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Tag Archive: Midnight in Paris


By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

When we decided to do a list of the Top Ten Fantasy Movies for each of the borg.com authors, the definition of “fantasy” became very simple – it had to have magic in it.  I thought, no problem. That’s easy – and I was right.  I had more than enough movies to make the list work without including super-hero movies or science fiction.  (Though, there is one movie that could be seen as a super-hero movie.  Technically.)  Then, I came to a realization.

Of all of the movies that I found, there are an overwhelming number of romantic comedies.  When I think fantasy, I think Game of Thrones, the Dragonriders of Pern, Xanth, Tasslehoff Burrfoot and many other series.  It surprised me that love, true love, also has a fantasy aspect to it.  Maybe it’s because finding your true love has turned out to be one of those ultimate myths like unicorns or white wizards.  Maybe it’s because in order to find true love, you need a little supernatural push.  Maybe I’m just being overly analytical and love itself is a kind of magic.  (At this point, I’m sure you could be singing “Magic” by The Cars, “Power of Love” by Huey Lewis and the News or any number of pop love songs and convince yourself that love is magic because the bards say so.)  No matter what the reason, there are more love stories than adventures in my list.  If I read the other author’s lists and see more adventures, well, then I will assume that I’m a hopeless romantic.  If they have romances as well, I’ll breathe a sigh of relief and think that my brain is not love sick, just good at finding magic in the everyday where relationships, not dragons, need to be shot out of the sky with large weapons.  Wait…oh, never mind, on to the list.

10.  Hawk the Slayer

This one is pure nostalgia.  I could have put other, better movies that this one on my list like Big Fish, Stardust, Spirited Away, The Prestige, Stranger than Fiction, Ella Enchanted, Last Action Hero, The Fall, Kung Fu Hustle,* Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure or Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium on this list**, but I still remember staying up late and watching this movie a few different times with friends while I was in grade school.  I look at the trailer (part of a site which may make a sequel!) and nostalgia makes me want to watch it again, but my mind tells me that I’d rather keep it unsullied in the memories of 10-year-old me.  My favorite moment occurred outside the movie because my friend Russell and I would “play” Hawk the Slayer and fight over who got to be the elf.

*This is the movie that I think blurs the line between “fantasy” and “super-hero” but because it isn’t technically in my top ten list, I’m ok with it.

**Consider that the rough draft of my 11-21 movies, though not necessarily in that order.  Bill and Ted is the nostalgic one in that list.  Mr. Magorium could just be oxygen infused airline viewing and Natalie Portman that made it wonderful.

9.  Monty Python and the Holy Grail

See #10, except this listing is for junior high/high school nostalgia and I still watch it occasionally, especially for the opening credits.  Llamas will never cease to be funny for me.  My favorite moment in the movie is always the anticipation of the first “wik” in the credits.  If you’re looking for a fantasy moment, the whole scene with Tim is pretty darn great.

8.  Midnight in Paris

My favorite movie of 2011, as I’ve posted before, and I think it belongs on this list.  I still remember smiling and filled with such happiness when I walked out of that theater.  My favorite moment happened when Owen Wilson waited for the car to pick him up a second time.  He had found magic and he got lucky.  The fear of that being a one-time shot made that moment exquisite in anticipation.

7.  L.A. Story

Before I moved to L.A., I really liked this movie a lot. (I seem to place it, Last Action Hero, Hudson Hawk and Quick Change into the same place in my mind, probably due to release dates and also because I seemed to like them much more than anyone else.)  The presence of this movie on my list made me look at the rest of the movies and that’s how I came up with my introduction.  My favorite moment is the scene where the showers can change to slow motion.

6.  Shallow Hal

Yes, the message hits you over the head like a +5 mace of creaming.  Still, from both sides of a romance, don’t you want the person you date, you marry, to be able to see all the things that make you who you are, that make you beautiful?  It’s a great concept, taking the parts of us in our heads and hearts and making it visible to everyone as abs or perky breasts or a full head of great hair or legs that go all the way to the ground.  My favorite moment is the first time Hal (Jack Black) goes dancing in a club with his new sight and is just so happy.

5.  Big

Yes, this has a lot of funny parts and there is a sweet kind of romance to this one, but I always have considered it to be one of the saddest movies I have ever seen.  Not because of arc of the Elizabeth Perkins character, but because of Josh Banks not being able to live purely as a child again once he has become big.  There’s no way to make his innocence magically return.  He’ll forever be an adult.  My favorite moment, “I get to be on top.”

4.  Groundhog Day

Andie MacDowell is gorgeous and I think I could see how a man would spend eternity trying to woo her on her looks alone.  Bill Murray is not as pretty and definitely not that cool in his role as weatherman Phil Connors.  By the end of the movie though, Murray is definitely the one that is so obviously a catch as he seems to have so much more depth. However, this could just be my Murray Man Crush*** speaking.  My favorite moment, out of many, is “Don’t drive angry.”

***I think it is a definite diagnosis for men from 20-50 that have seen Caddyshack, Meatballs, Ghostbusters, Lost in Translation, etc.

3.  Scrooged

This cements the fact that I have a Bill Murray crush.  If Frank Cross made my favorite character list, then his movie should be a part of my favorite fantasy movies, right?  My favorite moment is my guaranteed Niagara Falls, “You forgot God bless us everyone.”  But, a close second is, “Did you try staples?”

2.  Fellowship of the Ring

Here is the truest of true fantasy adventures.  A call to arms and heroes emerge to pursue the quests that need their help.  (Just writing that last sentence makes me want to read some Joseph Campbell.  The awkward construction was part of my plan to make the reader think of Joseph Campbell.  Failing that, I’m just going to ram the name Joseph Campbell down your eye sockets.)  I think this may be the best adaptation of a book that I have ever seen.  Great visuals, great casting, great writing.  My favorite moments in the movie involve the Nazgul.  I love the dream glimpses of their human forms.  I love the chase of Frodo and Arwen.  Such awesome imagery actually might have beaten the visions I had in my mind from the books.

1.  The Princess Bride

One of my favorite movies of all time, as soon as C.J. mentioned the list, I knew this would be at the top of it, the tough part being how the rest of it would look.  I have two favorite moments amidst a movie filled with quotable moments and great scenes.  “I do not think it means what you think it means,” and the moment Peter Falk turns back toward Fred Savage and says, “As you wish.”  Ok, that settles it.  I am a hopeless romantic.

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By Jason McClain (@JTorreyMcClain)

I love to rank the movies that I’ve seen every year.  I also love to have caveats like this list doesn’t include Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Martha Marcy may Marlene, or Hugo as I haven’t seen them yet and I want to do so.

I rank the movies as I see them and try to figure out where they fit in the whole spectrum of the movies that I’ve seen over the year.  I toyed with showing the top five, then the top ten, then the top sixteen, and then I said, screw it, I’ll just give you the whole list so that you can see it in its full context.  You can see what I see and how they rank against each other in my mind.  One slight mathematical type note – don’t think of this list as a normal distribution.  It could be skewed left or right depending on your vantage point, and in this case has more movies toward the quality side and that have definite cool moments.

So, without further ado, here is my list of movies in the order that I enjoyed them and that I saw released in 2011.

  • Midnight in Paris
  • Melancholia
  • Thor
  • Attack the Block
  • Captain America
  • The Guard
  • Young Adult
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • Insidious
  • Cedar Rapids
  • Rango
  • Bridesmaids
  • Tree of Life
  • Hanna
  • Submarine
  • 13 Assassins
  • Paranormal Activity 3
  • Win Win
  • Drive
  • The Descendants
  • The Trip
  • X-Men: First Class
  • Everything Must Go
  • The Adjustment Bureau
  • Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol
  • Source Code
  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  • Paul
  • Unknown
  • Moneyball
  • Contagion
  • Super 8
  • Sucker Punch
  • Hall Pass
  • Cowboys and Aliens
  • I Saw the Devil
  • Horrible Bosses

If I were making a list of the top ten movies of the year to nominate for the Best Picture Oscars (announced Tuesday, January 24th at 5:30 am PT) I’d take the first ten movies. 

However, knowing that superhero movies, action movies, comedies, animated films and horror movies rarely, if ever, get nominated, here is the list of what I would say are the ten best films of 2011 that I think deserve a best picture Academy Award nomination and would have a realistic chance at earning one.

  • Midnight in Paris
  • Melancholia
  • The Guard
  • Young Adult
  • Shame
  • The Artist
  • Tree of Life
  • Hanna
  • Submarine
  • Win Win

(Yes, I know that Hanna is pretty much an action movie and Submarine is a darn funny comedy, but they seem like nominated films more than Attack the Block and Bridesmaids.  Also, I’m not paying attention to release date and box office gross, which means it may be even less realistic than just eliminating certain genres of films.)

So, that’s it?  That’s all that I have to say?  It wouldn’t be much of an essay then as it is mainly just two lists.  I think you can find out just about anything you want to find out about the movies by just looking for them online.  You can also find better prognostications as far as the movies most likely to be nominated.  (Hint: The Descendants and Moneyball.)  So, what I’ll give you instead to wrap up the year 2011 in movies is a list of the great moments of these films.  I’ll avoid spoilers and just give you hints of the awesome in no particular order.

Don Cheadle and Brendan Gleeson meeting for the first time in The Guard.  At the beginning of this movie, Don Cheadle’s character holds a meeting for the police force of a small Irish town to give them more information of a drug-smuggling ring.  The interaction between these two great actors had to have been one of the funniest things I saw all year.

Dancing in The Artist.  I went to see this movie with my good friend Kelvin and we agreed that though we didn’t laugh much, when we left the theater we knew that we had been smiling to ourselves in the dark for the past two hours.  The scenes where Jean Dujardin and Berenice Bejo danced were the ones that made me smile the most.

The meeting in the garage between Bryan Cranston and Albert Brooks in Drive.  I’m a big fan of Breaking Bad.  I’m also a big fan of Albert Brooks, going all the way back to Real Life and Modern Romance.  When these two are in a scene together, you know both have the chops for comic acting and now you can add Brooks to Cranston as far as dramatic acting as well.

Charlize Theron sitting down to write at her computer in Young Adult.  Every time Charlize sat down to write in this film, it struck home.  The struggle to sometimes find inspiration and to reward yourself with a distraction for limited reasons I think parallel anyone that has ever sat and tried to do something creative.

The invention of a meteor distance device by the son in Melancholia.  Picking a moment from this movie is tough, there are cool visuals, there are moments that break your heart and there are parts that are darkly funny.  However, seeing Keifer Sutherland exude so much pride over his son’s invention and the knowledge that we have as an audience makes that moment just about perfect.

The Wire references in Cedar Rapids.  Isiah Whitlock Jr. played Senator Clay Davis in The Wire, you know, that show that all your friends tell you to watch once they’ve seen it.  Well, that show exists in Cedar Rapids and the references they make to it using Isiah made me smile as a fan of both this movie and that awesome TV show.

The meetings between the young kids and the nurse in Attack the Block.  It’s been a bit since I saw the movie, but one thing I liked was the relationship that developed between the kids on the block and the nurse that they accost at the beginning of the movie.  The moviemakers gave it time to develop and because of that, the relationship worked instead of being a cliché.

The battle in 13 Assassins.  It’s a battle for a town with samurais. It may be sacrilege for me to say it, but I think it may top the same scene from Seven Samurai.

The scene about Jeremy Brown in Moneyball.  They use real minor league footage for this scene and it is the one that truly moved me from this whole movie. It was at this point that the characters played by Jonah Hill and Brad Pitt (as Peter Brand and Billy Beane) finally connected with me.

Any scene with the rotating camera in Paranormal Activity 3.  I don’t care what people think of the Paranormal Activity movies.  They spook me out.  The addition of the camera that rotates so that you lose sight of parts of the house heightened my scared anticipation every time they cut to it.

Those are my ten.  Let me know if you have any that you’d add to my list.

By Jason McClain (@jtorreyMcClain) 

The movie starts out with images.  The Eiffel Tower.  The Arc De Triomphe.  The Louvre.  Le Sacre Coeur.  The Seine. Familiar looking streets to your eye if you’ve ever seen anything filmed in Paris.  Of course like any big city, there were cafes on screen that I don’t remember having seen in any image before so it provided new glimpses of a city familiar to all of us from the increasingly small world through movies and television.

Midnight in Paris had me right then and I didn’t even know it.

My thoughts drifted to my all too brief time in Paris.  Walking the streets.  Stopping by carts to pick up lunch.  Looking forward to the morning with coffee, baguettes and strawberry jam.  Letting my feet take me where they wanted to go with only the memories of my tour book to guide me as the physical copy was left behind in my hostel room so that my walk was unencumbered by backpacks or books.  Yes, I missed seeing things.  Yes, I ended up in a cemetery and realized I had no use seeing gravestones, not that there’s anything wrong with it, it just wasn’t my cup of tea.  (White, no sugar.)  Still, I saw as much as I could from the vantage point of the many different random streets that go in every which way to make up the Paris city center.

Soon after leaving, I dreamt of visiting again or, even better, of living in Paris for a year, because I had fallen in love with a city and the people.  Finally using the language that had made enough of an imprint in high school and college so that I could still pick up on just enough of someone’s speech to make me smile at my ability to decipher a special code of tens of millions of people.  The language that I used on a train to talk to a couple who helped me along, that were kind enough to take the time to listen to my halting words and help me to understand that my struggle could show benefits.  Sitting every morning near the banks of the Seine, enjoying a coffee seems like it would be a cool way to spend a year.  Though the dream is now many years old, it is still one that I cherish, the thought of becoming a secret agent of France.

Minutes later during the movie, I realized I was not alone in this dream, for this was the dream of the protagonist played by Owen Wilson.

After the movie, I realized how much more universal the theme is.

Temporal displacement.

Geographic displacement.

Interpersonal displacement.

Entertainment allows us to explore those fantasies of finding a place, a time and people that we truly love.  Finding a place, a time and people where we don’t feel like we are rushing to keep up with all that is around us, but rather the flow of our world buoys us to the surface of its stream and we casually float along in peace, knowing that everything will be ok in the end.  Athletes call it “the zone,” and I’m not sure what the term would be in regular life, but in tribute to Bryan Cranston, Walter White and Vince Gilligan, I think it could just be called “breaking good.”

Spending time with those people that truly get us, that know what it means to meet a deadline for a project, or to write the perfect sentence or to find that missing dollar that balances the books in the midst of millions is something that seems easy.  We can find those people.  We can join clubs.  We can find a cool place to work.  We can take classes.  We can call, email, IM or visit friends.  We can control our interpersonal placement as much as we can control anything. Still, when the casts of Community or Torchwood appear on the television, I think a lot of us would jump at the chance to go to Greendale Community College and play paintball or to work in secrecy under the streets of Cardiff examining alien artifacts and saving the world.  We’d still keep in touch though.  Of course we would.

There are times when I think that the solitary life of a trapper in early 1800s, exploring the west for the first time would be the perfect life.  It probably comes from my father’s DNA, as “Jeremiah Johnson” is one of his favorite films. There are times that I think a mountain town calls my name to return to that small town, big peaks life.  There are other times that I know that L.A. is the perfect place for me.  Ask me any day of the week and I’d give you a different answer, depending on the traffic, the sunshine, or the dreams of snow in June.

I’m not sure where, when or who my perfect existence would encompass.  Paris in the ‘20s with F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway might be pretty darn cool as it showed that world during my viewing of Midnight in Paris.  It certainly would help to explain why Doctor Who has become a favorite of mine.  Not only is all of the past open to the Doctor, but all of time and space as well. You could sample everywhere, every when and every who.  Why not?  How do you know what is your perfect time and space unless you look around a bit? Well, unless you think that your life has peaked and that there isn’t much else out there.  The glory days have passed you by and Bruce Springsteen’s song haunts your nights, as your beers never have a chance to get warm.  I hope that isn’t your truth and maybe seeing Midnight in Paris will convince you otherwise.  You might just need a displacement to give you a fresh outlook on life, if only in your dreams.

Midnight in Paris is a fantasy/comedy and is in theaters now.  Starring Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams.