Archive for the 'the many lists of 2009' Category

26
Feb
10

all the rest. [the many lists of 2009.]

I wanted to write a full version of all the lists of 2009, I really did. However, the prospect of a new blog project, the various school writing, a few other writing commitments, along with said lists created a logjam which resulted, because I am who I am, in my utter inability to write any of the above. I just couldn’t do it. Thus, to get the lists out into the blogosphere for the 2.5 people who care, here they are, albeit without the explanations and such for each film/book/cd/etc. I hope this alleviates some of the pressure and hopefully gets my mind-grapes juicy again.

If anyone is interested in conversation concerning the particulars of any or all of these various lists, I would LOVE to do that, so email me, or comment me, or show up at my house in a black van and throw a bag over my head.

As a side note to this post, I didn’t realize the movie Pontypool was actually released in ’09, and if I had it would have made it on just about every list I’ve compiled so far. Granted, that would have made the lists even more zombie centered, but in a year full of great zombie entertainment, Pontypool was my favorite of them all. Smart, small, tense and wildly original. For my money, Pontypool is legit. Good job, Canada.

On a similar note, I didn’t realize Away We Go came out this year as well, but let it be known I adored that film as well.

Now, on with the lists, and, as always, there is no particular order for a single one of them.

Most Surprising:

These are the films that exceeded my expectations the most. For some, I assumed I would hate them and really enjoyed them, for some, I thought I would like/love them and they still blew me away.

1. Drag Me To Hell
2. Star Trek
3. The Hangover
4. Moon
5. In The Loop
6. Julie & Julia
7. Coraline
8. Inglourious Basterds
9. Extract (especially Ben Affleck)
10. Where The Wild Things Are

Honorable mention: Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Up in the Air

I was also going to do a ‘most disappointing list, but I decided there is enough negativity in the world, and I’m not sure what my list would accomplish. Thus, I burned it, and by ‘I burned it,’ I mean ‘it is still sitting in my notebook with my other lists but it didn’t make the blog.’

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Best Scenes, Moments or Devices:


1. The pre-title moments of Star Trek – as I’ve written before, once the film’s title graced the screen in all its splendor, I turned to Emily and whispered “Holy shit that was fucking amazing.” It was love at first sight.
2. The marriage vignette at the beginning of Up – If someone gave me only 5 minutes to explain how remarkably gifted the Pixar folks are at storytelling, I would simply show them this vignette and leave it at that.
3. The howling of Where The Wild Things Are – I should probably write an entire post on this, the final howling is especially powerful for me.
4. Zombieland and the best cameo ever!
5. Dance scene in (500) Days of Summer
6. Having all the characters say ‘cuss’ instead of bad words in The Fantastic Mr. Fox... this is going to be a clustercuss for everyone.
7. Opening moments of Inglourious Basterds
8. The woman slowly waking up to zombies holding her insides in Dead Snow
9. The conclusion of Paper Heart
10. Every moment of Sam Rockwell’s performance in Moon

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Franchise Installments of ’09 that make me most excited for the next one:

1. Sherlock Holmes
2. Star Trek
3. Harry Potter
4. Avatar
5. Zombieland

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Best Movies That Didn’t Come Out in ’09, That I Saw For The First Time:


1. Amelie
2. Being John Malcovich
3. Oldboy
4. Let The Right One In
5. Brick
6. Sunshine
7. Kill Bill
8. The Shining
9. Serenity
10. Rachel Getting Married

Honorable Mention: The Squid and the Whale, Milk, Alien, Sugar, Waltz with Bashir, Young Frankenstein, Joyeux Noel, Paris je t’aime

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Favorite Video Games I Played in 2009:

1. Mass Effect
2. Assassin’s Creed II
3. Arkham Asylum
4. Gears of War 2
5. Marvel Ultimate Alliance 2


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Favorite TV Shows I watched in 2009

1. Lost
2. Chuck
3. True Blood
4. 30 Rock
5. Mad Men
6. Community


7. Daily Show/Colbert Report
8. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia
9. The League
10. Californication


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My Favorite Albums Released in 2009


1. Muse – The Resistance
2. Mos Def – The Ecstatic
3. M. Ward – Hold Time
4. David Bazan – Curse Your Branches
5. Andrew Bird – Noble Beast
6. AC Newman – Get Guilty
7. Grizzly Bear- Veckatimest
8. The Decemberists – The Hazards of Love
9. Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix
10. St. Vincent – Actor

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Best Books I Read in 2009:

1. Speaker for the Dead – Orson Scott Card
2. Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury
3. The Brothers K – David James Duncan
4. A Farewell to Arms – Ernest Hemingway
5. Slaughterhouse-Five – Kurt Vonnegut
6. Undergoing God – James Alison
7. The Old Man and the Sea – Ernest Hemingway
8. Jesus Wants To Save Christians: A Manifesto for a Church in Exile – Rob Bell & Dan Golden
9. The Giver – Lois Lowry
10. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell – Susanna Clarke (even though I finished the last of this in 2010)

05
Feb
10

movies of 2010 i’m most excited for.

I was going to save this list for last, since it seemed fitting to end my 2009 lists with one looking ahead to 2010. However, at the pace I am writing these who knows what month we will be in by the time I finish. Thus, I’m going ahead with this one now. Here are the movies of 2010 that I am anticipating with the most excitement. The list will probably shift as the year goes on and I learn more of the films coming later in the year, but for now, this is the list. As always, in no particular order.

1. Inception

Written & Directed by: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy, Ken Watanabe

Release Date: July, 16

So, with the exception that this poster (while still great) looks an awful lot like the poster for Christopher Nolan’s last movie, everything about this film makes me wish it came out in February instead of July. Part sci-fi, part heist film, part thriller, part spy film, and probably a bunch of other genres as well, Nolan will once again blast us off into the world of great storytelling. The guy brought us Memento, Batman Begins, The Prestige, and The Dark Knight, and this time he is working with DiCaprio. (momentary Gob Bluth voice) C’mon! How can anyone not be excited about this movie?

Here is the newest trailer, full of wonderfulness:

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2. Iron Man 2

Written By: Justin Theroux

Directed By: Jon Favreau

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle, Mickey Rourke, Scarlett Johannson, Sam Rockwell

Release Date: May 7

Have you seen the first Iron Man?! That’s really all that needs to be said. Plus, this time around we get War Machine. Come quickly May, come quickly.

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3. Alice in Wonderland

Written by: Linda Woolverton (screenplay), Lewis Carroll  (books)

Directed By: Tim Burton

Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Anne Hathaway, Crispin Glover, Michael Sheen, Alan Rickman

Release Date: March 5

Tim Burton telling the story of one of Alice’s Wonderland adventures through the lens of his dark and beautiful imagination. Yes, please.

See the most recent, and to date the longest trailer here: Alice in Wonderland

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4. Kick-Ass

Written By: Mark Millar (graphic novels) Jane Goldman (screenplay)

Directed By: Matthew Vaughn

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Release Date: April 16

The poster is telling me to shut up and kick-ass so I will keep it short. The trailer, as well as all early reports from people who have seen the film or footage of the film so far say Kick-Ass does indeed kick ass.

Here is the brand new (within the last week) international red band trailer, it starts off with familiar footage, but offers some wonderful new stuff later on: Kick-Ass

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5. Dinner for Schmucks

Written By: Andy Borowitz (screenplay) Ken Daurio (writer)

Directed By: Jay Roach

Starring: See Below.

Release Date: July 23

This one doesn’t have a poster, or a trailer for me to offer you yet. However, I doubt I need to. Eight small words should be all you need. Those words are: Paul. Rudd. Zach. Galifianakis. Steve. Carrell. Jemaine. Clement.

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6. Toy Story 3

Written By: Michael Arndt

Directed By: Lee Unkrich

Starring: Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Michael Keaton, Joan Cusack, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, Don Rickles, Estelle Harris

Release Date: June 18

If you don’t know how much I love Pixar, then we’ve never met before, and you have probably never been to this website either. Thus, let me introduce myself. I’m Scott, and this is my blog, Gloaming and Dawn. I think Pixar tells stories as well as anyone else in the business, and until they find a way to disappoint me I will await each new release with bated breath, especially after last year’s Up.

See the trailer here: Toy Story 3

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7. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World

Written By: Bryan Lee O’Malley (graphic novels) Edgar Wright & Michael Bacall (screenplay)

Directed By: Edgar Wright

Starring: Michael Cera, Kieran Culkin, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Satya Bhabha, Chris Evans, Anna Kendrick, Brie Larson, Alison Pill, Aubrey Plaza, Brandon Routh

Release Date: August 13

No trailer has been released as of yet, but I assure you I will post one when it becomes available. Directed by the genius who helped give the world Hot Fuzz, Shaun of the Dead, and Spaced, the movie is an adaptation of the graphic novels of the same name. It’s about the title character, who meets the girl of his dreams only to discover that her seven evil exes are out to kill him. The film figures to be absurd in all the best possible ways, and nobody does that better than Mr. Wright.

They showed the current version of the film in Vegas last month and early buzz is great.

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8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part One

Written By: J.K. Rowling (novel) Steve Kloves (screenplay)

Directed By: David Yates

Starring: Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Helena Bonham Carter, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Bonnie Wright

Release Date: November 19

If I had to give my voice away Little Mermaid-style for a chance to live at Hogwarts, I would do it, no doubt about it. Hopefully one of the talented witches or wizards there would be able to help me get my voice back, or fake it. Sadly, I know of no scary octopus lady to make such a deal with, so I will have to watch the movies and reread the books instead.

The trailer is up on YouTube if you care to check, but the quality is pretty consistently terrible, so just rent the Blu-Ray for Half-Blood Prince if you are really dying to see it.

Only two film installments left and we will get a new Harry Potter experience for the last time, thus placing people of all ages worldwide on suicide watch. That is until they can scrounge up the money to head down to Orlando to visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, which opens this Spring. I want to go to there. (Go ahead, judge me.)

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9. Tron Legacy

Written By: Adam Horowitz & Richard Jefferies

Directed By: Joseph Kosinski

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde, Garrett Hedlund, Michael Sheen, John Hurt, Serinda Swan

Release Date: December 17

In my mind, this trailer doesn’t really get old. Watch it in wonderful HD here: Tron Legacy

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10. Green Zone

Written By: Rajiv Chandrasekaran (book) Brian Helgeland (screenplay)

Directed By: Paul Greengrass

Starring: Matt Damon

Release Date: March 12

This one is just around the corner. The tagline on the poster is obviously terrible, but two of the primary people responsible for Bourne’s Supremacy and Ultimatum team up again. In my opinion, enough said.

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Honorable Mention: Shutter Island, Jonah Hex, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Robin Hood, Gulliver’s Travels

So, there’s my list. What movies are you most excited to see this year? (And for some reason, whenever I ask that sort of question people seem to think they can only pick off my list, not true!)

28
Jan
10

best fights and action scenes, part one. [the many lists of 2009.]

I wanted to get all of these done in January, but, that’s obviously not going to happen. Instead, I will try to enjoy the absurdity of continuing to celebrate my favorite things from 2009 in February of 2010. Hopefully, you will join me. Today’s list is part one of my favorite (or in one case, least favorite) fights and action scenes from the year.

***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it may be safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***

1. Star Trek finale

What’s not to love about the final face-off between Nero and the crew of the Starship Enterprise? Kirk pulls off his first daring, insane plan to save the world as he and Spock learn to work together, there is a cliché but nonetheless exhilarating nick of time rescue as the Enterprise swoops in like the proverbial cavalry to save the three brave Starfleet members aboard the mining ship, and we get to see Kirk swing from underdog to swagger in just a few short minutes of screen time. It was everything a smart action crescendo should be.

And all the people said, ‘Amen.’

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2. Mike Tyson vs. Zach Galifianakis – The Hangover

It was certainly the shortest fight of the year, so short in fact that it was over before Galifianakis’ character Alan Garner knew he was in a fight. Mike Tyson’s still got it. For all its brevity, it is still one of my favorite fight scenes of the year. How can you top a one punch knockout of a bizarre fat guy with a bearded face by crazy ex-heavy weight champ with a tattooed face and a lisp?

I’ve got a fever, and the only prescription is more Zach Galifianakis!

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3. FOX vs. Wolverine

Growing up, all the boys and many of the girls I knew wanted to be Wolverine. He was the ultimate badass. He had claws coated in indestructible metal that spawned from his fists at will, and regardless of what injuries befell him, he would be healed in short order by his remarkable healing factor. Plus, he could hunt man and animal alike by smell and instinct alone. Pretty awesome.

More importantly, he was really short, thus validating my own vertical challenges, and he was angry all the time but still a hero, thus making me less alone in personally being angry all the time but still wanting to be a good guy.

As an adult, I still admire the character of Wolverine. He struggles to hold an internal tension between brutality and gentleness, between the grace of Eastern philosophy with the vicious nature of the Samurai. He is always pulled in two directions, trying to reconcile the dark past and savage urges that are always just beneath the surface with the intense goodness and nobility in him.

He is also loads of fun in being nearly unbeatable. A formidable foe who many have tried to destroy only to face the wrath of his adamantium justice. Yet, somehow, the villains at Fox succeeded in destroying this fearsome hero. They took everything that is great and complex about Wolverine and flushed it down the toilet, replacing it with infuriatingly stupid ideas they decided would resonate better with a mainstream audience (because, you know, dark stories like The Dark Knight don’t resonate with mainstream audiences, thus they don’t make any money… wait, that’s not right). X-Men Origins: Wolverine still made a lot of money, but it would have made 3x as much if they had let Wolvie be himself. Fox didn’t think our tiny little brains could handle the conflict within Logan, so they split the character in two and made one Sabertooth, who is now his brother. Forget the fact that adolescents have been reveling in this inner conflict for decades, Fox knows better, we just can’t understand it.

Fox is, to put it simply, pure evil, and even a great hero like Wolverine was no match for their diabolical machinations.

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4. Gypsy Lady vs. Christine Brown – Drag Me To Hell

This isn’t the first or the last time this movie made a list, and that is really surprising to me (more on that in a future list). This time it makes it because the first attack Scary Gypsy Lady (SGL) launches on poor Christine Brown is a hilariously good time to watch. Something special happens when a filmmaker abandons all pretense and decides they are just going to revel in the ridiculous. Sam Raimi is the master of it, and this scene is proof.

Christine isn’t the sort of character to just take an ass-whooping lying down, and SGL isn’t the sort of old lady to let a certain concussion, the loss of false teeth, or even staples to the forehead (to name just a few of the things that happen) keep her from laying a black magic smack down. It was awesome.

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5. Avatar Finale


Much has been said and written about Avatar, so I won’t add much. Concerning the claims that the dialogue was flat and the story was predictable, it should be pointed out that people are wrong in assuming this was an accident, James Cameron knows what he is doing, and he knew that the safest way to introduce this remarkably expensive new technology on the world, he had to keep everything in the realm of the simple and familiar. It wasn’t that the story didn’t make sense, it just didn’t introduce anything new. The result is that he now has the highest grossing movie worldwide, and will soon have the highest grossing film domestically of all time, topping some hack who has held the record for quite a while now, James Cameron.  But, you know, maybe he’s wrong.

The conclusion of Avatar was so visually stunning. Technology always advances over time in film, yet we haven’t seen a jump so stark between what was possible before and what is possible now since a vocal audio recording replaced a dude with a piano. That’s right, I just wrote that, bitches.

There were scenes in Avatar where I thought, ‘Oh, that must be a bit of real footage mixed in with the computer generated world to add some depth.. no, wait, those islands are floating in the sky… none of that is real. Holy shit.’ The rules about what can be done to tell a story in film is completely different now, and the finale of Avatar is the flourish that closes the argument. At the very least, Avatar is a visual and technological achievement of the highest degree.

It’s a brave new world folks, get used to it.

21
Jan
10

“heroes,” part two. [the many lists of 2009.]

“A hero kills people, people that wish him harm. A hero is part human and part supernatural. A hero is born out of a childhood trauma, or out of a disaster, that must be avenged… We all have a hero in our heart.”

-Dwight Schrute

It took way too long for me to get with this, but now, finally, on with Part Two!

6. Julia Child – Julie & Julia

Far too often, the way gender is handled in movies sucks. Thus, the next two characters deal directly with my frustration surrounding the fact that women and men in film are mostly flat personalities who fit into various cultural generalizations. The characterizations concerning women are far uglier than those concerning men, but they exist on both sides all the same.

When a woman is the main character in a film, especially a film targeted toward the mainstream audience, her entire identity is derived from a man who is the object of her affection. Much of the time, the moral of a given story actually seems to be that when a woman gives up her ambition and desire to create something of her world in favor of finding the love of Prince Charming all her dreams come true and she lives happily ever after. It’s nauseating!

It is a trend that has certainly been changing slowly in recent years, and no character displayed this to me more clearly than the cinematic depiction of Julia Child. Since the woman who inspired the character, as well as the woman doing the acting, are both so remarkable, it is no surprise that it should result in such a delightful heroine to watch on screen.

Julia Child, both in life and in film, was a strong, driven woman of incredible intelligence and skill. Her passion lit up the lives of all who knew her, and she loved those around her well and was much loved in return. She pursued her love of eating and french cooking to the point that she changed the way America views cooking. She also did all of this without sacrificing an ounce of charm. We too often see women depicted as masculine in film as a prerequisite for being depicted as capable or strong, and yet Julia Child was still feminine in the most beautiful meaning of the word femininity.

Satisfying resistance of gender rules aside, Julia Child’s life inspires me to pursue my passion and creativity, to love those around me intensely, and to attempt to create a more beautiful world. If that’s not a hero, I’m not sure what is.

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7. Peter Klaven – I Love You, Man

The flip side of the gender coin most often means that men need to be crass, rude, stupid, tough, strong, confident, and like hanging out with the guys but not hanging out with their wife. Otherwise, they might still be men, but they have to be gay men. Like Kevin Kline’s In & Out, we see a character who maintains that he is straight even though he loves literature and sweaters and dancing, only to find out in the end that he was, in fact, gay all along.

But in real life gay men can be tough and strong, and straight men can be awkward, dorky guys who would just as rather enjoy a quiet night watching HBO with their wife instead of going out drinking with the guys (although they have fun doing that too). In I Love You, Man there are two brothers, one gay, the other straight. In every other movie their characteristics would be reversed. The gruff, fairly macho, dude’s dude is gay. The awkward guy who loves sweaters, colors, and putting out a spread for a party was straight.

As a straight guy who loves sweaters, multicolored socks that match those sweaters, who loves putting colors together and who is certainly awkward and anxious, it was gratifying to see a man celebrated  for being who he was. His new, more masculine best friend didn’t help him learn how to be an asshole, he taught him how to be confident being himself. It’s like an oasis in a desert of douche bags celebrated on film.

In life, Paul Rudd is my hero, and in 2009, Peter Klaven is the specific manifestation of that.

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8. Wikus Van De Merwe – District 9

Throughout most of District 9, Wikus Van De Merwe is a coward. Not in the over-the-top movie way we see most times. Instead, Wikus was a coward in the way that most of us are cowards. He, for the most part, is a good but misled man, but when he starts to learn that reality is different than he thought it was, he struggles to hold on to his illusions. Had it not been for the fact that he was progressively turning into an alien throughout the film, he probably would have succeeded, at least temporarily, in unlearning the things he didn’t want to know.

In the end, he didn’t even find courage because he reached deep down inside and found what he was made of, but only after being continually confronted with the relentless courage and undeserved loyalty of Christopher, one of the aliens. Finally, when Christopher’s life is threatened yet again, Wikus finally stands up and fights to defend him.

There is something heroic, or perhaps everything heroic, about coming to grips with our own weaknesses and cowardice, and then allowing the example of someone stronger and more noble than us to take root in our hearts and make us better people. For most of us, it is the only chance we’ve got.

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8. Carl Frederickson and Russell – Up

Carl Frederickson and Russell are awesome. In the more obvious sense, they are fantastic in that they enjoy a delightful, touching adventure that brings them together as family. In the less obvious, and even more beautiful sense, they are great as representations of two forgotten and discarded groups in society. One, a child brokenhearted by the divorce of his parents, left alone by a overly busy single mom and a father who left him behind; the other, an old man brokenhearted by the death of his beloved wife, and discarded by everyone.

As far as Russell is concerned, I lived his childhood in a lot of ways, so I’ll leave what I wrote about Max in Part 1 as what I have to say about that. However, for Carl, he is an important character. In our country, old people get the shit end of the stick 99 times out of 100. Banished to nursing homes and assisted living facilities, we prefer to keep them out of sight and out of mind outside of short visits from time to time. Seen as a drain on society because they are no longer as productive, in the American (and terrifyingly enough, the Nazi) sense of the word, as they once were.

Yet, and this may surprise some of you, old people are human beings! They have hopes and dreams, regrets and sorrows, and often they have lived lives of adventure and have stories to tell. They are not perfect and wise as they are characterized in most movies. They are people, and they should be loved and celebrated as all of us should.

The world has changed so much in the last 60, 70, 80 years. It’s unrecognizable. The elderly among us have seen this change with their own eyes, and yet we treat their stories as if they are boring and annoying. The elderly are awesome, especially crotchety old people like Carl Frederickson. Up should remind us that the aged are not all grandparents, they are not all meek, wise, 2-dimensional knitters and shuffle board players waiting to die. They can be full of life and excited for the adventure of tomorrow, they can be action heroes, they can be angry and afraid, and they need community the same way every human being does… because… you know… they are human beings. God Bless Carl Frederickson.

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10. Flint Lockwood – Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs

I have no noble reason for including Flint Lockwood on this list. He is an admirable character, but in a fairly common way as far as film goes. I just think he is hilarious and awesome. I saw this movie after 2009 ended, but since it came out in 2009 it still counts. I don’t usually expect much out of non-Pixar computer-animated movies, but Cloudy… was random and wonderful. Basically, when you have Mr. T and Neil Patrick Harris in the same movie, everyone wins, and this was no exception.

The movie was absurd beauty, and at the center of it all was Flint Lockwood and his pal Steve. Thus, as the list-maker, I make Flint Lockwood hero #10! Here is a picture of the mustache obsessed Steve with Flint’s dad Tim Lockwood, somewhat unrelated, but still great.

11
Jan
10

the neglected. [the many lists of 2009.]

There were several movies I missed which I most certainly should not have. Here are the ten most egregious omissions from my movie-watching habits this year.

1. The Hurt Locker

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2. Moon————————————————————

3. The Informant

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4. A Serious Man

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5. Precious

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6. The Road

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7. An Education

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8. Paranormal Activity

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9. Cold Souls

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10.  Thirst


06
Jan
10

“heroes,” part one. [the many lists of 2009.]

First came the “villains,” now it’s time for my favorite “heroes” of 2009. This list is a bit more straightforward than its counterpart, but I still had lots of fun picking and explaining the characters I loved best. As is always the case, they are in no particular order, but I am publishing in two parts because it wasn’t coming along as quickly as I’d like.

***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it may be safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***

1. Max – Where the Wild Things Are

Max isn’t just one of my favorite heroes this year, I can say quite honestly, and without hyperbole, that he is one of my favorite characters in the history of film. His character, in relation to his family and to the Wild Things, was so remarkable in how it captured and expressed what it means to be a human being.

Our hearts are, every one, filled with wild, dangerous and beautiful things. Max’s journey into his own heart was not just the journey of moving from childhood to adulthood, it is the continual journey of at once growing up and learning to stay childlike that each of us will be on for the rest of our days.

He is angry, sad and afraid, he feels alone and doesn’t understand why he keeps hurting those around him with his desperate and angry outbursts. So, he goes on a journey to learn about those things deep inside that don’t have words.

Max is trying to learn to hold his rage and his sorrow, his joy and his wild playfulness; he is trying to understand how beautiful and wounded his heart is and reconcile all of these disparate things as part of himself. He is learning to howl when he has no words, and how to come home and share in a love and a safety that doesn’t need to be spoken to be felt.

It felt as if Dave Eggers and Spike Jonze had looked deeply into my soul, into all the pain and blood I carry around from wounds that don’t heal, then, after looking and knowing deeply, named that soul Max and told a story of comfort and commiseration which expresses things which can only be articulated in fantastic stories of deep, troubling anger, as well as joyfully wild rumpus.

It is rare that a film or character comes along that has the power to make us feel less alone, more understood, and helps us understand ourselves better. Max, and Where The Wild Things Are did exactly that for me.

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2. The Crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise – Star Trek

The odds stacked against the reboot of the Star Trek franchise were considerable. One of the chief difficulties would be in the realm of casting. How on earth do you find new actors to take the rolls of a number of beloved characters? They need to be quickly likable, not an easy feat when one character has to be the lovably arrogant Captain James T. Kirk (that lovable arrogance quickly becomes your garden variety aggravating arrogance in the hands of the wrong thespian). The characters also need to honor the way the character was played before without simply imitating it, and to be successful commercially and critically, the cast needs to be people who get the franchise enough to keep the Trekkers happy, while also being accessible enough to please the masses.

The task is impossible, and yet, J.J. Abrams and company pulled it off gloriously! I enjoyed watching the crew of the Starship Enterprise do their thing as much as I enjoyed watching any other cast out there this year. Even on the third viewing, they were still delightfully entertaining. I hope it isn’t too long until Kirk, Spock and the gang return to give me another fix of that rebooted Star Trek goodness.

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3. The bad-ass, but nonetheless ill-fated Norwegians – Dead Snow

Normally, if you were to offer up the prospect of a bunch of young Norwegian medical students vs. a host of Nazi zombies, you wouldn’t put much money on the med students. And, while in the end they most certainly did each come to a terrible and gruesome demise, they certainly fucked up enough zombies to cover the spread.

For the most part, these kids knew their zombie rules, they fought with vicious and brutal tenacity, and even as they died one by one, it was almost never as the result of a stupid decision (like it always was in Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead), but merely a result of being grossly outnumbered by a militarily trained undead horde.

Basically, the film and its heroes are used as an apt representation of the wise, time-honored Norwegian proverb, “When life gives you zombies, grab a chainsaw or a snowmobile and tear some shit up.”

3(a). Columbus, Tallahassee, Little Rock and Wichita – Zombieland

While technically this is cheating, it wouldn’t be fair to discuss zombie-killers without mentioning our fine, young American friends from Zombieland. They instructed us all on the necessity of adhering to some all-important survival rules for the zombie apocalypse, and at the same time they found friendship and love, learned some valuable life lessons about the importance of family and community, and killed the fuck out of some zombies. All in all, a productive endeavor.

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4. Holmes and Watson – Sherlock Holmes

It’s not exactly a well kept secret that bromances are pretty popular right now. Yet, just because something is a fad doesn’t mean it isn’t enjoyable when it is executed well, as it is in Sherlock Holmes. The love affair between Holmes and Watson was immensely enjoyable to watch, thanks to the fantastic performances of both.

Yet, it was more than just the relationship between the two, each character functioned quite well on their own. On just about every level, I found the two dashing gentlemen great fun to watch, and it is a franchise that I can’t wait to see more of (but that is another post still to come). I’m pretty sure that if you don’t love Robert Downey Jr., your brain might be broken.

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5. Simon Foster – In The Loop

In the movies, more often than not heroes come ready made with a heaping dose of swagger, he or she is usually a capable and talented individual reinforced by the strength of their convictions and a clear understanding of what is right and what is wrong. Even if the character doesn’t start off this way, the events of the film mold them into the hero we hope for, and when the moment of truth arrives, they shine. Yet, that isn’t really the way it works in real life is it? In real life, heroes usually look quite a bit more like Simon Foster.

Simon Foster is, to be kind, a bumbling, incompetent idiot. He is terrible at his job and everything that comes along with it, especially articulating his positions in a world of sound-bites. Yet, throughout the events of the film, he ends up bumbling his way, granted on a very roundabout and evasive route, into doing the right thing and standing up for truth. It happens almost by accident, but as a conscious choice nonetheless.

Unfortunately for Foster, that isn’t where the similarities to the real world end. Simon’s reward for doing the right thing is being unceremoniously chewed up and spit out by people far more diabolical, and far more competent than himself. His story ends in humiliation and defeat, and the war he tries to prevent happens anyway. He chose good over evil, and in the end had nothing to show for it. To be honest, I think there is something sadly beautiful about that.

04
Jan
10

“villains.” [the many lists of 2009.]

In years past, I’ve always posted a list of my favorite films of the year. This year, I’ve decided to change it up a bit. Instead of one list which includes my favorite films, I will instead have many lists including some of my favorite characters and moments (etc.) in film this year. Those who know me are well aware that two of my greatest loves are movies and lists. So, for the next few days, I will bring those two loves together in one glorious cocktail. I hope you enjoy reading my lists as much as I enjoyed compiling them.

The first list is my favorite villains of the year. It’s not uncommon for a villain to be the part of a film I enjoy the most. The “bad guy” is often the character who stays with me the longest after the credits role. For example, in 2008, what character was more memorable than Heath Ledger’s Joker? In 2007, what character was better than Javier Bardem’s Anton Chigurh? Villains can be so delightfully fun, whether you love to hate them, or just plain love them.

***I have to warn you now, these lists are often filled to the brim with spoilers. Not every description of why a character or moment made the list is spoiler-heavy, but it’s safer for you to just skip the ones from films you haven’t seen but plan to enjoy in the future. I don’t want to be that guy who ruins a great movie for someone, so, you’ve been warned.***

Now, on with the villains!! (In no particular order)

1. Col. Hans Landa – Inglourious Basterds

It’s no secret that film villains are frequently heartless, ruthless bastards (no pun intended). There are many variations on the type of  villain one might find. There is the balls-out psycho, the angry revenge seeker, the zealot with a cause, the list is literally endless. I think one of my very favorite variations to watch on the screen would  be the cold, detached villains who seem to have no emotional response to their evil deeds. When this type of villain is executed well, for example, in the case of the pitch perfect Anton Chigurh in No Country for Old Men, the result can be a satisfying cocktail of equal parts chilling and thrilling.

With Inglourious Basterds, Tarantino took this sort of villain to another level. Colonel Hans Landa wasn’t just detached from the heinous things he did, he was downright courteous about them. All manners and civility, right up until the moment he strikes. He approached his work with downright joy, as if he were doing his victims a favor. He was so matter of fact about what he did; so polite, so personable.

The opening moments of the film are so tense because of how perfectly written and acted the character of Hans Landa was, setting up exactly what our heroes and heroines would be dealing with for the duration of the film: Pure, courteous, delighted, evil. The result was terrible for many of the film’s “Basterds,” but loads of fun for the viewing audience.

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2. Zombies – Zombieland and Dead Snow


Obviously, it isn’t much of a stretch for me to include zombies on my list. I could probably find some excuse to include zombies on my movie lists every year. Yet, this year is special because there was not one, but two wonderful zombie films: Zombieland and Dead Snow. The latter of which saw not only zombies, but Nazi zombies! Double your evil, double your fun.

Zombieland featured its wonderfully entertaining and well executed survival rules, great characters, along with one of the best cameos in film history. Dead Snow featured a guy getting his head ripped in half by his eyeballs as his brain drops to the floor, a fantastic and bloody finale, along with the scene in which a woman regains blurry consciousness to the sight of her own zombie disembowelment, (a scene that may be my favorite zombie scene ever!). In both films, all the enjoyment came because when creative filmmaking and the concept of surviving a zombie apocalypse come together, the results are hilarious and awesome.

Hooray for zombies!!

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3. The Scary Gypsy Lady – Drag Me To Hell

If there is one life lesson movies have made quite clear, it is that all creepy old ladies are gypsies, that they all know how to perform magic of some sort, and that they are all looking for any excuse to curse another individual with gruesome and terrible consequences. The moral of the story, always be really nice to creepy old ladies.

No, the territory covered in Drag Me To Hell is definitely not new, but never before has it been as fun as it was under the expert hands of Sam Raimi. The antics of the Scary Gypsy Lady, or SGL for short, were disgusting in the most hilarious way imaginable. Eyeballs popping out, staples to the forehead, teeth flying everywhere. There was all sorts of crazy shit going on thanks to SGL. It was gross, it was absurd, and it was loads of fun.

Thank you SGL, you brought your villainous tomfoolery to a movie I had no expectations for whatsoever, and were a large part of making it one of the most surprisingly enjoyable films of the year.

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4. The Shadow Man – The Princess and the Frog

While we are on the topic of voodoo type curses and black magic, we might as well stop in with a movie few would expect to see on this list, The Princess and the Frog. Like most children who grew up any time since Snow White, my childhood was filled with Disney, for better and for worse (but that is for another post). Long had I lamented the death of Disney’s traditional animation studios, first on a practical level, in that everything the studio pumped out was garbage, and then on a more concrete level when the studios were officially shut down. Then came the revived talks with Pixar  resulting in the resurrection of traditional Disney animation under the leadership of the folks at Pixar. The first movie to come along since these events is the aforementioned The Princess and the Frog. Happily, my experience of the film is that the Disney animation of my childhood, which saw the likes of Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King has returned.

The films mentioned above all had at least one thing in common: highly entertaining villains. The newest installment in the Disney catalogue is no exception, with the introduction of the evil Dr. Facilier, also known as The Shadow Man.

Voiced by Keith David, who played the other side of the magical coin this year as the black cat in Coraline, the character is all sorts of intimidating, even while we knew that his power rested in a precarious and fickle relationship with his “friends on the other side.”

Hopefully, Dr. Facilier will renew the tradition of great villains being added to the Disney canon with each new animated installment.

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5. Malcolm – In The Loop

Those who know me well are quite aware that for me, just as it was for Old Man Parker, cussing is an art-form, enjoyed with vigor and enthusiasm for unique combinations and uses for so called “bad words.” The more comfortable I get with you, the more likely you are to experience a significant increase in the ‘colorful’ language you will hear.
However, for all my practice, I am but an amateur compared to the professional exploits of In The Loop’s Malcolm Tucker. He weaves a tapestry of insults and vulgarity that knows no equal, with nothing out of bounds. The coarser the phrasing, the more Malcolm likes it. He vacillates between hugely entertaining and downright off-putting, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

His entertaining cussing aside, he is also a great villain as the manifestation of all that is evil in the marriage between international media and international politics. Although, he is also as troubling as he is entertaining, because while he doesn’t exist in the concrete sense, there are plenty of women and men just like him who are all too real.

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6. Summer Finn – (500) Days of Summer

Summer Finn is one of the best villains of the year because, well, she isn’t really a villain at all. She functions as a villain for most of the film, but she hasn’t really earned the title by any actions outside of the mind of Tom Hansen. In reality, it was the expectations and selective memory of our young lovelorn protagonist that made Summer a villain, not any actual slight or wrongdoing.

I think most of us have been Summer before, doing everything we could to be up front and honest, only to be hated anyway because our desire for connection led to some poor choices; and I think most of us have been Tom Hansen as well, filled with ire, frustration and angst for the object of our affection when most of the relationship is taking place in our own over-analyzation.

We all have selective memories when it comes to relationships, none more so than when the relationship in question is a crush or infatuation. We edit and filter the information to continue convincing ourselves that fate has brought this wonderful new person into the picture so we might live happily ever after. Most of the time, the result is the creation of a villain out of the unfortunate person on the other end of our obsession. It’s a common part of life, and (500) Days deals with it so honestly and with so much clarity of insight, that it resulted in a delightfully intelligent “villain.”

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7. Poverty and Mental Illness – The Soloist

Most often, the villains in film are defeated in the end; they are blown up, humiliated, or overcome in some way or another so that there can be a tidy end to the story in which the heroes live happily ever after. More often than not, the myth of redemptive violence is perpetuated for good measure. Not so with The Soloist. Instead, The Soloist offers a look at the terrifying type of villain who cannot be overcome, in this case, those of poverty and mental illness.

While it is by no means a perfect film, it poignantly sheds light on the pervasive and ongoing pain of those afflicted with mental illness and homelessness, and as is so often the case in our country, those afflicted with both. As a true story, it also isn’t a trite heap of bullshit where magically, the kind-hearted white man saves the mentally disturbed, talented black prodigy from homelessness and offers him healing from his mental issues. Instead, it’s about two imperfect people trying to love one another in the midst of hopelessness and futility, and while the pain continues to exist, we see some of the mystery of how life is a little more bearable with friends.

The villains of this film are important in the way they are portrayed because they are realistically viewed. In life, there is no neat and tidy ending in which everything is alright. We will never be able to overcome the evils that surround us, and yet, all we can do is go forward and love boldly nonetheless.

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8. Franklin Bean – Fantastic Mr. Fox

If you’re a a fox, the one person you probably don’t want to fuck with is Franklin Bean. He’s as clever as he is mean, he’s a dead shot with a firearm, and he spends most of his time drinking. He’s angry to begin with, and very well would have went about killing Mr. Fox for fun, so it probably wasn’t the best idea to give him a good reason to want you dead by stealing from him.

This is all true, unless of course you happen to be fantastic, which is exactly what Mr. Fox is, so the diabolical Mr. Bean just ends up being the perfect foil to show the world just how fantastic Mr. Fox really is.

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9. Lord Blackwood  – Sherlock Holmes

Lord Blackwood is one creepy, ominous son of a bitch. When he isn’t murdering young women, coming back from the dead, or lighting dudes on fire, he is plotting to take over the entire world. Not a bad resume for a villain. However, the best part of Lord Blackwood is that he is merely a dangerous pawn throughout the entire film, unwittingly moved about to serve the purposes of Sherlock’s soon to be arch-nemesis, Professor Moriarty. So, here he is being used again, included in this list just so we can discover that it won’t be long before Moriarty is on his way (perhaps Brad Pitt?). Let’s go Guy Ritchie, get this thing rolling.

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10. Michael Bay

Michael Bay…. is a dick. He is, bar none, the most baselessly self-important filmmaker in the history of cinema. I believe it is entirely possible that his next film will be entirely in slow motion, and that it will be nothing more than CGI robots fighting in front of a series of large explosions, moving away from the fighting periodically to film down the shirt of Meghan Fox as she runs for cover from the destruction. That’s basically what we got with his last film, with the brief exception being that there were a few scenes in Revenge of the Fallen that took place at normal speed.

Sadly, he isn’t some fictional character in a movie, he’s a genuine, real life villain. His goal? To make an ass load of money by singlehandedly destroying American film.

He ate his fiber, took a huge dump, called it Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and then everyone paid to go see it. My understanding is that even though much of Avatar’s total gross will come in 2010, the fact that it was released in 2009 means that it will still count toward overtaking T:ROTF as the highest grossing movie of 2009. That is somewhat comforting, but the fact that it took one of the greatest technological feats in cinema history to draw more people to the movies than T:ROTF did is at once mind-numbing and rousingly infuriating.

Hopefully, with films like Iron Man 2 and Inception on their way, 2010 will see the forces of good overcome the darkness once again.




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