Metal Evolution: A Must See For Every Fan of Rock Music

I can recall vivid memories of sitting in the car and my dad putting the Rush album 2112 into the stereo. My dad is an odd music fan; his favourite band is Rush and yet a lot of the music of my young childhood was country because it was what my Mom and Dad could agree on. Then came those moments where I was in the car alone with my dad and he would play some Rush. The sweeping synthesizers in the opening were already a massive change from what I was used to, but then everything changed. Cutting guitars, bass, and drums invited me into this new world of music. Distorted instruments, syncopated beats from the drums, rolling tempos, all being hovered by Geddy Lee’s voice acting as an instrument all its own. This was the moment when I can say that music changed from being a passive influence on my life to an active participant, changing my very being into an artistic soul searching for more and better and different than what I had always been exposed to.

More than a decade later, I was sitting in my mother’s living room babysitting my sisters, and I saw a show on the guide called “Metal Evolution.” I had seen this mentioned once or twice but I had just passed it over before. That day was particularly boring so despite being almost ten minutes through already, I flipped this show on. As the commercial ended, I heard that same opening riff from 2112 as the screen showed a car driving down a Canadian Highway. As this episode (which turns out was the final episode of the series) took me through Rush’s contribution to the Progressive Metal genre, I was completely hooked. Then it took me to areas that I wasn’t expecting with introducing me to Queensryche, Tool, Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan, and Meshuggah: bands that I was aware of, but would never have associated with my Rush. Later that night when I returned to my dad’s house with my computer, I searched through my iTunes and found some of that music. Could I have been more wrong about their association? I had the same feeling listening to Mastodon as I had when I grew up listening to Rush. It was an explosion of new musical knowledge for me, but more so, it made me realizes that I had to go out and get this series.

Sam Dunn, the series creator, was the man behind the 2009 concert film Iron Maiden: Flight 666, the 2010 documentary, Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage, and the two films that preceded this series, Metal: A Headbanger’s Journey and Global Metal. And with the same documentary style as his previous film, Metal Evolution is both an educational and entertaining series for fans of the whole Rock music movement.

The first three episodes of the series cover the roots of Heavy Metal. From its musically stylistic home in Classical, Blues, and Jazz; through the roots in Hard Rock godfathers like MC5, Iggy and the Stooges, Led Zeppelin, and Black Sabbath; into the self-identified birth of Metal with Van Halen and Judas Priest. The next three episodes are about the three most commonly referred Metal genres: New Wave of British Heavy Metal, Glam Metal, and Thrash Metal. The most interesting episodes though, are the last five.

Starting with Grunge, they cover genres where there is a real debate about where to put them in the history of Metal and if they can be classified as Heavy Metal. More importantly though, they get into the modernity of metal and what other genres it has created in its forty year history. In Grunge they talk about how bands like Creed and Nickleback, while distinctly not Metal, were heavily influenced by the Grunge bands of the early nineties and NWOBHM bands of the early eighties. In Nu Metal they go into how sell outs like Limp Bizkit fit into the same era as classics like Rage Against the Machine. By bringing us into the story with genres and bands that are still in the spot light today, it keeps us invested in the story of genre that is still thriving today.

The only negative aspects of this show are that Sam Dunn often feels forced in his delivery and that it will only appeal to Rock fans. Between asking questions to the camera that he obviously already knows the answer to and getting answers that we’ve already heard from other interviewees, it can get a bit repetitive. For someone who doesn’t like Metal, this show will do nothing for you. But if you are a fan of any of the bands I’ve mentioned here, this is a must see. It talks about the history of Metal in a way that invites you to experience what Dunn has such a passion for. You will be introduced to bands you had never crossed your mind and be opened to a diverse field of artists that will satisfy your thirst for new music for years.

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The Almost-Made-Its

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As a precursor to the Top 100, I feel there is some benefit to giving the list of ranks #101 through #110. Many of these films were at one point in the top 100 but have fallen off after having seen new ones. Others fell due to my re-watching them and just not enjoying them as I once did. The other reason that they are on this list is that after one watching, I just couldn’t be sure if I really wanted them in the top 100, and since I’ve only seen many of them once, I am still unsure. No matter the reason, these films are great, and they are all films that I definitely want to see again (save one, but that will be explained later) so I can re-evaluate them and perhaps, put them on the list again in the future. I will be referencing films that are in the top 100 without specifically naming them here.

#110 – The Silence of the Lambs – 1991 – Jonathan Demme

I read this book for a grade eight book report (yeah, I was a weird child) and while reading it, I found that Thomas Harris was absolutely brilliant in painting a picture with enough detail to give you what you need, but in a restrained enough way that you start extrapolating and thus the real horror begins. The strongest part of this film is that they don’t turn this into a slasher film. It is restrained and suspenseful and brilliantly terrifying.

#109 – Mary Poppins – 1964 – Robert Stevenson

A childhood favourite of mine (and everyone, duh), and it was very difficult for me to take this off of the top 100. However the problem is that there are just so many other childhood movies that I like better, and this one just doesn’t hit me as hard as it did ten years ago. I still love it, but I can’t keep it on the top 100 right now.

#108 – Salvador – 1986 – Oliver Stone

I will admit here that I love Oliver Stone. He has style to his films that makes them incredibly watchable, and even though some of those typically hailed as his greatest don’t hit me that way (Platoon), others like this brilliant look at El Salvador during its civil war are so raw and gritty that I can’t help but laud praise on them (and Stone himself). This film is one I need to watch a few more times before I decide its final place .

#107 – Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade – 1989 – Steven Spielberg

Spielberg has four films in the top 100 (tied with David Fincher and just behind Stanley Kubrick at five), and I just couldn’t put my favourite Indy film along with them. Despite being a brilliant film and having two of my favourite performances from Ford and Connery, it doesn’t compete with some of the grandeur found in my other favourite Spielberg films.

#106 – Bon Cop Bad Cop – 2006 – Erik Canuel

This is definitely my favourite Canadian film, and being a French immersion student in Ontario, it has so much humour that only a bilingual person would understand that I can’t help but adore it. However it does have a lacklustre climax which means I can’t stick it in the top 100 despite being a film I can watch over and over again.

#105 – Elephant – 2003 – Gus Van Sant

This was one of the biggest surprises of all the movies I watched this year (despite being almost a decade old). It is about Columbine and the most incredible thing about Elephant is the compassion with which it handles the subject matter. It covers the day leading up to the massacre and shows from various different perspectives how an ordinary day in this school turned into a day that now lives in infamy in the collective imagination of our society.

#104 – Moonrise Kingdom – 2012 – Wes Anderson

This film lands in the category of one I need to see a few more times before I put it on the list. While watching it I fell in love with Wes Anderson’s style that had been unsettling to me in Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr Fox. Here he found a story that is relatable to everyone watching and gives us a hook to latch onto and be torn through this beautiful world he had constructed.

#103 – Magnolia – 1999 – Paul Thomas Anderson                                                      

Paul Thomas Anderson is very divisive for me. He has one film on the list that I have no regrets holding up as a great film. Magnolia definitely contains my favourite Tom Cruise performance, but as a full story and film, I’m still not sure how much praise I will heap on to it.

#102 – Somewhere – 2010 – Sofia Coppola

Sofia Coppola has two films on the top 100 and she and David Fincher top the list of my favourite directors right now. Stylistically she perfectly displays a realistic world that is both mundane and filled with the potential for fulfillment. Somewhere is her most experimental film and can be seen as an expansion of Lost in Translation (both dealing with an Actor feeling lost in the world). This also needs a few more viewings before it will make the list.

#101 – Argo – 2012 – Ben Affleck

When I went to the theatre to see Argo, my expectations were loaded. I loved Gone Baby Gone and The Town with some hesitation. They weren’t perfect, but they had phenomenal performances mixed with a great buildup of suspense to a climax that was satisfying; but then there was either a denouement that lasted too long or a character conflict that took me out of the experience. Argo blew me away, and while not currently my favourite film of 2012, this could definitely make the next version of the list (that is if Zero Dark Thirty, Les Miserables, Django Unchained, and Lincoln don’t surpass this once I see them).

Top 100 films, An Introduction

As I mentioned in my introduction post, I have a list of a thousand some odd movies all sorted and rated in an excel file. They are sorted by name, director, year, genre (although I haven’t completed that section yet), and two different ratings categories. To each movie, I give a star rating out of four which then directly corresponds to a rating out of 100 (technically 99 because I don’t believe in the idea of a perfect film).  To quote http://nighthawknews.wordpress.com and his best directors introduction post,

I apply a number from 0 to 99 to every film I watch (no film gets 100, because I don’t believe in the idea of a completely perfect film).  That works out really well for a **** system.  Each 1/2 covers 12 points and each full star covers 13.  So 0 is 0, 1-12 (.5), 13-25 (*), 26-37 (*.5), 38-50 (**), 51-62 (**.5), 63-75 (***), 76-87 (***.5), 88-99 (****).  When I use the term “very good” I am talking about a ***.5 film.  A “great” film is a **** film.” (http://nighthawknews.wordpress.com/2011/09/14/the-100-greatest-directors-of-all-time-2-0-an-introduction/)

This was the idea that started my desire to create my own list. Aside from wanting to document my history and future of film watching, I wanted a way to organize my favourite films in an almost pathological way. I wanted a system where I wouldn’t be as prone to the genre bias I find in most awards shows and critical perspectives. With this system, I finally had a method to the madness of film.

So I then embarked on a search through the annals of Wikipedia and their fairly detailed “Year in Film” pages. They alphabetically list the films released in a given year, so I would read through them and find which films I had seen. Then I would compile and organize all the movies into the excel file, and once I made my way through all of the lists, I decided to take the top 100 and organize them more specifically in a separate excel page. Since that list was formed 7 months ago, much of it has changed including a coup involving what had been my two favourite films for years.

I have decided that as a part of this blog, I want to explore what makes these movies hold such high esteem with me, and examine how many of them are objectively great vs. how many of them hold a special place in my nostalgic heart. I won’t try to deny that my top fifteen looks incredibly different from most, and it contains films that were never nominated for anything big. However it’s important to remember that, for me, the rewatch-ability and the personal connection that I make to a film are just as important as the writing, acting, editing, cinematography, and direction.

So I will start next week with a small list of the almost-made-its. Then I will go to the number 100 film on my list, Highlander. Within that review I will introduce my new way of trying to make my reviews slightly more objective. My goal is to do two of these reviews a week, along with a review of a new movie that I’ve seen that week, or just a movie I had seen recently. Since I hope that I will see many of this year’s Oscar contenders in the next few weeks, I imagine that they will be taking precedence over any new films I see on DVD.

Introduction

I’m addressing this letter to all who come to this blog of mine. Jontruism Film Reviews is my new blog which will be dedicated to film reviews and other topics concerning cinema and television. I have wanted to have a film blog for quite some time but for various reasons I have stopped myself. However, with 2013 rapidly approaching I have decided to commit to a New Year’s Resolution of writing 2000 words every day. Whether this is for essays or other papers for school or through this blog, 2000 words every day is the goal. So a few times a week I hope to have new reviews up on this blog with at least two non-review articles each month. The only exception that could interrupt the resolution would be if I get a summer job at a camp. In this case I would take a two month hiatus while still trying to write as much in journals as possible.

Now for a bit about me: My name is Jon and the name of the blog came from my good friend Connor when discussing names for my youtube channel. If you go to http://www.youtube.com/user/JonTruism you will find some political rants, some film reviews, and some miscellaneous videos. I’m a film studies student at Wilfrid Laurier University in Ontario. One thing that defined 2012 for me was film and television, so much so that I began keeping a list of every film I had ever seen. I used a rating system I had found on another blog, (http://nighthawknews.wordpress.com/) and went through hundreds of lists of films and around May I finished the first list that I could call comprehensive. I had 888 then and I’m up to 1045 now. I also ranked the top 100 of them so that I could have my first detailed top 100 films list.

I could estimate that I’ve watched 600 (many multiple times) movies this year along with near 1000 episodes of different television shows. This year has been one of near saturation for me. I have spent so much of my time looking at various screens watching things that I realized that I should take a step aside and start writing more. Part of that will be doing a review for each movie that I watch, along with a (probably) yearlong series of reviews covering my top 100 films. I also want to spend some part of the 8 months in school (January-April and September-December) while I’m in specific film classes to talk about concepts and ideas about film analysis and creation, along with the political and philosophical issues on display in some of these films.

This will be a fun year, and hopefully this is a blog I can keep for long after that.