Thursday, December 31, 2009

Best and Worst Films of the Decade

Writing my list tonight, expanding on it (like I'm a writer or something) later:

Best of the '00s

10. The Wrestler

9. The Return of the King

8. Punch-Drunk Love

7. No Country For Old Men

6. Four Months, Three Weeks, and 2 Days

5. The Dark Knight

4. Children of Men

3. Kill Bill

2. Gosford Park

1. Once

Grandest Follies:

King Kong, Gangs of New York, Watchmen, Dogville/Manderlay, The Fountain

Most Underrated:

The Darjeeling Limited, The Life Aquatic, Hannibal, Hamlet 2, Where The Wild Things Are, Munich, Broken Flowers, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Monsters Inc, The Brothers Bloom, Blade 2, Once Upon a Time In Mexico, Death Proof

Most Overrated:

Monster, A Beautiful Mind, Gladiator, Pirates of the Caribbean 1,2, and 3, Chicago, any Ice Age or Shrek installment, 300

Best Film to Win Best Picture:

The Departed

Worst Film to Win Best Picture in the history of voting for shit:


Worst of the '00s

10. Highlander: Endgame

9. Driven

8. Fantastic Four

7. New Moon

6. Dungeons and Dragons

5. Terminator Salvation

4. The Mummy Returns

3. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

2. The Lady in the Water

1. Battlefield Earth

The Aughts

If you're angry about race, but not particularly interested in understanding why, you probably like Crash. If you're black and believe in the curative qualities of yet another "dialogue around race," you probably liked Crash. If you're white and voted for Barack Obama strictly because he was black, you probably liked Crash. If you've ever used the term "post-racial" or "post-black" in a serious conversation, without a hint of irony, you probably liked Crash.

Happy New Year to you, Ta-Nehisi.

Can we throw out the bullshit this decade? Please? No? Bueller?

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Attention Right-Tards

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The lib'rulz have videos of you. At long last learn.

Friday, December 25, 2009


No, not John Malkovich meets Coetzee. Can't wait for that one. Nope, here's the fetid list of odorous, festering bungs pried open and sprinkled with cocaine around the rim this year a la Naked Lunch (by way of explaining their puzzling success):

(God, what a year for crap)


It's worse than X3. Believe me. At no point does any of it follow any narrative logic. It is simply camp and only camp. As the year's best musical that contains no actual music, it's kind of great. As an X-Men movie, it's the greatest disappointment in comic-movie history. The economic kerplunk caused many films to scale back their budgets. Note the crappiest "Snnnck" in Wolverine history. Crappy writing costs nothing, that's for sure.

Terminator: Salvation

The worst film in the franchise, again, worse than the third installment in this series, which is saying something. If it accomplished only one good thing, it might have derailed McG's "film" career. Except no, it probably won't. Among this rotten film's many crimes (aside from the worst Christian Bale performance this side of a youtube remix) is the unforgivable crime of being relentlessly boring. It's poorly written, poorly directed, and poorly executed. There is zero tension in the film from start to finish. The governator's unfortunate cameo didn't really help things along, and the movie died a well-deserved death at the box-office, taking a real war of the machines franchise with it. Blecch.

My Bloody Valentine 3D

Three dimensional titty-harm. Unpleasant, in every conceivable way. I feel that seeing this in the theaters more than counts as having also seen Final Destination 3D. Gross.

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen

Everything that's appalling about American movies is all here. It's like watching the cinematic equivalent of truck nuts, for nearly three fucking hours. It has a few cool scenes of transformerdom, but the rest of the movie is loud, shrill, incoherent, and, shockingly, casually racist. It is also, currently, the number one movie of the year, domestically, number nine overall, domestically, in American history, and 20th worldwide. Some people read the news to get depressed. It works just as well for me to read Box Office Mojo

New Moon

I actually put myself through this one un-riff-tracked. Why? No, seriously, dear jumping fuckin' Jesus God why? There is no dramatic action in this film whatsoever. Memo to teenage girls and cougar pedophiles everywhere: He loves me he loves me not, I love him I love him not is NOT A PLOT. It is not dramatic action. It is just you wasting your goddamned time waiting for a man who more than likely REALLY ISN'T FUCKING WORTH IT. GET SOME REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS ABOUT WHAT YOU SHOULD HAVE IN LIFE. Also, if you're not in Kentucky, your Taylor Lautner ball-gag ain't legal. Jesus.

The film is so sullen, so long, so unbearable, so poorly blocked, acted, and written, that by the time real actors show up towards the end, it's actually more confusing and distracting than before, because we have to adjust ourselves to A-list actors lending their talents to a completely unworthy script, concept, production design, and overall mission-statement. Michael Sheen is just bizarre, and Dakota Fanning might as well have her own Vampire Chronicles series. She's quite memorable. But what you have to sit through for her is so unbelievably bad it hurts. The film has an extended sequence of Bella staring out a window for three or four months, in emotional agony. By the end of the movie, I felt like I'd been right there with ya, sister.

Scene from Face Punch, the film within a film, and preferred choice of entertainment, here

In terms of popular success, bad ruled the year. I did not see GI Joe or Fast and Furious, but honestly, I'm ashamed of you, America. More so this time.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

'09's Finest

I didn't go to the movies enough this year. Little more behind than usual. Made a huge effort to see everything at Oscar season, and then wandered under the big tent poles for the rest of the year. Missed Precious, Up In The Air, etc., but I'll report on them if I see it's worth it. Until then, time to briefly summarize 2009. A good year:

District 9

This movie was a surprise from start to finish. It doesn't merely devolve into an action film at the end (a common reductive statement from Ebes and others, whenever there's gun-play at the end of a film). I have never seen a film that was this much a mix of Close Encounters and Cronenberg. It works very hard at being unpleasant, and succeeds. Apartheid references notwithstanding, it actually takes a bit of effort to root for these creatures, as they are truly unpleasant. That right there speaks to how deeply unusual, uncompromising and challenging this film really is. And it was a popular success, too. Really, that's marvelous.


James Cameron's first film in twelve years is a lot of things. It is visually startling, ethical, fiery and passionate. It is also at times awkward and overbearing, and it is never, ever subtle. But you know what? On the one hand, it has a jaw dropping first hour, where the visual effects and stakes-setting are handled only the way Cameron can handle them. And then it allows itself to get caught up in its story without worrying about dazzling us every two seconds. It emerges as one of the most overtly anti-imperialist, anti-war, anti-invasion, pro-green movies to ever reach this wide an audience. And if some of it falls a little flat or some if it could've been more fluid, I'm willing to let those things go, because I saw sights I've never seen before, and was delighted and amazed many times. It's an audacious film. And perhaps, when there are still apparently people who don't believe we invaded Iraq for oil resources, indeed people who don't understand that sort of thing is the root cause of nearly all war, perhaps a bluntness, a lack of subtlety, is called for. Just a thought.

The Hurt Locker

It's as great as they say. Terrific lead role. Excellent, flawless direction. The most suspenseful film of the year. You need to see it.

Star Trek

Great film. Too loud for Patrick Stewart ("things are generally too loud, these days"). Too many lense flares. Or maybe not enough. Wonderful, funny, gripping. And that opening sequence has never ceased to give me goose bumps. It's touching, and, like the rest of the film, builds on a generous knowledge of Star Trek, and rewards you for it. It's a great movie that shows up already a friend to you. Here's hoping they build on this and make a Star Trek II worthy of Star Trek II.


Classic. Creepy. Show it to kids. They deserve to get scared this good.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

Wes Anderson's best film since The Royal Tenenbaums, it's essentially that kind of movie only there's a stop-motion animated cartoon playing atop the audio. Funny, inventive, dark, and is further proof of Anderson's versatility within his so-called limitations. Scorsese has made the same three films his entire career. Anderson may be on to his second kind of film, and this one maybe feels like a departure in some ways. Few filmmakers have made a world with this kind of texture, eccentricity and life (just wait for the scene in the cider-cellar. Absolutely beautiful artistry). And it's about the funniest film you'll see for a good long time.

Where The Wild Things Are

I love this film. Love it love it. It is a classic film, and it will be embraced, just you watch. It is the most experimental children's film released in the United States. Period. It is moody and surreal, dadaism for the youngins (except it will confuse their parents much more). It's richly funny and inventive, filled to the brim with sight-gags and unexpected twists. Its visual, directorial artistry is unprecedented. We have with us the first real Spike Jonze film. I hope he gets to make hundreds more. The rhythm of this film, the ending, the subtle, emotional pull of it, was bound to go over some people's heads. No doubt the mealy-mouthed, average, padded-safety net of a parent wouldn't be able to get it. And it's not too scary. Feh. Just take your little shitheads to see the flatulent 3D guinea pigs or whatever, then.

A Serious Man

Great, original Coen brothers flick. Indelible, merciless and riotously hilarious. Every scene is perfect. Since it played in three theaters nationally, be sure to rent it.


Pixar's best since Finding Nemo. I love this more than anything they've done, Wall-E included. A lot of you won't be with me on that, but I can't think of a film with this kind of story, aimed at children, ever. It's a loving ode to reclaiming dreams, an adult and tragic tale of learning to accept what you can't change, and cherish the memory of what you've lost. It's also a rip-roaring adventure film with a hilarious, brilliantly revealed MacGuffin. And it's just one of the most dazzling visual experiences ever divined by Pixar, which is to say its title refers to where this film sits in the visual pantheon: very nearly above everything else. And if you are not sobbing your fucking eyes out at about the twenty minute mark, you really must have that wretched thumping coal deposit in your chest examined.

Inglourious Basterds

Here's a film that people argue about, but as far as I'm concerned, it should be easy for film lovers to figure out. To be disappointed that this isn't Quentin's Dirty Dozen is to be churlish and close-minded. Why do you want that, anyway? Why weren't you as enthralled as I was with a flick about a Jewish girl escaping an evil (brilliantly acted) "Jew-Hunter", only to craft the destruction of the twentieth century's greatest evil through a plan inspired by a seductive love of film?

The "heroes" of the film are not the Basterds, maybe because Tarantino senses how dubious it is to portray them as heroes in the first place. Instead, our heroes are Soshanna and her black lover, Pabst and the fires of God's wrathful justice (which, Soshanna, in a cloud of smoke and fury, gets to personify in one powerful visual masterstroke, solidifying this as a goddamned masterpiece, at the end)

I've almost left out the badass English film critic and theorist who doubles as a spy in Act II. And the awe-inspiring bar-scene with the King Kong speech. I can't wait to watch this one twenty more times. Be thankful for Quentin, people. God.


Honorable mention goes to Funny People, which deserved more attention, it really was quite good. Also to Knowing, a film which had it starred Rufus Sewell instead of you-know-who, might have been given a fairer shake by all of you.

Grand Folly award must also go to Zach Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen, a work of lovingly crafted, powerful obtuseness. It at times feels as though Dr. Manhattan has directed the film, but I still can't think of any big-budget movie more curious about determinism and physics than this one. It's a mind-expanding, consciousness-raising film, perhaps because it hewed as close as it did to Moore's original master-plan. It is flawed. It doesn't quite get Ozymandias right, though I don't believe that's entirely down on Matthew Goode. Malin Akerman is bad, but I'm not sure how her character could be all that good. And the Nite-Owl love making could well be excised from the graphic novel, not just the movie.

Still, Rorschach's, and Dr. Manhattan's parts (heheheh) of this story are simply awe-inspring. Really heady stuff, just unlike anything else I've seen in recent films. Gods and monsters, battling it out, that's what you get here. I think we really should be more open to how individual films are paced and orchestrated. This was an exceptional, albeit flawed film, and I believe its greatness outweighs its weaknesses. Some of it is truly breathtaking. How often does that even happen for a minute?

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


I survived retail at Christmastime, and am Ridge-certed back into sanity, but still the experience left me thinking of this, and only this:

Yes. We all laughed.

And yes, you should totally watch this, start to finish. Best doc of the year:

Tomorrow, Avatar review and year best and year worst. Soon, best and worst of the whole damned '00s.

Better Than Cribs

You're a nerd. You spend your time with computers, like me.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

New Car Caviar Four Star Daydream

"Someoen just go ahaed and mark this as the death of music. why don't you get together and desecrate the mona lisa or re-shoot the godfather?"

- Angry fanboy on iTunes complaining about The Flaming Lips, Stardeath, Henry Rollins, et. al, covering the entirety of Dark Side Of the Moon.

Music is meant to be performed and experimented with. And The Flaming Lips are easily as accomplished today as Pink Floyd was in their day.

The original version will always be there.

Try doing something even remotely as positive as the Lips have been doing with their lives. I dare you.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Just A Reminder

These people are scum, sent to manipulate the stupid, and there is literally nothing they will not say, nothing they will not steal, and nothing they will not abuse.

And when Jon Stewart gets this scoldy, you know you've accomplished something.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

We're Smart Before We're Stupid

From Roger Ebert's Answer Man Column, this week:

Q. My 8-year-old son Andrew has taken an interest in my movie collection. We've been watching movies atypical for someone that young: "Rushmore," "Spellbound" (the spelling bee documentary), "The Right Stuff," "Tell No One" (with subtitles no less!) and this past Friday, a movie near and dear to you: "Dark City."

It appears that kids can handle complex characters and story lines better than we think. Very rarely do I have to explain what was going on, and his comments indicate that he is getting it (during "Rushmore": "Sometimes Max is not nice, but I like him"; on the ending of "Dark City," "He knows all about her, but she doesn't know about him!")

What strikes me the most is how "natural" cinematic grammar is understood by children. No one has to sit down and explain things like cutaways, flashbacks, dream sequences, POV shots and the passage of time in films. How do they learn this stuff? Also, do you think the thematic material in the movies I listed is too much for 8-year-olds, or can I continue to brag and bore my friends?

Mike Spearns, St. Johns, Newfoundland

A. Start bragging. IMHO, kids up until about the age of 11 are more open to good movies than they will be again for some years, unless they fall prey to the deadening effect of peer pressure. A kid knows, as any adult does, that "Twilight" is a crashing bore. I suspect many teenagers like it because they have been ordered to by their peers.

Younger children instinctively love a Miyazaki animated film more than the meaningless action of films like "Monsters vs. Aliens" or "Kung Fu Panda." They're open to the magic. Later, some seem to need to be battered by noise and chaos.

I've never met a preschooler who did not respond well to silent comedy. A film critic friend of mine and his novelist wife raised their daughter on nothing but good films, and so she developed such good taste that she never has been able to stomach visual junk food.

As for understanding the language, the grammar of film seems to have evolved directly from the instincts of the first filmmakers. It requires no theory to understand the difference between a closeup and a long shot, or that a dream sequence is a dream sequence. A good movie contains all the instructions you need about how to watch it. This is true of the greatest films. Only junk like "Transformers 2" requires an instruction manual.

(Reprinted here in full only because his site won't archive it in a way that leads you back to it easily)

Essential Viewing

Though fair warning, it is sickening to listen to:

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Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Get Her, Sully

(Update: Ok, the end of this is pretty funny)

Sunday, December 06, 2009

It's Always So Funny...

...when an emotionally, morally, and intellectually challenged subsection of an electoral minority gets together and protests.

Unconstitutional? What section? Which article? What amendment? Define the Constitution for me. I dare you.

Where was their anger while we were being wiretapped? Where was the anger during the largest transfer of wealth from one class of people to another, in history? Where was their anger, etc., etc., etc.?

If a hundred assholes crash a hundred planes into a hundred buildings, tomorrow, I still want us to set the example for the world with a commitment to due process.