Best of 2009 – Movie Edition, The Top Ten March 3, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2009, movies.
Tags: (500) Days of Summer, A Serious Man, Avatar, Best of 2009, Drag Me To Hell, Inglourious Basterds, Moon, movies, Oscars, Star Trek, The Hangover, The Hurt Locker, top ten, Up
With the Oscars right around the corner, I have been compiling a list of my favorite films of the past year. The first entry in this series dealt with movies that I have not yet seen, but that are either award nominees or just look like something I would enjoy. Yesterday I posted the first five movies in my list of 15 as sort of an honorable mention list. Today we will take a look at the top 10. Let me know what you think.
10. (500) Days of Summer – I normally can’t stomach romantic-comedies, but first-time film director Mark Waters has created a quirky, nonlinear work of wonder. The movie follows the 500 day relationship between the protagonists, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel, covering the ups and downs from its early stages to the end. The story itself jumps around the 500 days, offering pieces of the relationship puzzle that the viewer then puts together on their own. It’s a refreshing and unique take on the genre that you should take the time to see.
9. Drag Me To Hell – Before he helmed the $1 Billion Spider Man franchise, Sam Raimi had quite a following from his classic horror-comedy Evil Dead series. This film sees Raimi taking a step back from the big budget mega-blockbusters to the genre that originally made him a favorite. The main character in the story, played by Alison Lohman, is cursed by a gypsy after refusing her an extension on her mortgage. The film then follows her and her boyfriend, played by Justin Long (the Mac guy), as they deal with the demonic curse. It’s alternately funny and scary in a way that few other directors can accomplish and it is definitely a must-see.
8. The Hangover – Director Todd Phillips (Old School) hit gold again with this hilarious look at a Las Vegas bachelor party gone wrong, and perhaps the best thing about the film is that almost none of the actual party is shown. The movie begins on the morning after, when three men awaken in a trashed Vegas hotel room and the groom, of all people, is nowhere to be found. The remainder of the movie involves the men trying to piece together what happened the night before, in a story that involves missing teeth, Asian gangsters, a naked man in the car trunk, and Mike Tyson’s tiger. Though it could have easily devolved into juvenile humor, the film is actually very intelligently written and the casting is superb – Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms (The Office, The Daily Show), and the hilarious Zach Galifianakis. This is probably the funniest movie of the year.
7. Avatar – What can be said about James Cameron’s groundbreaking 3-D science fiction epic that hasn’t already been said? It is now the highest grossing movie of all time, both domestically and globally, it is a Best Picture nominee, and probably the most talked about film of the year. The film takes place on Pandora, a far-off moon where a corporation from Earth is mining the precious mineral unobtanium. Sam Worthington stars as a good-hearted former marine working for the company who disguises himself as one of the planet’s locals (the Na’vi) in order to get the valuable mineral. Along the way he falls in love and becomes the leader of the Na’vi and this movie is way too long for me to tell here. If you really want to know what happens, watch Dances with Wolves and pretend the Indians conquer the invading white men. It’s a fine movie with incredible visuals and I’m glad that I saw it, even though I probably never will sit through the entire 3 hours again.
6. The Hurt Locker – I’m not generally a fan of war movies. I usually find them to be clichéd, incredibly one-sided, and emotionally manipulative – all traits that I hold in disdain. The Hurt Locker defies most of these clichés, though, and delivers what, to date, is the definitive movie of the recent conflict in Iraq. I imagine that this look at the work of an EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal) team is pretty true-to-life and, thus, quite poignant in today’s atmosphere. It is a very intense film, going from one nail-biting scene to another with little let-up for things like, say, character development, but nevertheless, it is a very good movie and one that I would definitely recommend.
5. Star Trek – Now this is how a summer blockbuster should be – smart, funny, action-packed and just an all-around good time without making you feel as though you just lost a few IQ points at its conclusion. This reboot by director JJ Abrams (Lost) goes back to the crew’s younger days, during their time at Starfleet. Chris Pine (Smokin’ Aces) effectively takes on the role of James T. Kirk and Zachary Quinto (Heroes) is an excellent Spock in this great piece of summer fun. It did not matter that I had never watched nor cared much for Star Trek in the past, I still loved this film and never felt like I was being left out for my lack of foreknowledge.
4. Up – Once again, Pixar (Toy Story, Finding Nemo, WALL-E, etc.) proves that they are the cream of the crop when it comes to animated films – nobody else is even close. The first 15 minutes of this film are the most heartbreaking ones you will see in any movie this year and the rest of it is among the most uplifting. The story revolves around an elderly man (voiced by Ed Asner) who decides to fulfill the longtime wishes of he and his wife and sets of on a journey to South America in his house powered by thousands of balloons. Along for the ride is a young stowaway (voiced by Jordan Nagai) and together they brave the elements and other obstacles on a heartwarming quest. It’s really a great, great movie.
3. Moon – Sam Rockwell (Choke) gives one of the finest performances of the year in this excellent homage to science fiction films of yore like 2001: A Space Odyssey. Rockwell’s character (also named Sam) is finishing up his 3 year stint at a moon base working for an energy company that mines helium-3 from the lunar soil to provide power to the Earth. His time has spent alone, with only the robot GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey) and intermittent messages from his wife on earth to keep him company. Events occur and Sam realizes that all is not what it seems as he tries to piece together both his prior life on earth and his current life on the moon. Rockwell spends much of the movie alone and does an incredible job of commanding the screen, so it is beyond disappointing that the Academy did not recognize his performance with a Best Actor nomination. Make sure you add this one to your list of must-sees, it is fantastic.
2. A Serious Man – Time and again, the Cohen brothers (Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men), have proven themselves to be the premier filmmakers in today’s cinematic world. Their quirky flair for black comedy is unsurpassed and once again they have outdone themselves. A Serious Man is a loose adaptation of the Biblical story of Job, as enacted by a Jewish family in 1960’s Minnesota. The cast is largely unknown, with Michael Stuhlbarg taking on his first lead role as the main protagonist, a trait that is probably for the better, for it keeps the viewer from predefining the roles of actors they have seen many times in the past. If you are a Cohen brothers fan like I am and love their brand of dark comedy, this is a definite must-see. If you don’t see what all the fuss is about their strange, off-center films, then you might as well skip this one too. In my view, though, this is one of the best films of the year and it stands tall with anything else in the Cohen brothers canon.
1. Inglourious Basterds – Who is often seen as the ultimate evil, perhaps the worst of the worst people that humankind has ever seen? When trying to describe one’s enemy in the most vile terms imaginable, who do you resort too? Well, those are easy questions for us in today’s modern world – the appeal for utter evil goes straight to the Nazis and, of course, Adolph Hitler. So, when constructing the ultimate revenge fantasy, who better to go after than this scourge from Germany? Quentin Tarantino, one of the greatest and most acclaimed directors of the past 20 years, has done just that with his latest film, constructing an alternate reality in which a band of Jews, led by Tennessee-born Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt), violently fight back against their oppressors, collecting Nazi scalps at every turn. It is yet another blood-soaked masterpiece from Tarantino, the wonderful combination of humor with scenes of incredible violence. This is, without a doubt, the movie of the year, and though I am quite certain that the Academy will again bypass QT for something safer in the Best Picture race, 2010 will always be the year of Inglourious Basterds for me.
So, what do you think? What did I get wrong? What did I get right? What should I have included?
Best of 2009 – Movie Edition, The Prelude March 2, 2010Posted by Matt in Best of 2009, movies.
Tags: An Education, Best of 2009, Crazy Heart, Dead Snow, Fantastic Mr. Fox, movies, Oscars, Precious, The Blind Side, The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Road, Up in the Air, Where the Wild Things Are
The glitz and glam of the Oscars, that great Hollywood tradition of self-congratulations, is quickly approaching, so this seems to be an appropriate time to take a look back at the motion pictures of 2009. With three kids and a tight budget, I don’t make it to the theater that often, but because of Netflix I have had the opportunity to see several good pieces of cinema over the past 12 months. Before delving into the list, though, I’d like to take a few moments to mention some of the films that I have not seen yet, some of these are critically acclaimed, some are Oscar contenders, and some just sound really cool. So, without further ado, here are the top ten movies that I have yet to see from 2009.
10. The Blind Side – I know that people love this movie and it’s the feel-good hit of the year, but after reading the book I’m not all that excited about it. It sounds like it would make a great Lifetime movie for middle-aged white women.
9. Precious – Sure, it’s an acclaimed film and I’m sure I will be obliged to see it eventually, but because of the subject matter I can’t say I’m too excited about it.
8. An Education – I don’t know a lot about this movie yet, except that its sort of a creepy story about a teenage girl and a 30-something man, but I’ll give it an obligatory viewing at some point.
7. The Men Who Stare at Goats – It’s got a great cast, good reviews, and an interesting concept, so I’ll have to be sure to check out this one.
6. The Road – I absolutely loved the book, but am a little wary of turning this dark, post-apocalyptic masterpiece into a movie. Regardless, I’ll watch it at some point.
5. Up in the Air – This George Clooney vehicle was an early Oscar frontrunner before falling behind Avatar and The Hurt Locker. The fact that it is directed by Jason Reitman (Juno and Thank You For Smoking) is all the reason I need to see it.
4. Crazy Heart – The Dude in an Oscar-nominated performance as a broken-down country singer? I can’t wait to see it.
3. Dead Snow – Because the only thing worse than zombies are Nazi zombies. Now that this one is on Netflix Watch it Now, it’s only a matter of time before I see it.
2. Where the Wild Things Are – I’m a huge fan of director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Adaptation), so this take on a classic children’s story is definitely a must-see.
1. Fantastic Mr. Fox – Director Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore) is another of my favorites, so I’m looking forward to a lot of children’s story weirdness crammed into this one.
My Best Pictures of 2008 February 18, 2009Posted by Matt in movies.
Tags: Academy Awards, Best Picture, Burn After Reading, In Bruges, Oscars, The Dark Knight, Tropic Thunder, Wall-E
With the awards season officially upon us, I thought that this would probably be a good time to do an obligatory Oscar post. I have not seen any of the movies that have been nominated for Best Picture, so there is really very little I can say about any of them. Trips to the theater have become few and far between for us and DVD watching can only usually occur once the kids are in bed, so I do not partake in much cinema.
But, of the movies released in 2008 that I have had the opportunity to watch, there were a few that stood taller than the rest, so today I will give you my top five Best Pictures of 2008 that I have actually seen.
5. Burn After Reading – The Cohen Brothers have developed a strange pattern in their contributions to the cinematic canon, following up their darker material with strange, off-the-wall comedies (See Fargo and The Big Lebowski). After scoring their first Best Picture Oscar in 2007 with No Country For Old Men, to some it might make sense to again shoot for the stars and try to add another statue to their collection., but the Cohens are a different breed. Instead, they release this strange little comedy with the likes of Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, and Frances McDormand, that is just brilliant and very funny.
4. In Bruges – The under-the-radar gem was released during the cinematic dead zone of January, but it proved to be one of the best films of the year. Starring Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell (in perhaps the only role for which I have ever acknowledged his acting ability), this movie tells the story of two hitmen hiding out in Bruges, Belgium, after a job gone wrong. It is really an incredibly good movie and one that I would seriously consider as my favorite of the year.
3. The Dark Knight – What else is there left to say about the biggest blockbuster of the year (and the second biggest of all time)? Christopher Nolan, Christian Bale, and Heath Ledger have put together this year’s greatest thrill ride, one that may be impossible to top.
2. Wall-E – While there are certainly plenty of excellent ones out there, I am not generally a big fan of animated films. Wall-E, though, has proven itself to be one of the few exceptions to this personal rule. Though marketed to children, this is not solely a child’s movie. There are no Barbie-esque princesses randomly breaking into song, nor are there talking animals or magic or fairies. Instead this inventive picture centers on a robot living alone in a trash-strewn dystopia. Despite the lack of dialogue, the film sparkles with an intelligence that is generally absent in a kids’ movie. Oh, and the message about being a good ecological steward doesn’t hurt either.
1. Tropic Thunder – Comedies come and go and, while some may be mildly amusing, there are few that I find to be both intelligent and laugh-out-loud funny. Judd Apatow’s Superbad did it in 2007, but Tropic Thunder may even be better than that vulgar tribute to adolescence. With Ben Stiller (who directed, produced, wrote, and starred in it), Jack Black, an almost unrecognizable Tom Cruise, and an insanely funny Robert Downey Jr. (who, if it weren’t for Heath Ledger, should win Best Supporting Actor), this picture about a film crew inadvertently caught up in a drug war takes my top prize of the year. Seriously, whoever thought up the idea of having Downey Jr. play a white actor playing a totally stereotypical black actor is a genius. This is your movie of the year…at least so far.
What about you? What were your favorite movies of 2008?
Ten For Tuesday: Upcoming Fall Movies September 2, 2008Posted by Matt in top ten.
Tags: 2008, fall, movies, Oscars, top ten
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Just as the summer movie season is filled with hugely budgeted, popcorn-gorged monuments to excess, the motion pictures comprising the last four months of the year have their own general characterizations – tending to either be overwrought dramas pining for the elusive Academy Award nomination or sickeningly sweet holiday films. Amid these, though, there are movies for which my anticipation is especially great due, most likely, to either their creative-sounding storylines or actors/directors who I greatly enjoy. So, without further ado, here are ten upcoming movies that I anticipate seeing.
10. Righteous Kill (Release Date: September 12)
Director: Jon Avnet
Starring: Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, 50 Cent
Plot Synopsis: Two veteran New York City detectives work to identify the possible connection between a recent murder and a case they believed they solved years ago; is there a sereial killer on the loose, and did they perhaps put the wrong person behind bars?
Thoughts: De Niro and Pacino together? That’s definitely a must-see.
9. W (Release Date: October 17)
Director: Oliver Stone
Starring: Josh Brolin, Elizabeth Banks, Richard Dreyfuss
Plot Synopsis: Texas Governor, George W. Bush, follows in the footsteps of his father, former President George H.W. Bush, in the wake of a controversial election to lead the United States of America.
Thoughts: Yeah, it seems a bit premature to make a biopic of our president before his term is even up, but the thought of Brolin as Bush and Dreyfuss and Dick Cheney is intriguing to say the least.
8. Zack and Miri Make a Porno (Release Date: October 31)
Director: Kevin Smith
Starring: Seth Rogen, Elizabeth Banks
Plot Synopsis: Lifelong platonic friends Zack and Miri look to solve their respective cashflow problems by making an adult film together. As the cameras roll, however, the duo soon realize their true feelings for each other.
Thoughts: Truth be told, Smith hasn’t made a great film in years, but, being such a huge fan of his work in the past (Clerks, Chasing Amy, Dogma), I’ll give him another shot, especially since Rogen (Knocked Up) is involved.
7. Choke (Release Date: September 26)
Director: Clark Gregg
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Anjelica Huston, Kelly Macdonald
Plot Synopsis: An adaptation of the Chuck Palahniuk novel, in which sex-addicted con man Victor Mancini pays for his mother’s hospital bills by playing on the sympathies of those who rescue him from choking to death.
Thoughts: Palahniuk gave us the incredible Fight Club nearly ten years ago, which is more than enough to make me want to see this as well.
6. Changeling (Release Date: October 24)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich, Amy Ryan
Plot Synopsis: 1920’s Los Angeles: A woman who is reunited with her missing son is subsequently committed to an insane asylum when she begins to question whether the boy is her child.
Thoughts: Over the past few years, there have been few directors as rightfully decorated as the great Eastwood, which makes this probably Oscar contender a certain must-see.
5. The Spirit (Release Date: December 26)
Director: Frank Miller
Starring: Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Scarlett Johansson
Plot Synopsis: A rookie cop returns from the dead to fight crime from the shadows of Central city.
Thoughts: A movie directed by comic book legend Miller that has Jackson as a super-villain known as The Octopus? Awesome.
4. Appaloosa (Release Date: September 19)
Director: Ed Harris
Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Renee Zellweger, Ed Harris
Plot Synopsis: A pair of lawmen out to save a Western town from a rancher’s tyrannical reign find their bond, and their mission, tested by the arrival of a double-dealing widow.
Thoughts: I love a good western and the idea of reteaming A History of Violence co-stars Mortenson and Harris is exciting.
3. Synedoche, New York (Release Date: October 24)
Director: Charlie Kaufman
Starring: Philip Seymour Hoffman, Samantha Morton, Michelle Williams
Plot Synopsis: A theater director struggles with his work, and the women in his life, as we attempts to create a life-size replica of New York inside a warehouse as pat of his new play.
Thoughts: After greatly enjoying Kaufman’s quirky works as a writer (Adaptation, Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), I’m very intrigued by his debut as a director. This could be one of the best of the year.
2. The Road (Release Date: November 28)
Director: John Hillcoat
Starring: Viggo Mortenson, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee
Plot Synopsis: A father and son walk for months across a ravaged, post-apocalyptic landscape in search of civilization.
Thoughts: Can a movie based on a Cormac McCarthy novel strike Oscar gold two years in a row? The book is one of the best of our time and the casting of Viggo Mortenson is excellent, so, if done well, this could be an incredible film.
1. Burn After Reading (September 12)
Director: Joel and Ethan Coen
Starring: Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand, George Clooney, John Malkovich
Plot Synopsis: Two gym employees find a computer disc containing Osbourne Cox’s CIA information and try to get money from him.
Thoughts: The Coen brothers are far and away my favorite directors working today and, though all of their films have at least an undercurrent of dark humor, I may like their hilariously strange outright comedies the best (The Big Lebowski, Raising Arizona, etc.). That being said, while this film is probably not an Oscar contender, it is my most anticipated of the year.
What about you? What movies do you want to see coming out this Fall?
Matt’s Meandering Mind on Monday February 25, 2008Posted by Matt in basketball, concert, Diana, family, Memphis, movies, music, random, Rebekah, sports, vacation.
Tags: California, coen brothers, drive-by truckers, Memphis Tigers, No Country for Old Men, Oscars, vacation
Last night, Bekah threw up after having an upset stomach for much of the evening, so, because Diana does not have the time to take off work, I’m at home with her again. She seems to be fine so far today, so I’m guessing it was something she ate yesterday that disagreed with her. Her day care does have a policy of not allowing children within 24 hours of throwing up, thus we are at home playing all day.
I didn’t watch most of the Oscars last night, but I did tune it for the last hour or so and see my favorite moviemakers, the Coen brothers, take home both the Best Director and Best Picture prizes. No Country for Old Men was the only movie up for the biggest award that I have seen, so I was a little partial to it. I really enjoy director Paul Thomas Anderson’s previous work (Boogie Nights, Magnolia, Punch-Drunk Love), so I’m looking forward to seeing his latest, There Will Be Blood.
For the past few weeks here in Memphis everything has revolved around this past Saturday’s basketball game, University of Memphis (who was ranked number 1 in the polls and was undefeated) vs. University of Tennessee (number 2 in the polls), and it did not disappoint, even though Memphis did come out on the short end. I’ll be interested to see how they fare in the postseason.
We have purchased tickets to next month’s Drive-By Truckers show and I’m pretty pumped about it. The new album, Brighter Than Creation’s Dark, is excellent – probably their best since 2003′s Decoration Day. The dark tales of southern life are among their best as they tackle everything from war to the scourge of crystal meth.
I can’t remember if I mentioned this before or not, but we have also officially decided on a family vacation this summer and have already purchased plane tickets for the June trip. We will be going to Huntington Beach, in the Los Angeles area, to stay with some of Diana’s family for a week and see the sights. Diana is very excited about going back to the West Coast and about taking the girls to Disneyland.