misty mountains cold...
Good old Bilbo. In a way, he’s the granddad we all hope to be: pipe-smoking octogenarian, enjoying good food and reminiscing about better times when he ran around with a crazy bunch of dudes who pulled pranks on rubes (trolls) and escaped some tight situations (trolling the Goblin King in the Misty Mountains). Of course, there’s other appeal to The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey on Blu-ray 3D ($28).
007, Reporting for Duty
Bond, James Bond. Admit it; you read that with an accent. Was it Scottish? We ask because the upcoming Blu-ray release of Skyfall ($25) could cause you to reconsider your lilt. Under the direction of Sam Mendes, in what is certainly the most visually stunning of the franchise, Daniel Craig delivers a 007 that easily challenges Connery for the crown.
Bold, blue and brilliant
On-screen chemistry isn’t something to be overlooked (just ask Padme and Anakin). Luckily, Jake Gyllenhal and Michael Peña don’t suffer the same wooden fate. As LAPD Officers Taylor and Zavala, the two actors shine in a dark world, providing just the right amount of wit, raw humor and law enforcement street cred to make End…
Debating the film account of Osama bin Laden's demise
Is Zero Dark Thirty the year’s best movie or misleading sensationalism that advocates torture? The film’s recent Oscar snub has raised the debate. Now, GP’s own Scott Packard and Ben Bowers present intriguing discussion on morality in film, artistic license and “enhanced interrogation techniques”. Read on for point and counterpoint on these divisive issues.
Almost as good as bringing Goose back
The tragic loss of Tony Scott will reverberate through Hollywood for years to come, but fans can at least delay letting go in the coming months with the release of Top Gun 3D ($20). Double dipping on the part of studios isn’t something we typically like to encourage, but Scott’s personal involvement overseeing the remastering…
Christopher Nolan's directorial breakthrough, immortalized
Famed director Christopher Nolan’s directorial breakthrough, Following ($32), has just been inducted into the Criterion Collection, and we couldn’t be more excited to watch it. The 16mm black and white film, re-released by Criterion on special edition Blu-ray, is about a voyeuristic novelist who follows strangers on the streets of London, searching for a muse….
Rise in your own home
You watched the creation, the fall, and the epic rise of your favorite (face it, the best) superhero in theaters. Now complete your Christopher Nolan trilogy with The Dark Knight Rises ($18) on Blu-ray, out today. The set also includes DVD and digital copies so you can watch Christian Bale, Michael Cain, Anne Hathaway and…