Ridiculous DVDs

Ridiculous DVDs

Were you to walk into the living room of my apartment, it’s likely that one of the first things to draw your eye would be the massive, seven-foot-tall DVD shelf.  I’ve always been vaguely uncomfortable with it.  Having that many DVDs on display and out in the open like that has always seemed a bit tacky.  Besides, as we all get more comfortable with digital media and hard copies of things become sort of unnecessary, having as large of a DVD library as my wife and I do is almost embarrassing.

Were you to actually approach the shelf, however, things would really start to get embarrassing for me.  Impulse purchases and rash decisions abound.  There is nearly as much chaff as there is wheat.  Both my wife Johanna and I own movies that not only are we not likely to watch again, we didn’t even really like them the first time.

Below is a list of sixteen that struck me as particularly ridiculous.  These aren’t necessarily the worst movies we own; a couple of these are actually pretty good.  But, for one reason or another, none of these films deserves a place in our DVD collection.  Most of them don’t belong in the DVD library of anyone who wasn’t directly involved in their production.

16) Coyote Ugly

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I almost cut this out of the list so that I would have an even fifteen.  I mean, even without having seen this I know that it’s a terrible movie.  But if being terrible were the only consideration, this would be a much longer list; inclusion here requires a DVD to be particularly useless.  Johanna expressed surprise, however, when I went to put it back on the shelf, saying that this was the movie she was most embarrassed to own.  That was enough to re-earn it a spot.

15) Patriot Games/Clear and Present Danger

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OK, so these aren’t terrible movies.  I mean, as far as action movies go, they’re a little bit quaint by today’s standards, but that’s still Harrison Ford and not Steven Seagal on the cover there.  But the question remains, what would possibly compel me to buy one of these on DVD, let alone BOTH?  And I can guarantee that these were separate purchases and not some discount two-pack.  I decided, on two individual occasions, that I needed to purchase a Jack Ryan movie on DVD.  And, both times, Harrison Ford’s Jack Ryan.  Not Alec Baldwin’s Jack Ryan.  Not Ben Affleck’s Jack Ryan.  What was my motivation?  I’ve never even read a Tom Clancy novel!

14) Papillon

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The first half of this movie is actually kind of great!  The second half just keeps going and going and going and is a mess.  But quality isn’t really the issue here.  Why do we own this?  I’m kind of surprised this is even available on DVD.  How many of you have even heard of this movie?

Actually, the more I think about it, the more I’m glad we have this.  How many copies of this can their even be in circulation?  I’m guessing no more than 500.  I now consider myself a part of a very exclusive Papillon club.

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Songs, 2010

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I enjoyed making my list of favorite albums of the year more than this list, because it’s easier to think of things to say about an entire album than it is a single song, but this list is probably more appropriate for the times in which we live.  It also allowed me to include some stuff that couldn’t make the albums list because it is from an EP or an otherwise unspectacular album.

A few notes: If the song was released as a single, I generally used the single’s release date, if only to get some great songs from albums released in 2009 on the list (notably the two Florence + the Machine songs near the top).  Also, sorry that this takes a minute to load; I think I’m going to have to start breaking up these video-heavy entries up into multiple parts.  As always, this is not a list of the best songs of the year, which I don’t necessarily feel qualified to write, and rather just a list of my favorites.

Remind to listen to some more hip hop in 2011.  All that really made the list here is Kanye, and that doesn’t even completely sound like what I think of as hip hop anymore.  I miss it.

40) MNDR – “I Go Away”

As I’ve said before, I’m very charmed by MNDR, even though normally someone with as many affectations as she obviously has would drive me crazy.  OK, by “many affectations” I really just mean her crazy, unnecessary glasses.  That’s pretty much all I know about her.  Also, yes, I know it’s technically a duo, but c’mon, you know what I mean.  Don’t be that person.

39) Active Child – “When Your Love Is Safe”

I was introduced to this band and several others on this list by this great post over at Stereogum, so props to them.  This song sounds like it could have been an outtake from that Holland album Beirut put out under the name Realpeople.  You know, falsetto vocals on top of pretty electronic music.  Although, in the video below it isn’t electronic.

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Movies, 2010

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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.

10) MacGruber

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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.

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Video Games, 2010

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What a great year for video games!  The top two here are up there with my favorite games of all-time, and there isn’t really any filler in the rest of the list.  The best part about the games this year has been the diversity.  I’ve complained in the past (notably in my list of my favorite games of the last decade) about video game developers’ seeming inability to expand beyond the typical sci-fi/fantasy/crime/WWII genres, but this list bounces from modern-day Seattle to Hogwarts, from Renaissance Italy to the Old West.

As always, this is not a list of the best video games of the year, it is a list of my favorites.  I don’t play everything that comes out, obviously.  I don’t play a ton of sports games, and I play barely any first-person shooters, which explains the absence of both Call of Duty: Black Ops and Halo: Reach.  I love third-person open-world games, as evidenced by my top five here.   So read this list through that filter.  Let’s get started!

10) Heavy Rain (PS3, February 23)

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Sometimes I don’t finish a game because I lose interest.  Sometimes I don’t finish a game because the last boss or battle or mission or whatever is frustratingly hard and I give up.  And then sometimes I don’t finish because I try to download a mandatory PS3 firmware update and Sony bricks my machine and I lose my save data when I send my system in to them for repairs.  That’s what happened with Heavy Rain.  This is a game that takes a lot of time to really get going, and the control system (and the mundane tasks it controls, like brushing your character’s teeth) can be a bit boring.  But I do want to know how it ends, so I’ll likely return to it sometime in the near future.  That’s enough to earn it a spot in my top ten, I suppose.

I originally picked it up because I’d read that women were enjoying it more than the average video game, both because of the more intuitive controls and the more “grown-up” subject matter.  Knowing her love of mystery novels, I thought Johanna might want to give it a try.  I just played the above trailer on my computer and, hearing it, she asked what it was.  When I told her it was Heavy Rain she said, “Here I was thinking it was a movie I might want to see.”  Maybe she should give it a shot.

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Albums, 2010

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This was a really fun, interesting year in music, which is good because it was also a year in which I was particularly interested in listening to some new albums.  I reached a breaking point with all of my old playlists and favorite artists and decided to dedicate myself to searching out a lot of new stuff this year, and I wasn’t disappointed.  To be fair, there were a few great new albums from my old favorite artists as well.

As always, this is not a list of the best albums of the year, but a list of my favorites.  Although, to be honest, I’ve listened to most of the stuff that is showing up on other best of 2010 lists, and I feel pretty good about this.

15) Sufjan StevensThe Age of Adz (October 12th)

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It would be wrong to say that I’m disappointed in this album; I actually like it quite a bit when I sit down and listen to it.  The problem is that I rarely put it on.  It was a pretty crowded year of music for me, and for some reason I’m always in the mood to listen to something else.  For now it just barely makes the list, but I suspect that it when I get some more reps in it might climb.

14) Beach Fossils – Beach Fossils (May 25th)

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Man, a lot of bands sounded like this band this year.  Or this band sounded like a lot of bands.  Whichever it is, this is definitely a good sampling of 2010 in sonic form.  Beach Fossils stand out from the pack a bit, though; they’re slightly catchier than similar-sounding groups, and the guitar lines here are great.  The guitar parts  sound a little like Johnny Marr from the Smiths, except slower and hazier.

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Books, 2010

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There were quite a few books that I liked a lot this year, and I actually still have a stack that I haven’t gotten around to yet, including At Home by Bill Bryson, Salvation City by Sigred Nunez, and Bound by Antonya Nelson, that I suspect would have been nice additions to this list had I read them.

A few notes: This is, as always, not a list of the best books of the year, but of my favorites.  Obviously I haven’t read enough of the books published this year for this list to be anything approaching authoritative.  Also, the list only includes new books, although I believe two of them were published originally in 2009.  But whatever, I didn’t stumble across them until the paperbacks came out this year, and it’s my list.  Here we go:

8 ) Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

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I swear, when I first heard about the Hunger Games trilogy, all I knew about it was that it was a series of young adult novels aimed primarily at girls, and I thought it had something to do with eating disorders.  I’m not even kidding.  It turns out I was wrong.

My wife read these all at once when the third volume was released in August and enjoyed them enough to encourage me to give them a chance when I felt  like reading something a bit escapist, assuming novels set in a future dystopia can be used as an escape.  I really enjoyed the first novel, The Hunger Games, but hesitated about continuing the series; it seemed like the aspects of the first book that made it thrilling and hard to put down would be difficult to replicate.  Those of you who have read it will likely know what I mean.  The story did lose a bit of momentum in the second book, Catching Fire, but things pick up again nicely in Mockingjay.

The books are of course being adapted into movies, supposedly with a PG-13 rating.  If the movies hew closely to the books, that will be a pretty hard PG-13.  This story is almost surprisingly violent at times and relatively dark throughout.

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Christmas Movies

Christmas Movies

I was going to start this entry by saying, “I’m a big fan of Christmas,” but that’s ridiculous.  Everyone is a big fan of Christmas!  If you don’t have a religious or cultural reason to not like Christmas and you still don’t like it, get over yourself.  Actually, even if you have a religious or cultural reason, you should probably get over yourself, at least a little bit.

I didn’t include any made-for-TV movies here, so there’s no Grinch or Charlie Brown.  I wanted to include a Harry Potter movie, because a lot of those have really nice Christmas moments, but those aren’t really Christmas movies, obviously.  I also wanted to include Jingle All The Way, not because it’s a good movie, but because Johanna and I watched it one time and at one point Sinbad runs into a person dressed as a Christmas present in a parade and yells “Get outta my way, box!” and we literally still say that to each other, like, on the reg.

As always, the standard disclaimer: these are my favorites, not necessarily the best.

5) The Family Stone (2005)

I’m pretty sure this movie featured the most purposefully misleading advertising campaign for a movie ever.  Look at this poster:

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Now watch this trailer:

Lighthearted, slapstick family comedy, right?  This was the perfect movie to go see on Christmas Day with my mother, who was undergoing treatment for breast cancer at the time.  I mean, if a major part of the movie was that the matriarch of the family has breast cancer that has metastasized and she’s probably going to die, that would have been alluded to in at least one of the trailers, surely.

Nope.  By the end of the film I was barely keeping it together and my mom was a mess.  Despite this, or maybe because of it, we both loved it.  I have not watched it since, because every time I mention it Johanna gets really worried that I’m going to get bummed out.  Lighten up, Johanna!

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Movies, 1990-1999

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The 1990s are both overrated and underrated when it comes to movies.  The highs may not have been all that high, but the lows weren’t as bad as the eighties and the middles were solid.  It was a workmanlike decade in film, and there’s nothing wrong with that, really.  The one negative thing I would say about a lot of the movies of the era was that even the independent films feel like their corners have been rounded off a bit.  Everything feels really commercial, which is not always bad, but can be a little bit sad.

Just as with my list of favorite songs of the nineties, I feel like I must be forgetting some candidates here.  I also fully admit that there are quite a few critically acclaimed movies from the nineties that I’ve never watched; for instance, I haven’t seen four of the ten Best Picture Academy Award winners from the decade.  For some reason, even though I say over and over that these lists are of my favorites, and not necessarily the best, I still feel the need to qualify everything.  Anyway, let’s get started.  Here they are, my twenty five favorite movies of the 1990s:

25) Romeo + Juliet (1996)

I can’t really sit through this entire movie anymore.  I need someone to edit it down for me and just cut out the 45 or so minutes of meaningful glances and mournful stares.  But I love the concept and the aesthetic of it, and the opening sequence is one of my favorites ever.  Unfortunately I can’t find just that bit on YouTube, so I’m posting this trailer (which actually makes the movie look much worse than it is) instead.

24) Clerks (1994)

Kevin Smith is kind of like the Dave Matthews of directors.  Clerks and Under the Table and Dreaming both came pretty much out of nowhere in 1994, and were met with commercial and critical success.  Both Smith and Matthews were praised initially (and rightly so) for their unique style.  Both kept doing pretty much the same thing, and slowly lost fans, through fatigue and a drop in quality of the product they were producing, and eventually became kind of the epitome of uncool in their respective fields.  Not people that were terrible at what they did, but people of whom it was embarrassing to be a fan.  And yet both maintain, to this day, a core group of hardcore fans that don’t really seem to realize that nobody else cares anymore.

Anyway, I LOVED this movie when I first saw it on VHS.  Not surprisingly, I was around 13 at the time.  I was also a fan of Mallrats, and loved Chasing Amy when it came out.  I thought that Jason Lee was the second coming of Jimmy Stewart.  Have I ever considered buying any of these on DVD?  No.  Let’s leave them locked up in the Nineties Time Capsule.

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Saturday Night Live Cast Members

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Saturday Night Live is one of my favorite shows of all time, and has become sort of a weekly touchstone for me.  During the writers’ strike of 07-08, there were other shows that were better, but SNL is probably the one I missed the most.

I’m also of the (seemingly rare) opinion that it’s better than it’s ever been.  I think the recent decade was by far the strongest era for the show.  People love to talk about how it isn’t as good as it used to be, but I think this is just a case of selective memory.  It’s easy to talk about how great the original cast was or how hilarious the early nineties were when you are only remembering your seven or eight favorite sketches.  Go back and watch the full episodes sometime and let me know what you think.

So, a few caveats before we begin.  I have seen a lot of SNL, from every era, but I don’t claim to have seen, or to remember, every single sketch they’ve ever done.  I’m particularly weak in the mid-1980s.  Also, as I’ve said, the last decade has been my favorite, and it might seem like my list is weighted a little too much towards these cast members.  But that’s why I say these are my favorites, and not the best.  Lastly, this is not a complete list, but I tried to include any cast member who had any real impact on my enjoyment of the show over the years, for better or worse.  Apologies to Ellen Cleghorne, Jerry Minor, and Nora Dunn.  I remember all of you, but I don’t have much to say about you.

So, that said, let’s get started.  Here they are, my sixty favorite Saturday Night Live cast members of all time.

60) Molly Shannon (1995 – 2001)

Oh, late-90s SNL.  Other than Will Ferrell, it was all so terrible.  I always particularly disliked Molly Shannon.  All of her characters were sort of the same, and she didn’t seem talented so much as loud.

59) Victoria Jackson (1986 – 1992)

I thought I remembered hearing something about how Victoria Jackson was a crazy person now, and a quick trip to her Wikipedia page revealed that she’s a Tea Partier.  Like a go on Fox News and say Obama is aspiring to be Fidel Castro Tea Partier.  Here’s another illuminating bit of information from Wikipedia: “Raised by devout Christian parents in a home without a television, she was trained in gymnastics by her father from ages 5 to 18.”  Hmm.

Anyway, I don’t remember anything she did being particularly funny, and her high-pitched voice is annoying.  Add that to “crazy” and she winds up at number 59.

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Beatles Songs

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I hesitate to call the Beatles my favorite band.  It feels like a bit of a cop-out, and there are a lot of modern bands that I’m much more passionate about.  But I can’t deny that I love them, and occasionally get obsessed with them, as I did after the release of the remastered CDs and The Beatles: Rock Band last September.  They are sort of the Platonic ideal of the rock and roll group, so they seemed like the most appropriate choice of band for a favorite song list.

In addition to the album and the year of release, I’ve also included the name of the Beatle to whom the song is most often attributed in an attempt to finally figure out who is my favorite Beatle.  As I suspected, it appears to be Paul.  I also suspect that I’ve really shortchanged George, so much so that I think I might give him his own list later on.  Past Masters singles are listed with the year of the single’s release.

35) “I Saw Her Standing There” (Please Please Me, 1963, McCartney)

For a long time I didn’t really have any interest in the early stuff.  It’s not that I thought it was, bad; it just didn’t sound like the same band to me.  My introduction to the Beatles was my dad’s copy of Abbey Road, and I moved backwards from there.  This early stuff just didn’t resonate.  I’ve come around, though, at least with the standout songs.  This is head and shoulders above the other half of the single, “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and has a lot more bite than I used to give it credit for.

Update: Actually, I just went back and listened to “I Want to Hold Your Hand,” and while I wouldn’t describe it has having bite, it’s still pretty awesome.

34) “Yes It Is” (Past Masters, Vol. 1, 1965, Lennon)

This is from 1965 but sounds like it could be off of Please Please Me.  I first came across a version of this song on the second of the Anthology collections, and have always loved the vocal harmonies.  This seems like a slick, slowed-down version of the song that Rivers Cuomo always used to try to write.  Before he completely lost it.

This is one of Lennon’s least favorite songs that he wrote, which doesn’t surprise me.  He and I have very different opinions about which of his songs are the best.

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