Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Movies: The Best (and Worst) of 2010

Here’s what I think. How ‘bout you?


As inventive and dazzling a sci-fi movie to hit the screen in ages. Far superior to Cameron’s Avatar. Christopher Nolan has, like he came so close to doing with The Dark Knight, elevated the genre flick to grand art. It’s brilliant in every respect.

The Social Network

My personal favorite movie of the year. Excellent performance by Jesse Eisenberg, but the real star is the script by Aaron Sorkin (creator of The West Wing and SportsNight). Sorkin might be the best writer working in Hollywood today. I dream of being able to write dialogue like he can.

The Tillman Story

Pat Tillman was a star in the NFL who gave up millions of dollars to join the Marines after 9/11. He was sent to Afghanistan where he immediately saw how fucked up things were, and he transformed himself from Bush-administration posterboy into a vocal opponent of that war, as well as the fiasco in Iraq. He was killed in a friendly-fire accident, and subsequently had his memory corn-holed by the Republicans. This documentary made me sad and profoundly angry.

The Kids Are All Right

Annette Benning and Julianne Moore, alongside Mark Rufalo, conduct an acting clinic here, while Lisa Cholodenko’s direction is an understated marvel. She should get an Oscar nomination, but, alas, probably won’t. Funny, charming, socially relevant. Who could ask for more in a movie?

True Grit

I dig the novel by Charles Portis, but, personally, can hardly sit through the John Wayne movie version (Glen Campbell set a standard for hideous acting). Thankfully, the Coens came along to do the book justice. Terrific work by Jeff Bridges, and Josh Brolin somehow gets better with every movie he makes. Hard to believe he was the dorky big brother in The Goonies.


I’ve been a fan of Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s work since Delicatessen. Micmacs, the tale of two guys with a wildly elaborate plan to take down a weapons manufacturer, is simultaneously pure Jeunet, and something very new. The sight gags are hilarious, and the overall visual impact is stunning. You just never know what Jeunet is going to do next.


How do you make a movie of Allan Ginsberg’s decidedly un-cinematic poem Howl? Here’s how.

The King’s Speech

It doesn’t get much better than Colin Firth as George VI, the British king who overcame his stammer, with the help of a goofy Australian speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush), and rallied his country in defense of Hitler’s Germany. Watching two heavyweights like Firth and Rush work with each other is truly a wonder to behold. And even Helena Bonham-Carter isn’t as annoying as she usually is.

Winter’s Bone

A double prize winner at Sundance, this introverted little movie is an arresting experience. 19-year-old star Jennifer Lawrence gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a young girl in the Ozarks forced to care for her family. I look forward to seeing what she does in the future.

Jackass 3D

A place-kick to the face. Bee-hive tetherball. A feces volcano. A tavern full of brawling midgets. A sweat cocktail. A Port-O-Potty full of dog poo on bungee cords. Laughter heaven. The funniest movie I saw this year.

And, in no particular order, the worst…

Percy Jackson & the Olympians: Lightning Thief
How to ass-rape Greek mythology for fun and profit.

127 Hours
Amputation porn.

Knight and Day
Cruise still can’t act. Still isn’t funny. Is still really irritating.

The Twilight Saga: Eclipse
Metrosexual nancy-boy vampires. I hate them and want them to die.

Heterosexual hipster-boy vampires. See above.

The Expendables
Careful, Sly! You’ll break a hip!

Ridiculous times at the Armageddon diner. Dopesville.

Grown Ups
So little comedy talent, so little laughter.

Hot Tub Time Machine
What the fuck is John Cusack doing with his career?

Alice in Wonderland
Someone please assassinate Tim Burton before he strikes again.

Have a most excellent bunch of holidays, folks!

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Return to the Freaks of Freak Central

I’ve been out and about again in my little Oklahoma town, hobnobbing with the populace, and man, this place just keeps getting stranger and stranger. So, without further preamble, join me for another trip to Freak Central.

Weird Things

Late in the evening on Black Friday my brother and I ventured into Wal-Mart because, well, long story short: I wanted a footstool. And also because there’s not one other goddamn thing to do here, but anyway. I located the necessary piece of furniture, a cheap-ass boxy thing that doubles as a storage container and is upholstered in orange fur (yes, I am the very model of a modern pimp mack daddy), and we headed for the check-stand.

Upon alighting at that destination, the clerk there, a hobbit-like creature of the female persuasion, offered us the traditional Wal-Mart greeting: a tight grimace suspended beneath a pair of small, mean eyes. She grabbed my wooly cube, dropping the bottom part when the lid came off in her hands.

“Humf,” she said, her tone suggesting that never in all her long days had she encountered something quite so novel as this. “This’ll be a good place to hide your weird things,” she said.

“Weird things?” I asked

“Your weird things,” she affirmed. “You know, like when you have your lady friends over…?”

Had she winked at me right then my head would’ve exploded.

“Ah,” I said, and, giving voice to the world’s most unconvincing chuckle, shoved some money at her.

My brother was already edging for the exits in an obvious attempt to put as much tile between himself and Mrs. Baggins as possible. I collected my change and joined him. We made eye contact, but elected not to engage in a detailed rehashment of the episode. That way, madness lies…

Have it Your Way

We used to have a Burger King here in my little town. Not much to brag about in a village with something like one fast-foot franchise for every ten people, and an obesity problem that makes the whole place look like a summertime retreat for Macy’s floats, but it was an alternative. It shut down not too long ago for the simple reason that people stopped going there. Capitalism in action. Hell, I’m all in favor of a community getting all communal and giving a big corporation a boot in the backside, but I have a little problem with this particular instance.

Not long after the BK flung wide its doors a woman complained that she and her three kids had gotten sick from the food there. No doubt about it, the four of them were healthy and frolicsome as colts one day, a-swarm with vomit-provoking bacteria the next.

A health inspector was summoned to investigate. He white-gloved the joint and pronounced it clean and crisp as a winter’s morn. Yet that simply could not be, not according to the original claimant, nor to her rapidly expanding cadre of disciples. No, no, no, that restaurant, they shrieked, was nothing more than a pestilential swamp, a fetid bouillabaisse of filth and disease. And theirs was the view that took hold, because the citizens of my little town rarely allow something as paltry as the truth to interfere with their God-given right to think and say nasty shit about others.

So, slowly, the BK’s customer base dwindled away to nothing, and its doors are now chained shut.

Then it came to light—far too late—that the woman who started the whole affair might have bitched precipitously. It turned out that she and her brood lived in a squalid hovel out in the country, the condition of which would’ve sent the editors at Better Homes and Gardens into the midnight streets rending their garments. Dirty dishes adorned every horizontal surface, and the floor was carpeted with piles of old laundry and dog shit. The children were regularly sent home from school to keep them from contaminating the other students with their head lice.

Now, where do you suppose they got sick?

Wag the Dog

I got this information second-hand, but I’ve talked to enough of the eye-witnesses to stamp it “approved” from a factuality standpoint.

The local high school offers a seniors-only political science course. The instructor, by all appearances an enlightened sort of dude, decided to get the conversational juices flowing by showing Barry Levinson’s movie Wag the Dog, a satirical demonstration of the lengths our government will go to keep our attention focused anywhere but on what’s important. At some point near the beginning of the flick one of the characters drops an F-bomb. (David Mamet co-wrote the screenplay, so go figure.)

A female student, upon having her ears and psyche invaded by the dreaded oath, leaped from her seat, galloped from the room, and made like a homing gopher for the principal’s burrow, where she made her mental anguish plain to all and sundry. Her pitiable state apparently infected the boss, who vigored off to the site of the offense, and shut down the movie, praying, we can only imagine, that he had not been too late.

In the aftermath of the Expletive Incident, the students were left to their own ruminations for the remainder of the period, while the teacher was hustled away to the principal’s lair and subjected to a stern dissertation that covered the length, width and depth of his shortcomings as a Shaper of Youth. He must now have all of his lesson plans approved in advance and, in the coming weeks, as I understand it, the teacher must stand before the Superintendant of Schools and explain his poor judgment and taste.

How has it happened that our nation has turned into one that kowtows to the people with the thinnest skin? If that dopey chick got her granny panties in a twist over something as measly, as trifling, as a little F-bomb, she really needs to get her face out of wherever stuff she’s been hiding it behind, or she’s gonna graduate and, barring an immediate transfer to a convent, the world is gonna rear up on its hind paws and claw her face apart like so much whiney taffy.

Makes me want to hold her down and yell “Fuck!” in her face until she cries.

Springtime for Hitler

About a week ago, I’m cleaning up after a show at the theater where I work as a projectionist, and I find a Blackberry on the floor. Thinking maybe the owner is one of those folks who puts their name on their phone’s banner, I poked the button to awaken the thing. No number, alas. I did discover, however, the very colorful swastika that was the banner pic. Yessiree. Right there—red enough, white enough and black enough to make a Tea Bagger leak girlie tears all up and down the barrel of his AA-12. Found out later that the phone belonged to a 14-year-old. A 14-year-old girl.

Can barely wrap the ol’ bean around that one, except to say that it does call to mind an image of Nazi symbols BeDazzled onto a Jonas Brothers backpack…

And that’s the news from the wilds of Oklahoma, where the men are atavisms, the women are hirsute, and the children should be kept chained to something heavy.