Sunday, December 28, 2008

08 Was Great or: How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love Sappy Movies.

When thinking about a top ten list of movies for 2008 i started to worry a bit. As it turned out my netflix had been a black hole of quality for a good portion of the year and my movie going rate had decreased while my drinking rate increased exponentially. Since going on the wagon on the 21st of December I've been able to squeeze in some notable movies...otherwise you'd be seeing "You Don't Mess With the Zohan" in prime real estate. What has helped is finally driving to The Landmark on Pico. It's a treat to see a movie there. I've banged out four movies since the prohibition began, making me more than ready to construct my top ten. With that said, on to Number 10

10) Step Brothers: I know I should be putting Tropic Thunder here, but the heart wants what the heart wants. Yes I liked "Tropic Thunder", but I loved Step Brothers. I think my insane expectations for Tropic Thunder (and "Pineapple Express") compounded by my low expectations for Step Brothers (thanks to my disdain for Talladega Nights) led me to really laugh my ass off at Ferrell and Reilley and rank it #1 out of the big three summer comedies. It's a well known fact that JCR can do no wrong in my eyes. Ever. With that said Ferrell could be anything that wasn't Ricky Bobby and I was going to be pleased. Their ending duet was a thing of was the family acapella sing along to Sweet Child O' Mine. Thanks to this movie"Fucking Catalina Wine Mixer" will be added to the drunken frat boy catch phrase library for years to come.

Less believable man/child step brothers: Steve Nash and Baron Davis, chilling in my neighborhood.

Trivia: um, so in the later numbers I was quoting how many times "fuck" was uttered in each movie. For Step Brothers, I had to do a google search. People, I implore you: think before you search.

9) The Visitor: Kudos to Richard Jenkins for forever lingering in the shadows as a role player and then when he finally got the chance to lead a film he knocked it out of the park. This trailer does the movie zero justice. Give it a's a slow starter. These are the types of movies that Netflix help you uncover. The feeling of emptiness and loneliness the protagonist feels is heightened in a solo viewing. His speech about life or lack there of and his eventual rebirth should have warranted him a Golden Globe at the very least. I mean come on, doesn't everyone get nominated for a Golden Globe? (I'm looking at you Tom Cruise in "Tropic Thunder")

8) In Bruges: If the movie consisted solely of this 30 second clip it would still make the eight slot. On top of that fine bit of cinema, you get Colin Farrell actually trying in a movie. A nice change from the Sonny Crocket fiasco of 2006. Actually to think of it, I'm not certain that Colin Farrell has been in anything good since Tigerland. A real underrated solid movie that should be added to your Netflix asap. I'm talking about "In Bruges", but feel free to add Tigerland as well.

Trivia Note: The word 'fuck' and its derivatives are said 126 times in this 107-minute film, an average of 1.18 'fucks' per minute. Tarantino eat your heart out.

7) Burn After Reading: I can see why the movie was lambasted by the critics: It wasn't "No Country for Old Men". A simple case of the Hangover Effect. The same exact thing happened after all the praise and awards for Fargo in '96. Their next movie was CRUSHED by critics and viewers alike. That movie you ask? The now cult classic of our generation: The Big Lebowski. History repeating itself. What have we learned? Critics and film buffs are dicks. Burn After Reading is a fun comic thriller that lets its stars act outside of their usual comfort zones (sans Tilda Swinton*) and channel a bizzaro three stooges meets Unfaithful meets the Bourne Identity (with out all the martial arts and parkour). An added bonus is the movie inside of the movie, "Coming Up Daisy". It looked like a movie all of my sisters would eat up. Props to Richard Jenkins for making the list for a third time. He is the Jason Statham to my Stephen King.

Trivia Note: fuck is said 60 times.

6)Frost/Nixon: I was really really surprised by how much I enjoyed this movie. Thanks to Peter Morgan (The Queen), who adapted it from his hit play, Frost/Nixon acts as a reminder of our personal flaws, missteps and need for redemption. This great recreation of an interview that went from a game of checkers and turned into a heated game of verbal chess. Perhaps a fleeting TV moment that carried more weight and emotion than anyone might have realized at the time. Imagine Billy Bush interviewing GWB and squeezing a "there never were WMDs. It was all made up so we could get a good ol' war goin'". Heady stuff. They really recreated the time and sentiment of the nation during that time. A nation that felt lied to. A nation well aware that they were part of a war that was un-winnable and wrong. A nation that wanted change and more importantly they wanted answers. It felt like opening a window into a certain point in time that very much mirrors today's climate, and I totally got lost in it...until Clint Fucking Howard's ugly mug showed up to close it. Can someone write an open letter to Ron Howard and state that we appreciate that he keeps giving his mongoloid brother a gig, but maybe from here on out he can be a gaffer or the "best boy". (I bet Clint was furious when he lost out on the role of Ronnie the pedophile in Little Children. "I was born for that part, Ron. Please pull some strings!" Fucking Clint.) Luckily, he wasn't cast as Nixon. Frank Langella was and he doesn't so much impersonate Nixon as much as he becomes him. At times you will forget that you're watching the actor who played the nefarious power hungry politician in "Dave." Hmm, I guess it wasn't much of a stretch for him. With that said Frank Langella IS Nixon and it is everything that "W" should have been and wasn't.

Trivia Note: Nixon wants to know if you fornicated last night.

5) Iron Man: Young Del was a comic book guy. It's true. He used to ride his bike to the store each Wednesday to pick up the new releases. He can count on his right hand how many times he considered buying an Iron Man comic. Naturally, when talk of an Iron Man movie started leaking he thought "Who the hell is going to want to see that?" Then he saw the trailer. Fuck yeah Favreau! With the help of a kick ass Robert Downey Jr and the late great Stan Winston, he made an awesome, accessible film from a fringe character from a fringe area of literature. Even Gwneyth Platrow's usual sucktactular face and acting (can we just give all her roles to Eva Mendes already?) couldn't hold it back.

It was a force of badass-ness (yeah i just made up a word) that totally played out like a living breathing comic book. That statement is meant to be a compliment. Jerks.

Bonus Points for making Jeff Bridges look equally badass.

4) The Wrestler: Darrwn Aronofsky is the King of Pain. His first movie "Pi" was a test in what the viewer could handle on a sonic level. The jarring sound effects whittled people away one by one from my living room when i brought it home as a "screener" from my job at good ol' Plaza Video. If you were able to get past that sonic assault you were rewarded with a great piece of film making from a new voice. After that came "Requiem for a Dream". That movie was a test in what audience could physically handle seeing. Requiem is a movie that you walk past in Best Buy and you pick it up and say "what a brilliant movie", then you put it down because you can't possibly fathom owning it and again sitting down and going through the pain that the four protagonists go through. It would be like buying Deliverance on Blu Ray and watching Ned Beatty's poor "Squeal Like a pig" scene...but for 100 more minutes. The Wrestler is another test. This time we're tested with how much we can handle emotionally. Never would I have expected to pay to see a movie about wrestling STARRING Mickey Rourke, but it's been an odd year. (as #3 and #1 will attest) As it turns out, Darren Aronofsky's shooting style coupled with Mickey Rourke's real life story makes him perfectly cast as a once star now washed up wrestler. This combination gives it an almost documentary feel, and the audience can immediately relate to "Ram". I don't want to give anything away about this movie but let me just say the wrestling is the least painful aspect of the movie, and Marissa Tomei is great as an equally washed up stripper. Plus she gets naked!

Other reasons for the four slot: a kick ass 80's hair metal soundtrack and Todd from the Crazy Dogggz (sans bongos).

3) Wall-E: I never go see kids movies in theaters unless I'm taking my niece and nephews. I had no intentions of going to see this movie, but after a few cocktails near the promenade a girl whose company I was enjoying insisted on it. I was glad I did. It was a great piece of movie making with a solid message bumbled up in a cute package. A Trojan horse if you will. On top of that, I don't think any other movie I've seen could go with out dialogue for so long (33 minutes) and not lose an audience. Sure he looked like a complete rip off of Johnny Five from Short Circuit but nobody (except this lady) cared. No one cared because this was a fine crafted piece of art that somehow managed to tug on the audiences heart strings. I know this because as Eve was seeing the video log of how Wall-E cared for her during her hibernation status, the girl who dragged me to this "kids film" was balling her eyes out. I'm talking rivers of tears. She looked over and smiled with tears gushing out of her saucer eyes. It was an endearing moment and I thought perhaps, just maybe she might be the Eve to my Wall-E. As it would turn out she was more the H.A.L to my Dave.

2)The Dark Knight: Heath Ledger died. We all know that. Heath Ledger gave a great performance. We all know that. So why does this movie make number two? My reasoning is because it was the complete opposite of Iron Man. Like I said, Iron Man was a walking talking comic book. The Dark Knight however manged to transcend the entire genre and fall into a class of its own. With the overabundant CGI work in films today, the sense of danger is never really felt. Chris Nolan, leery of this, attempted to shoot this movie with as many old school tactics as possible. The results speak for themselves. Each action scene has a heightened sense of danger and even though you know it would kill the WB studio to off Batman you still feel a great sense of peril. Chris Nolan has made a career on twists and turns and The Dark Knight was no exception. The Joker personified chaos, but beyond that chaos and claims of having no plan, there were intricate events that pushed the plot along from beginning to end. A well thought out domino effect of chaos. A far cry from Jack Nicholson dancing around to Prince as he gave out fake joker money. Just an awesome movie from top to bottom with a kick ass cast. I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again: I wish Morgan Freeman were my grandfather. He's so wise and preachy, but not in the angry Charles S Dutton kind of way.

Note: If you want more of the Joker, go to Borders during their 40% off everything sale and pick up "The Killing Joke". Nolan's version of the Joker was partly inspired by it.

and lastly...

Question: how do you top a list that includes movies about wrestling, old men learning to drum, and a knock off Short Circuit? Do you go with:

a) Tropic Thunder
b) Milk
c) The Curious Incident of Benjamin Buttons
d) Slumdog Millionaire

D. Final answer.

Before I even get into the movie, I have to say that Frieda Pinto is EASILY the most beautiful woman I've ever seen.

Slumdog Millionaire: I saw this movie on Saturday and I can not stop thinking about it. It is my 2009 version of "Once". I went into it Frank Costanza style and was blown away. I should have known it was going to be awesome because Danny Boyle has yet to let me down. If there was ever to be a movie made about me I think he'd be my choice to go behind the lens. Wes Anderson would get too quirky, Darren Aronfsky would realize too much pain, and Bryan Singer would insist on having some sort of Nazi plot device, possibly involving Tom Cruise prancing around in a patch. Enough already Bryan. Nope, Boyle would be the man. The guy attacks such diverse genres. You really never know what to expect next. To go from "28 Days Later", to "Millions" to "Sunshine" is a pretty amazing feat. I truly don't have the words to describe how much I enjoyed this movie. Just think for a second. I just said a movie whose plot centers on the Indian version of "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" is my favorite movie of the year. Amazing locations, a clever plot device, great soundtracks, crisp editing, and child actors you don't want to drop kick. The best analogy I can give you is "City of God meets Forrest Gump"...without any nonsense like the "It happens" and Smiley Face T-Shirt running cross country debacle in the latter part of Gump. It's the Indian Odyssey by way of the genius that is DannyBoyle.

Go see it. Now.

That's it, that's my list....and here is my top 5 list of movies for 2008 that I still need to see:

5 Synecdoche, New York

4 Gran Turino (looks hilarious)

3 Religulous

2 Milk

1 Let The Right Ones In.

*Tilda Swinton: No acting outside of her wheel house. She does her usual ice queen. She terrifies me and is quite possible the reason why Benjamin Buttons will not be listed in this blog.


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