Sunday, January 23, 2011

2010 Recap - Motion Pictures - Non-Prestige Films

2010 films not designed to win Oscars, from best to worst:

Scott Pilgrim vs The World*
The first movie since, uh... Good Will Hunting?... that I saw twice in the theater. I've watched it again on DVD, and listened to two of the feature commentaries. Not only am I not sick of it yet, I still get all tingly watching The Clash At Demonhead scene, the Amp vs Amp battle, and the ending. My favorite movie of the year.

Memorable Quote: "I gotta pee on her!... I mean, I gotta pee. Pee time."

If you didn't enjoy yourself while watching MacGruber, you're watching movies wrong. The scene where MacGruber explains the origin of his rivalry with Dieter Von Cunth was the hardest I laughed all year.

Memorable Quote: "The only record I'm gonna break is the "amount of your own dick in your mouth" record."

Youth in Revolt
Pretty good! Just a nice little coming-of-age romp. Excellent use of The Fruit Bats "When U Love Somebody" weaved into the final act.

Memorable Quote: "I do all of my hiking free form. Like John Muir, I enter the wilderness with nothing more than my journal and a child-like sense of wonder."

Hot Tub Time Machine
I found this highly enjoyable, but I will grant that the lowered expectations that accompany DVD viewings may play a factor. If you paid full price to see Crispin Glover lose a hand, you might rank it differently. Or maybe you just have to be a fan of Motley Crue's "Home Sweet Home" to dig it.

Memorable Quote: "Here's a question. Was it morally wrong for me to exploit my knowledge of the future for personal financial gain? Perhaps. Here's another question. Do I give a fuck?"

Finally, a movie Nicolas Cage didn't ruin. Not the best superhero movie, but Hit Girl pushed it to an acceptable level.

Memorable Quote: I guess it was memorable when Hit Girl used the "C" word, but not really because I'd forgotten until I just looked up the IMDB quotes.

Date Night
Good enough for a date movie targeted to parents.

Memorable Quote: nah

The Town
Kind of dumb? But this movie proves that if you throw at least three heists into an otherwise cliched plot (with a strange romantic angle in there, too), you can still get a passing grade from the audience.

Memorable Quote: all the ones with those thick Boston accents. They talk different from you and me!

Get Him to the Greek
This was a comedy that made me smile several times, but no big laughs.

Memorable Quote: probably something Nick Kroll said to Diddy

Dinner for Schmucks*
I'm not a big Flight of the Conchords fan, but Jemaine Clement was easily the funniest part of this movie. Unfortunately, he's only in a few scenes.

Memorable Quote: nope

This movie definitely featured humans shooting at predators with huge guns (and in the Yakuza's case, stylish but comically useless small guns). In my book, that counts for something.

Memorable Quote: (bang bang bang bang pew pew bang bang bang)

Iron Man 2
Snore. Big time.

Memorable Quote: the one where Robert Downey Jr said something wry instead of flying around and punching stuff.

*Denotes theater viewing. Expectations that come with a full-price, pound-me-in-the-ass ticket prices almost certainly influence the rankings assigned.

Monday, January 17, 2011

2010 Recap - Motion Pictures - Prestige Films

The Hollywood Foreign Press and I agree that it doesn't make sense to compare heavy dramas to silly comedies, so I've divided my usual review of the year in film into two parts. Today I'll discuss the 2010 "prestige" films I've seen, from best to worst:

After the event, it's easy to poke holes in the plot and joke about the dialogue. And sure, hearing your coworkers discuss the ambiguous ending with misguided conviction subtracted from its impact. But when the van was slowly falling backwards toward the river, my attention was undivided and my mouth was agape.

Exit Through The Gift Shop
The coolest documentary ever? Far more mind-boggling than "Inception".

True Grit

Perfectly cast, acted, and directed. Yet somehow #3 on this list.

The Social Network*

Before "Fargo" begins, a note pops up that reads "This is a true story". It's not. The Coen brothers felt that adding that note would make the plot more believable for viewers - everyone could suspend their disbelief and marvel at how the story unfolded. "The Social Network" is a good movie, but it's fiction, and my appreciation of it waned as I learned more about its inaccuracies. Great use of The Beatles in the final scene, though.

Winter's Bone

I am probably overrating this, but it was original and should be rewarded accordingly in my prestigious rankings.

Black Swan*

I spent the first twenty minutes thinking about how gross ballet can be. The tops of your toes are not meant for that, girls! Yuck. Anyway, this was okay. A bit heavy on the horror side for my liking. When that ballet director made a toast "To Beauty!" I chortled, and resolved to make all my future toasts that pretentious.

The King's Speech*

Good, but good in the same respect that last week's PBS special on Ulysses S. Grant was good. After this weekend's pre-Oscar awards, it seems Colin Firth is bound to win Best Actor, which renews the need for separate acting awards - those impersonating real people (especially mentally handicapped people) should compete amongst each other, and those playing fictional characters should be grouped together.

Shutter Island

God, this movie is so old. Who cares? If you care, read the two sentences I wrote about it in October.

The Kids Are All Right*
I've previously mentioned how much I hate this movie.

Put it this way. In "The King's Speech", there isn't a lot of dramatic tension because we know everything will end up fine for the king. But pretending the film could fall into an alternate plane of history, what would be at stake? "Oh no! I hope that Duke of the royal family will manage to get by in life with his speech impediment! Hopefully he'll manage to keep his kids fed and his horses fed and his castle estate well-kept!"

"The Kids Are All Right" has an equal amount of dramatic tension as this skewed version of "The King's Speech". Strip away the "unique" plot aspects - a sperm donor, a lesbian partnership - and what you have is an unlikeable rich white couple with near-adult children who might get divorced. The horror! Stay together, split up - who gives a fuck?

*Denotes theater viewing. Expectations that come with a full-price, pound-me-in-the-ass ticket prices almost certainly influence the rankings assigned.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That's Phrasey!

Every time I hear the word "Jamaican", I think: "Jamaican me horny!".

Urine: "Urine luck!"

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

2010 Recap - Printed Words

Chuck Klosterman - Eating the Dinosaur
I really loved the essay comparing Nirvana's Kurt Cobain and Branch Davidian David Koresh, even if you could make a solid argument for why it should not exist. All of Klosterman's big ideas may be incorrect (or impossible to prove), but I'll forego accuracy so long as they're fun to read.

Nick Hornby - Juliet, Naked
Parts of this book delve into interactions on internet message boards for rock bands, assuring us of how lame a modern-day reboot of "High Fidelity" would be. Not an important or groundworking novel, I'm sure, but Hornby is so easy for me to digest I wonder if I'll ever dislike his work.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky - The Brothers Karamozov
I had this idea. I would ask my friends what their "most important" book was, and I'd read them, and we'd talk about how it affected each of us. Adrienne ruined the whole thing, because sweet lord is Russian literature long and... long. Really long. If I wanted to finish my experiment, I would have needed to renew the library loan roughly a billion times, and taken a week off work. Instead, I decided to shut it down. I'd read one-fourth of the mammoth text.

Carson McCullers - The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
I bought this paperback for a song (the title of the song was "One American Dollar") at the semi-annual book sale at the local library. The book reminded me of "Winesburg, Ohio", even though I read that book eight years ago and only remember some scene about a man in a church looking across the street at a woman (?). If I were to describe the theme of each book, it would be: Life's a bitch and then you die. (I am not a professional literary critic.)

Saul Bellow - The Adventures of Augie March
Another book bought cheap at the book sale. Another book with no discernible story arc. Another abandoned book.

Max Brooks - World War Z
I am growing weary of the zombie craze, and I had read a bit of Brook's tedious Zombie Survival Guide, so it took a strong recommendation from friends for me to read this. It is well done -- for one thing, it establishes clear rules of what zombies can (live underwater) and cannot (climb) do -- and hopefully the movie in development will also be well done.

Chuck Klosterman - Fargo Rock City
I'm just a few years young for the sweet spot of readership, but old enough to understand and appreciate most of the context. The only bad thing about this heavy metal retrospective is you occasionally get songs like Skid Row's "Remember Yesterday" in your head for 24 hours.

Bryan Lee O'Malley - the Scott Pilgrim series

I never got into comics. Reading this series, I realized that the subject material was never a problem - I just can't enjoy the style of reading comics. Do I read the dialogue first, or look at the drawing? How carefully do I need to look a the drawing? Where do I put my eye next? I looked at the author's blog, and he'd posted examples from his work that show how it can be a confusing process for the reader.

If Edgar Wright directs every comic adaptation going forward, I see no reason to read this stuff.

Kazuo Ishiguro - Never Let Me Go
I think this is a good book? Seeing the movie might help me decide. I can't figure out if I knew the novel's "secrets" because of what I'd read in book/film reviews (the NY Times review plainly reveals the "mystery"), or because the secret isn't well-kept. Certainly, readers should avoid the Library of Congress page. God forbid I check to see what year it was written, only to see the spoiler-laden labels the LOC applied to the novel.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Mournful Movie Moments

Again, this list is limited to movie theater experiences, and relationship issues to do not factor into the rankings.

Hackers (1995)
Bless the Child (2000)
Joe Dirt (2001)
These can all be lumped together. Each are awful movies, plus the experience was made worse because I convinced others to spend money on them. "Hackers" was the first time I led a group into a shitty movie ambush - there may have been 8 or 10 of us in total, and I promise you every one of them hated it. I guess I expected something akin to "Sneakers", which I'd seen over and over on VHS. "Sneakers" is still awesome, and while "Hackers" now has a cult following that I pray is ironic, it still sucks big time.

"Bless the Child" starred Kim Basinger and Jimmy Smits, and somehow that didn't set off red flags. The commercial was kinda spooky and cool, with the little girl actress saying something about the end of the world or -- I don't know, it was a total misfire on my part, and I convinced a friend to tag along, and maybe that's why he doesn't return my calls nowadays.

Do I need to say anything about "Joe Dirt"? I will anyway. I laughed every time the commercial aired, when David Spade put up his fists and said, "Why don't you say it into the microphone?" Sure, we knew Dennis Miller was involved, but this was before everyone was positive he turned crazy. Christopher Walken was billed, but he ended up with a very small part. After my 2 or 3 friends and I got out of the movie, we drove to Applebee's. ("Applebee's Eases The Pain" was the chain's slogan at the time, if memory serves.) I swear to God this happened: our waitress came back with our drink orders and asked why we looked so dazed. Joe Dirt literally put us in a stupor! We explained how bad the movie was, and I told her that I recognized her from not one but TWO places - she sangs sometimes at the church I attended, and I'd just seen her do some musical theater for the Music Listening Lab class I was taking for some art credit requirement. I quoted some of the song she sang in her musical scene, to add super stalker bonus points. As we were driving away, I realized I was responsible for our party's tip, and I hadn't left her anything -- again, Joe Dirt had scrambled our brains -- so I executed an erratic U-turn in the old Honda, ran inside, found her, and apologized and left some money. So yeah, I had a pretty good-sized crush on her.

Snake Eyes (1998)
Just after "The Rock" and "Con Air", my friend and I made a ridiculous pact to always watch Nic Cage movies together, so we got together to see this piece of crap. In modern times, it would be obvious that Cage would star in a piece of crap; back then, it was a huge disappointment. One of those suspense movies where you think, "Gee, that guy would be a really obvious villan, surely it will end with some other twist," only it doesn't.

The Thin Red Line (1998)
This movie came up the other day when Adrienne said she was excited for "Tree of Life", the new Terrence Malick movie to be released soon. I mentioned it was the first and only movie I ever walked out of - let me set the scene. 1998. "Saving Private Ryan" came out earlier in the year, which stoked everyone's interest in war-related films. My girlfriend and I decide to double date with Phil and his girlfriend, and we gentlemen choose this movie. We arrive late to a crowded theater (I told you everyone's interest was stoked!) and sit in the front row. The movie starts. Adrien Brody swims around on an island for a while. The army finally shows up. They walk around on Guadalcanal. Lots of shots of tall grass blowing in the wind. In what passes for an action scene, Woody Harrelson's ass is injured by a grenade. I remember being bored, and uncomfortable because the decision to subject the women to this movie was partially mine. We all look at each other, and decide our time can be better spent elsewhere. As we leave, we hear a girl wishing she was leaving, too.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001)
Hadn't read the book, theater full of little children, popcorn EVERYWHERE, too long...

The Punisher (2004)
I didn't care to see this, but my friends wanted to. I sat down in a row with available seats for all of us, but they kept walking up the steps, and sat in a row that only had enough seats for them. It was real bullshit.