First day off in quite some time, so I'm ready to publish a list I've been compiling every year since I was 15: my top 20 movies. If you've been following this blog for the past few years, you'll know about it - and either think my opinions suck balls or hold some weight. Either way, it gives me an opportunity to post a list that used to just be confined to my parents fridge when I was in high school. This has little to do with the galleries or art. So there's your warning. With that, the tradition continues.
1. True Grit - Every Coen Bros. movie released since the list's inception in 1995 has made the top 10. And yes, that includes Ladykillers, Intolerable Cruelty and A Serious Man. I usually use Burn After Reading as a litmus test to see if I can be friends with someone. I may have to do the same with True Grit. It's a perfect remake with flawless acting and an intense subtlety, a quality lacking in basically every western since John Ford made a movie about John Wayne wanting to kill his niece because she was raped by Indians (The Searchers, ya'll). Newcomer Hailee Steinfeld stands out (tell K-Mart to stop airing her commercial now please), while Damon, Bridges and Brolin are all in top form. A must see and a new addition to the Classic Western section at the Blockbuster near your house that's about to close - it's 2010's number one movie.
2. The Social Network - Fincher has two prior number ones on my list (The Game and Se7en) and also two movies I think suck horribly (Panic Room and Benjamin Buttons) - but his collaboration with wordsmith and possible crackhead Aaron Sorkin is magical. I believe this movie will define our generation the same way Saturday Night Fever did for the 70's (although one could argue for Looking For Mr. Goodbar), Wall Street did for the 80's and Clerks did for the 90's. It's easy to paint Zuckerberg as the villain, but Sorkin and Fincher were able to humanize the white Jewish Oprah and tell a story worth telling without judgement. And the sci-fi, two bodies/one actor shit they pulled for the Winklevoss brothers makes you wonder if the Olson Twins would've ever been famous had Full House came out in 2011 (how dare I). Eisenberg is leading his pack (EMILE, WHERE R U?) and Spiderman isn't far behind. Timberlake might be my only gripe with the movie, as I think his reads are a little forced at times, but it's not unbearably awful and "Cry Me A River" is still kinda the jam. This would've been a #1 if the Coens took a year off to go to Israel for Birthright or something.
3. The Fighter - Full disclosure: I did get to work on this film on the marketing side, but no matter what, this flick would've ended up top 3. David O. Russell, who has Flirting With Disaster, Three Kings and I Heart Huckabees on former top tens, takes on my favorite sport and one of my favorite fighters, Micky Ward. Although not covered in the movie, the Ward/Gatti fight saga will always be one of my favorite moments in sports and a few years back I got to meet Micky Ward and tell him how important his matches were to my Father and I, so obviously - paycheck or not - this was something I was looking forward to. And O. Russell does not disappoint. More about family than boxing, The Fighter shines with Wahlberg and Bale as leads and Lowell, MA as the silent third star. An incredible story, well directed and well-crafted biopic, The Fighter should be seen as the approachable (and maybe emo) Raging Bull and Bale as most likely the best actor working today. GOOD FOR YOUUUU! Excited for David O. Russell to take on the Uncharted movie next.
4. Exit Through The Gift Shop - Banksy wasn't happy enough just being smarter than every other street artist, he had to also be smarter than every other documentarian. A tale so incredible that people think it's fake (p.s. guys, it's real), Exit Through The Gift Shop tells the story of Thierry Guetta, a video historian who's documentary about street art might not be a documentary at all, until one of his subjects, Banksy, takes over and makes it about the film's best character, Guetta himself. As post modern and meta as one film can be (almost like Charlie Kauffman wrote it), I've watched it a few times and still marvel in its wonder each time. I've probably answered 300 questions from friends about this, and I hope to continue to. Banksy recently hinted that he's working on a second film and I've just stopped letting any doubt seep into my brain about him. He will most likely knock it out of the park again and surprise us all. Not sure why you'd be reading an art blog and not have already seen this movie, but if you haven't, see it now (it's currently OnDemand and on Netflix streaming).
5. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World - Still not sure how this failed, outside of some very detailed, niche marketing that definitely should've focused more mainstream. 8-bit focus or not, this movie is for everyone, and the promotional direction was way too nerdy for everyone to find it inviting. A GREAT movie from Edgar Wright (past top ten entry with Shaun of the Dead and an honorable mention entry with Hot Fuzz), starring one of my favorites, Michael Cera. Adapted from the Bryan Lee O'Malley graphic novels, Scott Pilgrim is a visual gem with a strong story. It's the first time I've said, and probably ever will say, "I kinda wish that was in 3-D." Obviously it helps if you like video games, or enjoyed your adolescence anywhere during the last 20 years, or smoke weed before you watch movies, but if you're looking for a good popcorn flick for a Sunday night, this is your choice. I've seen it 3 times and every time I find something new. Get ready to see some Scott Pilgrim pieces in Crazy 4 Cult, cause this will be the first addition to the American Cult CLassic lexicon in quite some time (word to The Room).
6. Toy Story 3 - I didn't have high hopes for the third flick in the Toy Story series. Rumors of Pixar's lessened role didn't bode well in film nerd land. But like a basketball team only getting 20 minutes a night from an aged Shaquille O'Neal, Pixar just making their presence known even just as supervisors, still helps tremendously. I genuinely can't figure out which of the 3 is my favorite of the franchise (Toy Story 1 and Toy Story 2 are top 5 entries, so I think Toy Story is not my favorite), but I know for a fact this is the most emotional. A twist on the Puff the Magic Dragon/Winnie The Pooh tale where a child just becomes too old to play with toys, Toy Story 3 finds itself depending on some real human emotions in a cartoon about objects. Some friends of mine who have kids say that their children didn't connect with the third Toy Story as much as the past two, and that doesn't shock me. This one was for the adults and really great. And it still has Don Rickles in it, and he's the greatest living human being, so it's good.
7. Inception - Christopher Nolan steps away from Batman for a second to make a movie that is more complex than completing an 11th grade Trig final on peyote. I'm not going to pretend that I know exactly what happened at the end, but I have theories and I enjoyed the ride. I saw it in IMAX, which made me love every effect, where sometimes I think people are just using computers to use computers. Nolan's "The Prestige," has a weird distinction on my 2006 list - as it wasn't included. I didn't like it the first time I saw it. WEIRDLY, now not only would it top my 2006 list, but it's on my top ten of all-time. So needless to say, I might need more time with Inception, but for now it'll sit at 7. And you guys are going to get so sick of Tom Hardy in the next 2 years thanks to this movie. I'm just happy that Ellen Page did something other than those weird Cisco commercials.
8. Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky directed a former number one movie for me, The Wrestler in 2008, and he again breaks the top ten in 2010. What he did for the underbelly of professional wrestling, he serves cold for the world of ballet. I think this is another movie that could break top 5 after a few viewings, especially after reading THIS RECENT ARTICLE, which does contain spoilers. Some incredible theories have made their rounds the past few days on the Internets, adding a whole new layer to the film. Great acting (which is what I slyly call girl/girl action) between Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis, and it's a rough ride for both of them. This easily makes me forget that Portman is also in No Strings Attached.
9. Cyrus - This was my first Duplass Brothers movie, and it forced me to rush out and watch The Puffy Chair and Baghead instantly. It's the first time in years that I could easily say that someone is doing something "revolutionary" in comedy. Cyrus stars Jonah Hill (in what is his best role hands down) and John C. Reily and is a master class in improv. I'm not going to pretend to be an expert in the Duplass style of shooting and scripting (dubbed "Mumblecore"), so go ahead and Google it yourself, but the gist is - they shoot hours and hours of improv footage per scene, shoot in actual chronological order and edit on the fly (WHICH IS ALL NUTS). 2011 has 2 new Duplass movies coming out (one with Jason Segal and one with a cast of unknowns about 2 brothers who compete in their own private 25-event Olympics). To me, this whole movement feels like the first time I saw Swingers or Blood Simple, and knew a whole shit ton more was coming from the filmmaker(s). More Duplass now please.
10. Catfish - I know I'm alone with this one, but this movie was entertaining and stuck with me. I'm over the fact that it's slightly staged (who doesn't Google someone they've met online?), and now I just look at it as a good story and case study. In case you haven't seen it, I'll keep this one minimal, but it's fun and spooky. Don't let the shitty marketing campaign affect your opinion, because it's not a Hitchcock movie or Paranormal Activity. It's pretty fresh feeling and I think one of the studio's problems with selling this movie was comparing it to other flicks. It just came out on DVD and Blu-ray this month, so rent it if you haven't seen it. You'll either love it or hate it, but either way you'll have strong feelings. Like how we all feel about Jersey Shore (I LOVE IT. SORRY.)
11. MacGruber - I get it, guys. You didn't see this because you paid to see Ladies Man, Night At The Roxbury and Stuart Saves His Family and you think SNL skits can't make good movies anymore. And also, how could they ever turn a repetitive short skit like MacGruber into a full length feature film? I had these same concerns and feelings, but I gave it a chance, and I'm so happy I did. The unsung hero of SNL's past few seasons (he's sorely missed this year imo), Will Forte is a genius. I'm not claiming this movie will end up in the AFI time capsule, but it stars Val Kilmer and the Big Show, so make sure to enter with the correct expectations. Kristen Wiig is hilarious and helps you forget Ryan Phillippe is trying to be funny in it. Jorma Taccone, best known for his SNL Digital Shorts, directs, while Forte is a main writer on the script. Was sad to see this tank in theaters and even sadder to not see any upcoming movies on IMDB for Jorma's director section, but if you're in the mood for senseless absurd comedy, look no further than this dismissed gem.
12. Let Me In - How did this happen? There wasn't a movie I was more excited to hate than this one. This is a remake of a former top fiver in 2008, Swedish vampire movie Let The Right One In, and something that "should not have been touched." That's a quote I said many times. So imagine my surprise when Matt Reeves (who directed a movie I didn't love - Cloverfield) ended up making an original, entertaining and mesmerizing American update. I still think you should watch the original Swedish version if you're in some weird Sophie's Choice situation, but this does well all on its own. One of my favorite actors, Richard Jenkins, turns up and your favorite little foulmouth little girl from Kick-Ass plays the lead female. Good creepy movie and a serious accomplishment to end up on my list, considering I figured it would be a shitball of horribleness.
13. The Town - Ben Aflleck is a good director. I've accepted it and so should you. He had a former top 10'er with Gone Baby Gone, which I still really like, and The Town is a nice follow-up. He stayed in Boston, which felt a little like a retread, but it had the most engaging robbery and chase scenes since Heat. Nice to see white rapper-turned-actor Slaine show up in this one too, and Jeremy Renner is great. Not totally sold on Affleck's role in this one, and there's a very weird lost subplot involving a policeman played by LOST's Man In Black, Titus Welliver. A character actor legend Pete Postlethwaite passed away at the end of 2010, so enjoy what is one of his best roles in The Town. Affleck will star in the next Terrence Malick, so we can go back to really hating him soon.
14. Best Worst Movie - I was late to this one, totally missing its limited release in theaters, but once it hit OnDemand I couldn't watch it quick enough. This is a documentary about what is universally considered the worst movie of all-time, Troll 2, done by the man who was the child actor star of it. Being able to catch up with each "actor" from Troll 2, listen to their disappointment in the final product (which many believed would be their big break) and learning how such a train wreck film was made in the first place, is really an incredible watch. But more importantly, seeing the cult following Troll 2 has now created is the real treat. The director of Troll 2, completely delusional about his skills and importance is cringe-worthy for most of the film, and my favorite part. If you're a film buff, definitely watch this and maybe second guess that script you're writing.
15. The Virginity Hit - Yeah, you missed out on a good movie. Winning the award for hardest movie to market, this fake first hand account of one high schooler trying to lose his virginity before college, is a touching and funny movie that is easily worth the rental. It's produced by Will Ferrell's Gary Sanchez Productions and I dearly wish a movie like this got some attention and kudos, but I know what world we live in. It has a cast of total unknowns and although fully starring teenagers, is a completely adult film. So it's in between your couch pillows and most likely won't be found. But now you can rent it, and watch a fun adventure with some very skilled young actors and actresses.
16. Splice - Here's another one I didn't think much of on initial release. Although I do give sight unseen credit usually to Sarah Polley, and since Brothers Bloom (a favorite of mine) - I give Adrian Brody more credit than he probably deserves. This is a great rental, but I also am a little timid about suggesting it to people. I could totally understand how someone might hate this movie and find it contrived, so I admit I'm not standing too tall with this one. I know I had fun time watching it. It's like a 20 year old saw Alien and wanted to make his own shittier version. I'm not really selling this one to you, I know. But whatevs, it's number 16 and I'm just saying to rent it, so don't blame me.
17. Winnebago Man - I'm pretty obsessed with memes, so when I heard there was a documentary that examines, and tracks down, the infamous Winnebago infomercial guy (CLICK HERE for the meme video), I was amped. What could've been a pretty easy fluff piece turned out to be an emotional doc. I've engulfed myself in learning more about the people who have become "famous" because of their embarrassing, and frequently watched, Internet videos, so this is like the Honus Wagner of that genre. What's fame if you never asked for it, and more importantly don't want it? Somewhat of a hybrid between American Movie and We Live In Public (2 past top 10'ers), check out this movie for a great character study and some important commentary about our behavior on the Internet.
18. Jackass 3-D - Say what you will, but these movies continue to make me laugh and wince - and this time it was in 3-D (and is one of the movies that actually should be in 3-D). The bits are short enough that they never get old, and although I could never watch any of the films from this franchise more than once - it's always a good movie going experience. Poo, pee, blood, staples, glue - it's a lot like what I imagine Eli Roth's Bar Mitzvah to have been like. I doubt this movie is even 30% as fun at home, compared to the big screen 3-D, so if you missed it in theaters, just cut your arms off and call it a day.
19. Greenberg - The lowest Noah Baumbach entry ever in my top 20 history, which makes little to no sense cause truth is I love everything he does (including this). He's got a former #1 with The Squid And The Whale, and truthfully, the only reason it's so close to being left off the list this year is that I don't remember a ton about it. I remember loving Stiller in it, as it brought back memories of Flirting With Disaster and the uncomfortable Stiller I love. And I remember really digging Greta Gerwig to a point where I Google'd her so much when I got home from seeing it, that her name still comes up when I start any search with a G. I'm gonna have to see it again, but I do remember liking it. Maybe ask me again about Greenberg when you (don't, because we only know each other on the Internet) see me next time.
20. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale - A Finnish Christmas horror movie. That's how this should just end, because that should be enough for you to see it and understand why it's number 20 on my list this year. I thought I was going to put Birdemic in this spot (based on the insanely fun time I had while seeing at the Fairfax Cinefamily theater in 2010), but I was lucky enough to catch a screening of Rare Exports, and there was no competition. Basically, an archaeological group stumbles upon an evil frozen Santa and then children start disappearing. But one boy is onto the dilemma and ends up capturing what he and his father believe to be Santa himself. From there, it's campy at times, but really is enjoyable and original. And it has evil elves and an evil Santa. It's hard to forget.
Honorable Mention - Paranormal Activity 2, I'm Still Here, Frozen, Birdemic: Shock and Terror, Kick-Ass, The Last Exorcism, All Good Things
Movies you loved that I didn't - The Kids Are All Right & Shutter Island
Movies I Didn't See that Might Makes You Think That My List Is Shit - The King's Speech, Never Let Me Go, Winter's Bone, Harry Potter:Deathly Hollows Part 1, 127 Hours, The Ghost Writer, I Love You Phillip Morris