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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 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.