Sunday, March 17, 2013

TOP 30 FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012 - #15-1

15) Extraterrestrial (dir-Nacho Vigalondo)

14) Tomboy (dir-Celine Sciamma)

A quietly observational piece about a young girl that moves to a new town and is mistaken for a boy.  She then decides to adopt this identity in order to fit in. One of the best movies that I've seen about the social dynamic of young people, and nowhere near as forced as it sounds.

13) Skyfall (dir-Sam Mendes)

A nice split between the more character based Casino Royale and the more set piece based, visually expressive Quantum of Solace. Probably my favorite Craig Bond by a hair.

12) The Turin Horse (dir-Bela Tarr) 

A poor farming couple pin their hopes on an old broken down horse that once belonged to Nietzsche, struggling as they are in a barren wasteland whilst being perpetually smothered by cruel, fierce winds. Naturally, pizazz fueled shenanigans ensue. Well, not really. If there can ever be said to be a post-apocalyptic neo-realist farming movie, this is it. It’s also one of the windiest movies ever made, perhaps only supplanted by the obscure western Gun Fever and Twister.

11) Good for Nothing (dir-Mike Wallis)

10) Jiro Dreams of Sushi (dir-David Gelb)

If you thought sushi porn couldn’t be spiritually uplifting and a treatise on a working life lived well, then you’ll be surprised by this one. If you expect exactly that from sushi porn, you have really high expectations for your sushi porn if I may be so bold.  I don’t even eat sushi, so I really had no preconceived notions before seeing this movie, but now I associate sushi, not with the taste of raw fish, but with spiritual uplift and a working life well lived. If you can figure out what the fuck I just wrote, you will have taken your first step on the path to enlightenment.

9) Klown (dir-Mikkel Norgaard)

8) Killer Joe (dir-William Friedkin) 

I thought my family was fucked up.

7) Silver Linings Playbook (dir-David O. Russell) 

Not the rom-com it was seemingly advertised as, but another damn fine patented David O. Russell screwball comedy of which only he can pull off (see I Heart Huckabees and Flirting With Disaster). Well, make that screwball dramedy, dealing with the issue of bi-polar disorder as well as just good old fashioned failed expectations in life, but not being heavy about it. One could argue that the ending is in the realm of “forced Hollywood bullshit closure”, but I feel it was a knowing and amusing take on such endings, pushed into the realm of the fittingly absurd (fitting for the absurdity of life portrayed in the film). 

Bradley Cooper goes beyond any notion of a good looking leading man aiming for Oscar Gold by footstompingly exhibiting a psychiatric tic, but instead totally embodies the character and fucking delivers. Jennifer Lawrence delivers too, but we already knew she would. By the way, I enjoyed J-Law’s (I’m calling her “J-Law” from now on because I am annoying) non-committal goth style for the 1st half of the picture.  Of course, she’s yummy when she’s wearing the tights and doing the dancing stuff, but that’s a given. My only major complaint is that J-Law didn’t combine the “non-committal goth” look with her “uber-spandex athletic dancer” look; maybe black tights with a Smiths shirt or something.  It's a minor issue I know, but I have to complain about shit in order to fill up these posts.

6) Argo (dir-Ben Affleck)

Maybe it is all Hollywoodized (as a dumbass American I wouldn’t know), but the poor man’s Casey Affleck delivers in this combination of real world thriller and amusing comedy, milking the absurdity of the setup and letting Alan Arkin rip through some sweet one-liners.  Laughter and tension is a tough combination to pull off, considering a lot of Hollywood comedies produce no laughs whatsoever, and a lot of Hollywood thrillers produce no tension whatsoever. I gently chide Ben as being the poor man’s Casey Affleck as an actor, but maybe Casey is the homeless man’s Ben Affleck as a director. However, I haven’t seen Gone Baby Gone or The Town, nor Casey's directorial effort I'm Still Here, so I can't really say exactly, but Casey might get knocked down a step on the Affleck family ladder if I ever eventually see them.

5) Django Unchained (dir-Quentin Tarantino)

Third act issues aside, Waltz and Foxx deliver big time, with layered flamboyance and stoic anger, respectively, in this rich and satisfying revenge western that thankfully isn’t overly homage heavy (or to put it another way, the homage doesn’t override the characters and the thrust of the story). Oh, and like Inglourious Basterds, another kickass soundtrack that maybe shouldn’t work but does. I’m digging this new QT style, sort of a nice balance between the likes of Kill Bill and the likes of Jackie Brown.

4) The Master (dir-Paul Thomas Anderson)

A riveting two-person psychodrama that thankfully doesn’t go the easy route of sledgehammering Scientology (not that Scientology doesn’t deserve to be sledgehammered, just that doing so for 140 minutes would be boring and pedantic). Instead, we see the very human motivations every step of the way for both master and student, at a time when psycho-therapy was in its infancy and the resulting void was easily filled.

3) Moonrise Kingdom (dir-Wes Anderson)

An adorable and warm coming of age romance layered with charming quirk instead of upstaged by it (although it gets close to doing so at several points). In that sense, it worked a bit better for me than the family-pain-layered-in-not-quite-as-charming-quirk that was present in The Royal Tenenbaums, maybe because the approach here better suits a child-like world. Now my second favorite Wes Anderson movie after Rushmore.

2) Poolboy: Drowning Out the Fury (dir-Garrett Brawith)

1) Amour (dir-Michael Haneke)

Described by several critics as “a story of true love”, I saw it as more of a horror movie where Trintignant’s character tries to stay strong and hold his life together (and hold on to his wife), but he can’t shake the unrelenting spectre of death. I know most everyone else thinks this is a complete departure for Haneke, but I think it fits right in with his other films while offering something new (his first film The Seventh Continent was about the horrifying domestic disintegration of a similarly named couple). However, Amour lacks the judgmental eye of the likes of Cache and Funny Games, instead presenting a horrifying scenario where there is no right or wrong answer, no good guys or bad guys, but doing so with compassion and beauty; an amazing feat indeed.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

TOP 30 FAVORITE FILMS OF 2012 #30-16

I thought 2012 was a strong year for movies, based simply on the fact that it was hard to narrow down a top 30 best of list.  Hell, I could've come up with a top 50 and felt good about it.  Part of it is that I probably aimed to watch more new movies this past year than ever before, and part of it is that I waited until March to see most of what I wanted to see.  Still, maybe filmmakers are finally catching up to my tastes and making shit I would want to see.  I've been writing hate letters addressed to "The Mayor of Movie Land" for years, so I'd like to think that, finally, that fat son of a bitch is listening.  Anyway, here it goes...

Honorable Mention (in no order): 

Farewell, My Queen (dir-Benoit Jacquot) 
White – Melody of Death (dir-Gok and Sun Kim) 
Foreign Letters (dir-Ela Thier) 
The Innkeepers (dir-Ti West) 
Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present (dir-Matthew Akers & Jeff Dupre) 
The Pact (dir-Nicholas McCarthy) 
The Avengers (dir-Joss Whedon) 
Bernie (dir-Richard Linklater) 
The Ambassador (dir-Mads Brugger) 
The Imposter (dir-Bart Layton) 

30) Beyond the Black Rainbow (dir-Panos Cosmatos) 

29) Tim and Eric’s Billion Dollar Movie (dir-Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim) 

It’s Tim and Eric doing a satire on Hollywood! What’s not to love? I hate saying this kind of thing, but you’re either on board or you’re not. Sure, it doesn’t exactly flow together like a full length movie should (the same could be said for the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie, which I equally loved), but it does present a world where you can basically wander around a Tim and Eric themed shithole shopping mall, and that is fucking awesome. I mean, if you’re willing to pretend that you’re inside the actual movie and shit. The point is, I managed to get my Tim and Eric poke on, and that’s a good thing. 

28) The Dark Knight Rises (Dir-Christopher Nolan) 

Aside from the ending and a few dumbass plot holes, this was a very worthy followup to The Dark Knight, with Nolan taking a standard villain/superhero conflict and pushing it into darker and heavier territory. Bane was effectively portrayed as hating authority and society itself, while Batman was tired and wounded. Usually, the evil guy is evil for no reason, and the good guy is always up for the challenge, so that was a nice change of pace. Also, I got the genuine feeling of an entire city that is realistically nearing total collapse, and not just some Rolland Emmerich bullshit where all the buildings collapse into CGI dust all at once just because. 

27) A Separation (dir-Asghar Farhadi) 

Nader is an asshole that refuses to let his wife get a much deserved divorce, and continues being an asshole through major plot developments which shall remain unspoiled. A totally realistic drama that manages to become more and more gripping by raising the dramatic stakes without ever feeling melodramatic or forced. There are no heroes or villains, just people, although asshole Nader comes close to being a villain, but elicits the viewer’s sympathy on account that he is forced to care for his invalid father, and he also gets a bit of a pass considering that his religion and society seem to promote a particularly asshole-y brand of chauvinism which might be misconstrued for villainry. 

26) The Hunter (dir-Daniel Nettheim) 

Willem Dafoe does Herzog-sploitation (like Refn with the great Valhalla Rising) in this story about a hunter torn between his quest (tracking down a mythical tiger) and humanity itself, represented by his burgeoning role as a surrogate father. I loved the attention paid to Dafoe’s hunting process, the details of the world where he feels the most comfortable in, away from others. Then there’s the effectively mysterious and foreboding landscape that Dafoe is ultimately drawn to, like many a Herzogian hero. 

25) The Snowtown Murders (dir-Justin Kurzel) 

A horror movie that is more horrifying because it doesn’t fit into a horror movie structure, but instead is more of a ragged drama that shows the myriad of ways a family can disintegrate when there is a psycho at the head of the table. Congrats to Daniel Henshall for portraying one of the most believable sick fuck nutbags in recent movie history. 

24) Take This Waltz (dir-Sarah Polley) 

Sometimes a marriage just doesn’t quite work, even though both parties have good hearted intentions and are seemingly in love, and Michelle Williams and Seth Rogan makes us feel every moment of it. Yes, THAT Seth Rogan, who delivers the surprise dramedy performance of the year. Also, I don’t think I’ll ever listen to that Buggles song quite the same way again. Also, since you’re asking, yes, you can also see Sarah Silverman’s bush in the movie. If you’ve already seen her bush (perhaps you bumped into her at a Whole Foods in Echo Park and asked politely), please ignore this message.Also, the movie is one more reason why Sarah Polley is awesome, and here’s another reason:  

23) The Wicker Tree (dir-Robin Hardy) 

22) The Deep Blue Sea (dir-Terence Davies) 

Tom Middleston is a perpetually drunken jerk married to the quietly suffering Rachel Weisz, trapped in a marriage based in believable love instead of plot mechanics or forceful imprisonment. A stripped down marriage-tragedy from the great and underappreciated Davies, retaining his trademark operetta touches without taking away from the heart wrenching kitchen sinkiness of it all. 

21) Holy Motors (dir-Leos Carax) 

The most original movie of the year with maybe the most impressive performance of the year from the great Denis Lavant (also amazing in Carax’s Lovers on the Bridge). It’s a series of scenarios where Lavant takes on different characters and engages in oddball mini-adventures, like a series of carnival rides where he adopts a movie character and indulges in a strange variation on silent comedy. It also acts as an fun and inventive satire on modern Hollywood (and movies in general). 

20) Monsieur Lazhar (dir-Philippe Falardeau) 

The titular Monsieur (the fantastic and endearing Mohamed Fellag) is an Algerian immigrant teacher in Montreal that replaces another teacher who committed suicide right there in the classroom (bad day at work I guess). Like The Class, this is an authentic portrayal of class room life among young students, but is more emotionally touching, like a Dead Poet’s Society that isn’t manipulative Hollywood B.S. (although I haven’t seen Dead Poet’s Society, but whatevs). Also, Monsieur is just damn charming and the movie is actually funny. Kids can be humorous instead of annoying when they are allowed to be natural and are not force fed “cute” lines. 

19) Last Days Here (dir-Don Argott & Demian Fenton) 

The story of Bobby Liebling, former lead singer of fairly unheralded but awesome doom metal band Pentagram. Bobby has since fallen on harder than hard times, and then fallen into a pit of darkness, at the bottom of which are harderer times. He’s a destitute older man who lives in his parent’s basement, looking even older on account of his addiction to crack and heroin. However, he manages to overcome this impossible station in life and acquires his old band back, a new record deal, and even a hot young girlfriend. Strangely, this is one of the most life affirming movies of the year, made even more so by the fact that it’s all real. That, my friends, is the power of metal. METAL!!!! 

18) The Kid with a Bike (dir-Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) 

A truthful and well observed portrait of a child who is extremely angry about being abandoned and essentially alone in the world, but is unable to understand or cope with this anger. Another great film from the ever reliant Dardennes about the specific emotional consequences that shitty absentee parenting can have on kids (like REALLY absentee). 

17) God Bless America (dir-Bobcat Goldthwait) 

Along with The World’s Greatest Dad (which made my list the year it came out), this cements Bobscratch Goldfarb as a new pioneer of satirical black comedies, combining a great comic mind, righteous indignation, and balls for miles. I know the movie is awfully reliant on the lesser Murray giving endless speeches about things he hates, but you gotta let some shit slide when western civilization hangs in the balance. Hopefully this isn’t all just a precursor to Bobscratch landing a sweet, high paying sell-out gig as the director of the eventual Police Academy reboot. 

16) Hello I Must be Going (dir-Todd Louiso) 

Melanie Lynsky of Heavenly Creatures fame stars in this indie romance that reminds me of the great indie movie character pieces we got before annoying quirk became the norm. She plays a dumped wife in her 30’s that has to move back in with her parents. Her plan of vegging out, feeling sorry for herself, and figuring out what to do next with her life goes awry when she has a fling with a 19-year-old actor. Both unforced humor and cringe inducing moments arise naturally out of the characters trying to manage through their awkward lives. 

Numbers #1-15 coming in a few days or so.  Patience people.  Patience.

Friday, March 1, 2013

SUPER (2010) - gifs

A genuinely smart and hilarious firebombing of the superhero mystique, Super (2010) achieves what Kick-Ass couldn't quite manage.  You see, a dude running around in spandex and beating up people in the real world just isn't clean and logical like it is in comic books or the movies.  Rainn Wilson plays a hopeless schlub whose life is in the shitter, so he decides to dress up like a schmuck (yes, a schlub disguised as a schmuck), dub himself "The Crimson Bolt", and then unleash his hidden violent tendencies and take his schlubby frustrations on people engaging in any kind of criminal behavior.  Any at all.  If he spots some dude buying a dimebag, he pulls out his trusty red wrench and beats him within an inch of his life.  This is why real law and order requires checks and balances; the most morally indigent citizens also tend to be crazies, and justice can be a pretty emotionally childish endeavor.  When the justification for violence is backed by childish emotion, stupidity, or just plain old nutbaggery, bad shit usually results.  Take a look at Mr. Bolt enthusiastically attempting to thwart a purse snatcher:

Here he is conveying psychotic glee over practically killing someone for some mild offense.  Funny shit, no doubt, but I wouldn't want this guy to be my next door neighbor.

In its own way, Super is the most realistic superhero movie of them all.  If Batman was really real, he 'd probably be more like this, even though the Nolan films are considered bcnchmarks of superhero realism.  Just remember kids: vigilante violence just isn't a good idea, no matter how self-righteous you are.  If the city you love has been overrun by crime...fuck it, just move.