And thus ends another year and now comes the time when every critic in the world is compiling their annual best of lists. Every Joe with an internet connection is arming himself with a stock array of adverbs that only Stephanie Meyer could love and taking to their blogs to make authoritative claims on the best films of the year. And now that there are seeming(ly) hundreds of thousands of internet critics that means there are now hundreds of thousands of best/worst of lists.
Reading these has become something akin to crack cocaine, or playing Call of Duty Black Ops 2
online. It's become a compulsive urge, clicking through all of these lists at work. But just like crack and Black Ops 2
, it's not really enjoyable. The repetition between all of these redundant lists becomes numbing, maybe even hypnotic. After an or two of browsing through the big films sites, patterns begin to emerge and one can't help but think that the whole blog-o-sphere may be unintentionally conditioning, nay, brainwashing the film geek populace into accepting their compliance with what's good and what's hip in contemporary cinema.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Zero Dark Thirty
, Holy Motors
, Django Unchained
, and if you like horror, Cabin in the Woods
Sure, every critic has a few distinctive, meticulously thought out choices placed within their lists in a desperate attempt to differentiate themselves from others. Some are obscure, striving towards elitism by listing films that weren't released domestically or possibly at all. I suspect some are listing films made by friends that played one or two smaller festivals that they're trying to help out with a little good PR. Some list films that will likely never see any legitimate release. I for one would like to nominate my home video of my Christmas Eve dinner with my Father. It's like a Joe Swanberg film except it has drama and I don't masturbate in the shower at the end. Some critics flirt with intentional meta irony; maybe listing That's My Boy
as an under appreciated comedy that subverts crude frat boy humor into a surreal abstraction ala Freddy Got Fingered
. I'd be tempted to list the 3 Stooges
as one of the year's most sincere, earnestly funny slapstick comedies.
If you want to be respected within the film criticism community, it's a given you'll be listing Holy Motors
, because, well, you have to right? Make fun of Holy Motors
in front of any well esteemed film buff and expect some guffaws. It's this year's Tree of Life
and just like Malick's previous flick, I admired and respected Holy Motors
far more than I actively enjoyed it. I would suggest the only reason behind the hyperbolic acclaim being vomited out by every critic is because we simply don't see films with wide releases like this anymore. Twenty years ago, I suspect that Holy Motors
would have been panned. It's dangerous and experimental by today's standards, but rather quaint when held alongside something such as Sweet Movie
or El Topo
I would still include Holy Motors
on a best of list as it's been the film most fun to discuss amongst friends for nearly 3 months now.
I could preach to you about the films you were supposed to have seen or implore to you the titles you ought to be adding to your Netflix instant queues or Piratebay searches (let's be fucking honest here shall we?), but I'm feeling more like the drunk cynic stumbling down the street on his way home after last call who's making a game out of pissing on all of the really expensive cars on the street. And since I essentially am the drunk cynic who enjoys pissing on really expensive cars when I'm stumbling home, I'm going to take a moment to spit through my teeth and tell you about all the time I wasted watching films you probably liked. SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED
Watching this film is like getting a really shitty blowjob from a really shitty indifferent girlfriend. I guess that means it's like getting a blowjob from any character that lead star, Aubrey Plaza has played thus far in her career. It's dry because she thinks spitting is gross, it's a bit too rough with the teeth, and while there are brief and fleeting moments of pleasure, you spend most of the time wondering if you should tell her to stop, that it's just not worth it. But you're afraid you'll hurt her feelings if you tell her she's pathetically bad at fellatio. She's going out of her way to do something nice for you, and even though her heart is obviously not in it, you want to make sure you show some appreciation since maybe it'll be reason for her to get better at it. But then again, you realize, that she'll never actually like sucking your dick, and now you're both having a miserable time with something that was supposed to be good. And then she looks up at you giving you the same stink eye she gives you when you make an offensive joke in front of her girlfriends. She sighs and angrily commands you to cum or else she's just going to stop altogether, you're taking too damn long. And the more pressure she puts on you to finish up, the more you lose your libido, but it's too late. You'll get blue balls if you give up now. So you lie and tell her you have to pee and then you go to the bathroom where you finish yourself off while fantasizing about someone else and there's no pleasure in it. At that point, you know the relationship is pretty much doomed at some point even if you'll spend another 6 months playing this awful game.
That's exactly what watching this film is like.
This is contrived, hipster bullshit. I'm sorry, I'm tired of using the word hipster as an adjective to imply some form of criticism, it's lame, but dammit, I just can't fucking help it. How else do you describe this horse dong? As a quirky romantic comedy about mental illness, it's just offensive and distasteful in its forced cheeriness. Meanwhile, all of the characters are absolutely horrible human beings. There is no one to root for, there are some supremely icky and dark undertones and subplots that I think everyone involved were too unaware of to develop.
This is Special
directed as Eagle vs. Shark
or Little Miss Sunshine
. This is a Jody Hill film with out the self awareness. Ugh, I fucking hated Eagle vs Shark
. This film almost seems like a bad parody of twee American indies. There's nothing authentic or sincere here. It even inspired me to write a script that consists of nothing more than a string of scenes where characters dramatically confess traumatic experiences to potential suitors such as losing a past lover or family member to disease or being raped by an uncle. And then every scene ends with them accidentally shitting their pants. Fuck this film. Anyone who lists this in their top 10, I judge them as sheep in need of having their wool sheared. People who like this are people who I probably wouldn't want to drink with.HICK
When you go to film school, you spend four years watching the greatest, most important, and influential films ever made. It's no wonder that film students often graduate to make the tritest HPV carrying splooge out there. They've spent the past four years of their life having the best of the best shoved down their throats and are taught to emulate the masters. It's unfair really. The likelihood of any of these kids becoming the next Scorsese, Hitchcock, or Orson Welles is the same as winning the Powerball. I think that film schools should concentrate more time in showing their students the worst of the worse. In life, you learn through trial and error, and more often than not, the greatest skills you acquire come through failure. And if there was any film I've watched this year that miserably failed on every level on an almost academic and scholarly level, it's Hick
is a case study in everything you don't want to do in an indie drama. It's technically well accomplished, it's impressively shot, has a strong cast, and an interesting story. But everything about this, much like Safety Not Guaranteed
, feels forced. It's one of those films that wants to be daring and controversial, but in a manner that's safe and accessible to a wider audience. It plays with fiery danger before pulling its punches and dipping its toes in saccharine waters. Really, this is the only film ever that has one of the most perplexing happily ever after endings immediately after a 10 year was tied to a dirty motel bed and repeatedly raped for weeks. This is one of those very special misery fests that just keep heaping so much poop into a pile that you can't help but laugh. It's like watching a cow with spastic colon disease shit on a corpse for two hours while a clown dances nearby. It's horrible but also kind of absurd and naturally, you'll be inclined to laugh a lot. It's both slick and well produced yet completely and utterly inept. Really? You want to become a good filmmaker, study this stinker as a lesson on everything not to do. MOONRISE ENEMA
Oh, I'm sorry, I mean, Moonrise Kingdom
. Actually, I really enjoyed watching this, and then the next day, I thought about it more and it came to me that Wes Anderson movies are a lot like Mexican food. Rice, beans, chicken, and veggies ... theoretically, Mexican food ought to be healthy. You tell yourself that eating a burrito is more nutritious than eating BBQ, or a cheese steak, or carb heavy pasta, or whatever. And it's spicy, and a lot more exciting than a salad or turkey wrap. But after gorging on two pounds of it, you realize that you're only halfway through your burrito. Too much of a good thing is usually a bad thing, and then you get the shits, and it burns, and you spend the majority of the next morning squirting messy chunks of hot scolding lava out of your asshole. That's Moonrise Kingdom
It's pretty; it's clever, so fucking what? Yeah, I know every Halloween for the next five years every obnoxious and overly affectionate couple is going to dress up like the film's leads. Art school kids will watch this film and form their personalities around it. This is a film for unimaginative cool kids to watch and then congratulate themselves for being so alternative for loving it. I live in a fairly major city and I've rarely seen more than 15 people in attendance in any of the 50+ art house films I've seen this past year. But this fucking thing was sold out for nearly two weeks and played for 4 months. This is the one art film art school kids saw. This is the IKEA of American "independent" cinema. Yeah, I put independent in quotations because there's nothing independent about it. Man, I miss Bottle Rocket
I can only hope that Lena Dunham is some great Andy Kaufmanesque performance artist. I admire her courage in baring herself, in portraying herself in such a negative light, and going to some uncomfortably personal places in her work. Certainly, I can relate and identify. But ultimately she's a very shallow, super privileged rich girl from Manhattan who's lived an incredibly sheltered, spoiled life, and therefore, has nothing of interest to say. If you think her vapid narcissism is a positive voice for your generation, I weep for you.
If I'm a misogynist for hating her show and her New Yorker columns, I'll own that title with pride and wonder if I wouldn't be much happier going gay. I am hairy and go to the gym, I'd probably fare much better going that route than trying to flirt with anyone who legitimately likes Girls
as a great representation of contemporary urban culture.
But if this whole thing turns out as an act and Dunham's really at home laughing at everyone who idolizes her awful stories about awful people and feeling proud for tricking and manipulating mainstream culture, well, then I think I probably want to marry her.
She's only the co-writer on Nobody Walks
, but her art school self importance comes gleaming through. Oh, so, Nobody Walks
, a film about how hard it is to be rich, beautiful, successful, and married when you can't help but want to fuck other rich, beautiful, successful yet younger people. This is one of those character studies about assholes who live in a fucking vacuum, and really, my sympathy isn't with them. Please, no more dreary indies on the 1% please. This is a film that really, really wants to be deep and nuanced, but I kept hoping that a wild mountain bear would randomly enter the scene and maul the characters to death before eating them and then getting explosive diarrhea. ABC's OF DEATH
I think I just heard the hangman pull the lever on me. What the hell am I doing here? This was produced by my editor and nearly everyone I know on a personal level in the film scene is involved with this in some capacity....
Guys, I loved what you wanted to do, a horror anthology featuring short films by every influential genre filmmaker working today? That's fucking brilliant. Unfortunately, YouTube: The Movie
works as a mirror for genre film culture today and what it has to show us is not very pretty.
If you belong to the Alamo cult, it'll be fun guessing the director for each short based on its style before the title cards come up, but rather than exemplifying what's great about these storytellers (lol.yeah.right), everything becomes a head numbing example of their faults, namely, the lack of ambition and creativity. Sure, it's all really violent and some of it rather mean spirited. Everything is really fucking violent and over the top and intense now and it's wearing thin. I get it, we're the WTF generation but most of it is just plain lazy. Most of the amateur shorts submitted in the contest to be featured along with the auteurs were significantly better. And Ti West's short.... Fuck, Ti West, at only 1 minute, it was the single most cynical, offensive, unfunny jerk off one note joke I've seen all year. And although I'm glad Adam Wingard was able to make fun of his love for Christmas lights as production value and didn't spend his film quickly rack focusing on every inanimate object in the frame, it was just plain lazy, like, embarrassingly lazy.
I know, I keep using that word. But really, you're invited as one of the most revered genre filmmakers today to take part in some great big project with other supposedly great filmmakers from all over the world, and that's what you handed in? I keep hearing rumors that Noboru Iguchi actually directs real scat pornography on the side and after this and Zombie Ass
I'm beginning to believe it. It's like half the filmmakers who participated in this were just above doing it, but they'll sure as hell show up for the free booze and parties during its festival run. Not without a few truly inspired moments, in essence the jest of ABC's of Death
is that Simon Rumley owns everyone else.
I think I hear something... That's the sound of me never getting invited to a film festival ever again. ACT OF VALOR
It seemed like a lot of critics were afraid to really lay into this film since all of its stars are active duty marines. I guess, if you bash the film, you're disrespecting the men fighting for our freedom and all of that horseshit.
This is a two hour long Army propaganda commercial with a bunch of good ol' white boys killing a whole lotta tan men with little to no coherent plot to string any of it together. Everything about this film is disgusting.
Oh, you just like it for the expertly lensed action? I'm a nitpicking asshole for dissecting the politics of the film? Let's talk about the action, I felt like I was watching someone else play Call of Duty
for two hours. And ya know what; I'd rather play Call of Duty
than watch someone else play Call of Duty
. And remember what I said earlier, Call of Duty
is like crack, it's not actually enjoyable, and most likely really fucking bad for you. It's just a compulsive vice with very addictive attributes that makes war fun and cool. This movie is bad for your health. The Marines' acting is really funny though. I could have a field day recording a commentary for this.EXPENDABLES 2
I imagine that in between steroids and pushups, Stallone must spend all of his free time huddled in front of his desktop surfing film geek blogs studying us internet commentators like birds in the wild. I can just imagine the hulking Stallone sitting with his face 3 inches from the screen, picking at the keyboard keys with the two index fingers, one letter at a time technique. He must be spending who knows how many hours poring over the pages of AICN, thinking aloud "So this is what these kids want? They actually liked Cobra
? Over the Top
is hip now? People are nostalgic for Red Scorpion
? Hell, I can give them that."
I wrote earlier in the year that the nerds have won and we're all worse off for it, Expendables 2
is further proof of that. This isn't a film. It's not even a piece of entertainment. This is a hollow cash-in that's manipulating you with false nostalgia.
Remember renting all of those awful straight to video action films on VHS every weekend when you were 10? This film will bring back all those warm, fuzzy memories of getting your first erection while watching anonymous foreigners get shot in the face by bodybuilder euro trash actors posing as Americans. There's no attempt at story, and sure, while it's silly to look for such a thing in an action film, there has to be something to attach yourself to, some sense of suspense, or conflict, something to build palatable tension. None of that is present in this. I gave up on watching this halfway through and I don't really feel as though I missed out on anything. Am I bad critic for reviewing a film I didn't even watch all the way through? Meh. If a film is that boring and tedious that I give up on it, then that's my critique.
Much like Act of Valor
, the action is of the video game variety, only here, it's pushed over the top. It's all bad CGI mayhem that's loud and bombastic but weightless. Again, why should I watch this and not just play Xbox or something? TIM & ERIC's BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE
The novelty of the show wore out its welcome pretty quickly for me, and yeah, some of the hipper critics are praising their other film, The Comedy
, for its bleak misanthropy. I ended up giving up on both films.... That's a lie, I watched the second half of this on fast forward so I could lie and say that I've seen it.
Really, if you want to pay money to have a comedian kick you in the nuts and then laugh at you while you try to catch your breath and then you can brag to your buddies that it takes a certain intellectualism to find the humor in having your nuts kicked in, be my fucking guest. But since Tim and Eric are essentially the only two successful filmmakers to come out of Temple University's media program, I guess it's cool they get to do this rather than charge walk talkie batteries on a Shyamalan set or produce industrial training videos for medical supply companies. DREDD
It's in inconsistent 3D, Dredd never takes off his mask, and it's really really violent with lots of super low motion gore that will feel like is never ending if you're watching it high. Dredd
is this year's Scott Pilgrim
, a film that proves that internet critics actually don't have any sway whatsoever in influencing the mass populace's film choices.
To mostly everyone's shock, this thing finally came out after 2 years of delays and much publicized drama and professional controversy that spelled certain doom. And when everyone was expecting shit, it's somehow now being universally hailed as one of the best comic films to date...
I'm still shocked. I don't understand it at all. Sure, there's a lot of blood and stomach bile spraying out of the gunshot wounds, but it's all sooo blah. Blah villain, blah set design, blah dialogue, blah, blah, blah. And of course, the female psychic protagonist is treated to a distasteful exploitative music video rape fantasy. Oh, I understand that it's low budget, and it's all gritty and dark. Everything is dark now. But it lacks the satirical punch of the comics and the campy anything goes fun of the Stallone film. That's right, even with Rob Schneider and no helmet; Stallone's Dredd
is by far, the more of fun of the two. And maybe it was bad projection at my theater, but many of the darker scenes looked like they were shot on a 2nd generation I-phone. I mean, I have an HD projector at home that I bought on sale for $350. Why should I spent $15 to see something in the theater that looks like it's being streamed through YouTube? And if it was just my theater, and not your fancy one in NYC, Austin, or L.A., that's still a problem. Remember dependable old 35mm? Yeah....DARK KNIGHT RISES
I had a lot of fun writing a fake review with a ton of fake spoilers that some people actually believed. For a brief time, I thought I might have even been right with my false predictions. And now, I wish I were. As silly as my version of Dark Knight Rises
was, it would have been far more enjoyable then what we were stuck with. I'll agree with Harry Knowles for once in my life, Christopher Nolan turned Batman into a whiny emo twat. I think he must hate the character too. And did anyone else have to wonder if Batman isn't actually this story's antagonist? He's the fuckhead who builds the big bomb that is used against the city. He's the world's greatest detective and unwittingly hands the bomb over to the villain. And he's the hero? Every horrible thing that happens to Gotham is essentially his fault. Stupid, boring, film that just isn't fun to watch.BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
Oh man, I wanted to like this film soooo much. Jaw dropping Kubrickesque art and set design in an indie Sci Fi Film shot in some Greek kid's basement? This isn't some ultra violent homage to exploitation cinema or a movie about Williamsburg / Austenite kids coming to terms with being boring, insipid shits which means it's already unique amongst much of what I'm stuck watching. But all the weed in the world still won't make this surreal mood piece actually entertaining.
This thing just drips with stylistic brilliance which is a shame that it goes absolutely no where. It feels like the greatest film school lighting exercise ever crafted, this is the kid whose homework assignments intimidated everyone else. The film is a slow burn with agonizingly long extreme close up shots of its weird looking lead as he slowly whispers nonsensical monologues . Everyone speaks in a crawl, and even reaction shots drag on for nearly minutes at a time. For a while, I was hooked, thinking it was all building up to something, but it wasn't. Forty minutes in and the film became an endurance test. I'd rather be water boarded than be forced to sit through this in its entirety again. That said, I can wait to see what the director does next. RUST and BONE
Oh, I think a lot of weirdo amputee fetishists are going to re-appropriate some of the scenes from this and turn it into some kind of 4chan meme.
So... this film has taught me that the French can do overwrought Oscar bait melodrama that's just as self important as its American brethren. This is like Almodovar's Talk to Her
and Paddy Considine's terrific Tyrannosaur
filtered through a mucky Paul Haggis script. The violent bad guy from the wrong side of the tracks who's really a kind puppy dog at heart falls in love with the emotionally fucked up and now physically damaged hot girl and they help mend each others wounds with lots of fighting and fucking. The entire time I saw this in the theater I kept hearing Martin Landau's Bela Lugosi impersonation screaming "Pull the string, pull the string!"
Do I have to write about films that I liked this past year in no particular order? Fine.
1. Simon Killer
This film made me want to kill myself. There's nothing even remotely original to it, but at the same time, everything about it feels a bit too real and even without any graphic violence, does a commendable job of borrowing itself under your skin. Now, why you would want to submit yourself to that, I'm not entirely sure.
2. John Dies at the End
Probably the best book I've read in the last five years. The film is not the movie we needed, but the one we deserved. It's commendable given the budgetary restrictions. This is the best adaptation we could have been given and even with a back handed recommendation like that, it's enough to make it one of the more memorable films of the year. Trust me; this is likely to become the type of overhyped cult item I'll grow to hate as it grows in popularity. Two years from now, I expect to see hot girls with fake prescription glasses walking around punk rock flea markets with their unread Walking Dead
graphic novels under one arm with a copy of this and House of Leaves
under the other.
3. Head Hunters
This was one of my favorites of 2011, but didn't get its US release till 2012.
4. Killing them Softly
If Jim Jarmusch re-wrote Pulp Fiction
as a Lawrence Block Novel and then had a 1970's era Martin Scorsese direct it, this would be the result, beautifully nihilistic and nasty.
I liked it, probably not as much as everyone else, but yeah, Rian Johnson is great. Where the fuck were all of you 7 years ago with Brick
6. John Carter
Just a good Sci Fi Epic that didn't feel an hour too long like a certain team Super Hero movie and wasn't exhausting in its nonstop spectacle.
Ok, no more post modern Super Hero deconstructionist films. We're done; it's more tired than the zombie as metaphor genre. But Chronicle
was very good and better than The Avengers
8. Silver Lining Playbook
Actually, I probably hate this smultzy castrated joke as a pseudo edgy crowd pleasure. But, out of hometown pride, seeing a film about crazy, mentally unstable, violent, dangerously manic depressive blue collar people from Upper Darby on the big screen was so personally and perversely cathartic that it just won me over. But yeah, I can also admit that the film is a piece of shit and for all of the scenes that ring a bit too true for me, in the end, Bradley Cooper should have shot himself and Jennifer Lawrence's character should have shacked up with an abusive out work car mechanic who used to play in a rock band and now sells weed to make rent. I guess it's good to have hope and all, but I can't help but just shake my head with the ending to this one. And again, when it gets cute, I usually throw up in my mouth a little.
It has a brilliant first hour before turning into an annoying thriller and then going into bull shit redeeming sentimentality auto cruise. I get it, Seth McFarlane is probably the most cynical fuck head in Hollywood, still, that first hour is pretty goddamn funny.
10. This Must be the Place
This movie reminded me how awesome mid-tier independent cinema was in the mid 90's, thank you, and it led me to revisiting Paris Texas
and falling in love with that all over again.