Category: 5 Favorites Redux

5 Favorites Redux #32: Star Trek: Deep Space Nine Episodes, Part 1

Cast for Seasons 1 to 3.

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

While I’m still making my way through season 3 (of 4) for Star Trek: Enterprise, its first two seasons suggest it will probably end up fifth of six series on my list of best Treks. That means that the number one itself is safe, and by a long shot. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine was a new direction for the Star Trek universe. Set on an isolated space station orbiting the planet Bajor, a highly religious society that was occupied for decades by the Cardassians. Now liberated, Starfleet sends a Federation officer, Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks), to maintain relations between the Federation and Bajor, an advanced civilization hoping for membership, but plagued by the wars fought there recently.

Starfleet also sends engineer Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney), who had served as transporter chief aboard the USS Enteprise captained by Jean-Luc Picard, science officer Jadzia Dax (Terry Farrell), and doctor Julian Bashir (Originally credited as Siddig El-Fadil, but was changed at the actor’s request to Alexander Siddig in 1995) to help operate the station alongside their Bajoran liaison and second-in-command Major Kira Nerys (Nana Visitor), the station’s Changeling chief of security Odo (Rene Auberjonois), and Ferengi bar owner Quark (Amrin Shimmerman). Sisko’s son Jake (Cirroc Lofton) is along for the ride after Sisko’s wife Jennifer died at Wolf 359 where the assimilated Picard had been in command of the Borg.

Deep Space Nine is eventually relocated to a position just outside a newly-discovered stable wormhole between the Alpha and Gamma Quadrants. With the Trek property firmly ensconced on a space station, there was little room to explore strange new worlds or seek out new civilizations. Yet, it still boldly went where no other Trek series had gone before. With a largely serialized narrative, the show explored themes of war, regret, retribution, spirituality, and numerous other topics across its seven-year run.

As the series entered its fourth season, it picked up Michael Dorn’s popular Klingon character Worf, fresh off the then-departed Star Trek: Next Generation, as the station’s tactical officer. From there, the grandest plot line in Trek history began to unwind featuring the same Changeling Founders from which Odo descends and their Gamma Quadrant alliance called the Dominion as they manipulate the races of the Alpha and Beta Quadrants into a war that would pit the Cardassians against the Federation and Klingon Empires. The Cardassians become pawns of the Dominion who wish to assert there dominance through manipulation and brute force with their genetically engineered super soldiers, the Jem’Hadar, and their field lieutenants, the Vorta.

Farrell would also leave the show in 1999 to pursue other opportunities, including a series lead role in the CBS comedy Becker. Her departure at the end of season six left a vast hole that Nicole de Boer tried to fill as the ninth host of the Dax symbiont, a worm-like creature that bonds with members of the Trill race and then merges the consciousnesses of the prior eight hosts together with the ninth, making the symbiont over 350 years old. De Boer was added for only the seventh season meaning a lot of episodes were built around developing the character, which caused a slight hiccup in the momentum the show had built up to that point, but which ultimately didn’t hinder the show as it went out on a tremendous high.

Cast for Seasons 4 to 6.

The series also introduced numerous recurring characters that added immeasurably to the show’s depth and created a rich tapestry of individuals who helped progress plot narratives and expand the Star Trek universe well beyond what it had already created in the course of three prior series.

Why does this series outperform the prior three and its subsequent two? Quite simply, the writing was unparalleled, a brilliant interweaving mix of gray areas that the Trek universe had never explored with any extreme depth. Across the span of seven seasons and 176 episodes, the show produced 48 four-star episodes, significantly more than the 28 from Next Generation, 15 from the original series, and 24 from Voyager. The average rating of episodes across the entire series was 3.29, 0.14 higher than The Next Generation. Because there are nearly 50 episodes that could be considered for inclusion on a top ten list, I’ve decided to break them down into a top twenty covered over two weeks.

In addition to the series’ high level of quality, it also broke new bounds with its numerous multi-part episodes. There were thirteen of them, two of which spanned three episodes, one that went on for seven, and another that extended to eight episodes. The seven-episode arc started at the end of season five and finished in season six as Sisko and company had to give up the station to Dominion-Cardassian control in order to maneuver and re-assert itself and, at the end of the arc, retake the station. Six of the seven episodes I rated four stars. The first three-parter was at the beginning of season two as a separatist movement on Bajor targeted the Federation and pushed to re-assert Bajoran independence. The second covered the end of season six and the beginning of season seven. It was the weakest of the multi-part groupings, but was no slouch. The final collection was the eight-episode arc that closed out the Dominion War at the end of season 7, culminating right before the final two-part episode closing out the series. This eight-parter was largely impressive, but had a few issues as it petered out at the end. It was a fitting conclusion to the years-long story arc, but could have been just a touch stronger.

Matter of fact, of the three sets of episodes, only four of them didn’t feature all four-star episodes, highlighting the overall strength of the series’ attempts at creating longer story arcs. Of the forty-eight episodes, there were ultimately thirty-one groupings. There are twenty-one stand alone episodes. In the end, I will have to eliminate eleven of the thirty one and it will be difficult. In addition to splitting the top twenty between this and next week’s posts, I will also split the eleven up between the two along the same lines. The first grouping I’ll briefly touch on are from the first four seasons of the show. The remainder will be discussed next week.

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5 Favorites Redux #31: Star Trek: The Next Generation Episodes

Cast for Season 1.

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Currently ranked second on my list of best Star Trek series is Star Trek: The Next Generation. Almost twenty years after Captain Kirk and company began their 5-year mission (that lasted only 3 seasons), Captain Picard (Patrick Stewart) and his crew began their continuing mission, which lasted seven seasons, the standard length for the subsequent two series. Along for the ride are First Officer William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Chief Engineer Geordi LaForge (LeVar Burton), Ship’s Counselor Deanna Troi (Marina Sirtis), Chief Operations Officer Data (Brent Spiner), tactical officer and later Chief of Security Worf (Michael Dorn), Chief Medical Officer Beverly Crusher (Gates McFadden) who was replaced only for season two by Katherine Pulaski (Diana Muldaur), and Chief of Security Tasha Yar (Denise Crosby) whose character was killed off towards the end of season one and appeared in a handful of other episodes both as herself and her daughter (temporal mechanics, naturally). This group comprises the primary crew with Dr. Crusher’s son Wesley (Wil Wheaton), Transporter Chief Miles O’Brien (Colm Meaney), and bartender Guinan (Whoopi Goldberg) in prominent guest roles. Gene Roddenberry’s wife Majel Barrett appeared in the series both in person as Deanna’s mother Lwaxana, as well as vocally as the voice of the ship’s computer.

Across 178 episodes, the Next Generation crew proved incredibly popular, becoming one of the highest rated syndicated series in television history and, in its final year, becoming the first and to-date only Trek series (and syndicated series for that matter) nominated for Best Drama Series at the Emmys (along with 58 total nominations and 18 wins). Of the 178 episodes, 28 of them earned four-star ratings. Typically, both parts of a two-part episode would carry the same rating, but a few episodes managed to stand out more in their second part than the first, leading to two episodes showing up on that four-star list that don’t have the corresponding first part also considered.

Breaking down the numbers, of the 28 episodes, five two-part episodes (and both parts) were included on the list, making it 23 to choose from. It was difficult to narrow. I eventually ended up with 15 that could conceivably make the final top ten. The eight episodes that didn’t make it through were “The Naked Now,” “When the Bough Breaks,” “Symbiosis,” “Redemption: Parts 1 & 2,” “Time’s Arrow: Parts 1 & 2,” “Relics,” “Descent: Part 2,” and “Gambit: Parts 1 & 2.”

Cast for Season 2.

To be fair to the five that did not make the final list, I’ll highlight those here with brief comments: “Elementary, Dear Data” was the first episode of TNG to effectively use holodeck technology to great success. That success would lead to numerous other such episodes, though few were as inventive or as timely. In this episode, Geordi inadvertently instructs the computer to create a foe that is capable of defeating Data, not the Sherlock Holmes persona he has taken to playing. As the computer-generated Moriarty becomes self-aware, the episode becomes a cat-and-mouse game that puts the ship at risk and calls for some creative manipulation to resolve. In “The Outcast,” Riker falls in love with a member of an androgynous species who have no use for gender specificity. When it was released in 1992, the concept of gender identity as a cultural touchstone was a long way from coming to the forefront, though its roots had already been formed decades earlier. The concept makes the episode feel incredibly prescient with its forward-thinking examination and rebuke of gender normativity.

For the episode “I, Borg,” Data’s brother Lore (also played by Brent Spiner) is at the heart of a movement leading liberated Borg drones in a plot to take over the Alpha Quadrant. Lore tampers with Data’s programming forcing him to experience only the emotions he wants, turning Data against the Enterprise crew. The episode is fascinating for its exploration of individuality and the duality that had been at the heart of Data’s character for a long time. Its look at brainwashing and warmongering adds depth. “The Quality of Life” naturally follows the season two episode that is included in the list below (“The Measure of a Man”). A group of mining repair bots refuse to work in a dangerous tunnel, exhibiting signs of sentience that their creator insists is not possible. As the drones attempt to protect themselves and others, the exploration of the meaning of intelligent life gets a fascinating workout.

While there were two second-part episodes that received four stars with their prior episodes only receiving 3.5, neither of them ultimately make it into the top ten. That’s because having an inferior predecessor simply acts as a demerit on the second part, even if it’s perfect. And “Chain of Command, Part 2” is nearly perfect. After Picard is relieved of command and sent on a secret mission to infiltrate a Cardassian planet, his capture leads the Enterprise, under questionable replacement management, to lead a secret rescue attempt in order to free their captain. The episode is most noted for the riveting torture sequences between Stewart’s Picard and David Warner’s Gul Madred. In this tense tête-à-tête, Madred tries hard to break Picard, using the four lights on the wall as a focal point for his brainwashing attempt. Suggesting that there are five lights and not four, Stewart’s brilliant performance captures that slow descent into madness exceptionally well and provides an emotional anchor point for the episode, most notably his post-trauma confession to Counselor Troi.

Of the remaining ten episodes, seasons five and seven have the most entries while seasons one and six have none. Each season featured at least two different four-star episodes. Seasons five and seven also have the most four-star episodes during the season with seven apiece. Next week’s list will be incredibly difficult to winnow down and I might just do a top twenty over two posts. It was just that good.

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5 Favorites Redux #30: Star Trek: The Original Series Episodes

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Last week, we looked at my number four Star Trek series of all-time, Star Trek: Voyager. This week, we’re going to look at my number three series of all-time. The original series Star Trek started everything and, to an extent, deserves to be ranked best regardless of its individual strengths. Unfortunately, that’s not exactly the case. While the first two seasons were solid, the final season had so many dud episodes that it makes it a slightly inferior series to the show in the number two spot. We’ll discuss that in a few weeks.

For now, the original series, which introduced us to Captain James T. Kirk and his stalwart crew, is the series we’re taking a look at this week. As my 5 Favorites series goes, I’m listing each week a different Trek series. While I want to save the best for last, I don’t think I’ll be done with Star Trek: Enterprise in time to put it down in three weeks, even though it’s already unlikely to supplant my number one series. That said, the original starred William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, James Doohan, Nichelle Nichols, George Takei, and Walter Keonig along with creator Gene Roddenberry’s future wife Majel Barrett and a handful of other recurring characters. It was the series that started it all and is responsible for re-aligning what science fiction on television could be.

It was followed briefly by Star Trek: The Animated Series in 1973 as an attempt to revive the series and please its growing legion of fans. Shatner, Nimoy, Kelley, Takei, Nichols, Doohan, and Barrett each leant the series their vocal talents with budget issues preventing the return of Koenig and requiring Doohan and Nichols to voice several other minor characters. The animated series was an inferior product on most fronts. While it enabled the show to create aliens that weren’t humanoid in shape, which was a necessity of the minimal makeup effects available at the time, it also didn’t have a lot of terrific episodes. While this series presently ranks five out of five, I’m going to mention it here because there aren’t really five episodes I could even consider including on this list.

The original series lasted only three seasons while the animated one was around for one regular season and then one short season before being pulled off the air. All of the four-star episodes come from the original series. There’s a single two-part episode in the entirety of the original’s three seasons, making for 16 total episodes that would be eligible for inclusion. That said, the original pilot, “The Cage,” wasn’t aired originally, but was re-worked into “The Menagerie, Parts 1 & 2.” As such, those three episodes will be considered in tandem, meaning selecting ten episodes out of fourteen isn’t terribly difficult. The four episodes not included are: “The Doomsday Machine,” “The Immunity Syndrome,” “The Empath,” and “Spectre of the Gun”

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5 Favorites Redux #29: Star Trek: Voyager Episodes

Cast for Seasons 1 to 3.

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Over the last year (and a short span a few years ago), I began a project that has taken some time, but is coming close to an end. This is largely thanks to the plague, which has enabled me to watch just a few more episodes on the weekend. That project is a re-watch (or in some cases first-time viewing) of every episode of Star Trek and its subsequent series. While I haven’t touched anything on CBS All Access and probably won’t for this particular project, I have completed all but the final series, which I only have four seasons of rather than the seven the last three shows produced. To honor this massive project and a universe that I am intensely fond of, I thought I would start looking at the franchise and their best episodes. I’ll start with the freshest in my mind, that of Star Trek: Voyager, which was the fifth series set in the Trek universe.

There were 24 episodes of 172 that I gave the maximum rating too. It was very difficult to narrow and a top five was not in the cards. So, I have chosen to increase the number to ten and the 5 Favorites element will be represented by the number of articles I will publish regarding the best of each Star Trek series. That said, five two-part episodes were included in the ten, so there are technically fifteen total episodes to go over, but only ten write-ups. That leaves nine total episodes that I did not include, but which deserve honorable mentions. They are: “Resistance,” “Distant Origin,” “Hope and Fear,” “Timeless,” “Survival Instinct,” “Riddles,” “Lineage,” “Repentance,” and “Homestead.” There were many other good episodes that weren’t quite perfect, but are still worth checking out. Voyager ranks 4th out of the 5 series I’ve seen in terms of overall quality, just outpacing The Animated Series, but it’s still a worthy recipient of the Star Trek name.

Below, in alphabetical order, are the ten best episodes of Star Trek: Voyager.

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5 Favorites Redux #28: Favorite Alfred Hitchcock Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

The master of suspense has made far more films than most people realize, having started his career in his native United Kingdom during the silent era. After coming to the United States in 1939 to make his first feature at the behest of legendary producer David O. Selznick, his career took a new and vaunted turn with two celebrated films in 1940 alone followed by a string of great pictures that have been studied and examined for decades. Picking five is difficult. Films like North by Northwest, the remake of The Man Who Knew Too Much, and `The 39 Steps all merit inclusion as do many others, but these are my five favorites.

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5 Favorites Redux #27: Favorite Steven Spielberg Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

A handful of my favorite directors have directed very few films. Stanley Kubrick, who I looked at last week, has more films than Todd Haynes who I opted not to cover this week having seen less than five of his films so far that I would cite. So, rather than trying to dig for other prominent directors whose films I have enjoyed, I’ve decided to go with a director who has made numerous films in his career and whose work has been largely exceptional if not generally good.

Steven Spielberg is one of those directors who made his name on blockbusters (his first film, Jaws, having coined the phrase), but also dug into pure drama with great success. Spielberg is a director whose new films are always worth checking out, even if the heyday of his 1970s/1980s/1990s output seems largely behind him. While there are several films I could definitely see myself listing, beyond the five specified below, I’m disappointed that I cannot make room for Minority Report, which is ultimately the third best science fiction film he has ever directed.

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5 Favorites Redux #26: Favorite Stanley Kubrick Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

My all-time favorite director is one who worked rather infrequently once he got into a position where he could do his own thing. More than a decade passed between his final film (1999’s Eyes Wide Shut) and his prior effort (1987’s Full Metal Jacket). Stanley Kubrick made only thirteen feature-length films in his career and all of them are well respected by critics and most of them were beloved by audiences alike. Winnowing down a best of list for Kubrick to five is a challenging proposition, especially when it required that I leave off films like the hilarious Dr. Strangelove, the shocking Full Metal Jacket, and his early triumph The Killing. The five that remain are quintessential Kubrick films, each having an impact on other films in their genres and each standing the test of time, even improving with age.

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5 Favorites Redux #25: Original Stage Musical Adaptations

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

As a companion piece to last week’s list, I wanted to take a look at the best films adapted from stage musicals. Once again, I’m going to limit these to musicals that started out on the stage and then were adapted to the big screen. This will discount films like Mame, which was based on a stage musical, but that stage musical was based on a film, a book, and a stage play. Plus it’s apparently really bad. I haven’t had any desire to see it. Of course, there’s also My Fair Lady, which was based on the play Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw, an example of a film that could have made my list if it hadn’t been adapted from other sources.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t explore musical adaptations that have other sources. There are just too many great options like Oliver! and West Side Story to be ignored completely. Strangely enough, that leaves very few musicals as most of the greatest musicals of all-time are based on other material. Still, the films left on my list are all pretty terrific in their own rights.

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5 Favorites Redux #24: Favorite Stage Adaptations

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

While novels have been adapted more frequently for film than stage plays, the latter has a long and storied history of big screen successes. William Shakespeare’s plays, unsurprisingly, were the first adapted with numerous in the 1900s and 1910s. However, the earliest non-Shakespearean adaptation might be 1907’s Kameliadamen. The stage play on which it was based, The Lady of the Camellias, was self-adapted by Alexandre Dumas from his own novel. After that comes 1910’s The Blue Bird, which was the first taken from a play written originally for the stage. Since then, hundreds of plays have found their way into the cinematic lexicon. As to Shakespeare, his first adaptation was King John in 1899 followed closely by Hamlet and Romeo and Juliet in 1900.

That makes adapting stage plays to the big screen a rather old concept. Musical adaptations are a bit newer considering the advent of sound, but that’s a topic for another week. With so many options available, I thought I would take a look at my favorite adaptations from stage plays. My only rule is that the play cannot be adapted from another medium, including films translated into stage plays and back again into movies. During my research, there were far too many films that fit the description to adequately sift through. Therefore, the below is a bit of an abbreviated list. There are likely other adaptations that I probably prefer over these, but this list is pretty solid otherwise.

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5 Favorites Redux #23: Favorite Sci-Fi Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Hope for the future is a powerful concept and when looking into history to contemplate the best films set in the near or distant future, I’m struck by how often there are not just messages of hope, but also warnings for how things could turn out if we don’t think about the kind of world we hope will exist ten, twenty, or even a millennium or two down the road. Here are my five favorite science fiction films of all-time.

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5 Favorites Redux #22: Comfort Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

This being the second week of the movie theater shut down, I’d like to delve into movies that I go to to make me feel better. These are comfortable films, musicals and comedies, that can be rewatched any number of times and will always help you feel better. Rocky Horror Picture Show was one of the few films that didn’t make the list that I think deserves at least some attention for being immensely re-watchable. That is only when there’s audience participation and, right now, that isn’t advisable.

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5 Favorites Redux #21: Post-Apocalypse Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

With COVID-19 an ever-present threat, there are no new wide releases at theaters this weekend or likely for the next month or two, limiting my options for topics for this week’s 5 Favorites Redux post. As such, I thought I would take a look at films about pandemics and since most of them create a post-apocalyptic society, I decided I would look at the best films that deal such topics. There were many and while films like Contagion and Outbreak might make sensible additions, neither is good enough to place on my list of favorites. I’ve covered a number of films in the recent past and I hate to duplicate my work. There are a lot of films that could easily make an appearance on this list. Films like WALL-E, Zombieland, and A Quiet Place. I even left out The Hunger Games films. Although they are classified as post-apocalyptic, that definition is a bit imprecise for the film.

Two of the entries below revolve are for a series of films. I will choose the best of all of the films to represent the poster, but otherwise, the list will reference why those series and the individual films within them are important.

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5 Favorites Redux #20: The Best of Guy Pearce

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Guy Pearace arrived on the acting scene in 1990 and quickly rose to prominence taking on numerous high profile roles in films like L.A. Confidential and Memento. The Australian character actor has steadily built up a solid filmography of more than 50 films, including his supporting role in this weekend’s Bloodshot. In looking over Pearce’s lengthy list of performances, his film selections haven’t always been great, but they’ve typically been interesting. Here are my five favorite films with Guy Pearce in them.

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5 Favorites Redux #19: Favorite Pixar Films

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Over time, doing duplicate lists will be a challenge, especially how frequently Pixar and Disney films release, but since we haven’t covered this before, I thought I would take a look at the best Pixar films in honor of this weekend’s release of Onward. In a fantasy world where lives have become rather mundane, two kids go on an epic quest to find a way to bring back their father who was taken from them at an early age. A traditional narrative with fantastical elements should be right up Pixar’s sleeve, though their output in the last several years, with one notable selection below, has been rather unimpressive. Gone are the days of inventive energy that made many of these films possible. While I would love to have included Toy Story 2 and Toy Story 3, far superior films to the original, the one film I’m most disappointed not to be able to include is A Bug’s Life.

When it came out in the late 1990s, it was like nothing we’d ever seen and like the two films that released around it, Toy Story and its first sequel, it was the beginning of great things for Pixar. A Bug’s Life was a hilarious and child-like film that was more in line with the kinds of films Disney used to make than the films Pixar would make. That said, it was a terrific film and will always have a fond place in my heart as the first Pixar film I loved.

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5 Favorites Redux #18: The Films of Bill Nighy

Welcome to 5 Favorites. Each week, I will put together a list of my 5 favorites (films, performances, whatever strikes my fancy) along with commentary on a given topic each week, usually in relation to a specific film releasing that week.

Last weekend, Emma opened in limited release. It expands wide this week and in honor of that release, I want to look at my favorite films featuring Bill Nighy. Nighy plays Mr. Woodhouse in this new adaptation of the Jane Austen novel. He has been acting on film since 1979, but only came to prominence in the last two decades, most notably for his appearance in the popular romantic comedy Love, Actually.

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