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Like my colleagues Jared and John, I too have listed my best picture nominees in reverse order of the degree to how much I liked them. Sadly, this year was so underwhelming that the distance between 7 and 2 is quite small. I have a clear favorite in the bunch, and if you’ve been reading it will come as no shock to you what it i. There was just one awful stinker, one underrated prestige film, and seven other middling, above-average movies. I hate it when Adam is right, but he is by-and-large correct — this group is not the best reflection of film in 2011.

9. Tree of Life — There’s no use in wasting too many words on this, but the first 45 minutes were agonizing. I don’t know how Jared and Adam managed to stick through it on DVD. I’m not sure I could have resisted the urge to shut off the movie and lie about watching the whole thing. The second 45 minutes I found legitimately interesting, but then the final 30 minutes dovetailed into more incomprehension. Just a terrible film that reinforces the worst of cineaste snobbery.

8. War Horse — I went into this with low expectations, so was pleased when I ended up not hating it. Spielberg never quite gets me past the, “Yeah, but its still a fucking horse” problem. No matter how good the camera work was, and it was quite good, War Horse never rose above that issue. The threads between all the vignettes were well integrated — I just wish I had cared more about some of the human characters. We need more World War I movies – this was a decent start.

7. Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close – Another film that benefitted from the soft bigotry of low expectations, ELIC actually had some well-earned emotional moments. As Tim Grierson wrote  over on Deadspin, the precociousness of Oskar was annoying, but it was supposed to be annoying. The contrivances of the plot weren’t as bothersome for me as they were for John — it’s not more contrived than War Horse. Overall, I found ELIC forgettable, which is a lot better than what others have written about it. Max von Sydow was fine, but not really integral to the central themes or plot. I’d hope the book does a better job with him.

6. Moneyball — I haven’t read Jared’s write-up of Moneyball, but I’ll give my blanket endorsement of it. I don’t understand the fascination and love of it — the truthiness of the script aside, which reminded me of the movie Joe Morgan thinks Billy Beane would write. The movie was just too superficial for me to care about any of the characters — even now I can’t recall any scene that I haven’t been seeing in previews or For Your Consideration ads.

5. The Help — This is the third and highest-ranking of my “oh that wasn’t so bad” movies. The “white people solved racism” angle is overplayed by a Hollywood press frustrated by their inability to force the industry to become more diverse (not that it should be their job in the first place). If anything, I feel the “5 strong roles for women” angle is underplayed. Bryce Dallas Howard should be getting more recognition for really chewing the scenery as the villain, and Viola Davis is deservedly getting her due. The worst part of the screenplay was the poorly thought out “boyfriend” played by Chris Lowell ( I think? I can’t even tell from IMDB — the role was that bad). Without that meandering plotline, I might have this higher.

4. Midnight in Paris — There was a lot to love about Midnight in Paris — the supporting cast, especially Michael Sheen, Allison Pill and Corey Stoll; the breezy script; the fun score; a fresh take on Woody Allen’s neurotic protagonist. But the absurdity of Rachel McAdams as the harpy fiancee and her equally horrible parents was just too much. Having her cheat on Owen Wilson with Michael Sheen was unnecessary. It was already abundantly clear that Wilson and McAdams were incompatible (so how did they ever get engaged in the first place? Who knows!), so why make her even more dislikable by having her be a two-timer as well? That’s just an example of why this movie that could have been great was instead just okay.

3. The Descendants —  MOAR LAND DEALZ PLEASE!

2. The Artist — As an inverse to ELIC, the Artist suffers from too high expectations. I found it charming, enjoyable, surprisingly dark but overall a very solid film. Folks who are saying this is such a typical Oscar winner are forgetting that it has so much going against it: it’s silent, black and white AND foreign! When’s the last time a Best Picture winner was ANY of those things? Jean Dujardin, no doubt helped along by Uggie, is a treat and I’m looking forward to seeing him in more. Berenice Bejo is also darling. I can’t claim this “moved” me or resonated emotionally, but from beginning to end its construction was near perfect.

1. Hugo — Ah yes, the film I loved that no one else (among the Grouches) did. I feel like I need to explain myself on this one, but I need to give it a 2nd viewing, which I’ll do within the next week and write a proper post on it. IN the meantime, I’ll add that prior to 50/50Hugo was the film that hit me in the gut and heart. The latter half, as acted by Ben Kingsley and Helen McCrory (Mrs. Damien Lewis!), was just heartbreaking. It got dusty in the theaters as George Melies remembered his love for film and his missing art. It reminded me a little bit of another Brian Wolly special, The Rookie, in which an older and washed up author forgets about the life he left behind. Chloe Moretz was also brilliant, a total 180 from her performance in Kick-Ass.

More to come on Hugo, but enjoy the show tonight!


Since the only thing that could make this series is better is gambling, Jared and I have each listed what we think will be the top 20 domestic box office films of the summer.

When the last movies released the last weekend of August depart theaters, we’ll circle back and see how we did.

My list:

1. Cars 2
2. Captain America
3.  Pirates of the Caribbean 4
4.  Kung Fu Panda 2
5.  Transformers 3
6. Harry Potter 7, Part II

7. Mr. Potter’s Penguins
8. Green Lantern
9. Cowboys vs. Aliens
10. X-Men First Class
11. Super 8
12. Zookeeper
13. Bridesmaids
14. Smurfs 3D
15. Thor
16. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
17. Friends With Benefits
18. Final Destination 5
19. Larry Crowne
20. 30 Minutes or Less

Jared’s List

1. Transformers 3
2. Pirates of the Caribbean 4
3.  Harry Potter VII, Part 2
4. Thor
5. X-Men First Class
6. Captain America: The First Avenger
7. Cars 2
8. Green Lantern
9. Kung Fu Panda 2
10. Spy Kids 4
11. Super 8
12. Cowboys vs. Aliens
13. Hangover 2
14. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
15. 30 Minutes or Less
16. Conan the Barbarian
17. Bridesmaids
18. Priest
19. Mr. Popper’s Penguins
20. Larry Crowne

Thanks for reading our past four installments. Hope you’ve enjoyed, and if Jared and I are lucky the movies covered in past posts and the ones below will be good enough to make repeat appearances come Oscar season (either as snubs or maybe even nominees!)

JARED

5. Thor – Sure, the fact that initial reviews are positive helps some. But to me, this movie seems less like a “comic book movie” and more like a plain ol’ badass film. Perhaps partially because this comic book hero is based in mythology. The trailer was sufficiently awesome, I thought. Also because the film is directed by noted Shakespearean Kenneth Branagh, who has been in saying in interviews he feels Thor’s story could be something out of the Bard’s writings. Also, I mean, any movie with Natalie Portman AND Kat Dennings? Come on. That’s just not fair. Fun fact about co-screenwriter Ashley Miller: According to imdb, he graduated from Thomas Jefferson HS in Virginia. Which was a quiz bowl (or It’s Academic, to use the term more familiar to us) archrival of the high school Brian and I attended.

4. X-Men: First Class – How does the saying go? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me two, no, three, no, four times, shame on me? I really wasn’t a fan of the X-Men trilogy or the Wolverine spinoff. So what’s the difference here? Well, Bryan Singer isn’t directing and David Hayter isn’t writing, that’s a start. Matthew Vaughn has taken over the helm, and he’s got quite the filmography. Layer Cake is a great movie, one that made me believe Daniel Craig was a better choice than Clive Owen for Bond. Really, in a lot of ways, it is the Bond movie people think Casino Royale is. Stardust was a flop, and while it didn’t quite meet my admittedly lofty expectations, it is a must-see film. Even if only for De Niro’s best role since Wag the Dog, at least. And Kick-Ass, which I didn’t like as much as others, but still, I think the movies all combine to show Vaughn has a unique, refreshing, and eminently watchable style for action flicks. And the cast is all kinds of awesome, with James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender excellent choices for eventual nemeses, Oliver Platt and Ray Wise lurking in the background, not to mention Oscar nominee Jennifer Lawrence and the underrated Rose Byrne.

3. 30 Minutes or Less – Let’s see. Original premise, fantastic-looking trailer, crazy hot buzz, directed by the guy who did Zombieland, with Jesse Eisenberg and Aziz Ansari? The film certainly has the pedigree to be the funniest film of the summer. So what’s keeping it off the #1 spot? Danny McBride. I realize I’m in a distinct minority here, so maybe I’m the one with a complete and total lack of a sense of humor. Or maybe there’s really nothing funny about Danny McBride. Sure, he was tolerable in Pineapple Express, but he still brought the movie down and was only supporting by everything else being so fantastic.

2. The Guard – I realize this pick is a little bit out there. But stay with me for a sec. The film played Sundance to generally favorable reviews. All of which seem to boil down to some variant of: Yeah, this totally isn’t In Bruges, it just also stars Brendan Gleeson, shares a sense of humor, has great action scenes bookended by hilarious musings on life, and oh yeah, was written and directed by the brother of the guy who wrote and directed In Bruges. So yeah. It also features Don Cheadle and Mark Strong (in a bad guy role, naturally). In Bruges was a favorite of this here blog, and The Guard sure looks to be shaping up as its successor.

1. Super 8 – Gavin was very much unimpressed when I said this movie was atop my list. “You don’t like J.J. Abrams”, he claimed. I’d counter that I like his ideas. Lost, Undercovers, if you want to count What About Brian, all were pretty great concepts. That, sure, didn’t finish as strong as they started. But he also directed Star Trek, which was fantastic. And worked on the screenplay for Armageddon. So there’s that. I also responded that I liked how no one really knew what the film was about. Gavin, of course, responded, “Cloverfield” Which, fair. But that was always a one-trick monster movie. This film appears to be shaping up as a scifi thriller with the depth you’d expect a Spielberg-produced film to have. Plus, any movie that nabs FNL‘s Coach has to have some idea what it is doing.

BRIAN

5. Harry Potter 7, Part II — Truth: part of the reason I have this so high is to defend my bold prediction last year that the last chapter of the Potter franchise would be the frontrunner in the Oscars Best Picture race this year. But I also am eager to see how things are wrapped up cinematically and most crucially, how the battle at Hogwarts will look. The Momma Weasley retort to Bellatrix LeStrange has the potential to be among the most cathartic movie experiences of the year — if done right. I was underwhelmed by the first half released last year, but that may have been intentional, with the unresolved loose ends and all. I wish that director David Yates had ignored J.K. Rowling’s cheezy and tacked on epilogue, but he didn’t. Maybe I’ll just leave the theater with a smile on my face before the final 5 minutes, but then again, I’m the guy who’s not supposed to care about endings.

4. Captain America: The First Avenger — I don’t understand Jared’s trepidation here. Not only do we get Nazi baddies, but we get to see one of the most iconic superheroes. Give me a movie where we’ve fought Nazis, and it hasn’t been good. Then, leading the enemy forces is Hugo Weaving as the Red Skull. Hugo Weaving — also an excellent bad guy. The trailers have only increased my anticipation, and Chris Evans looks to be the ideal guy for the role. We haven’t really gotten a sense of what Steve Rogers’ personality will be like — but I have confidence in Evans as he was one of my favorite parts of Scott Pilgrim. I may be one of the few defenders of The Phantom, a superhero movie of a pre-CGI era that was silly, goofy camp — but I get a similar light-hearted, America Fuck Yeah, feel for this one.

3.Green Lantern – I may have confused Ryan Gosling and Ryan Reynolds in an earlier post written in a sleep-deprived haze, but the sentiment still stands; I like them both. With the release of each new trailer, my expectations continue to skyrocket. Back in the days of Justice League cartoons, the Green Lantern was my favorite character. The ring that can essentially do anything was like a kid’s imagination. What if you could….have a giant sledge hammer, or a saw, or a sword, or a baseball bat, or a HUGE FIST! Throw in Peter Sarsgaard as the creepy villain (the role he was born to play) and I’ll be there for the midnight showing.

2. 30 Minutes or LessJared hit most of the right notes in his preview. Zombieland remains one of my biggest surprise loves of all-time, with Jesse Eisenberg playing a large part in that (the ear tuck!), so consider that the reason why it’s so high on my list now. He’s also right about Danny McBride. No, Jared, you aren’t alone on this one. Danny McBride isn’t funny and never has been funny. Yet another knock on Will Ferrell. And considering that, at least based on the trailer, we could have at least one epic, hilarious bank heist? I mean, one thats intentionally funny unlike The Town?

1.  Super 8 I haven’t been this excited for a movie in a while, and the reasons why begins with Kyle Chandler as a lead character and ends with Spielberg producing. As a sucker for movies about fathers and sons, I’m loving that these two are involved in the movie. Friday Night Lights was all about Coach as the surrogate father to the Panthers and then the Lions and some of Spielberg’s best has focused on these themes as well. Some (Gavin) might call me an apologist for late-era Spielberg like Minority Report and War of the Worlds, but those were damn good crackerjack films that I’ll see again and again. The previews present a movie that looks like a mix of The Goonies, E.T., and Iron Giant — all solid films in their own rights. There’s even some early M. Night Shyamalan in there. Call me a sucker, but this has tear-jerking nostalgia written all over it. 

The penultimate of the series, in which Jared makes his most ridiculous pick for the summer and I reveal some hopelessly optimistic rankings.

JARED

10. Cowboys vs. Aliens – This movie has one of my widest ranges of expectations. Possibly because the cast and crew seem to have been randomly chosen. Five writers were given screenplay credits. Kurtzman and Orci are no strangers to big budget fare, but in my mind only have one hit (Star Trek) and a bunch of middling work (e.g. the Transformers films, The Island, The Legend of Zorro).  Damon Lindelof did Lost, of course.  And Fergus and Ostby are the Oscar-nominated writers behind Children of Men and Iron Man.  The cast features three of the strongest supporting players around in Sam Rockwell, Paul Dano, and Walton Goggins, plus an incredibly oddly matched pair of leading men in Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford.  Plus Olivia Wilde, still waiting to be given the chance to be more than a pretty face.  Director Jon Favreau notably started hedging his bets last year, pointing out that given then sheer number of blockbuster-type films, some movies will inevitably flop.  That’s the bad sort of foreshadowing, Jon.

9. Crazy Stupid Love – When Steve Carell is the weak point of your cast, you did something right.  Sure, the plot appears to be rather stock, with Carell the schlubby husband who’s lost something with his wife (Julianne Moore) only to get rejuvenated by ladies’ man Ryan Gosling, whose womanizing ways are stopped in their tracks by a crush on Emma Stone (which, I mean, duh).  Plus Marisa Tomei and Kevin Bacon are thrown into the mix.  Frankly, that’s a movie that’s going to be watchable three-quarters of the time and no worse than 10:1 to be really good.  Frankly, my only concern here is screenwriter Dan Fogelman.  Fogelman’s a hot property as of late.  He recently pitched a political film that apparently netted him seven figures after a five studio bidding war.  And the movie now has Tom Cruise attached.  I’m, however, still stuck on the fact that two of Fogelman’s prior credits include Cars and Fred Claus.

8. Larry Crowne – Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts have the luxury of picking out projects that they really really want to do.  So when they join up, I’m interested. The supporting cast is filled with fun people and Wilmer Valderrama. If you missed the trailer, well, the film looks pretty much exactly like the light-hearted romantic comedy teaching a life lesson you’d expect from Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts. And while you may think that’d be enough to hook me (and you’d be right), here’s why I’m most excited: The last film written and directed by Tom Hanks?  That Thing You Do!

7. Something Borrowed – Brian’s made fun of me for this one. And maybe rightly so. But does this movie really so different from Crazy Stupid Love or Larry Crowne, other than having lower-wattage star power? Anyway, this film seems like you are going to get exactly what you expect out of it. I like that Kate Hudson is playing the “evil” role here, I think it will prove to be a nice departure from her previous roles.  Slotting into that role is Ginnifer Goodwin.  Who is nothing short of fantastic.  And I’m not just saying that because she played a recurring character on Ed.  I’m a little worried about this Colin Egglesfield guy, I’m not entirely convinced he is a real person.  But John Krasinski looks to be channeling some of his mojo from Away We Go, plus there’s Victoria (Cupcake Girl) from HIMYM and the funny Steve Howey.  What you really need to know, though, is the last feature film directed by Luke Greenfield (prior to this one, of course).  The Girl Next Door.

6. Green Lantern – Martin Campbell was a fascinating choice to direct this superhero movie.  He’s already directed two of the most famous superheroes in the world in three wildly popular films: Zorro in The Mask Of Zorro (and The Legend of Zorro, but let’s pretend that never happened) and James Bond in GoldenEye and Casino Royale.  So he’s clearly got the chops. Star Ryan Reynolds is well-deservedly starting to break out something fierce. And if you happened to catch Paper Man, you have no problem buying him as a superhero. I’ll admit, I was a little low on Blake Lively at first, but then I saw The Private Lives of Pippa Lee and like three million different magazine covers with her on it.  If there’s cause for concern, it is that the script comes from not super-heralded television writers.  But writing for No Ordinary Family probably will come in handy here.  Plus, as Adam will point out, if you cast Mark Strong as the bad guy, you are halfway to a good movie.

BRIAN

First off, a quick commentary. Something Borrowed, Jared? REALLY? That’s just terrible — if you watched Big Love, then maybe I could understand your Ginnifer Goodwin idolatry. But even THEN, its indefensible. I will probably mock you about this for months.

10. Hangover: Part II — I don’t really know why I have this so high as I have yet to laugh at pretty much anything in the trailer. I’m hoping the writers recapture the unpredictable mirth of the original and have a few tricks up their sleeves. The Mike Tyson cameo was ruined for the first one (and it seems he inexplicably comes back for Round 2), but I’d love it if there were some surprises this time. Also, going from a tiger to a monkey as the animal cast member is a big downgrade. So… hopeless optimism? Perhaps.

9. Horrible Bosses – As Jared mentioned, there’s no trailer or preview for this, so having this in my top 10 is a rather big risk. But the premise, of people murdering their bosses, is deliciously dark. Jared was wise to point out the “Motherfucker Jones” character, not to mention the rest of the cast. Jennifer Aniston’s comedic talents have been underrated since Office Space and even in really bad movies Jason Bateman makes me smile. I’m also banking on the July 8 release date being a vote of confidence from the studio. My hope is that the lack of a trailer means they want to do a sneak attack on moviegoers. Or it’s really bad. Ok, from here on in I am much more confident (and happy) with my choices.

8. Our Idiot Brother — I was shocked that this was so low on Jared’s list. Dreadful trailer he says? I thought it was great! In an inverse of my previous item, the only thing that gives me pause is the late August release date — it’s where movies are sent to die. You’re going to tell me a movie with Paul Rudd, Zooey Deschanel, Elizabeth Banks, Steve Coogan, Adam Scott and Emily Mortimer isn’t going to be good? It looks like a great extension of the Apatow manchildren, a role Paul Rudd specializes in, but moves him away from the self-aware schnook that he usually plays.

7. X-Men: First Class  — The more I see of this one, the higher up my list it goes. The alternate historical fiction, with the original X-Men saving the US during the Cuban Missile Crisis is right up my alley, and I find the mythology of the series to be among the most compelling of all superhero stories. The Xavier/Magneto relationship has a lot of heft to it, and I’m reasonabily confident that James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender can pull it off. The younger, star-depleted cast should also provide a sense of vitality and promise — which is exactly what you’d want in an origin story. Unlike Wolverine — which we’ll just forget ever happened. Oh and the special effects look sick.

6. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – Speaking of unreal special effects, Andy Serkis is bringing it again in the resurrection of the franchise. I was taken aback by a number of setpieces in the trailer, and superintelligent monkeys are freaking scary. The acting looks rather bad, but if this one ends how I think it will end — then James Franco and Frieda Pinto will have to succumb to the simian overlords, and that’ll be fun to watch. In terms of a goofy, entertaining popcorn flick, it looks like this will be the last nail in the coffin of Tim Burton’s atrocious 2001 remake.

Our final five films tomorrow night!

In which we continue our countdown of the 25 films we are most looking forward to this summer season.

JARED

15. Rise of the Planet of the Apes – The original Planet of the Apes films hold a special place in my heart. They are the first films in the sci-fi vein of The Twilight Zone or Philip K. Dick that I can remember watching. In a sense, they were a gateway drug to some of my favorite movies ever. And I can still remember my ten year old brain trying to puzzle out some of the paradoxes raised by the sequels. All of which is to say that while I look forward to more Planet of the Apes movies, I’d really rather nobody screw it up, either.

14. The Hangover Part II – Probably started out the year higher on my list, but holy cow, did you see that trailer?  I really really want to believe they don’t want to give away any jokes from the film.  Which is fine by me, I always hate it when I’ve already seen a film’s best laughs.  But yeesh.  It looks like an exact copy of the first one, minus the comedy.  Here’s hoping it is just a poorly cut trailer and not a result of the film being co-written by the guy who wrote Superhero Movie.

13. Captain America: First Avenger – Sheesh, another WWII awards bait movie, amiright? I’m a little wary of big budget comic book movies, I think the Iron Man films are the only ones I’ve really liked from the recent spate. Doesn’t stop me from continuing to watch them, though. My biggest concern is probably that the film was written by the guys who did You Kill Me, which I really didn’t like. The cast is interesting, though seemingly all the main actors are playing roles I wouldn’t have picked for them.  Still, the trailer was pretty darn cool.

12. The Help – You might recall Viola Davis grabbed an Oscar nomination for her one scene in Doubt. Since then, she seems to have been stuck playing authority figures like doctor and mayor with little screen time.  So I’m hoping she gets a little more to do here.  The cast also features Oscar winner Sissy Spacek, Oscar nominee Cicely Tyson, Golden Globe and Emmy nominee Alison Janney, Golden Globe nominee Bryce Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain (who hasn’t been nominated for anything yet, but who is poised for a super huge year), and, of course, Golden Globe nominee Emma Stone.  Who Brian may claim to really like, but he can get back to me after he’s seen The Rocker two times. I agree, though, that films about race relations can often be very frustrating, so hopefully this one remembers that a little nuance never hurt anyone.

11. The Beaver – I still can’t believe this film is actually happening.  Sure, there’s the whole guy talking through a beaver hand puppet thing.  And then you have Jodie Foster directing her first film in sixteen years.  Mel Gibson attempting to return to the good graces of America.  And a Black List script written by Kyle Killen.  Killen, you may recall, was the man behind Lone Star, the critically lauded show that was so cruelly cancelled after about two episodes.  There’s no reason this movie should exist.

BRIAN

15. Cowboys vs. Aliens — There’s so much to like here. Harrison Ford as the grumpy old sherrif and Daniel Craig as the bad-ass and mysterious alien fighter. I’ve got a bad sense that this is actually going to be awful and be a everlasting stain on Ford’s career. But that’s just being a Debbie Downer. I respect that the trailers that have come out so far have left some intrigue to the plot — and cmon, its cowboys versus aliens. That’s good enough for me.

14. Crazy Stupid Love — I’m ecstatic over this one. I’ll expand on this more later, but I’m pro-Ryan Reynolds Ryan Gosling (DAMMIT I have to stop writing these after midnight). I’m also pro-Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, and duh, Emma Stone. This cast can’t really get any better, and I need to start lowering my expectations now to stave off disappointment.

13. Larry Crowne — If Cowboys vs. Aliens is being coy, then Larry Crowne is freaking throwing itself at me. But when you have Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts playing lost souls on the highway of life, there’s immediately something winning within. I have a problem with rich-white-people-porn movies, where the lead characters have absurd houses and interior decorating and work in low-stress high-paying creative jobs. Fortunately, this looks like something new. Intriguing.

12. Bridesmaids —  Like Jared, I have a Kristin Wiig problem here. On SNL, she’s approaching Cheri O’Teri level of unwatchability. But the rave reviews are getting me pumped up, and Ellie Kemper just puts a smile on my face. I’ve also heard great things from a friend who caught an advance screener, so this film has slowly crept up my list.

11. Pirates of the Caribbean 4: On Stranger Tides — I’m not really sure how the fourth Pirates film got this far down the list. Part of the appeal of the original was the (albeit thin) allusions to Caribbean colonial history, and from the looks of it, we’ll be seeing Jack Sparrow in Enlightenment London, so more fake history there. They’ve dropped the deadweights of Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley, brought back Geoffrey Rush and added Ian McShane. Oh yeah, thats how Pirates got down to 11th.

Here’s part two of our fun exercise on ranking the top 25 films we are looking forward to this summer:

JARED

20. Horrible Bosses – I have absolutely no idea how to call this one. What do you do with a film that was written by three guys, one of whom wrote for Becker but also Duckman, a second who wrote for $#*! My Dad Says, John Francis Daley, the kid from Freaks and Geeks? That is directed by Seth Gordon, director of the acclaimed King of Kong and somewhat less acclaimed Four Christmases? That reunites the stars of The Switch(Jennifer Aniston and Jason Bateman) and also features Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, Donald Sutherland, Julie Bowen, and Jamie Foxx playing a character called “Motherfucker Jones”?

19. Bridesmaids– Has all kinds of good buzz. But frankly, the trailers have not impressed me, and I’m increasingly skeptical of Kristen Wiig’s ability to carry a film. That said, I’ve been a big Paul Feig fan ever since stumbling across his book in used book store. Jon Hamm probably doesn’t have a huge roles, but hopefully he can use this and his SNL stints to springboard into more comedy.

18.Our Idiot Brother– Would have ranked higher if not for the dreadful trailer that was just released. Has a pretty killer cast, though. And Paul Rudd can absolutely put a film on his back.

17. The Change-Up – As Brian mentioned earlier this week, the trailer for this movie is horrendous. But it has a decently funny cast and was directed by the guy who did Wedding Crashers. Plus, the screenwriters were the ones behind The Hangover.  And, as is perhaps more relevant, the underrated Full of It, which has a similar sense of magical realism.  Besides, it has totally been a year since the last body-switching movie, so we were due.

16. Friends With Benefits – Brian is going to tell you that this looks like exactly the same movie as No Strings Attached.  What, like Shakespeare came up with his own stories?  This one has Justin Timberlake instead of Ashton Kutcher, which is a decent upgrade. And comes from Will Gluck, who also directed Easy A, for whatever that’s worth.

BRIAN

20. Transformers 3: Dark Side of the Moon
Ok, full admission. When pulling this group together I realized I forgot to list a #20, so I went with the next best thing and threw Transformers on here. It was filmed in DC and it gives me an opportunity to link to this awesome video of the DC cops crashing into Bumblee. I’d say this movie has like a 20% chance of being somewhat entertaining.

19. Everything Must Go
I don’t really find Will Ferrell funny, which is why I think he could be good in this dramatic role. Stranger Than Fiction is sorely underappreciated and if this is any sort of return to that sort of performance from Ferrell, then sign me up. Rebecca Black Hall (whoopsies!) plays the love interest, Stephen Root is the next door neighbor. I think Jared’s being short sighted on this one by not even ranking it. (Spoiler alert?)

18. The Beaver
They should just retitle this film the Mel Gibson Reclamation Project and be done with it. Without that pesky sideshow, this looks rather enticing. With Jodie Foster behind and in front of the camera, Gibson plays the broken businessman who wears a puppet beaver on his hand as part of his mental healing. It got mixed reviews out of SXSW, where it had its US premiere, but I’m still optimistic.

17. Thor
Based solely on watching the trailers that have come out for this, I think Thor is going to be bad. So far, it looks like I might be horribly (and wonderfully) wrong — it’s currently at 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even though it has Natalie Portman and Kat Dennings and is directed by Kenneth Branaugh, nothing about Thor looks fun, interesting or novel — just a horrible mishmosh of the worst of Hellboy and Wild Wild West (so I guess all of the latter)

16. The Help
Emma Stone is wonderful, and if it were anyone else in the lead role I’m not sure it would make my list. I never read the novel this is based on, but the fictitious nature gives me some pause, especially when thrown in with the troublesome “white savior” vibe I got from the trailer. The story doesn’t appear to be all that groundbreaking or offering anything new, so I’ll likely wait to see which way the winds are blowing for this. Could be great though– I mean, Emma Stone.

With only 10 days to go before the release of Thor and the unofficial launch of the summer movie season, Jared and I thought we’d share the 25 movies we are most looking forward to this summer. We’ll start with films 25-21.

JARED

25. Bad Teacher – Justin Timberlake as a nerd, Jason Segel as a gym teacher with a heart of gold, written by two guys who did The Office and directed by a Freaks and Geeks/Undeclared alum means I’m giving this movie a shot.  Of course, Stupnitsky and Eisenberg were also the pair behind Year One, so let’s not get too excited just yet.

24. Hobo with a Shotgun – Sure, Machete disappointed and the elegant simplicity of a title didn’t entirely work for Snakes on a Plane but come on.  Check out this trailer and tell me you aren’t excited for some B-movie awesomeness.
23. Conan the Barbarian – The original is a classic, obviously, but not sacred.  An intriguing supporting cast (you are doing something right when you cast Stephen Lang and Ron Perlman in a brawny adventure flick), but clearly the fate of this movie is going to rest on the (extremely broad) shoulders of star Jason Momoa.
22. Another Earth – One reason I love The Twilight Zone is that it often changed one rule of science and showed how that change could affect humankind, often through the story of a single person.  I’m really hoping this film follows that path.
21. Hesher – The mixed reviews are worrisome, but I’m struggling to see how a Sundance Grand Jury-nominated film starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Natalie Portman could be bad.
BRIAN

25. Cars 2 – Pixar has pretty much earned my respect enough that they could produce Shrek 5 and I’d be willing to see it. Cars 2 isn’t that bad, but it’s close. The decision to make a sequel to everyone’s least favorite Pixar film just reeks of commercialism and opportunism, and I have disappointingly low expectations for Cars 2. But its Pixar, so we’ll see.
24. El Bulli – The first of two documentaries on this list, El Bulli is among those films I failed to see while I was out in Austin for SXSW. Centering on the legendary and innovative Spanish restaurant of the same name, the documentary looks like a good hour plus of food porn, and since El Bulli is shutting down later this year, may be the last chance we have to get a look behind the scenes.
23. The Change-Up – Any time a movie trailer kicks off with a baby poop joke, it cant be a good sign. And when that trailer follows it up with a diarrhea joke and a genital grooming joke, those are even worse signs. But Jason Bateman, Ryan Reynolds, and Leslie Mann are all pretty funny, so I’m still willing to hold out and see what the word of mouth is.
22. Another Earth  — Originally this list was 20 films, but then I watched the trailer and realized I had to expand. What a neat concept, from a psychological perspective especially. Just as I love me some goofy action flick during Oscar season, I also love me an introspective, small brainy film during summer blockbuster season. Could be intriguing.
21. Tabloid –  I fell in love with Errol Morris documentaries when I saw The Fog of War many years ago. Tabloid, about the mindboggling path of “former Miss Wyoming, convicted rapist, and dog-cloning supporter Joyce McKinney,” has the potential to be another masterpiece and look into the mind of someone crazy like a fox, or just foxy and crazy.

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Join us! And thanks for making your picks — live updates to come during the live blog.

This year, of the two front runners for Best Picture, The King’s Speech is the most obvious addition to the long list of “based on a true story” nominees and the fact vs. fiction questions that arise (as they do with any “Based on a True Story” movie) are largely immaterial. Conversely, The King’s Speech biggest competition, The Social Network, has been dogged by these questions from the start. And not unfairly. The former is considered largely accurate and the latter’s relationship with the truth is spotty. Yet…I don’t care.

The question of The Social Network’s authenticity is once again rearing its head as the inevitable backlash against the frontrunner begins. Andrew Sullivan already linked to one screed from The Awl that I mostly disagreed with. But it wasn’t until later that a friend was humming Mozart to herself that I drew a connection between The Social Network and Amadeus, the 1984 Best Picture winner; both are predicated on a glaring biographical lie.

In Milos Forman’s film, we are told the story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) through the eyes of Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham). Salieri is a jealous, spiteful, and senile old man when we first meet him. On his deathbed, he calls in a priest to confess one final sin: killing Mozart. For the next two plus hours, the Peter Shaffer script (based on his play by the same name) weaves an engaging story of Mozart’s path from child prodigy to alcoholic trainwreck — and how Salieri drove Mozart to his untimely death.

Much of what we are told about Mozart is faithful to the era, but there is one big falsehood that today would likely cloud its Oscar chances: everything about Salieri is based on centuries old slander. Not just the supposed murder (which even in the film is seen as the ramblings of a crazy man), but Salieri’s entire relationship with Amadeus was invented as a narrative technique. Music scholar A. Peter Brown broke down the truth vs. fiction in an incisive 1991 essay: “‘fictional ornament [using a term coined by Shaffer]’ understates the gulf between what was the invention of the authors and historical truth.”

Brown takes down many of the myths concocted about Salieri: that he was jealous (their relationship was a “healthy professional one”), that his music was simple and unworthy of the royal court (he was “a highly respected and successful” composer), and that he conspired to kill Mozart (“Salieri’s two attendants attested that they had never heard such words from their charge.”) Brown makes a great effort to show his admiration for Amadeus, in spite of the fact that Shaffer drew the central conceit of the film from unfounded rumors that had been circulating since Mozart’s death.

And Brown is absolutely correct in his evaluation of the film — it is brilliant, engaging, fun, and suspenseful. And the leading and supporting male actors put in career-defining roles.

I’d say the same thing about The Social Network — and it too derives its plot from a giant, but in the end immaterial, lie: that Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook in an attempt to get others (girls, finals clubs, the world) to like him. The critique I linked to above by Richard Rushfield gets into it, as have others. Sorkin, with help from author/fabulist Ben Mezrich, ignores the fact that the real Zuckerberg has had the same girlfriend for years — predating Facebook. He apparently had no interest in the finals clubs; he was a member of a fraternity. Rushfield writes, “Zuckerberg is portrayed as an angry, vengeful sociopath, which by most accounts and all appearances, he is not.”

So why should we judge these films differently? Shaffer made the decision to tell the story of Mozart through the prism of a manufactured competitor just as Sorkin told the story of Facebook by taking Eduardo Saverin’s side and twisting it a bit to make it more dramatic. The more I think about the comparison between these two films, the more it fits. And if The Social Network wants to combat the backlash it will get as the frontrunner of the Oscars, it would be good for them to consider what made Amadeus‘ half-truths seem less relevant to voters*

*Yes, the 80s were a different era of Oscar voting. Yes, I know one had 200 years of murky history and one had 5 years of rather well-documented history. I still don’t think it matters.

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