Looking back at American Teen

Looking back at American Teen

High school, the years that some of us want to re-live and others want to forget. But what if you could look back at a documented account of your senior year of high school? For five people (Hannah Bailey, Colin Clemens, Megan Krizmanich, Mitch Reinholt, and Jake Tusing) who graduated from Warsaw Community High School in 2006 that is in fact a possibility. American Teen came out ten years ago and gives us an intimate look at teenagers navigating the ups and downs of high school as this chapter of life comes to a close. It’s a very rare thing for me to watch most documentaries more than once, but every few years I get drawn back to this film. Why is that? Today I’ll be looking back this documentary, giving my personal opinion, and seeing what’s currently going on in the lives of these people.

-Why it Speaks to Me?-

Fictional films set in high school are no new thing. In the 80’s studios began to realize that teenagers were a great source of income, but movies weren’t being made to specifically target this demographic. This ushered in the John Hughes era with films classics like: Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and of course the seminal coming of age film The Breakfast Club. When the 90’s rolled around the formula for this genre was perfected and the next wave began. Films like 10 Things I Hate About You, Can’t Hardly Wait, and She’s All That were what I (as a dumb kid) assumed high school would be like. Unfortunately I wasn’t living in a fun east/west coast suburb where the sun shined everyday. Nor was I an actor in my early/mid 20’s, but that’s another topic. As a documentary American Teen stripped away the fictional veneer and sparked some truth. Seeing Hannah deal with her anxiety and depression struck a raw nerve with me.

As I said before, many 90’s teen films were predominantly set on either coast of the U.S. Living in South Dakota it’s rare to see anything, let alone teen films set in this section of the country. With American Teen being filmed in Warsaw Indiana I instantly felt a connection. This isn’t a town just a few miles down the road from Los Angeles. It’s population and culture measured up to what I had experienced. I instinctively felt like this was an area identical to where I grew up. While the marketing of the film pigeonholed the five teenagers into specific high school stereotypes (Hannah “the rebel”, Colin “the jock”, Megan “the queen bee”, Mitch “the heartthrob”, and Jake “geek”) there’s more to them. Everyone has their own struggles and cliques, but it never seems like they’re far removed from each other. We feel that these five have probably been going to school together since kindergarten and possibly over time drifted into their respective social circles.

– What Makes it Relevant?-

There are certain things about being a teenager that have not and never will change. No matter what there will always be cliques, kids getting bullied, stressing over grades or ACT scores, and having to read The Great Gatsby. But as our technology changes, so do the scenarios. In 2006 we were on the cusp of a technological boom. Email was being embraced by schools as a way to disseminate information from teachers to students. Cellphones were cheap enough that giving your kids one wasn’t a luxury, it was a necessity. I personally used MSN Instant Messenger (Is that still around?) as my main mode of communication with friends. The tools and understanding of how to build a website were becoming elective classes.

In the film, a girl sends her boyfriend a topless photo via text message. In the meantime Megan gets ahold of the photo and sends it to a few people. From there it filters out into the entire school via text/email and everyone has seen it. Megan proceeds to leave this girl a mocking voicemail. It’s fascinating albeit disheartening to see this wouldn’t be a random event. Less than a decade later we got to the point where the term cyber-bullying would be coined to discuss such terrible incidents. I too distinctly remember an event that transpired when I was in high school. A couple of girls had created a website used specifically to mock a fellow student. While the site was brought to the attention of the school they had no idea how to handle it. Nobody knew who made it or how to remove it.  In the decade plus since schools now make sure to keep an eye out for such problems and try to effectively deal with them.

-Where are They Now?-

So here we are. This is most likely the reason you’ve read this far. Twelve years later and at the age of thirty where are these five people? With too much free time on my hands and the power of Google search we can shed a little light on their lives. NOTE: At the end of the documentary there is a coda stating where they went. I’ll try to skip that information and dig into more recent events.

-Hannah Bailey-

Hannah stuck to being a jack of all trades artist. She acted to two short films Night Rituals (2009) and Pretty Girls (2013). Both Night Rituals and a sizzle reel for Pretty Girls are available to watch on Vimeo (See below). Since then she’s been living in Minnesota working steadily in photography. A link to her website will be provided.

http://www.hannahtbailey.com/

-Megan Krizmanich-

After graduating from Notre Dame Megan went to work with management consulting firm The Huron Consulting Group. After spending three years as a consultant she transitioned over to recruiting coordinator. On December 31st 2017 Megan was married to Mark Figura.

-Mitch Reinholt-

After wrapping up his undergraduate Mitch attended and graduated from Indiana University School of Optometry. He moved back to Warsaw where he currently practices optometry. He is married with two kids.

-Colin Clemons & Jake Tusing-

Here’s where we get something a little special. In their own words I’ll let Colin and Jake get us caught up on what they’ve been up to.

First things first, what’s going on in your life nowadays?

Colin: I graduated from Manchester University with a marketing degree. Currently, I am a teacher/basketball coach at Sacred Heart Elementary School, which is where I went to elementary school. The boys basketball program had been a perennial loser since the school’s inception in 1958. I took over knowing the boys team have never previously won a championship. Total, there are ten elementary schools in our Indiana town. Since we’re a private school we’re roughly a quarter the size of everyone else putting us at a numbers disadvantage.

Three years ago I took over as head coach in a total rebuild. We were 2-7, but I laid the groundwork for success. The next year we went 7-3 having the (eventual) city champions on the ropes in the playoffs, when we were up 2 in the 3rd quarter. However, we ended up losing by 10. This year we finished the regular season 9-0 and had the #1 ranked defense in the last fifteen years! We then went 3-0 in the tournament to finish 12-0, winning our school’s first City Championship in the 60 year school history! Of course, since we’re in Indiana it’s the biggest deal ever!

Outside of that I run an adult Men’s basketball league featuring former college and high school players from the area. I’ve also been married five years and have two daughters; Chloe (3.5 years old) and Cora (10 months old).

Jake: Most recently I started working for Amazon in the Seattle area. I got married and my wife and I are expecting our first child in late September.

Looking back, are there any moments in the film that feel fake to you?

Colin: There are altered moments that are obvious to those of us from Warsaw. Conversations in cars start at one end of town, then the next second they’re on the other side of town, only to jump back to the other side of town. Some of my basketball moments were also taken out of context. I’ll just leave it at that!

The film crew couldn’t be at multiple places at once. Things happened that they missed. Naturally they had to use editing to recreate a few things. But from my experience that’s standard.

Jake: Nothing feels fake to me, but I do cringe throughout most of my screentime. I imagine now how the future will be, with more and more of our individual lives being documented and archived. Who knows, my kid might end up being able to watch each year of his schooling condensed into a mini series.

With 2016 being your ten year high school reunion did you meet up with any of your former schoolmates?

Colin: We had a class reunion that I helped plan. We got together over the summer at a local restaurant. I met up with Mitch and several other friends, but Mitch was the only cast member who attended.

Jake:  I didn’t attend my ten year, but if I remember right it was held at a local restaurant. I don’t think the nearly 500 of us could fit in there anyways.

Can you discuss how you got picked to be in the film? Was there an audition process?

Colin: Interestingly enough my pathway to the movie was not what you’d expect. At the end of our junior year Nanette Burstein (the director) spoke to the whole school announcing she’d chosen our school and there would be an open casting call for the senior class.

I had other things on my mind at the time and didn’t plan on auditioning. At the very last minute on the final day of interviews I decided to go. I ran out of open gym to make it in time being interviewed by a bald headed gentleman. The interview concluded and I went on my way. I never heard anything back, so I figured they didn’t want me.

A couple months passed and I went to Mitch’s house for a senior get together. The film crew was there focusing on other people. However, my personality shined and I was the center of attention. Nanette approached me and asked, and I quote, “Who the Hell are you and where the Hell have you been?!” I told her I had interviewed, but never heard anything. She never saw my interview and asked who I had interviewed with. I told her it was some bald guy. She told that he had quit the day after casting calls, losing several interviews. She asked that night if I would like to be a feature character, and the rest is history. 250+ seniors auditioned and I ended up one of the five featured characters. That’s pretty cool.

Jake: At the end of junior year and announcement went out over the PA that Warsaw was being considered for a documentary. And if any of the upcoming seniors were interested we had to fill out a questionnaire. I did and took it to the open casting call. After sitting down in front of a camera to review my answers, the director took an interest in my personal goals for the upcoming year. Warsaw ended up being chosen out of around a dozen schools through the Midwest. There were more students followed through the year who didn’t end up having their stories in the film.

Has being in the documentary affected your life in any way?

Colin: Absolutely. It always helped me shine in job interviews because it made me stand out from others. Having companies like Paramount and the L.A. Dodgers on your resume sure helps! Also, it is widely known in the area and I’m called ‘Hollywood’ and ‘Superstar’, things like that. It’s funny because it’s more of a big deal in other countries moreso than the United States. Australia, Thailand, Europe, South America, etc. I guess it has become “that movie” high school and college classes study. I’ve had questions and met people from all over the world. Now my kids at the school where I teach have seen it and they like to make fun of me. So it’s been fun.

Jake: I think everything we experience shapes our lives in some way. In this case though, I think every girl I dated after high school was because of the film. They saw ’05/’06 Jake and wanted to see what I was like after.

If you could go back to 2006 and and talk to your younger self, what would you tell them?

Colin: I’d tell him to enjoy the little things. To take more time to have fun and like there’s not tomorrow. I’d tell him to let loose in front of the camera more. Even though I was still fun, I held back my personality out of fear of what others may think. (Clearly because I’m the only cast member not involved in any kind of bad activity LOL). I’d tell him to enjoy the lack of responsibility because being a grownup sucks a lot of the time. And I would tell him that having Elvis as a dad is pretty sweet, and to not be embarrassed about it!

Jake: I suppose I would let myself know that college isn’t the only thing to do after high school. I wasted a TON of money going that route. Also, worrying about what other people think is a ridiculous thing to do all the time. It’s difficult to ignore, that’s just part of people being people. But you can’t please everybody. It’s best to focus on the people you care about most.

-Last, but Not Least-

A decade later we look back on American Teen and ask, does it still hold up? Since a guy from middle of nowhere SD has written an article about it, I’d say yes. There’s not much these days that’ll paint the ups and downs (but mostly the mundane) of high school life in a truthful light. Where teens roam the halls of school, freak out over trivial details, find/lose love, and enjoy the last moments of a care free (pre-adult) life. To me there’s a tinge of nostalgia when watching it. I look back on my own high school era with some objectivity. All those moments I could re-live (either for the sheer enjoyment or to fix them) not knowing what would lay ahead. Wow, this article is getting a little gloomy. Gotta fix that. At least 30 year old me can grow a beard that 18 year old me could only achieve in his dreams.

These are my thoughts… actually they’re also Colin and Jake’s, but as usual what are yours? Have you seen American Teen? If not it’s streaming on Hulu, so watch it! Do you have any high school moments you’re happy never were committed to film? Let me know. Before I close this out I’d like to extend my deepest thanks to Colin and Jake. Thanks to them this article became more than I could’ve hoped on it’s own. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

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My Ten Favorite Films of 2017

My Ten Favorite Films of 2017

The day has come to finally talk about my ten favorite films of 2017. “Oh, what a day! What a lovely day!” Sorry, couldn’t help myself from making that reference. As usual I watched quite a few films this year (110 at the time of writing this article). There were some fantastic highs, abysmal lows, and a lot in between. What we have here is a diverse selection of films that I intend on adding to my personal collection and re-watching in the years to come. Are you ready for this? Probably, but at least it should be a fun read and maybe you’ll add a few of these to your watchlist.

10. Brawl in Cell Block 99

I enjoyed S. Craig Zahler’s previous film (Bone Tomahawk) and was curious what he’d do next. Brawl is a dark, dirty, painful film that while might be too much for some was mesmerizing to me. Vince Vaughn reminds us when given the right material he can shine as a dramatic actor.

9. My Friend Dahmer

There’s always a fear of exploitation when you watch a film based off a real life serial killer. The filmmakers took a somber and at times episodic graphic novel crafting an uncomfortable character study. We’re left to wonder if even the smallest thing had been different would Jeffrey Dahmer’s life gone another direction?

8. Raw

It hasn’t been an ideal for horror films. As usual there was a plethora a terrible sequels/prequels/reboots to franchises that should’ve been left in the dirt decades ago. But out of the mainstream were a few gems. Raw is unnerving in all the right ways. I can not wait to see Garance Marillier’s career progress after such a great performance.

7. The Shape of Water

Guillermo del Toro is one of the few current directors who has a strong grasp on visuals while telling compelling stories. I couldn’t be happier that he now has a few Oscars on his shelf.  Sally Hawkins and Doug Jones both give compelling performances with just their expressions. Seriously, most actors would kill to emote from their face the way Jones can with his body.

6. Wind River

Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut is a doozy. Having written some of the most compelling crime films of the past few years Wind River continues his writing streak and shows promise as a director. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen turn in strong performances, but it’s the supporting cast who really shine.

5. Detroit

Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal have had a stellar track record the past few years. Their previous collaborations The Hurt Locker and Zero Dark Thirty both managed to snag Oscar nominations (and in the former’s case wins), but with it’s late July release this film seemed to get lost in the shuffle this year. It’s a tough film that forces us to look back at a dark part of our country’s history and ask ourselves, “Has anything really changed?” I walked out of the theatre emotionally spent after this film. Not an easy watch, but well worth seeing.

4. I, Tonya

Confession time, I’ve been a Tonya Harding apologist for years. She was a joke made by late night television hosts to get a quick laugh. Craig Gillespie (an underrated director if you ask me) humanized this joke and showed someone who was abused and ridiculed. And in spite of all that worked to become an Olympic athlete. Margot Robbie kills it inhabiting Tonya’s abrasive personality, but lets not forget Allison Janney’s striking performance as LaVona Fay Golden. Is entirely factual? Doubtful, but the story it tells is captivating, hilarious, and bleak.

3. Blade Runner 2049

I’m still bummed that I missed seeing 2049 while it was playing in theatres, but due to a hectic schedule I couldn’t find the time. While the visuals were still top notch on the small screen it was the story that drew me in. Gosling’s stoic performance was pitch perfect for what the story required. Much like the recent reboot of Westworld we’re pushed to ask some intriguing questions about A.I. Will the time come when we see robots as second class citizens forced into menial labor? Will robots become so perfect that we’ll see more humanity in them then we will ourselves? Do they dream of electric sheep? At nearly three hours this film never bores and leaves you wanting more. Throw in Roger Deakins’ glorious cinematography along with  beautiful production design and you have a film that will stand the test of time.

2. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

Martin McDonagh’s incendiary look at small town justice is a film that has come under fire recently. People have raised questions about seeing the overtly racist deputy portrayed by Sam Rockwell get a redemption in the story. While on the surface this is a problematic issue I took a deeper look and saw something even more depressing. The ending isn’t about him finding redemption, it’s about Mildred (Frances McDormand) feeling so low she’s willing to team with such a deeply flawed person to exercise her demons. It’s a film that asks tough questions with a fantastic script and amazing actors makes for a brilliant watch.

1.The Killing of a Sacred Deer

Here we are at number one with a film that is jarring, uncomfortable, and yet impossible to look away from. Much like Phantom Thread the first half of the film is time the viewer has to invest while the latter half pays it off. Colin Farrell’s second collaboration with director Yorgos Lanthimos provides another win for both of them. It’s Barry Keoghan’s subdued and chilling performance and his interaction with the rest of the actors that make this film. The build up to an ending that is enthralling and devastating turning the story into something that will leave you speechless.

And with that we can now take a breather on talking about last years films. At least for a little while. These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Did you enjoy any/all of these ten films? Does anything on this list surprise you? Let me know. Below you will find  the links to previous top ten lists. I also recently made a guest appearance on a podcast talking about 2017 in film with my friend Andy. When the link is available I will post it. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram at Fat Dude Digs Flicks. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2016/04/01/my-10-favorite-films-of-2015/

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/04/17/my-ten-favorite-films-of-2016/

The Honorable Mentions of 2017

The Honorable Mentions of 2017

Alright, with my Worst of 2017 article out of the way it’s time to move onto something refreshing. There are always a ton of good films that seem to get released every year. In my opinion we’re still seeing more good films than bad get made annually. At least for the time being. So what was good, just not quite good enough to make my top ten of 2017? Let’s take a look. Please Note: There is no real ranking to this selection. They’re just good films that I’m glad I got the chance to see.

Atomic Blonde

Action films are starting to make a return to form in the past few years. After dealing with the excessive quick cuts, shaky cam, and CGI enhancements it’s nice to see some filmmakers getting back to the basics. Charlize Theron kicked ass and this was entertaining as hell!

Battle of the Sexes

It’s funny how every few decades we get pulled into this weird time warp where lessons we thought we’d learned a long time ago need to be refreshed. Emma Stone and Steve Carrell do a fantastic job bringing two very opposite people to life in a story that’s almost stranger than fiction.

Beware the Slenderman

What could’ve been an exploitative look at a horrible act of violence is in fact a giant question of what caused this to happen. Looking at the world of creepypasta, the power of belief, mental health, and how all of this can affect the minds of two children.

Brigsby Bear

A film that came out of nowhere and hit me right in the feelings. What could’ve been absurd was turned into brilliant thanks to the perfect blend of humor and heart.

A Cure for Wellness

Oh my, talk about a beautifully misunderstood gem. I know this film was divisive in it’s story, but I bought the ticket and took the ride. I found this film to be a mesmerizing love letter to gothic horror and H.P. Lovecraft. If that sounds like something you’d enjoy watch it!

The Disaster Artist

Who knew the story behind the worst movie of all time would make for such a fantastic film? James Franco puts his all into his performance where he humanizes one of the most larger than life personalities of modern cult cinema. While it’s good I have to recommend reading the book. It’s chocked full of so many more great/bizarre stories behind this production and the life of Greg Sestero.

Free Fire

While we’ve seen so many grand action films recently it was nice to see one confined to a single warehouse. With a fantastic cast inhabiting some larger than life characters this is one of the most criminally overlooked films of the year.

Get Out

Coming so close to making my top ten this film is going to become known as one of the best directorial debuts of recent years. Jordan Peele surprised everyone with a film out of his typical wheelhouse. What kept it from making my top ten was seeing the alternate ending on the blu-ray. It would’ve made the film perfect in my opinion.

Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond

I’ve always been a fan of Jim Carrey. As a kid I laughed at his antics, as a teenager I loved his dramatic roles, and as an adult I’m impressed by who he is as a person. This documentary shows you a piece of his career/life that is unbelievable.

Lady Bird

Another fantastic directorial debut that could be a sign of good things to come. Greta Gerwig has always been an interesting actress even if I’ve felt she’s been pigeonholed. What she crafted here was a great coming of age story that will become a classic in the genre.

The Little Hours

This film feels like William Shakespeare came back from the dead and wrote a one final comedy of errors with a contemporary twist. This is another fantastic overlooked film that will hopefully find it’s audience in the coming years.

Logan

It has been a great year for comic book films. Even though I feel like I say that every year 2017 was a high watermark. Hugh Jackman and James Mangold ended the 17 year era of Wolverine on the big screen with a high note. Any film that can get me misty eyed in the end is an impressive feat. If you’d have told me this film would do that I’d have said you were crazy.

Logan Lucky

Steven Soderbergh has always been an interesting filmmaker. While I can’t say I’ve enjoyed all his films I do think all them have merit. While Logan Lucky may not be revolutionary it is a great story supported by fantastic actors and a competent director with vision. Thank goodness he didn’t stay retired.

Loving Vincent

I know that this film’s narrative isn’t the strongest aspect you can not ignore the beauty and sheer technical achievement this film accomplished. I’ve got my fingers crossed it’ll take home the Academy Award.

mother!

Well, let’s throw a little controversy onto this list. mother! has been a love it or hate it film. Whether you think it’s beautiful or pretentious both sides have valid points. What  I took away from the film is a very sharp and interesting critique on how the positive aspects of religion can be corrupted to push a sinister agenda. It’s a bold film that will be discussed for years to come.

Phantom Thread

Paul Thomas Anderson’s post There Will Be Blood filmography has been interesting. He’s crafted some films that can be praised by many, but also seem to miss the mark with others. Phantom Thread is a story that requires you to invest in the first half for a payoff in the latter half. The cast all give brilliant performances with Daniel Day-Lewis being the tour de force. If this truly is the end to his film career it’s a high note.

Professor Marston and the Wonder Women

We finally got to see DC’s Amazing Amazon make her solo film debut this year with wonderful results, but we also got to see the compelling story about her creation. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women didn’t pull any punches telling the story of the people who created and inspired this iconic character.

T2: Trainspotting

Rarely does a sequel that gets released decades after the original film turn out to be interesting or have much of a story to tell. Trainspotting embraced the elapsed time to give us a rather beautifully sad yet realistic look at where all these characters ended up. Some fans were underwhelmed, but I loved seeing these characters and can only imagine where they’ll be in another 20 years.

Thelma

This Norwegian supernatural thriller was a big surprise for me. I saw it on a whim and was blown away. While the comparisons to Carrie on the surface are fair when you dig deeper it has so much more to offer.

War for the Planet of the Apes

Who would have thought that the reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise would lead to such a great trilogy? While Rise was a decent film that set up the series it was Dawn and War that truly made these films incredible. Caesar is hands down one of the greatest protagonists of the 2010’s. There has been talk about making a 4th film, but I truly hope the studio leaves well enough alone.

There you have it. A diverse and interesting selection of films that I can not recommend enough. And yet, we still have ten more that somehow surpassed them. Stay tuned for my top ten films of 2017. These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think any of these films deserved to be on my top ten list? Are there any that you didn’t enjoy? If you’re interested links to my previous honorable mention lists can be found below. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2016/03/31/the-honorable-mentions-of-2015/

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/04/10/the-honorable-mentions-of-2016/

My Ten Worst Films of 2017

My Ten Worst Films of 2017

2017 has come to a close and now is the time to sift through the films left in it’s wake. With the Academy Awards less than a month away the time has come to discuss what films will leave an impression behind and be heralded as classics in the years to come. Unfortunately, now is not the time for that. We’re here to look at the films that will either be (hopefully) forgotten or stay stuck in pop culture as floundering missteps by their respective studios. Yep, today we look back at the ten films that I watched and regret wasting my time on. I’m sure there were worse films made this year, but I tend to ignore films I have no interest in watching. You won’t be seeing Fifty Shades Darker or The Emoji Movie on this list. So, without further ado let’s begin discussing my questionable film choices of the year.

10. Transformers: The Last Knight

Michael Bay’s Transformers series turned 10 years old in 2017. That’s one film every 2 years. In that time span the series has gone from a mildly fun adventure to bloated ‘splosion fests that are in dire need of an editor. At this point we all know what to expect from these films, but I am holding out hope that the Bumblebee spin-off will breathe new life into the series

9. Snatched

I really wanted to enjoy this film. I think given the right material Amy Schumer is a talented and funny comic. Pairing her with Goldie Hawn was a brilliant idea. If only the writer had given two shits about the story. This is as bad and disappointing as Hot Pursuit.

8. Flatliners

What was suppose to be a sequel to the original film got edited down into a bland and by the numbers remake. I can not believe so many talented actors (Ellen Page, Diego Luna Kiersey Clemons) got wasted. Niels Arden Oplev got lucky with The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. I’m thinking if I re-watch that film I’ll see the only reason it’s good is because of the story and leading actors. I really have no interest in seeing his career progress.

7. The Dark Tower

I’ve never read any of the Stephen King series this film is based off, so I’m sure I was let down less so than many people. Idris Elba tries to make the best of what he’s given and we’re left with a jumbled film that trips over itself and runs way too short for the story they need to tell in spite of feeling longer than it actually was. Funny, my worst film of 2016 was Cell. It’s almost as though some Stephen King stories are best left on the page.

6. Amityville: The Awakening

It has been an abysmal year for horror franchises. This and the Texas Chainsaw prequel Leatherface were terrible. I’m not going to pretend that the Amityville series is any sort of Holy Grail of cinema, but Blumhouse has had a decent track record in recent years. This felt like a cynical attempt to ‘modernize’ the franchise while retaining the rights to the series. Honestly, I think humanity will survive if this is the last Amityville film. I doubt that will be the case. But I remain optimistic that this year’s new entry in the Halloween series will be good… hopefully.

5. The Bye Bye Man

So what happens when you want to make a Slenderman film, but can’t obtain the rights to the character? You copy and paste some of his attributes onto a generic script and hope releasing the film in January will get you a decent return on investment. There is nothing enjoyable about this film. It doesn’t even work as an unintentional comedy. This ranks beside The Devil Inside as one of the worst January horror films to date.

4. CHiPs

We’re at that point where studios are so desperate for brand recognition we got a film based off CHiPs. A cop show made during the late 70’s and early 80’s that has aged horribly. But hey, if you can’t do a proper adaptation of the material make it a spoof. That worked for Starsky and Hutch, right? I really wish Dax Shepard the best of luck going forward, but this project was a mistake on his part as a director, writer, and actor. At least Michael Pena has some fun moments, so there’s that.

3. The House

I genuinely believe that this film was originally conceived to be a dark comedy. A couple from the suburbs teaming with their degenerate gambling addict of a friend to open a casino and go down a dark path in order make a better life for their daughter. Eh, that doesn’t work for our actors, so let’s re-tool it to suit their comedic sensibilities. What we got was a tonal mess where almost everyone involved appears to be phoning in their performance.

2. American Anarchist

If I wanted to watch an old man be berated for his past mistakes I’d go to a family reunion. All joking aside, Charlie Siskel could’ve made a wonderful documentary about William Powell’s life, but instead went for the low hanging fruit of attacking him for all the evil deeds attributed to The Anarchist Cookbook. I hated this documentary for being manipulative and downright offensive to the interviewee.

1.Resident Evil: The Final Chapter

Paul W.S. Anderson’s reign over the Resident Evil films has come to an end, thank you Lord! This series has been a disappointment from the get go. Sure, the first film is mildly enjoyable as an early 2000’s dumb action romp, but these films are so far divorced from their source material it’s infuriating. Afterlife and Retribution tread water in the plot while Anderson and his wife Milla Jovovich cashed paychecks, but this one tried to tie it all together and provide a satisfactory ending. Yeah, that didn’t happen. Reboot this franchise and stick closer to the video game’s tone and story please.

So there you have, another ten films I’ve watched and am now hoping to scrub from my subconscious. In the coming weeks I will also post my honorable mentions and Ten Best Films of the Year lists, so keep an eye out. I’ve also been asked by a friend and fellow film lover to do a guest spot on his podcast wrapping up 2017. I’ll provide a link in an upcoming article. These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Did you see any of the films I’ve listed? What was the worst film you saw this year? If you’re interested links to my previous worst of the year films lists can be found below. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2016/03/30/my-ten-least-favorite-films-of-2015/

https://sdfilmthoughts.wordpress.com/2017/04/06/my-ten-worst-films-of-2016/

Looking Back at my #1 Films from the Past Decade

Looking Back at my #1 Films from the Past Decade

2017 is over and while I still have a lot of work ahead in prepping my 10 best and worst films of the year I had an idea. Over the past ten years I’ve published a top ten list of my favorite films from each year. I decided, why not dig back through my number one films from 2007 to 2016 and take a look at these movies? Do they still hold up? Have any lost their sheen in the years that have past? Without further ado, let’s find out!

2007 – The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

It truly is a shame that Andrew Dominik seems to have been getting brushed over by Hollywood. While I enjoyed Chopper and thought Killing Them Softly was terribly underrated I still hold The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford in high esteem. Of course it’s still considered a good film by many, I’d say it’s one of the best westerns ever made. The sheer beauty of Roger Deakins cinematography is enough to keep you mesmerized, but Brad Pitt’s commanding performance and an ensemble that’d be the envy of others takes the script and turns it into art. It definitely is a film you have to be in the mood to watch. But it was a theatrical experience I will never forget.

2008 – The Wrestler

I’ve been called a Darren Aronofsky apologist by a few friends for my defense of his work ranging from The Fountain (one of my favorite films) to this year’s mother! He’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea. The Wrestler stands as probably his most accessible film. It’s a straight forward story of a man who’s glory days have faded and how he looks back on the good, the bad, and the weird of a career often mocked. Professional wrestlers aren’t exactly considered thespians (aside from Dwayne Johnson), but they put their bodies through trauma to entertain the masses. Pairing the story with Mickey Rourke, an actor who knows a thing or two about being a forgotten relic of the 80’s made you root for the protagonist in spite of his numerous flaws. This will be the role Rourke will forever be remembered for and with good reason. It’s raw and painfully honest.

2009 – (500) Days of Summer

This film has definitely seen it’s share of backlash in the years after it’s release. Marc Webb’s bright and quirky take on the beginning, middle, end, and aftermath of a relationship has been scrutinized by many online writers. Is this film nothing more than hipster trash showing beautiful people with beautiful people problems? Is Tom a creepy weirdo who should know the world he’s crafted is built on bullshit? Is Summer portrayed too much as a cold hearted bitch to exercise some demons of the writers’ previous relationships? It all seems like over-analysis to me. I still think the film grapples with some strong emotions in a lighthearted fashion. Tom comes into the story naive to true love, but after taking some hits gets back up a little wiser. It’s a shame that Sony didn’t loosen the reins on Webb with The Amazing Spider-Man films. If he’d gotten to throw in more of the flare he exhibited here they might’ve turned out a little better.

2010 – Black Swan/Inception

I copped out this year. I enjoyed both of these films immensely and couldn’t choose between them for the number one slot. Well, it was my list so they got to share it! I’ve written previously about how the films of underrated director Satoshi Kon influenced both Darren Aronofsky and Christopher Nolan. These films are the biggest pieces of evidence to back that up. Black Swan has a story slightly similar to Perfect Blue while the idea of exploring a dream world was the crux of Paprika. Both of these films owe a huge debt to a brilliant (and unfortunately dearly departed) filmmaker. And while I will say that both films have rotated around my favorite list for each respective director I still enjoy them. Both have the typical strengths and weaknesses of Aronofsky and Nolan.

2011 – Drive

Oh Nicolas Winding Refn, one of the most divisive filmmakers of recent years. Some people love him for his stunning visual style and low key storytelling. Others call him a pretentious artist who can’t grasp narrative to save his life. I fall somewhere in the middle. Pusher and Bronson are fantastic. Only God Forgives is a film I keep coming back to and appreciate more with every re-watch. Valhalla Rising has it’s moments, but for the most part left me indifferent. And The Neon Demon is a weird beast that every time I watch my feelings toward it change. Drive definitely stands (beside Bronson) as my favorite of his works. On paper this story could’ve been directed by Olivier Megaton, starred Jason Statham, and been a so so action film. It became a love letter to genre archetypes and beautiful one at that.

2012 – ParaNorman

When I saw the first teaser trailer for ParaNorman I was excited. The visuals looked amazing, the story sounded intriguing, and all around I expected something different from the typical animated fare Disney and Dreamworks had been pumping out. It definitely lived up to my expectations. Laika has continued to deliver fantastic films that keep getting ignored by general audiences. I hope one day this studio will get the Oscar they so deserve.

2013 – Mud

While this film was listed as a 2012 film it got it’s wide release in 2013, so it counts. Jeff Nichols had caught my attention with Take Shelter a few years before and Matthew McConaughey was working his way back to building a respectable career. I love the very Mark Twain vibe of the story with a slightly sinister undertone.

2014 – Wild

I was not familiar with the story of Cheryl Strayed or the PCT when the film came out. I walked into this film based off a trailer and my enjoyment for Jean-Marc Vallee’s previous film Dallas Buyers Club. I walked out feeling emotionally drained. This film surprisingly hit me in the feelings from the gut wrenching opening scene (I have a huge fear of losing toe/fingernails) and didn’t let up. I’ve always been a little indifferent towards Reese Witherspoon’s acting, but this film proved to me she’s got talent that can not be ignored.

2015 – Kumiko, the Treasure Hunter

As someone who grew up in the midwest the story of Fargo has always hung in the local pop culture. To this day I’ve met people who firmly believe that the film is in fact based on real events. I remember hearing about Takako Konishi and found it fascinating how she let the power of belief push her to travel across the world in search of riches. While the film is only very loosely based off actual events it’s still very engaging. The film hung on Rinko Kikuchi’s performance and she nailed it.

2016 – The Nice Guys

I’ve always been a fan of Shane Black. How can you not love Lethal Weapon? While some people have mixed feelings about The Last Boy Scout, The Long Kiss Goodnight, and Last Action Hero I’m a fan of all three. I grew up seeing those VHS boxes on the shelf of my local video rental store and rented them often. Then came his directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and I loved it! The Nice Guys is a fantastic spiritual sequel and stands on it’s own two feet based off the acting, look, and script. It’s a shame this film didn’t make more at the box office.

In conclusion I think all these films hold up. To this day I watch them regularly and would recommend them to anyone. These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Are any of the films listed are ones you enjoy? Do you dispute any of these being my top film from that year? Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.

Heads Up

Hey Everyone,

Just wanted to give a heads up that this week I won’t be posting an article. Due to other writing projects (and a small case of writer’s laze) I didn’t have enough time to think up an idea and write an article. I hope to return next week with something informative and interesting. So stay tuned.

As always, thanks for reading.

Jameson P

What Does the Box Office Success of IT Mean for Filmmaking?

What Does the Box Office Success of IT Mean for Filmmaking?

We are currently heading into the second week of It’s theatrical run and it looks to be like there will be little to slow it down. Between the critical and audience success what could this mean for the future long and short term of the film scene? Today I’m going to throw my two cents forward and see if any of it pans out. So, without further ado let’s dig in.

-Chapter Two-

This is probably the most obvious of all things being considered. It only covered about half of the original novel and the follow-up hinged on the success of part one. Director Andy Muschietti has already stated that the script is coming together and they’re hoping to start shooting next spring. In the meantime there has been speculation of which actors will play the adult iteration of The Losers Club. This itself could be a huge win or lose for the film. As most readers and anyone who has seen the 1990 miniseries know the latter half of the story isn’t quite up to par with the first. Finding the right actors for the respective roles will be a big hurdle the filmmakers need to clear. Fingers crossed everyone will measure up to the fine performances the kids gave in Chapter one.

-Stephen King Remakes/Adaptations-

It has been a mixed year for Stephen King on the big screen. While It proved to be a hit The Dark Tower landed with a bit of thud a little over a month ago. King’s works have always been ripe for adapting to the big screen, but this hit will guarantee stalled productions are going to move forward ASAP. There has been rumblings of Cujo and Pet Sematary getting updates and odds are last week meetings were held about getting them in front of the camera right away. As well there are quite a few other stories that King has written. Odds are they’ll soon get optioned and head into production. So, let the avalanche of Stephen King films begin.

-More Horror-

A major rule in Hollywood is that horror films are one of the safest bets at the box office. They’re made cheap and can translate across most cultures. With It bringing in record numbers for horror/an R rated film/and a September release studios are going to take note. Any upcoming horror film will look at It’s marketing campaign and step up their game. Blumhouse has been working hard to make sure our local multiplexes are well stocked with decent horror and The Conjuring Universe doesn’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. But to find another horror film that will do as big of numbers as It remains to be seen.

-Resurgence of the R Rating-

R rated films are still getting made, but there has been a rather sharp decline in their numbers. The PG-13 rating is far more profitable as it opens a film up to a wider demographic. It’s a simple fact that teenagers tend to have disposable income and are not likely to check reviews before purchasing a ticket. If The Bye Bye Man had an R rating odds are it wouldn’t have made nearly as much money as it did last January. And with DVD and blu-ray giving filmmakers a way to release a “harder” cut of their respective films it allows studios to appease filmmakers and double dip into consumer’s pockets. But with an R rated film being at the top of the box office for two weeks in a row studios might be more willing to let films get R ratings instead of cutting a scene or two to get that PG-13 rating from the MPAA.

-More Mid-Budget Films-

This is my biggest wish from It’s success. As of now a there is a huge gap that seems to widen every year with the films released. Either studios will craft blockbusters that have robust budgets somewhere in the area of 100-250 million dollars. Or they will go the polar opposite and make micro budget films with budgets between 1.5-10 million dollars. The idea is that blockbusters will be crowd pleasers pulling in 800 million to a billion plus in box office grosses. Whereas the low budget films are such small bets that if ten are made only one or two of them have to be hits in order to justify all ten getting made. In the meantime films with budgets between 20-80 million dollars are a dying breed. It’s hard to justify the budget when you tack on the marketing budget which can often cost nearly as much as the film being made. On a thirty-five million dollar budget It burst out of the gate and became a bona fide success. With a few mid-budget films being successes in recent years (i.e. Straight Outta Compton grossed 201 million against a 50 million dollar budget. Deadpool grossed 783 million against a 58 million dollar budget.) there is a chance that studios might understand that if a film is based off a property with recognition amongst most filmgoers they’d be willing to make films with these budgets. This would give filmmakers a chance to have a bit more money to make their films and give them a little more edge. On the plus side for studios, it would not be a large risk financially to make these films. Fun Fact: It, Straight Outta Compton, and Deadpool were all R rated. A little creative freedom within a reasonable budget could be a win-win for everyone involved.

These are my thoughts, but as usual what are yours? Do you think It’s success was deserved, or were you letdown? Are you looking forward to seeing more of Stephen King’s stories getting adapted to the big screen? Are there any of his stories that you would like to see get a remake? Do you think we’re in a golden age for horror films? Who would you cast as the adult version of The Loser’s Club? Let me know. Remember you can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @sdfilmthoughts. As always, thanks for reading.