I had such big plans for my Christmas in Boston. We were going to see so many movies! One every other day, or maybe even more than that! I was going to see True Grit, Black Swan, The Fighter, The King’s Speech, all the movies that aren’t yet playing in Chapel Hill. I was going to really beef up this list and make up for the fact that I didn’t make it to the theater much this year.
Alas, time flew and whatnot, and none of this happened. I did have a chance to watch the movie I have at number five below, so at least I got to round the list off with ten. Because, honestly, I didn’t see anything else that really came close to warranting a spot here. As it is, this is sort of a weak list. MacGruber made my top ten, for Christ’s sake. Anyway, let’s start things off by watching this montage of scenes from the many, many movies I did not see this year.
Now let’s move on to the very few movies that I actually did see. As always, this is not a list of the best movies of the year, since I really don’t see that many movies and don’t feel qualified to write that. This is just a list of my favorites.
Like Hot Fuzz, this is a satire of action movies that pretends to be an homage to action movies. I enjoyed Hot Fuzz, but I think this was quite a bit funnier. It’s basically just a long series of gags, so it sort of is just the extended SNL sketch that its critics accuse it of being, but I thought the gags themselves were really pretty hilarious.
This was my dog’s least favorite movie of the year. He normally completely ignores the television, but he lost it during the sex scene in this movie and would not stop barking at Will Forte’s over-the-top grunting.
9) Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work
Very well crafted, and Joan Rivers turns out to be a fascinating subject, but it lacked structure and jumped around a bit abruptly. I will say that watching this elicited a lot of sympathy from me for Rivers; we seem to share a crippling fear of both aging and irrelevance. Unfortunately for her, she’s old. Unfortunately for me, I’m irrelevant.
I loved Forgetting Sarah Marshall (number 25 of my list of favorites movies from 2000 to 2009) and thought Russell Brand’s performance was great, but when I heard about this movie I wasn’t particularly optimistic. It seemed like it might be too thin of a character/premise to carry an entire feature. And, in the end, it sort of was. But they almost pulled it off.
I was actually shocked by how much I was laughing for the majority of this movie. I’m a fan of Russell Brand in general, and he is very good here and brings a lot of heart to what could have been a very unlikeable character. Jonah Hill is above average and Diddy is surprisingly fun in a surprisingly large role. It didn’t seem like anyone knew how to end the movie, though, and once the characters get to Los Angeles things get sort of weird before just getting kind of boring. The best thing I can say about it is that it exceeded my expectations.
7) Toy Story 3
With both this and The Town below I feel like I’m unnecessarily criticizing a movie that I enjoyed quite a bit. It’s on the list, so I obviously liked it, but there were specific reasons that I didn’t like it more. I should admit up front that I’ve never been a huge fan of the Toy Story franchise, but even with that in mind I can’t believe the universal acclaim and praise that met this film. In my opinion it is by far the worst Pixar movie since Cars in 2006, and it’s closer in quality to that movie than it is to the outstanding trio of Ratatouille, WALL-E, and Up.
My favorite thing about the previous three movies from Pixar was how effortlessly they managed to elicit particular emotions while I watched them. Up, in particular, was emotionally pitch perfect. Toy Story 3 felt a bit manipulative; they just would not stop pushing the manufactured nostalgia.
6) The Town
Let’s pretend, for a brief moment, that we are a team of bank robbers operating in the Boston metropolitan area. We’ve got our outlandish disguises. We have our getaway Dodge Caravan. All we need is a target. What bank shall we rob?
Well, we should probably start by making a list of places we absolutely should not rob. You know, areas where the police presence and media profile is so high that we would NEVER get away with it. Like, if someone made a movie about us robbing a bank in those places, audience members watching the movie would be groaning and rolling their eyes. Here’s my list, tell me what you think:
1) Harvard Square
2) The North End
3) Fenway Park
OK, fellow robbers, let’s pick a bank in literally any other part of Boston to rob.
Seriously, though, I thought this movie was a lot of fun, and enjoyed it enough that I feel bad making fun of it, but all I could do after watching it was pick it apart. It seemed like, with just a few small-ish changes, this could have been a much better movie.
Closing note: apparently I’m really attracted to trashy girls with Boston accents. I had absolutely no interest in Blake Lively prior to seeing this, and now I can’t see her on a magazine without thinking about how pretty she is.
This is clearly a fake documentary, right? I mean, why are we still discussing it? I know there are surely kernels of truth here and there, and Banksy is able to do things like design a cover for a Madonna album and then attribute it to Mr. Brainwash and it then becomes sort of a real thing, I guess. But let’s not pretend this is at all just a straight documentary.
Even if it is completely fictitious, however, I thoroughly enjoyed it; it held my attention throughout even though I watched it on a 13” computer screen that was five or so feet away from me. The only real complaint I had was that the supposed footage from Thierry Guetta’s Life Remote Control was way over the top and seemed to put the entire movie squarely in the realm of fake.
4) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1
I like all of the Harry Potter movies, but I started to particularly enjoy them with the fourth installment. The series really found its voice under directors Mike Newell and David Yates, and I’ve enjoyed the consistent tone and aesthetic. The aesthetic has been so consistent, as a matter of fact, that while I really enjoyed the animated Beedle the Bard segment, I found it a bit jarring.
I also mostly approve of what the screenplays have chosen to include and exclude from the novels, with only a few quibbles. It’s all a bit workmanlike, but these movies could have been terrible. In a lot of ways I think the quality of the source material was almost an obstacle to overcome in adaptation.
I think my favorite part of this movie was the portrayal of Dobby the house-elf. I mostly disliked the house-elf stories in the books, and while I thought the movies used Dobby and Kreacher pretty well previously, I was not prepared to care about Dobby as much as I did in this movie. I was more moved by his death than I was by Dumbledore’s.
While I’m here I want to offer congratulations on a job well done to the casting agents for these movies. The supporting cast is consistently terrific, particularly Alan Rickman as Severus Snape, but the real miracle is the kids. They’ve all aged well and are very competent actors, for the most part, which is incredibly surprising considering they’re in their very early twenties and were cast over a decade ago.
3) 127 Hours
This movie managed to be both really great and also by far the most unpleasant moviegoing experience of my entire life. They should have called it 127 Reasons Jared Could Never Be A Doctor.
I had been dreading seeing it since I’d first heard about it, and the early reports of people passing out while watching didn’t help. The climactic arm-cutting-off scene was excruciating, but the hour or so leading up to it was almost worse. I was really relieved when it was over. I can report, however, that I did manage to keep my eyes open the whole time. I thought that if Aron Ralston could sever his own arm with a blunt multi-tool, I should be able to watch a fictional depiction of said severing without turning away.
I think this is a better movie than Slumdog Millionaire. I love Danny Boyle, but his movies sometimes feel like a little too much to me, a little too over-thought and over-produced. When the subject is one man stuck in the desert, it’s not only difficult to do too much, fancy flourishes are almost welcome.
I considered Inception for the top spot on this list. It was probably the hardest decision I made for my year-end lists other than choosing between my two favorite albums. In the end I decided that the next movie made more of an impact on me, but seeing Inception was probably the most fun I had watching a movie this year, and I was pretty excited when I left the theater.
I was surprised with the complaints I read and heard about the movie being slow; I thought the pacing was outstanding. I might be wrong, but I sort of suspect that one person thought it would be funny to start making jokes about the movie spending too long on the hallway fight scene, and people just started parroting it, because I heard that everywhere. I also heard some complaints about the logic of the movie, which seemed like it was clearly drawn; to me, at least, everything felt tight as a drum.
Inception also produced one of my favorite communal moviegoing experiences in a long time. At the end of the movie, as the screen went black on a close-up of the top still spinning, everyone in the theater let out a communal groan; not a groan of disappointment, but the groan of a fully-engaged audience that wanted to know more.
I had been looking forward to this movie since April 27th, apparently:
So yeah, I was excited. As the release date got closer and I heard more about it I began to worry that it would be, at best, an anti-Zuckerberg hatchet job, and, at worst, a waste-of-time piece of fiction. It turned out that I was wrong to worry, partially because if anything Mark Zuckerberg is the hero of this move, but mostly because the facts don’t matter. This would be a great film even if it were complete fiction.
Leading up the release of this movie I was surprised they were playing up the Aaron Sorkin pedigree so much. I mean, who cares about Aaron Sorkin in 2010, really? He blew up The West Wing on his way out the door, and then he moved on to Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip, which was a self-important, schlocky disaster. Now that I’ve seen it I realize that if I had read the script I would have wanted to tout his connection to it, too. This was more than a return to form for Sorkin; this is the best dialogue he’s ever written. The characters sound like no one you’ve ever heard (because no one actually talks like this) but that doesn’t mean it’s not exhilarating to listen to.
I’ll close out the year in movies by saying for what I think is the third time in this blog (and probably the last) that whoever edited the trailers for this movie, and particularly whoever chose the music, deserves a raise.