I saw 30% of all the movies released theatrically this year. I say this to put this list into context, and to show my complete lack of any expertise. My three blockbusters did not disappoint: The Avengers is probably the most fun I have ever had at the movies (it was my childhood dreams come true), Prometheus was a visual masterpiece (hopefully Scott will make more genre features), and The Dark Knight Rises was a satisfactory conclusion to Nolan’s “The Dark Knight” trilogy. Two other movies that made a ton of money, but got panned by critics were The Amazing Spider-Man, which I think is the second best Spidey movie, and Skyfall, which was so much better than Quantum of Solace, a lot of people dubbed it the greatest Bond movie (it’s actually Casino Royale).
Before I get into the list, I want to drop five comedies that I think you should check out. These movies were not only funny, but had heart and brains:
1. 21 Jump Street – ignore what you think about this from marketing, hilarious.
2. Seven Psychopaths – Absolutely hysterical, plus it has the best cast of any movie this year.
3. Sleepwalk With Me – An unexpected journey into the brilliant mind of Mike Birbiglia.
4. Safety Not Guaranteed – Almost made the Top 5 list. Science Fiction, Comedy, Romance, plus a “wam-bang finish”
5. This is 40 – I love Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann. Apatow knows how to make an awkward moment super funny.
Now, the list. Remember, these are my favorite. They are not necessarily the best.
5. Looper – Rian Johnson is a magnificent storyteller. This movie was ambitious as it was inventive. It had a very realistic impression that made it easy to ignore some of the plot holes. I am partial to Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, and Emily Blunt. The three of them were great in this movie about choices, time travel, and love. While I did not like it as much as Brick, it made me think and left an impact on me. I am eagerly anticipating revisiting this film and hope that Johnson makes more in the genre.
4. The Cabin in the Woods – This “genre-bender” was so unexpected; I didn’t even get to see it in theaters. Luckily I went in without knowing much about it. That is the way to see this movie. If you don’t like horror, fine, this is not a horror. Just a great movie that is fun, and interesting, and does not fit into any stereotype of any characters or plots. Joss Whedon’s finger prints are all over this. I guarantee this will become a yearly viewing every October.
3. Django Unchained – The older Tarantino gets, the less he embellishes himself in his movies. Both Inglorious Basterds and Django Unchained are perfectly executed. Django was well-paced, fun, violent, and was a great “western”. Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz had a chemistry that oozed off the screen and the show was stolen by Leonardo DiCaprio’s psychotic villain. While I do not believe that Reservoir Dogs has stood the test of time, I believe this movie shows that QT has fully matured and become a completely realized and capable director and writer. I want to see more and more.
2. Cloud Atlas – This is a movie that I ear-marked as “suspicious”. I was interested in seeing the latest from The Matrix creators, The Wachowskis. The first trailers looked kind of cool, and the closer the release date got, the less interested I became. Then I saw the movie and was not immediately moved. It was not until the second viewing that I started analyzing and thinking and feeling what the movie was about. This is a movie to be experienced multiple times, each time learning more about yourself and the story. The visuals were unsurprisingly stunning, the score was fantastic, and the acting was superb. This is one of the most ambitious movies ever made, therefore it has imperfections. But there are so many layers and emotions to be uncovered in this film, that the journey is the most important thing. It delivers beyond hope in that regard. This movie can change the way you look at big budget studio films.
1. Moonrise Kingdom – I have been a vocal supporter of Wes Anderson since I saw Rushmore. I love every one of his movies; this may make me extremely biased. I love The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and The Darjeeling Limited more than The Royal Tenenbaums. This may make me a “hipster” and it most definitely makes me a blind supporter. I do not care; Moonrise Kingdom was such an amazing movie! It had that awesome 60s atmosphere with the best cast Anderson has put together yet. It was about children, without watering them down and making them “cute”. It had depth and meaning and if you cannot relate to any of the characters, you probably don’t have a soul. I am not quite ready for this to dethrone Rushmore as my favorite Wes Anderson film, but it is close.
You may be asking where Lincoln and The Master fit. They don’t. I thought Lincoln was really interesting, but we all knew how it was going to end, and it felt like a History Channel special. I had extremely high hopes for The Master; I really liked all of P.T. Anderson’s previous films. I think There Will Be Blood is one of the best movies ever made, it had emotional weight. The Master was interesting, and the actors were phenomenal, but I never felt strong emotions about the characters or the story. This may be a fault of mine and not the director.
I also hated Killing Them Softly. Brad Pitt was good, but the movie was bland and nearly put me to sleep.
Chronicle – out of left field! Great movie.
Dredd – one of the best pure and brutal action movies made in a long time. Inspired by, but not too much like The Raid.
The Comedy – not a true comedy, but Tim and Eric are brilliant.
Other movies I liked:
Zero Dark Thirty, Holy Motors, Argo, Ruby Sparks, Flight, The Grey, Your Sister’s Sister, Lawless, Life of Pi.
5. Synthetica – Metric. I have liked most of what Metric has put out since I first heard “Black Sheep” in Scott Pilgrim. The heavy beats, Emily Haines’ beautiful voice, electronic over lay, etc. is a great package. This album takes a step beyond what was done on Fantasies and other works. It not only has the synthesizers and passion of your typical Metric record, but the song writing is the best yet. Listen to the lyrics and they are not angry or sad or happy, they are introspective with something to say about youth in North America and where these generations are going. Great stuff.
Suggested tracks: Speed the Collapse, Breathing Underwater, Clone.
4. Celebration Rock – Japandroids. I am late to this band. This album is so good; I may not listen to their first one. I loved the feeling of nostalgia mixed with modern awareness, what does that mean? Imagine if Who’s Next was written and came out today. It is heavily influenced by that classic The Who album, but it has a sensibility about current adolescence. Japandroids understand what young people are thinking, but also know that all teenagers are self involved and will get over it. I love the raw love of classic rock that oozes from this album; I will listen to it over and over again.
Suggested tracks: Adrenaline Nightshift, Continuous Thunder, Younger Us.
3. Transcendental Youth – The Mountain Goats. I just discovered TMG this year, it’s an awesome feeling to find a massive backlog of a band that you really enjoy. The vocals and emotion timed with radical swings in music make for some of the best listening in modern music. Transcendental Youth is no exception. It starts out with a song about Amy Winehouse and “all the Amy Winehouse’s in the world”, simple, sweet, and sad all at the same time. They are a little older guys, but they a so connected to the world of music and the culture that every day people come in contact with. They understand your feelings, and they can put words to it. Plus this album has a killer close in title track.
Suggested tracks: Amy AKA Spent Gladiator 1, Cry for Judas, Harlem Roulette, Transcendental Youth.
2. Put Your Back N 2 It – Perfume Genius. This is the album I have listened to the most this year. I love it from beginning to end. Mike Hadreas is a breath of fresh air to me. His music is hypnotic and his vocals are haunting. He is so open and honest with his feeling and his being and he is sharing it with everyone who will listen. I listened to this album all the way through twice before looking him up and watching his videos, dude is a pure talent who shows his vulnerability while grabbing you by the hand leading you through the pain. I haven’t really absorbed his other work yet, but this album really connected to me on a deep emotional level. I hope I get to see him live someday.
Suggested tracks: Hood, Dark Parts, No Tear.
1. Attack on Memory – Cloud Nothings. As much as I enjoyed PG, this album was the most fun, rocking, potential classic of anything else I listened to this year. It transported me to younger days and made me want to pull out my guitar and jam. I believe the best albums make you want to take action. This one did that. Shadows of Black Sabbath, Thin Lizzy, and Zounds are obvious. It just bangs and rises, then floats down. From beginning to end it is steering-wheel-bashing goodness. I look forward to listening to this again, and to what Cloud Nothings will do next.
Suggested tracks: Stay Useless, Wasted Days, No Sentiment, Cut You.
Hands of Glory – Andrew Bird
Reign of Terror – Sleigh Bells
Port of Morrow – The Shins
Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light II – Earth
‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! – Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Black Christmas (1974)
“The original slasher film and still one of the most satisfying.”
Blood Creek (2009)
“Fassbender, Cavill, Nazis, the occult, gore, awesomeness.”
The Cabin in the Woods (2012)
“Not only a great genre flick, but one of the best movies of the year!”
Dead Alive (1992)
“Peter Jackson came onto the scene is a blaze of blood, guts, and ridiculousness.”
Dead Girl (2009)
“An unexpected gem and a truly disturbing look into the teenage male psyche.”
Dead Ringers (1988)
“Wikipedia lied…not a horror…but still creepy Cronenberg.”
Drag Me to Hell (2009)
“Sam Raimi’s return to the genre and it’s great!”
Evil Dead 2 (1987)
“Incredible, but I still prefer The Evil Dead.”
“80s comedy at its best, Bill Murray is a god.”
“Defined a genre and set the bar to almost unreachable heights.”
Halloween 2 (1981)
“Hands down, one of the best slasher sequels ever made!”
“Introduced a generation to absolute terror and the makeup is fantastic!”
Hellbound: Hellraiser 2 (1988)
“Picks up where the first left off, then adds amazing lore!”
Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth (1992)
“Kind of a cheesy revisit to a dying franchise.”
Hellraiser: Bloodline (1996)
“Science fiction meets historical fiction, and they make an okay movie with some cool special effects.”
Haute Tension [High Tension] (2003)
“French slasher with great murder sequences, but a plot twist full of holes.”
I Spit on Your Grave (1978)
“Absurd rape horror that almost makes you laugh, not good.”
Kill List (2011)
“A pretty good movie, but not ‘the scariest movie of the year’ as advertised.”
Lawnmower man (1992)
“The idea still stands up, somewhat, even if the technology doesn’t.”
“A wonderfully minimalist Faustian tale that took me completely by surprise.”
“King, Goldman, Reiner, Caan, Bates, perfectly unsettling!”
“An alright story completely redeemed by the acting of Ben Foster and Dennis Quaid.”
Silver Bullet (1985)
“Worst Stephen King adaptation ever, and Gary Busy has always been a nutjob.”
“Not as great as everyone said back then, no wonder it never gained cult status.”
The Collector (2009)
“Better than every mainstream horror of the last 3 years, find and watch this movie!”
The Dead Zone (1983)
“This creepy adaption of King, is one of the best, plus… the scissors!”
The Faculty (1998)
“Without a doubt the best of the late 90s teen horror movies!”
The Shining (1980)
The Strangers (2008)
“The first 40 minutes are the most stressful of my life, the end left something to be desired.”
“Somewhat inventive with some great moments, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Wolf creek (2005)
“Not sure about the hype. it just didn’t have any effect on me…at all.”
This is a little late, and for good reason. I really wanted to let the movie marinate with me and also let all the negative reviews fester a little.
John Carter tells the story of an ex-Confederate captain in the late 1800s who is transported to mars and becomes the savior of the red planet. May not sound super interesting, but keep in mind the book was written in 1912! Edgar Rice Burroughs, of Tarzan fame, was the prolific author of A Princess of Mars, which is what the film is based on. In most cases I am very loyal to the books and find them almost always better. In the 1930s, the first film adaptation for John Carter came up, and Burroughs actually suggested giving a new or revised story because it would need to resonate with new audiences. Therefore, 99% of the changes were fine by me.
I am not going to try and argue with the critics here, I know more about John Carter then them. Also, I feel like a lot of them have forgotten how to have fun at the movies. This movie was the most fun I have had at the movies in a while. The movie packs in action and story and technology and back story and so on. What’s interesting is that the book hardly explains any of that. This isn’t Lord of the Rings or Dune where there is this rich depth of detail and landscape. Mars is a wasteland and the technology works because it isn’t earth, the movie answers to the modern need to have things explained.
People need to think of this as big picture. This is the first story in a long line of tales. You meet the characters here; learn a little bit about them. You need at least one other movie before you really feel the love and romance of John and Dejah Thoris. You need another film to realize the warrior-brother bound of John and Tars Tarkus. This could have been a three hour movie, easy. It wasn’t for good reason.
Andrew Stanton of Pixar loved these books and had a passion for the story. I think it shows and that’s what makes this movie so charming and loveable. You get top rate special effects, great acting, witty dialogue, guys and girls with little clothing; you also get Woola, the Martian dog that had to inspire R2-D2 and Chewbacca. It literally has something for everyone. I know that is really cliché, but it is absolutely true.
The books are the perfect romance novel guys, John’s only motivation is the girl. In the movie he actually had more depth and it makes him more interesting. You still get a scene where he is swinging his sword and mauling hundreds of Warhoon Tharks with their blue bloodied bodies piling up around him, but then you get him kissing a princess. So cool!
I think this is the best live action Disney movie I have seen since 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. I don’t care how much it; I don’t care how much it makes. It was a movie that reminded me of why I love the cinema.
Over 250 films are released in the average year. I do not get to see even half of them. That being said, I saw a lot of movies this year. Marvel literally exploded, David Fincher continues to put out great products, and Woody Allen won me over again. Some of my favorite filmmakers did not contribute to this year, so for me it was a bit of a down year. Down in that there were only about 20 films that I really liked. Of those 20 or so, these are my favorites:
5. X-Men: First Class – this is what an X-Men movie should look like. Thanks to Bryan Singer’s vision and his involvement in this picture, I believe we have come full circle since the 2000 cinematic super hero explosion. Singer produced and Matthew Vaughn directed this long delayed, much changed, rushed version of the beginning of the X-Men universe. Vaughn’s follow up to Kick-Ass, this film marks his first attempt and big time Hollywood blockbuster. Taking place in the 60s at the height of the Cold War, Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr meet, become friends, and introduce the world to mutants. It was executed perfectly, mainly because the casting was so fantastic. Fassbender as Magneto was inspired casting in the class of Patrick Stewart, Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman and Heath Ledger. This movie is cool, historical, fun, and makes you feel something other than just visual stimulation. It makes me excited to see what will happen next with my favorite super hero franchise.
4. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- This did not originally make the list. It was because I wanted to avoid comparison with the original and the source material, plus I always put Fincher in my Top 5. After a second viewing, I knew that I enjoyed it so much; I could not leave it off the list. This mystery-thriller that takes place in Sweden is a return to form for David Fincher. Think back to his 90s films that were edgy, witty, and unapologetic. Se7en, The Game, Fight Club; these films caused some outcry about desensitization and the current state of movies. This film is dark, depressing, exciting, and has the perfect amount of Fincher charm. A story about a washed up journalist who is trying to solve an old case, then gets mixed up with a girl with a shady past and together they uncover years of deception, hatred, and cruelty. Rooney Mara is someone to watch in the future, I have been cheering since her small role in 2010’s The Social Network, also a David Fincher movie. Though not an original piece of work, this movie was great and, I think, better than the Swedish version. Nice to see that Fincher still has the Indie chops after a decade of Zodiac, Benjamin Button, and The Social Network. Plus the opening credits are really cool.
3. Drive- This was the most unexpected film of the year. Ryan Gosling is usually pretty good, I do not flock to his movies the way some people (read: critics and girls) do. But, this film was masterful on his part. He is a reserved individual with a great talent for driving for whoever offers him work. He has a moral code that keeps him alive. When he breaks that code and falls for a girl, trouble follows. This movie has a great soundtrack, style, atmosphere, acting, etc. etc. Just a great piece of realism and understatement. If you like the grand theft auto games, if you like Gosling, if you like mob movies, or you just like good movies; check it out.
2. Midnight in Paris- A somewhat unexpected addition to the list. I like Woody Allen films, but I don’t typically love them. Annie Hall is good, Scoop is great, and there are a couple in between. Then there are the bad ones too. I will leave my opinions on those as to let you decide how you like your Woody Allen. Midnight in Paris is a great one. Owen Wilson is back to his element of being a little self-deprecating and witty as opposed to boyish and charming. I like Wilson like this, let Luke be the good looking one. Only a few movies make me want to see Paris, 2 are on this list. The more I think about it though; it is not modern Paris, but the pre-WWII France that I desire. Much like Owen Wilson’s character, I love the 1920s. Hemingway, Dali, and probably my favorite, Fitzgerald. The Great Gatsby was the start of obsession with the roaring 20s. The cast is great fun and well put together in small and large roles a like. I think Woody Allen is at his best when adding a little fantasy and philosophy to his films, so much as to avoid some of his neurotic overplaying of relationships. This is solid romantic comedy with an original take and lighthearted attitude.
1. Hugo- I was able to avoid seeing this in 3D, I believe that made all the difference. There is so much to say about this film, but I will edit myself. It takes place in 1931 and primarily in a train station. A story of a boy who has lost his father and whose imagination sets him on a journey that is not at all self-serving. That is a great delight in modern cinema, a hero who in the end helps someone else more than he helps himself. Set in Paris after the first war, the depth and atmosphere that Martin Scorsese creates is fantastic and shows his love of film history. I am no scholar of film, but I know the story of Georges Méliès and fell in love with the pictures from A Trip to the Moon in collage. This is the best PG movie I have seen that was not Pixar in a long time. It captures to the wonder of motion pictures and the purity of children who experience them, not just view them. The only other film that I have seen that balances childhood, adventure, and a history of film so well is Cinema Paradiso. Movies do not have to be gimmicks and mindless entertainment; they can mean something and speak to our inner adventurer who we have hidden since we “grew up”. This will be a film that I will revisit throughout the years.
Another year done with movies and I feel I fall further and further behind, I saw what I could and enjoyed myself immensely.
5. Bon Iver- Bon Iver, Bon Iver
This was at the top of a lot of lists. I really liked it; they matured a lot with this album. It breaks from some of their normal tendencies and takes some electronic risks that pay off. Anyone who hasn’t heard them is missing out on a great band with a bright future.
Selected tracks: Holocene, Beth/Rest
4. Fleet Foxes- Helplessness Blues
This was one of my most anticipated albums of 2011. It is Woody Guthrie back from the dead. Great folk poetry and lyrical hooks and harmonies that get stuck in your head. Robin Pecknold shines brightest yet on this album, his voice is soothing, while challenging. Great road trip record.
Selected tracks: Helplessness Blues, Grown Ocean
3. Middle Brother- Middle Brother
Yet another folk album. This was the best one in a long time. Best new band, hands down. Comprised of songwriters from Dawes, Deer Tick, and Delta Spirit. I think they are better than the other 3 bands combined. It is witty, self-deprecating, funny, and soulful. It rocks like the Beatles and then rolls like Dylan. Must listen to for hipsters and folk lovers alike.
Selected tracks: Blue Eyes, Middle Brother
An unexpected wonder that was unequalled last year. Thanks to good friend for suggesting and making me listen to this album. I had given up in this band, but this record renewed my faith. Solidly at that. It is musically their best work, vocally their best work, and lyrically genius and funny. I listened to this album more than anything else in 2011. Go. Buy. It. Now.
Selected tracks: Second Song, You
1. The King of Limbs- Radiohead
There is so much to say about this album. I did as much when it was released. Other than the Beatles, I do not know of a band who consistently raises bar with every single album without fail. While it may not be my favorite Radiohead album ever, it is their best musical work to date. I am not sure why I am writing this. You either like Radiohead and already know all of this, or you don’t and this album can’t change your ignorant opinion. I know, a little harsh.
Selected tracks: Lotus Flower, Codex
Not a GREAT year for music, but a pretty good year. All said and done, I did not have a musical void to fill with billboard top 20, so from that viewpoint, I am pleased.
I am a big fan of animated feature films. I would say that animated films are the reason that I love the medium today. I grew up watching Disney’s Robin Hood, The Hobbit, and An American Tail. These and many others set my on the path to become the film-loving man I am today.
The myths and legends are told through animated films. Modern storytelling to children is done through movies like the Secret of Nimh and Sleeping Beauty. Fortunately cartoon movies have grown and evolved, they have surpassed many of the live action features that come out today. Studios like Disney, Dreamworks, and Studio Ghibli have made a library of continually quality films.
Here are my top five favorites, they may not be the best, but I enjoy them the most.
5. Titan A.E. – A science fiction adventure story in the class of Star Wars, Titan AE tells the story of a reluctant hero who must save what is left of the human race after the destruction of earth. The animation, story, and characters are perfectly positioned for any kid or adult who loves sci-fi epics. The voice cast includes Matt Damon, Drew Barrymore, Bill Pullman, and John Leguizamo. This movie plays out as a heartfelt, action-packed story of love, betrayal, and the human spirit.
4. The Iron Giant – The last great hand-drawn American feature is The Iron Giant. Set in the 1950s amongst beatniks and the red scare, there is a story of an alien robot who crash lands in small town USA. A little boy befriends the robot that has been damaged and is activated as a weapon when attacked by the military. The boy and his family must save the robot and help bring understanding to the community. This story resembles classics like E.T. and Close Encounters, adults do not understand how to interact with aliens, little boys who watch sci-fi television do. The voice talents in this movie include Jennifer Aniston, Harry Connick Jr., and Vin Diesel. Brad Bird is the directing force behind this simple wonder.
3. The Incredibles – Another Brad Bird directed film, this one with the power of Pixar behind it, The Incredibles takes everything Stan Lee created with Fantastic Four and improved upon it. The story of a family of superheroes that must fight an egotistical villain, it is perfect. It is funny, exciting, and it’s about protecting the people around you by being honest with yourself. I grew up watching comic book based cartoons and am very familiar with Superman, Batman, Spiderman and the like, this movie is a wonderful depiction of that world. Great for children and adults, The Incredibles is a must see. The voice cast includes Craig T. Nelson, Jason Lee, and Holly Hunter.
2. Howl’s Moving Castle – Myazaki. In my opinion, the greatest animator of all time, he even surpasses Walt Disney. He has created such classics as Castle in the Sky, My Neighbor Totoro, Spirited Away, and Ponyo. This is my favorite of his films. It is about a girl who is transformed into an old hag by an evil witch, the girl then stumbles upon the mysterious wizard Howl and his fire demon Calcifer. They must combine their forces to defeat a growing evil. The thing this movie has more then any other animated feature I have seen is the deep fantasy that expects you to accept everything you see without asking questions. You sit in wonder as this masterpiece unfolds before you. The English dubbed version is voiced by Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons, Blyth Danner, and Billy Crystal as Calcifer. See this if you have the chance, but at least go add Ponyo to your Netflix instant queue.
1. Toy Story – This is the most sentimental of all the movies on this list. I hold it dear because I was Andy. I had a Wolverine action figure and a Luke Skywalker action figure that were my favorites, they are worn out and heavily used, but I still have them in the attic. I was 8 when I saw Toy Story in theaters and I remember being in awe, not just of the animation and the jokes, but of the entire story and real it felt to me. The journey of rivals becoming friends and discovering themselves in order to return their owner. John Lasseter developed the original story for The Brave Little Toaster and that eventually grew into what would become Toy Story. Pixar blasted onto the scene with a smash hit that set the bar extremely high for animated features to come, they have yet to disappoint. I plan on getting down my box of action figures soon, but for now my son is content wearing his Buzz Lightyear pajamas and being completely obsessed with all three Toy Story movies. The incredible voice cast for Toy Story includes Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Don Rickles, and Jim Varney.
Next Top 5 – Appreciating the Unappreciated: Top 5 Directors who have never won an Academy Award.
Has anyone else noticed they do not make PG comedies anymore? (I mean for adults). I am watching one of my favorite Bill Murray movies, directed my Harold Ramis, and as I always do, I check the MPAA rating. I was kind of surprised and then disappointed. I was surprised to see that Groundhog Day was only rated PG. I was not shocked because there is adult content like language, sex, and violence, because there is very little in this movie. I just figured it was PG-13. Do the math, Ramis plus Murray plus the typical comedies I like and most adults for that matter. I have very little problem with the ratings system other than its inconsistency, but that’s a whole other story. I was depressed when I realized they don’t make comedies like this anymore. This is sad! I do not necessarily blame studios or the press, I blame the consumer. I movie like this isn’t made because it will not make money, that’s a deep barrel friends.
I thought hard of some other PG comedies that are often overlooked and most definitely extinct. Two that immediately came to mind were What About Bob? (1991) and Houseguest (1995). These are all three movies that I was able to watch as a kid and helped shape my love of the comedy genre. What About Bob again stars Murray alongside the amazing Richard Dreyfuss and is about a lunatic who follows his therapist on vacation, it is hilarious! Houseguest stars Sinbad as a loser who cons Phil Hartman and his family into letting him stay with them until they both realize they all actually need each other. These may sound boring, but I stand firmly behind them.
Do not misunderstand me, I love raunchy, foul comedy that involves cheap and crude humor. This is not about any issue I have with modern comedies, far from it. I just find it sad that we have lost a dimension of filmmaking that I hold so dear to myself.
Of these three Groundhog Day is the best, it has many aspects of what the main character goes through. He goes from being inconvenienced jerk, to annoyed with the universe suicidal maniac, to caring for an elderly homeless guy, to the ultimate George Bailey. Bill Murray uses his greatest talent. He is a terrible person who you cheer relentlessly for the entire movie.
Maybe I am just partial to Bill Murray, but I just think the modern comedy relies too heavily on the crutch of edginess. I strongly suggest these films and will continue to think of them fondly.
To round out the first series of Top 5, I have saved the best for last. My Top 5 favorite films of 2010. These may not be the very best films, they may not be recognized by the Academy or Rotten Tomatoes, but I have seen a lot of movies and these accomplished their goal as well as entertained me.
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
A movie about a guy in love dealing with his girlfriend’s exes has never been so funny and “epic”. Witty comedy and splashy special effects let you know you are at the movies, this film hides nothing. It gives audiences what they want, nerdy bass players kicking the crap out of Brandon Routh.
This movie is directed by Edgar Wright of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz fame. Stars Michael Cera in the title role, with a supporting cast that includes Chris Evans, Kieran Culkin, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and Anna Kendrick. This ensemble made for great cameos as well as awesome villains; no one steals the show while they all do.
For a generation of boys and girls obsessed with getting to the next boss and winning all the coins, this movie nails it. At the same time funny and awesome. It is Rom-Com meets Capcom.
4. Toy Story 3
I may be partial to this movie, seeing as how I was 9 when the first in the trilogy was released. My timeline fits very neatly with Andy’s, I have my X-Men and Star Wars action figures in the attic waiting for my son. I cried in this movie multiple times, Pixar can do that to grown men.
Directed by Lee Unkrich, written by the Pixar team lead by John Lasseter, this is my favorite Pixar film since Toy Story was released in 1995. This film, as with any good sequel, has matured out of the original story. Woody has grown more laid back; Buzz and Jessie are less adventurous. They all still hold hope that one day they will be played with again. It is a theme I first saw in the John Lasseter original idea of The Brave Little Toaster (1987). What if the things we cherish so much as a child have personalities and life, and what if we outgrow them?
Tom Hanks, Tim Allen, Joan Cusack, and Ned Beatty top of the cast of the masterful animated adventure. See any Disney Pixar film you can, but most definitely see the Toy Story Trilogy.
3. Black Swan
Hauntingly real and insane at the same time. Having little interest in ballet, this film made me scared of ballerinas. This movie is about a young girl who receives the part of the swan princess in Swan Lake. She performs her version of the white swan flawlessly, it is her black swan that she has trouble letting go of. In an effort to set free her inner darkness for the performance of a lifetime she opens up a side of herself she had been hiding for many years. Obsession is an understatement in this film.
Directed immaculately by Darren Aronofsky and starring Natalie Portman in the title role, with Vincent Cassel and Mila Kunis. As much as I love Requiem for a Dream and The Fountain, I firmly believe this is Aronofsky’s best work. It is simple and to the point, yet you still leave somewhat baffled by what you just witnessed.
Natalie Portman will win the Oscar. This story of the depth of the human mind reaches a part of you that you may be aware of but do not understand. It is portrayed to perfection by an incredible cast. If you don’t like ballet, go see this movie, you may learn to fear it.
This was the movie I most anticipated this year. After hearing about Christopher Nolan’s idea for this film after The Dark Knight, I knew it would be incredible. A large blockbuster that is crazy-awesome that really boils down to love and loved lost.
Written and directed by Christopher Nolan, who first bent our minds with Memento (2000). A great ensemble cast of Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, and Cillian Murphy. The best group of actors in a movie since Ocean’s Eleven.
The wonder of this movie is that it is a tragic love story hidden as a heist movie, hidden as a science fiction film, hidden as a summer action smash. You have to watch it over and over again to through all the levels, but they are there. This one didn’t surprise, but it did exceed expectations.
1. The Social Network
600 million people use Facebook, that is a BIG number. This is a dramatic retelling of how that came to be. How a self proclaimed nerd got pissed off one night and started a revolution with a friend. There can be an argument made that this may be the most relevant movie made for its time. I think so. I have a Facebook, chances are you do to. Mark Zuckerberg can be thanked for that. In the film it is balanced between loving him and hating him, but if you stop and think, you will somewhat understand him. He is a genius, he made money on it, anyone else would do the same if given the opportunity.
David Fincher makes great movies that make people think. All the way back to Se7en up to the Oscar darling The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, he loves his craft. He saturates his films with a blurry vision reality, of heightened versions of characters that we want to follow into project mayhem. The young and untested cast sold this film. The three players are Jesse Eisenberg as Zuckerberg, Andrew Garfield as Eduardo, and Justin Timberlake as Sean Parker. These three young men are guaranteed bright futures (Timberlake as an actor). The honesty they each gave to their characters made you forget you were watching actors. That is a sign of a great film.
On a philosophical, emotional, intellectual level, this movie connected with me and obviously many others. Great pace, great vision, great acting. The most perfect film of 2010.
6. True Grit
7. The King’s Speech
9. The Town
10. Tron: Legacy
part 2 of 3
5. The Drums – The Drums
Out of Brooklyn comes my favorite new band of 2010. The Drums are upbeat and lively, this album was perfect summer fun. With key tracks such as “Let’s Go Surfing” and “I Need Fun in My Life” you get a sense of joy, as opposed so many of depressing songs coming out of the independent arena. This band has fun and they write fun and they make you feel fun. Catchy, musical, and awesome!
Listen to: “Let’s Go Surfing”, “I Need Fun in My Life”, “Me and the Moon”
4. The Social Network Soundtrack – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
With The Social Network being my favorite film of the year, it is no surprise I also loved the soundtrack. It is amazing because Trent Reznor has no history or credentials when it comes to film scores, and yet he blows me away. This soundtrack is simple while being highly complex at the same time. It flows so perfectly in and out of consciences thought, you feel like you are in a dorm room creating Facebook, you feel as though you speaking to attorneys, and you feel as though you have betrayed your best friend. Music is perhaps more connected to feeling then pictures, at least in this case I listen and I am transported to the environment of the film. I also feel is prophesizes the future and it has a post-modern quality that lets us know Facebook will always be around.
Listen to: “In Motion”, “Penetration”, “Magnetic”
3. The Age of Adz – Sufjan Stevens
Stevens’ first linear thought since Illinois, this was a return to songwriting and less experimental then his previous two releases. Like The Suburbs, it is mature and it is impressive to see where Sufjan Stevens has come to, with haunting vocals, simple melodies, complex chords. You need to listen more then once to actually understand that this album is his best yet, maybe not your favorite, but from beginning to end, his most complete.
Listen to: “Futile Devices”, “Now That I’m Older”, “Impossible Soul”
2. The Suburbs – Arcade Fire
After 2005 there was a very high expectation for this little band from Canada, and I am one of the many who was sadly disappointed with their sophomore effort, Neon Bible. I was skeptical when listening to The Suburbs and it surpassed my concerns and came to be my favorite Arcade Fire album thus far. It is mature in its mixing and writing and epic in its vocals and production; you scream and hum in the same sitting. Like a blast to the ears, this album was an instant hit in my car and on my stereo.
Listen to: “City with No Children”, “We Used to Wait”, “Sprawl II”
1. The Wild Hunt – The Tallest Man on Earth
The Swedish folkster, Kristian Matsson, has come to write, perform, and record like the great folk heroes of the 1960s. This is one of the few albums this year that I listened to all the way through over and over again. What is it about European folk pop that makes it so much better? I really want to know, but Matsson is the best for right now. Other then Dylan and Bazan, I do not know of a more relevant folk writer for his time. His screeching vocals and his absolute soul is what brings you to believe this guy could actually break your heart with his music. A perfect album in all regards.
Listen to: “You’re Going Back”, “King of Spain”, “Love Is All”