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AFTER 10 EDITIONS OF “WHAT’S THEIR BEST FILM?”, WRITTEN IN BLOOD WEIGHS IN

Wow, I’ve done ten editions of “What’s Their Best Film?” already. In that time I have received great response from some of my regular and my non-regular commentators. I’m sure that a lot of you have voiced your opinion of not what you thought a particular filmmaker’s best movie was; but listed your favorite film from said director instead. Hey, that’s cool; because in order to accurately give an opinion of a director’s best movie you would have had to have seen every film in their catalog. I love movies, but I will not and cannot watch movies 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There are more important things such as work, supporting a family and figuring out ways to get Honey Boo Boo off the air. Damn what an annoying kid and her equally annoying mother!

So why am I babbling on and on? I shall tell you. In the last ten editions of “WTBF?” it has been you, dear reader, who has voiced your humble opinion. Now it’s my turn to give you my opinion. I will list each director below and I will tell what I think is their best movie or my favorite movie; whatever you want to call it.

Let’s begin:

MARTIN SCORSESE

Is it any surprise that I’m going with Goodfellas for this one? In my opinion it’s the greatest gangster flick ever made.

Runner-up: Taxi Driver

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MICHAEL BAY

Most of what Bay puts out is complete shit; but if I had to choose a movie of his to watch I’d go with Armageddon . At least it got the Criterion Collection treatment.

Runner-up: Transformers

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Alfred Hitchcock

Psycho. It’s my favorite “Hitch” film and in my humble opinion it is also his best. The shower scene alone is worth the price of admission.

Runner-up: Rear Window

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STEVEN SPIELBERG

Schlinder’s List. Spielberg may have given us the first summer blockbuster with Jaws; but with Schindler’s List he gave us his first and finest masterpiece. Ralph Fiennes is chilling as Amon Goeth.

Runner-up: Jaws

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QUENTIN TARANTINO

Two words: Kill Bill Vols. 1 and 2, Okay, so that’s six words. That’s because these movies rock so hard they blow up two words and turn them into six!

Runner-up: Pulp Fiction

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PAUL THOMAS ANDERSON

I loved Magnolia and watch it at least three times every year. There are just so many great performances in this film from Julianne Moore to John C. Reilly. Tom Cruise was robbed of an Oscar for his role as informercial sex guru Frank ‘T.J.’ Mackey.

Runner-up: Boogie Nights

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JOHN CARPENTER

Do you honestly think I would choose anything other than The Thing?

Runner-up: Halloween

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DAVID CRONENBERG

Jeff Goldblum had the role of a lifetime in Cronenberg’s vision of the George Langelaan short story The Fly. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

Runner-up: The Dead Zone

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BRIAN DE PALMA

Some might say Carrie, some might say Scarface; I’m going with Blow Out as De Palma’s best. Travolta’s performance is one of the key reasons Tarantino wanted him for Pulp Fiction.

Runner-up: Carrie or Scarface (tie)

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ROBERT ALTMAN

I loved Short Cuts the first time I saw it and every time after that. Fantastic ensemble acting.

Runner-up: M*A*S*H

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ROBERT RODRIGUEZ

Not only is Sin City Rodriguez’ best film; but it is also the single most faithful adaptation of a graphic novel from page to screen that I have ever seen in my entire life. It’s also the movie that once again made a contender out of Mickey Rourke.

Runner-up: From Dusk ’til Dawn

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CLINT EASTWOOD

Unforgiven is one of the greatest westerns ever made. It was directed by Clint Eastwood; who in turn learned a few tricks from one of the greatest filmmakers, Sergio Leone.

Runner-up: Million Dollar Baby or Mystic River (tie)

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SAM RAIMI

This is cheating, but I’m going with the entire Evil Dead trilogy for this one. Who needs Spider-man when you’ve got Ash? Bruce Campbell rocks!!

Runner-up: Spider-man 2

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DARIO ARGENTO

To be honest, I’ve only seen three Argento films: Suspiria, Mother of Tears and Opera. Of the three of those I suppose my choice for his best would be Suspiria. What a creepy and atmospheric film.

Runner-up: Opera

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DARREN ARONOFSKY

I have to go with The Wrestler on this one. I’ve been a fan of the squared circle for quite a long time and it’s the first film to take the subject matter seriously. Mickey Rourke was amazing as Randy “The Ram” Robinson.

Runner-up: Black Swan

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WES CRAVEN

I could be a complete asshole and go totally against the popular choice of A Nightmare on Elm Street as Craven’s best; but that would just be stupid. He gave us Freddy Fucking Krueger with this one, for crying out loud!

Runner-up: The Last House on the Left or Scream (tie)

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TOBE HOOPER

Just as Craven brought usFreddy Krueger with his greatest film A Nightmare on Elm Street; so did Tobe Hooper bring us The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Leatherface 10 years prior. Watch this movie and you’ll think twice about picking up hitchhikers and eating Texas Bar-B-Que.

Runner-up: Poltergeist

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ALEXANDRE AJA

It may seem like a strange choice, but I pick his remake of Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes over High Tension (aka Haute Tension aka Switchblade Romance) as Aja’s best film. It’s close though; both movies are fucking brutal.

Runner-up: High Tension 

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ROB ZOMBIE

Some people seem to love Rob Zombie’s films and other people seem to hate his films and his fucking guts. There’s no middle ground. What’s his best film? That’s easy: The Devil’s Rejects.

Runner-up: Halloween

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JOE DANTE

What have I said before? The Howling is the greatest werewolf movie ever made; so the choice here is a no-brainer.

Runner-up: Gremlins

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STUART GORDON

Re-animator, of course. Those of you who disagree can get a job in a sideshow. This film brings a whole new meaning to the term ‘giving head.’

Runner-up: From Beyond

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GUILLERMO DEL TORO

I haven’t seen everything by Del Toro, but I thoroughly enjoyed The Devil’s Backbone. It was an amazing little ghost story.

Runner-up: Hellboy

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GEORGE ROMERO

There is no question that Night of the Living Dead is Romero’s greatest film; the trouble is that Dawn of the Dead is every bit as awesome. Folks, we have a tie! Zombies everywhere have Uncle George to thank for their popularity.

Runner-up: Day of the Dead

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BRAD ANDERSON

I loved Session 9 and The Machinist on equal terms; but if I had to choose I’d have to go with the latter based simply on the strength of the performance from Christian Bale. The Machinist is a brilliant film about guilt and how it can affect us so deeply.

Runner-up: Session 9

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WILLIAM FRIEDKIN

William Friedkin

The Exorcist. Nothing else need be said.

Runner-up: The French Connection

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LUCKY MCKEE

Lucky McKee

I choose May as McKee’s best for one simple reason: the deliciously disturbing performance from Angela Bettis. She deserved an Oscar for that movie.

Runner-up: The Woman

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EDUARDO SÁNCHEZ

Eduardo Sanchez

It’s going to take Sanchez a long time before he gets out from under the shadow of The Blair Witch Project. He’s been making heavy strides with films like Altered and Lovely Molly. Still, it is the witch who holds sway over all.

Runner-up: Altered

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MARIO BAVA

I’ve only seen one Bava film and that is Black Sunday. I do want to see more.

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LUCIO FULCI

The same goes for Lucio Fulci and Zombie. I know, I know I need to watch more Fulci and Bava.

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SERGIO LEONE

The man who gave us The Man with No Name. It’s hard to pick one great Leone film. A Fistful of Dollars? The Good, the Bad and the Ugly? Once Upon a Time in the West? Once Upon a Time in America? Nope, I just can’t do it.

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There you go; my choices. Some are your choices as well and some are not. Opinions are like assholes; everybody has one and they make the world go ’round.

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THE WRITTEN IN BLOOD EDITION OF DESERT ISLAND FILMS

I was asked, by my friend Tyson at Head in a Vice, if I would submit my list of eight movies, one book and one luxury item that I would want to have with me if I were stranded on a desert island. I must say that I am glad that he finally asked as I was feeling left out and would soon resort to stalking and glaring menacingly at him while cleaning my fingernails with an ice pick. Just kidding, Tyson. Maybe.

I got to thinking about what to include on the list. I’m not a professional critic; I don’t know all about the various techniques that filmmakers and actors use to make a great film. I don’t use fancy words to describe a performance or a scene. I am just a guy from California by way of South Carolina who has watched movies since he was six and knows what he likes when he sees it.

So, here’s my list. As you can guess most are horror movies but with a few non-genre films tossed in for balance. I don’t think my choices will surprise anyone; but who knows. There is no particular order to the selections.

1. The Thing (1982)-John Carpenter

Alright, I told a little white lie. There is no way that I was not going to put this movie anywhere but Number 1. The Thing is the best film of John Carpenter’s long career and is a perfect example of how hand-made special effects are far more convincing than something a four year old could do on a fucking computer. Isolation, paranoia and a creature that can assume any form; what more could you ask for in a movie?

2. The Howling (1981)-Joe Dante

Best werewolf movie ever made! Best werewolf transformation ever! These are not your daddy’s Lon Chaney Jr. werewolves. These are werewolves whose sole purpose is to keep you, me and Little Red Riding Hood in therapy for the rest of our lives. I fell in love with Dee Wallace in this movie. There was no way I could have shot her; it would have been like shooting Ole Yeller.

3. Hostel and Hostel Part II (2005 and 2007)-Eli Roth

I’m cheating quite a bit with this selection as Hostel and Hostel Part II are two entirely different movies. But then again, how different are they? Both feature dumb Americans in foreign countries who get in way over their heads. Both feature torture and gore. Even the Bubble Gum Gang makes an appearance in both movies. Why do I love these two sicko movies so much? I have no fucking idea! Best line goes to Natalya (Barbara Nedeljakova) for “I get a lot of money for you, and that makes you MY bitch.”

4. Goodfellas (1990)-Martin Scorcese

Where do I start? I take nothing away from The Godfather; but in my humble opinion Goodfellas is the definitive gangster movie. I could, and did, write an entire post on this one movie. Give me time and I could write 10 more. There are so many great scenes in this film; Henry and Karen’s first date and that masterful tracking shot, Tommy’s death and Jimmy’s heartbreaking reaction. Last but not least there’s that great scene:

Henry Hill: You’re a pistol, you’re really funny. You’re really funny.
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean I’m funny?
Henry Hill: It’s funny, you know. It’s a good story, it’s funny, you’re a funny guy.
[laughs]
Tommy DeVito: What do you mean, you mean the way I talk? What?
Henry Hill: It’s just, you know. You’re just funny, it’s… funny, the way you tell the story and everything.
Tommy DeVito: [it becomes quiet] Funny how? What’s funny about it?
Anthony Stabile: Tommy no, You got it all wrong.
Tommy DeVito: Oh, oh, Anthony. He’s a big boy, he knows what he said. What did ya say? Funny how?
Henry Hill: Jus…
Tommy DeVito: What?
Henry Hill: Just… ya know… you’re funny.
Tommy DeVito: You mean, let me understand this cause, ya know maybe it’s me, I’m a little fucked up maybe, but I’m funny how, I mean funny like I’m a clown, I amuse you? I make you laugh, I’m here to fuckin’ amuse you? What do you mean funny, funny how? How am I funny?
Henry Hill: Just… you know, how you tell the story, what?
Tommy DeVito: No, no, I don’t know, you said it. How do I know? You said I’m funny. How the fuck am I funny, what the fuck is so funny about me? Tell me, tell me what’s funny!
Henry Hill: [long pause] Get the fuck out of here, Tommy!
Tommy DeVito: [everyone laughs] Ya motherfucker! I almost had him, I almost had him. Ya stuttering prick ya. Frankie, was he shaking? I wonder about you sometimes, Henry. You may fold under questioning.

5. Taxi Driver (1976)-Martin Scorcese

Taxi Driver is one of the most perfect American movies ever made and by far the greatest performance of Robert De Niro’s career. It is a paranoid journey into the seedy heart of New York City. It is a film that the lonely can understand and that the rest of us can be awed by. The scene where Travis is pleading with Betsy over the phone is one of the most heart wrenching in movie history.

6. Role Models (2008)-David Wain

What? Did you seriously think I wouldn’t take a comedy with me? If I watched the other movies on the list without having something to laugh at I’d go insane. This goofy movie about two losers forced into community service at a Big Brother type program makes me LOL and ROFLMAO every time I see it. So take that, Reindeer Games. I know; you’re not Ben Affleck. You know something? You white, you Ben Affleck.

7. Inside aka À l’intérieur (2007)-Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury

I had heard that the French were making some brutal horror movies lately. I didn’t believe it at first; and then I saw Martyrs and this movie, Inside, and my eyes were opened. Brutal does not even begin to describe this movie. Beátrice Dalle is fucking terrifying in this film about a woman, her unborn child and the woman who will do anything to make it her own. Inside is intense!

8. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (2003 and 2004)-Quentin Tarantino

The Kill Bill films are my absolute favorite Tarantino films. QT pays homage to nearly every genre that he can cram into the narrative of his tale about a vengeful bride and Bill, the son of a bitch who shot her down. You’ve never met anyone quite like The Bride, Bill and the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad.

My one book would have to be Ghoul by Michael Slade. This was Slade’s second novel and the first that I read. After that I haven’t missed one since. Slade’s books are mystery, history and bloody horror all rolled into one brilliant little package. Ghoul is a masterpiece.

As for my luxury item that would be a toothbrush. If she were with me my wife would at least want me to have healthy teeth and gums.

TAXI DRIVER: An appreciation for God’s Lonely Man

TAXI DRIVER: An appreciation for God‘s LonelyMan

Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle

 

Jodie Foster as Iris

 

Albert Brooks as Tom

 

Harvey Keitel (l) as Sport

 

Leonard Harris as Charles Palantine

 

Peter Boyle (c) as Wizard

 

Cybill Shepherd as Betsy

 
 
Directed by Martin Scorsese
 
Written by Paul Schrader
 

This is a question for my blogger friends. Why do you write a blog? What is that drives you to put words onto the brightness of your computer screen? I know why I do it. I do it because I want to feel as if I am a part of something that is bigger than me. I admit that I get a little rush when I read a favorable comment or when someone likes a review I’ve written. I feel good when I check my page view count for the day and I’ve had a few hundred visitors. That means that all the times that I have sat alone in a dark room watching movie after movie has not been in vain. When I sit at my computer racking my brain for the right words to say I know that someone, somewhere will read what I have written and will appreciate it in some way or another. I am alone as I sit and type, but I am not lonely.

In Taxi Driver, Travis Bickle is always alone. Even in scenes where he is surrounded by other people, he is ultimately and painfully alone. In the scene in the diner with his co-workers he is off to one side of the table, slightly separate from the rest. Again, in the diner, this time with Iris, the young prostitute that he feels a need to save, he is still alone. Why? Because his ideas, his way of thinking is so out of tune with hers that they are two people on separate sides of a desert island; always knowing that the other exists, but never making that connection.

The saddest and most heart wrenching scene in the film comes when Travis, after taking Betsy to a pornographic movie on their first date together, is on the phone in a lonely hallway pleading with her to give him another chance. As we listen the camera pans away from him. We don’t know whether to console him or put him down like a dog to ease his misery. Travis is so far out of touch with the rest of the world. He is never alone, yet he is lonely; and he is alone and he is lonely. By its own design, the job of a taxi driver is one of the loneliest jobs on the planet. A cabbie is continually in a situation where he is with people and yet they are all rank strangers to him. For the brief time that they are in his cab, they are a part of Travis’ world, but at no point in time is he ever a part of theirs. Travis Bickle truly is God’s Lonely Man.

Again, I will ask you; why do you do what you do?

TRIVIA

Various studios considered producing this film; one suggested Neil Diamond for the lead role.
 
Robert De Niro worked twelve hour days for a month driving cabs as preparation for this role. He also studied mental illness.
 
Director Martin Scorsese claims that the most important shot in the movie is when Bickle is on the phone trying to get another date with Betsy. The camera moves to the side slowly and pans down the long, empty hallway next to Bickle, as if to suggest that the phone conversation is too painful and pathetic to bear.
 
 
 
 
 
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