Wednesday, November 14, 2007

10 truly magical movies

This list was compiled in (dis?)honor of "Mr. Magorium's (sp?) Wonder Emporium," and more specifically out of depression at the lack of good movies opening this week in wide-release world.

After all, this is the fall, and all you can give us is "Beowulf," which should at least be cool to look at, and the aforementioned flick which tries so hard to be magical (putting "Wonder" in the title is always a subtle touch) that I just have a gnawing feeling it's gonna be remarkably bad.

I'm not sure, actually, that I'll be taking in any multiplex movies this weekend anyway, because I'm bound for DC to enjoy the MLS Cup with my brother and his band of Minnesota soccer geeks (said, of course, with the utmost affection.) Here, however, is a list of 10 movies, and the 15 or so more that almost made the cut, that are just the definition of magical for me, even without having a witch or wizard anywhere in sight (though there is some minor "Harry Potter" news at the end, so keep reading if you're interested.) Here goes, and as always, please feel free to sound off with any of the many I may have snubbed.

Watership Down
I think I've had this movie on my brain lately because I just watched "Ratatouille" (a movie which easily could have made this list too) again, and the beginning of that Pixar flick makes me think of this one that just thoroughly freaked me out as a kid (though I was also scared of that silly animated "Lord of the Rings" movie, so it didn't take much.) It's rare today to see animals, or people for that matter, in genuine peril in movies aimed at children, and that's what made this tale of rabbits looking for a new home so perfect.

Pan's Labyrinth
A recent and fairly obvious choice, perhaps, but I bring it up to maybe make people think about what's missing from this year's best movies. Not, God forbid, that everything should copy the thrilling template of Ophelia's journey, but I just think my favorite movies of 2006, this and "Children of Men," were just superior to the best flicks I've seen this year.

If you've never seen this little flick from Wayne Wang and Paul Auster, do so as soon as you can. The stories that unfold around the Brooklyn smoke shop owned by Harvey Keitel's Augie are almost as good as the amazing one that springs from his own mind at the movie's end.

Though he certainly tried to find it again with the "fairy tale" "Lady in the Water," I think M. Night Shyamalan lost what "magic" he had after this great flick.

Wild at Heart
You could probably pick any number of David Lynch's movies, but the tale of Sailor and Lulu is still the one that I like the best, even if it does crib so directly from "The Wizard of Oz."

Wings of Desire
What in the world ever happened to Bruno Ganz? I don't think I've seen him in a movie for 10 years, but after you see him for the first time in this Wim Wenders flick (one of the very few about angels that I have any time for), his face sticks with you for a long time. A quick check at the IMDB revealed that not only is Mr. Ganz still alive and well, but he also has a role in Francis Ford Coppola's new flick, "Youth Without Youth." Huzzah!

Triplets of Belleville
Though they all humored me, I'm not sure anyone in my family liked watching this weird little animated flick as much as I did when we all saw it in New York. With almost no (or maybe even none at all) decipherable dialogue, this Sylvain Chomet movie still manages to tell a thoroughly charming tale.

Sweet Hereafter
Magic can cast a spell of melancholy as much as wonder, as Atom Egoyan proved in this flick that left me with more questions than answers that I still haven't answered to this day.

Woody Allen has certainly made better movies than this, one of the last movies he made with Mia Farrow. But even if the title gives away its obvious parallels to "Alice in Wonderland," this tale about a harried housewife who finds escape from a Chinese herb doctor just works for me.

Breakfast on Pluto
Neil Jordan's movie may indeed be lighter than air, but his take on Patrick McCabe's novel still has enough to say about "The Troubles" to make it thoroughly enjoyable. And besides, I'm sure Cillian Murphy must have had more fun getting all dolled up as Patrick "Kitten" Braden than he had making Danny Boyle's simply dreadful "Sunshine."

Honorable mention: Pee Wee's Big Adventure, The Muppet Movie, Donnie Darko, Secret of Roan Inish, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, City of Lost Children, Amelie, Big Fish, Heavenly Creatures, The Wizard of Oz, The Secret Garden, Like Water for Chocolate and, of course, Babe


RIP Ira Levin: The man whose novel led to still my favorite horror movie, Roman Polanski's "Rosemary's Baby," died Monday of a heart attack at age 78. Along with "Rosemary's Baby," other of his works that were turned into movies include "The Boys from Brazil," "The Stepford Wives," "Deathtrap," "Sliver" and "A Kiss Before Dying." Not all winners, perhaps, but he was a great writer of popcorn for the masses. Rest in peace, Mr. Levin.

Lavender Brown cast in "Half-Blood Prince": Just in case you were wondering which starlet-in-the-making will spend much of the next "Harry Potter" flick snogging with Rupert Grint's Ron Weasley, her name is Jessie Cave and her picture is posted here. She will soon appear on "Summerhill" on CBBC (children's BBC, I assume?) in the UK. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is set to come out Nov 21, 2008.

A scab "Family Guy"? To see how the WGA strike might get even uglier fast, simply tune into what's happening with Fox's "Family Guy". Even with creator Seth McFarlane walking the picket line out front, the network plans to continue airing original episodes. They have one that was completed before the walkout, which will air this Sunday, and then it seems they will use whoever's still available to complete some almost-finished shows. Even if, as "South Park" proved, "Family Guy" is written by manatees, there's still something about this that's just rank.

"City of Men" trailer

When you put out a sequel to what I most often list as my single favorite movie, it had darned well better be good, but from this trailer things don't look too promising. Following both Fernando Meirelles' simply brilliant "City of God" and the "City of Men" TV series that sprang from it comes this movie which stars two of the "City of God" players, Darlan Cunha and Douglas Silva. But you don't get Mr. Meirelles, whose "Blindness" I'm definitely looking forward to, or, I must note as a fan of beautiful women, Alice Braga (who has graduated to the big leagues with a role in "I am Legend.") Here's the trailer anyway, and here's hoping this somehow turns out to be tons better than I'm fearing it will. Peace out.


Mercurie said...

Whoa. Ira Levin died. He was always one of my all time favourite writers.

Reel Fanatic said...

Mine too, Mercurie, even if his novels were never considered to be the highest form of art

Jeremy said...

I don't know about you, but I still think "E.T." is pretty magical.

Chalupa said...

Nice to see Breakfast on Pluto make the list. I don't know many people that are even aware it exists.

Invisible Lizard said...

Not that I believe everything I read on the internet (so correct me if I've been misinformed) but I was under the impression that the WGA didn't cover animated shows, thus the strike wouldn't include Family Guy.

What do I know about Hollywood? I could be wrong. I just read that somewhere, recently, and thought to myself, "Well, at least I'll still be able to watch Family Guy, Robot Chicken, maybe tune into American Dad for the first time, possibly rediscover The Simpsons, see if they're still any good..."

Reel Fanatic said...

You may be right there, Mr. Lizard, so I'll have to do a little more research on that ... Perhaps it was just Mr. McFarlane joining the walkout on general principle, then complaining when the studio didn't follow rules that don't actually exist

Fletch said...

Another 'Smoke' lover - I came to love that film proably 10 years ago after renting it (Blue in the Face makes a decent companion to it, but doesn't hold up on its own). Keitel, Hurt and Perrineau are all great in it. Been a long time since I've seen it, in fact...

Oh, and I saw Breakfast on Pluto in the theater, fwiw. Didn't love it, but it was good. Nice stretch for Murphy.

Bob said...

I saw "Donnie Darko" on your honorable mentions (which I love as well) so I just thought I'd mention I caught a preview screening of "Southland Tales" the other night. Nonsensical pretentious tripe! Really really bad.

Toto said...

Good magical movie tips. I haven't seen all of them, so they go on my 'gotta buy them at the used DVD store' list.
Wanted to contact Mr. Fanatic about an interview query. Can you contact me at Thanks!

Marina said...

That "Family Guy" news is a little depressing. I may just skip it after Sunday.

Reel Fanatic said...

Even though I don't watch Lost, Fletch, I was so happy to see Harold Perrineau pop up in the publicity photos ... I have no idea if, unlike black male characters in most thriller/horror entertainment, he's managed to stay alive on the show, but I certainly hope so

Thanks for the warning on that one, Bob ... I had to figure that if, with that many bonafide stars, it wasn't playing wide after such a long wait, it truly must be just awful ... I might have to check it out anyway, though, because like everyone I do enjoy a good train wreck from time to time.

And I think I'm with you on "Family Guy," Marina ... Even if the rules are different with animation, if they're finishing up the shows without McFarlane's input I don't think I can tune in

Reel Fanatic said...
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Reel Fanatic said...
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kat said...

I'd have to add "Field of Dreams" to your list.

COL said...

i thank you for this, and my netflix cue thanks you too.

Reel Fanatic said...

You're certainly welcome Col ... If I'm ever able to convince anyone to see a move they hadn't before, it still surprises me .. and you're certainly right with that one, Kat, 'cause there are few things I love more than great movies about baseball

Divinity said...

Fiorile, The Last Unicorn, The Neverending Story, Whale Rider, Peter Pan (2003), Chocolat, Labyrinth, Mirrormask, Living Out Loud, Stranger than Fiction... okay I'll stop now since I've obviously got a lower threshold qualification for magical. :) Great list!

Reel Fanatic said...

I'll take all of those except for Chocolat, Divinity, which I know most of the world loves but was just a bit too syrupy for my tastes .. and special props for Whale Rider, which I just adore

Divinity said...

Okay, then I'm submitting The Princess Bride in its place.

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watch free movies said...

Really magical movie.Some movie I watched and some I heard about.Watership down is my childhood favourite movie remaining yet to be seen.