Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Was Raised Up Believing I Was Somehow Unique

Cedar Rapids (Arteta, 2011)

Vacations seem like a foreign concept to me. Not because I don't take vacations, but mostly because the idea of seeking out an escape is always a way of thinking that I fear. However, I think the greatest appeal of a short escape, especially one taken by oneself, is the allure of being able to completely reinvent yourself. It provides an opportunity for a complete escape, an immersion in a new identity that challenges all the lies we tell ourselves in order to get by each day. It is this conceit that, at least partially, propels Miguel Arteta's latest film Cedar Rapids.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Taking on 2010 - Albums

It has been a while, the grass has grown, now we are back to being processed. With the year drawing to an end I have found myself compiling lists on top of lists in an attempt to make sense of the past twelve months in all venues of culture. Well, the ones I I feel comfortable discussing. Now I should probably do a Top 20 Tracks first, but I am still working my way through the Pitchfork list to make sure I have filled in my blind spots. Albums I think I have a fairly comprehensive list, and I can certainly expand on last year's list. I have not gotten a chance to listen to a few records I would still like to check out, but 33 records are probably enough for now, right? Right. Let's get to counting down.

Taking on 2010 - Tracks

I may have tipped my hand a bit by already posting my Top Albums of 2010, but I hope there are still plenty of surprises left for my continued conquest of all aspects 2010. Today I am going to be looking at tracks, but before I go on I should probably state that I am not including covers in this list. I am only including one song per band/artist. So far those are the only stipulations. Sadly, that means that Weezer's excellent cover of "Viva la Vida," likely the second best song of the year, is not eligible. It also means that "Monster" will not be making the list. With those possible marks of shame out of the way, we are on to the list.

Taking on 2010 - Supporting Performances

With the year officially over, and my inclusion of 2010 winding down as well, I need to start wrapping up my end of the year awards. Naturally I have not seen all the films I hoped to get to over the year, but life happens. I am going to try and continue to catch up with films that need to be seen, but for the most part I think I have had a chance to see most of the films that boast the buzzed about performances. It should probably be noted that I am only drawing from a sample size of 80 films for these lists.

Taking on 2010 - Top Performances

We walk a road, a long road. Follow up my previous Top Supporting Performances of 2010 post I now am going to take a look at those who occupy the screens for the majority of a film. The A-listers, the stars and starlets who dazzle us with those big performances, those few who have risen to the top of their profession, jumping from reel to reel with ease. As was the case with the Supporting Performances list, I have not seen every 2010 film but I have seen most of the contenders. I need to let it be known, mostly for the leading females (and two males, I reckon), that I have not seen Another Year, Blue Valentine, or The American. Apologies to all the terrific talents involved with those films. I also seem to be in a position where I will be counting Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives as a 2011 film because I do not think it is being released around me until April. With those two notices issued we move on to the leading men.

Monday, June 20, 2011

When The Lights Go Out, We'll Be Safe And Sound

Requiem for a Dream (Aronofsky, 2000)

Throughout my life I have had a number of tiny addictions, nothing ever completely self destructive or all consuming, but addictions nonetheless. However, as I watched the lives of the characters in Darren Aronofsky's Requiem for a Dream play out it certainly seemed like all of my road bump dependencies were absolutely irrelevant. However, when approaching this movie it helped me to look back on the addictions that I have had in the past. Whenever I realized that I was becoming dependent, it always helped me to identify exactly what I was addicted to and either downsize its role in my life or excise it entirely. So as I watched Requiem I applied this strategy and quickly began to discover that the source of the addiction is completely terrifying.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Now In The Morning I Sleep Alone, Sweep The Streets I Used To Own

The Social Network (Fincher, 2010)

It seems that once every year a film comes out during 'Oscar season' that is labeled as immensely topical, a true testament to our time that perfectly captures a specific mentality that defines our world now, perhaps even defines a generation as a whole. Most of the time these films are mislabeled. Last year we had Up in the Air, the year before was Milk, and now it seems that David Fincher's The Social Network has taken the mantle of my generation's voice. However, just like all of these other films that are incorrectly labeled as purely topical ploys for attention, Fincher makes an attempt to transcend the times and deliver a cinematic experience from what appears to admittedly be a very topical concept: the invention of Facebook. So does Fincher deliver a film accessible by all, or something better left just for friends?

The Power In Your Voice. Your Rough Touch. You Keeping Care Of Me, Keeping Watch

The Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)

"Where wast thou when I laid the foundations of the earth? declare, if thou hast understanding."

And with that brief verse from the Book of Job, Terrence Malick's latest - Palme d'Or winning - film The Tree of Life begins to lay the foundation for a thorough examination of humanity. Moments later we have the primary female voice, via trademark Malickian voice over similar to Badlands and Days of Heaven, posit a thesis that carries throughout the film: during life humans must either walk the path of nature or the path of grace. As we are thrown in to a small 1950's American town the movie makes it blatantly apparent that it casts a wide net, takes on a scope as large as life itself. It really is a beautiful juxtaposition to open the film with, starting as wide and expansive and then keeping those ideas contained to an incredibly specific, focused area. Malick presents the quintessential American life, 1950's USA white, middle class suburbia, and reaches for an understanding of the universal. And from there the film only grows.

Monday, June 13, 2011

I Shoot The Lights Out

Super 8 (Abrams, 2011)

As I was driving home today I thought back to my psychology classes in high school. One day we talked about multiple personality disorder. The details are sadly scarce, but I like to think that the concept has its place in cinema as well. That at some point during the construction of J.J. Abrams's latest film, Super 8, the split between Cloverfield~esque monster movie and coming of age tale ala almost any film that involves children and/or teenagers. The first genre has enough high points to make me interested, while the latter is my cinematic kryptonite, so despite Abrams making a direct appeal to Steven Spielberg nostalgia, of which I have none, I hoped that Super 8 would find a way to bring these two genres together for some huge awesome cinematic cocktail.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dreams That We Once Had, Did We Have Them Anyway?

Kung Fu Panda 2 (Nelson, 2011)

I have professed a few other times that I really love animated films. In fact, if I could just watch animated films for the rest of my life I would probably be perfectly happy, despite missing out on many other live action greats. However, recent American animated movies have generally left me mostly cold even when they have been generally regarded as 'successful' films. Kung Fu Panda 2 is a sequel to a film for which I have little love, so I entered the movie with fairly tempered expectations. But sequels, at least on a theoretical level, are supposed to be ways to improve, so I hoped that since the characters and world was established the film would be willing to deliver a few interesting action sequences situated around a competent story line. I do not ask for much, yet Kung Fu Panda 2 still does little besides disappoint. Why, Po? Why do you hurt me so?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

I Am Just Different

X-Men: First Class (Vaughn, 2011)

By and large, I think of the first X-Men film to be one of the paramount movies to usher in the recent comic book movie craze, and I have actually enjoyed all of the X-Men films I have seen up to this point. Sure I skipped out on what looked to be an abysmal spin off entry with the recent X-Men Origins: Wolverine, but with a cast that bolsters Michael Fassbender, Nicholas Hoult, James McAvoy, and Jennifer Lawrence, a script from Bryan Singer, and at least an experienced hand orchestrating everything in Matthew Vaughn I was excited to go back in time and really see the characters who set this universe in action. But, given my adverse reaction to Vaughn's previous film, Kick-Ass, I entered with tempered expectations, hoping for more, but expecting little outside of another run of the mill origin story.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Assault on E3 2011: Nintendo Announces the WiiU

At this year's E3 Nintendo just kind of, sort of announced their new console: the WiiU. Supposedly this machine is a successor to the Nintendo Wii (missed nostalgia opportunity to call it the Super Nintendo Wii), but the focus of the conference was placed primarily on the new controller. This new device is a pad with two joy sticks, looking like a beefed up Playstation Vita that Sony showed off just a night prior. In what seems to be an attempt to fire back at Apple's dominance over the non-gaming electronic market, the new controller will also be a touch pad. What is really mind blowing, according to Nintendo representatives, is that the actual console can be playing some other form of media while the controller itself runs an actual WiiU game. Nintendo did not explain how this works, though I would have to guess that the two devices still need to be within some range of one another otherwise the 3DS seems to have become a bit more irrelevant (despite the announcements of a great slate of games earlier in the press conference).