Sunday, December 27, 2009

July Movies

And on...

Public Enemies: Michael Mann directing Johnny Depp as John Dillinger? Sounds like a can't miss proposition. It wasn't. Partially redeemed by the radiant Marion Cotillard and the amazing Ford Tri-Motor  plane. 

BrĂ¼no: Sacha Baron Cohen has a brilliant mind, impeccable comedic timing, and balls as big as watermelons. This time around Cohen set out to satirize homophobia the way he targeted racism in "Borat". The disappointing showing at the box office may have proved that hatred of gays is more prevalent than racial bias. A shame, too, as this was a hilarious film. John Waters should look upon this movie like a proud parent.

Orphan: I saw this movie only because I learned what the surprise twist ending was, and I didn't believe anyone would so something so ridiculous. I was wrong. I was really sad to realize I was the only person in the cinema who was laughing.

Next: August, and the two movies that made the biggest impression on me.

June, Rhymes With...

Continuing the 2009 movie list...

The Hangover: This was a surprise. I hadn't intended to see a film that day, found myself near a cinema, and saw this because it was playing next, so this was a very pleasant surprise. Instead of the usual stupid teen sex comedy, this was the story of four adult men getting themselves into the sort of trouble teenagers could never dream of. In gloriously bad taste, and honestly funny.

The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3: Another instance of seeing a film because there was nothing better to do, and a considerably less rewarding one. A perfectly needless remake, redeemed by Denzel Washington's usual flawless work, some worthwhile performances by John Turturro and James Gandolfini, and the genuine New York City location filming. Nothing looks like NYC except NYC.

Moon: I enjoy science fiction films, and I see so few of them. Oh, I see plenty of films that take place in space, but so very few of them are actual science fiction. Moon was directed by Duncan Jones, on a very low budget, with a very small cast (95% of the film is Sam Rockwell interacting with a computer voiced by Kevin Spacey, and... Sam Rockwell). A film with big ideas and small budget, which proved that big ideas are what matters.

Whatever Works: The best film Woody Allen's made in ages. Benefits greatly by having Larry David play the part Allen typically plays. Terrific supporting cast as well, with Ed Begley Jr. and Michael McKean, and national treasure Patricia Clarkson.

May, Where Things Start To Pick Up

Continuing the 2009 cinema wrap-up.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine: I enjoyed this because it seemed to have a sense of it's own ridiculousness. We've all seen the cliche` in one superhero film or another, where after a tragedy a character stretches their arms out and shouts "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!" as a camera mounted on a crane pulls upward. This shot was in Wolverine three times. Either they were incredibly lazy or they were having some fun. Didn't regret seeing this, partly because I saw it at a cinema with really, really good popcorn.

Star Trek: I'll give J.J. Abrams credit. Few would take the job of restarting a film franchise which long ago wore out its welcome. That it wasn't embarrassing would be a triumph, that it was actually good was a minor miracle. The cast captured the essence of the characters without imitating the original TV series cast (except for Karl Urban, who did a pretty good job of channeling DeForrest Kelley). The plot was familiar, taken from the best film in the series, "The Wrath of Khan", but the action was thrilling, the jokes worked, and there were enough references to Star Trek history to tickle all but the most skeptical Trek fan. One of the few instances where you can't wait for the sequel.

Up: As I said in the previous post, I can't stand computer animation. Call me a traditionalist, call me an old fart, I just loathe the balloon-like sterility of the images. That said... I actually liked this. I'm still not a fan of digital animation, but this worked. Two things that helped: the hero was a crabby old man, and there was a dog who was the most doglike cartoon character since Bruno in "The Triplets of Belleville". (Note: this is the only film on the list I didn't see in the cinema. My perceptions were based on the DVD. What format you see a film in can color your opinion. The Star Wars prequels were grueling in the cinema, but on TV they can function as background noise and actually be semi-enjoyable).

Drag Me To Hell: I've enjoyed Peter Jackson's recent prestige films. With the Lord of the Rings movies and King Kong he proved that effects-laden blockbusters can also be good films. But I miss the Peter Jackson who made hilarious horror comedies like "Bad Taste" and "Dead Alive". Sam Raimi started with raucous and impolite horror and horror-comedies like the Evil Dead films before becoming respectable with "A Simple Plan" and the Spider-Man movies. Well, the first two Spider-Man movies, anyway. So I was looking forward to Raimi returning to his disreputable roots. And I was not disappointed. Very few can mix slapstick comedy and the grotesque like Raimi. If you've a sick sense of humor this is a must see. Needless to say, I loved it.

I Did Mention Movies, Didn't I?

One thing that irritates me about this time of year is the senseless flood of "Ten best of the year" lists. Film, music and literature are art, and judgments about their relative value are subjective. It's not like sports, where if a runner crosses the finish line before another, you can make a fair comparison. So what I'm going to do is list all the films I've seen this year and tell you what I thought about them. This is not to be confused with a professional critic's list. These were movies I paid to see with a blue collar worker's wages, and saw in what spare time I had. 


Just one film, Pierre Morel's Taken. It's a Luc Besson - produced action film. Which means it's predictable, has a barely serviceable plot, and is a hell of a lot of fun to watch. Liam Neeson gives it a bit more gravitas than it deserved.


Again, I saw just one film this month, Henry Selick's Coraline. One of the things I really dislike is the trend towards digitally created animated films. Coraline was done using old-fashioned stop-motion animation, with Selick's trademark attention to the tiniest detail. It's a simple story with a simple message (be very, very careful what you wish for), but sometimes it's not the story, but how you tell it, and this was very well told indeed. I saw in in 3D, in a theater filled with small children and the parents they'd be begging to sleep next to that evening. Like all great children's films, it was made by adults who weren't condescending to their intended audience. I liked this one a lot.


Didn't see a single film in March. 


Just one film this month, Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor's Crank: High Voltage. If I had made a film when I was seventeen, I would have made something like this. Insane pace, frenetic action, constant violence, gratuitous nudity, incessant swearing. I was smiling from the first frame to the last. The sort of film Roger Corman would have made if he was completely lacking in moral fiber. The sort of film Russ Meyer would have made on a month long methedrine jag.

(Rest of the year's films in subsequent entries)

Friday, December 11, 2009

The More Things Change

In 2003, I said this was the Bush foreign policy set to music.
Now, it's Obama's Nobel peace prize acceptance speech set to music.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Irony. Dead, And Not Coming Back.

The Washington Times has declared that climate change researchers are a cult.

The Washington Times is published by Reverend Moon.

Now, if you'll pardon me for a few minutes, I need to wrap my head in duct tape so there won't be so much mess when my skull explodes.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

For A Friend...

Done originally by Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush and redone by many others, but this is my favorite version.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

YouTube, The Lazy Blogger's Best Friend

From Eric Idle, a hero here at One Nation, OMG:

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What's The Difference Between LBJ And Obama?

LBJ had domestic policies that helped the poor.