Thursday, December 31, 2009

Question of the Day: Your Favorite FIlms of 2006?

Continuing with the theme of "best of" what movies stood out to you in 2006?  I'm noticing that this was a relatively weak year considering the years its sandwiched between.  Leave your lists in the's my list:

20.) Talladega Nights: The Legend of Ricky Bobby
19.) Why We Fight
18.) Jesus Camp
17.) Half Nelson
16.) Tristam Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story
15.) Stranger Than Fiction
14.) Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World
13.) The Departed
12.) United 93
11.) Perfume: A Story of Murder

10.) Bubble
9.) Flags of Our Fathers/Letters From Iwo Jima
8.) Casino Royale
7.) Thank You for Smoking
6.) Volver
5.) Marie Antoinette
4.) The Descent
3.) L'Enfant
2.) Miami Vice
1.) Pan's Labyrinth 

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Revisiting 1999: The Top Ten Films of the Year, #4 --- Three Kings (David O. Russell)

Sorry this one is so short and more like an outline. I just knew that if I didn't get this posted soon I never would. So here's some brief, and somewhat unorganized, thoughts on one of my very favorite films of the 90's. Here's where I've covered so far in case you've forgotten:

The Top 10 Films of 1999:
5- The Insider (Michael Mann)

1999 was the revival of American cinema. It marked a new age, a revolution spear-headed by the likes of Spike Jonze, Paul Thomas Anderson, Wes Anderson, and David O. Russell. It was also a revival for their masters like Martin Scorsese, Terrance Malick, and Michael Mann. This mix of young and old reminds one of the 60's and 70's, a time in film history that most consider being the acme of filmmaking. These two signposts of film history show filmmakers taking Hollywood films, and conventions, and turning them on their ear. David Russell, director of the brilliant Three Kings, was one of the most impressive to come out of this movement.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Question of the Day: Your Favorite Films of 2005?

Today's question continues my inquiry into what you all think are some of the best films of the decade.  Today we cover 2005, a year I had forgotten about.  There were a lot of great films released in 2005, and I think I forgot about it because of how great 2007 was, and how a lot of people think that year is the best of the decade, but 2005 gives it a run for its money.  Leave your lists in the comments.  Here's my list:

20.) The 40 Year-Old Virgin
19.) Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
18.) In Her Shoes
17.) The Devil and Daniel Johnston
16.) Elizabethtown
15.) Grizzly Man
14.) Broken Flowers
13.) The Ice Harvest
12.) Cache
11.) The Proposition

10.) Lord of War
9.) The Constant Gardner
8.) Sin City
7.) Brokeback Mountain
6.) The Weather Man
5.) A History of Violence
4.) The New World
3.) Munich
2.) The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
1.) Syriana

Monday, December 28, 2009

DVD Review: Two Lovers

James Gray's Two Lovers may be the closest thing American movies have to a Dardenne Brothers film. Well, Kelly Reichardt may have something to say about that, but my point is this: finally we have an American film that is willing to be a melodrama and be serious all while being based in reality. It's rare for a film that portrays love in the same way a soap opera might to have the ability to pull me in and believe in the characters. Of course the acting has a lot to do with it, but Gray films his movie in a way that allows that feeling to seep under your skin; it's a slow process, and like a Dardenne film the first 20 minutes are used for the viewer to get their bearings, but once that happens you realize you're watching a film that has deep and heavy themes, but delivered in a stark and truthful way. I was completely enamored with this film. It's one of my favorite movies of 2009.

DVD Review: Breaking and Entering

Breaking and Entering is a very broad premise about how messing up makes you a better person. Philosophically it could have worked, as the late writer/director Anthony Minghella made one of my favorite films The Talented Mr. Ripley. But where that film was masterful at letting editing speak for the characters intentions, Breaking and Entering insists on spelling everything out with its absurd amount of heavy-handed dialogue.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Off for the Holiday...

I'll be away from the blog for the next couple of days, but that's not why I'm posting, I just wanted to take the opportunity to wish everyone a happy holiday.  Whether you celebrate it for religious reasons or for taking-a-break-from-all-the-things-I-hate-about-my-job reasons, I hope that you all enjoy a few days of rest and relaxation.  Anyway, see ya in a few days.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Question of the Day: Your Favorite Films of 2004?

As we get closer and closer to the end of the year, and all of the inevitable end-of-the-year lists, I thought that I would re-institute the Question of the Day feature by asking everyone to list some of their favorite films for the years leading up to 2009.  I'm also doing this because Ric at Film for the Soul is on sabbatical from his wonderful Counting Down the Zeroes project and the subsequent top ten lists he asked contributors to submit.  So, I thought this would be a good venue to continue doing that.  Also, make sure to check out Tony Dayoub's blog Cinema Viewfinder as he's been rolling out his top 10 lists, showcasing the best films of the decade.  He just posted his list for 2002.  Check it out.  I've already listed my selections for 2000, 2001, 2002, and that brings us to today's question: what are your favorite films of 2004?  My list comes after the jump...

Monday, December 21, 2009

DVD Review: Adventureland

What a breath of fresh air this movie is. Finally we have a movie about young people in their 20's who aren't obsessed with getting high, drinking, and having sex; these are things that just happen. Writer/Director Greg Mottola has created a love song to those summer nights where everything seems easier and more romanticized than the other three seasons. This is a rare film about young people who are more concerned about getting a summer job so they can save up for Graduate school than about saving money for a big party while their parents are out of town. Similar to last years surprising Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist this is a film that is more about younger people who are more interested in what's inside someone's mind instead of someone's pants.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Revisiting 1999: The Top Ten Films of the Year, #5 --- The Insider (Michael Mann)

When I began thinking about this project last Spring I remember thinking that whenever (and if) I get to the top five films of 1999 I will have a tough time figuring out which films are “better” than the others.  When thinking about this hierarchical dilemma I began to realize that I would have to type out some kind of caveat with this list. Here is the first of five entries that will account for what I think are the five best films of 1999, a year that I have been talking about on this blog for a while now.  It doesn’t matter what number sits next to these films, they’re all interchangeable at this point, but what is important is that these are five of the best films of the 90’s.  Here’s where I’ve covered so far in case you've forgotten:

The Top 10 Films of 1999:

On paper Michael Mann’s The Insider doesn’t sound like a Mann film.  In fact, on paper it sounds like another ho-hum docudrama about an ethical everyman who fights the big bad corporation.  However, The Insider – like Oliver Stone’s JFK and Robert Redford’s Quiz Show – is as taut as any thriller released in the 90’s.  It’s a masterful procedural, and Mann and his screenwriter Eric Roth create tension and elicit edge-of-your-seat type scenes out of people talking, reading and investigating, and the fear of what could happen to someone.  It’s one of Mann’s most unique films (there are no Mann character types in the film Actually there are, just not in the sense that they're professional criminals or gangsters.  Thanks to J.D. for pointing this out to me in the comment section) because on the surface it just seems so normal with its big star (Al Pacino) and Oscar premise (it was nominated for Best Picture, Director, Actor, and others, and remains one of the most criminally snubbed films in recent Oscar history).  The Insider is also one of Mann’s best films.  It shows a director who is a master visual storyteller; a director who is able to make 150+ minutes feel like 90; a director who creates one of the most intriguing “based on a true story” type investigative film since All the President’s Men.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

DVD Review: The Prowler (aka Rosemary’s Killer)

Joseph Zito's 1981 slasher The Prowler has a reputation as being one of the better offerings from the tired sub-genre. It boasts an impressive period look in its opening scenes (impressive for an 80's horror flick with little more than a million dollar budget), some of the best gore effects by Tom Savini, and one creepy looking killer. However, these minor pluses never materialize into a shocking or thrilling experience. Instead the film is nothing more than your average hack-and-slash film that offers up some visceral death scenes (thanks to Savini's gore effects), but doesn't succeed in actually thrilling the viewer in any way. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

DVD Review: Funny People

If you look hard enough while watching a Judd Apatow film you will find yourself amazed that there is material that exists – lurking beneath all the penis and fart jokes – that is capable of moving you. I don’t think there has been a writer who has been more polarizing or misunderstood since David Mamet decided to start making movies. Like Mamet, Apatow’s points are often lost on casual audiences who can’t seem to wade their way through the pervasiveness of the vulgarity. Mamet has his “eff bombs” and racial/homophobic slurs, and Apatow has a joke bin that consists of penis/male grooming and fart jokes. Why am I saying all of this? Because I think with Apatow’s language, like Mamet, has a certain rhythm to it, and either that music jives with you or it doesn’t. Mamet’s actors are often looked at as wooden and boring – one note if you will – but the music that is Mamet’s script calls for a certain delivery that, to someone who is not a fan, seems stilted…I find it hypnotic and infectious. The same goes for Apatow, and even though his latest endeavor, Funny People, has a horribly long and awkward third act it doesn’t make the film any less enjoyable. I like the music that the dialogue makes in an Apatow film…it’s a refreshing break from the usual mainstream comedies that Hollywood spits out every year, so even when Apatow fails, it’s a fantastically interesting failure.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Merry Quiz-mas: Time for another SLATIFR quiz.'s that time again.  Dennis Cozzalio of the fantastic Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule has asked the blogosphere to fill out one of his endlessly entertaining tests.  I usually feel like a dummy after getting through with these things, but that never tempers my enthusiasm in doing them.  Dennis has lobbed a whopping 50 question(!!) exam at us.  I hope I at least get it out of the infield.  Thanks again, Dennis, for such a fantastically fun exercise. My answers come after the jump...

Friday, December 11, 2009

...And we're back

Hey everyone...the madness of the past month is over and I'm ready to start posting on here again.  Things will resume this Monday, and there's no telling how many posts I plan on doing in the month I have off from responsibilites.  I plan on doing the following:

Listing my answers to Dennis' quiz
Re-visiting the underrated and undervalued greatness that is "John From Cincinnati"
Catching up with some movies like A Serious Man and last years A Christmas Tale
Reviewing stuff like Funny People and The Limits of Control, as well as other 2009 films
A huge list of things that made me happy the past ten years
My obligatory best of the decade list and best of 2009 list
Fun, shorter reviews for cheesy, violent stuff like The Prowler or some old westerns I've been watching like One Eyed Jacks.

And who knows what else I'll do here.  It should be a fun month...I have a lot on my mind.  Also, as you may be able to tell I switched up the design on the blog.  My brother Troy helped me out since he's an engineer and he can do stuff like that in a matter of seconds.  I like the new look myself, and I started thinking after Troy helped me switch templates and re-design this thing that it looks a lot like Edward Copeland's blog.  So consider it an homage to Ed, who sadly isn't blogging anymore. I look forward to conversing with everyone next week.  Until then...