Wednesday, December 30, 2009

YMD's Top 32 Albums of 2009



Considering how anal I am about making year-end lists, it's pretty lucky that the years of my life overlap calendar years by all but one day. So here are the 32 (we could have a tournament) best albums of both 2009 and my 23rd year on this Earth.

(Very good albums were also put out this year by Basement Jaxx, Dam Funk, Desire, El Perro Del Mar, the Field, Franz Ferdinand, Ghostface, Intrusion, Jeremy Jay, Keri Hilson, Lil' Boosie, Lily Allen, Lindstrøm and Prins Thomas, Luciano, Martin, Matias Aguayo, the Mountain Goats, Nomo, Omar-S, OOIOO, Redshape, Rick Ross, Ryan Leslie, Telepathe, William Basinski, Zombi, Zomby, and many others. That none of these albums made my top 32 shows how amazing of a year this was for music. Every year is a great year for music, obvi)



32. Meanderthals - Desire Lines (Smalltown Supersound)
Doesn't quite work as well in the winter, but you can't quite blame it for that.

31. G-Side - the Huntsville International Project (Slow Motion Soundz)
Huntsville's finest live up to expectations with a heavy, personal record record. Block Beataz, Mick Vegas, and others provide an ill combination of soul and southern synths.

30. Whitney Houston - I Look to You (Arista)
Some surprisingly epic jams on here. "Nothin' But Love" sounds like a Whitney/the Knife mash-up in the best way possible. Her voice isn't what it used to be, but it works for her on most of this.

29. Junior Boys - Begone Dull Care (Domino)
Not their best album, but still very, very good. The "is that a Real Instrument?!" moment on "Bits & Pieces" is wonderful, even as someone who isn't particularly impressed by Real Instruments.

28. Italoboyz - Bla Bla Bla (Mothership)
Certainly the funniest house full-length of the year, Bla Bla Bla is also one of the best. Quirky in the most positive sense of the word.

27. Cortney Tidwell - Boys (City Slang)
Skilled songwriting, a beautiful voice, and lush production, Cortney is one of the best singer-songwriters out (not my area of expertise, admittedly).

26. Moritz Von Oswald Trio - Vertical Ascent (Honest Jon's Records)
Electronic supergroup delivers 45 minutes of immensely detailed and hypnotic music. It's not exactly a masterpiece, but it's well worth exploring.

25. Gorilla Zoe - Don't Feed Da Animals (Bad Boy South/Block/Atlantic)
Zoe's album is all over the place and I think underrated because of that. Zoe has a ton of ideas that vary wildly in quality, but I find him endlessly likeable whether he's doing odd melodrama, purposeful stupidity, or just making bangers like "Dope Boy", one of the best tracks of the year.

24. Flaming Lips - Embryonic (Warner Bros.)
It doesn't necessarily sound like 80s Lips, but it's hard not to hear Embryonic as a return to that darker, more aggressive spirit. This came rather out of nowhere and has some really gnarly sounds.

23. Ciara - Fantasy Ride (LaFace)
As an album, this is perhaps tainted a little by thoughts of how great it could have been, by the year-and-a-half of awesome leaks that only made it as bonus tracks or missed out entirely, of alternate versions of songs (the better, Missy-less "Work"). Still, this is a very good R&B record.

22. Raekwon - Only Built 4 Cuban Linx... Pt. II (Ice H2o Records)
I didn't believe that it had come out until it was pumping through my speakers. The fact that it's actually a really great Wu-Tang record is almost just a cherry on top.

21. Z-Ro - Cocaine (Rap-A-Lot Records)
Z-Ro's voice, whether rapping or singing, has that kind of ageless, been-gone-through-it quality that allows for maximum pathos. When he really tugs at the heartstrings like on "I Don't Give a Damn", with its "I Ain't Mad At Cha" quoting beat, it's almost too much to take.

20. Music Go Music - Expressions (Secretly Canadian)
I'm not sure how an ABBA tribute band that also seems to like Sabbath makes sense in 2009, but it does. MGM followed on last year's awesome "Light of Love" with a thoroughly enjoyable album. The "I emerge" bit in "Reach Out" is a moment of triumph.

19. Yeah Yeah Yeahs - It's Blitz! (Interscope)
I wasn't a huge fan of the YYYs' second album move away from filthy rock, so when I heard they were going synth-pop for this one I wasn't too excited. But this is very, very good, tons of hooks all around. "Zero" has more lift than British elevators/Lebron James, "Heads Will Roll" is PIL fueled gem, and "Hysteric" is the soft touch that's always been their secret weapon emerging again.

18. Rihanna - Rated R (Jive)
Ri Ri responded to this year's drama by going even deeper into her Swag Grace Jones persona and the best moments here are the ones in which that quite strong end entertaining persona rises above. "I'm such a fucking lady" might be lyric of the year.

17. UGK - UGK 4 Life (RCA/Jive)
I'll just continue to believe that they have an endless supply of deep, filthy Houston soul until the well dries up for sure. Pimp and Bun are great throughout, and they bring the best out of their guests. "Hairy Asshole" which is about (and in support of) exactly what it sounds like it's about, might be the highlight, with very good verses from Boosie and Webbie in addition to Pimp and Bun's usual awesomeness.

16. Donae'o - Party Hard (My-Ish)
The best of the few traditional full-lengths to come out of UK Funky House so far, Party Hard brings pretty great beats and Donae'o himself, who has an almost uncanny knack for conjuring great hooks seemingly as ad-libs. The title track is an anthem.

15. FaltyDL - Love Is a Liability (Planet Mu)
FaltyDL's non-album single "To London" is my favorite thing he's put out this year, but Love Is a Liability is a great, unexpected full-length. It's mostly filled with jaunty, garagey rhythms and layered, multi-textured productino. DL throws in a lot of ideas and he has a hell of a hit-rate.

14. Dirty Projectors - Bitte Orca (Domino)
The Projectors keep on getting better, with Dave Longstreth just writing melodies about ten times as interesting as most any other indie songwriter. I'd be lying if I said I didn't much prefer the female Projectors' singing to Dave's, but such is life.

13. Ida Maria - Fortress Round My Heart (Mercury Records)
The control that Ida has over her wounded howl of a voice is something to marvel at. She gets maximum emotion from every shriek, God bless her.

12. the Juan Maclean - the Future Will Come (DFA)
The Juan Maclean ruled lots of last year with the monstrous "Happy House", and while not all of this album is as awesome as that track, that's not exactly a terrible insult. Nancy Whang helps give the band some balance, and the duet "One Day", though too short, has gotten tons of play.

11. Jacek Sienkiewicz - Modern Dance (Cocoon Recordings)
My countryman Jacek (we're both American!) (naw I'm just kidding, I meant Poland) delivered a mixed album of his own productions in April, and it seems to have flown mostly under the radar, at least as far as critical reaction. I love this shit though, it's mnml, but definitely jacking, the highlight for me coming early on with new track "All Yours".

10. DJ Sprinkles - Midtown 120 Blues (Mule Musiq)
Terre Thaemletz's Midtown 120 Blues starts with a critique of the history of house music, the transition from specific, regional, queer scenes to a universalized ideal. You don't have to engage with the intro to appreciate the album's beauty, the detail of the sound design, the lushness of the production, but it's a hell of an extra-musical hook.

9. Gucci Mane - The State vs. Radric Davis (Brick Squad/Asylym/Warner Bros.)
It seems silly and outdated to be ranking a Gucci album, considering the sheer volume (never mind quality) of tracks that he's released this year. And yeah, I could probably construct two Gucci full lengths, made only from his 2009 material, that would be as good or better than this one. Maybe next year I'll start counting mixtapes, this year we have this, which despite having some glaring weak spots (most notably and disastrously "Spotlight), is still a very good record by prolly the current Best Rapper Alive.

8. Shackleton - Three EPs (Perlon)
After closing down his and Appleblim's Skull Disco label, Sam Shackleton went to work on this album for mnml techno label Perlon and it turned out to be a hell of a work. It's a continuation of the singular dubstep he was doing on Skull Disco, and a minor masterpiece of busy percussion, space, and mood. And then when he drops "he's got the whole wide world in is hands" it somehow makes sense.

7. The xx - xx (Young Turks)
xx is indie through the filters of 00s American R&B, modern British dance music, and, most importantly, Chris Isaak's "Wicked Game". It's a shocking debut and its success makes me very happy.

6. Maxwell - BLACKsummers'night (Columbia)
Speaking of shocking, Maxwell came back from the ether this year and put out an album to get completely lost in. That's two years in a row with amazing neo-soul album, kids, what's going on?

5. Future of the Left - Travels With Myself and Another (4AD)
These guys got much better with their second album. Granted, it peaks a few minutes in towards the end of the force of nature that is "Arming Eritrea", but the whole record is a triumph of absurdist wit and killer riffs.

4. DJ Quik and Kurupt - BlaQKout (Mad Science)
Quik and Kurupt put out the album of the summer for me. The beats here veer from traditionalist G-Funk to futurism, sometimes within seconds. Quik is on a whole other level production-wise, and both rappers are happily along for the ride.

3. Fever Ray - Fever Ray (Rabid Records)
We were waiting for a Knife album and instead we got this wonder, the most glacial, labyrinthine thing since, well, the last Knife album. But this is more personal than Silent Shout, I think. The rhythms here are almost as impressive as the melodies and textures, from the percussion that accents the arpeggiator on "Triangle Walks" to the eye-opening waltz on "I'm Not Done". Brilliant stuff, especially in the cold months.

2. Electrik Red - How to Be a Lady Volume 1 (Def Jam/Radio Killa)
This could've just been The-Dream's girl-group, but there's so much personality in these lyrics, the spoken bits, the delivery. How to Be a Lady Volume 1 (what a great title) is full of treasures: "if my body's a club you're my disco ball" on "Freaky Freaky", "(diamonds on my neck) ca-na-ry yello!" on "Drink In My Cup", the Princely electro of "Friend Lover", I could go on for days.

1. The-Dream - Love vs. Money (Def Jam/Radio Killa)
Never in doubt since it came out in March. LvM isn't perfect (that Kanye verse, the closing Lil Jon track, which I've long programmed out), but it still manages to tower above the rest of 2009 for me quite handily. Along with Tricky Stewart and LOS da Maestro, The-Dream made a masterpiece here. The three singles are up front, and then the album really gets down to business, throwing out two brilliant sex jams before the all out joy of "Take U Home 2 My Mama" ("her titties like Woo-ooh-ohh" remains the most joyful proclamation of the year). The emotion of the albums second half peaks, for me, on the bridge of "Mr. Yeah", in which Dream's post-R Kelly, sensitive loverman reveals himself most plainly through stuttering minor-key synths. Best R&B album of the decade, obvious album of the year for yours truly.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza Part 23 and Final


Well, this is finally the last one. A big thank you to everyone for contributing, I didn't expect to get more than like ten of these and getting 23 was an unbelievably great Christmas present. I honestly could not have been happier to be inserting what seemed like a billion "< em >" tags into text files. Also, 23 has long been my favorite number and, on the eve of my 24th birthday, this seems just about right.

But enough with the corny shit (at least until I get to talking about the movies themselves). I saved mine for last because, well, if I'm in charge I'm going to give myself the sweetest spot to hit in. After much personal strife, here are my ten favorite films of the decade. Like everything on this blog, they were decided by science:


10. Russian Ark (Russkiy kovcheg) dir. Aleksandr Sokurov (2002)
Obviously the most notable thing about Russian Ark is the fact that it consists of a single, uncut, hour and a half long Steadicam shot. It's almost worth seeing for that alone, for the discipline and grace obviously on display as cinematographer Tilman Büttner weaves through the Russian Hermtage museum and the increasingly complex set pieces that Sokurov sets in it. But the reason this is a great film and not just a sweet gimmick is Sokurov's approach to history, which is presented here not as a narrative but as a series of images floating in an out of frame and consciousness. It's one of the most effectively dreamlike films of the decade.

9. The Hurt Locker dir. Kathryn Bigelow (2009)
This movie is as much about action movies as it is about war, and Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal analyze the archetype of the Action Hero as I would imagine only people who love a good action movie can. It is of utmost importance, of course, that the action scenes themselves are suspenseful as hell, and boy are they. Bigelow's sense of space in the bomb scenes is awesome.

8. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2002)
With all due respect to Pixar, who made three movies this decade that would've had a very good shot at my top twenty-five, my favorite animated film of the 00s is Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. This film isn't quite as dark as Guillermo del Toro's awesome Pan's Labyrinth but, much like del Toro. Miyazaki refuses to ignore the darkness, danger, and sadness that sometimes comes with a chlid's imagination, wonder, and awe. It doesn't hurt that his animation is almost overflowing with details and ideas.

7. Audition dir. Takashi Miike (2001)
It's easily my favorite horror movie of the decade. While I'm not in the camp that thinks restraint and slow pacing are always virtues, Miike's unusual restraint here allows for a slow burn of eeriness, two well developed characters, and an interesting exploration of gender roles. And then it happens, and the rest of this movie is just virtuoso horror filmmaking. The boos are terrfying, the violence is shocking, and the confusion that mounts when you realize you have no clue what is and isn't really happening is nothing less than elegant.

6. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile) dir. Cristian Mungiu (2008)
The dinner scene in Cristian Mungiu's thriller is this decade's most brilliant scene that I could not wait to end. It's a fairly common situation: young people are sitting at a dinner table with older family and friends and the older folks aren't really relating to the young folks (or vice versa) and don't quite grasp what it's like to be in their situation. Of course, this general idea is brilliantly magnified here because the young folks have an immediate, possibly life-or-death situation to attend to. It's so tense that, other than the scene being over, I wanted nothing more than to reach into the screen and grab the bottle of booze.

5. American Psycho dir. Mary Harron (2000)
Christian Bale gives one of the best ever performances of someone pretending to be a real person. His line readings and gestures throughout are terrifying and hilarious (sometimes at the same time, sometimes not at all). Patrick trying to feed the cat to the ATM is one of the funnier moments of the decade, really. I've honestly never read Bret Easton Ellis' novel so whether this is a faithful adaptation or not is irrelevant to me. But I do know that the Mary Harron's satire is sharp (I'll skip the easy simile this time) and the world she creates is unsettling in a way that I can't help but be fascinated by.

4. Wet Hot American Summer dir. David Wain (2001)
I guess WHAS has enough stock elements of 80s camp movies to count as parody, but it cares much more about absurdism and surprise than it does about making fun of things that don't really need making fun of to begin with. The changes in tone (the sudden tenderness of the Michael Ian Black/Bradley Cooper love scene, David Hyde Pierce's "I said NO!", the famous trip into town) are the tone of the movie and the jokes, performances, foley effects, man, everything in this movie works so unbelievably well for me. At times, I feel completely comfortable calling this the best comedy ever.

3. My Winnipeg dir. Guy Maddin (2008)
Guy Maddin's approach to history is even more explicitly dreamlike than Sokurov's is in Russian Ark, but Maddin's film is a much more personal one. He narrates it himself as Guy Maddin (though Darcy Fehr silently plays Guy Maddin as well) and concerns himself mostly with the history of Winnipeg as it is inextricably linked with his own history. The closest thing to a traditional plot has Maddin, his mother, and actors playing his siblings moving into his childhood home for an experiment. Of course, his mother is actually an actress playing his mother as well. And both she and a Darcy Fehr appear on a fictional TV show within the reenactment. The rest of the movie (that's only a small part) features factual and fictional events in the history of Winnipeg, including a very touching bit about the Winnipeg Jets and an actually true bit about a fake Nazi invasion of the city. It's all supremely fascinating (I should not that when I saw this at the IFC Center last year something like 8 out of 16 people walked out at some point). It's also probably the only movie ever with a title card that reads "Dance of the Hairless Boners".

2. United 93 dir. Paul Greengrass (2007)
Paul Greengrass has made four great movies this decade and of the four (this one, Bloody Sunday and the second and third Bourne movies), United 93 is probably least interested in actively getting inside the heads of its characters. Greengrass moves from plot point to plot point (we are already familiar with the plot) and just kind of has everything happen. In a way, Greengrass is, especially in this film, our great humanist, putting the characters' actions out there and leaving it to the viewer and the viewer's shared bond with the people in the film to figure it all out. The movie is hard to watch, but it's often less sensational and more direct than the media coverage of the event it's based on.

1. Rachel Getting Married dir. Jonathan Demme (2008)
The wedding reception towards the end of Rachel Getting Married is one of the great party scenes ever in the movies, largely because it manages to get across that the characters are going through some shit while still making it seem like a really awesome party. Rachel moved me more than any other movie this decade, and I find it harder than any of these other movies to write about. Its melodramatic, grandstanding fights are as affecting as its subtle moments of heartbreak (the scene in which Debra Winger's character leaves the party, I cry). Its characters are fully realized - by the wonderful actors, by Jenny Lumet's screenplay, by Demme's camera with its margins filled with people and decoration. I've seen readings of Rachel's joyful multiculturalism as satire, and I couldn't disagree more. That Kym and Rachel's extended family can't solve all of their problems isn't a criticism of the type of family they have anymore than it is a criticism of family itself, it just means that they have serious problems. The combination of resentment, humor, guilt, bitterness, and love in this movie kills me in the best way possible; grasping out towards the infinity of emotions not to transcend them, but to try to deal with them as much as that's possible.. I love this one.


Again, thanks to everyone for doing this, so so happy, hugs and kisses, etc. Let's all promise that ten years from today, we'll meet again, and see what movies have blossomed into. Let's say 9, that way we can be here by 9:30.

Monday, December 28, 2009

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 22


We're just about done here, and the second-to-last entry comes from noted rascal Alex Gibbons, the youngest person to write us a list, and still a student at the old Fordham University up in the Bronx. I'm running out of random bullshit to say about people so let's let Alex's writing speak for its damn self.


- The Lord of the Rings: the Fellowship of the Ring dir. Peter Jackson (2001)
I don’t think it’s fair to mesh multiple movies of a series into one film. Heck no. I’ve yet to watch all three of these beasts in one sitting, so I’ll continue to treat each installment of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy as separate films. The Fellowship of the Ring is the slowest of the trilogy and contains the least amount of battles, yet the most amount of “holy-crap this is something I’ve never seen before and it’s brave and awesome” moments. I can remember seeing the movie for the first time, amazed by the scene where Gandalf and Frodo ride toward the Shire set to Howard Shore’s awesome score…it’s simply too much wonderment, just the thought of it sends me into nerdy convulsions of delight.  

- Ong-bak dir. Prachya Pinkaew (2003)
Wooooooooheeeee! Holy-shit, boy! Did you see that? Did you see that!? He just! What! He just kicked that guy’s face, while, what! Oh shit! Did you see his kneecap?...it just…went the other way…the wrong way!
I have so many scenes of this film burned into my retinas, but the most memorable must be when, in a seedy underground fight club, a hulking Australian advances on Tony Jaa, declaring “FUCK MUAY THAI” to which Tony Jaa replies by administering a sturdy kick to the bastard’s mouth, ending the fight immediately. I feel like a whoopin’ old man watching this. Hot dang! That boy’s sure got some moves!

- Talk To Her (Hable con ella) dir. Pedro Almodovar (2002)
Let me get all art-school on your asses for a moment. Pedro Almodovar is without a doubt one of the more talented and innovative directors working today. That is to say, he looks toward the maximum and pushes his films beyond that, causing the viewer to shudder in frightful disgust or look-on, maybe cringe, in awe. Hable Con Ella made me do both...it was beautiful but freaky, a great piece of magical realism. There is a scene where a tiny man crawls into a giant luminescent vagina and, watching it, you’ve just got to shrug, take it in, and realize that it for some reason makes perfect sense.  

- Waltz With Bashir dir. Ari Folman (2008)
The best utilization of animation I saw all decade, without a fucking doubt. No other medium could convey such emotion or evoke such catharsis. Watching this movie, it’s easy to forget that it’s nonfiction, a documentary. That’s when you realize the absolute horror of the events discussed within.  

- 28 Days Later dir. Danny Boyle (2003)
There was a time when humanity said in unison “deliver us from the plot-holes caused by really slow moving zombies” and Danny Boyle responded to this plea with 28 Days Later’s hardcore, Olympic fast, abso-freaking-lutely believable zombies. Everything in this movie is so right…and very low-tech, which only enhances the captivating nature of this apocalyptic zombie flick. It’s too bad that now, only eight years later, the zombie movie craze has become an overwhelming horde of lifeless shit (see what I did there?), and the masses are now chanting “deliver us from zombie movies, altogether, dammit!”  
 

- The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans dir. Werner Herzog (2009)
-Shoot him again!
-What for?
-His soul is still dancing…ahahahahaahahahahahaahaha!


Hey kids, forget cocaine, The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is so goddamn concentrated you’ll get a contact high just talking to someone whose seen this flick.  

- Punch Drunk Love dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (2002)
I spent too much of my adolescence hiding behind a film snob veneer, protesting any movie that presented itself as an obvious romance or love story. What a mistake, and what a tragedy it would have been if I let that prejudice get in the way of Punch Drunk Love which is about as gumball, syrupy-sweet as a movie can get. Adam Sandler and PTA prove that a movie can be cutesy and dark-chocolate as Hell at the same time. And what about the beautiful homage to…whatshisname?...Robert Altman’s Popeye as Sandler goes on a quest for his soul mate set to Shelley Duvall piping out “He Needs Me.” That scene was so cute I could smash its fucking face and eat it.  

- Apocalypto dir. Mel Gibson (2006)
I’m not a proponent of Mel Gibson’s wild evangelicalism or his penchant for getting sloppy and spewing anti-Semitism, but I still contest that Apocalpyto got a bad rap solely because of Gibson’s DUI and subsequent drunken tirade. That said, I also contest that Gibson’s fuck-up only got so much attention because of The Passion of the Christ and, shit, haters loved hating on that flick…but that conversations for another day.

Apocalypto was really, really cool. I mean it was cool in the most basic sense of the word. Gibson’s direction, hell, his whole philosophy surrounding this film was close to Werner Herzog’s notion of ecstatic truth…this movie put you in the jungle, right there, playing Rambo, only thirteenth-century Mayan style.  

-A Serious Man dir. Joel and Ethan Coen
My favorite Coen Brothers film. I only wish I had the luxury of being best friends with those guys so everyday I could sit down and discuss with them all the archetypes that went into the production of this movie. A surreal and suburban interpretation of the cosmos and religion, and the best one presented to us as of yet.  

- Grizzly Man dir. Werner Herzog (2005)
Third Herzog reference FTW. The reason I liked Grizzly Man so much, and also why I liked Herzog’s most recent documentary Encounters at the End of the World, was the genuine admiration Herzog had for his subjects. He approached the life of Timothy Treadwell, a man who, to the rest of the world was either a joke or a nut or some left-wing crazy, with a profound amount of respect and objectivity.


I got one more list for ya later tonight. Bet you can't get whose it is.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 21


Molly sent us a list at the last minute, which obviously made us very happy. The lone representative of our Schoolteacher voting block, Molly also holds the world record for most soul-crushing glare delivered in a basement print shop. But enough kidding around, let's go to the moo-vies!

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michel Gondry (2004)
Besides being an amazing concept, and a beautifully shot film, with superb acting, I actually appreciate the portrayal of relationships in this film more than anything else. Relationships in movies are so one-dimensional sometimes I just can’t stand it. Call me crazy but my relationships have been more involved than someone just showing up in the rain after some sort of misunderstanding and things working out. Relationships are good and bad, they are painful, complex and oftentimes difficult.  And when they end part of you wants to pretend they never happened. Capturing that feeling is difficult and I never seen it done on film with quite so much honesty.  

2. City of God (Cidade de deus) dir. Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund (2002)
The only movie I’ve ever gone to see in a theater alone, and still one of my favorites. The style and substance of this movie combine for an amazingly engrossing film. If I knew more movie terms I’d throw some stuff out like the cinematography was ahead of its time or something, but all I know is that it was exciting, grizzly and heartbreaking and I got completely lost in it. 

3. Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)
It’s French! And about love! With whimsical insights about life! (Sigh) 

4. Wet Hot American Summer dir. David Wain (2001)
For awhile liking this movie was a prerequisite to being in our group of friends. The humor is so crude and silly, and so not for everyone that it’s a good way to weed out those people who cannot appreciate a good dick joke ergo the people with whom I do not want to be friends. 

5.  Lost in Translation dir. Sofia Coppola (2003)
So half this movie is basically just beautiful shots of Tokyo and Scarlett Johansen looking contemplative all set to wonderful music, which might have been enough for me. But then throw Bill Murray in to the mix and an innocent love story and that’s pretty much all I need. It’s a seemingly simple movie concept done with subtlety and style to spare.  

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 20


Here's a list from Kate Murphy, one of several former Editors-in-Chief of Fordham University's the paper to send in a list. I saw Kate get her head slammed into a post at Glasslands once, but it doesn't seem to have affected her in the long run. Bombs away!


10. High Fidelity dir. Stephen Frears (2000)
John Cusack + pre-Nacho Libre Jack Black = duh. But seriously, Jack Black gives his best performance on this side of the Tenacious D TV series, and John Cusack plays a depressing, cynical dick like no one else. 

9. Summer Hours (L'heure d'été) dir. Olivier Assayas (2009)
Like others on my list, this movie looks at the power of memories and it’s ultimately a painfully realistic take on life after the death of a loved one.

8. O Brother Where Art Thou dir Joel Coen (2000)
This is my favorite Clooney movie ever (Batman & Robin is a close second, obvi) and by far my favorite film soundtrack of the decade. 

7. Caché dir. Michael Haneke (2005)
Unsettling from start to finish. And after finish. Impossible to watch this and not leave the experience with a knot in your stomach.

6. Ratatouille dir. Brad Bird and Jan Pinkava (2007)
So damn cute. I loved all of the Pixar movies of this decade, but this one has got to be my favorite.

5. Punch Drunk Love dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (2002)
This movie has everything from phone sex (sort of) to Phillip Seymour Hoffman, but what really makes me love it is how, despite how awkward, uncomfortable, and unlikely this love story is, it is one of the most romantic movies ever. The scene in which “He Needs Me” plays (that song from Robert Altman’s Popeye) is so beautiful and strange, just like this movie. PTA is a God.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michel Gondry (2004)
I cry in literally every movie that could ever warrant tears, so I won’t even try to write a description of this movie.

3. Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)
The only movie of the decade that was cuter than Ratatouille?! I’m a sucker for anything Audrey Tautou, but she’s really at her best here.

2. The Royal Tenenbaums dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
Maybe it’s because this family actually seemed half as strange as my family… maybe it’s because my younger brother bought an Adidas track suit when he first saw this and instead of looking like Ben Stiller he looked like a guido… maybe it’s because of that scene when Gwyneth Paltrow gets off the bus to see Luke Wilson and “These Days” by Nico plays… or maybe it’s just my undying love for Bill Murray, but boy do I love this movie.

1. No Country for Old Men dir. Joel and Ethan Coen (2007)



Well, folks, just when I think we're at the end of this thing people won't stop sending me lists, and to that I say yaaaay! So if you have one that you would like to send in before midnight tonight I'll be taking them happily. (At least) Three more to be posted before it's over.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 19


One more Chicago based list, this one from an old friend, the lovely and talented Kate Napleton. Katie and I used to, along with some other friends, write a blog together in high school. I've erased that one, but it's very awesome to have her guest on my new venture. Take it away, Miss Napleton.


1. Mean Girls dir. Mark Waters (2002)
I mean, who didn't want to high five Lindsay Lohan with their private parts after this one. Bring in Rachel McAdams, hardly recognizable from her Notebook role and it's gold. And last, but not least, Tina Fey's Ms. Norberry and writing, and it's basically a Katie Napleton fantasy league. Chicago cameos are also a plus.  
 
2. Love, Actually dir. Richard Curtis (2003)
Any movie that can combine porn actors, Mariah Carey, and tear-inducing wedding montages and I'm in. 
 
3. The Royal Tenenbaums dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
Hello outfits. I especially identify with the disfunction of this family and denial of smoking. 

4. Shaun of the Dead dir. Edgar Wright (2004)
Zombies + London + hilarity. My brother Danny and I spent an entire summer renting every zombie movie the Family Video in St Joseph, mi had to offer. This was our favorite parody, which says a lot because Fido also really spoke to us. 

5. Best in Show dir. Christopher Guest (2000)
This is one of my dealbreaker movies. Its a careful screening process for hookups an boyfriends. If they don't like it, I run. It's not a bee, its a bear in a bee costume.

6. Finding Nemo dir. Andrew Stanton and Lee Unkrich (2003)
I've seen this about sixty times in the last year, as the two year old I nanny loves it. It is so much better than Caillou I feel like I could make out with the DVD box in appreciation. 

7. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy dir. Adam McKay (2004)
I'm going to take you to Pleasure Town. 

8. The 40 Year Old Virgin dir. Judd Apatow (2005)
I liked it for many reasons, but the delicate balance of Steve Carrell's earnestness and humor is amazing.

9. High Fidelity dir. Stephen Frears (2000)
I initially bought this movie in high school as an impulse during my John Cusack phase. Catherine Zeta Jones as Charlie, one of his top five breakups, is a character I often channel while drunk. 

10. Rachel Getting Married dir. Jonathan Demme (2008)
Anne Hathaway proves she's not just Princess of Genovia, and again, I love the family dynamic. 


And they still keep rolling in. We'll see if this gets done today, actually. Def one coming up in a few hours though, so stay tuned.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 18


Codor finally gets his list posted today. Besides being a Master of History, Codor is a master of lustrous hair, denim, and living in Greenpoint. As noted earlier by Sarah, Codor's dad once proclaimed Nic Cage "the greatest actor of his or any other generation." Correct, or super-correct? You decide.


10. Live Free or Die Hard dir. Len Wiseman (2007)
Well I was going to put 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days or a number of other serious ones in this spot, but I ultimately couldn’t overlook this action gem. Watching John McLane shoot through his shoulder to kill the bad guy is a real first-world pleasure and I enjoyed myself greatly seeing it twice in the theaters and three or four times at home (I was gifted the DVD twice last year). Seriously though, he drives a motorcycle into an airborne helicopter - does The Squid and The Whale have that?

9. We Jam Econo – The Story of the Minutemen dir. Tim Irwin (2005)
At the beginning of this documentary about The Minutemen, Mike Watt describes how he met D. Boon. When both were 13 and hanging out in some park in San Pedro, Boon, while playing army, fell out of a tree onto Watt. From there they became best friends and started a band with drummer George Hurley, which stayed together until D. Boon was tragically killed in a van accident. As documentaries go, this one is pretty conventional, but it made my list because it’s a great love story. Watt’s memories of his extremely talented and genuine best friend are really touching, and as a film they make this one more substantive than most rock docs.

8. The Fall dir. Tarsem (2008)
This was the most visually arresting film of the decade for me. The director, Tarsem, would fly his cast to exotic locales all over the world because he was already there shooting a commercial for Revlon of something. The result is a baroque fairy tale of a film. A lot of people didn’t like the story, but I did, probably because I love The Princess Bride, which this is remotely similar to, and I saw this while I was reading a lot Borges.

7. The Prestige dir. Christopher Nolan (2006)
I spent the better part of a year and half reading and writing about science and the occult in Victorian Britain, so I pretty much had to appreciate this movie. No other film in the past ten years does a better job of limning the terrifyingly alienating capacities of technology.

6. The Royal Tenenbaums dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
Not gonna lie, I still cry every time I watch Royal die at the end. A masterpiece.
 
5. The Wrestler dir. Darren Aronofsky (2008)
Sure, what is most memorable about this film was that it marked the return of Mickey Rourke, the doyen of tough-guy acting, in a role that closely parallels his own career. But The Wrestler is also a very spiritual/religious film depicting the agape performers have for their fans. No movie captures the longing and sacrifice of vocation better than The Mick as Randy the Ram does. Aronofsky’s hand-held technique, singularly focused on the grotesqueries of Mickey Rourke, allows us to recognize his subject as a piece of meat (who, coincidentally also works at a deli) to be offered up for the love of a larger cause - his fans - at the expense of his own corporeal satisfaction. The result, for me, is that each time I watch this movie I come away restless and in want of a trade/calling. The Bruce song at the end is also badass.

4. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy dir. Peter Jackson (2001-2003)


3. Memento dir. Christopher Nolan (2000)
There will probably be (if there aren’t already) scads of half-cooked college papers written about this mind-blowing movie, but let me just say this: Memento blew my fucking mind! While I haven’t seen it in forever and I don’t remember most of it (zing), watching this unfold and thinking about how nebulous memory is, and how fragmented the self can be, was similar to learning about evolution or space in grammar school, or finding out that Ted Williams’ head was cryogenically frozen.

2. There Will Be Blood dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)
“He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has overrunningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them, or taking away one particle from their compacted aged robustness. His whole high, broad form, seemed made of solid bronze, and shaped in an unalterable mould, like Cellini’s cast Perseus.” Ahab = Daniel Plainview = the coolest movie of the decade.

1. Children of Men dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2006)
The rare blend of a film that is both topically and aesthetically intriguing. Philosophers, sociologists, historians and policy-makers have been talking about the decline of Western Civilization for the last hundred years or longer, but Cuaron vividly shows what this looks like – it’s 2027 and everything is in decay. The characters are passive cynics closed off by fear and parochialism. Sound familiar?


Okay, so it turns out we have three (edit: now four!) more after this. Will try to finish it up by tonight. Whooo!

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 17


We start off our last day of listing with friend of YMD Katie Higgins, whose birthday it is today. So, wish her a happy birthday by reading her rather epic list while yelling (wearing?) something loud and Russell Crowey.


1. Gladiator dir. Ridley Scott (2000)
"Are you not entertained!!!"

From the opening scene, Ridley Scott manages to avoid the kitchy-ness of most other "toga and sandal"  hollywoodized  renditions by keeping the gloriously majestic Maximus Decimus Aurelius grounded (physically running his hand through the soil to drive this point home further) in the whirlwind of a big budget Roman spectacle, and while I am predisposed to liking most things Mr. Scott directs because of my extreme love of the unicorn scene in Blade Runner, I appreciate the artistic dimension he brought to a film that could have easily fallen slave to colossal grandeur and indulgence. The Classics nerd in me appreciated the many scenes that look as though  they have been taken right out of Roman frescos, lending an artistic backdrop to the movie's many, albeit heavy handed, metaphors. I also high-fve R. Scott for maintaining an element of surreal escapism that no doubt adds a level of depth so many big budget films lack in lieu of pyrotechnics and impressive CGI. The montages we see invite us inside Maximus's tormented character, and contrast his humanity alongside his ringside persona. Everything artistic aside, I love this movie, I love Russell Crowe (pre A Beautiful Mind), and its the first movie I remember crying during a movie save The Silver Stallion, another Crowe-vian treasure. I also know all the dialogue by heart.



2. O Brother Where Art Thou dir Joel Coen (2000)
" Damn we're in a tight spot"

After I saw this movie I started dreaming in Sepia. No one can say that they do not like looking at this movie (even beyond George Clooney's distractingly rugged good looks and being bestowed with the ' gift of gab'). The Coen brother's do a good job defeating short lived plans with an air of spontaneity that drives our three main characters in and out of luck like the motley crew they are. Tackling religion, racism, and stereotypes of the south you're left at the end of the movie confused, bewildered but appreciative of the wild ride you've just endured (its a long movie no?) once again klassical Katie, appreciates the fleeting Oddessy throwbacks that are elegantly dotted throughout the film. A blind seer named Tyresius...check, Sirens that cause your undoing...check, Moonshine aka Lotus Flowers...Check, and the loose list of allegories continues.  Another jewel in this movie is their liberal quantity of fat southern men in white suits (John Goodman!!)-- it's a personal pleasure of mine that I don't feel I need to explain. And finally, this movie introduced me to Allison krauss, This movie has one of my favorite soundtracks. Its gospel! What can I say, "I'm a Dapper Dan [wo]man."


3. Harry Potter 3 - 6 dir. Alfonzo Cuarón (3), Mike Newell (4), David Yates (5, 6) (2004-9)
"You're a fool, Harry Potter, and you will lose everything. "

 I tried so hard to hate Harry Potter, but then after much protest I agreed to go with my mother to see the 3rd movie in theaters. Here, I discovered the unctuous character of Severus Snape. I was instantly enraptured by Alan Rickman's delicious performance (and voice) that I immediately had to find out the true nature of his slippery character-- cementing a literary crush whose only rival is John Proctor from the Crucible (and I love him) This obsession culminated into me reading 1800 pages  in one sleepless night until I found out my answer. These stupid movies made me read the entire series of children's books. I appreciate their darkness, as well as their uncanny ability to serve as christmas movies. Another high point for me is Jason Isaacs as Lucius Malfoy. Isaacs is one of my favorite actor villains (He's fab. in The Patriot with Mel Gibson--which almost made it onto my list) as he just seethes with evilness. I was also reading somewhere that HP is one of the only modern Epics. And as a huge proponent of the hero's journey and epic poetry, I love watching the rise and fall of harry as he is tempted by evil only to rise from the brink of madness to save muggle kind. And finally 'lol' at the 6th movie's attempt in dealing with teenage sexuality.


4. No Country for Old Men dir. Joel and Ethan Coen (2007)
"Nervous Accountant: Are you going to shoot me?
Anton Chigurh: That depends. Do you see me? "


I was torn between choosing NCFOM or TWBB, they both being the stand out dramas of the past couple years, but I thought picking them both would make my list too cerebral. Instead I was faced with the hard decision of picking just one. While the last 20 minutes of TWBB is an example of DDL personifying acting at its absolute finest, on a whole, I found NCFOM to be a better film. This is a lot to do with the Coen brother's use of 'silence' in a way that hasn't influenced the structure of cinema since the Buffy episode, "Hush," and Javier Bardem's incredible rendition of Anton Chigurh is up there with my top villains of all time (next to Robin Williams in Death to Smoochie), and I especially like their use of hair as a medium to vilify.  I appreciated the untimely deaths, and once again they great filters the Coens employ to see their world through. Their films always look so rich, and dusty. And while I've never read the book, I've heard that they adapted it almost word for word which is pretty rad. I also like entertaining the idea that Anton Chigurh doesn't actually exist, and I guess this idea comes across more in the book, than in the film, but if he was in fact a 'ghost' that eludes these characters it would be metaphysical bliss. I like watching you get old Tommy Lee Jones, so maybe its no country for some men, not just the old ones.


5. Requiem for a Dream dir. Darren Aronofsky (2000)
"Does this train go to Madison Avenue?!."

While I feel as though I might get some flack for adding this to my list RFAD is one of the movies that changed how I view movies, or what I want to get out of seeing movies. The actors who took these roles deserve commendation, as they subjected themselves to states of physical and mental degradation that many other actors would balk at. I mean the last 15 minutes of that movie left me speechless, and never wanting to stick anything in my veins. Ellen Burstyn deserves her own sentence for her absolute greatness. Her lonely portrait of a Brighton beach mother longing to be noticed is heart-wrenching. Its not all about the red dress. Her physical transformation and the hell she traps herself in are no doubt hyperbolized for drama (refrigerator scene), but there is something very real and very scary about it that makes me want to hug my mom and tell her she is pretty everyday. Her hair is also a point of interest for me, I can't explain why though. Also one of the best motivational speaker roles besides Tom Cruise in Magnolia. They should show this in health class instead of those silly D.A.R.E videos.


6. The Squid and the Whale dir. Noah Baumbach (2005)
" You're being a shit, Walt!"

I remember it was freshman year, and it was my first ever trip to the Angelika when i saw TSATW. I absolutely hated it. Maybe I wasn't expecting what I saw, or maybe I thought it would be something along the lines of a Sixteen Candles-esque coming of age film. But a couple of years later I caught it on TV, and did a complete 180. maybe watching it with no expectations, or maybe the personal growth that happened in the two years between triggered something that resounded sadly. Maybe it was because Jeff Daniels delivers the absolute worst fatherly advice, or maybe it was my own realization that parents can really fuck up their kids with their own pettiness and destructive decisions. Baumbach deconstructed family life,  all of a sudden showing us how the 2000's had moved away from Pleasantvillian idealism. Where the suburban dream had become more urban and less simple.  It was as if someone had made a feature length Freaks and Geeks episode. To take a giant step for man-kind here- I think this movie completely set the stage for the hoodie-generation of sad quirky funny dramadies of the J. Appatow vein. I also partially blame TSATW for bringing hipster vogue into the mainstream-- suddenly everyone wanted to be quirky. Every time I watch this movie it gets a little sadder, imagining a world with no real role models, how can you grow up to be a functioning human being. And at what point can you step back and say, "Fuck you dad," and really mean it.


7. Dancer in the Dark dir. Lars von Trier (2000)
"In a musical, nothing dreadful ever happens."

What's not to like about a film that stars Bjork. This movie is one of the saddest movies I have ever seen. Immigrants, language barriers, disease, all existing in a world where really no one cares. If this was your life, wouldn't you escape to a world where everything was a musical and you were a Broadway star. (Another hidden Buffy Reference here-- musicals are not an appropriate way to deal with a tragic reality.) Beautiful, sad, and full of injustice with the innocuous Bjork standing out as a fallen hero at the hands of injustice. And I believe, an an especially poignant episode of celebrity Jeopardy, Winona Ryder as Bjork said, "Everything is musical"-- something that Trier incorporates wisely and well into his film, using ambient noise to frame musical outsongs. All of these elements together create something that's is surreal and incongruous at points, but when coupled with a relatively slow pacing creates something that arcs into one graceful metaphor that ends with one devastating blow to the heart.


8.Eurotrip dir. Jeff Schaffer (2004)
"I saw a gay porno once. I didn't know until halfway in. The girls never came. The girls never came! "

 That is easily my favorite thing to say when slightly drunk and no one knows what i am talking about or what I am referencing. Herein lies the exquisite beauty of Eurotrip. The first time I saw this movie was the first time I got drunk. I was at a party in my brothers apt about 6 years ago (my apt now) I had just beat him in beer pong in front of all of his friends,  and had started passing out from over-boozing. My brother carried me downstairs, put me in bed and turned on Eurotrip to lull me to sleep. Through my drunk eyes I thought I had seen angel, but it was in fact Matt Damon dressed like a Good Charlotte skin head rocking out to the hit single "Scotty Doesn't Know." But that's the thing, Scotty did know. This low level irony wonderfully permeates this wondrous film through and through.  No joke is too simple, no stereotype too stereotypical. As far as mindless college humor movies go. This movie stands our for its sheer unadulterated hilarity and perfect pacing. It is the quintessential European road trip movie that when it boils down to it, is all about love. And whats not to like about the purity of teenage love. This movie has the ability to bring out the xenophobe in even the most congenial of spirits and makes you never want to ride in a train car with an Italian stranger. Also can you really hate a movie that has a titillating cameo of Xena the Warrior Princess clad head to toe in pleather, welding a three pronged three dildo'ed machine gun? The honest to god answer is no, you can not. Even the pope can't help but laugh at this movie, as Eurotrip's hijinks's tackle the topic of religion with the ease of a baby eating applesauce. Nothing is off limits in this movie, and I believe it holds the title for most full frontal male nudity on a single shot. Enjoy me hearties. Yo Ho


9. Big Fish dir. Tim Burton (2003)
"The grass so green. Skies so blue. Spectre is really great!"

Big Fish marks one of the only times i have left a movie theatre with my heart having been literally warmed. Everything about this movie is whimsical and completely implausible, or is it? In true Tim Burton fashion there is that soft Gothic undertone that makes everything a little sad (Helena Bohnam Carter is mostly responsible for this) and a little more beautiful because of it. Each of the stories are so different, and given their own unique look through T. Burton's art direction that it just makes you want to believe that everything is true. There are so many traditional plot elements: the road less travelled by, doing anything for love, desire to make something of oneself, and the 'Big Fish,' little pond story line that somehow avoid being trite by indulging in Burton's world of acceptable make believe. And its not so much about how these lies create a false world as it is about waxing philosophical on the human condition and how we deal with with life's banality. Maybe its because my dad tells the same stories over and over again exaggerating the details after each subsequent telling, I find something annoyingly comfortable about this entire film, or maybe its my own tendency to stretch the truth for the sake of a better story that makes Big Fish a part of my list. Burton asks us, whats wrong with a little hyperbole, or those 'truths' that are just a wee bit specious (I've been dying to use that word in a sentence since the GRE) and I say, absolutely nothing. I think it should also be noted here that Danny Devito as a carnie, and Steve Buschemi as  his own big-eyed self help make his movie awesome.


10. Love Me if You Dare (Jeux d'enfants) dir. Yann Samuell (2003)
"Tell me that you love me first because I'm afraid that if I tell you first you'll think that I'm playing the game."

While i really wanted this list to be mostly action movies and teen comedies it went in a completely different direction, but I will ride this serious horse and see where it takes me. People started loving cute-quirky-french romcoms with Amelie, but for me LMIYD rings a bit more painfully and not quite as perfunctory as its quainter counterpart. Its about a game of truth or dare that started between two friends as kids, but then continued into adulthood and escalated into something truly horrible and perverted. Its not quite a romantic comedy so much as it is two people being really mean to one another even though they are in love, using their childish game to avoid their real feelings and any chance at happiness (reminds me of myself in high school) I mean love makes us do they crazy, but how far is too far, or not far enough. The ending of this movie is perhaps the best ending I've ever seen in a romcom or any movie for that matter, and the reason why this movie belongs here. No spoilers, go out and see it. Oh, and Marion Cotillard is in it. Rawr.
 

Somebody tell me what to think, I'm tired.

I saw Up in the Air tonight. Don't think of this as a review, per se, I just want to have a conversation about it. I liked some things, I didn't like some things. But it wasn't what I expected. But it kind of was. Hang in there while I work this out in my head...out loud. Because I think I liked it. Well, I liked watching it. To a point. Honestly though, it could have been the biggest piece of shit ever and I just get this feeling that there's one thing holding me back from disliking it. Something catchy, something charming, a little dashing but familiar, feels like coming home...

Yeah, I'd let him do me. Onward to the internal dialogue!

Pro: Vera Farmiga! She can act, am I right? And she's got kind of a crazy face/voice. I like it. She has a great character, she's a lot of fun to watch, and I totally bought her schtick. You go Ms. Crazyfacevoice, you be in more things.

Con: Jason Bateman and J.K. Simmons made me feel like I was watching Juno again. Love them both, but it's just a knee-jerk reaction and I don't like it.

Pro: Clooney. He's never been this Cary Grant-esque. Although it's not a really challenging role ("he's so flawed and callous! Oh wait, no he's not!") he plays it really well.

Con: Clooney, man. He's never been this Cary Grant-ish. Although he plays it well, the role isn't a challenge "He's so flawed and callous! Oh wait, no he's not!" Please.

Pro: The aerial shots of the different cities were a really nice touch. Even though it sounds like a minor detail, I really liked it. It was beautiful to look at, and a nice build upon the idea that the protagonist never gets closer than 10,000 feet to actually seeing a city.

Con: Note to filmmakers, IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A MUSIC VIDEO, JUST FUCKING DO IT. Don't waste my time with a music video in the middle of your movie. Why does this keep happening? Seriously the musical montage needs to end, we're entering a brand new decade. That isn't the 1980s. Come on.

Pro: The short clips of people getting fired in the first two thirds of the movie. It's a good way to keep up the film's pace, as well as tell us about his job without bogging the whole thing down with it. To a point, though.

Con: The short clips of people getting fired at the end of the movie. Someone actually says "Money can pay for your heat, buy you a blanket. But my husband holding me keeps me warmer." Really ma'am? Is your husband on fire? What's wrong with you? Why would you say something like that? Ew. Go away. Blech. And this is probably my biggest problem with this film, but honestly, you had me going there when you weren't hitting me over the head with how topical it is to make this film now. It's a book about air travel and firing people that came out before 9/11 and the economic collapse. Yes, it fits very well given our current climate, but at a certain point people in the movie seem to almost be saying "GEE, I wish there was just one word we could use to sum up the current financial climate. Precession? How about Mecession?" We get it Reitman, we're not idiots. We're the same people who also understood that Juno MacGuff was pretty hip and current even before you had her talk into a hamburger phone and fuck Michael Cera. WE GET IT PLENTY, REITMAN.

CONCLUSION


Pro: I liked it! It was enjoyable! I laughed a bunch, and it kept me interested. Also, it wasn't Avatar!

Con: It'll win some awards, and that's just gonna make me cantankerous. And nobody likes that.

YMD's Super Sweet Sixteen: TRAILERS EDITION pt 2


The holidays kind of caught up with me, and when I realized I still had about 50% of my Christmas shopping to do, I figured putting off the final six trailers on this list might have to wait just a hot minute. Well, now I'm done, have eaten my weight in shellfish, slept for two days, and arisen to bring you the six greatest movie commercials of the decade. I know you were waiting with baited breath. You're welcome.

6. Femme Fatale (2002)
You're all like "whaaat? What the shit is this movie?" And then I'm all "The one where Rebecca Romijn (then Stamos) Mission Impossibles herself into a ladies room to make out with a chick wearing a gold snake because that gold snake is worth a bajillion dollars!" And you're like "DUH." Brian De Palma may be incapable of making a decent movie in the last couple decades, but he can make a damn good trailer.

5. A Serious Man (2009)


4. A Single Man (2009)
If I haven't made it clear by now, I love a trailer that gives nothing away. And apparently I love a trailer that also looks like a Gucci ad, because I love this one.

3. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
As I mentioned in the last post, this is a prime example of a DVD I bought so I could watch the trailer again.


2. The Strangers (2008)
Showing this before any scary movie automatically ruined it. The actual movie wasn't even as this. I'm even more terrified when I listen to Joanna Newsom than I was previously.


1. Little Children (2006)
I've probably watched this 25 times since I started writing this list. Which was about two weeks ago. Yikes. There you have it folks.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 16


My homie Nick Kohout is the rare 24-year-old barista who has taught Italian at both the high school and university level. If I asked him, he could prolly write us a Top Ten Coffees of the Decade in 2 languages. We'll settle for movies though.


10. The Bourne Supremacy/The Bourne Ultimatum dir. Paul Greengrass (2004, 2007)
Identity was good, but with Greengrass at the helm the two sequels were much better.

9. American Psycho dir. Mary Harron (2000)
Christian Bale, naked, for extended periods of time.

8.  Crank dir. Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor (2006)
"If you stop, you die." I still can't tell if this movie is inadvertently self-parody, or if it's intentional, or if it's parody at all. The ambiguity is what makes it work so well, unlike Shoot 'em Up, which was an obvious send-up (and not very good). The scene where Statham forces himself on Amy Smart in the square makes the feminist klaxons in my head go off every time; again, is it a critique of the genre or an embrace of it? I love this movie and everything it makes me think about.

7. The Incredibles dir. Brad Bird (2005)
The best overall out of the Pixar movies, and the one I think everyone else is picking, too.

6. The Hurt Locker dir. Kathryn Bigelow (2009)
I like this movie for the opposite reason I enjoy Crank. This movie knows exactly where it's going and how to get there, and executes those moves perfectly. I don't really think of it as an action movie; I'd call it a "war slasher". Instead of an unseen villain with a knife, the killer is hidden in plain view, and instead of getting a blade in your back, that innocuous sack by the side of the road is going to put fifty yards between your spleen and your femur. Absolutely terrifying.

5. The Royal Tenenbaums dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
It's good.

4. Shaun of the Dead dir. Edgar Wright (2004)
I was going to put Love Actually on this list at #10, thinking I was short a romantic comedy, and that it was the romantic comedy I associate most strongly with the aughts. Then I remembered this movie. Zombies > Christmas, apparently. Seeing this in a theater was the beginning of my love of zombie movies.

3. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2002)
Twenty percent of this lists consists of animated films.

2. Children of Men dir. Alfonso Cuarón (2006)
What other movie tells the story (effectively) of a dystopia with the newspapers used to black out the windows in an interrogation room? And I'm a softie for long takes.

1. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michel Gondry (2004)
I have seen this movie exactly twice, so it's strange that it would end up at the top of my favorite list, but if I could only watch one movie from this decade Eternal Sunshine would be my pick. It could easily get by with just smacking you in the face with its brilliant concept, but all the little details are there, too, including protagonists that have their share of unlikability.


That's probably it for today. We have four more to go through, which we'll prolly get out of the way tomorrow. If you want to send in a list, this would be your last night to do so.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 15


Much to her chagrin, Emily Steinfeld is one of two New York artists named Emily Steinfeld. She draws cartoons. Emily also currently holds the title of Friend of Mine With the Worst Hangovers. She wrote us a list:

Bonus Mention:
11. Crossroads dir. Tamra Davis (2002)
“I’m not a girl, not yet a woman.”

Ha! Hahah!! Britney made a movie ya’ll! There are sweatpants, there are Shania Twain sing-alongs, and there are Justin Timberlake shout-outs! Dan Akroyd is her dad! Kim Cattrall is her mom and looks safari-chic! Scary boy! Pregnant girl! Rated PG 13 for Underage Drinking! Important Life Lessons! I still can’t believe this happened.
 
10. Little Children dir. Todd Field (2006)
“Sarah, on the other hand, was short with curly hair and with eyebrows Brad thought thicker than necessary.”
 
Silly me, I thought this was going to be a romantic comedy. Kate Winslet stars in a movie where two unlikely (and married) people wind up having an affair after meeting on the playground with their kids. A whole summer is spent in lust, and plans are made to run away together. Do they? I won’t spoil the movie, but much like the book of the same name, Little Children is full of suspense and reveals a gritty, seedy side to suburban living. Side story involves a convicted pedophile living with his mother. This ending came as a horrific shock, and while it certainly isn’t a “feel good” movie I found myself thinking about it for days afterwards.
 
9. Duplex dir. Danny Devito (2003)
“It’s the leavings of a mouse!”
 
I don’t expect anyone else to feel the same way as I do about this movie. I caught it once while channel surfing, and was instantly hooked. The acting isn’t that good: it stars Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore, respectively playing Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore (well, not in name). But something about a couple moving to Brooklyn and trying to off their 100 year old Irish tenant really makes me chuckle. The movie is peppered with gross humor such as old lady knicker-sniffing, vomit to the face, and feeding regurgitated hotdog to a parrot. I know, I know. Danny DeVito lends his sweet, dulcet tones to the movie as a narrator (oh yeah it’s got narration), thus truly completing this oddball black comedy that I’ve come to adore.
 
8. Ghost World dir. Terry Zwigoff (2001)
“Dear Josh, we came by to fuck you, but you were not home. Therefore... you are gay. Signed Tiffany, and Amber.”
 
I don’t think it’s just the cartoonist in me that loves this movie (Ghost World, originally a comic by Mr. Dan Clowes). You can almost feel the boredom and suffocation of Enid’s life during her first summer post-high school Not really sure what she wants, very sure of what she doesn’t want, and sometimes too damn depressed to do anything about it. Still, it’s fun to watch the adventures of Enid and Rebecca (played by a deadpanning Scarlett Johansson) and they harass people and make up stories about others. Also: Steve Buscemi!
 
7. Stranger than Fiction dir. Marc Forster (2006)
“You bought me flours?”
 
This makes #2 for Will Farrell on my list but he does such a good job taking on the role of serious, anal Harold Crick in Stranger Than Fiction. His portrayal of a tax man who must learn to change his habits and step outside his comfort zone is warmhearted and endearing. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays his love interest, a loud and opinionated baker. Quirky and unrealistic, it’s still a good film with a cute story with a happy ending (in a bizarre way).  I don’t want to give it away, but I definitely recommend it for those who haven’t yet watched.
 
 
6. Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) dir. Guillermo del Toro (2006)
“Un accidente?!”
 
I saw Pan’s Labyrinth in the theaters. I walked in not knowing what it was about and walked out knowing that I wouldn’t be forgetting it anytime soon. A fairytale for adults? A twisted, violent, dark fairytale? For every scene that I found completely awe-inspiring there would be another scene that I found gruesome and hard to watch. This at least kept me riveted. An imaginative film set during an actual event in history. Also, that monster—the one with the eyes on the hands? Congratulations, that is the scariest effing thing I have ever seen.
 
5. White Oleander dir. Peter Kosminski (2002)
“So what if I shove my tits in some stranger’s face? Who cares! So what if I want to shovel coke up my nose—who’s it hurtin’? Well it hurts me! And it hurts Jesus.”
 
Author Janet Fitch initially wrote the book White Oleander to shed light on a failing bureaucracy in modern-day California, properly known as Social Services. Fitch delivers the story of Astrid, a girl who is continuously denied any real help as she is passed along from one disastrous foster home to another. The movie, though sometimes moving too quickly through scenarios, does a good job of bringing the twisted and complex tale to the screen. The imagery is beautiful and the story interpreted interestingly. Good performances from the cast. Michelle Pfeiffer is the icy, manipulative artist (as well as Astrid’s mother) who is imprisoned for killing her ex-boyfriend. Renee Zelwegger as the sentimental actress Claire, who flip-flops between being a refined, elegant lady and a neurotic mess and eventually offs herself. My favorite, though, is Robin Wright Penn playing the white trash ex-stripper now devoted to Jesus.
 
4. Igby Goes Down dir. Burr Speers (2002)
“You don't roll like, big rasta spliff joints, do you? Your joints are like salad joints, not like a big, sloppy, bleeding cheeseburger-that-you-rip-into-kind-of-a-joint joint.”
 
Privileged upper class white boy rebels against his family, friends and educators as a means of separating himself from the bullshit and drama that unfolds in this story. You can’t help but watch as Igby throws himself into situation after situation, each ending up a hot, steamy mess. As the story unfolds you learn that a lot of his behavior stems from his family life, which is chock full of crazy (see: scene where Bill Pullman has breakdown; also see: Susan Surandon sitting on a maid). You feel for Igby but you can’t help but want to shake him sometimes. The cast is full of fun people I love to see on the screen, such as Keiran Culkin, Susan Surandon, Claire Danes, and oh… a little somebody by the name of Jeff Goldblum. Anyone heard of him? Anyone?
 
3. Elf dir. Jon Favreau (2003)
“You’re not Santa! You smell like beef and cheese!”
 
Only about twice a decade will a Holiday movie come out that I know I’ll be watching for years to come, and Elf is one of them. I’m also going to be honest and confide that I watch this movie often, and not only during Christmas time. I don’t know what it is: Will Ferrell’s banana-yellow tights? An existential children’s book by the name of Gus’s Pickles? Getting drunk in the mailroom and sharing feelings with an ex-con? In a time where every Christmas movie seems to revolve around similar and tired plots I found Elf to be a refreshing new story with a lot of laughs, not to mention a lot of Maple Syrup.
 
2. Almost Famous dir. Cameron Crowe (2000)
“I’m a Golden God!”
 
I’m finding it difficult to sum up this movie, or my feelings about it. Ever wonder what life would be like as a fifteen year-old boy coming of age while moonlighting as a rock journalist? Mystery solved with Almost Famous. It’s got sex, it’s got drugs, and it’s got rock and roll. What I’m talking about is—wait, what am I talking about? The Buzz! The Buzz—and the chicks, and the Whatever. It’s all offshoot of the Buzz!
 
The fact that it’s based around director Cameron Crowe’s own experiences is pretty cool, too.
 
1. Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet (2001)
“I am nobody’s little Weasel.”

Truth be told, I did not love Amelie the first time I watched it.  This is because I couldn’t stop thinking about a particular fact regarding Amelie and Nino. The pair spends the majority of the movie passively-aggressively in pursuit of each other: there’s a meeting in a diner, one awkward-as-hell ride through a Haunted House, even a scavenger hunt. At the end of the film they have sex. All the while, however, Amelie only ever says one word to this boy. That word would be “No”. Wait, what?! No means no! “No” does not a romance make! It bothered me the first time I saw the movie but luckily I got over it. Amelie has some of my favorite cinematography, the story is adorable, and a garden gnome is involved. This is also the movie that gave us the charming Audrey Tatou, mind you.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 14


This list comes from Rich, who I have now officially wrestled more than the 3 foot tall teddy bear I had when I was 7. Sadly, Vision Quest didn't come out this decade so it can't take up all ten spots on Rich's list and the following movies will just have to do.



10. Team America: World Police dir. Trey Parker (2004)
More than puppet vomiting and a ridiculous sex scene Team America makes this list for its distillation of world politics into three categories: dicks, pussies and assholes. I got through Intro to International Politics with that. Plus, a damn funny movie.

9. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Le scaphandre et le papillon) dir. Julian Schnabel (2007)
Great camera work and beautiful imagery give you a sense of the physical limitations and immense struggle of locked-in syndrome as well as the freedom of imagination and memory. Incredibly frustrating and deeply depressing the film's story is ultimately beautiful and uplifting. 

8. The Dark Knight dir. Christopher Nolan (2008)
This was going to make this list just for the build up and the experience of sitting in an empty theatre for two hours waiting for the premiere.  The joker character, whether crafted by Nolan or improvised by Ledger, is a fantastic re-imagining of a classic villain (drawing from a few lesser known graphic novels). Heath Ledger's performance, for all the hoopla is great and absolutely steals the show from a great action movie (holy shit, remember that truck flipping?!)

7. Pan's Labyrinth (El laberinto del fauno) dir. Guillermo del Toro (2006)
The darkest fairy tale ever.  (Well, that's probably not fair to the brothers Grimm. It's certainly up there) I went to the theatre to expecting something light and magical. Set during the Spanish Civil War, this film is anything but light (second and third viewings still had me cringing at certain parts - sure I'll sew my cheek up) but it is beyond magical. Del Toro creates an alternate world and characters that might as well be the inside of a magician's hat. 

6. City of God (Cidade de deus) dir. Fernando Meirelles, Katia Lund (2002)
This is how I imagine Matt making it big, photographing his life on the mean streets of Hamden, CT. This film is vibrant, fast paced and exciting. An unforgettable look (because there are pictures!) at the drug world of the Rio suburb that lends the film its name. 
 
5. Love, Actually dir Richard Curtis (2003)
I just finished watching this movie for the gagillionth time. This movie makes this list if only because it's the only rom-com that I unabashedly and unironically love. It captures that wonderful time in the run-up to Christmas taking a peek into the love lives of people around London. I think this film succeeds because it doesn't get bogged down with one storyline that inevitably follows the same pattern (holy shit I never thought they'd get together, but they totally did). Sure there's plenty of that and that makes it satisfying, but other stories are messier and less satisfying, and that's what makes it plausible. Plus: "All I Want for Christmas is You"!  
 
4. High Fidelity dir. Stephen Frears (2000)
Hated. Hated. Hated this movie when I first saw it. I was young and in love and couldn't fathom heartbreak, let alone so many that I'd have to make a top five list of the worst kinds. On repeated viewings this movie has come to define the world I find myself in - one of music snobbery and "deep" but ultimately superficial introspection. Oh yeah, and list-making! 

3. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire dir. Lee Daniels (2009)
I'm still trying to unpack this one. This one packs a big old, heavy handed wallop. I don't know where this one would find itself if I did this list next year, but for now it's here mostly because I'm still blown away by performances by Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey and Gabourey Sidibe. Sure the dream sequences are at times odd, but as Precious obviously uses them to get through life, I'm not sure how I'd make it through the movie emotionally intact without something on the lighter side. 
 
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michel Gondry (2004)
Sure, I'd love to wipe out all memories of seeing The Matrix Revolutions - except for when a heavy set woman in the theatre fell down the stairs in the middle of the film, three guys laughed at her and she threw a broom at them (no, please, don't;  just that one memory! erase all the terrible dialogue, heavy handed Messianic references, and the Architect but please not that woman falling down the stairs!) And so it is with love.

1. The Squid and the Whale dir. Noah Baumbach (2004)
This movie hit so close to home it was practically a home invasion. Divorced parents, dad taking it a bit harder than mom,  trying to not let the divorce affect you and having a younger brother taking it harder than anyone. Everyone who sees this movie hates the older brother, Walt, and so do I - but I also identify with him more than any other character in film this decade - because he's a selfish, immature, pseudo know-it-all prick, and at 16, so was I.


Two or three more lists later on today.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 13


Edgar Rojas is one of filthiest people I know (humor-wise, I mean, he's actually very well groomed). He also has more Criterion DVDs than anyone I know, which at least in some way probably qualifies him to make this list. When not tweeting about George Romero, Edgar is one half of boogie fanatics Team Rojas, whose excellent TR4PL mix you should download or stream here. Rojas, let's do it:


I am excluding Lord of The Rings, because I suppose it's not fair to count them as one film. But, I do believe they should be in the top 10!

Anyway here goes!

10. The Proposition dir. John Hillcoat (2006)
I caught this at 10:45 AM in 2006, because that was the only showing left at the Angelika before they removed it. Kind of a tough one to stomach so early in the day, but alas I was blown away. Nick Cave (of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame) wrote the screenplay and scored this too. I love westerns and this is the best western I've seen in a long time, even if it's set in Australia.

9. Shaun of the Dead dir. Edgar Wright (2004)
I avoided this movie for a while. I'd say a couple of years after its initial release. I guess I wasn't really sure if it would be as funny and as impeccably shot/directed as it is. It's a love letter to zombie movie fans like me, because Simon Pegg and director Edgar Wright are real nerds. His second film Hot Fuzz is also pretty amazing.

8. Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) dir. Tomas Alfredson (2008)
It was tough to decide which vampire movie from this decade was more deserving to be in the top 10. The other choice being Thirst. In the end I chose this, because this had an actual vampire in it. Actual, meaning it followed the lore that surrounds them. It's just such a pretty movie and the violent acts are quick but surprising because it's a little cute swedish girl committing them.

7. Oldboy dir. Park Chan-wook (2005) (SPOILER WARNING - ed.)
I mentioned Thirst previously, which is directed by the same director as this movie. Oldboy is the second movie in his "Vengeance Trilogy", but probably the best one. This was my introduction to Chan-wook Park. It was so violent and strangely perverse (he bones his own daughter), but so stylized too. I drew parallels to Tarantino, but this is a movie Tarantino can't ever make. The dude has a style of his own, all his movies are worth watching.

6. Punch-Drunk Love dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (2002)
Adam Sandler is in this? He's playing a serious role? He's actually really good? YES. Ok, I'll admit, P.T. Anderson made another movie more recently in this decade which is pretty spectacular, but this holds a place in my heart. Pretty much every girl (that I've dated who doesn't know this movie) that I've tried to convince to see this, hates it. It's a love story, yeah, not a conventional one, but ultimately the dude gets the girl.

5. American Psycho dir. Mary Harron (2000)
Freshman year of college Sarah Drescher called me Patrick Bateman once. She is the only girl I know who might love this as much as I do.

4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind dir. Michel Gondry (2004)
Hey, check out my "indie" movies list. This one's on it. Just like everyone else's. Michel Gondry put out a movie that still kills me every time I see it. My roommate said it best when he saw me watching it after a break-up: "Dude, that's fucking masochism."

3. The Royal Tenenbaums dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
There are mad Hollywood actors in this, yeah, but man they're so good. I wish Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum was my dad. Way to make a dysfunctional and frankly depressing family likable, Wes Anderson.

2. In The Mood For Love (Fa yeung nin wa) dir. Wong Kar-Wai (2000)
I bought this on DVD without ever seeing it. I love when you do that and the movie turns out to be great. This movie holds the highest spot in that department.

1. Dancer in the Dark dir. Lars von Trier (2000)
Yo, Björk is in this! She's acting. It's the most heart-breaking thing I've probably ever seen. I shed man tears the first time I saw this. Gave myself a 6 year break and saw it recently. Shed some more man tears.

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza part 12


Starting off Sunday a little late, I'm gonna go ahead and post Ben Jones' list and relieve him of the stress of thinking about changing it. For those of you not familiar with Ben's work, he looks unforgettable in gold lamé. This will, I hope, be the first of his many film-related (and otherwise) contributions to this site. Take it away, Benny.


These are ten of my favorite movies from the 2000s. This was really hard to do and, no, I haven’t even seen City of God, Gladiator, or anything from the Dardenne Brothers.  Or Walking Tall.

10.  Secretary dir. Steven Shainberg (2002)
"Assume the position"

Distilled to a moment, Secretary isn't much more than a "Love is..." panel from the Sunday funnies.  And, sure, we're talking about "Love is never having to cut yourself anymore because you've found someone special who will spank you," but the doe-eyed sincerity and universal application is no doubt the same.  RomComs fought nobly to get on this list, but most of them just fall short, panicking to smooth out sharp wrinkles for a happy ending and ever patronizing strange love for laughs.  Secretary is the only that goes all the way though.  It is honest, un-P.C., and never treats character's decisions with anything less than respect and dignity, even when harnesses, paddles, and pee get introduced.  Climaxing with a sit-down strike for love, this is the perspective that Love, Actually is missing.

9. Grizzly Man dir. Werner Herzog (2005)
“In nature there are boundaries.  One man spent the last 13 years of his life crossing them.”

Grizzly Man is the most commercial of Herzog’s (human) nature docs and also his most personal.  Per usual, the director walks the Inferno, soldiering on out of respect for his kindred spirit subject and cinema itself. 

8.  Casino Royale dir. Martin Campbell (2006)
“The bitch is dead.”

The first ten minutes of this movie grabbed me by the nuts and made me love Bond again.  And then they actually grabbed Bond’s nuts with a rusty chain.  And I was like, “whoa”. 

7. United 93 dir. Paul Greengrass (2007)
“The war on terror begins with 40 ordinary people.”

Somehow this is a movie without politics or agenda.  Rather than the slam-bang superglory saccharine that could’ve been, Paul Greengrass focuses on the private rituals of horror that accompany the acknowledgement of ones own death.  I only needed to see it once (a very hung over morning-after at Maciej’s, totally by myself and broken by the loss of a wallet the night prior), but United 93 hijacked my heart.

6.  Kill Bill (parts 1 and 2) dir. Quentin Tarantino (2003, 2004)
“Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

QT gets symmetrical and writes a love letter to Uma.  Ethan Hawke loses.  We win. 

5. Adaptation dir. Charlie Kaufman (2002)
“Screenplay by Charlie Kaufman and Donald Kaufman.”

Nic Cage looking like a lesbian.  Meryl Streep snorting psychedelics.  Chris Cooper vs. The Alligator.  Synecdoche, NY might be the more important and more ambitious “artist-in-crisis” movie, but Adaptation is just too much fun.

4.  Battle Royale dir. Kinji Fukasaku (2001)
“Could you kill your best friend?”

I hosted a high school sleepover when Battle Royale came out and I still have the same impulse every time I meet someone who hasn’t seen it.  It is a simple movie full of incongruities, with an aesthetic that dares you to weep in amazement rather than sob from disgust.  Oh, and there is this epic score and tons of dead Japanese kids in school uniforms.

3. There Will Be Blood dir. Paul Thomas Anderson (2007)
“When ambition meets faith.”

Spent eight-and-a-half hours watching this one in theaters.  Doesn’t matter if you consider it an opera, a political allegory, or a horror film; just get ready to see the worst in people. 

2. The Royal Tenenbaums dir. Wes Anderson (2001)
“Family isn’t a word… it’s a sentence.”

Wes Anderson set out to make the great American movie that Orson Welles couldn’t finish and almost succeeded.  A textbook storybook that will be studied someday, and the only movie I let get away with stomach cancer jokes. 

1. Mulholland Drive dir. David Lynch (2001)
“A love story in the city of dreams.” 

Possibly the best mystery since Chinatown, with spank scenes to boot.  Silencio.


Fine choices all. I am very hungover. More to come in a matter of hours.