Thursday, December 27, 2012

This Hell I'm Living

Les Misérables (Hooper, 2012)

The musical has kind of been on life support for a while. Yeah, I hear it is thriving in Bollywood to an extent, but even Disney has strayed from full on musicals in favor of more 'traditional' narratives in recent years. Sure every so often one may pop up (though it does kind of feel like forever since Nine hit the scene as the last major musical), but none seem to have come with the same type of fanfare or excitement attached to Tom Hooper's adaptation of Les Misérables. As one of the most beloved musicals of all time (or so I'm told), the Academy Award winning best director attempts to bring a bombastic sense of this sprawling tale of injustice and revolution to the big screen. Yet, following up the middling The Damned United and the irritating The King's Speech with such revered material leaves me wondering if Hooper has bitten off more than he can chew.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Living On A Lighted Stage Approaches The Unreal

Holy Motors (Carax, 2012)

Continuing my paltry coverage of the Philadelphia Film Festival, I want to take a bit of time to write about one of the craziest theatrical experiences I have had in quite some time. Specifically, it all happened when I sat down to watch Holy Motors, the audacious new (mostly French) film from Leos Carax. Much like Beyond The Hills this one generated heaps of positive buzz at Cannes earlier in the year despite not coming away with any of the major awards. But unlike the relatively straightforward, though still complex, Beyond The Hills, one cannot as easily describe all the intricacies and surprises on display in Holy Motors, and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Hounds Are Baying, I Don't Remember There Being Any Hounds Around Here

Beyond The Hills (Mungiu, 2012)

On Saturday I was able to have my first ever experience at the Philadelphia Film Festival, and even though I only saw two films out of the many offered I definitely picked two high quality movies that I can't wait to write about. The first film on my docket was Beyond The Hills, the latest from Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days). I knew relatively little about this film going in aside from its director, but after poking around the internet after the screening I noticed that it actually took home the Best Screenplay prize at Cannes this year along with a shared Best Actress award for its two leads. But aside from that I had little idea of what to expect, and as usual that tends to be a strength.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Films (Q3 Quarterly Review)

With Oscar season nearly in full effect this is kind of the last gasp of air for the early year darlings, and as such I'm glad to have the chance to do this list because some of the films that topped the first and second lists earlier this year are sure to fall as more foreign film and prestige pictures start releasing. Or that's the assumption. It's been a great year for songs and albums so far, but what about film? Let us take a quick look before Mr. Oscar starts shaking things up.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Albums (Q3 Quarterly Review)

Albums, albums, albums! While the year is not yet over, it has truly been a fantastic year for full fledged musical works of artistry. So much so that when composing my list for this Quarterly Review, even compared to the first and second, selecting just ten albums was damned difficult. Unlike with songs, there are so many factors to consider when deciding what constitutes a great album. And while there are a number of entries that continue to linger, the new additions may very well move up as the year starts to close.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Tracks (Q3 Quarterly Review)

With the winds of autumn blowing in, with them also comes the final portion of the year. And as the end draws closer that means that it's about time to start recapping the year so far. Following up the previous list of top tracks from the beginning of summer, some changes have already occurred as even more exciting albums on the horizon promise other changes in the future. Be sure to click on the track names to listen to all these great songs and check in with the first two Quarterly Reviews of tracks to see the changes.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

I Know Your Anger. I Know Your Dreams.

The Master (Anderson, 2012)

Growing up I remember that every so often in English class we would do a unit on speeches. Generally it was tied in with Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have A Dream Speech," though there were others that tended to be used as well. Actually when I was student teaching and even when I was co-teaching I used speeches as a focal point of lessons. These master orators have, even before the technology existed to record what was being said, had their words preserved for generations to heed. Somewhere, buried beneath these moments in time, is a theoretical common spring of humanity that allows them to remain relevant. But is this timelessness locatable? Is it even true?

If you read my most recent Top 97, you would notice that sitting atop that list is Paul Thomas Anderson's 2007 masterpiece There Will Be Blood. As such, it was with great anticipation that I approached The Master, a fictional re-imagining of the Scientology movement coupled with the journey of a returned WWII veteran who finds himself wrapped up in this movement's early days. But, as tends to be the case with Paul Thomas Anderson's films, it's rarely just about what's on the surface.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

He Went To Get The Hanging Judge, But The Hanging Judge Was Drunk

Lawless (Hillcoat, 2012)

Criminal behavior has always been a source of inspiration for the cinematic well for many years. Some of the most beloved contemporary films focus on gangsters and lawbreakers. So when you tell me that John Hillcoat, director of The Proposition and The Road, is making a movie taking place in early 1900's Virginia with a star studded cast of critical darlings (and Shia LaBeouf) one would expect the results to be great. But sometimes when approaching the wrong side of the law, as we do in the aptly titled Lawless, there's the chance that all the thrills can come at the expense of engaging characters or relationships. So does Hillcoat construct a beautiful tapestry of criminal redemption or does he deliver little more than wasted potential?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

NFL Season Predictions - 2012

Though it's clearly not a regular feature, I am a pretty big fan of football and would like to write about it just a little bit. As such, this isn't going to be a massive breakdown but more of my casual observations about the season to come and how I think everything will shake out. I actually did this last year and was mostly okay with my predictions. This year they will be better. Or, you know, I hope they will be better. So before the first game kicks off I'd like to set a few things in stone. Or at least digital ink. And, without going any farther, if you're expecting Tebow's boys to make the playoffs, well, there's always next year.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Top 97 Films (Part Four)

It is that time of year again, the one where I take a look over all the films I love and update my Top 97. Much like last year's list this one doesn't have a ton of new additions, but there are some notable shifts in positioning throughout that add a bit more clarity to my love of cinema. Unlike the other years though I'm going to try something new and start from the top, working my way down. If I like how that goes I'll probably just do every year. And without further delay, let the countdown begin!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Forward Thinking: Movies (Fall 2012)

After spending some brief time looking at five albums on the horizon I think it's only fair to give the same treatment to film because there's just so much slated to come out that will potentially kick so much ass. Compiling this list I had a hard time sticking to just five releases, but in the spirit of arbitrary self-imposed limitations I figured it would be a constructive exercise to attempt to limit myself to that number. Keeping it to five allowed me to be realistic as well, not having to include films that very likely will only show in a few theaters at a time or could slip in to 2013 because of crowded release slates. I'll attach a trailer to each title, so just give that a click and watch some awesome clips. There's so much reason to be excited, and here's just a taste.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Forward Thinking: Music (Fall 2012)

As the big fall releases start to pile up I think, as a means of prepping before the final series of Quarterly Reviews start being compiled and posted before the year end awards are given, it's useful to start looking ahead to what the fall has to offer. As such, welcome to what I hope will be a new series that pops up every few months around Processed Grass where I survey the landscape so to speak. Take a look at what is on the horizon. What releases I will be buzzing about by year's end, what looks interesting, what to monitor. And since 2012 has been such a fantastic year for music I figure that it's best to start there by looking at my five most anticipated releases for the rest of the year.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

How Many Years Can Some People Exist Before They're Allowed To Be Free?

The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012)

Finality can be unsettling. I recall most of the major occurrences of finality in my life fairly clearly. For better or worse time carries on and chapters of life (this is a phrase I detest, by the way) inevitably draw to a close as we continue throttling forward. As I stood waiting in line at the IMAX, about an hour and a half before Christopher Nolan's final entry in the Batman franchise, The Dark Knight Rises, was set to start the idea of conclusion was set firmly in my mind. After seven years he was prepared to move on, to put a bow on top of the series and pack up. And about 4 hours later, coming out of the theater, the conflicted feelings I usually have with confronting finality were still present in full force. Is this what it's like to end, can it be a satisfying conclusion, or will it all collapse under the weight of the previous movies?

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Films (Q2 Quarterly Review)

It's fairly easy to be critical of 2012 as a year in film thus far, I was earlier this year, mostly because many of the more exciting releases are so insanely back loaded that it seems like nothing has come out. And you know what? That's partially correct, but not entirely true. Sure in order to round out a complete list (mostly because so many foreign films I want to see haven't gotten releases in my neck of the woods yet) I needed to stretch some dates, but the end result I find to be fairly strong. Equally worthy of standing alongside the great year for songs and albums, at the very least.

Perhaps the most surprising development for 2012 in relation to the last few years is the presence of engaging comedies. There have been bad ones that were supposedly great while others that had every right to be terrible were surprisingly funny. It's been a long time since Superbad or Scott Pilgrim, and even if I've seen all the great comedy movies of the year (unlikely since Judd Apatow is holding off his latest for Christmas day) 2012 has been stronger than most years in recent memory. Yeah that's at the expense of drama, but the greats are yet to come.

So what did make the cut? Let us find out.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Albums (Q2 Quarterly Review)

We've gone through the songs, and that means it's time to start tackling the larger constructs that hold them all together. During my last quarterly review I was hesitant to call 2012 a great year for music at the time because, at that point, the releases were stretched fairly thin. Sure there were some gems, but even albums I thought would have staying power have faded away with what seems like an onslaught of top notch releases since the end of March.

There's quite a bit of ground to cover, so let us commence the counting down!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Tracks (Q2 Quarterly Review)

With June now completely passed we have reached the halfway point of the year, and as has become one of my favorite traditions it is time once again to track how all forms of culture have been this year. When March drew to a close it was already shaping up to be a great year for music (both individual tracks and albums), but it wasn't until I sat down to compose this list that I realized just how loaded 2012 has been...and it's only half finished!

Obviously this means there have been a number of tracks that have completely fallen off the list in favor of new entries, and when we meet again in October I reckon there may even be an entirely new batch of songs that have overtaken these based on some upcoming releases and past albums I haven't had a chance to get to yet. Part of that has to do with my stipulation that only one track from an artist is eligible, but even without that there's plenty of great music to discover.

So what's say we cut the chit chat and get in to the heft of the list? As usual, click the song titles to listen to them.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Remember When We Had Them All On The Run?

Moonrise Kingdom (Anderson, 2012)

I never went to summer camp. I don't know if that makes me an outlier to the quintessential American experience, but growing up I never spent a day of summer at a day camp. Looking back I'm not entirely sure what I missed, but the romantic notions that I have associated with what occurs at camp (thanks in no small part to Salute Your Shorts) have always left me wondering what would have changed if some of my summers were spent in this idealized wonderland of quasi-freedom. Now of course I'm sure no camp is anywhere close to how I imagine, but I think what draws me to it is the fictionalized allure of sorting out all the strange feelings of approaching maturity with boys and girls who were all on the precipice of adolescence. And it's this feeling, one that permeates throughout the whole of Wes Anderson's latest film Moonrise Kingdom, that makes my imaginary sanctuary a semi-tangible reality. This almost fairy tale that is underscored by so much painful reality, an escape that forces confrontation of truth.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Nintendo Press Conference Wrap Up

Nintendo's press conference, one would imagine, had to already be pretty much set in stone. While we didn't know exactly what would have been shown (and quite honestly when it comes to Nintendo who ever does?) we knew that there would be a heavy focus on explaining the upcoming WiiU, presenting information about the console, and showcasing which titles we can expect to play. With Sony and Microsoft having no new consoles to showcase, there was reason to drum up excitement for this presser. Lip service would likely be paid to the 3DS, but this conference was all about firing the first shots in the next generation battle.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sony Press Conference Wrap Up

So after a lackluster show by Microsoft, hours later the ball was placed in Sony's court. Starting out with a montage that sweeps across the range of Sony products it was clear that Sony came with a stacked line up. Much like Microsoft, Sony already said they would not be announcing a new console prior to the start of E3, so the games need to speak for themselves, and they did an awful lot of talking.

Microsoft Press Conference Wrap Up

Though Microsoft led off this year's E3, it came without the sort of fanfare I had hoped for. Though the company had already stated that there were no plans to discuss new consoles at this year's show, I'm not sure I was prepared for what would equate to an all around dull media briefing. Though games and features were showcased, there was a noticeable lack of excitement both by the presenters and the audience throughout the presentation, which caused an ominous atmosphere that put a damper on the whole affair.

E3 Alerts 2012 - South Park - UPDATED

Not much was shown of the new title South Park: The Stick of Truth during Microsoft's event aside from a stunning trailer that perfectly captured the television show's aesthetic. We know it will be an RPG, you play a new character who you can customize, and Matt Stone and Trey Parker were brought out on stage to assure that they will have a guiding hand in the creative process.

Though details are still a little scarce about the title, it did show that along many faces from the show will be present. Butters, Jesus, and the Goth kids are some of the individuals you will be running in to during the main quest.

Not much else is known, but if it's lovingly injected with references from all of South Park's storied history and combines that with even standard RPG gameplay all should be right in the world.

Is this the most exciting game shown at Microsoft's press conference?

UPDATE: The game is currently slated for launch on March 5th, 2013.

E3 Alerts 2012 - Splinter Cell: Blacklist

After taking a little bit of time off it seems that Sam Fisher is ready to return in the Ubisoft's latest installment of its long running stealth franchise. While no date solid date was given (Sping 2013) for Splinter Cell: Blacklist, it was said that Sam the game will have all the bells and whistles one would expect in a quasi-stealth game. You can play co-op, multiplayer, and Spys vs. Mercs makes a return.

The footage from the demo also features Sam stringing together kills in a matter of slow motion seconds that seems more reminiscent of a fighting game or Ninja Gaiden. The game definitely looks fluid, so it will be interesting to see how it actually feels when we can finally get some hands on time with the game.

Presumably Sam Fisher also drinks heavily and beats up terrorists.

E3 Alerts 2012

Though I have not done a lot of video game coverage (or much coverage at all) lately here at Processed Grass, today is a huge day in the world of games. As such, I plan on doing an analysis as the pressers that are happening today. At the end I'll try to do a comprehensive recap where I process and contextualize everything. It's like Christmas all over again!

I'll also be doing some shorter live tweets on Twitter, so make sure to check me out there @FLYmeatwad as well!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Let This Whole Town Hear Your Knuckles Crack

Dark Shadows (Burton, 2012)

In many ways I grew up loving the films of Tim Burton and he holds the most spots of any director in my personal Top 97 Greatest Films, so much so that all the recent attacks on him regarding his recycling and rehashing of material, no matter how illogical, unfounded, or simply talking-point-surface-level-dismissals without much credibility tend to bother me. They bothered me so much so that after seeing Alice in Wonderland in IMAX, a film that I found enjoyable but severely underwhelming considering that it followed up what I consider to be Burton's best film in Sweeney Todd and in comparison to his entire filmography, I wondered if some of these attacks were not entirely off point.

And then the trailer for his latest (of two 2012 releases) film Dark Shadows hit the internet a few months ago and I became worried. It all started out excellently, recalling Sweeney Todd, but then it indulged in comedy while "Season of the Witch" played loudly and I was puzzled. The jokes were lazy, the premise seemed thin, and it just left a sour taste. I should probably mention that I have no experience with the original 1960's 1,000+ episode series. Either way, as I walked in to the theater, I was afraid. Perhaps this was the turning point, perhaps Burton really has lost his way. Or perhaps, just maybe, I was fooled by another misleading trailer.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Every Superhero Need His Theme Music

Marvel's The Avengers (Whedon, 2012)

Only once have I attempted writing an extended fiction piece. It was a silly story that I hardly remember, but it was kind of playing on the idea of all the small events in a town that built toward some larger story in a Winesburg, Ohio kind of way. I kept losing track of the connections and eventually gave up, so when thinking about how Joss Whedon's Marvel's The Avengers attempts to fit together so many individual parts I can't help but be impressed by how much of it feels seamless. Sure there have been minor film crossovers, most notably Tony Stark showing up for a brief appearance in The Incredible Hulk or Nick Fury basically having his hands in every franchise film at some point. But often when all the pieces are assembled the result can easily feel inauthentic. For the most part Whedon's blockbuster gives all the heroes enough of a reason to join forces aside from the obvious "we would like to make money" mantra of Hollywood popcorn movies. All of the character groundwork has been, theoretically, set up, and Marvel's The Avengers is able to act like a grand sequel, but the thing about sequels is that many of them feel redundant, so how exactly does Whedon navigate this problem?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

A Game of Thornes

Earlier this week I was invited to take part in a discussion of the latest episode of Game of Thrones with Kate Kulzick, Michael Waldman, and Simon Howell over at the SoundOnSight Game of Thrones Podcast. This historic event marks my first ever podcast experience, and it was great to have a bunch of friendly, intelligent people to help make the process enjoyable. Going in I was a bit nervous, and I think it shows a bit, but in the end it was a blast.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Films (Q1 Quarterly Review)

The month, it has been tough, but slowly the lights at the tunnel's end are starting to appear. Hot (or rather cold, as this case may be) off the heels of the Top Tracks and Albums of 2012 so far, come the best films I have seen. As I compiled me list, which is a bit paltry, to state things lightly, I discovered that I barely had enough for a Top list. This should not imply, my friends, that 2012 has been a bad year for cinema, just that the heavy hitters are still to come. I mean Cannes hasn't even happened yet.

If you really think about it, it's impressive that we escaped the doldrums with as many competent releases as we did. Even if, you know, some of them are cheats.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Albums (Q1 Quarterly Review)

Despite 2012 being a pretty great year for songs thus far, I'm going to come right out and say that, based on the limited number of albums I have listened to, it has been a pretty bad year for music. But, much like with other cultural forms of entertainment, I look toward the future and see that brighter pastures are ahead. With Japandroids, Beach House, Kanye West, Fiona Apple, and countless other artists set to release records in the coming year I can't help but feel hopeful.

And really the reason I do my Quarterly Reviews, aside from using them as an aid to keep track of what exactly I have listened to in the year, is to track how my feelings have changed. Unlike the past few years, I am not sure if my favorite album from the year has been already released, or is even on my radar. And that unknown excites me like a a kid who just won a timed shopping spree in Kay-Bee Toys.

But this isn't a most anticipated list. This is the present, and the present is a gift. So how about we get to unwrapping?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Taking On 2012: Top Tracks (Q1 Quarterly Review)

Where has the time gone? Down the critical drain, no doubt. And now that the time is no more it is time to begin the listing. Start the counting down. Organizing strategies. As it was written last year, it shall be written again. And again after that, until the future shuts us down and the electricity flows no more through these wires.

There has certainly been music this year, and some of it has even been pretty good. Of course some of it has been pretty bad too, but that's kind of the trade off, I imagine. But what's so great about music is, like a killer sammy from the local sub shop, you can pick and choose all the meats that make it in to the final product. And, naturally, kick the bad ones to the curb. I'm talking to you, mayonnaise!

So don't expect to find any mayo here, just straight up heaters. And you can even click on the links where possible to jam out on your own. I'm in your head.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Box Office Beatdown - March 19th, 2012

After the dearth of positive reviews, order has been restored to the world once more as a film that scored 'fresh' on Rotten Tomatoes actually topped the Box Office. Further validating the ways of the Hollywood system, it was naturally a quasi-remake of a licence that had been relegated to a throwaway punchline in another Jonah Hill film. Sometimes life imitates art, and sometimes art imitates life. And then we are all just living in the simulacra.

The notion that an R rated comedy could make money was dismissed years ago when Judd Apatow started smashing all kinds of records, but lately the quality of these more extreme comedies have been hit or miss in terms of critical reception. Now I have been watching a lot of Mad Men lately in anticipation of the season premiere, and if there's one thing Don Draper taught me it's this: people are attracted to nostalgia.

So of course we all want to return to the world of high school as adults, and now we can live vicariously through Channing Tatum. Or Jonah Hill, if that's your cup of tea. He is an Oscar nominee after all.

Aside from the top three films this week (21 Jump Street, The Lorax, and John Carter) everyone else fought over the scraps. Sadly, even with a box office as fractured as the GOP race (count it, there's another easy GOP joke coming up!), new film from Mark and Jay Duplass, Jeff, Who Lives At Home, only brought in $840,000. But even the big guns ought to cling to whatever cash they make over these next few days because the behemoth is on it's way come Friday when The Hunger Games releases. Big or small, we will all be consumed.

Check below for a full list of the films that will be rendered irrelevant at the hand of Suzanne Collins.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

People Don't Live Or Die, People Just Float

Jeff, Who Lives At Home (Duplass and Duplass, 2012)

Mark and Jay Duplass, brothers behind Cyrus, Baghead, and The Puffy Chair, continue to expand the definition of mumblecore with their latest film Jeff, Who Lives At Home. While it would be easy to describe this movie as a tale of a slacker who attempts to find his place in the world, what the Duplass brothers do with this film is so much more expansive because of the way they build upon the concept of a genre they helped popularize. Existing between the realms of drama and comedy their latest creation is more concerned with the humanity than it is with laughs, but it also willingly paints with the broadest of strokes in order to further reach for the universal. But by doing this I couldn't help but wonder if the shift of focus from the nuanced examination of relationships that have defined previous Duplass brothers films would be needlessly sacrificed for a more sprawling affair.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Predictions 2012: Zero Hour

With the 84th Academy Awards only hours away, I have decided to reveal my predictions, ranked from most likely to win through least likely to win. I took on all the categories, some of which I have not seen all the nominees for and are thus wild guesses. This list does not represent what I feel should win, but are the conclusions reached given the numbers I ran, the voters I polled, and my keen natural instincts. Check below the jump to see all the predictions, and happy viewing!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Smash Cuts: Hanna

Hanna (Wright, 2011)

Does it count as a revenge fantasy if everyone is terrible? Well, you know, except for the times where they aren't. But who cares about those times, we need the testosterone to flow! We need to see that you have balls! Balls! Action! Killing! Balls! You really have to admire the balls of what is likely the year's best action film - I mean really - simply because it takes the conceit of bringing this tiny fourteen year old female and turns her in to a force of unstoppable brutality. This is probably what The Hunger Games is like, except good. You have big shoes to fill. Figuratively anyway, Saorise Ronan probably doesn't have abnormally large feet. I know she doesn't cry! Except - of course - when she does. By moving at such a break neck pace it's hard to get bogged down in all the plot intricacies or the weak characters. We just need to cut.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Smash Cuts: The Secret World Of Arrietty

The Secret World Of Arrietty (Yonebayashi, 2012)

Cultures clash, worlds collide, while the trivial takes on the weight of the universe. Assuming it has a weight and we all aren't just floating along. But perhaps we do float along, movies carry us away into these worlds where the magic becomes real. Where we can forget the grim reality lurking in the backdrop. Our rats are only possible threats, we worry for naught when there are adventures to be shared. Or perhaps just borrowed. It's hard to gaze upon the foreign without interacting, for the imagination to build up a reality that just cannot be true, but these moments of hesitation are truly the ones that reveal who we really are, the fleeting glimpses stretched out until the reality is washed away by the dream.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Smash Cuts: The Descendants

It has been a while, friends. I have been watching a ton of films in preparation for awards season, and the hectic life of grad school has once again caught up with me. When you spend the majority of your day writing for pleasure, sometimes you need a break. But breaks are for pleasure too, right? So while I continue to go through films that I won't have the time to give proper reviews of, I figured I would test out some capsule reviews and thoughts about what I am watching. Starting off with the latest from Alexander Payne:

The Descendants (Payne, 2011)

Hawaii isn't just some paradise where we go to forget all of our troubles. It's a place with actual (beautiful) people with real world problems. Sometimes when we are looking down the gun we don't stop to consider that the gun might actually just be looking back at us. We can't run away from our problems, despite how goofy George Clooney may make that particular action seem. We have to actually run to the problems, face them head on. Sometimes it's hard to know whether we should care about our comatose wife who needs the plug pulled, our bratty kids, or that multi-million dollar land deal. See, we're not so different after all.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Taking On 2011: Top Films (Final List)

All good things must come to an end, and now I am in a position where I feel like it's time to close the page on the previous year in cinema. Alright, that's a bit of a lie.

Many of you may know that Oscar nominations were just announced, but why deal with the stuffy Academy when we (remember, read this "we" as "me," my friends) have a list of the real Best Pictures right here at Processed Grass? We don't need some silly rule that says maybe there are 10 films worth recognizing except when there aren't, we'll give you ten. In fact, there are plenty more that deserve recognition! But I have to show some restraint people, life must be lived.

This goes beyond performances. This is not a game! Who will be left standing when the music stops? It's time to find out!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Taking On 2011: Lead Performances

As the previous year dovetails in to the ether, and we can all begin looking ahead to the year that will be rather than the year that was, I still find myself wandering down this old, dusty road. If there's one thing I can certainly say about 2011, it's that movies most certainly released. And in those movies, actors and actresses gave performances. Some of these individuals will even be nominated for Academy Awards. Others have even taken home the Golden Globes, so it's like the world is always looking back at them (or their house keepers I guess) each time they walk past that fireplace mantle. But sometimes the best awards are the ones without tangible counterparts, sometimes the best awards are right here on Processed Grass.

Eligibility requirements, because this is a super serious list that will probably effect the overall Academy Awards race if individuals happen to make the crossover, are discussed briefly in my Supporting Performances post. But we aren't supporting right now, now we're the stars, baby!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Taking On 2011: Supporting Performances

Now that I have finished up my music and video game coverage over the past couple of weeks, and with Oscar nominations right on the horizon, it seems fitting that I start focusing on the world of 2011 cinema. While I will withhold qualitative judgments until later, there are still plenty of films from last year that I want to see despite already watching a total of 67 2011 releases, as I was compiling these lists I realized that this year was pretty fantastic for actors (both male and female). The journey itself has been long, but that's the trip, baby. We are all along for the ride, and now it's time to start making sense of this crazy, mixed up world.

Before getting to the lists, I want to briefly outline my requirements for eligibility. Basically I needed to personally have some way to access a film in the year 2011 for it to make the list. That means films like Carnage and A Dangerous Method are going to be held off until next year's list. Similarly, because my unabridged list has some films that I included as 2010 movies, but didn't see theatrical distribution or DVD release until early 2011 I am going to include them one final time this year. So even if a performance made my list last year, if the film itself is on my 2011 Master List then it can win again, as the case may be.

And with that, on to the awards!

Saturday, January 14, 2012

We Can't Live This Way, No We Can't Live This Way Hey Hey

Frenemies (Mayer, 2011)

The latest Disney Channel Original Movie, Frenemies, starring Shake It Up starlets Bella Thorne and Zendaya Coleman was marketed as the second coming of Princess Protection Program, but in actuality is a much more disparate affair. While watching the opening credits I was surprised to see that multiple screenwriters were credited, in fact this sequence identified that the film was three acts (no shocker there) and each act was penned by different writers. Coleman and Thorne play two girls who start a fashion website, a plot line that is used as a framing device to explore three narratives that each involve friends turned enemies turned friends. In a way this takes a cue from the pages of Valentine's Day, but because the three stories all involve kids from the same town the characters occasionally intersect, basically providing new spins on traditional movie plot lines.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Taking On 2011: Video Game Positives

Despite some of the disappointments from 2011 that I wrote about earlier in the week, 2011 was a pretty good year for video games. Yeah, there was a bit of over-saturation, and we probably are on the precipice of a new console generation, but it is usually in these closing years that consoles tend to peak. And there were some mighty impressive peaks, even with the deluge of sequels. Again, as a refresher, I only played 17 games from 2011, so if you do not see a title on this list or the Negatives list just assume that I have not gotten around to it yet. I am not a machine.

Like with the other list I will say which console I played these games on, and even though this is a positives list, and a de facto Top Eleven, some of these games have problems. At times, I may not even call them all great games, but these are games I can certainly say I had a positive experience with during this year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taking On 2011: Video Game Negatives

As much as I love games, I sadly only had the time to play a total of seventeen new games in the past year. Without a PC I missed out on The Witcher 2, I have not had the chance to dive in to The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and I only purchased Rayman Origins yesterday. So I clearly cannot claim to be an expert on all things video games in 2011, and as such I present you a list of all the games I have played without claiming it to be a definitive list that represents my opinion of the medium's year in the same way that my Top Tracks, Top Albums, or upcoming Top Films do. Despite my love for this medium though, what I have experienced from the year, one marked by a console stagnation and a deluge of third entries in franchises, has varied greatly in terms of quality.

A caveat, my friends, for approaching this list. I'm not saying all of these games are 'bad' or without any sort of merit. In fact, in each case I can think of, and will write about, aspects of each game I enjoyed. However, these are meant to reflect games I played where the negatives outweighed the positives, and ultimately my time with these titles could probably have been better spent with other games. I'm also going to include the consoles I used to play these games, in the interest of fairness.

And with that warning, let us move on to the main event!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Taking On 2011: Top Albums (Final List)

Continuing my year end music coverage I decided to not undergo the crazy undertaking of my second quarterly review when writing about the sixty six albums that I have listened to from the previous year. Last year was a fantastic year for music, with just about every genre delivering top notch releases. I read an article on the AV Club a while ago that brought up the idea that 2011 was a year of many very good albums without any definitive "Important Album," and that's a sentiment that I can partially agree with; however, when I started compiling my list I couldn't help but wonder if some of the higher ranked albums will have a lasting impact on the industry. Hard to know without the ability to see the future, and despite nothing hitting quite as hard as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, I hope this list demonstrates that 2011 was a great year in music.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Final Farewells: Thoughts About, Reflections On, and Saying Goodbye To Wizards Of Waverly Place

As some may know, about a year ago I wrote a post about the end of Hannah Montana and how that ushered in the beginning of the end of Disney's latest golden age. And now, only about an hour ago as I type this, Wizards of Waverly Place concluded its run as Disney's longest running original series. As a whole the episode really allowed every cast member time to shine as the writing was as sharp as ever. It all built to a fairly predictable, but still emotionally engaging, conclusion that results with everyone happy.

But I'm not here to discuss the episode, I'm here to pay my respects to what is likely the channel's most accomplished series and to look ahead.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Taking On 2011: Top Tracks (Final Review)

It's that time of the year again. Mostly everything has been released, certainly this is the case with music, and it's time to start putting the year into perspective. I found 2011 to be a fantastic year for music, perhaps without the highs or 'Important Albums' of years past, but still fantastic nonetheless. We saw dubstep rise (and fall?) in about the course of twelve months, Katy Perry reached insurmountable levels of annoying, and that Lulu atrocity even released. What more could you want? It's definitely been a year, and moving on from my previous three Quarterly Reviews, the final list of best tracks has risen. Moves have been made, shakes have been shook, and as usual all titles link to Youtube versions of the songs whenever possible, and for some that are not on Youtube, I put all the songs on Spotify into a playlist!

Monday, January 2, 2012

In The Courtroom Of Honor, The Judge Pounded His Gavel

Hot Coffee (Saladroff, 2011)

I was going to give Hot Coffee a full write up, but decided against it because I'm really not sure what I have to say analytically. It's hard to even call this post a review. There's a lot going on in this film, and as such it feels a bit unfocused throughout. The title itself is misleading, which I'm mostly glad about because it meant I didn't need too see a bunch of pictures of an old lady's burnt loins. That was traumatizing, which was the point. So that worked. But the larger point, so it seems, is that the legal system is quickly being framed in a way that ignores the common man in favor of big businesses. This is probably true.