My Top 20 Favorite Movies of All Time (Ranked and Reviewed)

This is my best attempt at creating an ordered list of my top 20 movies of all time. I do not necessarily believe that these are the best in the world, but rather my personal favorites. This list is also subject to change constantly. I could be different tomorrow.Thank you for reading.

20. Pacific Rim

I am not a fan of action movies. In fact, there are only three films that are purely action movies that I really like at all. Taken is one of them, John Wick is the other, and Pacific Rim is the last. This is a beautifully crafted film that is a heck of a lot of fun to watch. It’s mindless fighting between Giant Robots and monsters that Director Guillermo del Toro designed each to be different. For an action movie, there are some great performances here, especially Charlie Day, who is perfectly cast.

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19. Moon

Sam Rockwell is the most underrated actor working today. Moon is a great example of his acting prowess, as he carries the entire movie as basically the only human character. This is an intense sci-fi drama thriller character study that will keep you guessing till the end. Kevin Spacey is also marvelous as the robot companion on the moon base where the movie takes place. This is a mind-bender of a film, and one worth thinking about.

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18. Shutter Island

This movie is one of my favorites because it’s a completely different experience the first and second time you watch it. It’s immensely creepy without relying on gore or cheap scares. Instead, this film uses psychological elements to drive home it’s scares. This is my favorite thriller of all time, and Scorcese’s directing and Dicaprio’s performance as Teddy Daniels make this movie worth watching time and time again.

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17. Inception

My introduction to the genius of Christopher Nolan began with Inception, and after multiple viewings, it had lost some of its flavor. It wasn’t until recently when I began reading all the fan theories about the meaning of the film that I was able to put it back on my top 20. This film has many different interpretations, including my favorite which is that the whole film is a metaphor for Nolan’s life as a filmmaker. This movie demands multiple viewings, it’s visually stunning, and is in my opinion, flawless.

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16. The Kings of Summer

This is the only true comedy to grace my list. And surprisingly, most people have no idea that this movie exists despite it’s stellar cast (Nick Offerman, Allison Brie, Kumail Nanjiani, Tony Hale, etc.) This movie is not only consistently funny, but also offers some good lessons about boyhood, family, and friendship, which is rare in the comedy genre. The real winner for this film is the beautiful cinematography. This is a gorgeous film. It makes Ohio seem like a paradise. For these three reasons, Kings of Summer will remain my favorite comedy for a long time.

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15. Birdman 

Perhaps it’s hasty of me to put a movie from this year (2014) on this list, but it had such an impact on me that I couldn’t resist. This movie is artistic without being pretentious to the point of being abstract. It’s drums only soundtrack fits the tone of the film perfectly. I have no qualms with this movie. Simply put, this is a masterpiece. If you like masterful achievements in filmmaking, see Birdman. If you like the superhero film industry, but know how to take criticism, see Birdman. If you like thought-provoking stories, see Birdman. If you want to see Zach Galifianakis’ best performance ever, see Birdman. If you like theater, see Birdman. Just see Birdman. (Check out my full analysis here)

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14. Se7en

Few movies are so grim that I would rarely recommend to anyone or so dark that I would consider not watching again, but fewer movies are as poetic as Se7en. This is a dismal movie about the depraved nature of mankind and sin, and the ending is not exactly pleasant, but this movie ties this all up so poetically in the blackest of bows and begs you to not watch again. And perhaps I won’t. And maybe you shouldn’t either, but this is a purposefully crafted tragedy. It had a significant impact on me as a filmmaker and for that, it will remain on my list. (But don’t watch it!)

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13. Inside Llewyn Davis

I suppose it’s poetic justice that Inside Llewyn Davis would fall next to Se7en on this list, as I consider this movie pure poetry as well. This movie is dim and literally colorless and the subject material can be depressing too. This movie also speaks to the nature of man, but the key difference is that this is a movie that I would recommend to anyone (especially anyone who thinks themselves an artist). I won’t spoil the movie by explaining my theory about it’s message or ending, because I think everyone should ponder this movie on their own. Ultimately the pleasure of this movie is in thinking about it, not in viewing it. And in the words of Abed Nadir from Community, “will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy?” (Also, best original soundtrack in my book)

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12. Fight Club

David Fincher makes technical masterpieces. Fight Club is no exception. This is a movie that is on a filmmaking scale, essentially flawless. But it’s also a magnificent story that keeps you guessing constantly. It’s performances are magnificent, especially Brad Pitt, who finds the perfect balance of humor and menace. This is just a fun movie to watch, and I appreciate it more every time.

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11. Alien

My favorite science fiction and horror movie are both Alien. This movie sets the foundation of so many horror and sci-fi tropes for decades to come. Although it is painstakingly slow, I believe that this is an absolutely tight script that is purposefully slow to build suspense. I also love the amount of practical effects and how convincing they are (This was 1979 after all). This is a fantastic example of Ridley Scott’s ability to craft a believable world in his movies, and Alien is a foundational film in cinema history.

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Here they are. My top ten movies of all time. These are the real deal: the movies I could watch over and over again (and for most of them, I have). Rounding out the beginning of this list are three classics that no one could deny putting on a list such as this.

 

10. Jurassic Park

This movie fulfilled so many of our imaginations when we watched it for the first time. Seeing the dinosaurs on screen was a sight to behold. After watching it again, I am reminded of how wonderful this movie truly is. It’s funny, scary, and awesome all at the same time. John Williams’ score is unforgettable and so are the characters. Jeff Goldblum’s Ian Malcom is a personal favorite of mine. This is just a fun movie.

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9. Star Wars

Some say that the Empire Strikes Back is the best of the original trilogy, however, I am a sucker for a good origin story as well as a film that can stand alone, and A New Hope fulfills both of these wishes. I don’t need to explain why this is on my list. If you haven’t seen this movie, you’re doing something wrong. See it. It’s a classic.

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8. Raiders of the Lost Ark

Some might cry heresy to the fact that this is rated higher than Star Wars, but there are a few reasons why it is. I like watching Harrison Ford as a lead rather than Mark Hammil. I also like John Williams’ score more that star wars. That’s really all it comes down to. Honestly these movies are equals in my mind, but if I’m going to choose which to watch on a friday night, I will choose Raiders before star wars. Additionally, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, and Raiders all appeal to  my love of theme parks in some way (the Star tours and Indiana Jones rides at Disneyland are superb). For these reasons, all three of these movies had to make my list.

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7. Reservoir Dogs

Quentin Tarantino is good a lot of things, but most remarkably is his ability to draw tension using dialogue only. His debut film, Resevoir Dogs is a great example of this. This movie is mostly scenes of talking, but they are so intense, and you are drawn into the characters motivations so much that this is an unforgettable film in many ways.

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6. The Usual Suspects

The usual suspects is a collection of great individual elements which place it so high on my list. It has my favorite twist ending of all time, a great performance from Kevin Spacey, it’s become highly iconic, and overall it’s just a great heist movie. It’s just that simple.

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5. Goodfellas

Scorsese certainly knows how to make a good crime movie. This is my personal favorite, and among many list of the greatest of all time. It has a few fantastic tracking shots, and overall great performances all around. This movie takes an honest look at the organized crime industry without glamorizing it. By the end of the movie you will be certain that in the crime industry, there really are no goodfellas.

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4. The Prestige

For a while this movie was in my top three, but then I saw Drive. Nonetheless, this is probably the best example of Nolan’s incredible storytelling capabilities. This non-linear tale will keep you guessing the whole time, and demands multiple viewings. This is a masterpiece that takes everything you love about inception and adds characters that are explored much deeper than in inception.

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3. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight is the movie that I can watch over and over again. It is not only the best movie based on a comic book, but actually transcends the comic movie genre and is actually just a darn good crime thriller. This is a fun ride with some of the greatest performances of this generation (Heath Ledger and Aaron Eckhart).

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2. Inglorious Basterds

Everything I love about storytelling in film began when I saw Inglorious Basterds the first time. This is Tarantino’s masterpiece and embodies everything that he is good at in perfect scale. The ultra violent scenes are fewer than in many of his films, and the tense scenes of dialogue are perfectly executed here. Christoph Waltz’s performance is my favorite of all time. If you can handle the blood, then this is a great example of storytelling in cinema that will probably exhaust you because of it’s length, but it’s totally worth it.

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1. Drive 

Drive is not for everyone. Ask most filmmakers and you will find that Drive is in most’s top three. I will not recommend this movie to many, but for me, this is not only the most aesthetically pleasing movie I have ever seen, but has a very subtle meaning that you will have to dig for to understand as well as several very purposefully subdued performances. I love this movie and it will continue to inspire my visual style for a long time.

 

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Thanks for reading. This list is constantly changing and even more movies that I have seen this year will likely make the list eventually, but until then, here are my honorable mentions (all of which I would consider personal favorites): Nightcrawler, Whiplash, The Descendants, Super 8, The Way Way Back, X2: Xmen United, Matchstick Men, Pirates of the Carribean: Curse of the Black Pearl, Hot Fuzz, Toy Story, The Book of Eli, No Country for Old Men, Fargo, Guardians of the Galaxy, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Skyfall, There Will Be Blood, and School of Rock.


Llewyn Davis and the Value of Tragic Art

Inside Llewyn Davis is the Coen Brothers latest masterpiece which is a profile of a folk musician in Greenwich village in New York in 1961. This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and in discussing it with friends after they saw it, I have come to the conclusion that the true value of this movie not in the viewing of it, but rather in contemplating it’s meaning and discussing it with friends. I consider this movie to be a poetic masterpiece, and I would like to explain some of the ways this movie has influenced me as a film goer. Be warned, there are some spoilers ahead, so if you want to see this movie, then please watch it now, and come back here when you are done. If you are on the fence about watching this move, then I encourage you to stay because this analysis may convince you to see it.

I would like to start by explaining what I consider the ending of the movie means and how it relates to one of the prominent themes of the movie. The movies opens on Llewyn being beat up in an alley for unknown reasons. The film ends with the same scene happening again. While this confuses some people, I believe it speaks volumes to the nature of the title character. When you see the film, you will understand that the Llewyn is not a hero. He is kind of a terrible person, and the other characters in the movie understand this too. I don’t think the movie is trying to say that the same event happened twice, rather we get a flash forward at the beginning of the movie, which is a technique used by many. The opening scene of goodfellas comes to mind. The point of the flash forward is to convey the idea that Llewyn’s life is cyclical. Because as a musician and a person he refuses to change his ways, he will continue to live in a cycle of hardship, pain, and arrogance.

In season 3 of Community, Abed said the following in regards to nature of storytelling, “Will your story be yet another sad one of yet another man who just wanted to be happy? Or will your story acknowledge the very nature of stories, and embrace the fact that sharing the sad ones can sometimes make them happy?” I believe that this sentiment applies to Inside Llewyn Davis perfectly. Unanimously, everyone’s first impression of this movie is somewhat negative. They will complain that there was virtually no followable plot, and that the ending is sad. I will concede that these things are true, but these things are on purpose. This movie is poetic in that shows the faults of human nature without holding back. This is not a particularly pleasant movie to watch, however the more you think about the many messages that it is trying to send about human nature, what it means to be a artist, selling out, and a need for redemption, this movie will probably grow on you.

I have always been a lover of films that portray an honest picture of flawed human nature and a need for a savior, and no movie does this more poetically than David Fincher’s Se7en. The key difference here is while I would recommend Inside Llewyn Davis to virtually everyone, I would recommend Se7en to no one. This film take a similar tragic path as Llewyn, but this film is decidedly more violent in nature. Se7en is a gory and grisly take on human depravity that is masterfully and meticulously crafted, but I would not recommend it to anyone due to it’s gore, however the meaning is still there and should be valued nonetheless.

I am not the only one who sees value in the tragic art. German Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche believed that the greek tragic arts allowed the spectators to affirmed their own existence in a virtually meaningless world. He believed that tragedy transcends other art by allowing the viewer a glimpse into the full spectrum of the human condition. I agree. I haven’t seen more of the human condition played out in other genres of film or television, than I have in movies like the films of the Coen Brothers, Goodfellas, Breaking Bad, or even video games like The Last of Us. Ironically, those are some of my all time favorites. Does this mean I have a demented conscience, taking pleasure in the darkest tales of human error. No. I think I just appreciate a well crafted story that takes an honest look at our broken and evil human condition and our need for a savior.


Metaphysics in Birdman (or the Unexpected Philosophy in Cinema)

 

Birdman or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance is my favorite movie of last year, and despite the fact that I have not seen whiplash yet, I don’t think my opinion will waver because there are some significant elements that I believe will stick with me for a while.

But first, a brief summary and review before I get too analytical. Birdman is a movie about a washed up superhero actor who’s trying to reestablish himself as an artist on broadway and the emotional and mental journey he goes on during this breakdown in his career. It’s an astonishing achievement of cinema and you would do well to see it. However, I’m here to analyze, not review. If you want to see a good review of the movie check out this one. Otherwise, stick here and be warned: some minor spoilers.

Metaphysics:

The literal translation of the word metaphysics is “Beyond reality” In Aristotle’s writing he theorized about what was beyond our physical reality. Now, this movie has a lot of scenes which are very surreal. Although the movie makes it mostly clear when something is or is not real, we are left to learn for ourselves what these scenes of grandeur actually mean. Are the explosions and bird robots in another reality: one which is the true reality which no one else can see? Perhaps. Is Keaton’s character crazy and we are getting glimpse into his demented reality. Likely. Either way, we are getting a glimpse into a world which is beyond what we consider reality, which could be a direct application of what Aristotle wrote about in his Metaphysics.

Metanarrative:

In a literary sense metaphysical writing, primarily founded by 17th-century English poets whose verse was characterized by an intellectually challenging style and extended metaphors comparing very dissimilar things using abstract thought. But in a modern sense, the idea of a metanarrative is simply a narrative about a narrative. The content and form of Birdman work together to make a genius metanarrative. The setting of Birdman is not only a broadway play, but the entire movie is cheated to appear as a single take. And while Film and Theatre are not entirely dissimilar, this movie’s form and content draws them together and  blurs the line between them which is an achievement all on it’s own.

Meta meta meta:

On the internet, “Meta” has become a derived version of metaphysical which has come to mean something entirely different due in large to the popularization by character like Abed on Community. In this sense, Meta means something which is self aware or referential. Birdman exhibits this as well. Michael Keaton plays a washed up superhero actor. Edward norton plays a stubborn, hard to work with actor. In fact, Emma stone and Norton have both played significant roles in superhero flicks, and here they are in a movie about superhero actors. This movie pokes fun at mainstream film, but more specifically the superhero genre and it’s superficial nature. This movie knows exactly what it is without being too preachy. It’s a movie about movies that takes place in a theatre setting.

Maybe Birdman isn’t the best example of metaphysics in cinema, but you cannot deny that it meets most of the criteria somehow. And whether or not it wins awards this season, It’s my favorite movie of the year and it’s been rolling around in my mind since I saw it, and I believe if you see it, it will keep you thinking for a long…long time.


Crazy, Stupid, Corrupted, Sexuality

I must begin this post by telling you that I am not trying to write a movie review necessarily. I am not going to tell you at the end whether you should see it or not or give  number score. I am rather going to explore an idea that I found interesting while viewing “Crazy, Stupid, Love.”

I was in FYE browsing for some used movies that I had been wanting to own. They were doing a promotion where if you purchased two, you got a third one for two dollars. Naturally, I had two movies in my hand, and so I began my search for a third. I came across “Crazy, Stupid Love” and I bought it remembering that some friends had said they liked it. Also, I will watch anything with Ryan Gosling in it  because he’s the best. After watching it for the first time with several friends, one of them made a comment that started an interesting train of thought for me. He said, “what a sad ending…” Naturally, people rejected this opinion with “What do you mean? Everyone’s happy and in love at the end.” To which my friend replied, “I don’t mean that the movie’s ending itself is sad, I mean that the idea of the movie itself is sad to me.” As a critical movie-goer myself, I must say that I agree heartily.

Let us begin with the good. This movie is somewhat progressive in terms of romantic comedies (although, I haven’t watched that many to begin with). To make things clear, Steve Carell plays a man who’s wife leaves him, and in the end a lesson has been learned about the value of real love and romance in a marriage and that fighting for your marriage is a worthy pursuit. Ryan Gosling’s character learns that sleeping around and being a womanizer is not as valuable as having a real relationship built on mutual interest and connection. The movie also shows how people can have a double standard. For example, Carell’s character freaks out that Gosling is dating his daughter because he’s a “scumbag” even though just before that Carell saw Gosling’s character as a wise teacher. A paradigm shift occurs when his daughter is involved.

These things may be quality values for the secular audience, but there’s an overwhelming number of ideas in this movie that simply show the depravity of man in our views of sexuality and love. Firstly, Carell’s character Cal Weaver sleeps with his sons’s teacher, and when he gets back with his wife there is an extremely uncomfortable scene in which the teacher interacts with Cal and his wife. What I found shocking is that it seems as if the filmmakers are saying that the worst consequence of Cal’s fornication is that he has an uncomfortable interaction with a teacher. Cal’s wife finds out eventually, and because she’s also had an affair, in the end, all is forgiven. Marriage prevails in the end, but were the means necessary? I think not.

Cal also holds himself to a much lower standard than Jacob (played by Gosling). Jacob has been sleeping around, and thus, Cal is outraged that his daughter would date him, when Cal himself has also slept around, and yet, because his wife did too, then it’s ok? What a sad reality we live in when people can sleep around and think it’s ok due to their poor circumstances.

Perhaps the most troubling theme in the movie is in the interaction between Cal’s son and his babysitter. In the end of the movie, I coiled in horror when I realized that the babysitter was going to give Cal’s son her nude pictures in order to, “get him through high school,” and ultimately get him to leave her alone. The movie makes this interaction seem cute. What world are we living in when the distribution of child pornography can be deemed cute as long as it’s between a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old. This is the most clear and disturbing element of this movie.

What world are we living in when the distribution of child pornography can be deemed cute as long as it’s between a 13-year-old and a 17-year-old?

There is a professor at Biola University who refuses to watch any romantic comedies because he believes it will skew his views on romance and sex. He believes in the idea of cumulative narrative in which it is understood that the more we engage in stories together, the more we will collectively believe that they hold truths. I can’t stand the corrupted view on sexuality and love that Hollywood spits out in their movies over and over again, and it’s for these reasons that I normally choose not to watch romantic comedies or even just thematically romantic movies in general.

As fun as this movie was at times and as much as I love Ryan Gosling, this movie is deeply troubling, and I would not recommend it to many. However, If you are prepared to think critically, then you might actually learn something about the state of mankind and our current attitude towards sexuality and love, which might be a good insight. More than likely though, it will just make you depressed.

Judging you


#disneydaydecision

My iPhone has at least three 20-minute background area music loops from Disneyworld on it. In fact, I am writing this blog as I listen to a podcast featuring binaural audio of the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. I could also tell you in great detail about the three destination choices at the end of Horizons, an Epcot attraction which I’ve never even experienced first-hand because it closed in 1999, years before I ever visited Epcot. I know that I am a geek when it comes to this Disney parks obsession that I have. I do feel a little guilty about writing two Disneyland related blogs in row, but there is a good reason, I assure you.

One stormy night long ago, four people climbed into a green van with “Bug Juice” and Spy Kids VHS tapes in hand, to drive through the night and make it to Disneyland the next morning. This Thursday, that door is opening once again, but this time the circumstances are a little different. Firstly, “Bug Juice” is called “Tum-E Yummies” now, and it breaks my heart because now when I see those little multi-colored drinks in the fridges at convince stores, part of the nostalgia is lost due to the fact that they are called something different. Secondly, I haven’t watched a Spy Kids movie is years, nor do I plan on watching one on this trip. I’ll probably try to make some progress reading Game of Thrones instead. Also, this time we aren’t driving the green van (Praise God!).

If you haven’t caught on yet, this week, three of my friends and I are making a tiring journey down to Anaheim for a single day of enjoyment in the happiest place on earth. We will drive through the night, arrive on Friday morning, spend 16 hours in Disneyland, and finally sleep for a few hours at a friend’s house before driving home on Saturday. I am anticipating the fact that this trip will likely be simultaneously the best and worst trip of my life. We will be driving for twice the time we will spend in Disneyland. As horrible as that sounds, it will be an opportunity to form memories which will last a lifetime, at least, thats what I’m hoping.

There are a few things that I’m excited about for this trip. Firstly, It’s Disneyland. I can never get enough! Last time I went there, Haunted Mansion, Matterhorn, and Thunder Mountain were all closed. This time, I will be able to experience Thunder Mountain in it’s new glory as a completely new experience. I have thus far refrained from watching any videos which would spoil all the new special effects that have been added. Also, I’m always excited to continue my tradition of asking for bread as I pass the restaurant on the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. I am still unsuccessful in actually having a roll thrown to me. Also, Haunted Mansion is a classic, and I shouldn’t have to explain why I’m excited to ride it again. I could write a whole blog on that ride. It’s rich with details and nostalgia. I have much of the narration committed to memory… It’s embarrassing.

All this goes to say that I will be in Disneyland on April 11th. I will be live tweeting and instagraming throughout the day, so if you’re not subscribed to my accounts, you can click on those underlined words to get there. You can also view my latest instagrams on the side bar of this blog (pretty nifty, huh?). It is likely that I will write a trip report after I get home, so make sure to check up on that later. Until then, thanks for reading. I hope you have a magical day full of nice memories and other happy things.

John Nissen IV


Disneyland in General

My goal for this blog is to validate my opinions, and sometimes the thing which I like and surprisingly gets the most scrutiny is not Inglorious Basterds, Drive, or my affinity to melodic metal-core, instead it’s my love of the Disney Travel Destinations which seems to get me the most confused looks. People will say (or at least I hear them saying it in my head) “You’re going to Disneyland again?! haven’t you been there already?” And while it is true that I’ve spent over a month of my lifetime in the house of mouse, I never get tired of it. I’m going to tell you why. This is my validated opinion of the Disney Parks.

I went to Disneyland twice last year. The first was a family vacation and the second trip was a graduation road trip that I payed for on my own dime (for the most part). For me, the decision to go to Disneyland has always been an easy one. I can’t get enough. I’ve been to the Redwoods, Crater Lake, Hawaii, and Yosemite, but there’s something about Disney that I really connect with unlike any other. I believe this may have to do with my passion for film and media arts. The Walt Disney Company has created a theme park which so richly envelops you into their world of yesterday, tomorrow, and fantasy that you begin to feel feel like you’ve stepped into a movie.

Walt Disney and his team of imagineers were all filmmakers and animators. This is why when the parks first opened on July 17th, 1955, they had countless structural problems. They knew how to build a temporary movie set, but a permanent theme park with 28,000 visitors tramping through in the first day alone was not something they had prepared for. Many of these structural problems were combed out in the first years, but traces can still be found of the structural testing that was happening in Disneyland before opening day, or “Black Sunday” as it’s also referred to. This all goes to say that Disneyland was made by filmmakers and as a result, the parks have a distinct movie “feel” to them which, until the opening of Harry Potter World in Universal studios, was unmatched by any theme park.

If you’ve ever been down one of the many “Main Street USAs” in the Disney parks around the world, you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. The sounds, the smells and the sights are all so precariously managed to control your experience as you walk through any part of the park. Some might find it unsettling that Disney pumps the scent of waffle cones through a vent on main street but for me, this not only enhances the experience but also is so much better than the alternative. People get sweaty in the summer heat and if Disneyland wasn’t regulating the smells then you’d have a hard time smelling anything nice in the tightly packed summer days. There are also rumors that Disney has cloud makers to almost control what the sky looks like, and as skeptical as I am, I saw a hidden Mickey in the sky once and I’m still gathering my thoughts on that experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Perhaps the best way to explain my love for the Disney parks is by telling you why I love the Indiana Jones ride. If you haven’t been on it, The Indiana Jones ride is an intense dark thrill ride unlike any other (except it’s dinosaur themed twin in Florida). The queue area is so well themed to the Indiana Jones franchise that you truly feel like you’ve walked onto the set of a previously unreleased film. An eery temple stands looming above the entrance and as soon as you enter the details get richer and richer. It all culminates in a jeep tour gone horribly wrong through the interior of the temple’s passages. The entire experience is extremely cinematic. It’s loaded with special effects, booby traps and actual film paraphernalia. Disney takes you for a few minutes out of reality and puts you into a completely 4D environment which is, in the words of Sallah himself, an experience “unlike anything you’ve experienced I assure you.”

Finally, there’s something about being in Disney that escapes all explanation. In Sam Genneway’s Book Walt and the Promise of Progress City, Austrian Architect Christopher Alexander is quoted calling this “the quality without a name… a central quality, which is the root criterion of life and spirit in a man, a town, a building or a wilderness [or a theme park?] This quality is objective and precise, but it cannot be named.” When you are standing in the middle of Adventureland with the sounds of “Jungle Boat Tours” on one side and the smells of tropical pineapple Dole Whip on the other, with your complete circle of vision taking in all the sights of this manufactured jungle, you feel something that doesn’t have a name. It’s similar to the feeling you might get from watching a movie from your childhood or perhaps it’s the feeling you get when you are completely enveloped in a book that you are reading. It’s a sense of everything being just right, even if for just a moment. Either way, it can’t be distilled to simply being labeled nostalgia or anything else. I’m not saying this only happens at Disneyland because everyone is different. I’m not trying to convince anyone to feel the way I do, but rather help you understand my perspective. If you love going to concerts or Hawaii then by all means, do what makes you happy. But if you’ve never been to a Disney park, then I would encourage you to make it a life goal to visit at least once. Who knows… It could change your life. It certainly has affected mine.


The Lego Movie is Not For Kids

I recently saw The Lego Movie and my overall takeaway is that this is not only the best movie of the month, but will be in my running for movie of the year overall. After seeing The Lego Movie and Frozen in my last two theatre visits, I have come to a conclusion about the supposed “kid’s movie” label that we slap on most family friendly animated movies; It’s unnecessary! If you reduce The Lego Movie to a “kid’s movie” then you are doing yourself and everyone else a huge disservice because The Lego Movie is certainly NOT a “kid’s movie.”

Of course, if by “kid’s movie” you mean that it is a movie that children will enjoy, then you would be right in a way. However, “kid’s movie” carries a lot of negative connotations that would defer a lot of people from seeing it in theaters. “Kid’s movie” means in our minds that its a movie made just for kids. The Lego Movie will be enjoyable for most children, but while I was watching, I was amazed by how much of the humor was aimed at a more mature audience. I don’t mean that the humor was raunchy or inappropriate, but rather so many of the jokes were references to lego franchises that I played with when I was a kid. There are also multiple subtle visual jokes in store if you pay attention.

A lot of this movie feels like it was written for adults with a young audience in mind as well. In this way, The Lego Movie really hits a home run. There are many other reasons why you should see The Lego Movie, but this isn’t a movie review so I’ll be brief. The visuals are not only stunning, but so carefully crafted that if you don’t know in advance, you will assume that it is stop motion animation. Take, for example, the greasy thumbprint that glistens on Will Ferrel’s character’s hair or the scratches that show up on the faces of the lego figures faces just as they do in real life. The movie has heart and will make you laugh out loud. It’s very good. Go see it. (Frozen is still playing right now. See that first if you haven’t already.)

I wish we could stop using the term “kid’s movies” as a genre. If it’s an animated movie, just call it an animated movie. If it’s accessible to children, then call it family friendly. There are plenty of men and even young boys who will probably not see Frozen simply because it gives off a “Princess movie” vibe. And while Frozen does fit that mold in some ways, it is much more than that, and it can be appreciated by anyone (Read my full review for more details). Certainly there are adults that will still not like Frozen for reasons which I cannot comprehend, but that doesn’t mean that it will not be enjoyed by most adult and child audiences. In a similar way, The Lego Movie is capable of entertaining a young audience, but will likely fail to entertain most children due to it’s subtle inside jokes aimed at the generation who played with NBA and space Legos. I know this to be true, because when my parents went to see it, there were multiple children crying and complaining the whole time.

For these reasons, our “every animated movie is for kids” mindset is only causing harm. I don’t expect people to change there mindsets instantly, but I hope that people will start being a little more open-minded about movies. Because honestly, if I hear “I won’t watch that. It’s a kid’s movie,” one more time, I’m going to stab someone.66051-Parks-and-Rec-April-angry-gif-We0z


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