JANUARY: "START OFF WITH A SONG"
Ahh, the dawn of a new year. You’d think the theme of this month would be something to do with that right? Let’s be honest, the new year is constantly begun with more weariness than zeal, the warm glow of the holidays behind you, resolutions almost instantly broken, and the prospect of a long 365 day slug ahead appears daunting. You’re already looking forward to the next day off. What to do to perk yourself up? Well, there are few pure joys in life, but the movie musical is one of those objects that is crafted in the spirit of it altogether. So, for a boost of energy and happiness to get yourself into the can-do spirit for a new year ahead, the following films will reinvigorate your life with a burst of song. Click here for the list of ten.
FEBRUARY: "BE MY VALENTINE"
In the long history of the movies, it’s possible to find love stories far less superficial than the commercial holiday that celebrates them. The romance is an essential part of the filmgoing experience that dates back over a hundred years. In fact, almost every category of film includes a romantic aspect, because the ability to identify with love onscreen communicates to the deepest desire of nearly all human beings. Great romances can be tearjerkers, musicals, comedies, dramas, historical epics, or some combination thereof. Having a rather romantic inclination myself, a good romance is almost always my preferred movie destination of choice. Here are ten of my favorites, the ones that always make me swoon and sigh in delight.
MARCH: "THE IMAGINATION OF ANIMATION"
Nowadays spring marks the arrival of a host of animated kids films every year, with star studded voicework and various tales about conquering your fears, bravery, adorable creatures, the usual jazz. But the animated film world is wider and more diverse than you might expect. America’s foremost experience with the moving drawing is of course, the world renowned brand of Walt Disney himself, that titan of commercial animation. He expanded upon the creation of Mickey Mouse with other famous characters, then the introduction of full length animated films, followed by the construction of every child’s paradise, those Disney theme parks. The success of Disney as an institution cannot be overstated, but obviously it is decidedly not all that exists in the world of animation. It is a field that is constantly expanding and exploring new boundaries, moving from the hand drawn 2D standard for nearly 60 years into the total dominance of computer animation today, of which Pixar Studios was the pioneer. And in some countries animation may be more successful as a whole, compared on an equal scale with anything live action, such as Japanese anime. For this month of the celebration of animation, we bring in a specialist for half the picks, someone with even more of an appreciation than me for the wonders of the art, and who’s seen so much in the variety of films in this area that he can surely be trusted. Take my word for it, he knows his stuff. Click here for the list of ten.
Obviously, a good comedy can be enjoyed at any point in the year, but when most April Fools jokes are incredibly lame and stupid, what better month to celebrate the best yuks of all time? There’s nothing like a good side splitting, gut busting, rip roaring, knee slapping comedy to boost your spirits, forget your troubles and put a smile on your face for a solid two hours. Laughs are important, and comedy as an art form is practically as old as time, and in fact much more difficult to pull off than drama. Nowadays, most of the oldest jokes in the book are just that, too old to be funny anymore, and it takes more and more creativity to garner new laughs from old situations, and even more imagination to come up with new situations entirely. Another thing about the difficulty in pulling off a really great comedy is the nature of humor itself. It’s entirely subjective. There’s really no such thing as a comedy so universal it makes EVERYONE laugh. Dry wit, slapstick, mix ups, satire, black humor…everyone has their preference, including me. So, here are my picks for the top ten movies that never fail to put a smile on MY face, but maybe they’ll make you chuckle too. In fact, I guarantee it.
MAY: "IN COMMEMORATION, PART I"
I honestly think the wartime movie may be the genre in which more films exist than any other. Wars are endless in our history, and an undeniable part of who we are and how we got here, as unfortunate as that may be. It’s the reason we celebrate Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, to honor those who have both fallen and survived, fighting for their country. So this month we start with the fallen, in honor of Memorial Day. We’ll begin to look back on those wars (and our history) in chronological order, sussing out the best of what cinema has to offer for each era. Beginning with these ten...
JUNE: "COPS AND ROBBERS"
As you may have noticed, when we approach the long hot summer months, we’re bombarded by big budget action movies, long considered the type of movie to release in the summer. They’re reliable blockbusters for the studios, make tons of money on opening weekends, the kind of flicks popular to throw into the summer season ever since the dawn of Jaws and Star Wars. And yes, a lot of them suck. They’re mindless and instantly forgettable, mostly sequels in the modern quest to turn any property into a potential franchise (is anyone going to remember in ten years that there were actually six Fast & Furious movies?). When it comes to the classics, however, there is the occasional heist movie, or one with the rogue cop, or one that turns you against the law and has you rooting for the antihero. Some of the great movies of all time came out of this block, a category that I like to call “cops and robbers,” and there's one for nearly every decade. So for June we'll remember some of the great action films ever made, and post ten to look back on fondly as we glide through blockbuster season 2013. Click here for the list- I'll be adding a new entry every few days throughout the month of June.
JULY: "HERE'S TO STARS AND STRIPES"
Well, it’s that time of year again. A celebration of America’s birthday, the founding of our country, and all the ideals, hopes and dreams of each generation, secured, protected, and passed along to the next. So what are the most patriotic films we can find to mark the occasion? Well, there are plenty actually. Not all of them about the founding of the country, but many chosen because they celebrate an American value, like freedom of the press or speech, or an American pastime, like baseball. Others serve as a rallying cry for patriotism during wartime. The following ten films uphold the best of what America has to offer and remind us how lucky we are to live where we do. Celebrate the 4th with fireworks, barbecue, and one of these flicks, each in its own way a stirring tribute to the American spirit. Click here for the list.
AUGUST: "GOING GLOBAL"
Now that we’ve exhausted ourselves with a healthy overdose of jingoism, let’s have some appreciation for the rest of the world, shall we? World Cinema has produced many of the greatest films of all time, so let’s finish our summer vacation by traveling to as many places as we can. Cinematically speaking, of course. For as much variety as possible, we’re limited to one film per country (which does sadly, exclude some masterpieces, but what can we do?) And whatever you do, do NOT, under any circumstances, watch any of these films in that diabolical bastardization of movie formats, the dreaded “dubbed” version. Thankfully, the practice seems to be on its way out in the U.S., but it's still around out there, so beware. Subtitles only, please. Click here for the full list of ten.
SEPTEMBER: "BACK TO SCHOOL"
Well, summer’s over and fall approaches. With it comes the dawn of a new school year, and so it becomes our monthly theme. High school is hell, and adolescence sucks. Still, high school movies have become their own genre over the years, so it’s a topic that must appeal to a lot of people. Most seem to want to go back and relive it, wishing they could have one more chance to do it right. Others would rather die than see those grim years again, while for some others still is was the peak of their whole lives. So let’s go back and visit some of the teens of each decade, and decide from that which generation had it the worst. The criteria here is anything school based, including college and the perspective of those long suffering, underpaid and overworked adults: the teachers. September is the beginning of a tough slog ahead, but maybe with this selection in front of you, the motivation to get through it may reveal itself in the triumphant and/or revenge tales of a Jaime Escalante, Carrie White, or Mark Zuckerberg. Wouldn’t you too love to funnel your alienation from your peers into the creation of a multibillion dollar online empire that you can’t be excluded from? Or get back at everyone who hates you by simply mowing them all down in a telekinetic fit? Ok, so not everyone can get revenge in quite as satisfying a manner, but most of the teens here manage to make it through the pain somehow, and we have the luxury of knowing what they don’t: that the rest of their lives won’t be nearly so dramatic. Right? Click here for the list of ten.
OCTOBER: "CREATURE FEATURES"
Zombies and werewolves and monsters, oh my! Well, here we are again, with All Hallow’s Eve upon us in just a few short weeks, and in the spirit of the occasion we celebrate with ten of the best horror (and comedy-horror) films of all time. Specifically, creature related scares this time around. You know the drill, people being terrorized by some external force, like a person possessed by a demon or cursed by the light of the full moon, or a freak animal on the attack, or a monster brought to life by a mad inventor…but usually the undead (everyone’s favorite horror movie villain). So sit back, pour out the candy and pop in the blu ray but keep your wits about you. It’s time to get good and spooked. Click here for the list of ten.
NOVEMBER: "IN COMMEMORATION, PART II"
Well, the holidays are upon us. But we’ll get to Turkey Day later, as the truth is there are so few films that do Thanksgiving correctly, that the holiday itself is better covered in our "Movie of the Day" series. So first, we celebrate Veteran’s Day this month, and in commemoration we pick out ten great war movies that focus on the conflicts that we still have survivors from in our midst. There have been many great films made about each of the following wars of the 20th century, none more so than the first one, which left veterans with the knowledge that they fought in perhaps the greatest struggle for mankind in all of human history. So far, that is. Click here for the list of ten.
DECEMBER: "HAPPY HOLIDAYS"
It’s that time of year again. The stores are booming, the lights are twinkling, and the kids are smiling every day in anticipation of the 25th. So, what classic Christmas movies to celebrate with, as you and your family count down the days, relaxing after a hard day’s shopping and scavenging for sales? There are quite a few, as you might expect. Christmas and New Year’s after all, are the most universally celebrated holidays throughout the world, and Christmas especially, has been the setting for countless movie romances, comedies and even action flicks (see Die Hard or Lethal Weapon). But the snow, the decorations, the songs…it’s all the perfect background for any storyboard you could dream up, especially if it’s planning to have a happy ending. Even though there are a lot of holiday set films, it’s harder than it seems to make a good Christmas classic, one that stands the test of time to become a perennial favorite, even managing to obtain its own 24 hour marathon every year on cable. Which is probably why these ten so often make the usual lists, years after they were first released. I don’t think you’ll have any trouble scouting them out. They’re the best of the bunch, as far as I’m concerned. For as long as I can remember they’ve always put me in the mood for Santa, cocoa, cookies and milk, peace on earth, goodwill towards men…all that jazz. I hope they do the same for you. Click here for the ten. Merry Christmas, everyone!