You are currently browsing the daily archive for September 17, 2012.

Three months and upwards of 15,000 words later, I’ve finally finished this crazy countdown.  Woo.

10.  50/50

The Joseph Gordon-Levitt/Seth Rogen cancer movie.  Will Reiser’s touching and funny script was one of the best of the year and, in my opinion, should have received an Oscar nomination.  The film certainly wasn’t perfect; it felt like there was another gear the movie could have hit.  But it was solid throughout and an easy recommendation to just about anyone.  We had a little debate on how the movie treated women, and perhaps unsurprisingly I come down on the side that the female characters are treated fairly.  That said, while I’ll always advocate for more Anna Kendrick, the romantic subplot there was a bit icky.

9.  Paul

Back to back movies with Seth Rogen in a supporting role!  I saw Paul in theaters and then watched again on some movie channel, so I’m confident in my ranking here.  I’m not sure I can describe the film any better than by saying it is exactly what you’d expect a Simon Pegg/Nick Frost sci-fi send-up to be.  One reason their films work so well is that they obviously adore the films they are paying homage to, so there’s always a much welcome sense of reverence.  Pegg and Frost are great and bring a really funny supporting cast along for the ride along with some fun cameos and just enough twists to keep things interesting.

8.  Warrior

Look, just go see Warrior.  Unless you can’t handle violence at all, you won’t be disappointed.  I won’t say the movie was mismarketed, necessarily, because in some sense it is an MMA movie and that’s a perfectly fine way to sell the movie.  But it also is, more generally, an amazing sports movie, and more general than that, a film about family.  The film generated a lot of comparisons to Rocky, and while in some sense that’s too facile a comparison (hey, they are both movies about fighting!), I also think it is spot on.  Not just the similarities between Sylvester Stallone’s and Joel Edgerton’s characters, but the way the films capture the visceral essence of fighting, without going over the top, and the way the scripts hit notes of desperation and joy with subtlety and nuance.  Also, you’d have to be insane to miss Tom Hardy in a movie with fighting.

7.  X-Men: First Class

A very solid, taut film.  I thought they did a good job preventing the movie from sprawling too much,  impressive given the sheer number of characters introduced.  It may sound weird, but this is the film that made me appreciate Michael Fassbender.  I’d seen him in a handful of things prior (notably not Hunger, but I had seen Fish Tank), and later saw him in four other 2011 movies, plus Prometheus, but it is in X-Men that I realized how masterful he can be riding the line between power and insanity.  Basically, he’s always playing Patrick Bateman.  The rest of the cast is a lot of fun, but there are so many I won’t bother going through them all, except that I think it needs to be pointed out that Lucas Till, the guy who plays Havoc, is the guy from Taylor Swift’s “You Belong With Me” music video.  You’re welcome.

6.  The Names of Love

Copying from my film festival writeup: Superficially, The Names of Love exhibits many of the hallmarks of the traditional romantic comedy.  Jacques Gamblin is your straitlaced leading man.  He’s a government official in charge of investigating avian deaths, does stuff by the book, and you can tell he is goody-goody because he wears glasses.  Sara Forestier is your impossibly attractive free-spirit of a leading lady.  They meet cute, get together, break up, and I won’t reveal the end. But the film is much more layered than that.  We learn at the beginning (through flashbacks that are 500 Days of Summer by way of Amelie) that Forestier is the daughter of an Algerian father who came to France after the war and married a hippie.  We also learn that she was sexually abused as a teen, something the family tries to avoid talking about.  Gamblin is the son of two very staid technophiles who always get into better, but failed products (e.g. Betamax).  His immigrant grandparents were victims of the Holocaust, something the family tries to avoid talking about. I bring all that up because in many ways the movie is about how so much of who we are is where we come from, whether we embrace it (as she does) or hide it (as he does).  But counter to that, the film is also about not letting where come from determine who we are.  There’s also a minor political bent to the film as she employs the tactic of sleeping with members of the opposite political party, in order to eventually persuade them to join her side.  And he continually votes for a losing candidate. The film is also quite funny at times.  It has, hands down, the funniest Holocaust humor you’ll see all year.  Being French, the film is also maybe a touch more risque than our romantic comedies generally are.  But the nudity actually has a legitimate purpose here.  One other than establishing how crazy hot Sara Forestier is, I promise.

5.  Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

I don’t think this movie broke any new ground in the franchise spy movie world, necessarily.  But it hit nearly all the notes it was supposed to, and hit them well.  For example, the dorky computer guy as comic relief has kinda been done before.  Casting Simon Pegg in the role, however, nearly ensures the character will be fun.  The stuff about Tom Cruise doing his own stunts was a neat marketing ploy that actually fed into an exciting scene in the movie.  And they did a good job letting Cruise be the star that he is, allowing him to shine while leading a team of supporting characters.  The climactic fight scene in the parking garage was really great.  My only complaint, really, is that we needed more Lea Seydoux (and, perhaps related, it appears we’ve been seeing the limitations of Paula Patton as an actress).

4.  Crazy, Stupid, Love.

I have a ton to say about this one, to the point where I probably should have just written a separately post, but I’ll try to keep it brief.  The scene in the backyard is, almost definitely, my favorite scene in any 2011 film.  I’ve seen the movie roughly three times now and I still laugh out loud when it comes on.  A lot.  And though it doesn’t necessarily match the tone of the rest of the film, it shows the writer, director, and actors firing on all cylinders through a combination of verbal and physical humor with layers of meaning.  The film was funny and touching throughout, with only a few rough patches or weird tonal changes.  I won’t highlight the big names in the stellar cast, who were all really great (even if Marisa Tomei was somewhat underused).  I will say that someone needs to get Liza Lapira her own vehicle soon, it is getting a little ridiculous she hasn’t had a chance yet.  Also, I was really impressed with Analeigh Tipton, I thought she did a fantastic job with her character.  Oh, and I would watch roughly a million movies starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling.

3.  The Artist

Hey, remember that time a silent movie won the Oscars?  Not entirely certain I have anything to add after the film survived the Oscar gauntlet (including being pimped by me for virtually every category.  So instead, I’ll suggest everyone go out and see OSS 117: Cairo, Nest of Spies, which is a spy spoof movie directed and co-written by Michael Hazanavicius, starring Jean Dujardin as a French takeoff of Bond and Berenice Bejo as the female lead.  I saw it last week and it was quite funny.

2.  The Guard

I’m kinda fascinated to hear about the McDonagh brothers childhood.  Martin wrote and directed In Bruges and the upcoming Seven Psychopaths.  And John Michael wrote and directed this one, another dark comedy, about an Irish cop (Brendan Gleeson) who teams up with an FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to bring down a drug ring (headed up by Mark Strong).  What makes the McDonagh movies good is that they stand alone as action dramas.  A comparison to Tarantino may be crass, but they understand and respect the conventions of a cop movie.  What makes the McDonagh movies great is partially the fantastic casts (or, perhaps better put, Brendan Gleeson), but also the rich vein of dark, reflexive, satirical humor that permeates throughout the script.

1.  The Muppets

My favorite line from any 2011 movie just might be Animal’s in this clip:  What can I say?  Animal is the best.  Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller did a fantastic job capturing the feel of a Muppets movie while making it seem fresh and relevant.  The songs were also pretty solid; we’ve been over this before, but the one that won the Oscar was probably the third-best song from the film.  And the celebrity cameos were pretty great.  I particularly liked Neil Patrick Harris’s line (“No, I don’t know why I’m not hosting this.”)  Above all, I guess, the movie  just seemed like a lot of fun.

September 2012