Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Great Alphabet of Films—T is For

 Honorable Mentions: The Third Man, True Romance, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Terminator, The Treasure of Sierra Madre, Toy Story, Trainspotting, Titanic, The Truman Show, Top Gun, The Thin Red Line, and To Kill a Mockingbird

      This letter was definitely no (T)ea party. The lot of films above (notice the obvious omission of any "The" films, unless followed by a "T") represent just a smattering of great movies that I carefully considered for this most difficult letter. The realization I've come to, quite conspicuously I must say, is that over the course of my Great Alphabetic unveiling, there are a handful of letters, which are nearly impossible to cull down...and then there are letters such as "Q." I guess the alphabet is an ardent follower of egalitarianism, for if all was not equal, I'd have a heck of lot more R's, S's, and T's in my countdown. But alas, I'm an equal opportunity employer. I must be fair to each letter. Ultimately, "T" came down to a four-way race between Taxi Driver, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, There Will Be Blood, and Terminator 2: Judgment Day (outlasting, in my grueling mental critique, the other honorable mentions listed above). Hit the jump for the "T" time champion.

      Call me a sucker for sentimentality, but I absolutely adore this movie, even still, nearly two decades after I first witnessed its magic. I may have been a big-eyed neophyte of the broader moviegoing experience, but such naiveté is defensible. I was probably just seven or eight years old, yet I can still appreciate, with vivid recollection, the inaugural experience of watching Cameron's film. As the power of imagination stretched across the screen, my heart skipped a few beats. And through some force of kismet, my first love was born. Unbeknownst to me, this primal love would blossom into a life-long obsession—oh movies, how much I love thee. 
      As much as I'd love to honor the film that gave us the unforgettable Battle of Helm's Deep, I couldn't escape the nightmare scenario of Arnold, in true cyborg-assassin fashion, hunting me down, and disposing of me, in the same ruthless way he was intending for Sarah know, before the whole hydraulic press intervened. Plus, I prefer Arnold as a good guy anyway, and in T2, he emphatically reminds me why. Not to mention the fact that I felt far too guilty about not rewarding my favorite of the LOTR Trilogy, The Return of the King, with a place in my Alphabet. If the best of the bunch ain't represented, then the second best ain't getting in the party either. And we all know, T2 is the best of the Terminator bunch; not the case for The Two Towers

      Nearly 10 years have passed since Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) was targeted for termination by a cyborg from the future, disguised as Arnold Schwarzenegger. Her 'delusions' about a future Armageddon lead to her sequestration in an insane asylum. Subsequently, her son John Connor (Edward Furlong), future leader of the resistance, begrudgingly enters the foster care system. The scrappy youngster rebels against his parental plight by engaging in petty mischief. When a more advanced Terminator android called the T-1000 (Robert Patrick) arrives from the future to terminate John, an older model T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is sent to protect him. The T-1000, however, has the ability to morph itself into virtually any shape it desires (through a mimetic polyalloy), rendering it nearly indestructible. The T-800 saves John's life and helps break Sarah out of the institution. Staying only one step ahead of the hauntingly persistent T-1000, Sarah leads her son and the T-800 to the headquarters of Cyberdyne Systems, the company that will invent a robotic intelligence—one that will eventually take over the world. While there, they try to convince inventor Miles Dyson (Joe Morton) to help them subvert the future course of destruction by destroying his work. Dyson sacrifices himself in an explosion to save the world, leading to a climactic showdown between the two Terminators at a steel mill.

      Equal parts scientist and artist, James Cameron is a technical and visual marvel. His films have grossed over $6 billion worldwide. People flock to the theater to see his latest creation because there is an underlying expectation of excellence. Even the most astute moviegoers can at least acknowledge the great appeal of Cameron's epic productions: unbelievable visual bombardment and a substantial entertainment factor. And Terminator 2, a swift, exciting special-effects epic, perfectly embellishes these Cameron trademarks. His ambitious production, costing in excess of $100 million, justifies its vast expense. More impressively, Terminator 2 improves upon the first film's compelling, but embryonic visual style. Like any dedicated artist, Cameron has refined his inspired idea, of the deadly robotic hitman, to encompass better developed characters, a smarter wit and a more aggressive message. After all, T2 is a cautionary tale. Cameron's recurring themes—the prospective nuclear holocaust and the reconciliation of humanity through technology—reminds us why interventionist forces of good always trump dastardly forces of evil. 
      The actors all give adequate performances. Linda Hamilton transforms into a vicious, bodybuilding behemoth. Her character, Sarah Connor (her narration was a little much though) bleeds a fanatic combativeness, and Edward Furlong, playing her son John, is a scrappy and energetic youth, if not a little awkward. Robert Patrick's performance as the T-1000 is very solid. He smartly anchors the villain role. He's got the bad guy good looks and sports an insipid demeanor, but his most frightening feature is his inexorability. Much like Michael Myers, he's never rattled and always moves forward to his next victim. Arnold's performance is one of his best, not in terms of any Oscar worthy acting exhibition, but in terms of an embellishment of his greatest gifts: catchy one liners, great physical intimidation, terrific comedic delivery, and his customary stolid expression. Schwarzenegger's aplomb is surprisingly, not used to any great violent extremes, but rather for tactical thrashings. It's a refreshing turn on conventional action fare, particularly for a film that boasts Mr. Olympia.  

      The Terminator may have turned Arnold Schwarzenegger and James Cameron into bona fide A-list stars, but Terminator 2, in true Judgment Day fashion, broadcast the message that he's no flash in the pan. By upping the ante with a more sweeping storyline and more ambitious, cutting-edge special effects, Cameron delivered a film that still satisfies every movie geek's wildest dreams; a by-product, undoubtedly resulting from Cameron's knack for substantive, big-screen action. With an acute eye for both grandeur and beauty, he integrates bold set pieces with a cohesive storyline. There's the standard extravagance of shootouts, thrashings, chases, collisions, and explosions, but they're all executed with great precision and flair. The effects of T-1000, a garish molten metal chameleon capable of mimicking or deserting human form, are groundbreaking. 
      Terminator 2: Judgment Day is a fast-paced, science fiction action adventure, defined not by grandiose, astonishing visual effects, which it has in abundance, nor is it the greatest example of a human drama; what it is, quite compellingly, is a marvelous coalescence of both of these vital qualities. With Brad Fiedel's ominous music, Cameron orchestrates constructive violence. Absent any befuddling melodramatics, T2 delivers a pitch-perfect first hour, and a mighty, memorable finish (the gladiatorial Terminator duel comes to mind). Cameron, always the consummate visionary of film and science, engineered the first use of natural human motion for a computer-generated character. The American Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences agreed as Terminator 2 won four Oscars in technical categories for its groundbreaking effects. "Hasta la vista, baby."

*Yeahhh (enunciating like a rapper in a Big-Booty-Hoe video), the Terminator 2 trailer. I ask, what can be better?

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  1. Serendipitously I might be the first to comment - and that is a good thing - as this is one of my favorite movies of all time. Great big blistering action; tough bad guy; cool good guy; smart scripting; solid acting - it's all here. Have you seen the hidden cut hiding on one of the DVD's as an incredibly difficult to find extra? It includes the read-write garage scene, which I love and which should be in the movie; the Reese cameo; and it comes down to that other end scene - which was better in the theatrical cut - but it's still cool to see it. Top marks for this one, Matty!

  2. Loved T2. It's iconic, and one of those rare sequels that delivered. But I'm betting you'll get a lot of grief for not going with any of the other top four contenders. They were all good.

  3. Fabulous pick for your post! One of all time favorite go to movies!

  4. great selection of films for the letter T.

  5. Great choice for T. Big fan of the Terminator films...but my fave is the first one. It doesn't have the melting metal guy, but I love the Kyle/Sarah romance. I like that she changed from a timid, insecure, mousy character, to a strong, independent freedom fighter. Oh, YEAH!

  6. Okay so I might get shot for this but I haven't seen any of the Terminator films except Terminator Salvation. I know the iconic scenes but that's about it. Right before I watched Terminator Salvation I received a huge history lesson on the story from some friends. I must say it's very intriguing. I really need to watch these and examine Arnold in this glorious role. I think I have only seen him in Kindergarden Cop and Twins. haha I love Twins. : )

    Thank you soo much for adding me to your blog roll!! That is so exciting, made my day! I have actually had you on my blog roll for a few days now so... your on my blog roll as well!! : )

  7. I like your T list! I remember most of those movies. I stay away from bloody horror gut stuff...

    Happy Easter btw!


  8. Great choice! I like how you chose T2 over T1 (is that the official abbreviation for the first movie?), personally they both go neck in neck for me, so I'm all for this choice. Sarah Connor is one of the most badass chicks ever, and John is literally the only child actor in an action film I've ever really enjoyed watching. Damn you, now I have to rewatch this one again! Great post!

  9. T2 rocked the world off its axis for sure. God, do I remember sitting in the theater with Rick and Mike, my crew since kindergarten and being absolutely riveted. Linda Hamilton delivers her most kick ass performance ever. I was stunned at the transformation of Sarah from a crying, scared, freaked out woman to stone cold warrior. And that scene where she's doing pull ups on the metal frame still kills, echoing Cameron's earlier character of Vasquez from Aliens. Cameron loves to feature ballsy women and I love him for it. Great, great choice for T.

  10. Love this list! Never thought I'd see Toy Story and Trainspotting on the same list! :)

  11. I would've enjoyed your take on LORD OF THE RING, oh wise Mattygorn :)

  12. @ Craig

    Awesome! This movie will always carry my heart, as it was the first real science fiction action film that blew my mind. I've not seen the "hidden features" from one of the newer DVD's, but I heard they're fantastic. I'll have to track it down. Thanks!

    @ L.G.

    Thanks, and yes, we shall see! It is, indeed, a rare example where the sequel beats the original.

    @ Sand Castles

    Thank you.

    @ Venus


  13. @ Luana

    Thanks! I read your "T" choice, and Titanic was a great one (it was one of my honorable mentions). It's interesting how your preference is the first one because people I talk to prefer T2. But T1 was distinct, in terms of the series, for the Kyle/Sarah romance. Nice thoughts.

    @ Nicole

    Terminator aka Arnold is targeting you for blogosphere termination for not seeing his film. Ah, I'm just kidding. Arnold's a nice guy in this one.

    Well, you have an awesome film to look forward to, so I'm kinda jealous. I'd love to watch this film for the first time again, not knowing what to expect.

    And you're very welcome, it's a much deserved honor!

    @ Elizabeth

    Thanks for the comment! And Happy Easter to you and your's as well!

  14. @ M.

    Thanks! T2 still surprises me how good it was for its time.

    Haha, I'm going to re-watch it later today, myself!

    @ Melissa

    Awesome! Glad I could inspire the recollection. And Linda Hamilton did a helluva job captaining the badassness of Sarah Connor. Cameron is the man for featuring kick ass heroines, and he does it so well. I would've loved to see his take on Sucker Punch.

    @ Scott

    Thanks! And haha, it is an interesting assemblage of movies. Toy Story and Trainspotting are tremendous films.

    @ Dezmond

    Haha, interesting wordplay. Perhaps, you can write the screenplay for this Mattygorn you speak of!

    And I would've enjoyed my take on LOTR as well. I was very close to writing about that instead of T2.

  15. sure, Dezzdriel could write the script, but I hear he would be better in production design, costume and set design :)

  16. Yes Sir Dezz! I'll write the script and you can take care of all the fine visual details. We'll get HBO to pick up the pilot!

  17. T2 - excellent choice! Saw this one twice in the theater when it was released.
    Hope you're enjoying the Challenge!

  18. Robert Patrick still makes me feel a lot nervous. Good choice, T2. My husband & I saw T1 in a theatre off the Las Vegas strip. This was not a safe place, with bikers, pimps and hookers, plus a number of other people. But, they were the best audience to see that movie with. Their expletives were spontaneous and heart-felt.
    Good blog choice.

  19. I loved Terminator but Titanic is still number one. :)

  20. @ Alex

    Thanks man! The Challenge has been incredible. I give you and the other hosts/creators a ton of credit. I've tripled my followers since the Challenge began.

    @ Susan

    Wow, that's an interesting theater experience, to say the least. But I'm glad you got the unique memories. There's nothing better than a whimsical and quirky movie long as its not distracting.

    And thanks!

    @ Niki

    Such is your opinion, that's fine. I enjoyed T2 more, but I can also concede that Titanic is also a strong film. Thanks for the input.