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Top 5 Movies On Earth (that I’ve seen so far)…(this year)
Thus far, only Jared and John have put up their misguided lists, so I will confine my derogatory comments to their choices and assume that Brian’s picks will be typically horrific.  That being said, both John and Jared should correct their post names to “How Many Mediocre Movies Can We Pick?”.  The answer in both cases is at least two.  Unfortunately, at this time I can’t comment on District 9, nor Moon.  But I will give each of them the benefit of the doubt, as those are two movies I am looking forward to seeing.
However, before I repudiate their claims of greatness (for some of their movie picks…not themselves…that would be ridiculous even for them), I’ll give mine:
1.  Inglourious Basterds
I love me some Quentin Tarantino.  That being said, while I really enjoyed this movie (even more after thinking about it for a while), I wish there would have been more of the actual Basterds.  I can’t wait to see the uncut version.
2.  The Hangover
Best bachelor-party-in-Vegas movie of the year.  And easily the funniest movie of the year thus far.  Zach Galifianakis was hilarious and I’m thrilled that this movie has caused him to be recognized and signed on a variety of new films.  I still think the film trailed off at the end, and I still wish Heather Grahms’ character was better developed, but it was a good movie.
3.  (500) Days of Summer
I really enjoyed this movie.  It was slightly less funny than I expected, but the story more than made up for it.  The only real problem I had with it was that some of the cool pieces of the movie went just a little…longer than they should have.  They were stretched too much.  For example, the dancing scene.  Excellent scene, great device, but it went just far enough with the blue bird to over stay it’s welcome.
4.  Sunshine Cleaning
Fun, quirky, and Amy Adams…what more do you need?
5.  Star Trek
I hate that I like this movie.  I’m looking forward to it getting bumped off the list.  Please Hollywood, put out some good movies in the next month or two.
Honorable Mentions:  Taken & Coraline
Now, on to the Why I Am The Only Grouch To Have Any Taste segment of our show.  As all of you readers out there (so, pretty much my fellow Grouches) have noticed by now, my colleagues (and I use that term loosely) have been proclaiming the merits of Up and I Love You, Man.  Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.  Both of these were OK movies that completely underwhelmed.
After all their hype, I couldn’t believe the lack of humor in I Love You, Man.   It actually reminded me of Death at a Funeral – short bursts of hilarity sparsely spread throughout a plodding, unfunny plot populated with actually decent characters.  Some thoughts:
The Good
Paul Rudd:  I agree with my fellow Grouches that Paul Rudd has really impressed me in his leading man roles.  I hope to see more of him – just in better movies.  I actually liked him better in Role Models than in this.
Jaime Presley:  I thought she nailed this part.  Every scene with her in it was improved because of her.  One of the few comedic elements in the movie that was actually under-utilized.
Jason Seagal: He has really impressed me in his last couple of outings.  Forgetting Sarah Marshall was one of my favorite movies last year and held up under repeat viewings – no small feat in itself.
Rush montage
The wedding party
Paul Rudd’s constant, horrible nicknames.
The Bad
Paul Rudd’s constant weird accents:  What was up with that?  It was sort of funny once.  The rest of the times it was worse than boring.
The constant abbreviations and “slang” terms:  Never-ending.  Never funny.
Extremely slow to develop.  It’s actually surprising how long they took on developing unnecessary elements and how little they took in developing more interesting aspects.
The Ugly
The lack of chemistry between characters, the lack of plot development, and the inharmonious/cobbled together feel of the entire movie.
Just looking over the past thoughts, one might question why I have such animosity towards the film.  And my response is: I don’t.  I did like the film.  It was fine.  Fine.  There were some good/great characters and a couple of laughs, but it never really came together for me.  How do you not hit it out of the park when you have Rush figured so prominently and you cast The Hulk?
Jared, John, and Brian need to re-examine their definitions of “comedy.”
As for Up, it unfortunately falls into the same category as the other recent Pixar movie – decent movie, but fails to live up to the bar of The Incredibles and Finding Nemo.  Not only that, because it’s Pixar, it developed an enormous amount of undeserved hype.  By far the best part of the movie was the talking dog and squirrel jokes.  Unfortunately, that lasts all of 5 minutes.
All in all, two decent movies that should only be in someone’s Top 5 if they’ve only seen 5 movies this year.

Thus far, only Jared and John have put up their misguided lists, so I will confine my derogatory comments to their choices and assume that Brian’s picks will be typically horrific.  That being said, both John and Jared should correct their post names to “How Many Mediocre Movies Can We Pick?”.  The answer in both cases is at least two.  Unfortunately, at this time, I can’t comment on District 9, nor Moon.  But I will give each of them the benefit of the doubt, as those are two movies I am looking forward to seeing.

However, before I repudiate their claims of greatness (for some of their movie picks…not themselves…that would be ridiculous even for them), I’ll give mine:

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The Creative Arts Emmys (aka the Emmys no one cares about) were awarded last week. The Oscar telecast was nominated for ten Emmys and since no one else gives a hoot about those categories nine those awards were handed out on Saturday. Outstanding Music and Lyrics will be handed out at the Primetime telecast on Sunday, presumably so Justin Timberlake and Andy Samberg can take the prize for “Motherlover.”

The Academy Awards won three!

  • Choreography for that lame “Musicals Are Back” number starring Beyonce
  • Short Form Picture Editing
  • Sound Mixing for a Variety or Music Series or Special (take that, Dancing with the Stars!)

They lost the big category, Outstanding Special Class Program, to the Beijing Opening Ceremonies. In fact, the Olympics pretty much kicked the Oscars’ ass all over the place. They also lost out on:

  • Art Direction For Variety, Music Or Nonfiction Programming to the MTV Video Music Awards and American Idol
  • Directing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special to the Beijing Opening Ceremonies
  • Lighting Direction (Electronic, Multi-Camera) For Variety, Music Or Comedy Programming to American Idol (that one’s gotta hurt, amirite?)
  • Technical Direction, Camerawork, Video Control For A Miniseries, Movie Or A Special to the Beijing Opening Ceremonies
  • Writing For A Variety, Music Or Comedy Special to Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger

So congratulations are in order for what was a pretty decent Oscars telecast.

Previous Grouches coverage here.

Update: The Academy Awards took home Outstanding Music and Lyrics last night at the Primetime Emmys for the cute Hugh Jackman opening number. The winners noted that the award was presumably moved to primetime due to the unusual appeal of this year’s nominees (aka two noms for Justin Timberlake) just to have the least telegenic group win. This ups the Oscars’ Emmy haul to four!

For once our opinions are relevant and timely instead of only thoughtful and brilliant! Three of the Grouches got to take in a preview screening of Steven Soderbergh’s newest film, The Informant!. Matt Damon stars as Mark Whitacre, a manager at agri-conglomerate ADM in the early 90s. He tips the FBI off to his firm’s schemes to fix prices for corn derivatives. But rather than a corporate or crime thriller – this is no Michael Clayton or The FirmThe Informant! is a zany journey through Whitacre’s twisted motivations and off-kilter personality.

The film opens this Friday. Here are our quick thoughts:


Speaking as someone who knew next to nothing about the ins and outs of the Mark Whitacre story, I loved watching the plot unfold and seeing the case for/against ADM unfold. Damon was hilarious and transformative, and Marvin Hamlisch’s score reminded me of one of my favorite movies, The Sting. Even before the big reveals towards the end, I enjoyed playing the “crazy like a fox?” or “just plain crazy?” game with Damon. Highly recommended.


Frustratingly obvious and consistently flat, The Informant! knows where the jokes should be, but fails to deliver on any of the punchlines. Perhaps because I knew the story ahead of time, the barely-there plot isn’t as twisty as it thinks it is. But maybe most disappointing is the criminally underused supporting cast. What’s the point in having people like Scott Bakula, Tony Hale, Tom Wilson, and the Smothers Brothers in a comedy if they are all going to play straight?


The highest praise I can give The Informant! is that it is spot-on tonally. Rather than playing the plot straight, Soderbergh turns the story into a madcap adventure into one businessman’s twisted mind. The plot is interesting enough but the true strength comes in all the clever little touches and humorous absurdities. I wouldn’t call it laugh-out-loud funny for the most part but it’s always amusing and intensely fun. Damon should get some Best Actor consideration. In short: see this because not only is it terrific but I fear it will need every dollar it can scrounge up. The Oscar season is truly off and running.

Well, John wrote the post I’d been planning, so he is a bum.  But I’ll jump on the bandwagon and share some films I can’t wait to see (in some sort of vague order, though my list is already at fifty, so I’m sure I missed a few):

An Education. Mostly because Nick Hornby wrote the screenplay and he is all kinds of awesome.  Carey Mulligan (is it just me, or does she look a lot like Michelle Williams?) is poised to break out as a result of her starring turn here, but the supporting cast (Peter Saarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Sally Hawkins) ain’t too shabby.

Precious. See, this is why I love the Oscars (and why I don’t really believe in the concept of acting).  A year ago, if anyone had suggested Mo’Nique could have a legit shot at an Oscar nom, you would have laughed.  I would have laughed.  And, at least in my case, it wouldn’t have been disrespectful, just that the type of roles she plays aren’t generally the ones the Academy deigns to acknowledge.  And yet here we are.

The Box.  Twilight Zone?  Yes, please.

Couples Retreat. Not that it will get Oscar love, but the movie was co-written by Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, directed by Peter Billingsley, and I’d watch pretty much anything half the other people are in.

A Single Man.  I don’t know if it will make a 2009 release, but festival buzz is high and Colin Firth is awesome.  Plus, there’s no way I miss a movie with Ginnifer Goodwin and Lee Pace.

Dare. Only this low because I don’t necessarily believe IMDb’s release date for the film.  Emmy Rossum, Zach Gilford, and Kate Mara’s sister in a high school drama?  Yeah, that’ll do.

Up in the Air. I was impressed with the script, and the reviews have been glowing.

Women in Trouble.  For its artistic merits.  I swear.

Also: Bright Star (can’t get me enough Paul Schneider), Zombieland, St. Trinian’s (because, come on, how is this a real movie?), Pirate Radio (Richard Curtis is my dawg) and Ong Bak 2.

It’s starting to get a little cooler here in DC and with the change of seasons a young man’s thoughts naturally turn to late-year movies. And all the news coming out of the festivals in Telluride and Toronto have me excited!

Here are some movies that I’m looking forward to:

Up in the Air. As an unabashed Juno lover I’m excited for Reitman’s latest and at this point I don’t think Clooney can do wrong. Plus I like airplanes.

The Men Who Stare at Goats. Goofy military stories with more Clooney!

A Serious Man. I’m loving what I hear about the Coens’ latest. Sounds like a heavy drama with a lot of laughs; comparisons to Fargo are a great sign.

Precious. The incest-rape-pregnancy feel-good story of the year.

The Road. Viggo Mortensen? Yes. Post-apocalyptic hellscape? Hell yeah!

Sherlock Holmes. As a martial arts badass we always knew he was.

The Fantastic Mr Fox. Maybe not an Oscar film but I loved the book as a kid and Wes Anderson is usually pretty terrific.

Agora. I’ll take a stylized Roman epic.

And the Grouches are seeing The Informant! tonight, which I have high hopes for.

Even Oscar bait like An Education and Bright Star seem mildly interesting. Compared to the long slog we were looking forward to last year at this time you can see why I’m psyched.

What is everyone else looking forward to?

Didn’t seem like that great of a summer, huh?

1. Up. No change.

2. I Love You, Man. Check it out on DVD, jobin.

3. Moon. An entertaining, thoughful, compelling sci-fi flick starring Sam Rockwell and only Sam Rockwell. Should be out on DVD in a few months and it’s definitely worth watching.

4. The Hangover. Do you know if this blog is pager friendly?

5. (500) Days of Summer. Clever and amusing romantic comedy that makes some fun twists in the genre. Even though I wish it was a little funnier I enjoyed its stylistic flourishes.

Now let’s get to the late-year good stuff. Whiteout sure looks great, huh?

The Graduates apparently had a limited release earlier this year (so says IMDb, but Box Office Mojo claims ignorance), but is now on DVD.  The American Pie-style teencomedy tells the story of a group of friends heading to beach week (in Ocean City) the summer after their senior year of high school.  It has a DIY-feel, to the point where I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if writer/director Ryan Gielen came up with the bulk of the film immediately after attending said beach week.  I was a bit put off by the general tone of the film, to be honest.  There were definitely a handful of funny one-liners and clever set-ups, but too often there didn’t seem to be any particular reason for a scene to have ended and a new one begun.  I think there’s a lot of potential in this, once Gielen figures how to create better-formed main characters (and scenes) to support his pretty good ancillary characters (and themes).  Oh, and to show any sort of sympathy whatsoever toward female characters.

I bring it up, though, because the film takes place (and was shot) in Maryland.  And is thus deserving of mention.  Also, and this is something over which I may have gotten into heated arguments, Ocean City is in Maryland.  The real one, anyway.  Any other Ocean City is nothing more than an impostor.  Plus, there’s a few good Maryland lines sprinkled about the film (“You don’t have to fight for me, I grew up in Baltimore.”  “Columbia.”  “Whatever!”)

Right now might be my favorite part of the year, in terms of movie-watching.  We’ve seen the summer blockbusters, the interesting films I didn’t see in theaters (e.g. Sin Nombre, Sugar, Sunshine Cleaning) are rolling out on DVD, and we’re pretty much at the exact point right before Oscar contenders become legit Oscar contenders.  Nobody knows anything, because most of the big films haven’t really been seen at all, but everyone wants to know something.  To wit, the first edition of the Gurus O’ Gold is out, and if you haven’t seen it, check them out.  And you all laughed when I said Star Trek was in the conversation.  The important festivals, Telluride, TIFF, and Venice are just getting underway.  Even as short as a week from now, we’ll have a better idea about the Oscars.  But now, now is when absolutely anything is possible and we can still be full of hope that this will be a great Oscar year.

1. Up

If Up were to get a Best Picture nom, I’d be thrilled as all heck.  And while it should have been WALL-E, it would unfairly diminish this film to call it a make up nom.  Of course, I guess I should allow for the possibility I’ll seen ten films I like more than this.  Man, that would be something.

2. District 9

One of the two new additions to the list since my last post.  Maybe this is nostalgia talking, but I think that recent scifi/action films have tended to forget what makes their genre so great.  In my mind, it isn’t the special effects, necessarily.  It is the stories that couldn’t be told any way other than explosions, mindless violence, and a few broken laws of physics.  Anyway, District 9 bursts out of the scifi/action genre to become a truly great film.

3. (500) Days of Summer

The other new add.  It may have been the movie I was most looking forward to this summer, so there’s something to be said for it being able to stand up to my hype.  It wasn’t everything I hoped it would be, but it was certainly close.  There are some neat tricks in there, which manage not distract from the film, and the story is a generally compelling subversion of a romcom.

4. I Love You, Man

Sure, Rush jokes will pretty much always be funny in a movie.  But someday, someone will build a film around TOTO jokes.  And then I’ll have to stop watching movies.

5. Star Trek

John is still wrong.

And a special honorable mention to The Hurt Locker, which was in my Top Five for at least a little bit.  Actually, I think there was a week when Away We Go made it as well.

September 2009