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best of year lists – films (part one)

I’m having a perfect last sunday morning of the year, it’s freezing, but the sun is shining through my window and forming rainbow prisms all over my room, nancy is asleep on the bed next to me, I’m listening to Jesse Lacey cover Iron and Wine (from when Iron&Wine was still awesome) and everything is perfectly calm. It’s a nice end to the year, but a pretty shit segue into the first part of my end of year film list.

Before you read this and disagree I want to make a couple points about the criteria for being on this list. The film must have had some kind of DVD or Cinematic release this year to get on the list. It gets complicated with worldwide release schedules, particularly for indies. Oh, and I have to have properly enjoyed the movie, there are at least a couple of guilty pleasures on this list, but like Klosterman says, there’s no such thing. Oh, and there’s no order to this list, it’s simply my favourite ten films of the past year.

Shotgun Stories – Dir: Jeff Nichols

To begin with, yes Jeff is Ben’s brother, but neither that, nor the minimal lucero score is the reason this film makes the list. It did crazy well on the festival circuit, and it’s clear that Jeff shares the same love of Terrence Malick, that his producer David Gordon Green (huge indie swoon) does. I put this on an Americana movies list earlier this year, ‘cos although super recent, it already has that classic feel about it. The narrative is simple, 3 brothers (Son, Kid & Boy) begin a feud with their (distinctly more christian, and less poor) half brothers after the death of their estranged father. It’s beautifully shot, sparsely scripted and amazingly acted. If there was ever a film to accompany the likes of Lucero, Drive By Truckers and Two Cow Garage then this is it.

In Search of a Midnight Kiss – Alex Holdridge

In Search… reeks of 90s indie. Remember way back when indie movies were still good, Robert Rodriguez was just some dude who directed black and white 16 mls and the mainstream media didn’t give a fuck about sundance. And because of all of this movies could be more honest, and less audience driven? This movie remembers that too, and although (presumably) set in the present day the 90s themes and motifs are prevalent, from shooting in black and white, to the real time two protagonist narrative. I’m not going to lie, it borrows heavily from Linklater, but updates it and gives the characters some focus. (The exec producer, also worked on Dazed… and Before Sunrise, so the connection is formal and real) It’s the story of a 29 year old guy (Scoot McNairy) saying goodbye to the worst year of his life and trying to have a good new years eve. Scoot rules in this role and plays it perfectly, like a modern day, more forgiving, less self absorbed Ethan Hawke. You should really watch this, cos I don’t have the space to gush.

Dedication – Justin Theroux

Mr Theroux was once an indie darling, but then he acted in Charlie Angels II and suddenly all credibility was lost, it’s lucky then he had the foresight to direct this and win some back. Dedication seems like the type of fake indie you should hate. Weinstein produced, starring Mandy Moore, a touch of the rom com about it. But bizarrely, it really works. This is in no small part due to the awesomeness that is Billy Crudup, who plays this mean, fucked up,misogynistic childrens book author to a tee. There are a million and one amazing exterior shots of NY that will make you yearn to live in the city, and Mandy Moore is almost impossibly pretty. It’s a perfect sunday movie.

Let the Right One in – Tomas Alfredson

I reviewed this one not all that long ago, so I’ll keep this one brief. You all know what a sucker I am for books with titles related to Morrissey, the novel that this perfect swedish vampire movie is based on is named after the song “let the right one slip in” Swedish indie cinema has such a weird Morrissey fixation, look at early Moodysson… It’s the tale of Oskar, a bullied schoolboy and how he befriends a girl vampire. Think “the little vampire” but violent and oddly sexual. I loved this movie and it made me long for a time when more movies actually said something, because in 2008, very few did.

Zack and Miri Make a Porno – Kevin Smith

This is another one I wrote about last month, so I’m not going to again. Suffice to say that the more I think about it, the more I realise Kevin Smith is growing up into a slightly cruder John Hughes. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s the reason adults don’t like him, and indie fans find him to schmaltzy, but I think it’s the reason I love him. Oh, and he made Seth Rogen playing Seth Rogen a little less irritating than usual.

Im gonna have a bath and think about writing the second half of this list later.

And these children, that you spit upon…

I’ve wanted to see this movie for a while, the poster had me all smitten before everyone in the world that I respect fell in love with it themselves. It’s interesting then that after I got hold of a copy I couldn’t bring myself to watch it at first, in case it wasn’t the kind of awesome I needed it to be.

Luckily I put it on this evening and it made everything better.

The midwestern high school setting and thus the sports obsession was reminiscent of Klosterman’s novel, Downtown Owl. But that was where similarities ended, none of the snippy snarkiness that usually inhabits anything created in the last 15 years was here.  Instead there was an honesty and sincerity that you can only get away with using when you’re a teen and all everything feels more than it ever will again.

American Teen makes you remember what it was like to be that age –  with your whole life laid out ahead of you –  in the way that certain 3 minute pop songs can, but movies rarely do. Director Nannette Burnstein deftly handles the 5 protagonists and explores the very typecasts John Hughes forever set in our brain. Here we get a taste of what would have happened if Alison and Andy had dated after detention, if your heart really does die when you grow up, and how being a geek doesn’t really change decade to decade.

If you’re ever feeling confused as an adult, watch this movie and remember how daunting life once seemed. The downside of all of this, is obviously, that life once seemed epic and full of promise and a place where dreams could come true. This movie will help you remember that part as well.

and if you ever get back to hackensack….

Today was a pretty perfect rainy sunday, house to myself, didn’t have any plans to leave it, and more movie catch ups.  I decided to create a seasonal sunday double bill for myself. I kicked it off with Zack and Miri Make a Porno. It’s no secret I used to be a huge kevin smith fan back in the 90s but I haven’t really liked anything he’s done in a while. Jay and Silent Bob being the epitome of almost everything I hate. So it’s understandable that I approached this one with more than a little trepidation.

I really needn’t have bothered, this is pretty much the best thing that Kev has done since Chasing Amy, it’s got that vintage Smith feel about it. Seth Rogen slides perfectly into a role that Jason Lee would’ve had a few years back, and is far less annoying than I imagined he would be (he’s as terrible as Michael Cera for playing the same character over and over again) and Elizabeth Banks is sort of adorable.

This isn’t a movie that’s saying anything, and not the kind of film you’ll see a different layer of each time you watch it, but it is a sweet and lovable pop culture reference heavy piece of cinema about falling in love with your best friend.

I was sucked in from the get go, HI! I’M A SNOWY SMALL AMERICAN TOWN AND THERE’S GOING TO BE A HIGH SCHOOL REUNION. Well done establishing shot. It’s worth noting that Kevin Smith keeps writing loser characters who do things like work in stores and coffee houses. No one does that anymore, slacker culture isn’t something anyone aspires to anymore, we’re all ambitious now dontcha know?

It’s all a little juvenile and idealistic, but that’s what Smith has always been good at, and although it’s set around Pittsburgh and not Jersey it may as well be. There’s also hockey and Randall from Clerks and Jason Mewes.  Brendan Routh (jeeeeez, that boy!) and Justin Long have awesome cameos. It’s good to see people saying cunt on screen as much as this, but it’s also about as complex as a teen movie and the resolution is just a little too convenient. But hell, it’s not like I went into it expecting Bergman huh?

It did make me feel sort of warm and fuzzy inside and miss an old best friend I used to be in love with. To push that feeling to a slightly more painful level I followed it up with Just Friends.

Lets get this straight, Just Friends is NOT a good movie, but it is a Christmas movie (so I’m in, automatically) and it does star Ryan Reynolds, and it’s set in Jersey and I’ve seen it more times than I’d care to admit on the internet. It’s also about being in love with your best friend and small town life versus big city values. All of these are big cinematic themes for me.

That whole paragraph was just me justifying watching Just Friends huh? haha…

Right, I’m off to tick the last thing on my to do list off before I fall asleep. I love sunday.

you're just a phase I've gotten over anyhow…

Sick sick sick. I thought I was better, but apparently no, I was just drunk. I had all manner of grandiose plans for this weekend, erotic comics lecture with Jess and then Cloak/Dagger tonight, instead I’ve spent the day in bed feeling more than a little pathetic.

The one thing that’s making me feel better about this is that everyone in the world seems to be ill right now. I blame Obama, it’s a global post happiness comedown. It’s also got a little bit of Coupland apocalyptica about it, like this is how the world will end, everyone’ll just get ill and tired and things will ground to a halt.

I mean all of this in the most light hearted of manners, of course. I’m done with doom and gloom in anything but the most superficial sense.

Anyway. Things are going to start to get all kinds of awesome all kinds of fast soon enough, crazy sky stuff is happening and everything is going to be a-okay. All of my favourite smartest astrologers do say.

I watched Let The Right One In this evening, I’ve had it on my macbook a few weeks, but no time to watch it (thanks illness) until now. I’d seen the trailer and followed the festival based hype and you know how I get for anything vampire related. (And also, swedish cinema, who remembers me during my slightly depressive Lukas Moodysson phase?)

I’m pleased to reprt that it’s pretty fantastic. The pacing and cinematography are spot on, the language is just sparse enough to convey more than it ever could were the characters more verbose. The girl (Lina Leandersson) who plays Eli the vampire, is incredible, managing to look 10 and a hundred years old simultaneously. It’s a beautiful and teensy bit gothic take on a coming of age story, and the idea that you can find one person in the world that can make all of it okay and protect you (in this case, quite literally) from everything. There are many complex relationships that I’ll have to go back and study when I’m feeling slightly less retarded, it’s the type of film you’ll be able to spend the next year unpacking. And if you’re like me, trying to figure out why it’s only ever European cinema that offers us anything so simple and so clever.Hmmmm.

I’m gonna go and take some codeine and pass out ready for another less than copacetic work week.

I don't mind the weather, I've got scarves and hats and sweaters…

Aaaah, another winter sunday afternoon is starting to draw in, the light is fading and my room again seems like the cosiest place in the world. I haven’t left the house since I got back from work on friday and as such a sense of order has been restored on my life. I feel well rested, far less stressed and relatively toxin free. I completely needed a weekend to myself. I’m far more about the mid week partying these days, less fucktards out.

This weekend did give me a chance to catch up on some movie/tv/record/book time, and that in and of itself was fantastic.

Favourite records of the weekend:

I like Japanese Hardcore. Amazing lo-fi girl poppy punky folky indie on plan-it-x. They were only around for one record which is sad, but means they’ll rule forever. There are two Calvin Johnson references in the space of 10 songs, which I find incredibly endearing. The lyrics switch between being super cute “that boy, he’s so punk rock, he makes, makes my heart stop..” and a little riot grrrlish ” boys like you tell lies, to make girls like me cry, thats why I have to say, bye bye love, hello kitty”. Perfect sunday listening.

Floormodel – Random Access Memories. I’m a sucker for Jeff Caudill in almost any capacity ( I still listen to daylight savings pretty much every day in november – it feels like midnight, but it’s just 6 oclock..) and I’m totally into his forray into the world of electronica. Everyone is comparing this to the Postal Service, but that’s cos when you get an indie rock/punk dude and an electronica dude working together it’s a safe comparison for the ill-educated indie media. This record manages to be at the same time warm and objective. It’s something that I, personally have been trying to achieve for some time now.

I also eventually got around to watching Pineapple Express (which led to me rethinking my love of David Gordon Green) and the Jared Padelecki Christmas Movie based on Thomas Kinkade (of QVC artists fame)’s hometown Christmas in 1977. I’m a huge christmas nerd okay, yes, I know it seems weird if you know me at all, but it’s true. Deal with it. The Thomas Kinkade one was super christianity heavy, come on Christians, stop spoiling Christmas for the rest of us. Jared Padelecki was great as the humble artist though, he rules at playing small town boys. I think it’s for this reason that I love him. Alongside his height. And lion-y face.

Right, I’m gonna go cook sunday food and have a lush product filled bubble bath. Bye.

slight return

Most of this evening I’ve been sitting home alone in my room finding MP3 equivalents of my teen indie selfs vinyl collection. It’s weird how you never forget the words to the songs you knew when you were a kid huh? How super precious every single one of them was to you, and fuck me, the memories. Now that it was half of my life ago, the pangs of nostalgia are almost palpable. That’s why I’m sitting around listening to Suede and Gene and Marion. I’m gonna move on to Midway Still soon and it’s probably going to get worse.

Elastica made me remember the time we went to see them on their first tour when they only had 6 songs so they had to play one twice, and it snowed ( rare indeed in the 90s) and we had a snowball fight on the way back to the ferry , and everything was perfect in the way it can only be when you’re 14.

It’s taken my mind off the adbusters induced socio-economic worry coma at least.

movie happiness

fuck yes! Nick and Norahs Infinite Playlist has got a release date and an HD trailer, it’d got so quiet on this front I was beginning to wonder if it was gonna come out at all. But yay AND hurrah. Here it is.

My age inappropriate crush on Michael Cera shows no signs of shifting. And hi, he’s supposed to be in a queercore band ? It’s like Empire Records if it was cool. Or something. And it’s that got that whole into the night vibe about it, which AV club wrote about last year, and being the age/romantic I am, I’m a sucker for it.

I am in a far, far, better mood this evening.

what's it all abooot?

I have to work from home for a couple of days, I managed to tear the ligament around my hip or something, and then as a result of walking weird from doing that, I fucked up my foot. Result. Walking = Giant OUCH. On lots of painkillers, yum, but staying stationary doesn’t help at all with my crazy new activity regime.

Stayed in the whole weekend, cos of not drinking/shopping and severe lack of funds. On the bright and sunny side though, I did get a pretty phenomenal amount of pop culture injested.

Eventually got around to watching Cloverfield, I actually enjoyed it in the end. I have to be one of the very few people who doesn’t mind huge amounts of camera shake, reminds me of watching back the days sabbing videos way back when. The monster was ugly, and the NY destruction scenes were way impressive,  Matt Reeves wants to sit down with Roland Emmerich and discuss what it is they hate so much about American landmarks. I really liked exploding head girl, she was the only character I was a little bit upset about being killed off. It was nice to see the US Military being powerless for once and for this reason I’ll probably watch the sequel.

I saw Hellboy II on Friday at a press screening, but I’m not allowed to talk about it yet, I can imagine you’re all crazy disappointed, but it won’t be long. haha. Sorry, I was distracted by the thunderstorm that is going on outside my window as I type.

On Sunday night I watched The Wackness and on reflection, I sort of loved it. Jonathan Levine is fast becoming one of my new favourites, I thought All The Boys Love Mandy Lane was ace, and The Wackness, although a slow starter was hugely watchable. It made me yearn for the nineties, empathise with the protagonist (but from enough of a distance that neither one of us felt uncomfortable), and really think about what it felt like to be that age, around that time. I thought Josh Peck was great as Shapiro, and Ben Kingsley didn’t irritate me very much at all, and for me he’s usually Gwyneth Paltrow annoying. The ambiguous tone of the downbeat endings of Levine’s films leave me with the best kind of cinematical confusion. I’ll probably write a proper review of this for work soon.

I watched a load of Season 6 of Buffy too, around where she’s getting it together with Spike. Buffy is more comforting than cocoa to me, seriously, I just slip into it and everything else matters far far less.

Oooohhh, and I got around to watching the screener for True Blood today. Wow. I’m so stoked on this, hurry up late september and the next episode. Southern Vampires = Best Thing Ever. Also, Anna Pacquin is ace.

Right, I’m off to watch “Ocean of Fear – Worst Shark Attacks Ever” see you soon.

the waiter serves my coffee with a consolation smile

Quiet weekend. Good times. Had people over last night, built garden furniture and then drank tea by full moonlight listening to actual physical format music. WOWZERS.

Had brunch with Grimes on the terrace (I made the best scrambled eggs, they’re usually pretty good, but I outdid myself this time) and spent the day slacking around reading, doing yoga, having bubblebaths and watching movies. One of them was Baby Mama.

Hmmmm.

remember reading ana article on Jezebel when this first came out, about the complete lack of female buddy movies, and when trying to write a list of them for work, realised that jezebel were completely right.

I really wanted to like this movie, and to be able to argue that there were mulitple levels it could be understood on, and hidden complexities and that all in all it was a pretty important event.

Unfortunately, the movie was almost entirely, meh, predictable, not particularly well written, and the same type of bullshit we’ve all seen tramped out  a million times before.

I like Tina and Amy and think they’re both very funny ladies, but this “appealing to the lowest common denominator movie” is extremely uninspiring.

Oh, and check my astrobarry for this week. Things are looking better. Go Jupiter!

VIRGO (August 23-September 22): After a past couple weeks that might’ve seemed like something of a test, you’re due to tap into a wider-angle optimism… an outlook based upon the increasing self-confidence that’s (hopefully) come from proving you can indeed make the ‘wisest’ decisions for yourself, when need be. Once you can concretize and integrate this faith in yourself—that, no matter what, your problem-solving practicality will always jump to your own rescue—you’re then better able to reach ever further out onto the limb of scary-but-so-desirable risk, reassured that you can always get yourself out of the situation if it doesn’t end up working for you. Too much by-the-books pragmatism, alas, can stand in the way of your imagination, Virgo. How can your inner creative-visionary feel free enough to dream up a dramatically more fulfilling future for yourself (even if you’re already ‘perfectly fine’), if you’re always already worrying about how to make it happen or all the possible process-oriented problems that might present themselves? Sure, once you get to the ‘implementation’ stage, those types of thoughts will come in very handy. But before you get to that point, you have to allow yourself to simply dream. That is, to dream big. Believing that dreams can come true—and, in fact, do all the time—is the first step.

I lit a fire that wouldn't go out…

I just watched smart people. I must stop watching US indie dramas, particularly ones set around dysfunctional families and books. It makes me yearn for something I’ll never have in the meanest of ways.

There seems to be some sort of a party going on downstairs in my house. I’m in my room downloading movies.  I did want to have a bath but noisy people are ruining that vie somewhat. Not drinking makes me no fun. I can’t wait for this medication to level out and take my moods with it.

Why do I think of time spent with others as somehow more valid, like if you’re with someone else then you’re doing something just by hanging out ?  Also, I have recently noticed that the older I get, the more I lack direction. Am I doing this all the wrong way round I wonder ?