Saturday, January 22, 2011

slouching toward mediocrity

Thanks to the super-awesome Mike Russell, and the equally awesome Cort & Fatboy, I did this yesterday, and I did not throw up or cry or get stabbed.

As usual, my teeny little infant-muppet voice can barely be heard, perhaps because I was not breathing, or maybe because we abandoned our original plan of getting me drunk on the show.

Also, I didn't talk about movies AT ALL, despite Mike's many kind attempts to draw me in. The one movie-related thing I said was really about boys. Hmm.

So anyway, I'm a borderline-embarrassingly adoring Cort & Fatboy fan - I sleep in a C&F t-shirt, the one where they're being impaled by a unicorn, which Mike drew - so I was a little starstruck being right there in the room with them. (They are very handsome.) This was compounded by the fact that a poster of Byron Beck in his little wrestling singlet was beaming at me from a foot away, even as Cort's new wall-mounted stabbing knife poked singlet-Byron in the butt. Plus with the not breathing. So I was nervous, but they were really sweet. Karl says it sounds like I'm being cross-examined for the first five minutes but then it gets better (I think mainly because I stop talking). Anyhow, these guys are awesome, and you should subscribe to their podcast on iTunes immediately.

Some notes and corrections about stuff I mumbled:

1) To clarify, the motorcycle show belongs to my friend Thor Drake and his company SeeSee - the SFRC is just helping him put it on. Here's the link to it:

2) Turns out I'm still ditzy with calendar-type stuff: the One Motorcycle show is on Saturday, whereas the Cort & Fatboy Midnight Movie, Dirty Dancing, is on Friday, so I might be able to go see it after all. Yeay!

3) I should clarify that Byron didn't actually say he set me up with a friend; what he said was that I went on a date with a friend of his. So it really could be anyone - but I'll never tell.

4) Kitty Pryde! Did you hear him say that? I definitely heard him say that. If it sounds like I spent the next hour fainting, that's because I did. (Wooderson is good, too, though. I'll take that. I've earned it.)

5) In real life, I love Lonely Planet, too. There may have been a bit of post-deadline grouching.

6) There's a point about 14 minutes in where Karl emailed me to say, "I really hope Mom doesn't speak Latin."

7) I forgot to mention that I had a Johnny Castle poster when I was a teen. On my bedroom ceiling. Oh yes.

8) Update from Mom: "How come you didn't know that Jennifer Gray won Dancing with the Stars?" So there you go: what she's been up to lately.

9) Johnny To's Vengeance really is great. It's filled with crazy, gorgeous fight scenes and tender hitman bonding and totally sideways takes on the standard gangster/revenge flick. And anyone who has pissed me off should not be allowed to watch it. Grr.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Movies 2010

Everyone says it's been a crappy year for movies, but I saw a bunch that I really dug. Here's the lowdown. At the end you'll find a link to the extra-special expanded episode of KBOO on which DK Holm and I talked about our picks.

10 I Liked Best

1. Winter's Bone

directed by Debra Granik, who also co-wrote the screenplay (based on Daniel Woodrell's novel)

(Daniel Woodrell is awesome!)

Jennifer Lawrence stars as 17-year-old Ree Dolly, and John Hawkes is Teardrop, her scary but ultimately honorable uncle, in a brutally sparse, Southern gothic story about meth-cookers in the Ozarks. One of several movies this year in which an adolescent girl turns out to be the strongest person in the world.

2. True Grit

by the Coen Brothers

with Hailee Steinfeld, Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

The first movie the Coens have made in ages (since Lebowski?) that didn't strike me as being kind of sarcastic. See above re adolescent girl.

3. The Fighter

directed by David O. Russell (who made two movies I violently hated, I Heart Huckabees and Flirting with Disaster, but also Spanking the Monkey which I thought was pretty great)

with Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams

Set in the '80s in Lowell, Mass., it's the story of boxer Micky Ward (Wahlberg) and his wacked-out brother (Bale), who trains Micky after crack addiction kills his own once-promising career. All the performances are tops; Christian Bale somehow makes his total wreck of a ruined-genius character seem charming, aggravating, heartbreaking and admirable all at once. There's a terrifying/hilarious gaggle of harpies in truly outlandish getups and hairstyles that reminded me of Pueblo (long live the claw!). Besides, any movie that features a slow-motion face-punching scene with flying sweat droplets is a good movie in my book.

4. Valhalla Rising

dir Nicolas Winding Refn (who also did Bronson and the Pusher trilogy)

with Mads Mikkelsen as One Eye

Definitely the weirdest movie I saw this year. Gorgeous, brutal, almost silent. Tarkovsky meets samurai warrior epic via sideways Bergman? Or something like that. (Daniel Menche was at the screening I went to!)

5. Scott Pilgrim vs The World

directed & co-written by Edgar Wright (of Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz)

Michael Cera, Allison Pill, Kieran Culkin, Ellen Wong (as Knives), Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Ramona Flowers)

Awesome integration of story and style. Easily as tricksy and visually inventive as Inception, but with added fun, and hipster-punching. Michael Cera is a walking bag of ennui who is forced out of suspended animation by surprise battles with his new girl's seven evil exes. Vanquished foes explode into coins, guitarists battle to the death, etc. Best of all is the movie's skewering of weak-ass Portland-style breakups and weaselly pursuit/avoidance of rad chicks by unworthy dorks.

6. Fish Tank

written/directed by Andrea Arnold (Red Road)

with Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender

15-year-old Mia lives in a cruddy Essex apartment with her mom and little sister, cares about nothing but dancing until she meets Mom's new boyfriend (Fassbender, who is amazing and also has perfect teeth). The ending's a little off-the-rails in a disappointing way, but it's devastating up until then. Awesome performance by Katie Jarvis.

7. Greenberg

directed by Noah Baumbach, co-written by Baumbach and Jennifer Jason Leigh

with Ben Stiller, Greta Gerwig

New York neurotic goes to his brother's house in LA to sort his life out, aka to "do nothing" for a while, and latches onto his brother's assistant, Florence. Excruciatingly horrible makeout scenes ensue. Has a fair amount in common with The Social Network, character-wise.

8. Inception

directed by Christopher Nolan

with Leonardo Di Caprio, Marion Cotillard, Ellen Page, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

I like movies that do things you can't do in other media; why not take advantage of the form? A few scenes in this movie were so awesome that they more than made up for its flaws. I don't need the story to be profound when the telling involves so many neat tricks. (Also: man, doesn't Joseph Gordon-Levitt look good in a suit.) There's a kinda clever Blade Runner homage; I don't think the story ends up being as head-trippy as that movie, in either version, but it's still a lot of fun, and smartly put together, and well worth a good couple of viewings.

9. 127 Hours

directed by Danny Boyle, with James Franco

Based on the memoir: Aron Ralston goes canyoning in Utah, gets his arm pinned between a boulder and the canyon wall. High jinks ensue. Franco is incredible, and the impromptu surgery is beyond gross; I've never been so emotionally moved by hideous gore.

10. Mother

director/writer Bong Joon-ho (The Host)

South Korean take on a classic whodunit, but with an intensely expressive lead performance, a strangely tranquil mood, tonal variations that are typical of Bong Joon-ho, and flat-out gorgeous visual style. Your footing keeps crumbling under you, to the point that you end up feeling completely alienated from pretty much the entire human race. Haunting.

10 Worst

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Tron: Legacy

Jonah Hex

The American

The Wolfman

Hot Tub Time Machine

Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps

Robin Hood

Letters to Juliet

Twilight: Eclipse

Most Frustrating:


written/directed by Sofia Coppola

starring Stephen Dorff, Elle Fanning

I'll write more about this one later.

Simultaneously Best/Worst:

Hausu - initially screened by WW's BAM fest in February. Nothing else like it.

Gone with the Pope, Boxer's Omen - both screened by Dan Halstead at Grindhouse Film Fest.

Also Seen & Liked:

(in no particular order)

Micmacs: French junk-shop circus romp/revenge tale/pacifist lovenote. Adorable.

Red: Helen Mirren is smoking hot, and I still think Bruce Willis is great. The flirting is tops, and the bullet's-eye view of a bullet-strewn lawn won me over right away.

Bluebeard: Crazy.

The Good, the Bad, the Weird: AWESOME and hilarious. Almost made my top ten list and probably should have.

The Social Network: Jesse Eisenberg is insanely good. I'm sick of hearing about how smart the opening scene is; it's sad that clever dialogue is so rare it inspires paroxysms of critical adulation.

Ghost Writer: Polanski is pretty good at making movies.

Black Swan: Doesn't really hold up to scrutiny, but very effective at the time; silly and scary and pretty and squirm-inducing. Fun!

Get Low: Old dudes are the best dudes.

Centurion: Over-the-top ridiculous, with no holding back on anything, especially not the ax-chopping, sword-squishing, limb-chopping or decapitation scenes. Zoom in on that shit! Yeah!

Machete: A total blast. Not a good movie, but hilarious, with many moments of total awesomeness.

Never Let Me Go: Some people found it slow, but I thought it did a really good job of adapting a book I also really liked. Definitely wanted to punch Keira Knightley in the face.

I Am Love: Wacky and sad and beautiful.

The King's Speech: Describing this movie on the radio gave me a stammer, so I won't get into it here except to say Colin Firth is perfect, and Helena Bonham-Carter is still my girlfriend.

Cropsey: Scary and depressing. People are horrible.

Knight and Day: Can't really believe I liked this, but it was a lot of fun, and Tom Cruise finally seems to understand exactly how he's funny.

Unstoppable: A really tight, super-entertaining race-the-clock train movie, and I will always happily spend two hours watching Denzel Washington.

Vincere: Mussolini opera madness.

Lebanon: Get me out of this tank! I have to pee!

Shutter Island: Totally overwrought, and a disappointment in the context of Scorsese, but Mark Ruffalo was great and it looked and sounded fantastic. Irritating ending.

Green Zone: Matt Damon. Righteousness.

Exploding Girl: Should've been boring, but it didn't bore me.

Get Him to the Greek: Unexpectedly non-sucky.

The A-Team: Very good at what it does.

Salt: It was funny.

The Warrior's Way: aka Laundry Warrior. Exploding ferris wheels! Ninjas vs cowboys in the desert! Come on!

Really wish I'd seen before writing this, & will see soon:

Sweetgrass (documentary about some of the last American cowboys, herding their sheep through Montana mountains to summer pasture)

Red Riding trilogy (a British TV adaptation of David Peace's books about serial murderers, including the Yorkshire Ripper - everyone I know loved it)

The Strange Case of Angelica (Dreamy fable of longing from 102-year-old Manoel de Oliveira)

Wild Grass (A romance by Alain Resnais, with the awesome Mathieu Amalric)

Four Lions (Fumbled terrorism + British satire and the blackest humor)

Exit Through the Gift Shop (Banksy documentariness)

Enter the Void (Gaspar Noe is never boring)

Carlos (Carlos the Jackal - everyone I know loved this, too)

White Material (Claire Denis, with Isabelle Huppert, also never boring)

Restrepo (Sebastian Junger & co in the thick of the Afghanistan war; allegedly holds its own with the best Vietnam docs)

Blue Valentine (Looks to be a corkscrew to the heart, but you know me, I like that)

Anyone who wants to hear me stumble and stutter my way through this list out loud, with frequent rescues by DK Holm, should check out the year-end Movie Talk show on KBOO here. Apologies in advance.