THE porch project


November 15, 2018

On the latest episode of “The Porch Project," Megan, Caroline and guest Alex Brookshire discussed some of their favorite movies. 


Alex, perhaps the most prepared porch guest The Porch Project has ever had, wrote a text piece to accompany some of his movie reviews in the episode. We hope you enjoy this piece from yet another lovely guest on our porch! 



Film is an art form that utilizes so many different aspects of artistry; it mixes writing, visuals and music. This is the reason I have been a film fan since I was a young boy.


From an early age, the language of film became second nature to me, and I grew to appreciate many films that kids my age wouldn’t even think about watching. As I’ve grown up, my film repertoire has only grown. To this day, I still love to throw on a film or have a great discussion about one with a friend. 



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#15: The Spectacular Now (2013) 


Never has a modern teenage drama felt so real than in “The Spectacular Now”. Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley are perfect as the main love focus and provide some fantastic chemistry. There are times that, with other actors, actions and emotions would not feel genuine. However, with these leads, everything feels so real; what aids them, though, is the pitch perfect direction from James Ponsoldt. He gives the film such an intimate feel, as if we are observing these people in a real life scenario. The direction helps the actors and writing so much, and it is what truly makes this such a “spectacular” film.  




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#14: South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (1999) 


“South Park” is a very divisive movie; some find hit smart and satirical, others find it crude and dumb. I fall strongly in the first category, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone shine their brightest in “South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut”. What this film does best is subvert your expectations by making deep cutting jokes that really poke fun at society. The way it comments on censorship by being completely over-the-top is a genius move from Parker and Stone. While it won’t convert you if you are totally against the show, if you are even mild on it, this film will put you over the edge. This is one of those movies that you can watch again and again. 



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#13: Whiplash (2014) 


Some films are rewatchable because of their entertainment value, not because you get more out of the film. “Whiplash” is one of those films that is not totally entertaining (and a quick 107 minutes too), but also one where you get more out of the filmmaking with each successive watch. Damien Chazelle succeeds at creating such a tense and breathtaking atmosphere, infusing this feeling into every scene. This is easily one of the most intense films in terms of filmmaking and performances I’ve seen. Miles Teller gives his best performance here, and J.K. Simmons gives one of the best supporting performances of all time. His performance carries so much weight and all of his choices feel so natural. While the plot is fairly simple, Chazelle makes it work. The standout aspect of the film, though, is the editing. This is easily the best edited film of the modern era. Every cut and every shot is pitch perfect and nothing feel superfluous. One of the easiest art films to get into.  



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#12: Blazing Saddles (1974) 


There are some films that, when going back to them, just don’t hold up and would not be made in this day and age. “Blazing Saddles” definitely would not be made today, but it sure as hell holds up, which is surprising for a comedy. This should be credited to Mel Brooks, who pokes fun at everything from race to sexism to just plain stupidness. What makes the comedy work so much, however, is that Brooks does all of this in good fun. Never does this film feel mean spirited towards the people it pokes fun at. Helping with this is the great cast, led by the hilarious Cleavon Little and iconic Gene Wilder. Their dedication and game performances make the film hilarious no matter how many times you have seen it. One of the best comedies every put to film.  





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#11: Cape Fear (1962) 


Getting into classic films is a hit and miss affair. Sometimes you find a great film and other times you find something that just doesn’t hold up now. Going into “Cape Fear,"  I wasn’t expecting too much. Do not be fooled though, “Cape Fear” holds up tremendously. J. Lee Thompson gives some of the most taught direction I’ve seen from this era. Every shot and every frame oozes fear. It’s as if the film was filmed directly onto a strip of tension, because it is just so organic to the film. The actors are all tremendous with the stand out being Robert Mitchum. He is so good at being charming, but also so sinister, and all at the same exact time. Every line and every facial expression gives so much more about the character than any dialogue every could. Holds up much better than the Scorsese remake. Highly recommended for anyone wanting to watch a great thriller.  



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#10: 12 Angry Men (1957) 


“12 Angry Men” is one of those films that has so many influences in films after it was made. It is amazing how, after watching it, you then see all these influences. From the one room setting to shot style, this is one of the most influential films of the 50’s. What makes this film hold up so well is the direction by Sidney Lumet. The way he is able to wrangle all of these actors in and allow them each to have their own moment is tremendous. No actor feels left out, and that is hard to do with such a big main cast. What Lumet also does tremendously is infuse tension without every leaving this room. From the sound of the rain to the fantastic use of editing, Lumet grips you from the get go and never lets go. Henry Fonda is fantastic, but Lee J. Cobb is the standout performance, adding so much depth to his character through his performance. One of the best ensembles of all time. 




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#9: The Omen (1976) 


Everyone, at some point in their life, has the fear of losing control and not being able to stop things from happening. “The Omen” hits on this fear in such a tense, horrific way. Richard Donner presents some of the most iconic imagery in horror, and what’s amazing is that the horror still holds up now. There are images in here that have been stuck in my mind from the first time I saw it, and that is all thanks to the fantastic direction style of Donner. While the film does keep that 70’s look, the film actually feels very timeless, focusing on the family dynamic. The film’s horror builds so naturally, and Gregory Peck is great at showing this. As the film moves along, the audience goes through the same emotions Peck goes through, and it perfectly grips you. Will stick with you long after the credits roll. 






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#8: Django Unchained (2012)


Quentin Tarantino is one of the finest working directors in Hollywood, and “Django Unchained” is truly a masterpiece that shows why he is. Tarantino excellently mixing satire, commentary, violence, music, and beautiful imagery all while telling a truly compelling story. The film is two and a half hours long, but every watch goes by at lightning speed. All of the performances can also be thanked for the fleeting pacing of the film. From Jamie Foxx to the extras, every actor engages you with every terrifically written line. Christoph Waltz and Leonardo DiCaprio both give Oscar worthy performances, commanding the screen whenever they are in frame. And what is a Tarantino film without a great soundtrack, and “Django Unchained” is perhaps the best soundtrack of his films, mixing rap, rock, and western music all seamlessly. One of the best film experiences to have.  





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#7: Blow Out (1981)


Brian De Palma is one of the most prolific directors from the 80’s having made classics such as “Scarface” and “The Untouchables”. However, his best film is easily “Blow Out”. De Palma once again takes ideas from other films and adds a stylish twist to it. Here, he takes “Blow Up” and “The Conversation”, mixes in Hitchcock, and adds a fantastic 80’s style and look. The result is a beautiful and tense thriller that gets you involved with the mystery at hand. While Nancy Allen’s performance does not work too well, everything around her works so well that it is made up for. The standout though is easily the style of the film, having some of the best shot sequences of the 80’s. One of the most underrated films.  





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#6: Dawn of the Dead (1978) 


The horror genre is easily my favorite genre. Ever since I was a child, I was just so enticed by the aspect of fear, and wanted to confront that. And one of the first older horror films I saw was “Dawn of the Dead” and it remains my favorite horror film of all time. While it is not necessarily scary, George Romero does a great job at adding social commentary so organically to the film, never feeling too obvious. Additionally, Romero is great at showing the horror of the situation and what the world is becoming rather than the horror involving zombies. The horror comes not from the monster, but rather from the idea of what people will become once the world is thrown into chaos. The actors do a great job at conveying the isolation they are in and getting you to care about them. Additionally, horror icon Tom Savini provides some of his best effects work here, with the gore looking so excellent. However, the standout of the film comes from Romero’s writing and directing. A must watch for any horror enthusiast.  






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#5: The Godfather Part II (1974) 


 Sequels are always sketchy when it comes to quality, with a lot just cashing in on the popularity of their original installment. That’s what makes “The Godfather Part II” so unique: it is a sequel that truly feels organic to the original and feels like a story that deserved to be told. Francis Ford Coppola carries forward his excellent direction from the original, and this helps the film naturally flow and feel in the same continuity as the first. The film remains tremendously beautiful, with some excellent photography and settings. The structure of the film is expertly done, never feeling convoluted despite all the flashbacks. Pacino is still in his prime, providing a very nuanced and subtle performance. DeNiro provides one of his best performances here and is a true standout, which is saying a lot with all of the great performances here. Everything aspect of the film comes together to provide the best sequel of all time.  



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#4: A Clockwork Orange (1971) 


Stanley Kubrick is considered by many to be the best director of all time, and it is easy to see why when watching “A Clockwork Orange”. Kubrick’s direction here is the best of his career, both in terms of visually and with his actors. All of the actors feel as though they are from this perverse universe, adding to the seamlessness of the film’s different acts. Kubrick, however, brings out one of my favorite film performances in Malcom McDowell. Every line has such powerful delivery behind it. McDowell is a great at getting you to hate the character, but have you find him charismatic, then later on getting you to sympathize with him and it is all just so fluid and natural. Kubrick’s visuals are a true beauty here, with some of my favorite set design and photography. The film does a great job at intertwining classical music into its themes and gives the visuals a sort of classical feel as well, as if Kubrick is the conductor and the film is his orchestra.  




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#3: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) 


The lead performance is so vital to a film, and this is not displayed well enough than with “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. While the film is shot well and the characters are very well written, this film depends on a great lead performance, and Jack Nicholson easily delivers the best performance in a film. Every delivery and every movement feel so natural and intentional. He is able to reveal so much about his character without ever having to have a flimsy exposition scene. The film’s plot is fairly simple, but the script is more focused at character building and developing themes. The film succeeds at feeling so genuine and never getting sappy or sentimental.  






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#2: Rocky (1976) 


Sylvester Stallone is an actor that is more known for his physicality and action films than his writing ability and dramatic performances; this is why it was a revelation seeing “Rocky” and remembering how fantastic of a writer he can be. Stallone is able to intertwine the storytelling and character development to allow for such an easy watch. The film is paced so perfectly, choosing to focus more on the life of Rocky Balboa and his place in the world. This allows for such a fantastic theme of wanting your chance. This film is easily one of the best in terms of having a theme that anyone can get into, which is why the film holds up so well. All of the performances are top rate, with Carl Weathers being my personal favorite. This is a sports film that decides to focus more on its characters, and that’s what makes it such an amazing film. 





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#1: The Godfather (1972) 


“The Godfather” is the film that made me fall in love with film. I have watched it three times, and each time I see and recognize more elements of the film. Francis Ford Coppola utilizes every element to its fullest potential. From the look of the film to the costume and set design, every aspect of the film feels so cohesive. The structure feels so natural, with the story playing out in such a fluid and organic way. The film never drags even with its near three hour runtime. The actors are fantastic at drawing you into the story. Marlon Brando is transformative here, providing one of his best late career performances. Al Pacino is so different than what you are used to with him, and that’s what makes his performance so good. He is so nuanced and subtle with his acting choices. But what the film succeeds most at is feeling so real. This world feels lived in as if it is a work of nonfiction. From showing the inner workings of the family to the normal family life, everything feels so natural. The film also provides the best score of all time, adding so much emotion to the film. The film that, to this day, remains so compelling and transcends time. Easily my favorite film of all time. 



We hoped you enjoyed a review of some of Alex's favorite movies. To hear more about his love of movies and some of Meg and Carole's favorite picks, check out Episode 32 of The Porch Project, live on SoundCloud. 







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© 2017 by Megan Hill & Caroline Watkins

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