Thursday, January 16, 2020

Favorite movies of the last decade... 2010-2019

This is a tough list, but it seems like a good topic especially if you have a blog.  What were my favorite movies of this decade?  Well, here is my Top 10 List.  To note, there may be great movies I may have missed in here simply because I haven't seen them.  For example, I can't speak for "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood."  And, I'm still not done with "The Irishman."

With that said, here is my list:

10. Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

I had a whole new respect for Bradley Cooper after this film, and I'm sure for many other people as well. Jennifer Lawrence won her Oscar here, and deservedly so.  This is a romantic film about people going through mental and emotional problems which also happens to be heartwarming, empathetic, and hilarious.  The characters really bring this film alive.  The dialogue is also sharp and beautiful.  The film is also about a dance competition.  Chris Tucker gives a dramatic turn here.  The film managed to keep me on my toes, which is saying quite a lot.  Another film of this ilk, although not as great: As Good as It Gets (1997).

9. The Lego Movie (2014)

"Everything is awesome" is a song that will be equally catchy and cringe-worthy after watching this commercial-disguised film, which actually also happens to be about creativity, conformity, special-ness, and oddball mixture of ideas. I probably consider this to be Chris Pratt's best film (although it's just for the voice).  Good voice-acting is quite essential to a film like this where characters are literally made of blocks, where expressions and movements are highly limited.  Directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord brings ton of inventiveness and detail where one wouldn't find such copious amounts of.   If you liked this, equally amazing is The Lego Batman Movie (2017), the best Batman movie of this decade.

8. Drive (2011)

One can argue that this film is more style over substance, or say the style is its substance. Nevertheless director Nicolas Winding Refn has made a film that engages throughout.  Silence plays a key part of this film. The action gets bloody and comes suddenly.  Fans of film noir will have many things to like about this film.  Plot-wise it may not be something truly new, but this film proves that "how you show" can be more effective than "what you show."  If you like stylish macho car films with quiet heroes, one could go with the classic, Bullitt (1968).

7. Silence (2016)

Given Martin Scorsese's proclivity for portraying gangsters in much of his work, it is quite surprising to see him tackle subjects that are quite "silent" and thought-provoking in comparison.  Andrew Garfield does a great turn here as a 17th century Portuguese missionary in Japan where Japanese Christians are persecuted by the shogunate. The film's mood is contemplative, solemn, and treats the characters with respect and complexity.  Allowing time and space for the viewer to take in and struggle with various thoughts, emotions, and spiritual (or non-spiritual) ideas that this film explores is what separates this film from many.  A similar film (but not quite as contemplative) also starring Andrew Garfield is Hacksaw Ridge (2016).

6. The Social Network (2010)

Jesse Eisenberg shines in this film with his quick delivery of well-written lines and David Fincher's stylistic way of presenting a non-cinematic subjects in a very cinematic way pushes this film beyond being just a drama about Facebook.  This is a type of story you'd see in a made-for-TV drama, yet Fincher gives it that special push with characters that feel bigger than life.  The dialogue is great too.  Eisenberg has just the right amount of snarkiness and pomp that makes him equally likable and insufferable.  Einsenberg was also quite good in the highly entertaining Zombieland (2009).

5. Blue Jasmine (2013)

I was surprised how brilliantly conceived this film was, which I didn't expect at all.  Cate Blanchett won an Oscar for her performance, and well-deservedly so.  It is a dark comedy / drama about a formally-rich socialite, Jasmine (Blanchett) who falls on hard times and must move in with her working class sister in San Francisco, which creates a lot of tension.  The film plays on the themes about love, deception, and delusions.  The film goes back and forth between the present and the flashbacks that reveal piece by piece how Jasmine lost all her money and her husband. The film can be seen as a comedy or a tragedy depending on how you look at it.  There are subtle moments that start to make sense as the film progresses.  It is one of those films that stay with you after it's over--then you look back and rediscover new things.  Less said, the better.  If you like stories about flawed characters, but less funny, then you might like Marriage Story (2019).

4. Mother (2009)

This is talking about the Korean film, not to be mistaken for the American film, Mother! (2017).  Directed by Bong Joon-Ho, who directed Parasite (2019) and the masterpiece Memories of Murder (2003), this film is a thriller about a murdered teenage girl in a small town.  An intellectually-disabled young man (Won Bin) is blamed for the crime and arrested. Kim Hye-Ja plays his mother who investigates on her own to find the true killer and clear his name.  This film manages to really get under your skin in uncomfortable and emotional ways.  Kim Hye-Ja has won awards for her acting in this film, and deservedly so.  Bong Joon-Ho is adept at moving between humor, drama, and thrills quite well, and this film is no exception.  Watch Bong Joon-Ho's other great film, Memories of Murder (2003), if you haven't.  One of the best and creepiest police thrillers out there which also inspired David Fincher's Zodiac (2007).

3. Dunkirk (2017)

That war film by Christopher Nolan. A bit more disjointed in terms of narration (perhaps helps in its realism) compared to his other films, this film really brings in the "mood" of war.  The film is beautiful to look at, well-acted, and the sound effects are excellent.  This is not very dialogue heavy or plot-heavy like Nolan's other films, but really gives you a feeling of "being there."  The film consists of many different "moments" as opposed to a focus on a particular character.  A very rare movie of its kind, and certainly leaves a strong impression.  I'm still processing it.  If you liked this, Christopher Nolan's best film (and smaller scale), in my opinion, is still Memento (2000).  A true noir classic.

2. Arrival (2016)

This film is a reminder that Denis Villeneuve is a serious director, and if he makes a sci-fi film, he'll take it seriously, darn it.  Here we have a director who may be the opposite of Michael Bay in telling a story.  You do not have to show everything--just the right stuff will do.  The film is also heavily character-driven.   It is not just cerebral sci-fi stuff.   The details are great, such as how linguists process new languages.   The whole film is a series of puzzle pieces which one can appreciate fully as things unfold.  Well acted by Amy Adams.  Another pretty good sci-fi that has good amount of detail without overdoing it is District 9 (2009).

1. 1917 (2019)

A wonderful achievement. One of the best films I've seen in a long time. To be honest, I've never been much of a Sam Mendes fan.  At times, I find his work too stylistic, with too much surreal lighting, such as his Bond films.  This story takes places in World War I where two British soldiers are tasked to send a message by foot behind enemy lines to a commanding officer to call off an attack so the British battalions wouldn't get massacred via a trap set by the German army.  However, what truly sets this film apart are its painstaking technical achievements.  The whole film, essentially, with a few exceptions, is one long take.  The details, the backdrops, camera, and acting has to work in perfect harmony to get what is achieved here.  This film wouldn't win any editing awards because there pretty much isn't any to speak of.  The final result is a film that feels like you are right there, experiencing the tensions and the horrors of war.  Some of the exciting video games I've played feels a lot like this (and I mean that in the best way).  Film medium is not an interactive medium but this comes close.  One wonders why there aren't many horror films that are done in one long take like this--it is certainly great for creating tension. The film is amazingly shot with cameras going into seemingly impossible places.  Simply-speaking, this film is one of a kind, not necessarily by its subject, but by showing the amount of depth one can explore with the film medium. If you liked this film: there aren't films that are quite like this film, although Dunkirk (2017) comes pretty close in terms of the mood and perhaps Memento (2000) for exploring a novel story-telling style.

Honorable Mentions (Didn't make the list but almost did):

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

If there's one film that I've seen that really firmly stamps Taika Waititi's skills as a director, it is this film. It is amazing how effortlessly clever this film is.  I've been tired of the vampire movie genre for a long time.  Before this film the last good one was probably The Lost Boys (1987) or maybe Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992).  Who knew a documentary on vampires could be the best way to present this story?  Honorable mention along similar veins is Trollhunter (2010), also quite amazing.

Interstellar (2014)

If Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)  was meant for the art crowd, Christopher Nolan's Interstellar was probably meant for the masses.  This is not to discredit the type of film that Interstellar is.  It is certainly a more emotional film than 2001.  Perhaps not as cerebral, but one can argue makes about equal amount of sense at the end.  Similar to 2001, I also enjoyed more of the first 2/3 of the film.  But, hey, as sci-fi films go, if a film makes you want to look further into the distance of our galaxy, it's a pretty good accomplishment in this day and age of loud, explody special effects in space.  Thankfully, just the fact that we didn't hear the explosion in space in this film should be taken into account as a plus.  There are some great music and thrills in this film.  I loved the AI.  Matthew McConaughey did quite well here.  If you haven't seen 2001: A Space Oddyssey (1968), you probably should see that first.

Inside Out (2015)

This film manages to be enlightening, emotional, and quite cerebral. If you're into the internal landscapes of the mind like I am, this film is right up your ally.  I once used to be Psychology major for a brief time at UCI, and this film reminds me of those times.  The concept of one's emotions being personified as separate entities isn't particularly new, but has never been done quite as well as it has been here.  If you liked this film, Pete Doctor's Up (2009) is pretty much right up there with this film.


Inception (2010)
How To Train Your Dragon (2010)
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
The Disaster Artist (2017)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Whiplash (2014)
Get Out (2017)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Coco (2017)
The Big Sick (2017)

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Inktober 2019

Every year I draw for the Inktober challenge.  Truthfully, I do it because it gives me a sense of accomplishment.  For 31 days, the challenge is to draw an image every day based on a given word.  So, here's are my Inktober drawings for 2019!  After each image, I'll talk about it...or give a quote...or make a pun.

One ring to rule them all.. I do wear a ring, but not this one.
Ruby rings are kind of gaudy these days.. but fun to draw.

Sometimes you have your mind.
"I Wanna Know" by Information Society was a good song.
A pure late 80's song. About showing what's on your mind.

Bait. Can also mean to annoy or taunt. It reminds me of the
time I went fishing on Big Bear Lake with my brothers and
my dad. We used marshmallows to try to catch trout, so it
didn't look anything like this. But in our fish box, we did
have baits like this that we rarely ever used.

Stay cool. Try to be an ice guy.

We built this city on rock and roll. That's another very 80's
musical lyric line by Starship. When I think Starship,
I either think of Enterprise or the film "Mannequin."

He's not fat. He's just a little husky.

"Enchanted" is one of those rare films you go for the
ride despite its cheesy premise because of the acting
and humor. Amy Adams really sold this film. 

I suppose age will eventually all make us "frail."  Still,
wisdom can be a good counterbalance if you use it.

When I think of swing dancing, I often think of
the movie "Swingers" or Louis Prima. 

I remember when "Silence of the Lambs" won Best Picture.
Still rather surprised about that one.

"Your mama was a slow blower!" -- Short Circuit

Chinese dragons are always so decorative. They are more
interesting to draw if you like colors.  With that said,
when I hear "dragons", I usually think back to
the old "Dragonlance" novels I used to read around
my teens. I still keep some of those novels around.


When I think "pig", I often think about the book "Charlotte's Web"
and the scratchy style of art within, which, frankly, made the
book a worthy read. The story is okay, but the art by Garth
Williams still influences me to this day.

When I think about myths and legends, I think of
Ray Harryhausen and his stop-motion monster movies
of Greek mythology. One of those films was
"Jason and the Argonauts" which had a giant
statue of Talos going after Jason's ship. A
very memorable scene. Freaked me out as a kid.

I was born on the Year of the Tiger, which basically made
me love tigers even more. I did many book reports on tigers
when I was in elementary school.  Also, the only real reason
I liked Calvin and Hobbes. Hobbes was cool.

Christmas ornaments. It's the type of thing that remind
you the most about your childhood.  I usually think about
the little wooden mice ornaments with wire glasses.

Punk rockers were considered misfits back in the day. They
are considered somewhat mainstream now.  When I think
"misfits", though, I'm mostly reminded of "The Misfits"
from "Jem and the Holograms."  I didn't really watch the
cartoon, but the title music was neat.

Sling shots. Not sure if these are considered legal
these days or not. They're still rather kind of dangerous.
Then again, there are worse kinds of projectiles out there.

Tanks a lot.

Rubies are nice to look at. Fun to draw too.

Ghosts tend to look a certain way.  The pale, sunken eyes thing.
Their fashion hasn't changed in a while.  I guess that's
why they're ghosts.

Back in the day of BASIC programming, I remember when
I was reading FAMILY COMPUTING magazine, I typed up an
entire game called "Hammurabi" in BASIC as shown there.  It was
a text-based ancient ruler simulator where you had to
make sure your people were fed and rats didn't eat your grain.
Fun times. 

An Alfred Hitchcock classic. I'm not sure I think of this film as
highly as Rear Window, but it had an oppressive atmosphere if 
there ever was one in a film.

I never had these types of donuts. I hear they will be available
soon at the Grand Central Market.

Darth Vader.  He makes dark cool.  I got his mask for
Halloween.  I have a son named Luke, after all.

"Blade Runner" made coats cool again.  It's not a thing
these days.  I suppose nowadays it makes you look
stuffy or suspicious. 

Old school motorcycles have that nice wear-and-tear
look. The type that are ridden in lonely, dusty road trips.
My favorite road movie?  Probably "Ferris
Bueller's Day Off" if it could be considered one.
No motorcycles there, however.

Injuries come and go. One must be careful.

Catch a ball or catch a cold.  You can have one or the
other...or you can have both.  You just catch it

I like bananas and all, but they always attract
fruit flies in your house after a while. They are
great for cereal and yogurt.

Well, that's Inktober for this year! See you next year, Inktober! 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

New baby, gardening, and schedules

Looking back, I'm realizing I haven't written for a while.  Still, I've been busy.  I recently had a new arrival--our baby Luke. Also been doing some Zbrush.  Also been growing some herbs in our backyard.  That's kind of fun.  I still do my sketch journal when I find time during lunch hour at work.

My baby Luke has given me a new sleep schedule.  He's kind of colicky.  He's a gassy kid.  So cute, though.  As a result, I do tend to be tired at work.  It's not so bad, though.  My wife sleeps a little early in the evening so we can switch sleep schedules around midnight.  My mother-in-law from Korea has been a great help with all the wonderful food.  She and her husband has a farm in Korea, so her food is very home-style Korean food.

I've been growing mint a lot in my backyard.  That's kind of fun.  I'm looking to turn my small patch of grass into a mini-minty forest. Also started to plant some cucumber, strawberry, and tomato plants. Also some cabbages.  And spinach.  Admittedly, my mother-in-law has been doing a lot of it as she has much knowledge in this field.  "Field" in both senses of the word.

Here are some more sketches from my sketchbook journal.  I'll need to do more of these... or at least post these more.

Yeah, who doesn't like Marie Kondo, eh?  Been listening a bit of one of her audiobooks.

Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Joy of Audiobooking: Books I've been reading lately and a rough summary

So lately, I've been listening to audiobooks on my OverDrive during my 45 minute to 1-hour commute to work.  I've been borrowing audiobooks online from the library from the Los Angeles Public Libary--super-easy to do.  Just had to apply for an e-Card online--pretty easy if you live in LA.

Here are some of the Books I've read since September of last year:

Fortunately, the Milk (short) by Neil Gaiman

Trying to read Neil Gaiman in the past had been a bit of a struggle--this has always been the case for celebrated authors.  Maybe they're just too clever.  Or, maybe they take too much time trying to set something up that will surprise us.  You get less of that with new authors.  Anyways, I finally finished a Neil Gaiman story and it turned out to be more of a novella--not too long, thankfully.  This story plays with time travel, the murky aspects of storytelling, unreliable narrator, and general good humor.  If you found Bill and Ted and how they bump into their other selves amusing, you'll likely like this one.  Quite kid-friendly even if the whole time traveling aspects might be hard to understand for the little ones.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

Something of an acerbic memoir by Carrie Fisher about her experience while filming the Star Wars movies and her romance with already-married Harrison Ford, this book is far from the magical Hollywood story a fanboy might expect.  A chunk of it is rather disturbing and dark, with drugs, creepy Hollywood people and their treatment of young women, and co-dependent relationships.  I guess it's not too surprising that Harrison Ford was a bit of a creeper (at least back then).

Leonard by William Shatner

This is about Leonard Nimoy, a biography, as told by William Shatner.  I suppose if Nimoy and Shatner had their many differences, this shows that Shatner had the last word...literally.  Joking aside, this book does bring some light in their relationship.  Shatner says they were pretty close friends even despite being annoying to each other.  One can't help but notice this is Shatner's story as well as Nimoy's story.  With that said, the picture he paints of Nimoy and himself is neither rosy or self-congratulatory.  They both have their flaws, and Shatner does not come off snarky, but rather sobering and heart-felt.

Still Foolin' Em by Billy Crystal

A memoir by Billy Crystal, you get a good glimpse of the man himself.  You get everything about his career, his relationships with certain actors and people, and those "back in the day" good 'ol moments of nostalgia.  Billy Crystal does seem to have a dark sense of humor, and as he ages, his jokes probably has become more about his doom and the humor in it. I suppose that's what most satirists do anyway?  Always fun to read about The Princess Bride, wherever you hear it from.  Also, Billy says Orson Welles was a bit of a slob and a jerk.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

It's funny.  I think I really enjoy the way she writes.  The problem is I don't remember most of what she wrote.  I do remember enjoying it.  She previously wrote Eat Pray Love, which I've also read (in audiobook).  I enjoyed that one.  I read it because it had travel and food in it (both pluses) and I wanted to know why it was popular.  I can appreciate the "hopefulness" of her writing.  I've read poor writers before and she is not one of those.   With that said, I know this book was about creativity, but I can't remember much about it.  She may write well, but she'd be a bad text book writer--because I wouldn't remember what she wrote.

Explore/Create by Richard Garriott

I grew up in the 80's playing Ultima games on my Apple IIe.  Richard Garriott aka. Lord British was the programmer for those games.  He essentially created the very first role playing game on the computer.  He eventually made Ultima Online, the first online role playing game ever.  Afterwards, he followed in his father's footsteps and went into space as a part-time astronaut.  He also did some deep-sea diving like James Cameron.  You can't help but be impressed about his accomplishments.  He writes pretty much as he went through the 80's and 90's and it's a fun trip down memory lane.  You also get to hear about the intricacies of space travel and how he got Stephen Hawking to experience zero gravity inside a plane.  Pretty impressive, I have to say.  Some may think he could come off as pompous, but ultimately, he is a big kid at heart, and I fully appreciate that.  He is not trying to show off, but simply doing what he has always wanted to do.  And, does it.

The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell

I've read the book before.  But, now I've heard the audiobook.  This audiobook is a hands-down masterpiece.  Greg Sestero reads his own book and imitates Tommy Wiseau perfectly.  The book (if you haven't seen the James Franco movie) is about the making of the "worst movie ever made" called The Room, directed by Tommy Wiseau.  More than that, it is about the blind boldness of artistic (or un-artistic) vision and people in it and people surrounding it and its effect on society.  The book is strange, dark, and disturbing....and hilarious.  It is about loneliness.  It is about creativity (or lack thereof).  I've laughed out loud in my car more than a half of a dozen times as I was driving.  Other drivers must've thought I was crazy.

Bit By Bit by Andrew Ervin

A cursory history of video games from its inception to the modern times. Is video game art?  The authors says yes.  Admittedly, no one questions that nowadays.  There's just so much of it now, after all.  The book is a fun read if you feel nostalgic.  I have a tendency to love video game nostalgia.   If one expects any new insight in the world of video games, this book probably doesn't deliver anything you probably haven't already read in recent articles.

Dude, You're Gonna Be A Dad by John Pfeiffer

A humorous, informational book for upcoming dads (like myself). This one was a fun listen.  The guy is funny and gives lots of good information about what to expect, questions to ask, and what to expect.  It was fun just listening to the guy, which is a bug plus.  It's not a topic one usually listens with an expectation to be entertained, but he made it very palatable.

The Twilight Zone Companion by Marc Scott Zicree

If your're a fan of Twilight Zone, this book goes through many details about each episode of the show.  If you're a fan of facts, back stories, and people's opinions about each show, this book is for you.  The author gives some of his own opinions about some of the shows--some I agree, but not all.

Ghostbuster's Daughter by Violet Ramis Stiel

After Harold Ramis died, his daughter decided to write a biography about her dad.  The book is half about Harold Ramis and half about the daughter herself, who had quite a tumultuous life.  Their relationship also had their ups and downs. You also find that Harold Ramis was a bit of a mixed bag in real life.  You often don't hear about the drugs and irresponsibility that pervaded the earlier part of his life--it's probably something that is a part of Hollywood in general.  It is an interesting read.

The Hanging Stranger (short) by Philip K. Dick

This was one of Philip K. Dick's short stories in audiobook form.  I've always been a fan of his writings.  They're quite a head trip.  He writes in simple sentences which I've always appreciated.  This one definitely feels right at home next to his other stories.  Engaging.

How to Build an Android by David F. Duffy

This is a true story about a Philip K. Dick android head that was created by Hanson Robotics.  It had eye sensors, expressions, and a smart AI that could answer any questions it was asked.  It was quite advanced and it looked and acted like the late author.  Then, the head went missing (or stolen) while being transported during a flight.  The book goes on to various aspects of Philip K. Dick's life as well as how artificial intelligence programming has evolved over time.  Read by Bronson Pinchot (Balki from Perfect Strangers) without the fake accent, this book is a good read if you're into either the history of AI or Philip K. Dick.  Overall, a pretty good read.

Looking back, it's nice to see myself getting back into audiobooks.  I'm giving myself a nice self-congratulatory pat on my back.  It's kind of nice to write little reviews again.  Or, I should say, writing in general.

Eventually, I'll probably go into writing about podcasts and even Netflix movies and shows I've been seeing.  But, that is later.