Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 Mixes

Disc 1
1 & 2. Song of the Century/21st Century Breakdown – Green Day. I’m not sure any album has ever opened stronger than the first 4 songs on this album, so I’m including the first two here. I love this opening. I love them.
3. Undisclosed Desires – Muse. Matt Bellamy’s description; “This is something totally new for the band. It is influenced by contemporary R'n'B and a little of the David Bowie album 'Ashes to Ashes'. It is a song about love and the dark secrets that lovers share.”
4. Beautiful Thieves – AFI. There’s something about the choir’s “oh”s that gets me every time.
5. Heavy Cross – The Gossip.  Beth Ditto’s voice is fantastic and this song is relentlessly upbeat. Easily my song of the summer.
6. Ulysses – Franz Ferdinand. My favorite off of Tonight. I love the way it builds, particularly the bridge.
7. New Fang – Them Crooked Vultures. The new supergroup comprised of Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters/Nirvana) and John Paul Jones (Led Zeppelin. No, really.) Listen to Ms. Manson’s advice. They’re awesome.
8. My Delirium – Ladyhawke. Let’s hear it for the Kiwis! Ladyhawke is the stage name of Phillipa Brown, who hails from Wellington. This song is actually from last year, but I just keep listening to it.  If you like this one, I also recommend her latest single, Magic.
9. No One Sleeps When I’m Awake – The Sounds. I love them. I played Dance With Me every single day on my way to work in Dublin. Plus, I actually got this song on the night that Emily and I went dancing in Boston, so bonus points for awesome there.
10. Telephone – Lady Gaga ft. Beyonce. THIS SONG ATE MY BRAIN. I SERIOUSLY CAN’T STOP PLAYING THIS.  (Also – her song Teeth cracks me up, because I feel like she’s fucking with Twilight fans. I recommend checking it out.)
11. Blind – Hercules & Love Affair. Another one from last year, in case you didn’t already have it. The singer is Antony Hegarty of Antony And The Johnsons. But you can dance to this one!
13. Tik Tok – Kesha. I know I’ve sent this to some of you already, but I laugh every time I hear “we kick em to the curb unless they look like Mick Jagger.”
14. Heart Attack – Low vs. Diamond. I’ve heard this band called stadium indie, which seems about right. There’s something anthemic about this one that I really like.
15. Constructive Summer – The Hold Steady. This song is an epic, summer driving sing-a-long jam. I like that it sounds both rough and nostalgic.
16. Wannabe in LA – Eagles of Death Metal. Guaranteed to put a smile on your face.  Fun, quick and dirty, bluesy biker rock.
17. Too Shy to Scream – AFI. I know. Proper mixes don’t repeat bands. I don’t care. I want to dance every time I hear this song. I dare you to listen to it without tapping your toes. Also, including it gives me the opportunity to point out that Davey sang the second verse right to me when I saw them in Providence. Trufax.
18. Resistance – Muse. I’ll include part of Ms. Manson’s review, since she is far more poetic than I; “Everytime I listen to it I feel like I am riding this mad wave of euphoria.....and I am sort of overtaken with the overwhelming desire to sing along really REALLY loudly or burst into tears.”
19.  Sea WithinA Sea – The Horrors. Hypnotic, Depeche Mode-esque, I fell in love with it because it reminded me of the Rip by Portishead (as it should because it turns out it was produced by Geoff Barrow of Portishead).

Disc 2
1. Everloving – Moby.  Not a 2009 song, but I discovered it wandering around the homepage of one of my favorite writers (Mark Morford). Anyways, for months I kept opening up his page in the background to listen to this song on repeat. I finally emailed him to ask what it was and he was gracious enough to let me know. I love the crashy bit that sounds like the ocean.
2. Daniel  - Bat for Lashes. I think my favorite description of this song is “sounds like Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Rhiannon’ filtered through the weeping circuits of a broken-hearted android.”
3. Pa Pa Power – Dead Man’s Bones. Because little children are creepy. (And, yes, one of the singers is Ryan Gosling.)
4. Islands – The XX. I just got this song and really like it. It’s understated and restrained and really beautiful.
5. In the Snow – Shirley Manson. So her stupid label refused to continue Shirley’s album, claiming her demos were “too noir”. Because apparently they thought they were dealing with Britney Spears. Idiots. Anyways, while I hope for an Extraordinary Machine-type resurrection, here’s one of those demos. Unfinished, but beautiful.
6. It’s All Your Fault - Pink. It’s from last year. But I really liked this record, and I’m still listening to it.
7. Misery – Dana Fuchs. I love her. I got the chance to see her live and she is just incredible. She played Janis Joplin on Broadway (and Sadie in Across the Universe) and, as one review put it, she “sings like a bastard.”
8. Stardust Kids – MGMT vs. David Bowie. This is brilliant. Whoever thought of putting these together deserves a cookie.
11. 1901 – Phoenix. I’m getting annoyed that this song is now on like 3 commercials, but it remains such a fun, boppy tune that I decided to include it anyway.
12. Buttons – Sia. She’s an Aussie singer, formerly of Zero 7. This song burrowed into my brain. And the video is insane. (It’s just her, putting weird crap on her head. It’s so bizarre. Youtube it.)
12. I Make Her Say – Kid Cudi ft. Lady Gaga, Common, & Kanye West. Not quite as amazing as Christopher Walken’s rendition of Poker Face, but close.
9. Womanizer v. Mercury – Bloc Party v. Britney Spears. I don’t want to like this, and yet…
13. Oh my god – Ida Maria. Norwegian rocker. Very cool.
14. Becky – Be Your Own Pet. The band unfortunately broke up, but hilarious, bitchy high school homicide lives forever.
15. Fuck You – Lily Allen. Out of a lot of great songs, this one is my favorite. Particularly helpful for blasting when Maine or New York vote down marriage rights. Rrrrr….
15. The Rip – Portishead. I love float-away-type songs, and this one is gorgeous.
15. Don’t Stop Believing – Glee Cast. This one is for Alex and Amy.  I also really like the It’s My Life/Confessions and Don’t Stand So Close/Young Girl mash ups. They’re worth checking out.
16. Leeds United – Amanda Palmer. I could have SWORN I put this on last year’s list, but apparently not. I adore this song. I found it on Neil Gaiman’s blog, and it’s how I got hooked on her and the Dresden Dolls. Anyways, now I’ve finally seen her live and I’m spending New Years at HER PARTY and she’s brilliant and I love her. I love this song because it was recorded at the tail end of Edinburgh Fringe and she blew out her voice on it and couldn’t talk for 3 days after and it was only supposed to be a demo, but it turned out so well they kept this version for the album. Yay.
17. The Snow Leopard – Shearwater. The other one I thought I gave out last year. I think this song is heart-breakingly beautiful. I can’t imagine how the singer holds some of those notes.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top 10 Films of 2009

Top 10 films of 2009

This is probably wildly narcissistic (so what else is new?) but I have had a few people ask for recommendations for things to see over the holidays (either in theatres or on DVD – noted where appropriate). I still have some to see that are just coming out (Avatar, A Single Man, The White Ribbon) and there are some I missed (Bronson, Flame & Citron, Adventureland), but given those limitations, here’s my top 10 list for the year.

[God – I still can’t believe I missed Bronson. D’oh!]

First - special mentions;

The Escapist. I know. It’s wildly snobby to include this one, as it has never (and will never) be released in the U.S., but it is hands down my favorite film I’ve seen this year. It’s a prison break film, shot in Kilmainham gaol in Dublin. It stars Brian Cox, Joseph Fiennes, Dominic Cooper, Seu Jorge, Liam Cunningham, and Damian Lewis. Can we pause for a moment and appreciate that cast? It’s wildly original and Brian Cox gives an astounding career-high performance. You can buy a region 2 dvd from amazon.uk if so inclined, but if you ever see it playing at a fest near you, definitely check it out!

[Ed note: per comment, it will soon be on Region 1 DVD! YAY! GO SEE IT!!]

Trick ‘r treat. This never got a proper release, but it’s available on DVD. A Halloween anthology, it captures the traditions and mythology surrounding the holiday perfectly. Starring Anna Paquin as Red Riding Hood, Brian Cox as a grumpy scrooge, and Dylan Baker as the scariest high school principal ever. Rent it if Nightmare before Christmas puts you in the mood for something fun and creepy.

Top 10:

1. The Hurt Locker (DVD). The best word I can think of to describe this film is immersive. Tense, surprisingly funny, with incredible acting from every person who shows up on screen (hey, was that Guy Pearce? And Ralph Fiennes? And Evangeline Lily?) At heart though, it is an incredible portrait of a soldier who thrives in the dangers of war. Completely brilliant.

2. Moon (DVD). I love, love, love this film. It’s best to go into this film knowing little of the plot. Basically, it concerns astronaut Sam Bell, who has 2 weeks to go on his 3-year solitary mining shift on the moon. It has the year’s most incredible performance by Sam Rockwell, who is pretty much the only one on screen (Kevin Spacey voices the computer on the moon station).

3. Bright Star (not yet on DVD). Jane Campion returns to film with this gorgeous, lush presentation of the love story between Fanny Brawne and her neighbor John Keats, who died at the age of 25. Moody and dreamy, it unfolds like a Keats poem.

4. Watchmen (DVD). Step off, haters. I think in time this will be recognized for how brilliant it is. No – it isn’t perfect, but it encompasses the sprawling complexity of the original novel while capturing the gritty feel perfectly. “Superheroes” debating morality doesn’t have the black and white simplicity of your Spider-Man 2, but it leaves far more to contemplate and discuss long after the movie has finished. Also has one of the year’s best performances in Jackie Earle Haley’s Rorschach.

5. The Brothers Bloom (DVD – rental only, to buy in 2010). This one got lost in the shuffle, which was such a shame. A globe-trotting, one-last-con flick, featuring a pair of con men brothers (Adrian Brody and Mark Ruffalo), a longing-for-adventure heiress (Rachel Weisz), and an explosives expert (Rinko Kikuchi). Rachel Weisz and Rinko Kikuchi would both be up for Oscars, were there any justice in the world.

6. District 9 (DVD). A cheeky political commentary on marginalized peoples (or aliens) that turns into an amazing action piece. Wildly ambitious, a sci-fi epic shot on an (unnoticeable) shoestring budget, a drama crossed with a stylized thriller, it is impressively original.

7. Inglourious Basterds (DVD). Each of the chapters could be an award-winning short film. So many films today take quick edits to the extreme of also having quick scenes. While Tarantino doesn’t employ particularly long takes, he does allow long scenes to play out, slowly building the tension of each interrogation. Yes, it is also a satisfying revenge fantasy and an ode to the power of cinema, but it is the drama of these small contests of will that remain freshest months later.

8. The Damned United (not yet on DVD). Less a sports movie than a biopic, the film follows Brian Clough, the football coach who led Derby to a League championship and later took the job as head coach of Leeds, which lasted only 44 days. Michael Sheen may be the most chameleonic actor around, and his scenes with Timothy Spall (as his assistant coach) are a joy to watch.

9. Brothers (in theaters). I’m not sure why critics are divided on this one. I think it’s an incredibly well acted character piece that examines the affects of war at home. Tobey Maguire may be getting a few accolades due to the showier role (and Leo’s campaigning), but Jake Gyllenhaal has a more impressive character arc as the black sheep in a military family.

10. Fantastic Mr. Fox (in theaters). Wes Anderson stylization comes to animation, which recalls Wallace and Gromit crossed with Gumby. The story, based on a Roald Dahl tale, follows a fox family and their woodland neighbors as they fight off the local farmers. A whimsical action caper that is completely endearing.

Ten more:

11. A Serious Man (in theaters). The biblical tale of Job retold in the Midwestern 60s suburbs. A really dark and really funny look and faith and suffering.

12. In the Loop (DVD). I was almost afraid to laugh during this one for fear of missing the next line. A blazingly quick-witted, completely vicious satire of UK and US politicians going to war. Peter Capaldi revels in one of the best characters of the year; a nasty, bullying, Alastair Campbell-esque press chief whose expletive-laden tirades are things of… well, if not beauty, then wonderment.

13. Zombieland (not yet on DVD). The most fun I’ve had at the movies this year. Completely hilarious.

14. Me and Orson Welles (leaving theaters). Centered during the week before the opening of Caesar in 1937, this film is a charming ode to the theater and the characters that inhabit it. Mostly fluffy, it is largely a vehicle for Christian McKay’s brilliant portrayal of Orson Welles.

15. Pirate Radio (leaving theaters). The second most fun I’ve had this year. Fun and charming look at rock radio stations operated at sea in Britain in the 60s. Best Little Richard reference in a film this year.

16. Coraline (DVD). After seeing this one, I felt that Avatar was allowed to be a dud, since I had already seen something visually astounding on the big screen this year. Not only is the fairytale (written by Neil Gaiman) a wonderful and eerie story, but the use of 3-D cleverly creates a fantasy other-world that seduces our young heroine.

17. An Education (in theaters). The story of a British schoolgirl who takes up with an older man. Carey Mulligan gives a breakout performance as the rapidly maturing Jenny. A poignant period piece that deals with the options of well-educated women at a time when few career possibilities were available.

18. Whip It (not yet on DVD). Another one that got lost in the shuffle. I’m going to try not to be cynical and say that it had anything to do with the fact that is had one of the better female casts around. I went in thinking it was going to be your typical underdog sport film, albeit with roller derby, and it turned out to be a sweet coming of age/first romance/fun punk rock empowerment flick. Really enjoyable.

19. 500 Days of Summer (DVD). Toes the line of almost too precious, but it’s a cute, shuffled up look back on a romance. Elaborate, amazing dance sequence aside, the trips to IKEA keep the film grounded in something like reality (well, despite some Garden State stylization). It’s also a nice nod to the city of LA, which hardly ever gets any cinematic love.

20. Ponyo (not yet on DVD). I think of this as the companion piece to Totoro. Ponyo and Mei are spiritual sisters, with their boundless enthusiasm and winningly extreme emotions. Also, Tina Fey outrunning the tsunami is hilarious.

Other good ones to check out:

Half Blood Prince (DVD). I had a couple of script problems with this one, but this scene (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUNg9v5TQ5Q) totally made up for it.

Star Trek (DVD). Yup, Zachary Quinto makes a great Spock. I feel that this one was slightly over-praised, coming on the heels of several blockbuster disappointments, but it is a very good reboot and action-adventure film.

La Mission (not yet on DVD). The story of a MUNI driver coming to grips with his son coming out and the gentrification of the Mission district. Really good performances all around.

Where the wild things are (leaving theaters). One of the best movies about childhood ever made. It’s dark and beautiful and painful and magical and imaginative altogether.

Mary & Max (not yet on DVD). The first animated film to ever open Sundance, this is about the penpal relationship between a lonely girl in Australia and a man with Asperger’s in New York.

Jennifer’s Body (DVD). The most poorly marketed film of the year. It’s not a horror movie and it’s not all about Megan Fox. It uses horror tropes, including the focus on female sexuality, to create a wickedly funny allegory of adolescence and female rivalry. Also – Adam Brody does a dead-on Brandon Flowers.

Kisses (not yet on DVD). Two Irish children run away from home and spend a night on the streets of Dublin. A minor fairytale set against a bleak urban backdrop.

The International (DVD). I liked this one, though I know I’m in the minority. I think making the bad guy a bank may have hit a little too close to home when people wanted more escapism from their action films. But I’d recommend this one.

I Sell the Dead (not yet on DVD). A fun, shlocky ode to the Hammer horror films, this film tells the story of two grave robbers on the eve of their execution. It has one of the best moments of slapstick in a film this year, involving a particularly animated corpse.

Public Enemies (DVD). This one was really interesting, because one of the largest complaints was the disconnect between the ultra-modern cinematography and the setting of the film. But I think that adds to the realism of the film, because it emphasizes that these characters were once living, breathing people. Great acting by all involved. I think it could have been tightened up a bit, which is why it misses the top 20.

Young Victoria (in theaters). Emily Blunt comes off a little too modern in sections, but it’s otherwise a good period romance. The court intrigue sections are never quite as well developed, though, which is surprising, considering it’s written by Julian Fellowes (who penned one of my all-time favorites, Gosford Park).

Men who stare at goats (leaving theaters). Mis-marketed as a an out-and-out comedy, when it is really more of a dramedy. I liked it though. It has an engaging cast, and certainly several laugh out loud moments. It’s amusing, if not hysterical.


A few others also seen this year:

Everybody’s Fine (in theaters) To be fair, not as trite as I expected. Robert DeNiro does a good job of acting older and frailer than he is. And I was happy that all the reviews pointed out that Sam Rockwell was the high point of the film. (Kate Beckinsale, meanwhile, is wretched.)

Brief Interviews with Hideous Men (not yet on dvd). A noble effort, but read the book instead.

Breaking Upwards (not yet on dvd). Hipsters talking about their feelings. Makes me glad I don’t live in Brooklyn.

It Might Get Loud (DVD). Wildly disappointing. First off, they should have included Matthew Bellamy. But that omission aside, this is terribly interviewed and edited, resulting in a film that bounces around with no clear thematic direction and too little from the people it is featuring. You get neither enough history of the guitarists, or enough information on their instruments. You get a lot of vague statements about “that guitar defined the sound of the band.” Okay – how? How was it different than another guitar? What was best about that model for those songs? The only time you actually feel that you’ve learned something satisfactory is when the Edge plays Elevation both with and without the effects of his soundboard. The best parts of the film are watching them each play, but a concert documentary would have worked better in that respect.

My One and Only (not yet on DVD). Considering how much I dislike Renee Zellweger, I enjoyed this more than I expected. This is mainly due to a winning supporting cast (including Robin Wiegart as an uptight and rigid relation and an all-too brief turn by Nick Stahl as a quiet mechanic). The film is based on the life of George Hamilton, and it really sticks too closely to the truth. Had they only used the plot as a springboard, fiction might have improved upon fact. But it is an interesting examination of a woman on her own at a time when a woman could be detained for prostitution just for ordering a drink on her own. (God forbid.)

9 (DVD). The plot is a little formulaic, but I really liked the visuals. Some of the scariest animated creatures ever.

Gentleman Broncos (not yet on DVD). Jermaine Clement and Sam Rockwell are funny. The rest is nearly unwatchable. I would’ve rather had Sam guest star on Flight of the Conchords.

Happy Holidays!!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Favorite movie scenes

'ello 'ello. I thought I'd start posting here again. Not that I'll be able to keep it up, but it’ll be a good place for keeping my thoughts about movies and the movie business. Instead of just yelling them at the computer like I normally do.

First up, /Film has an interesting post on favorite movie scenes. The author picks Tiny Dancer from Almost Famous, which is a classic. So… what is my favorite movie scene?


I love musical numbers, and they are easily separated out as discrete scenes. Mein Herr from Cabaret is one of my all time favorites, as is the time warp in Rocky Horror. The ballet from an American in Paris is brilliant, and I tend to rewatch just that scene, rather than the whole movie. Other great ones? The tango in Moulin Rouge. Make ‘em laugh from Singing in the Rain. The rave at the end of Groove. Sugarhigh in Empire Records. The absolutely incredible, totally silly ballet in Center Stage (oh my god - go watch it. It has a MOTORCYCLE).


I like moments that make me cry. I love the scene in Shakespeare in Love where Viola and Will leave each other – the “you shall never age for me, nor fade, nor die”. But that’s kinda short (starts about 3:00 here). Same with the scene in gaol at the end of the Wind that Shakes the Barley when Damien writes home before his death (starts at 3:30).


I love great action scenes; the lobby scene in the Matrix, parliament blowing up to the 1812 overture in V for Vendetta. The sword fights at the end of the Scarlet Pimpernel and Stardust, respectively, and the one on the cliff in Princess Bride. The car chase from Bullitt and the fight in the house in Mr. and Mrs. Smith. The fight between the bride and O-Ren Ishii in Kill Bill vol 1. The T-Rex escape in Jurassic Park.


I love Night on Bald Mountain from Fantasia. But that’s kind of a cop out, because it is more of a short film than a scene within a larger whole.


Comedy? I love when Wadsworth explains the mystery in Clue, because it is so delightfully madcap, but that’s a bit long. I like Ralph Fiennes and Colin Farrell discussing how to shoot at each other in In Bruges. Kevin Kline beating and apologizing to John Cleese in A Fish Called Wanda.


I love big reveals, or twist endings (when done well). One of my all time favorites is the coffee cup scene in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (so brilliant). The bowler hat scene in the Thomas Crown Affair is definitely up there.


I like cool or beautiful cinematography, like the long panning shots of the car in Children of Men (spoiler), or the beach in Atonement. The scene of John Smith in the forest in the New World has always stuck with me, in part for the beautiful scenery and Terrence Malick’s dreamy direction. I like the scene with the nightwalker and the kodama in the treetops in Princess Mononoke – it’s so painterly and lush. And I love the opening of Dead Poets’ Society because it showcases someplace I was lucky enough to live for four years. The opening of 28 Days later in deserted London is fantastic and creepy.


Good monologues, like the USS Indianapolis in Jaws or Prior’s speech about the Angel Bathesda in Angels in America, stand out. I like Kevin Spacey’s monologue as he dies at the end of American Beauty and his telling of the legend of Kaiser Soze in the Usual Suspects. The Hip to be Square monologue in American Psycho is brilliant. The closing argument in To Kill a Mockingbird. The final lines in Out of Africa (“If I have a dream of Africa”). O for a muse of fire from Henry V and Flute’s scene at the end of a Midsummer Night’s Dream. Funeral Blues in Four Weddings and a Funeral. (Ooh – La Belle Dame sans merci in Bright Star, also for poetry recitation). Tommy Lee Jones at the end of No Country for Old Men.


But finally, the first scene I thought of, my immediate gut reaction (heh) to this question, was a scene in Lawn Dogs, when Trent and Devon show each other their scars. It sounds obvious and cliché, but it is done so perfectly, it has always stuck with me. Plus, the scene starts with an absolutely gorgeous setup of a pickup truck, off center under a wide blue sky. It’s such a perfect image. So I think that wins for my favorite scene. At least for today.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Movie list

In 2007, we had a lively family debate on the top films of the century (kicked off by a list my brother started). I'm pasting the results below for my list, with suggestions from my family, but only using movies I've seen (the person who originally suggested the film is denoted with an initial: R – my brother, D – father). I've included some extra suggestions for the last 2 decades (which I know best):

1930's
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930)
Grand Hotel (1932)
R: Duck Soup (1933) The best of the Marx's films, splendidly blending slapstick and witty dialogue, most of Groucho's quotes come from this one. (I'd personally put in a Buster Keaton film rather than a Marx brothers, but I don't remember which of his films is which, so I've left him out for now.)
D: The Thin Man (1934)
It Happened One Night (1934) Clark Gable’s best.
R: King Kong (1933) The fun thriller that still is a good watch, even if the graphics aren't fantastic, Kong entertains in the classic scenes.
R: Bringing Up Baby (1938) Hepburn and Grant have to take care of an unruly leopard in an amusing romantic comedy.
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) I'm a sucker for swashbuckling.
R: The Wizard of Oz (1939) Flying monkeys, a cowardly lion and great songs in an engaging plot of Dorothy's quest to find the Wonderful Wizard.


1940's
His Girl Friday (1940)
R: Fantasia (1940) One of Disney's best cinematic pieces, brilliant animation of mushrooms, dinosaurs, and a Night on Bald Mountain compliments the classical music.
R: The Philadelphia Story (1940) Hepburn, Grant and Stewart co-star in this witty romantic comedy, Hepburn and Grant’s chemistry can't be beat.
R: The Maltese Falcon (1941) Sam Spade was written as a lean, blonde wolf of a man, and Bogart pulled him off perfectly in this caper chock-full of great lines and suspense.
Double Indemnity (1944)
D: Beauty and the Beast (1946) Visuals stay with you all your life
Key Largo (1948) For being the best Bogey and Bacall. (The Big Sleep gets an honorable mention, but isn’t the best because the original crime is never solved.)

1950's
R: An American in Paris (1951) Gene Kelley takes the title role in a romantic musical comedy featuring great dance sequences and Oscar Levant's masterful piano pieces.
R: 12 Angry Men (1957) Suspenseful film shot all in a jury room where twelve men have to decide if a kid lives or dies.
R: Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) Alec Guinness' best role as the British officer holding on to his principles in a Japanese POW camp that is trying to break his spirit.
Vertigo (1958) I prefer Vertigo to Rear Window, although both along with the following are brilliant.
R: North by Northwest (1959) Thrilling mystery with Hitchcock's great cinematography and Grant's battle of wits against James Mason.
R: Sleeping Beauty (1959) The only thing more captivating than the level of art in this animation is rooting for Maleficent, Disney’s most frightening and best villain.

1960's
R: West Side Story (1961) With Bernstein's score and the dramatic dance scenes the Romeo and Juliet in New York plot is escalated to theatrical heights.
R: To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Growing up in the South, Scout looks to her father Atticus, played superbly by Gregory Peck, as a moral compass surrounded by inequality.
R: The Great Escape (1963) Steve McQueen and Richard Attenborough team up with other prison inmates in a WWII German POW camp with one aim: escape, and get everyone out with them.
R: The Pink Panther (1963) Peter Sellers is the bumbling Inspector Clouseau battling against the sharp wits of the renowned 'Phantom', resulting in brilliant comedic acting and dialogue.
R: Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Sellers plays three roles in Kubrick's black comedy: a British officer, President of the United States, and his advisor, the eponymous Strangelove as the world may be ending.
R: Goldfinger (1964) Connery is everyone's favorite 007, and in this film he gives his best performance, says some of his best lines, and has to fight off Odd job handcuffed to an atomic bomb.
R: My Fair Lady (1964) Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison co-star in a romantic comedy musical with fast wit and great numbers complementing the two actors' performances.
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Just think, the forerunner paving the way for today's hyper-violent Tarantino and Rodriguez films. All kidding aside, it crosses a lot of genre boundaries and was incredibly innovative.
The Graduate (1967)
Cool Hand Luke (1967) "What we have here…"


1970's
R: Fiddler on the Roof (1971) Topol plays Tevye raising his daughters Jewish in pre-Revolution Russia, accompanied by his wife and fantastic musical numbers.
Cabaret (1972) The best musical ever, ever made. Ever. And one of the best films.
The Godfather (1972)
R: The Day of the Jackal (1973) The Jackal has been hired for one last job, the job that leads to automatic retirement: assassinate Charles de Gaulle before the inspector can catch you.
American Graffiti (1973)
The Sting (1973)
R: Blazing Saddles (1974) Wilder and Cleavon Little co-star with Madeline Kahn in the farcical depiction of life in the West, at least as it appears on the back lots.
R: Chinatown (1974) Jack Nicholson is trying to unravel a few mysteries at once, while keeping his nose out of trouble investigating conspiracy and murder.
Jaws (1975) Still brilliant and scary, even when you know the sharks going to jump out. Plus it paved the way for blockbuster marketing.
Nashville (1975) Not my favorite Altman (see 2000s), but the expansive narrative is amazing.
R: Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) For Arthur and his K-nig-its to find the Holy Grail leads to obstacles such as the Knights who say 'Ni!', murderous bunnies, and silly Frenchmen.
R: The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) Transsexual transvestite aliens, lead by Tim Curry, abduct and corrupt the youths Brad and Janet, singing catchy tunes while doing so.
Network (1976) Still depressingly relevant.
R: Star Wars (1977) Luke, Han, and Leah join the Rebellion under the guidance of Obi-Wan and assistance of wookies and droids to fight the Empire, and it's masked face: Darth Vader.
R: National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) "What is college like?" "Have you ever seen 'Animal House?" "Yeah." "It's nothing like that." Would that it were for the laughs alone.
R: The Muppet Movie (1979) Henson's familiar Muppets join on a road trip to Hollywood to 'make millions of people happy', while avoiding Doc Hopper and encountering the greatest comedians of the decade.

1980s
R: The Dark Crystal (1982) Henson's high-fantasy story traces the characters of Jen and Kira, gelflings who have to defeat the vulturous Skeksis despotic rule of their planet.
R: Koyaanisqatsi (1982) With no conventional plot, or documentary theme, 'kooyanisqatsi' translates from Hopi as 'life out of balance', as exposed by the images and music.
R: The Big Chill (1983) A story of the lost hope of the generation, old friends, a particularly stunning cast, reunite and reevaluate their lives in the 80's.
R: Brazil (1985) Gilliam's masterful story of a man in the future, played by Jonathan Price, who needs to unravel a mystery and discovers the unpleasant underbelly of his society.
R: Clue (1985) All-star cast represents the characters of Miss Peacock, Col. Mustard, and Professor Plum in the comedic caper trying to discover who killed Mr. Body.
Out of Africa (1985)
Silverado (1985)
D: Labyrinth (1986) David Bowie and music superb; great tale and wonderful visuals.
R: The Princess Bride (1987) True love between Buttercup and Wesley must overcome a pirate, a Spaniard, a giant, and a Sicilian, all before entering the Fire Swamp, joking along the way.
R: A Fish Called Wanda (1988) Kevin Kline is the brilliant gem surrounded by Cleese, Palin, and Curtis in a romantic comedy caper that's not safe for fish or small dogs.
R: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988) Mixing animation and live action wasn't new, but it also had never been so funny, or had a plot that actually draws you in for more than seven minutes amongst grown-up 'toons'
R: Dead Poets Society (1989) When all teachers are the same and don't care about their students, Keating, played by Robin Williams, is a breath of fresh air and inspiration.
R: Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989) Harrison Ford reprises his Indiana Jones role with 'dad', Connery, in a race for the Holy Grail itself against the Nazis.
Henry V (1989) Not only is it probably the best of all Kenneth Branagh's Shakespeare adaptations, it has Derek Jacobi, the greatest Shakespearean actor around, as the Chorus!


1990's
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead (1990)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991) So, so brilliant and really scary.
Thelma and Louise (1991)
R: Reservoir Dogs (1992) Six men are needed to rob a diamond store, but only four come out unhurt after a police ambush leading to the rest to wonder who is the informant.
Chaplin (1992) More a brilliant performance than all over movie, but still very good.
R: Jurassic Park (1993) Sam Neil and crew are trapped on an island where dinosaurs have been brought back to life, when things start to go suspensefully wrong.
R: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) Claymation never looked so good: Skellington lives in Halloweentown, where the repetition bores him, leading to the desire to become St. Nick.
Schindler's List (1993) Deserves all of its accolades. It’s still unbelievable to me that anyone was able to make a film that covered the Holocaust so well.
The Piano (1993)
R: The Shawshank Redemption (1994) Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman find themselves prison mates in Shawshank, where they bond and lift each other up and out into hope.
Ed Wood (1994) My favorite Tim Burton outside of Nightmare. I watch Sleepy Hollow more, but the acting in this one is better.
Leon: The Professional (1994) A hitman takes in a young girl when her family is killed. Also featuring crazy Gary Oldman.
Interview with a Vampire (1994) Hee.
R: Twelve Monkeys (1995) Bruce Willis is in a bleak future of disease and recurring nightmares, where he is chosen to go into the past and fix the future.
R: The Usual Suspects (1995) Verbal Kint tells the story of an explosion leaving 27 men dead due to five criminals and the unknown Kaiser Soze, criminal mastermind and nemesis of NYC police.
Sense and Sensibility (1995) One of my favorite period pieces and Emma Thompson did a great job on the script.
Braveheart (1995) FREEEEEEDOOOOOOM!
Dead Man (1996)
R: The Fifth Element (1997) In the future the aliens responsible for the Pyramids revisit Earth attempting to contain the balance of Good and Evil, but things go wrong and Bruce Willis needs to save humanity.
L.A. Confidential (1997) Such a good noir film. I still get tense watching it, even when I know whodunit.
Lawn Dogs (1997) Quite possibly my all time favorite film. A small independent movie about a young girl who is bored with her gated suburban life, and the friendship she strikes up with the man who mows the suburbanite’s lawns.
Titanic (1997) It really is brilliant.
Shakespeare in Love (1998) Really clever, funny, and gorgeous.
American History X (1998) The most awful, violent film ever, but really incredible.
R: The Big Lebowski (1998) The Dude doesn't want to do much but drink White Russians, listen to Creedence and go bowling with his buddies, but gets mixed-up in a kidnapping caper.
R: The Truman Show (1998) Truman lives a normal life, but soon it starts to unravel, as he discovers and comes to terms with the knowledge his life is a show, inevitably leading to the question: can he escape?

1999 (quite possibly the best year ever for movies)
Go (1999) and Run Lola Run (1999) 2 of my all time favorite films, both with recurring narratives.
R: Dogma Banished to Wisconsin two fallen angels find a loophole in Catholic dogma that allows them to re-enter heaven; the consequences might lead to the end of the world. (Kevin Smith's Best)
The Matrix Ok – pretend the sequels didn't happen. This was one of the most mind-blowing experiences I've ever had in a movie. And I still love re-watching it.
American Beauty I've been feeling a little less kind to this film recently, but for years it was one of my favorites. And Alan Ball's screenplay is really touching and the acting is great (Annette Benning should've won…)
Fight Club
A Midsummer Night's Dream I don’t like all of the way this one was done, but there is some brilliant casting, including Stanley Tucci as Puck, Sam Rockwell as Flute, Rupert Everett as Oberon, and Christian Bale as Demetirus.
Runners Up: Girl, Interrupted, The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense, Office Space, Being John Malkovich, Cruel Intentions (although maybe you had to be in prep school when that came out to truly appreciate it)

2000:
American Psycho Also a performance film, but it is darkly funny hysterical and its take on the 80s is brilliant.
Runners up: Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Almost Famous, O Brother Where Art Thou
2001:
Gosford Park
My favorite Altman. A take on Upstairs/Downstairs and the weekend manor house mystery.
Moulin Rouge Heart-breaking, lush, and with dazzling visuals, Baz Luhrmann updates musicals.
Runners Up: Lord of the Rings - the Fellowship of the Ring, Memento, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, the Royal Tenenbaums, Mullholland Drive, Enemy at the Gates
2002
Adaptation
This movie is hysterically funny. And I think it’s the last time Nick Cage has done a good job of acting, sadly…
Chicago A brilliant version of a fabulous musical (even if Renee Zellwegger desperately needs to heat a cheeseburger)
Runners up: Y Tu Mama Tambien, Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India, The Hours
2003
Angels in America
Ok - not technically a movie, but it's too brilliant to leave off. One of the finest pieces of art ever made (as a book, play, or miniseries)
Lost in Translation A lovely tale of strangers forming a bond while feeling alienated in Tokyo.
R: Triplets of Bellville Near-silent French animation tells the story of a grandmother and her boy whose dream is to ride the Tour Du France; his kidnap leads her to recruiting the odd triplets in her search for his rescue.
Finding Nemo My favorite Pixar. I think it has the best story and graphics.
Runners up: Mystic River, The Magdalene Sisters, Kill Bill Vol. 1, X2 (what? It’s a good action film! And Brian Singer added social relevance without coming off as preachy. It’s good! Shut up!)
2004
Howl's Moving Castle
I prefer this one to Spirited Away. A fairytale about a girl turned into an old woman by a witch’s curse and a boy sorcerer.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind Charlie Kaufman, the most brilliant screenwriter around, tops himself in an incredibly crazy, poignant take on relationships.
Runners up: La Mala Educación, House of Flying Daggers, I heart Huckabees
2005
The New World
Ok – Colin Farrell isn't brilliant in this one, but the film itself is dreamy, impressionistic take on the colonization of America.
Good Night and Good Luck I'm torn between this one, with its relevant media warnings, and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, with its off-kilter take on Chuck Barris. For both, George Clooney does a great job of directing.
Brokeback Mountain
Runners up: Capote, Wallace and Gromit - Curse of the Were-Rabbit, the Constant Gardener, Pride and Prejudice, Jarhead, Match Point, King Kong, Batman Begins, the Merchant of Venice, Mysterious Skin
2006
The Departed
The Wind that Shakes the Barley
The story of the Irish war of Independence. Won the Palme D’Or at Cannes. It’s amazing.
Children of Men The film that basically got no US distribution, sadly. But it’s an amazing tale of a not too distant future when humans have stopped bearing children. In addition to the great story, acting and art direction, has a couple of astounding camera shots.
Runners up: Pan's Labyrinth, Perfume, The Prestige (like that alliteration?), Casino Royale, Inside Man, Brick, Hard Candy, V for Vendetta, The Queen, the Fountain, the Painted Veil, The Last King of Scotland
2007
Zodiac
David Fincher’s take on the police procedural. Incredibly good, and Robert Downey Jr. gives a great supporting performance
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford The cinematography in this movie is gorgeous, and Casey Affleck shines in a great ensemble cast.
Runners up: Atonement, I'm Not There (An almost biography of Bob Dylan), Infamous (As good as Capote and sadly overlooked), A Mighty Heart, Rescue Dawn (Christian Bale so should have been up for an Oscar for this one), Stardust (awww… I love this one! Swordfights, pirates, witches, and a fallen star.), Sunshine (Visually gorgeous), Across the Universe, Persepolis, Joshua (AAH! SCARY!) and Snow Angels
2008
The Fall
Possibly the most visually stunning film I’ve ever seen. Every frame is a work of art.
In Bruges Martin McDonagh is my favorite playwright. He is really dark and funny, and Colin Farrell, Brendan Gleeson, and Ralph Fiennes all give great performances.
Runners up: Slumdog Millionaire, Frost/Nixon, Milk, Gone Baby Gone, Sweeney Todd, Waltz with Bashir, Let the Right One In (A Swedish coming of age tale, with a vampire), Persepolis, the Dark Knight, Cloverfield (which was a really interesting new way of filming a story)
2009
Best so far of 2009? Moon, The Brothers Bloom, Watchmen, In the Loop, 500 Days of Summer, Coraline, The Escapist (does not have a US release scheduled yet), La Mission, Star Trek. I really enjoyed RocknRolla, although I wouldn't say that it is great, but it is very stylish. I happened to quite like the International (done by the same director as Run Lola Run), but not many people felt the same way.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Down with Skool!

I thought I should perhaps actually post something here. Not that I can promise too many more posts in 2009, but one never knows. There'll probably at least be some for the Golden Globes and Oscars.

What is going on? I'm job hunting, because clearly there is no better time to be doing so. There are actually a few prospective leads. One interview for an organization I quite like, in SF, although the position isn't ideal. I have heard some federal hiring freezes will end come Jan 20. :) (I'll have to find a party).

Let's see. Read the Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman, which is a cute riff on the Jungle book, and the Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which is a well-done riff on Hamlet. Am now onto Thus Was Adonis Murdered by Sarah Caudwell. She wrote 4 murder mysteries before her death and they all have lovely covers by Edward Gorey. It's a good book, particularly if you can follow some of the PG Wodehouse-esque Britishisms.

I was deathly sick for New Years, which prevented my attendence at an outdoor party in 1 degree weather (I have got to get back to California).

Christmas! It was spread over a few days, but I got some money for my moving fund, 2 Ronald Searle prints (one of Ireland and one of Australia) [Ronald Searle illustrated, among other things, the Molesworth books. chizz chizz.], some pretty earrings, some totally astounding flip flops (they are fuzzy and purple and I don't know where I'll ever wear them, but they're kinda fantastic), a James Thurber book, some Irish dark chocolate, 2 carved hippos from Kenya ('ippo), DVDs of Sunrise:Earth (including Pt. Reyes - no, I don't know what it is, but it sounds pretty) and a book on life lessons from Pepe the shrimp from the muppets. My friends know what I need.

And as a family gift, I bought a scanner, so we are scanning in old family pictures and documents to add to our recently (semi-) completed family tree. We have an Obediah and an Ebenezer. And a murder. I'm finding out all sorts of interesting things.

Crows have moved into our street, which is lovely.

Saw Australia (which was mostly lovely, if somewhat flawed), and Frost/Nixon, which was fantastic. Milk is still my favorite, but I'd be happy if Frost/Nixon won.Sam Rockwell is astounding. Before that I saw Let the Right One In (very good. I didn't like it much at first, but it grew on me), Fear(s) of the Dark (uneven, but a few very creepy parts), and RocknRolla (stylish and fun). At some point I may do a top 10 of the year, but I'll have to try to make it through a bit more of the December glut first.

My present to my friends (being broke as I am) were 4 very eclectic CDs of things I listened to this year (or late last year while I was still traveling). The CDs were going to 6 people with wildly differing musical tastes, so I tried to make one kinda dancy, one more rock (although I left out the hard rock I listen to a lot, since only 1 of the 6 has similar tastes), one softer, and one is just the leftovers and more eclectic. In return, I've been looking through the year end lists for some new music for the new year. I'm currently wildly addicted to the Snow Leopard by Shearwater, as well as Amanda Palmer's disc, whom I've been listening to for about a month. Also on heavy rotation: The Rip by Portishead, Heart Attack by Low vs. Diamond, Beck by Be Your Own Pet, Wannabe in LA by Eagles of Death Metal, The Fall by Lily Allen, Blind by Hercules & Love Affair, Go-Getter Greg by Ludo, Constructive Summer by the Hold Steady and the Nun's Litany by Magnetic Fields. Wildly more indie than usual, but pretty good. I feel like there's been a dearth of good rock out there lately, though. I wonder if anything is coming out soon.

In the meantime, my brother is letting me rip CDs from his collection. Among the highlights thus far: Illmatic by Nas, Tommy by the Who, Odyssey & Oracle by the Zombies, Horses by Patti Smith, Hunky Dory by Bowie, Grace by Jeff Buckley, Exile on Main Street by the Stones and Raw Power by Iggy Pop and the Stooges.

That's been my week (or 3). Between the move at work, the holidays, and being sick, a lot of my time the last couple of weeks has been down time around the house. Also, it's freezing outside and I want to hibernate.

Oh - I am rocking out at the Box Office game. I scored 4th the weekend before last and I think I'm around 38th for the Winter. Possibly off to the Science museum tomorrow. And the new doctor may be announced... I'm going back to being vegetarian next week. I think that's all.