I felt my blog could start with no better word than motherfucker. Now that that’s out of the way, we already have shit to take care of. Jesus, the work piles up fast.
I guess we need to do this all legitimate-like and explain who I am and what I’m doing. Which usually begins with an explanation of the title of the blog…
Well you know what, I’m not gonna do that. See? Switching this shit up on you already. We’ll get to the paperwork later. For now, let’s jump right into the Nitty Gritty (which is both an idiom for “the basics” and a fake title of an autobiography of a 20th century gangster that I made up just now. Right there. I just did that).
Let’s begin with what will essentially be the topic of all of the posts on this blog: movies. What better way to ring in the New Year (1/1/11. How awesome is that? In binary it means…well, I have no fucking clue what it means, but it means something, and that’s what counts) than to provide a personal list of my top ten favorite movies of last year. And here we go (After a short break):
Sure, there were better films that came out. A lot of really good movies that are probably going to be nominated for a bunch of Oscars. Many of them are on the rest of this list. But none were more enjoyable than this movie. The absolute thrill of the visuals combined with lightning fast scenes and references galore make this a film guaranteed to get dozens of replays in the future. Keep in mind, this is my list of my favorite movies, not the best, and this was my favorite movie of the year, so quit your goddamn bitching already. Don’t try to hide it. I see you critiquing me for not putting Social Network here. I don’t give a fuck. Want to voice your opinion? Make your own goddamn list. This movie’s awesome. My favorite of the year. It’s worth at least twice the audience it got (as are all of Edgar Wright’s movies).
Pixar, turning grown men into crying children since 1995. Social Network, Imma let you finish, but it’s unfair to have to create a top ten list every year when Pixar is still making movies. This is three years running now that Pixar has probably come out with the best (or at least top 3) movie of the year (Wall-E being the best of all … fuck The Dark Knight, Wall-E should have had that Reader Best Picture slot. Dark Knight could have the Frost/Nixon one. It can be Bosley). How can anyone rival the sheer craftsmanship and humanity Pixar puts into its films? It’s like Disney but without the racism. I hate to take away a spot from another deserving film, but what can I do? When a movie has you crying within the first three minutes (Seriously. There was a 4-year old behind me looking at me like, “Dude, quit being such a bitch.”), it’s special. I feel no qualms about putting this so high, because next year is Cars 2, and I’m about 99% sure that has zero chance of making next year’s top 10. It’s just, creepy. Cars watching other cars like they’re gladiators? Also, what kind of ozone layer exists in this world? Is this why Wall-E exists? If so, I’ll accept it. Anyway, Toy Story 3 is one of the best movies of the year, we all know it. Extra bonus points for the noir clown interlude. On to the next one.
3. The Social Network
The brilliance that is Aaron Sorkin’s script for this film deserves no less than fourth on this list. The fact that Fincher left the script exactly as is shows you how good it is. This is a movie that deserves every bit of the acclaim it is getting, purely because, two years ago, fresh off an Oscar nod for Benjamin Button (and a shit load of good will for the brilliance that was Zodiac), David Fincher announced he was making a movie about the founding of Facebook. And what was everyone’s reaction? “What the fuck Why? How can that possibly be good?” Of course, we all gave Fincher the benefit of the doubt, because the man’s worst movie was Panic Room (not counting Alien cubed, because everyone has to start somewhere), and as worst movies go, that’s a pretty damn good one (aside from that really unnecessary CGI-through-the-coffee-pot-handle. That’s indefensible). But who honestly thought a movie about the founding of Facebook could possibly be any good? The fact that the movie that resulted is this movie, earns this film a shit load of win.
4. True Grit
I’m a sucker for Westerns. What can I say? Granted, that really only affects this movie one slot, because even without my irrational love of the genre (greatly enhanced by having been taught by the great Richard Slotkin. Seriously, read his book on Westerns. It’s amazing. I pick that shit up randomly just to remind myself how awesome it is. I think of it as both light reading and training for when I’m a parent), this film would still be top 5. It’s that good. I mean, it’s the Coen brothers. Name one truly bad Coen brothers movie. I’m not talking about one you didn’t like, I’m talking about a truly bad one. Even Ladykillers has it’s redeemable moments. Tom Hanks does deliver a fantastic performance in it. The stamp of the Coen brothers is the live-action equivalent of the Pixar stamp. Even if you don’t like the movie that much, it’s still a good movie. Try to watch this movie and not get sucked in. Hailee Steinfeld is sublime. The Coen’s biggest strength lies in their ability to cast the tiny roles with unique actors. That’s truly what makes this movie. And somebody give Roger Deakins a cinematography Oscar already. I mean, come on, Hollywood.
5. The Fighter
God damn, this was a good movie. It was hard to see this being a bad movie, but I never expected half of what I got. Christian Bale deserves an Oscar, and Melissa Leo getting one too would also be nice. What makes this movie for me is that it’s not about its protagonist. It’s about his fucked up family. David O. Russell made a brilliant decision (if indeed it was his decision. But, we’re in the age of the director, so all credit goes to him until otherwise explained on DVD special features or IMDB trivia pages) to focus on everything but the subject matter. It’s called The Fighter and only has like four fights in it. And one of them is Amy Adams beating the shit out of Marky Mark’s sisters. They pull a Rocky by giving you everything but the fight until the end. And believe me, the familial exchanges are fantastic, everything feels real, and, from what I hear, is exactly what these real people sound like. If you don’t believe me, check out this fantastic documentary, which provides the great conceit of the film — with Dickie thinking they’re filming a documentary about his comeback when it’s really about crack addiction. Watch the first ten minutes of it after watching the film, and not only will you see someone who is best described as “Crackhead Celine Dion,” but you will also see how *spot-on* Christian Bale and Melissa Leo’s portrayals of these people are.
Also, another thing to note about the film. All the ads and FYC’s for the film (I abbreviated the phrase “For Your Consideration to save space) point to the fact that these are the “best reviews” of Wahlberg’s career. I find this statement so humorous. Because in the films where Wahlberg’s gotten his best notices, this, I Heart Huckabees and The Departed, are films in which he has limited screen time compared to his other films. Here he is actually a supporting character, and is so passive that he barely registers presence in a lot of scenes. What does that say about what critics think of him, if he gets his best reviews when his screen time is limited?
I loved this movie. I knew I was going to like it from the second they announced it. Bruce Willis, Morgan Freeman, Helen Mirren, Mary Louise Parker (sigh), Brian Cox, John Malkovich, Richard Dreyfuss, Ernest Borgnine — in a movie about retirees going on spy missions. Seriously, how could this have been bad? And when I watched the actual movie, I fucking loved it. I laughed the whole way through. I loved the mixture of 80s character development and 90s action. I loved that all the action had a character element to it and wasn’t, “Hey, these unmarked black cars are following us. Let’s get into a high-speed chase for no reason, kill them, and move on without any form of information from it that moves the plot forward.” Even the scene where Malkovich goes up against a rocket launcher is somehow made plausible (not really) because the whole thing is set up by character moments and character choices. The launcher is a punchline and not just something added to make it more “awesome.” See The Losers for how not doing this can hurt a film. Bottom line: this movie is hilarious. It’s great. It’s awesome. And it features ten straight minutes of bickering at the beginning, which is the key to my heart when it comes to movies.
What a fucked up movie. That’s the best thing I can possibly say about it. Man, is it brilliantly fucked up. You want to know how fucked up it was? You didn’t really notice just how bad Mila Kunis’s acting was. Don’t get me wrong, I like her, but she’s not exactly Vivien Leigh. This is a performance movie, through and through. And if Natalie ends up winning the Oscar, she will be one in a long line of Best Actresses who have won for an out and out melodrama. It’s just that this melodrama is a mixture of The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus. And when is that ever a bad thing? Also, a lot of respect needs to be given for one particular moment, one that freaked the fuck out of me in the theater. I rarely get spooked at anything, but when this happened, I actually said, “that’s the kind of shit that’ll give a person nightmares.” Fortunately, it hasn’t. But it’s worth noting. It’s the moment at the end, when Natalie’s gone all Sister Ruth and is dancing as the black swan. And she is spun toward the camera, and for a split second, she looks directly at the camera with those bloodshot eyes, and it’s fucking terrifying. Brilliant choice.
The one reason this isn’t higher (aside from the other seven) — exposition. The movie can be called Exposition, there’s so much of it. Don’t get me wrong, this is a brilliant movie. Chris Nolan did a beautiful job. It looks great, is a fun ride, and he probably helped a lot of screenwriters over the next five to ten years get their scripts sold instead of having to work on Cats and Dogs 3, or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Get the Fleas. However, if I’m judging based purely on replay value (which should be what constitutes “favorite”), I don’t think I’m going to put this on all that much. It’s 2 1/2 hours of people explaining shit, and about twenty minutes of awesome no-gravity hotel stuff. I call it like I see it. And it’s movies. I saw it. So, brilliant movie, loved it, still 8th. Also, the ending was the cinematic equivalent of when you throw out a controversial comment purely to get a reaction.
This movie has made it okay for me to like Ben Affleck again. Before, I’d catch shit for it. They’d be all like, “Dude made Reindeer Games.” Reindeer Games can be substituted for a number of films he’s made over the years. And sure. But I believe in Ben Affleck. Just like I believe in Nicolas Cage. And I’m still catching shit for that one. That’s cool. But this film, is incredible. Rarely anymore does a film actually make me feel legit suspense. Usually I’m just watching, thinking, “Now they’re gonna almost get caught. Yeah, there it goes. Now they’re almost gonna get caught but get out of it. Oh, nice job dealing with the hostage, haven’t seen that before….” and I’m not really caught up like I’m supposed to be. And it’s because the films don’t warrant it. But this one did. It’s paced so well, there were moments where I was like, “Oh fuck. That’s not good. How’s he gonna get out of that?” I actually didn’t know ten minutes before the end whether Affleck was going to get out alive. Because even when he clears one hurdle, there are like three more that come up that make you think, “No way he works that one out.” That’s the biggest compliment I can give this film. My one gripe though — and it’s a minor in terms of overall product, but a major issue for me — the ending voiceover. Why? Why is voiceover necessary ever? Phantom voiceover is just creepy. I know it’s the main character and all, but he hasn’t spoken in voiceover all film. Why now? Tsk, tsk, screenwriter.
Martin Scorsese doing a Hitchcock thriller? I was sold on that shit before I walked in the room. I remember watching this in theaters, thinking, “I know the twist, but I don’t care.” I mean, it’s not really hidden. I don’t think it was ever really hidden in Hitchcock either. The glee is in the execution. This movie does a good job going through genre paces. That didn’t appeal to some, but I didn’t mind. I have a problem with that whole concentration camp flashback thing. Unnecessary, aside from the first couple shots, of the papers falling and Leo’s feet moving across the floor. For some reason, it made me think of a German Expressionist film. I would have loved it if Scorsese did that, and Leo moved like Cesare in Caligari. But, no, he gunned down Germans instead. It only served to make me want Leo and Marty to make a war movie together. And then a Western. But anyway, the best thing about this movie is watching Marty have fun with a genre he clearly enjoys, and also the scenes between Michelle Williams and Leo. She made quite an impact in her few scenes. And he’s not bad either. Please, Academy, if you’re going to nominate him for an award, do it for this and not Inception. We don’t want another 2006 on our hands. Looking at you, Blood Diamond.
10.5. Blue Valentine
I’m cheating a little bit with this, I know. But, this film is so good I have to give it space. You probably saw Shutter Island. I know you haven’t seen this. And if it came down to it, I’d rather you see this. Shutter Island also probably gets the spot because Scorsese made it. Ask me in five years which one I like better, it’ll probably be this.
Here’s a movie that physically left me emotionally drained by the time I got to the end of it. Holy shit, is this movie special. It does nothing absolutely new or original, and it’s nothing more than a film about these two people, and the life they’ve lived. And goddamn is it a powerful one. Much is made about the cutting between when they were falling in love and when their marriage is falling apart, but the film is so much more than that. You think the gimmick would be about juxtaposition, but it’s not. It’s actually about painting a complete picture of the entire situation that these two people exist in. And what’s best about it is that neither of them is right and neither is wrong. Their marriage is falling apart because of everything. It’s not just who did what — it’s who they are, how they got together, how things have progressed — like real people. Go, see this movie, as long as you can handle having a pile of stress thrown on you for 2 hours. It’s worth it.
Now that the big ten are out of the way, let’s move on to other films that were worthwhile from last year, because as you’ll discover about me, I’m all about turning people onto movies that are worthwhile. I don’t necessarily disapprove of you paying to go see Clash of the Titans (not true), but I won’t criticize you (that much) openly (also not true) about it. Instead, I’ll suggest alternatives. Better alternatives. Here they are:
I’ve organized these films into two tiers. The first tier (which is really the second tier, because tier one was the top ten) consists of films I really enjoyed but didn’t or wasn’t able to put in my top ten (it’s a numbers thing, really). These are films I really advertise that people see, because they’re what made this year in film bearable. The second tier (technically third, if we’re keeping track) consists of films I feel are worth the time, but didn’t love as much as the ones in the second tier. They’re a cut above the movies I simply just “enjoyed.” “Enjoyed” means, I sat through it and went, “meh, it wasn’t terrible.” Piranha 3D was one of those movies. I enjoyed it, but that’s about the extent of it. You’ll understand when you see the lists. Which is convenient, because here they are:
Second Tier: The Ghost Writer (#11 or 12, easily, of my favorites for the year. A brilliant, brilliant movie. Watch this if you ever have the chance.), Flipped (I’m a sucker for romantic comedies involving children. See: Little Manhattan. Seriously, see it.), Defendor (This is the gritty 70s French Connection version of Kick Ass. It’s so disturbing, yet hysterical at the same time.), She’s Out of My League (This fits somewhere between tiers two and three, but because of the complete depletion of the romantic comedy genre, this goes here.), Solitary Man, Get Low (Also somewhere in 11-15.), Get Him to the Greek (Hits more than it misses. That’s okay by me.), Splice (Finally, an intelligent — and appropriately fucked up — sci-fi movie.), The A-Team (This is how pure entertainment is supposed to be.), Winter’s Bone, The Expendables, Never Let Me Go (Watch this movie. I don’t care how depressed it makes you, watch it.), Going the Distance (Another shot in the arm of the romantic comedy genre.), Easy A (I’m a dialogue whore. There’s good shit here. Also, Stanley Tucci and Patricia Clarkson are exactly how I’m going to be with my children.), Animal Kingdom (Holy shit, was this movie good. Top 20 for sure. Maybe even 15.) Buried (Brilliant script, great execution. Watch this on a big TV in a small room.), Let Me In (Original was better. This is a nice, Magnificent Seven version of it.), Secretariat (Love the horse picture. A bit too Christian, but we’ll let it slide.), 127 Hours (Definitely top 15.), Tangled (Disney is back to form. Next time, Disney, do what you did here, just make the songs better. 11-15 as well), The King’s Speech (Great movie, a bit stagy for me, but wonderful. If not 11-15, very close to it.), Somewhere (Top 20, probably), Enter the Void (holy shit, this is a brilliant movie. Definitely top 15 or 20. Fucking brilliant).
Third Tier: Edge of Darkness, From Paris with Love, Green Zone, How to Train Your Dragon (The crazy amount of love for it has forced me to respond as I normally would and rank this here instead of tier two. I’m a spiteful being. I hate mass irrational like for things. Also see: Inception.), Kick-Ass, Iron Man 2, The Karate Kid, The American, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps (I have a theory as to why this is a brilliant movie. Perhaps if I remember/care enough to/am pestered enough, one day I’ll share it.), Hereafter, Megamind, Love and Other Drugs, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1, Tron: Legacy.
….And those are the movies I enjoyed this year. Isn’t it great you know all of this about me without actually knowing who I am?