Thursday, December 22, 2011

Best Films of 2011

Tough year to judge, but I'll judge it anyway . . .

Top Ten Best Films of 2011:

1. "The Artist"
Best movie I’ve seen in quite a while, one of the few movies I’ve seen that received a thunderous applause when it ended. A must-see in the theater, and dare I say, a perfect movie that’s funny, melodramatic, and profound. It’s simply a remarkable achievement in filmmaking that’s incredibly rewarding. Jean Dujardin, and Uggie, might be my new favorite actors.

2. "Drive"
A meditation so hypnotic I downloaded the soundtrack the next day. Methodical in its pacing with sudden bursts of violence, this trip takes you to unexpectedly tumultuous places. Dark and exciting while deceptively simple, Nicholas Winding Refn is able to weave one of richest tapestries of a seedy Los Angeles with an 80’s movie kind of feel to boot. Check out his "Pusher" trilogy and "Bronson." Albert Brooks . . . tour de force!
3. "The Tree of Life"
Gorgeous, riveting, and at turns maddening, I couldn’t explain to you what the movie is about, but hey, I like pretty pictures, and on that note this luminous movie delivered tenfold. I can overlook Terrence Malick’s obvious lyrical pretentiousness because many moments in the film moved me deeply. A marvelous year for Jessica Chastain, who will surely lose her anonymity.
4. "Midnight in Paris"
A great time-travel movie, disarming and often very funny. I like movies where I find myself smiling all the way through. Far removed from "Law & Order: L.A.," the real scene stealer is Corey Stoll as Ernest Hemingway, who deserves serious awards consideration. Plus Kathy Bates is always good when she isn't naked in a hot tub. Arguably his best film since "Match Point," this is one of my favorite Woody Allen movies, and maybe even Mia Farrow would like it.
5. "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
After seeing the original, I knew what to expect. A stylish, taut thriller, this sweeping work is a triumph in acting, writing, and direction, along with a highly effective score by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Can't decide which version I liked better. The daring Rooney Mara delivers what can only be described as a very brave performance.
6. "The Skin I Live In"
Apart from "Shame," this was the most disturbing and unsettling film I saw all year, courtesy of Pedro Almodovar at the top of his game. An unflinching work of art with darkly comic touches, it transcends the horror genre in a way I never imagined. I've been a big fan of Elena Anaya since "Talk to Her" and "Mesrine," and her haunting work here is amazing. Antonio Banderas . . . tour de force!
7. "Moneyball"
Living in the Bay Area at the time brought the story closer to home. Compelling with fully-realized characters, something that can only come from a fascinating true story. Pitt does tremendous work here, and Jonah Hill surprised me in his second to last fat performance.
8. "The Descendants"
A quality blend of comedy and drama with engaging performances, Shailene Woodley being the revelation. Quite rare when we really care about what will happen to the characters. A very satisfying film, one with enduring wit and an insightful look at imperfect people when faced with grief. Has Alexander Payne made a bad movie? I still like "Election" and "Sideways" better.
9. "The Ides of March"
Saw "Farrugut North" on stage with Scarlett, which we both thoroughly enjoyed. Since I continually struggle with my love/hate relationship with politics, this movie was right up my alley. The last 30 minutes of the film were tacked on by George Clooney, giving us a bold plot device and the happy ending that the play never had.
10. "Take Shelter"
Michael Shannon should be noted as one of the best actors working today. His gripping and powerful portrayal of a man seemingly losing his mind never loses steam to the very last frame. Who else can capture the paranoia of an impending apocalypse with more emotion? Shannon's subtleties with the craft are savored.
The Very Long List of Honorable Mentions
"13 Assassins" I like when domes are lopped off with regularity.
"Attack the Block" great combination of horror and comedy, like "Shaun of the Dead"
"Carnage" the tulips are on me, a finally confined Polanski . . great acting
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" another engrossing documentary from Werner Herzog
"Hanna" highly entertaining, even though I can’t pronounce the lead’s name
"Hugo" the marvel of filmmaking with Scorsese in top-form . . loved it
"Kill the Irishman" funny movie, and the effectiveness of car bombs can’t be disputed
"Martha Marcy May Marlene" the good looking Olsen sister knocked it out the park
"My Week With Marilyn" Michelle Williams can act
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" thrilling when CGI apes emote so well
"Senna" I remember watching the great Ayrton Senna race as a kid
"Shame" spare and startling like "Hunger," I won’t see this movie again
"The Debt" liked the original a lot as well
"The Devil's Double" that psychotic degenerate Uday had it coming
"The Future" almost cracked the top ten, Miranda July can do no wrong
"The Help" I see a bright future for this on Lifetime/Oxygen
"The Iron Lady" Meryl Streep can do no wrong either
"The Muppets" feels like old friends coming back to town
"Thor" so many haters, but I really liked it
"Tyrannosaur" can a very serious drinking problem lead to redemption?
"War Horse" the swelling John Williams score tried very hard to make me cry
"Warrior" a movie to make men cry . . I, alas, did not
"We Need To Talk About Kevin" really made me want to have children
"X-Men: First Class" Fassbender should have his own Nazi hunting movie
"Young Adult" made me feel really good inside, quality Patton Oswalt

Other Achievements
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin - "The Artist"
Best Actress: Jessica Chastain - "The Tree of Life"/"The Help"/"Take Shelter"/"The Debt"
Best Suppporting Actor: Albert Brooks - "Drive"
Best Supporting Actress: Berenice Bejo - "The Artist"
Best Director: Michael Hazanavicius - "The Artist"
Best Screenplay: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, & Jim Rash - "The Descendants"
Best Foreign Language Film: "The Skin I Live In"
Best Documentary: "Cave of Forgotten Dreams"
Best Cinematography: "The Tree of Life"
Best Score: "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Best Animated: "Arthur Christmas"
Best Costume Design: "Midnight in Paris"
Best Make-Up: "J. Edgar" (yikes, almost made my worst movie list)
Best Art Direction: "Hugo"
Best Special Effects: "Rise of the Planet of the Apes"

The Worst Movies of the Year

"Sucker Punch": Loud, obnoxious, and incomprehensible does not make a good film. Zach Snyder’s bombast needs to be kept under control or he'll keep turning in turkeys like this convoluted mess. It's a misfire where alleged female empowerment never felt so crudely debasing.

"Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy": Nearly put me to sleep. The biggest complaint I read was that it’s confusing and tough to keep track of exactly what's going on. The big problem for me was boredom. I fear "Smiley's People."

"A Dangerous Method": zzzzzzzzzz . . . this one did put me and my companion to sleep a couple times. Keira Knightley is gravely miscast, a truly mortifying performance from the bizarre get-go which gives way to unintentional humor. As a big David Cronenberg fan, hurts to say it’s the kind of movie that high-brow imbeciles will embrace in a feeble attempt to impress others by their own shallow intellectuality, trying to be so cool. I like philosophy and psychology, and I hated this. Cronenberg's worst movie since "M. Butterfly."

"The Hangover Part 2": A shell of the first one, great box office will surely lead to a third. I doubt any sane woman would overlook her fiance having sex with a transsexual right before their wedding day. Oops, did I spoil it?

"The Change-Up": Brave performance by Leslie Mann. Her acting is made majestic by the continual disrobing.

"Bridesmaids": At least I know I’m not the only one that was disappointed after fatuous publicity. I have yet to climb onto the Kristen Wiig bus, doubt I ever will. For me, Melissa McCarthy was the movie's one bright spot.

"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows- Part 2": Thank God this is finally over, and this entry didn’t deliver in the way the hype machine promised. The series kind of went awry for me after the magical "Prisoner of Azkaban."
And the very worst, maybe ever . . .
"Bucky Larson- Born to be a Star": In my humble opinion, the TV spots were much better, and a lot funnier, than the moronic and mentally offensive final product. Probably sat on the shelf for a while. Although my view on the commercials stray greatly from the nearly common belief held by many that it was the most annoying ad campaign ever conceived, I admit heavy bias. My boy Peter Dante should've been in the movie more, as you can tell here:

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dugout Club And Other Observations

Let's start with the spectacular scenery from an awesome suite at Mandalay Bay!
I also captured an absolutely breathtaking view from the balcony at Mix Lounge, a quality capper to any glorious Las Vegas night.
Now, seriously, what's the first thought that comes to mind when you see this (and for extra points, it can't contain the word douche)?
I wonder if the honorable Frederic Prinz von Anhalt lives on Dicks.
I saw L.A. "legend" Angelyne at Pavillions, looking exhaustively through the cantaloupes and watermelons. I took a picture of her flashy ride out front.
Her star will never fade away. Sylvester Cunningham has always been a big fan of her modestly voluptuous billboards, which I don't see around town anymore. Sylvester has recently vested a lot of interest in our friendship by trying to ostensibly turn me into a Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fan, a true fanatic like himself. He gave me a hat.
Here's a picture of Sylvester with his ghost friend.
Sickening enough to think there are ghosts, more sickening is the Domino's Pizza I had delivered to Scarlett's pad. It was an absolute embarrassment. What I saw when I opened the box was merely an abomination in apathetic production and poor construction. It looked like someone barfed on one side and pooped on the other.
"Tell us how we did." What the hell is that? I would've waited longer and paid more for a pie that didn't make me and my girl retch. What a disgusting, appalling excuse for a pizza, certainly not something to be proud of. Freshest ingredients, whatever, that came out of a faulty conveyor belt or worse. Pepe's hands weren't touching it according to the Domino's Pizza Tracker. Nice going Domino's, thanks for ruining my pizza. "Help us get better?" Maybe try to make a real pizza next time, stop hiring people in need of a serious Lasik overhaul. I'm really not an angry person, partially because I have an new friend, Penelope Ann Killer, Penny for short.
She's the cutest Pembroke Welsh corgi puppy west of the Mississippi, and this bitch loves taking walks on the beach.
It pains me intensely to look at her. She's the coolest triumph in Scarlett's history, other than winning "Best Costume" on Halloween at Del's Saloon.
Unicorns and glitter, no bugs in the teeth! I firmly believe that Flo, the iconic Progressive Insurance girl, is everyone's favorite TV commercial character, and Scarlett happens to be my favorite person. The two combined are unstoppable! Doesn't happen to me all the time. The tramps who dressed up as sluts for Halloween got to eat their own hearts out on the power of insurance. And we're walking . . . and we're walking . . .
I recently dressed up like it was Halloween when I went to see House of Pain at the House of Blues.
Robert Davi gave me props on the hat when I got on his elevator to the Foundation Room. He's in my all-time favorite Christmas movie, "Die Hard," and played the James Bond villain Sanchez in "Licence To Kill."
Like me, he's a big Los Angeles Dodgers fan who absolutely despises the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. As proof of my borderline religious love of sorts, here's a wonderful montage of pictures from the Dugout Club seats I've been frequently spotted at.

Never gets old, and to provide an example of how spoiled I've become, when friends call with tickets I have to ask where the seats are before committing. I've sadly declined all offers. Can't sleep on the luxurious luxury box either, as long as they keep bringing in the overpriced six-packs of Heineken at a steady clip.
They usually do. Aside from choice seating, the best thing about Dugout Club is the food. During most day games, the coolest pony-tailed omelette chef prepares the incredible, dare I say best, omelette I've ever had, the "Everything."
Wayne agrees, and it's convenient that you can eat at the seats. The amazing Philly cheese steak in-seat special often echoes in mind whenever thoughts of culinary grandeur float around in my brain. Few examples of yumminess compare to the pho bar.
Actually, there's a long list of Dugout Club faves. When you eat a lot, like I do, you need the option of all-you-can-eat Dodger Dogs with chili, root beer floats, with a varying menu I've experienced that includes carved ribe-eye, Santa Maria tri-tip roast, BBQ beef brisket, brown sugar and mustard crusted prime rib, garlic studded sirloin, citrus roasted/maple glazed turkey, chipotle crusted pork, seared rockfish with mango salsa, herb roasted lamb, Greek sliders, Buffalo sliders, Vindaloo sliders, crispy baked basa sandwiches, Cuban tortas, gyros, brats, picnic basket chicken, apple smoked tubesteaks, chorizo, Kung Pao chicken, jerk chicken, BBQ oyster shooters, seafood stew (with shrimp, scallops, muscles, clams, salmon), teriyaki salmon skewers, clam bake, bahn mi, spinach-artichoke mac-n-cheese, sweet potato fries, hot wings, chicken strips, loaded nachos, taco bar, baked potato bar, crepe bar, waffle bar, and ice cream sandwiches with top notch chocolate chip or oatmeal cookie. Had the salad once. Think the other L.A. team (in name only by questionable circumstance) has anything that could remotely touch the brilliance of Dugout Club? I love the Dodgers! The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim can shove it. No offense to Sylvester, I understand that nobody's perfect. But I like Orange County a lot, so this is the tentative site of my future home in Newport Beach.
And when I'm there, late at night, I'll continue dancing in the pale moonlight.