Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Random: Cracked Out and Cut Up.

Someone is out there redubbing Star Trek the Next Generation episodes with cracked out combinations of words and phrases. It's like an audio collage. I don't know what to do with it, so i'm giving it to you. It's called "Happy in Paraguay", Merry Christmas.

Review: Sherlock Holmes

The truth is, I'd be lying if i claimed not to have enjoyed Sherlock Holmes. It's a tad smarter than your average action adventure story and features the genuinely charismatic Robert Downey Jr. spinning a new, very convincing take on Arthur Conan Doyle's old character. I'd also say it's director Guy Ritchie's first successful film since Snatch, and that it pulls off glorious things with its Victorian London setting. Oh yes, i enjoyed it. I liked it quite a bit. It plays on a whole run of things that appeal to me and i am truly a sucker for protagonists who happen to be eccentric rakish geniuses. I'd even go so far as to say that when the sequel comes out (and there will surely be a sequel) i will certainly watch it. Then i'd go one step further and say that though it appears to be a departure from the novels and stories, it's not really so far away, and i can't really say i didn't ever know (though i can't recall if it's actually in the text) somewhere in the back of my mind that Sherlock had to be fairly decent at self-defense. If you need to stop here, i'll let you. I don't see any reason why you shouldn't see Sherlock Holmes, it's perfectly alright. It's just, you know, i'd also be lying if i pretended that it was actually something great...

Finish this review @...

25 Underrated/Overlooked Movies of the 2000's pt 2: 16-25

The second and final part of my short list. It was tough, and i went back and forth on some worthy films. But in the end i decided that these were the ones most deserving of the underrated/overlooked title.
16. Ginger Snaps (2000): Two suicide-obsessed sisters learn that being a teenager can be more difficult than ever imagined when one is bitten by a werewolf and begins to drift away and change in more ways than one. Ginger Snaps does an amazing job addressing female adolescence and the rifts that growing older and apart can create while also being a truly effective horror comedy. Before the untapped lust of Twilight, Ginger Snaps was taking your angst and alienation and devouring it. Whole. The tragedy is that so few have seen the film.

17. The Dreamers (2003): The ick factor with Bernardo Bertolucci's The Dreamers is a little on the high end. An American student (Michael Pitt) goes to Paris to study in the late 60's, falls in love with film, and enters into a friendship with a pair of French siblings (Eva Green and Louis Garrel) who pull him into a semi-reclusive world of hijinks and incestuous behavior. It earned its NC-17 rating with a couple cringe worthy sex sequences, but on the whole it drifts closer to art than porn. The relationships are founded on an intense cinephilia and desire to escape from the political tumult of 1968 Paris, and they verge uncomfortably on innocent at times as their peers march in the streets. Strange and beautiful, The Dreamers boasts a cast without fear and a director capable of tying up the right elements and making sure he doesn't completely cross the barriers of bad taste.

18. Peter Pan (2003): I'll own up to not having seen this in a couple years, but when last i did i was amazed at how thoroughly beautiful and emotionally complex this live action adaptation managed to be. As much as i love the Disney version, this is the film that comes closest to the original text. It's dark, unflinchingly conquering all the small hurdles the story involves, the deaths of characters, the growing up really involved in leaving the nursery, the palpable emotion involved in a serious crush. The result is a dense, multi-layered film that is as much for adults as it is suitable for kids. As Wendy, Rachel Hurd-Wood embodies her character and gives us someone experiencing a very real push-pull between the adult world and the security of the nursery. Gorgeous and tragic, this film is better than you could imagine and a stunning technical achievement.

19. Angel-A (2005): For some inexplicable reason, in this decade Luc Besson (The Professional) got all obsessed with making those Minimoys movies and only made this one live action work. Angel-A, a French comedy-fantasy, is sort of patently absurd. Andre (Jamel Debbouze) is a failed small time criminal with a lot of debt, when he attempts to end it all by throwing himself into the Seine he is saved by a mysterious lady who takes him on a whirlwind journey to getting his life back together. Yes, yes, the film deals in weird notions of guardian angels and protectors who look like giant supermodels (Rie Rasmussen), but it's shot in glorious black and white and the saccharine is sacrificed to style. While some would argue the plot is also sacrificed, and the story clunky and heavy-handed, i say Angel-A was really a surprisingly enjoyable entertainment that moved swiftly. If you can suspend your disbelief and get over the fantastical elements, it's a fun little film.

20. Brideshead Revisited (2008): Alright, it's not as good as the book. It's also not as thorough as the 1981 miniseries. If you can forgive it its clouded focus (the way it shifts from Sebastian and Charles to Charles and Julia, the bare bones of the religious debate), the film functions autonomously as a lush, truly romantic variation on its source material. It's hard not to fall in love with Matthew Goode in this film, and harder still not to be swept away by the rich, eccentric glory of these bright young things in their beautiful world. During this entire film i sat with a Liz Lemon voiceover in my head going: "i want to go to there".

21. Shoot 'em Up (2007): High energy, brutal, and short. Shoot 'em Up feels like director Michael Davis put the entire action film genre into a juicer and bled it dry for one 80-minute adrenaline rush. This film has everything you could possibly want from an actioner: graphic violence, a massive body count, a joke-cracking hero (Clive Owen), a smarmy villain (Paul Giamatti), ridiculous moral complications, and a surplus of the impossible. Upon its release it got slammed by audiences as being a festival of expletives and gun porn. I don't know what they were expecting, but the title tells you exactly what you're walking into, and exactly the devil-may-care tone the film adopts. It's great fun that never stops to even consider taking itself too seriously.

22. Synecdoche, NY (2008): Repeatedly shunned as pretentious drivel, i'm beginning to think that what a person takes away from this film says something about the person. I saw this as a beautiful movie worthy of repeat viewings. Like all of Charlie Kaufman's work, it teeters on the brink of science fiction and madness, using abstraction ultimately to present something that is simply human. This is a film about life in the broadest sense of the term, and because of that, many may find the scope a little overwhelming. In depicting so much, the viewer is forced to filter it into so little, but the pieces are all there. Relationships, decisions, dreams, worries, neurosis, bodily limitations, birth, death, loneliness, this is a movie where everything happens and what the viewer sees determines their own personal experience (in this way, it actually mirrors the assumed intention of Caden's dramatic project). Apart from that, however, I'd argue this is definitely a worthwhile meta-narrative. The acting is great on the whole, there's an undercurrent of quirky humor, and the art direction is fantastic. As Kaufman's first film in the director's chair this is a very impressive (and highly ambitious) effort. One day, when all talk of its lofty intentions has died down, film geeks will covet this movie and wonder how it was ever so ignored.
23. Son of Rambow (2007): When i saw this i thought it would be a sleeper hit for sure, the kind of movie that spreads via word of mouth and winds up playing in the theaters for a couple months. To my surprise, it failed to catch on in the states. It's a shame. Son of Rambow is a pitch perfect, exuberantly innocent comedy that blends 80's nostalgia, coming of age, and the most awesome French Exchange Student ever with the greatest of ease. Sweet and inspired, though it may be filled with child actors, it's a legitimately sophisticated comedy definitely bent towards adults.

24. Down With Love (2003): I am so sick of defending this film. For every person who sees its merits, there seem to be at least three or four who just didn't get the vein in which this movie was made and loaded it up with a bunch of 'Renee Zellweger overacts too much' and 'this is the cheesiest movie i've ever seen' bullshit. Give me a break people. Really. My instructions: 1. Go watch some real Doris Day/Rock Hudson sex comedies (Pillow Talk, Lover Come Back), 2. Then watch this. If you can't handle the former, you're not meant to endure the latter. If you appreciate the cloying, prim-and-proper innuendos and pastel shades of the real deal, however, you'll find much to enjoy and laugh about in Down With Love. The 2003 film is a pitch-perfect return to and spoof on of those 60's romantic comedies. It gets it all right and does so with a camp flourish that makes this like an injection of pure sugar. Yes, ok, i love this movie. There's no reason not to. Its very existence is all done in good fun.

25. Cashback (2006): Did you see this movie? No? Why? You hadn't heard of it? Ok, now you have. Go watch it. You need to be convinced? Alright. How about if i tell you it's an extended version of a 2004 Oscar nominated short film (same director, same short at the core)? What about if i tell you it's a slanted comedy/romance (not the same as romantic comedy) that deals with art, insomnia, wage slaving, and college? Also, it's quite pretty to look at and smart as well. Basically, what i'm trying to tell you is that if you're in your teens or twenties this is one of those movies that might be your new favorite but you haven't seen it yet because no one has handed it to you and said some pretentious Donnie Darko nonsense about how much it will change your life. I mean, it won't change your life. But it really is a fantastic diversion.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Seen & Heard: These New Puritans/Washed Out

I like to bring you pretty,shiny, trippy new things for your collection. It is in that spirit that i once again present you with two more hypnotic music videos for to space out at in your more exhausted hours. The first one is for "We Want War" by Brit band These New Puritans, whose sophomore album Hidden is slated for a January 2010 release. The second is for one of my new favorite discoveries of the past year, Washed Out. The song is "Belong" and the video seems seconds away from a caffeine pill freak-out. "I"m so excited....i'm so exciiited...i'm so scared." Fun times. Actually, i mean, they're only kind of fun. Mostly they're just nifty.

Washed Out - Belong (Music Video) from Blake Salzman on Vimeo.

25 Underrated/Overlooked Movies of the 2000's pt 1: 1-15

You can probably sense it, right? The 'best of the decade' list that's coming your way at Love & Squalor in the next couple weeks. Yeah. It's coming. Be prepared. M. and I are busy debating and arguing over the phone about which films really deserve spots on the list, so if nothing else, know that we've gotten all sorts of anal retentive and obsessive about it. Yet, before we reach that point, I have been working on a list of the 25 films that i feel just haven't gotten the attention they deserve during this decade. Some of them have been ignored. Some misunderstood. Some received a horrible backlash. Some, i sense, will magically be transformed into noteworthy Criterion releases in the decades to come. Some, believe it or not, are even on the master list of Love & Squalor's best of the decade. Yet, i have chosen these to defend. These are the movies that for one reason or another, i championed in the face of adversity (life is hard). Thus, i present to you: Wilde.Dash's list of the 25 most grievously underrated/overlooked films of the oughts. Keep in mind, if you like this one, Love & Squalor will be getting the bulk of the decade/year end lists, so i'd check out what's happening over there with some frequency (shameless self promotion!).
1. Josie and the Pussycats (2001): If you're scoffing as you read this, you either haven't seen the movie, or you're looking at it from the wrong angle. At the dawn of the 21st century, the music scene was made up almost entirely of pop tarts and pre-fabricated commercial groups made by svengalis like Lou Pearlman. You couldn't turn around without hearing another song that sounded like the last or seeing another new girl singer with the same navel-revealing sequined crop top as the one who topped the charts last week. Out of that atmosphere arose Josie and the Pussycats, a film which seemed easy to lump in as a prime offender in these times. It was fully branded, bright and fluffy, and produced (in a way) to feed off of these very trends. Yet, for anyone willing to take the time to read between the glittery lines, it was also 100% satire - and an incredibly effective one at that. Under the guise of a brainless teen film, Josie attacks materialism, corporate slime, and music film cliches. Josie is a modern nightmare; it cheerfully presents an exaggerated portrait of our world: a world in which everything is defined via logo and each individual is a target for advertisers. Plus, it has a fabulous pop-rock soundtrack and a cast featuring Rosario Dawson, Alan Cumming, and Parker Posey, among others.

2. The Fountain (2006): Darren Aronofsky's passion project and one hell of an emotional roller coaster. The Fountain is an intellectual's tearjerker. The film is beautiful and uncompromising in its focus and presentation. Aronofsky built a confined epic, a love story spanning 1000 years that feels impossibly intimate and heavily personal. It builds up metaphysical presence within an ultimately very simple tale of dying too young and the challenges therein and was received with a mix of disdain and misunderstanding it did not deserve. The film is gorgeous, the puzzling bits are a surface representation of basic emotional conflict, the feelings it elicits are remarkably powerful. I don't think i'll ever forget going to see this in a completely empty theater on a chilly day a few years back. I was the only one there, and i don't think i could move until the credits were over.

3. The Libertine (2004): I have yet to meet anyone who enjoyed The Libertine. This is a true story. Yet, i also haven't met many people who have actually seen The Libertine, or who made it to the film's conclusion upon starting it. As a period piece it does what few period pieces ever do: present the period without excessive romanticization. It's a vile, crooked, repugnant piece of work that looks as though it was shot by candlelight and feels as though it was conceived without any need to appeal to an audience. For those who do not know, The Libertine follows the decay of John Wilmot, the Earl of Rochester, a very literal libertine prone to all the sexual excess and bold face blasphemy thus entailed. When i saw this film, most of the theater walked out, one person announced loudly "this movie sucks" as the movie dragged on unnecessarily. Yet, in spite of the rather dull filth, the film is due for reappraisal. As Wilmot, quirky Johnny Depp channels something that feels unexpected and startlingly decrepit. His performance is remarkable and stands as testimony to the fact that Depp really does take on each role as intensely as the next. It's not a hero's tale, it's a rogue's swan song and an extensive study of an obscene character that simply does not concern itself with likability. It's fascinating. A wholly unique piece of work the traits of which place it beyond any established plot towards the building of a repellent, witty swaggering devil.

4. Marie Antoinette (2006): Panned by critics, French and American alike, Marie Antoinette has been unfairly dismissed for its juxtaposition of 1980's and 1780's excess. I swear, though, that if you're hung up on the pop-punk soundtrack and that glimpse of Converse sneakers, your focus is too narrow. This is not a biopic. I'm sorry you won't have the privilege of watching the young queen's head roll (it's disappointing, i know). Instead, what you will find if you care to look is a spectacularly ornate, candy filtered dream. Sofia Coppola has strung together a brilliant tableaux of moments to build a fabulously odd teen film that captures the essence of a fantasy. What it might feel like, what it might be like, the awkwardness and spectacular greed that might be involved with being a teenage royal. Kirsten Dunst is strangely dazzling, Jason Schwartzman is cardboard, deadpan, and believable. Even if it's a bastardization of history, the action and emotion are matched perfectly to the soundtrack and romanticized beyond all logical comprehension. It's an untraditional epic, a swooning work of cinema loaded with striking images that are truly something to behold.

5. Watchmen: The Director's Cut (2009): I covered this earlier in the year, and i stand by it. Remember: Watchmen is one of my absolute favorite literary works and i assert i have the proper level of nerd clearance to say yay or nay. Alan Moore's work is near impossible to film. It's densely layered, has multiple primary characters, a very specific universe, temporal leaps, and its own isolated moral code. It was a huge risk that Zack Snyder was willing to take. It's also, in comparison to most graphic novel adaptations, hugely successful. The attention to detail is phenomenal, and for every single instance that's missing, dozens more have been painstakingly included. Every second is visually slick as hell, and overall the film's heroes and antiheroes are closely matched to the apathetic, jaded personas i'd always envisioned them as having. It's cold and bleak. It should be. One day, after the initial nerd backlash has passed, this film will be recognized as an undeniably well-done adaptation.

6. Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (2005): Speaking of unfilmable, Michael Winterbottom decided to try and tackle Laurence Sterne's convoluted comic novel Tristram Shandy and created something that's as under appreciated as it is brilliant. If you follow the text literally, Tristram Shandy is most certainly unfilmable. A big, thick 18th century work that fails to arrive at its protagonist's birth in spite of its hundreds of pages, it has been dubbed "postmodern before there was any modern to be post about" and indeed it is. Winterbottom, wisely, then, avoided literal adaptation and instead shot a bizarre comedy chronicling the production of a Shandy adaptation that is never completed. Remarkably, however, it manages to fit in all of the most memorable moments, as well as the overall good humor and sparkling wit, of the text. Steve Coogan plays Steve Coogan. Rob Brydon plays Rob Brydon. The film banters, bickers, and alludes its way into any literary nerd's heart with remarkable ease. It's hysterical...undoubtedly one of my favorite comedies of the decade, and one that only grows funnier with each repeat viewing.

7. Domino (2005): I can't defend this unless you're willing to surrender yourself to the ride. Based lightly on the life story of deceased British fashion model turned bounty hunter Domino Harvey (played here by Keira Knightley, looking a bit like a glammed up twelve year old boy), Tony Scott’s ‘biopic’ is maddening, pulsating, and positively chaotic. Here is a film so full of its own energy that its inertia blows through the end credits.It’s filmed dazzlingly, with bright kinetic tints and hues and dizzying shots that make filth and grime seem the height of cool. This is stylization to the extreme, with text popping up for emphasis of phrases, echoing narration, and driving repetitive beats. Scott slices up the film and lets it fly by so fast it could induce an epileptic fit. It’s a total raucous train wreck. An electric, destructive, cracked out train wreck. Yet, it's fabulous, an action film that constructs its own action via its editing and feels like an experience as you sit and slowly go insane. It does to your nervous system what it does to its characters, puts them through the wringer and tests their limits. If it sounds unpleasant, it sort of is.

8. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008): It went from being one of the most anticipated of 2008 to one of the biggest disappointments. In spite of its Oscar nominations, the backlash that immediately followed David Fincher's whimsical love story through time was phenomenally widespread. It has been attacked and abused on all counts "it's too precious", "too long", "too much like a magical Forrest Gump". Alright, it is a little precious. The accents are a bit thick and silly sentimentalism runs rampant. The Hurricane Katrina tie-in didn't need to be there. But those are the only concessions you'll get from me. Otherwise, i sense Benjamin Button will persevere and one day be dug up as an example of a turn of the century throw back to a simpler time. It's a gorgeously spun adult fairy tale of love, loss, and life that affects a distance in its telling that allows its characters to become magical cyphers that are not quite human, but feel as humans do.

9. Snow Cake (2006): For the life of me, i have no idea how this little film was ignored by so many people. The synopsis is a little disconcerting: indie melodrama centered around the odd bonds formed between an autistic mother (Sigourney Weaver) and the man (Alan Rickman) who feels partially responsible for the car crash that killed her daughter. Yet, the film sits above playing on pathos and sympathies. Snow Cake is a remarkably successful little film with full-bodied characters brought to life by seasoned actors, and more than enough humor to keep its otherwise downer plot almost completely at bay. With a bigger budget and different actors i believe Snow Cake would have been nearly impossible to endure, yet, instead it was one of the biggest surprises of the last few years.

10. Black Snake Moan (2006): If you were deterred by the man-chains-up-nymphomaniacal- woman-in-his-house-in-an-attempt-to-cure-her plot, you missed out on one hell of a good time. At its roots, Black Snake Moan is something of a moralist exploitation film. It thrives off of a gritty, absurdly cliche rendering of a deep South filled with Bible thumpers, Tennessee Williams spitfire arguments, and hot hot heat. It's a tad misogynist, yes, but the film is saved as much by the comic energy of its characters (portrayed with fervor by Christina Ricci and Samuel L. Jackson) as it is the frank boldness of its endeavors. There ain't any other films quite like this that manage to transform something this insulting into something so entertaining. It's trashy and ridiculous, but it works...and in 2006, it was a wholly original breath of cinematic fresh air with a steady rhythm and pulp feel that stripped it of its raunchiness and revealed something uncomfortably close to charming.

11. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004): I know you think it sucks. I know you think it's lame. It's nonsense. A piece of celluloid candy floss with some cardboard green screen acting and overdone special effects. Yet, i can't help but love it for its complete lack of pretension. Sky Captain is a throwback to the adventure films of the 1930's filled with newspaper men, trench coats, aviators and feuding leads who deal in wry puns. In another time, it would have qualified as an instant classic and we would have clung to its cheesiness as a part of the package, now it's simply too guileless to seem at all credible. That's the beauty of it, that it is an idealized science-fiction fantasy of another era that does not cater to anything other than a childlike sense of wonder.

12. Julia (2008): Julia is a sprawling, twisted tale of intrigue and alcoholism starring the one and only Tilda Swinton in a remarkably transcendent performance. Swinton plays the titular character, a morally decrepit woman who drifts from night to night under the influence and who finds herself wrapped up in a kidnapping and extortion scheme proposed by her desperate neighbor (Kate del Castillo). The story progresses with a believably boozy logic, jumping with the illogical progression and dangerous recklessness of someone with nothing much to lose. Julia is an engrossing film that dazzles even as it appalls, and is the perfect point of argument for proving that Swinton is being underused (to the extreme) in her high-profile Hollywood roles. This is a little film with an epic scope, and one that's accessible and accolade worthy. I have no idea why it didn't receive a wide theatrical release. Seriously. I could rave for hours about Tilda Swinton's iconoclastic acting skills and how much i basically adore her, but i suggest you watch for yourself

13. Fur: An Imaginary Portrait of Diane Arbus (2006): Just one of Nicole Kidman's strange little indie turns between high profile roles, this one sat between Bewitched and The Invasion as an example of Kidman overload. The film itself, though, is in actuality something of an enigma. Director Steven Shainberg (Secretary) dismisses the facts surrounding photographer Diane Arbus's real life and manufactures an existence that feels like the work she produced instead of what was happening behind the lens. The result is a haunting and magnetic glimpse into a richly textured world. I applaud it for its endeavors. In her art, Arbus sought to capture a freakish other-side of humanity, her real-life may not be reflected in Shainberg's interpretation, but her spirit is. Facts be damned, this is how you do an artist's biopic.

14. Speed Racer (2008): With Speed Racer, the Wachowski Brothers went the route less traveled, instead of revamping a childhood favorite into something of substance, they merely polished up the old product so it sparkled. You might not respect the old animation, you may even have been disappointed that the live action version wasn't transformed into a franchise endeavor, but the Wachowski's built their homage carefully and executed it beautifully. Speed Racer is a seriously underrated movie for children. That's really the key. It's kid-friendly in humor and appearance and not the movie one has come to expect from Hollywood actioners like the Wachowski's. The film is a living cartoon that subscribes to the family values and bright, poppy action of its source material. As such, it's a remarkable achievement that is exciting and a delight to behold.

15. Tropic Thunder (2008): In many ways, this doesn't qualify as underrated or overlooked at all. Many people saw it. It was rather hyped. It received strange award nominations and critical acclaim. Yet, in the real world, most people i've met harbor a general ill-will towards this film that i can't quite figure out. I'm with the established critics on this one, Tropic Thunder is a fantastic satire that deftly attacks war as Hollywood commodity. It spares no expense as it travels to meet its goals. Brutal violence, really risky segues into discussions on race, mental handicap, and homosexuality, gross sight gags involving a heavily made-up Tom Cruise. You're thinking as you're laughing. You might merely be thinking 'this is wrong', and it is, you're right, but it's so wrong it's right and that's the mark of a solid comedy. The laughter is a nervous one, the situations awkward at best, the film as smart as it is sophomoric, but when you add the pieces together they create something that's really quite valid.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Seen & Heard: I Blame Coco

Coco Sumner is the daughter of Sting and Trudi Styler. She looks a little like a hipster Sandra Bernhard and as I Blame Coco, sounds nothing like her father (though her voice is a bit on the husky side). This is her song "Caesar" with some backup vocals by Robyn, and while i'm not totally sold on how much i like it, i do appreciate its poppy, pure teen angst filtered through some 8-bit bleeps and bloops.

Review: Precious

Precious may be nearly a couple months old now, but i just got around to willing myself to watch it. The story, at this point, should be nothing new. Precious (Gabourey Sidibe) has got it tough. She's 16, illiterate, overweight, and carrying a child (her second) fathered by her own abusive father (who is nowhere to be seen). At home, she's kicked around and dragged under by a repugnant mother (Mo'Nique) who dispenses a daily dose of hatred and perverted jealousy from her armchair. At school, Precious is a laughingstock, several grades behind and towering over her middle school classmates. When she's booted from the public system, she finds a sliver of hope at a scuzzy looking alternative school. Yet, while the film is bearable in part because of the small amount of optimism Precious manages to maintain, it is no easy pill to swallow. First-time actress Sidibe carries her role well, becoming a character so complete and empathetic it's tough to picture her in any other context. Meanwhile, director Lee Daniels has structured the film into sharply cut episodes and fantasies, so that the viewer is allowed to see the heartbreak in full without the Hollywood happy ending. Precious's life is a grotesque rotating carnival of horror and pain. In many ways, it frequently feels like a pornographic display of cruelty, unflinching, unforgiving, and serving up the most unimaginable of human tragedies for a crowd hungry for suffering. Yet, Precious is ultimately compelling and held up by strong performances and gritty imagery. Sidibe and Daniels use the momentum of a relentless downward spiral and twist it upward, so that we see every small joy in Precious's life as a sort of triumph in which she is the bravest of heroes....

Finish this review @...

Monday, December 21, 2009

Getting Ahead of Myself: 20 Movies to Look Forward to in 2010

The year may not be over and the best of 2009 list may not be up, but i'm already thinking ahead to what 2010 will bring. Here are 20 films that are already generating interest. Get ready.

1. Alice in Wonderland - Tim Burton teams up with Disney and Johnny Depp to bring us his version of a classic in technicolor 3D. There are a million and one ways this could go wrong, but two million why the project should be oh so right.

2. Iron Man 2 - Robert Downey Jr. returns to play billionaire playboy Tony Stark, Mickey Rourke, Sam Rockwell, and Scarlett Johansson sign on as villains. The first one was great fun, if all goes according to plan, the second one should be as well.

3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 - The final chapter of the Harry Potter series is being divided across two films, the first of which is expected in late 2010. As a film franchise that has had no real failures and continues to boast an impressive cast of established Brits and young actors growing into their talents, all signs point to a successful wrap-up executed properly. I can't wait to see the action of book 7 brought to life.

4. Tron: Legacy - I have some very simple, nerdy pleasures. Tron is one of them. Thus, a sequel (even several decades after the fact) is big news. Especially one that looks as shiny as this and features a score by Daft Punk.

5. Kick-Ass - Young vigilante masked heroes get all kinds of violent in the film that's already generating talks of a sequel.

6. Inception -Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan + Leonardo DiCaprio + Joseph Gordon-Levitt + Ellen Page + Marion Cotillard + Cillian Murphy + Michael Caine + Ken Watanabe + mysterious plot + Matrix style acrobatics = yeah, everyone you know is going to see this.

7. Youth in Revolt - I almost didn't include this, as it comes out just a week into the New Year, but i am seriously pretty excited about this little comedy starring Michael Cera. So, it makes the cut.

8. Toy Story 3 - Pixar returns to very familiar territory. Honestly, i'd rather see something new from them, but it's pretty unlikely this won't be anything but another animated gem.
9. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Based on the comic book series by Bryan Lee O'Malley, Scott Pilgrim follows the misadventures of its 20-something slacker character as he attempts to defeat the evil exes of a girl he'd really like to date. The film, being directed by Edgar Wright (Hot Fuzz, Spaced), has a full line-up of Hollywood hipsters and a ton of early acclaim. I dig the books, the movie should be great fun.

10. Shutter Island - How many times can Martin Scorsese's insane asylum thriller get pushed back? Really, what are they waiting for?

11. Rapunzel - Disney has been on fire this year, and hopes to continue their winning streak into next year. Toy Story 3 is almost a guaranteed hit, i can only hope that their animated take on Rapunzel is as well.

12. The Social Network - David Fincher tackles the Facebook origins story with a screenplay by Aaron Sorkin and a cast lead by Jesse Eisenberg. If Fincher's on the case, the story is guaranteed to be delivered in a way far more intriguing than one would suppose

13. Robin Hood - Ridley Scott's rough and tumble take on a legend seems to feature all the battles and medieval dirt one would imagine and stars Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett in the lead roles.

14. Paul - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost reunite as a pair of comic book geeks who encounter an alien outside of Area 51 on their cross-country trip through the US. If it sounds ludicrous, you clearly haven't seen Shaun of the Dead or Hot Fuzz.

15. The Rum Diary - Johnny Depp takes on another Hunter S. Thompson tale in a project that has long been slated for production and is finally on its way to release.

16. Clash of the Titans - I don't think there's much possibility of this actually being 'good'. I do hope, however, to get something at least as fun and campy as the original concept. Who knows, i've been proven wrong before.

17. Greenberg - Noah Baumbach's name attached to an indie underachiever story is more than enough to earn this Ben Stiller vehicle a spot on the list.

18. Adele Blanc-Sec - Luc Besson returns with a film adaptation of a beloved French comic centered around a cynical heroine in Victorian era Paris. Described as a mix of Indiana Jones and Hellboy, the production has a massive budget and early images suggest a lavish look.

19. Black Swan - Darren Aronofsky returns with a thriller that centers on the relationship between rival ballerinas played by Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis. The details are mysterious and sketchy, but Aronofsky has done wonders with odd casting in the past and all that we can really expect is something unexpected.

20. The Green Hornet - For reasons that cannot by explained, eccentric director Michel Gondry is making the Green Hornet with Seth Rogen in the titular role. Gondry's last outing was the disappointing Be Kind Rewind, so we can only hope his affinity for kitschy nostalgia doesn't drop this project down a similar hole.

Others that look promising (though details are sketchy): Holy Rollers, The Runaways, Sympathy for Delicious, I Am Love, Jack Goes Boating, The Romantics, The Expendables, Nightmare on Elm Street, Predators, Howl, Hesher, Blue Valentine, Welcome to the Rileys


You may have noticed, things are happening here at Pop Candy Arcade and at my other blog (with M.) Love & Squalor. In an effort to avoid calling our alterations 'new years resolutions', we've jumped on switching up the styles a little early. Why? Because i hate New Years. Also, it needed to be done. That old layout was too summery and it's pretty cold. Thus, fancy little design changes. Also, facebook fan pages, more constant updates, and well, just more work period.

Other things you should know:

*There's a few end of the year/end of the decade lists that will appear here, but almost all of the film lists will be appearing over the course of the next couple weeks at Love & Squalor. If you're curious, i'd recommend adding that recently souped up site to your follow/read list.

*I do all of this basically for fun, but it's nice to have some sort of recognition every once in awhile. Comment, subscribe, give me feedback and suggestions. Follow Blog&Squalor (which is the name for the tiny tiny two person blog collective M. & I run that includes this blog) on Twitter and Facebook. Also, click on the ads, cause i'm also doing this for free (oy).
In love & squalor,

I don't know why....dance?

Oscar Nilsson, a 16-year old ballet dancer jumps about while a dude with a bear head plays the drums. It's a short film by Hedi Slimane. I don't know why. I guess because it looks sort of cool. Don't ask me. I just know that i'm very tired and right now this seems like a good idea.

Also, i really hate the type of artists who make things out of meat. Vile and really just all sorts of not healthy.

Not related to people making things out of meat is the joyous dancing of Ely Kim, who broke out the moves in 100 places (mostly around art school, i'd say), to 100 songs, on 100 days and may have stolen my iPod. I want to do this suddenly. If i start carrying my old video camera to work, would that be annoying, do you think?

BOOMBOX from Ely Kim on Vimeo.

Review: Avatar

I wasn't buying into the nearly two years of hype leading up to James Cameron's blockbuster effects blitz Avatar. While I was admittedly intrigued by all the discussion of revolutionizing cinema and the early buzz claiming Cameron's work was a shoo-in when it came to being remembered as one of the greatest films ever made, i did my best to remain cynical. It was surprisingly easy. When the early pictures of the Na'Vi were released, i thought they were a joke. With the first trailers, my pessimism was sealed with a George Lucas kiss off. Giant, hulking, bright blue cat people? Pshaw. You needed to be insane, i thought, to look at those first glances as anything but a horrendous waste of Hollywood cash. I mean, cartoonish creatures running about a lame looking forest planet? Here we go, i thought, Smurfy tribal Gungans to sell some action figures to the same bunch of kids who think Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel is a work of genius.

Of course, I'm not one to pass on a major spectacle, or a major science fiction film. I couldn't really pretend i wasn't going to see it, in 3D no less. At the very least i hoped to finally see a theatrical movie this season i could trash a little bit. So, I kept quiet and didn't get my hopes up. As i went about not expecting much in the weeks and days leading up to Avatar's release, I was just a tad surprised when critical feedback was mostly positive. Ok, i thought, maybe i can be a little excited about this. The information increased and my own excitement mounted. And then, you know, i saw it....

Finish this review @...

Sunday, December 20, 2009

RIP: Brittany Murphy

32-year old actress Brittany Murphy died this morning after going into full cardiac arrest. E!News is reporting that the star of films such as Uptown Girls, Clueless, 8 Mile, and Sin City was dead upon arrival at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. [Source]

Friday, December 18, 2009

Review: Up in the Air

In the beginning, George Clooney may have been a little easy to write off. He was your typical television star turned charismatic movie actor. He went for the roles that you might expect a good looking, tongue-in-cheek guy like that to take: romantic comedy leads, blockbuster superhero flops, small action films. That lasted a few years. Slowly, though, Clooney's direction has shifted. From partnerships with the Coen Brothers and Steven Soderbergh, Clooney's roles became more substantial, his film choices impressively varied, his turns in the director's chair impressive. In spite of the fame, he knows when to step into the shadows (Good Night and Good Luck), when to step forward (Michael Clayton), he seems to rarely compromise and take the money maker, when there's a smaller film that could use a higher profile status upgrade. All of this has been done with a suave self-assuredness, and if its that last bit that has prevented you from giving in to the old Hollywood charm of George Clooney, Up in the Air is the antidote...

Finish this review @...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Playlist: Favorite Songs of 2009, 26-50

Part Deux!

26. Miss Li, "Bourgeois Shangri-La" - Sometimes, there's something to the ipod commercials.

27. Raekwon (ft. Inspectah Deck, Ghostface Killah, & Method Man), "House of Flying Daggers" - Do you feel gangstah yet?

28. Phoenix, "1901" - More Phoenix, but i still say "Lisztomania" is better.

29. PJ Harvey & John Parish, "Sixteen, Fifteen, Fourteen" - The commentary for "Black Hearted Love" pretty much applies here well. Once she starts counting down and the bottom drops out of the sound, i'm sold.

30. Beyonce, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" - All lists that do not include this song were written by people not alive in 2009.

31. Animal Collective, "My Girls" - Similarly, all lists that do not include one entry of Animal Collective's trippy sonics will probably be ridiculed by Bob Boilen personally.

32. U2, "Magnificent" - I was all like, U2, whatever, I'm so tired of Bono and the glasses and the guyliner on the cover of Rolling Stone. But it was untrue. Lies. I have rocked out in the car to this. Several times. It's solid. Doubt me, go ahead. Bono will come for you.

33. Peaches, "Billionaire" - Weird, sort of illogical, and raunchy as all hell. Otherwise, extremely enjoyable.

34. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, "40 Day Dream" - Again, i just mentioned this the other day. Right now i'm listening to it more than "Home". It's gorgeous.

35. The Decemberists, "The Rake's Song" - Ironically, this is perhaps the first Decemberists song i have really, truly, legitimately liked.

36. Neko Case, "This Tornado Loves You" - It just keeps running.

37. (tie) The Dead Weather, "I Cut Like A Buffalo" / "Treat Me Like Your Mother" - I'm smashing these together, since they're essentially quite similar. The same driving, dirty tough phony gunslinger garage rock. Yes.

38. Passion Pit, "The Reeling" - This is the song that makes me really see the sort of boundless joy Passion Pit was talked up as having for the longest time. Really wonderful.

39. Moby, "Pale Horses" - Yeah, he's still around, his music still sounds like that, but if it's beautiful, does it matter?

40. Royksopp, "Happy Up Here" - Filled with their trademark bloops and bleeps.

41. Anya Marina, "Whatever You Like" - A cover of the T.I. song made to sound really sweet and somehow way more believable.

42. Jarvis Cocker, "Hold Still" - "Kittens are cute but a full grown cat can be cuter" wise words, wise words. Sorry, can't find a video that isn't the live version.

43. The Phenomenal Handclap Band, "15 to 20" - Bad ass.

44. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Heads Will Roll" - I'm sorry. This is a pretty good album.

45. The xx, "Crystalised" - Weirdly seductive. Sticky like tar.

46. Lady GaGa, "Paparazzi" - I've decided the woman sort of is 2009.

47. Bear in Heaven, "Lovesick Teenager" - I'm getting tired of trying to come up with unique things to write.

48. Lily Allen, "Not Fair" - I confess i don't really want to like her, but i find i can't argue with the bluntness of this song.

49. Muse, "Uprising" - "Knights of Cydonia" slips onto my long list of favorite songs of all time, and i quite like Black Holes and Revelations on the whole. This song, for me, was the one and only real saving grace of The Resistance when compared to the warp speed rock of that last album.

50. Camera Obscura, "Frency Navy" - Ain't it cute?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Playlist: Favorite Songs of 2009 1-25

Wanna know a secret? I hated Bitte Orca, the overrated musical distortion album by the Dirty Projectors. Do i get knocked down in pretension points for admitting it? Probably. But i tried, and my god, there were only two songs i could tolerate enough to add to my iTunes ("Two Doves" and "Stillness is the Move"). So, i haven't met many people in the world who own up to actually enjoying the album, but those i have met i'm quite sure belong in the hipster intellectual category where they pretend to be tastemakers by parroting established tastemakers. It's this year's musical equivalent of saying Infinite Jest is your favorite novel (i keep trying, but all that damn tennis gets in the way of my enjoying anything). So, screw Bitte Orca. It's not really any fun. It's also not any fun to rate the "best" songs of 2009. Who cares if they were musically the most unique if they weren't enjoyable? I don't. But then again, i'm more of a film geek than a music nerd. All that aside, however, i present to you the list of my 50 or so favorite songs of the past year complete with overlaps, embarrassing concessions, and glaring exclusions (no, Taylor Swift, you're not getting on here either, sorry). These are the ones that, for better or worse, i have appreciated the most in some capacity.

1. Phoenix, "Lisztomania" - I've set this at the top of the list as my iPod is telling me it accumulated the most plays over the year and i'd believe it. It's a sweeping little pop song, upbeat, catchy, and with a rhythm that begs you to dance ridiculously. I'm happy to oblige, and love that steady build up that begins around 2:15 more than i could possibly say.

2. Jay-Z ft. Alicia Keys, "Empire State of Mind" - From the opening beats through the swelling chorus, this is one solid hip hop anthem. I've never lived in New York, but this somehow elicits a sort of weird homesickness. I mean, even my parents like this song. How can you not? It never gets old. The sound is just too big.

3. Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, "Home" - Didn't i warn you this would happen a few days ago?

4. Depeche Mode, "In Chains" - Because i'm a Depeche Mode dork and a pseudo goth kid who thinks this is just lovely. Seriously, though, they opened with this in their live show. It was perfect. The way the various pieces slowly accumulated following that long sharp tone was oddly haunting.

5. PJ Harvey & John Parish, "Black Hearted Love" - Polly Jean is always pretty good at mixing in the rock and the haunting, yearning melancholia, and this album surpassed my expectations. A solid bit of rock with a little bit a backwoods, I could like this song based solely on the single guitar note/voice combo every time she begins a new line.

6. Amanda Blank, "Something Bigger, Something Better" - Tell it.

7. La Roux, "Bulletproof" - My enthusiasm for this song has definitely dwindled since the summer, but i do still quite enjoy its no -brainer synth heart. It's a simple and fantastic pop song. La Roux won the coveted Mercury Prize this year, and i think it's hard not to think lead singer Elly Jackson isn't a bit awesome.

8. Bat for Lashes, "Daniel" - While i maintain that her sophomore album Two Suns is still inferior to Fur and Gold, its lead single "Daniel" grows on me more every time i hear it.

9. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "A Teenager in Love" - Delightful.

10. Passion Pit, "Sleepyhead" - I wasn't going to include this song, as it appeared first on 2008's Chunk of Change, but as it's also featured on Manners and picked up speed in 2009, it qualifies. At first a little jarring, it's strange the way Passion Pit's high pitch mix of noise grows on you.

11. Yeah Yeah Yeahs, "Zero" - I'm sorry, say what you will about Karen O. but she has become a bonafied rock star for this generation, and this is just the sort of rock song that makes you feel damn good, like you want to put on that studded jacket too and run about the streets.

12. Lady GaGa, "Bad Romance" - If you have yet to do so, now would be the time to admit to yourself that you like Lady GaGa. My first impression of this song was how ridiculous the chorus of rah rah romas gaga ohlalas was, in a sort of embarrassingly throwback europop sort of way, then i realized i couldn't shake the song. Then, i owned up to liking it. Quite a bit.

13. Grizzly Bear, "Two Weeks"

14. Florence + the Machine, "You've Got the Love" - A cover, a good cover, a better cover than the versions that have come before. Striking.

15. Beyonce ft. Lady GaGa, "Video Phone" - Yeah, i'm sort of in love with this song. If i could dance, it would be good for the dancing. The beats, all slightly off, and yet all coming in at exactly the right places.

16. Washed Out, "Feel it All Around" - A great blending of ambient chill with indie pop.

17. Nouvelle Vague, "Master and Servant" - Nouvelle Vague might be the greatest cover band of all time. They always manage to take the songs so far from the original that they sound entirely new again, and this one might be better than the Depech Mode original. Coy, playful, and compulsively listenable.

18. Apsci, "Crazy Crazy Insane" -Sorta goofy, insanely catchy.

19. Fever Ray, "Triangle Walks" - Yes, i did always sorta like the Cocteau Twins. So there.

Röyksopp - The Girl And The Robot from moho on Vimeo.

20. Royksopp, "Girl and the Robot" - Royksopp, solid electronic. Almost always.

21. Miike Snow, "Animal" -

22. N.A.S.A., "NASA Anthem"

23. Metric, "Gold Guns Girls" - When i like their songs, i really like them, otherwise, i'm here nor there.

24. Patrick Wolf, "Vulture"- We've already established that i like this, right? Yeah.

25. Hey Champ, "Cold Dust Girl" - When their album actually drops, i have a feeling it'll be pretty big. Fun stuff.


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