Archive for the 'five things' Category

21
Sep
09

summer of movies. [five things. +3]

As the summer movie season is now long dead and gone, it’s long past the time to praise my favorite offerings from summer ’09. I’m the sort of moviegoer who loves the whole indie world, but feels just as home in a well-crafted summer movie. However, heading into the summer I wasn’t holding out much hope for too many strong movies. It is hard to look forward to the likes of X-Men Origins: Wolverine, which looked awful even in trailer form. It looks like this year was going to be a jarring letdown after last summer, in which we were spoiled with the likes of The Dark Knight and Iron Man. To my delight, while this summer wasn’t crammed with goodness week in and week out, there were still some movies I fell in love with. As always, I missed a bunch of movies I still look forward to seeing, so the list isn’t as exhaustive as I’d like.

1. Star Trek

For my money, you can’t have more fun at the movies than this. Just a week after the summer got off to a dismal start with a “story” which removed everything that makes Wolverine a great character, redemption came in the form of Star Trek. From start to finish the pleasure sensor in my brain was firing with wreckless abandon, and with a few forgivable exceptions, the film doesn’t require one to check their brain at the door.

Our group on opening night included, among others, my wife, who wouldn’t know Captain Kirk if he sat in her lap, myself, I’m not a huge fan but I enjoyed Wrath of Khan and First Contact as much as the next guy or gal, another friend who is a fairly big Star Trek fan, and Brian, who couldn’t watch trailers for the film without laughing out loud. As you can see, a diverse group in terms of expectations. In the end, everyone loved it.

For me, it didn’t take very long, by the time the opening segment ended and the title and logo graced the screen for the first time, I turned to Emily and whispered, “Holy shit, that was fucking awesome.” Flat out fun storytelling, right out of the gate. It kept going strong from that point on, quickly joining Iron Man and Batman as franchises in which I am itching for the next installment.

If you haven’t seen Star Trek yet, you most definitely should.

Star Trek Crew Banner

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2. Up

After a few more weeks in which nothing thrilled me at the movies, the film I was looking forward to most in the early summer months came out, Pixar’s Up. I’m always impressed with how well, and how consistently, Pixar tells a great story. Up was as good as anything Pixar has done to this point. The themes of loss, aging, death, loneliness and the redemptive power of loving others and being loved brought tears to my eyes more consistently than any other film in recent memory. I cried before the film’s story was even off and running, as Pixar offered a stunning montage of Carl and Ellie Fredrickson and their life together. Pixar is just so amazingly good at what they do, if you don’t like them, I think there might be something wrong with your brain.

Plus, if all the stuff I mentioned above isn’t enough, Ed Asner voices the crotchety but lovable old man. It doesn’t get more perfect than that folks, Ed Asner just happens to be America’s #1 crotchety but lovable old man. He was fantastic.

Plus, there are dogs with talking collars who fly planes, and there’s plenty of enjoyable action and comedy. The movie has everything. Come on! How could you not love Up?

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3. The Hangover

The HangoverWe laughed consistently and with volume, the unraveling of the mystery of what happened the night before effectively twisted the storytelling just enough to keep it from feeling like everything else out there, and we were entertained from start to finish. I don’t really ask for much more than that from a summer comedy.

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4. Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

There was a long stretch of weeks after The Hangover just waiting for Harry Potter. During that time, yes, I did go see Transformers 2, and yes, it really was as awful as you imagined. Fortunately, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince was as good as I’d hoped.

harry-potter-and-the-half-blood-prince-photo

I’m excited to see that David Yates continued the brilliant film making he started in Order of the Phoenix, it bodes well for what waits for us in Deathly Hallows 1 & 2. He certainly made some changes I could have done without, but all in all it seems like he gets what these stories are about and retains the symbols that stayed with me while reading the books. The imagery pointing to love being stronger than evil, resurrection, and light overcoming the darkness was on full display, as it should have been. Obviously, I can’t wait for 7.1!

5. (500) Days of Summer

500-days-of-summer

(500) Day of Summer seems to be one of those love it or hate it type films. As its presence on this list makes clear, I fall in the ‘love it’ category. It was different, quirky, and charming. I found the leads awkwardly likable in a way that made them feel like real people as opposed to the perfectly measured fake people in so many other romantic comedies, if that’s what you can call this movie.

It brought me back to college experiences where I fell into both categories on display in the film. It was everything I was hoping it would be, I loved it.

6. Paper Heart

Paper HeartLike the film listed above it, this was yet another film that was either loved or hated. The fact that I hated several movies that came out this summer assures me I’m not turning into one of those guys who loves everything that comes out. I just happened to love (500) Days AND Paper Heart. Sue me.

Part documentary, part scripted awkward love story, it brought something new to the table by combining elements that already existed. A mash-up of sorts that succeeded in creating a story at once charming and knowing. Also, I loved the segments in which they acted out the stories told by interviewees with puppets.

One complaint I heard was that the fact that the portions between Cera and Yi were scripted ruined the movie because it was a lie. First, it wasn’t a lie because they never pretended it wasn’t scripted outside of the actual film. Second, that’s the dumbest accusation I’ve ever heard… all movies are scripted, why on earth is it different because this script pretended to be a documentary. Does that mean This is Spinal Tap wasn’t hilarious and awesome?!? You’d better not say yes! Why should Paper Heart be faulted because they did a great job making the scripted moments feel genuine and authentic. Isn’t that what all movies are trying to do? Ugh, what a dumb problem to have with a movie!

The more common complaint about the film was that some felt Charlyne Yi was annoying. Fair enough, that’s bound to happen. In the immortal words of Trent “Some people don’t like me, I don’t like some people.” To each their own. I thought Yi was adorable and easy to love, and I felt the same way about Paper Heart.

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7. District 9

District 9As is the case for all of these movies, to really get into all that I loved about this movie, I would need a whole blog post. As my blogging infrequency makes clear of late, that’s just not something I have time to do at the moment. However, suffice it to say that this is another film that did something for a small enough amount of money that they were actually able to tell an engaging story. Without a studio paying careful attention to where each of their many millions was going, Neill Blomkamp was free to tell a sci-fi story without worrying about Happy Meals and action figures. Thus, it was able to be all the things science fiction should be, filled with commentary on real life issues and events, along with warnings about what human beings are capable of, for good and for evil.

I know the film has gotten plenty of critical acclaim, as is evidenced by the 90% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but even so, Sharito Copley’s performance as the lead simply has to be referred to as underrated. It was brilliant. The way he incarnates the metamorphosis from coward to hero, the way he made me feel it as his transformation from human to alien actually made him truly human for the first time was nothing short of brilliant. I loved his performance, and I loved District 9, even if the advertising did give away the climax of the movie.

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8. Inglourious Basterds

Whenever I say I have moral qualms with a movie I can’t help but feel taken back to those early evangelical days when I it was seen as sinful to watch R-rated movies (unless that movie is The Matrix or The Passion of the Christ). However, I do in fact have moral qualms with the reality that Tarantino seems to have completely bought in to the myth of redemptive violence, and more importantly, there are two key moments in the film that seem to revel in violence toward women. Maybe I misread those scenes and they are meant to be horrifying, but instead that’s not what I got at all. So, my appreciation of the film was certainly tempered a bit.

Maybe the reasons listed above should have kept me from loving Inglourious Basterds altogether, but instead they simply kept my from buying in with my whole heart. So many scenes in this film just sucked me in. Tarantino knows how to do what he does, from the tension tinged with humor of the opening moments, to the overwhelmingly cool scenes littered throughout the rest of the film, there are simply no two ways about it, Tarantino can craft a mood and a moment. The look, the feel, the remarkable grasp of how to use music to the effect he wants. That’s his shtick and he does it oh so well, for me, this may be the best he’s ever done it.

In addition to that, I love great performances, and I love great villains. I got a great performance from several different actors, while getting both the performance and the villain from the bone-chillingly remarkable Christoph Waltz. So many performances lit up the screen, Christoph, Brad Pitt, Mélanie Laurent, even BJ Novak was great in his first big role that wasn’t on The [American] Office.

The day after I saw the film, I found myself tempted to head back to the theater to see it again. It was a great film to close out my summer.

Inglourious Basterds

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(Movies I missed this summer, but most hope to see soon: The Limits of Control, Away We Go, The Hurt Locker, Moon, Public Enemies, Cold Souls)

The fall/winter movie season looks quite promising, so hopefully I’ll be back at the movies soon.


04
Aug
09

another mighty return of ‘five things.’ [8.4.09]

I know, I know, the blog has been really short on writing of late. Well, that’s a trend that is going to continue today. I’ve missed the old ‘five things’ posts, but haven’t had time or energy to write them. So, I’m going to compromise, I’m return to five things, but without the normal amount of writing. I’ll share with you what I’ve been enjoying lately, but with very little explanation. However, I’ll make up for it with pictures and videos. Plus, since I’ve gone so long without it I’ll try to do it more than once a week.

1. Regina Spektor – Far

Regina is back up to her beautiful old tricks again. Lovely.

Far

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2. Gears of War 2

Visually stunning, addictively enjoyable, and twistedly satisfying in all the ways a video game should be.

Gears of War 2

By the way, I love this trailer!

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3. True Blood

True Blood

The first season of True Blood was more of a guilty pleasure for me. I wasn’t always wowed by it, especially with the distractingly bad acting by Anna Paquin (sorry Anna), but for whatever reason I always wanted to keep watching.

Season Two is not a guilty pleasure, it’s just a pleasure. It’s painful when an episode ends and I know I need to wait an entire week for another installment. Soooooo good.

In addition, when did Eric become my favorite character? That really snuck up on me.

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4. M. Ward

My love affair with the music of M. Ward is nothing new, it’s just been particularly intense of late. He climbs a little higher into the ranks of my favorite artists all the time.

M. Ward

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5. Prototype

Yes, another video game. In this one, you’re basically a super anti-hero with unimaginable power that continues to grow throughout the game. I haven’t had time to get very far into the game yet, but so far it is a brutally good time. It even comes complete with zombies. What more could you ask for?

Prototype

A brief caution, the following cinematic is for mature audiences only. Just thought I’d give the heads up.

06
Feb
09

five things. 2.6.09

1. Our new layout

It’s said that necessity is the mother of invention. I tend to agree with that, and some more proof is that I stumbled upon a great new layout for our living room. We needed to find a way to fit tons of people into our living room for the Super Bowl party we had, and we sort of wanted everyone to actually be able to see the game.

Our first attempt at moving stuff around was a failure, but with everyone already invited and committed to coming, failure just wasn’t an option. That’s when inspiration struck. Move this over here, move that over there, and we had a great temporary remedy. However, we loved having some of the new benefits that our temporary set-up afforded us, thus, I spent an afternoon earlier this week making it possible to make it a permanent layout. We love it!

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Our room feels longer, we can still see the television well, and the bonus is that now we have room in the corner to put a bar/wine rack thing. Gooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalllllllllll!

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2. MLB Network

mlb_network_logoThe beginning of February marked the launch of the remarkably wonderful MLB Network. I haven’t had much time to watch it yet, but thus far I’ve been able to watch some of the Caribbean World Series and a show called Hot Stove which, obviously, deals with baseball’s hot stove news.

Some of the other programming I have been looking forward to are: Studio 42 with Bob Costas – An interview show with Costas, and the debut episode featured Joe Torre. As well as Prime 9 – A show that looks at the top nine of a particular category. So, the 9 best CF in baseball history, or the 9 best World Series, or the nine best teams to grace a field, etc. They’ll also be showing the Ken Burns baseball doc as well. So, exciting stuff all around.

All I know, is the days where I wait impatiently for ESPN to cover baseball for 30 minutes during the day are over, now I’ll enjoy 24 hour baseball love, year ’round.

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3. Free Ringtones

For so long now, I’ve only had one ringtone on my iPhone. Now, I’m not complaining, the mere fact that I actually have an iPhone is more than enough for me. However, it was still a little annoying that iTunes expected me to pay 99 cents for every ringtone I wanted to make.

Well, all that is over now that I’ve finally found out how to make free ringtones for my iPhone. Thanks to the wonderful world of the internets I can now turn any 30 second song clip in my music library into a personalized ringtone for my friends so I know who is calling. Lots of people have been doing this already for a long time, but I’ve been behind the curve. If you too would like to make your very own free iPhone ringtones then check this out: Free Custom iPhone Ringtones using only iTunes.

If I happen to have your phone number, and you have requests as to what song should serenade me when you give me a call, let me know in the comments.

iphone3

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4. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2

In case you haven’t noticed yet, I’m a nerd. Granted, for the most part there isn’t a very clear civilwar001var_col1distinction anymore, thanks in large part to the fact that more and more people like comic book movies and play video games all the time. However, a discusssion of nerds in culture can be saved for another day.

I point out that I’m a nerd to help make sense of my excitement about the approaching Marvel: Ultimate Alliance sequel, which is expected in Fall of ’09. The original (itself a sequel to X-Men Legends) was a riproaring good time for people who like fun video games, or people who like superheroes. That made it the perfect storm for people like me who greatly enjoy both.

The sequel is inspired by the general outline of a recent event in the Marvel Comics universe called ‘Civil War.’ I haven’t read the storyline myself, but everyone seems to love it. Basically, the government decides that superheroes and metahumans are too dangerous to wander around freely, so after a disaster in suburban America a bill is rushed through that requires all superheroes to register as ‘weapons of mass destruction.’ The resulting fallout has heroes picking sides and facing off against one another, with guys like Iron Man and Mr. Fantastic siding with the pro-reg goverment, and guys like Wolverine and Cap’n America falling on the anti-reg side.

The game won’t follow the comics completely, one notable difference being that you get to decide whether or not you are pro or anti registration, and thus you will also get to decide where many, though not all, of the heroes fall as well.

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5. Brian is finally moving!!

dsc03256So, after months of possibility, it is finally official. Brian is moving out here to Seattle. By ‘official’, I mean he has actually purchased his one way plane ticket out here.

That’s right, folks, the Emerald City is moving from awesome to awesomer. See that, I’m already using words that don’t exist to describe the collective elation of the Small household. Even Donkey is excited, and with most people she tends to lean toward the anti-social side of the spectrum.

Donkey

30
Jan
09

five things. 1.30.09

The first three additions to this week’s five things are related to new music. I had gone quite a while without any new music in my life; neither the “artists I’d never listened to” type of new music, nor the “new album from an artist who is already a favorite” type has recently graced my life. Gladly, that changed over the last two weeks with the introduction of three new albums to my playlist.

1. Merriweather Post Pavilion – The Animal Collective

Merriweather Post PavilionFrom the first category, that of artists I haven’t really listened to before, I’ve really been enjoying the new CD by The Animal Collective. They’re one of those bands I kept meaning to check out, but the list is so long it is hard to really get to most of the bands on the list. Thus far, I really do enjoy the newest CD, which apparently (according to Brian) is already getting buzz as the best album of the year. That’s right, in January.

Thus far, it is one of those CDs that I enjoy a bit more on each hearing. I find myself at a loss to really describe the music. Perhaps this is because they are hard to describe, it could be the fact that I am starving right now and it is starting to cloud my brain. Alas, either way I’ll just have to leave you with the fact that I do enjoy the CD quite a bit.

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2. Get Guilty – AC Newman

The second new CD I’ve been listening to quite a bit lately is by New Pornographers frontman AC Get GuiltyNewman. His second solo effort, it is the first that I’ve been exposed to. Since the New Pornographers are on the same list I mentioned earlier, that of bands I need to check out some time, I can’t offer you a comparison between Newman’s solo stuff, and that of the band’s work.

What I can say is that the CD is a great listen, the kind I can put on repeat and listen to over and over again, which is rare for me. The CD is made up of strong, smart, tight songwriting, both from a musical and lyrical standpoint.

My enjoyment of it will certainly get me to emusic to download his earlier solo stuff, and it will move The New Pornographers to the top of said ‘bands I need to listen to’ list.

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3. Noble Beast – Andrew Bird

Noble BeastFinally, as far as new music is concerned, I’ve been listening to Andrew Bird’s newest release. What can I say aside from the fact that I love Andrew Bird. To me, his music is at once silly and serious, joyful and melancholy, not to mention fun and beautiful… not that those are contradictory like the others seem to be. Also, let’s not forget that Andrew Bird is, like, the greatest whistler ever.

Noble Beast finds Andrew at the top of his game, and I highly, highly, highly recommend it.

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4. Movies With Friends

I add this because it occurred to me yesterday how much more enjoyable it is to watch movies when you have friends over.

Our friends Austin and Danielle came over yesterday to watch Wanted with us. The movie ranged from completely lame to “this scene should be really cool but it is only kinda cool.” Yet, even though none of us enjoyed the movie, outside of the general sexiness of Angelina Jolie and Common (who was badass, but had far too little time on screen), the two hour experience was redeemed a bit due to the fact that we watched it together.

I guess you could transform that old phrase about shared joy and sorrow to fit movies as well: “Sharing a great movie doubles enjoyment, while sharing a crappy movie halves the misery.” Then again, a few of the comments made during particularly lame scenes actually redeemed them to the point of enjoyment, so it doesn’t even just cut the misery in half, but instead can potentially eradicate it altogether.

So, **raises what may well be the last frosty he will ever eat** here’s to friendship!

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5. Spring Training is coming…

cubswin9-17-07This is the last ‘five things’ in January. Just one more day to go and we will all be residing in the shortest month of the year. And you know what happens in February right? It is of course when we get to utter the four most beautiful wordsqdxloibl our language has yet formed into a single phrase: pitchers and catchers report.

Pretty soon the time will come when there will be baseball to watch, follow, and speculate on again. Glorious, wonderful, amazing baseball.

It won’t get here a moment too soon.

02derek-jeter

23
Jan
09

five things. 1.23.09

So, I’m sorry this post went up twice without being finished. That’s what happens when you schedule a blog that isn’t done yet, and then get too busy to finish it. Alas, here is this week’s five things in their actual form.

1. Netflix on XBOX 360 – The first two of this week’s five things require credit being given to Waldo, who blogged about each of them himself, in a single post no less, quite recently.

I’d been one of the seeming few who held out with Blockbuster Video’s online rental plan while it seemed most had jumped ship to Netflix. The ability to walk into a store to trade a mailer in while receiving an in-store rental plus another mailer was too good to pass up. Yet, now that I finally got my XBOX Live working (thanks in no part to the people of Microsoft’s customer service), Netflix has a new advantage for it in that I can watch HD movies. We don’t have a Bluray player, so the fact that on our 360 we can watch available films in HD is sweeeeet! It was enough to get us on board for a free two week trial.

It’s only been about a week, but I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

2. King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters – Again, Waldo already blogged about this one. I finally saw it myself, and I’m glad I did. It’s a documentary, the story of a guy who can’t seem to catch a break in life, who tries to acheive the highest score on the classic Donkey Kong arcade game. The primary challenge is that a remarkably arrogant, unintentionally hilarious man name Billy Mitchell has held the record for two decades and is best friends with the organization who keeps track of these types of records.

A little bonus is that the hero of the film is from Redmond, WA, so it was like rooting for the hometown guy.

If you haven’t seen it, check it out!

3. Assassin’s Creed

My sister-in-law bought this game for me for Christmas, and let me tell you, it’s awesome!

When I was in second grade, our teacher asked our whole class what we wanted to be when we grew up. She made a list, then had us draw pictures of said profession and put them in the hallway for our parents to see when they came in for the school’s open house. When it came to my turn, I boldly declared that I wanted to be a Ninja when I grew up. So, in the midst of all the crayon drawings of doctors and firefighters, my parents had to look at future Scott, dressed all in black, with a bloody katana blade in each hand.

My dream was of silently slipping through the shadows and taking the lives of my enemies. Assassin’s Creed makes that dream come true.

Sure, I may have grown up to be a man who doesn’t believe in war, who rants and rails against the myth of redemptive violence to all who will listen. But, somewhere deep inside there is still an assassin my friends, and as Assassin’s Creed’s hero Alta’ir, that internal assassin moves across the rooftops of the Middle East during the crusades and kills with no discrimination.

It doesn’t hurt that the game is visually beautiful, especially in HD!

I highly encourage anyone in the area who is interested to come over and give it a try. Austin, Tim, Brent… you know you want to.

4. Where The Wild Things Are – Most of you probably remember this children’s book. By this point you may or may not know that Spike Jonze is directing a film based on the book. I wasn’t sure what to think, but I must confess, these recent promotional photos make me happy: (Please excuse the fairly lame skateboard theme of the promotion)

wildthingspromo1wildthingspromo2wildthingspromo3

5. My New Scarf – My friend KJ makes scarves, and recently she made me one. I won a silent auction at the MHGS Christmas party for it. I’ll have a link coming soon to show you all, so there is more to come on this one.

10
Jan
09

TEN things. 1.10.09

That’s right folks, 2009’s first ‘five things’ post actually includes ten whole things. Double the normal dosage!

The ten things just so happen to be my favorite ten movies of 2008. To make the selection process easier for myself, I’m only including movies that actually came out (or, came out here in Seattle) during the 2008 calendar year, rather than including any movie I happened to see for the first time last year. That being the case, films that would have made the list, like There Will Be Blood, stay off the list because here in Seattle it was out in December of 2007).

I also feel the need to point out that it is entirely possible my list will change as time passes and it becomes clear which movies stick with me and which were merely enjoyable for a single viewing.

So, here they are, in no particular order:

1. Wall-E

Wall-E

Personally, I don’t think there are better storytellers in the business than Pixar. They continually offer films that entertain, amaze and inspire me. It would be easy for their technological innovations to interfere with their storytelling, but instead their talent within the medium they utilize always feels like but one facet of  consistently heartfelt stories that consistently tug at the wonder in me.

That being said, Wall-E is Pixar at the top of their game. I loved it. Twice.

2. Slumdog Millionaire

Slumdog Millionaire

If it weren’t for the fact that I don’t like the finality of putting my favorite things in order, this film might have been my favorite of the year. I’m withholding on making that claim too strongly because I saw it too late in the year and the emotion probably still hasn’t worn off yet (which is also probably true of Benjamin Button, but more on him lately).

One critic that was featured prominently in the film’s tv spots described the film as a “hymn to life.” I couldn’t agree more.

Can love really bend even destiny toward its purposes? Can all things, even the most heinous and inequitable, really work together for the good? There is something remarkably poignant about asking these questions within the suffering and ineluctability of the slums of India.

This film was wonderfully crafted. The acting, the directing, the fantastic casting; each part of the film was brilliant. I loved it from the troubling opening moments right to the ode to Bollywood in the credits.

3. Iron Man

Iron Man

Iron Man, while in my top ten this year, also happens to be my wife Emily’s favorite film of the year. This is saying a lot since she didn’t even want to see the movie beforehand and we saw it at 11:00pm opening night. Emily normally falls asleep during movies when we start them too late, even movies she later loves. Emily left Iron Man filled with adrenaline and probably would have been ready to start it again if it had been possible.

I won’t argue with her, Marvel Studios’ first self-made film was a roaring success in more ways than one.

A great cast, Jon “Favs” Favreau making us proud, exciting action, wonderful effects, an enjoyable story, and the resurrection of Robert Downey Jr. I mean, come on, what more could you want?

Bring on 2010! Bring on Iron Man 2!

4. The Visitor

The Visitor

I believe this movie had been premiered in various places previous to 2008, but it wasn’t actually fully released until April of 2008, so it counts.

I’ve written about The Visitor before in a previous five things post, and like I wrote then:

“The Visitor is a lovely film. It does a great job, among other things, holding on to both tragedy and hope, which is beautiful because in life, one is never absent of the other. The film had the unforced subtlety and nuance of life, and before I knew it I fell in love with the characters and found myself wanting the story to continue on after it ended (much like writer/director Thomas McCarthy’s other film The Station Agent).

I came away from the film with the reminder that, at the risk of sounding cheesy, we are the music in each others lives. While allowing others into our lives may open us up to the pain of loss and heartache, we aren’t really living if our days aren’t filled with the rhythm of community and family.”

5. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Benjamin Button

Another film that would have made it impossible for me to pick my flat out favorite film of the year, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button was wonderful. Based on a short story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the story which is brilliantly told in the film reached a place internally for me that only works of great beauty can seem to touch.

Benjamin Button engages the glory and the tragedy of life and death, of love, and of the frailty of being human. It reminds the viewer that, as the tagline says, ‘Life isn’t measure in minutes, but in moments.” I sat through the nearly three hours of the film without ever once considering checking my watch. It even went unscathed by the drunk couple that had to be forcibly removed because they kept making loud noises and throwing popcorn at nearby moviegoers. It is a wonderful addition to my top ten list.

6. The Fall

The Fall

This was another film that had been released at festivals and such as early as 2006, but was only finally released to the general public here in 2008, and thus, it makes the list.

When I wrote about the film in a ‘five things’ post earlier this year, I wrote: “The Fall was a beautiful film in every way. I loved its interaction with the meaning and power of storytelling, it’s engagement with the mystery of shared imagination, it’s pondering of the redemptive power of innocence, and, well, just about everything. A wonderful film full of tragedy and hope.”

That still seems like a pretty accurate way to talk about my experience of the film, although I would add that it is probably important to point out how visually and musically fantastic the film was as well. I need to watch this one again soon.

7. The Dark Knight

The Dark Knight

Ah yes, The Dark Knight. It’s hard for a movie this anticipated to live up to the hype, much less exceed expectations, but this film succeeded. Sure, there were some weaknesses, like the ridiculous mistake of Harvey Dent’s ultimate fate for one, and that whole ‘two boats loaded with explosives’ thing for another. Yet, even the whole boat thing only fell flat with me because of how strong the film had been up to that point. I think I was really just disappointed because it took what had been a brilliant rumination on chaos and order and instead turned into a neatly packaged moral lesson.

Up to that point I think the character of the Joker left the moralist in us uneasily asking “The Joker’s totally wrong about how the world works, isn’t he?” So it felt cheap to then say, of course he is wrong, and to prove it, here is a ridiculously implausible and contrived situation. But, again, that would’ve probably gone unnoticed for a viewing or two in any other comic book film, it only stood out in The Dark Knight because of the strength of the rest of the storytelling.

As a whole the film was great, another moody and gripping send up of, well, The Dark Knight. Christopher Nolan has been able to offer us everything Batman can potentially be as a character.

Also, I disagree with the many who have said that Heath Ledger’s performance as The Joker was strong. It wasn’t strong, it was downright perfect. Just one ever so small (utterly tiny) part of the tragedy of Ledger’s death was that we never get to see where this brilliant actor continued to take this character in the future.

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This year, I realized just how rare great comedies are. So often they’re spotty or stupid, or else the great comedies of each year stand alone. There was a long dry spell where there was just nothing that could consistently make me laugh in one scene without causing my to roll my eyes in the next. Lately, great comedies have been reemerging, and this year was no exception. There were several films released which made me laugh heartily and consistently throughout the film. So, while I may regret them being included in my favorites list for 2008 when I look back next year, I’ve come to appreciate the art of helping someone have a great time for two hours during a film, and for a lifetime of quoting lines after the film. Thus, I decided to honor the genre by giving the remainder of the list to some of my favorite comedies of the year.

8. Pineapple Express

Pineapple Express

Two-thirds rollicking stoner comedy (the first of the sub-genre I’ve ever liked), one-third ridiculous but well-executed orgy of violence, Pineapple Express was hugely entertaining. Highlighted by the impressive and hilarious performance by James Franco as a lovably inept pot dealer who, among other things, was convinced you could be tracked through the woods by a barracuda.   

9. Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Forgetting Sarah Marshall

Judd Apatow has practically created a new genre of comedy by somehow combining the foul-mouthed, sophmoric humor of reality with genuine insight into life and relationships. The comedy of these films is helped in large part by strong, hilarious casts who can all hold their own making up memorably funny lines from scene to scene, the line-o-rama as the group likes to call it.

Now, it seems to be Apatow’s M.O. to start producing projects written by consistent collaborators with him, such as Seth Rogen in the previously mentioned Pineapple Express, and here in the Jason Segel scripted Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Emily made sure I included this one, because of how consistently I apparently laughed out loud the first time we saw it.

10. Tropic Thunder

Tropic Thunder

This movie makes it on the list for plenty of reasons, the enjoyment I draw from seeing the continued emergence of Jay Baruchel’s career and the surpising performance by Tom Cruise among them. Yet, my favorite part of this movie is the hilarious performance of Robert Downey Jr. Coupled with Iron Man, it was the knockout blow in the one-two punch that made damn sure his career had been revived. For those who haven’t seen the film yet, the trailer’s didn’t do Downey’s performance justice. It was definitely the best performance of a white American playing a white Austrailian playing a black American guy in history.

14
Nov
08

five things. 11.14.08

1. The New Watchmen Trailer –

Thanks to Jesse’s comment on this week’s Trailer Park Tuesday I was able to see the new Watchmen trailer. I know, I’m slipping this last two weeks.

Anyway, it obviously needs to be included in this week’s ‘five things’.

http://movies.yahoo.com/feature/watchmen.html?showVideo=1

2. Drunk History –

If you’ve already been blessed by the hilarity of Drunk History then this is just a refresher. However, if you are still a virgin to this wonderful world then today your life changes for the better.

It’s just like the History Channel, but the historians are drunk and the actors recreating the scenes are talented individuals like Jack Black and Michael Cera, among others.

Here is where I insert the language warning as a courtesy to my readers, the ‘gloaming and dawn’ equivalent of the parental advisory sticker. Then, with that out of the way, it’s on with the show.

Drunk History: Vol. 1

Drunk History: Vol. 2

Drunk History: Vol. 3

Drunk History: Vol. 4

Bonus:

Drunk History: 2.5

3. TNF –

My hope this year before the football season started was to invite as many people as would come to our place on Monday nights to enjoy some Monday Night Football on ESPN. Sadly, my friends and I quickly realized that the counseling students had a class on Monday nights, making our MNF dates impossible.

That led to plan B, Thursday Night Football. We had to wait a while since Thursday night games weren’t starting on NFL Network until Week 10, but alas, the time has come.

Two weeks ago we had two guests to watch Brady Quinn’s debut against the Broncos, but last night our numbers grew to six guests for the Jets/Pats game. It was a great night of beer (including the tasty Rogue Dead Guy Ale), football, Drunk History, laughter and great company. I hope there is more to come!

4. Quantum Of Solace And The New Cinerama Seats –

At the time of this writing, I still haven’t experienced either of these yet. That will come later this evening. However, Em and I have been looking forward to this for some time. We’ve been excited about the new seats at Cinerama since word came that they were on their way, and I myself have been excited about the new Bond since the moment the credits rolled on Casino Royale the first time I saw it.

I suppose there is always the potential for disappointment in both respects, but I can’t wait until tonight either way.

5. Brian’s Interview At The Art Institute –

Brian had a good first experience at The Art Institute and he seems really excited about what the opportunity might mean for him. Em and I are excited on his behalf, hoping that the potential of this moment bears fruit and that Brian moves further into his vocation.

It’s an exciting time to see someone you love on the verge of something exciting and new, and I’m grateful for it.




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