Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Oscar the Slouch



Okay, it's that time of year again. The time of year where a bunch of movies you didn't see are nominated for Academy Awards and you feel this weird anxiety to try to catch up with it for some reason, so watching the Oscars on TV will not be a complete waste of your time. So, you go to the theater and someone tells you there are TEN Best Picture nominees this year and then you throw up your hands, say "fuck it" and go see Adam Sandler's JUST GO WITH IT. You feel comfortable with this because hey, you saw TOY STORY 3 and INCEPTION. Well, you think you saw INCEPTION. You were really drunk at a party and it was on in the background. You at least saw enough commercials for TRUE GRIT to fake your way through a water cooler conversation about it. They made a movie about Facebook? Seriously?

Anyway, they happen this Sunday whether you are prepared for it or not. I personally don't give a fat shit about what a bunch of over the hill industry professionals think is the best of cinema in the year 2011. You came close to returning to relevance, but when THE DARK KNIGHT was ignored in many major categories...the best reviewed, the most talked about, and highest grossing movie of 2008, well I don't want to know about you after that. I know Ledger was nominated and deservedly won an award for it. But that isn't enough. I mean they give the same award that Heath Ledger got for quite possibly the most chilling performance of the last few decades to a person named Mo'Nique for chasing around a little girl with a frying pan like a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Yeah, the Oscars are kind of dead to me. Yet I still have opinions. Hey, it's the internet. What do you want from me?

So, let's picture a world where people eat breakfast for dinner, Christmas takes place in July and DERICKS PICK THE OSCARS! Some of these picks may conflict with my last blog post where I pick my favorite movies of the year. To understand my logic when it comes to deciphering Academy politics, career trajectories and my current mood is a futile exercise. Just strap in and hold on to something.

Best Visual Effects

* Alice in Wonderland – Ken Ralston, David Schaub, Carey Villegas, and Sean Phillips
* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Tim Burke, John Richardson, Christian Manz, and Nicolas Aithadi
* Hereafter – Michael Owens, Bryan Grill, Stephan Trojanski, and Joe Farrell
* Inception – Paul Franklin, Chris Corbould, Andrew Lockley, and Peter Bebb
* Iron Man 2 – Janek Sirrs, Ben Snow, Ged Wright, and Daniel Sudick

The Breakdown: IRON MAN 2 had a guy slicing race cars with electric ropes, which is cool. INCEPTION fooled people into thinking Christopher Nolan figured out a way to make people float in midair (fizzy lifting drinks?). DEATHLY HALLOWS almost had a naked Emma Watson, ALMOST, so that's out. HEREAFTER, I didn't see. I would saw ALICE IN WONDERLAND was the most impressive. I've never met Helena Bonham Carter or Crispin Glover but I would wager that her head is NOT that big and he is most definitely not a rubber man. Movie magic! Also, there was that severely awkward Mad Hatter dance at the end. Oscars are jokes. Give that dance an Oscar.


Best Art Direction

* Alice in Wonderland – Art Direction: Robert Stromberg; Set Decoration: Karen O'Hara
* Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Art Direction: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
* Inception – Art Direction: Guy Hendrix Dyas; Set Decoration: Larry Dias and Doug Mowat
* The King's Speech – Art Direction: Eve Stewart; Set Decoration: Judy Farr
* True Grit – Art Direction: Jess Gonchor; Set Decoration: Nancy Haigh

I would give this to HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART I - EPISODE IV - SEGEMENT 10 because I prefer to have my fantasy epics look like smokey ash trays. On that note, ALICE looked pretty blurry too. I've had enough fog machine effects at my 8th grade dances, thank you. I don't need them in movies.


Best Original Score

* 127 Hours – A.R. Rahman
* How to Train Your Dragon – John Powell
* Inception – Hans Zimmer
* The King's Speech – Alexandre Desplat
* The Social Network – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross


As much as I love blaring air horns, I just don't think this is Zimmer's year. His work was definitely memorable. I can't walk through an airport without hearing the final bits of his INCEPTION score or seeing a bunch of people I saw in my dreams. I think this one belongs to Trent. It's very Clint Eastwood-esque. Yes, Clint Eastwood also scores movies. It's fun to add exes on Facebook while listening to this score. I highly suggest it. It is so choice.



Best Original Song

* "Coming Home" from Country Strong – Bob DiPiero, Tom Douglas, Hillary Lindsey, and Troy Verges
* "I See the Light" from Tangled – Alan Menken and Glenn Slater
* "If I Rise" from 127 Hours – A.R. Rahman, Rollo Armstrong, and Dido
* "We Belong Together" from Toy Story 3 – Randy Newman


Sorry, A.R. Rahman. Maybe if the Pussycat Dolls covered it, I would have remembered it. COUNTRY STRONG is something I saw late in the year and fell in love with. If it was a CW series, I'd watch it every week. And it could be, too. It's the mellowest drama you could ever hope to enjoy and "Coming Home" not only shows us how awesome Gwyneth Paltrow's voice is, but (not to spoil anything) brings her character full circle. Wait, nobody saw COUNTRY STRONG? Oh. How did they make Joseph Gordon-Levitt fly like that? Whoa. I feel incepted.


Best Animated Short Film

* Day & Night – Teddy Newton
* The Gruffalo – Max Lang and Jakob Schuh
* Let's Pollute – Geefwee Boedoe
* The Lost Thing – Andrew Ruhemann and Shaun Tan
* Madagascar, a Journey Diary – Bastien Dubois



Honestly, if you saw any of the shorts other than the one that was on the HIGHEST GROSSING MOVIE OF THE YEAR, then by all means, email me your thoughts and I will post them in this section. 'Let's Pollute' sounds awesome, though.


Best Documentary – Feature

* Exit Through the Gift Shop – Banksy and Jaimie D'Cruz
* Gasland – Josh Fox and Trish Adlesic
* Inside Job – Charles H. Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
* Restrepo – Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger
* Waste Land – Lucy Walker and Angus Aynsley



I have only seen one these again. I am horrible at this so far. I know that INSIDE JOB is a documentary on why our economy went to shit. Ah, cinematic escapism at it's finest. EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP lit the hipster world aflame. It's not about the end of theme park ride queues like I was hoping, but about this street artist who becomes a big deal after an even bigger street artist helps him become a big deal. I know many people that loved this. I just don't understand it. I am not one to rain on anyone's parade, but I think there is a lack of love in this category for WINNEBAGO MAN and BEST WORST MOVIE, which both made my top ten list. Whenever I get depressed about this kind of thing, I just remember the name Mo'Nique and move on with my life.


Best Animated Feature

* How to Train Your Dragon – Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois
* The Illusionist – Sylvain Chomet
* Toy Story 3 – Lee Unkrich


I take issue with the fact that the Academy really limits the animation category to just three films. I know there wasn't a lot to praise this year unless you thought that movie where Justin Long and Hayden Panfriedtiara played wolves on a road trip was positively earth shattering. But the category itself is kind of like the kiddie table at Thanksgiving dinner. It's going to take a whole hell of a lot for voters to consider giving a Best Picture win to a cartoon while this is still around. Sure, with the new ten Best Picture nominees, Pixar has managed to edge itself in for the past two years. But I still think it takes away from the impact of the nomination. I think TOY STORY 3 should stand a fantastic chance to take the big prize home, but the reality is that it's not really in contention. Does animation or even plain old moviemaking get any better than TOY STORY 3? No. There you go again, Oscar. Making those same ol' DARK KNIGHT mistakes again.







Oh, and HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON should win.










Best Writing – Original Screenplay

* Another Year – Mike Leigh
* The Fighter – Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy, and Eric Johnson
* Inception – Christopher Nolan
* The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg
* The King's Speech – David Seidler


This is kind of a weird category. THE FIGHTER and KING'S SPEECH are true stories. INCEPTION was prooooobably based on a dream by Nolan. And Mike Leigh's nomination? Well, I just consider all British stories based on true stories. THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT dared suggest that well-to-do Southern Californian lesbians who only buy local produce and named their kid Lazer somehow consume meat on a regular basis. Suggesting that they are anything less than vegan is a pretty fucking original thought to me. So, here's your Oscar, Cholodenko. Akiva Goldsman has one, why not you?


Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay

* 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Simon Beaufoy from Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston
* The Social Network – Aaron Sorkin from The Accidental Billionaires by Ben Mezrich
* Toy Story 3 – Michael Arndt, John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Lee Unkrich; characters based on Toy Story and Toy Story 2
* True Grit – Ethan Coen and Joel Coen from True Grit by Charles Portis
* Winter's Bone – Debra Granik and Anne Rosellini from Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell


Finally, a meaty category. Making someone stuck in a crack interesting for 90 minutes is a pretty tough feat. Making us on the edge of our seat is even harder and I think they did it. 127 HOURS as a screenplay is one of a kind storytelling. TOY STORY 3 is probably the most important story for my generation's continued growth as adults. TRUE GRIT was classic Coen brother thriller/comedy/amazing entertainment and WINTER'S BONE was a movie I saw. The edge is clearly given to THE SOCIAL NETWORK for being what is probably the best screenplay to come out in a few years. I have a feeling Fincher and producers did not meddle with this one too much and allowed Aaron Sorkin to do what he does best. Having people at the top of their game work together without too much interference from the other cogs in the machine is incredibly rare, and I think a script like this is something that comes around once in a blue moon.



Best Supporting Actor

* Christian Bale – The Fighter as Dicky Eklund
* John Hawkes – Winter's Bone as Teardrop
* Jeremy Renner – The Town as James "Jem" Coughlin
* Mark Ruffalo – The Kids Are All Right as Paul
* Geoffrey Rush – The King's Speech as Lionel Logue


Christian Bale hopped around a lot as Dicky Eklund in THE FIGHTER and proved that he can definitely ACT like a crazy person when the duty calls for it. WINTER'S BONE... Jeremy Renner is probably getting residual HURT LOCKER love and Geoffrey Rush is a worthy candidate for an Oscar this year, delivering a very entertaining and uplifting performance. But Mark Ruffalo played a dude to utter pitch perfect percision who had the FUCKING BALLS to ride into the lives of two lesbians with his BMW motorbike and try to have a relationship with the kids that he fathered through sperm donation. The kids sought him out, and the parents are none to pleased about him. But never once do I think Ruffalo is not in control of the situation. He is so cool and slick and offsets the browbeating he gets from every member of that family that a reward is in order. For the past three years, the Best Supporting Actor award has basically been The Javier Bardem Award for Excellence in Bad Ass Villainy with Bardem as Anton Chigruh, Heath Ledger as The Joker and Christoph Waltz as Col. Hans Landa all taking home the trophy. I say, let the reign of terror be over and rename the award The Mark Ruffalo Cool as Cucumber Award for most Laid Backness while the White Upper Class Try to Get You Down. Long title, but I want to see more of these guys.


Best Supporting Actress

* Amy Adams – The Fighter as Charlene Fleming
* Helena Bonham Carter – The King's Speech as Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon / Queen Elizabeth
* Melissa Leo – The Fighter as Alice Ward
* Hailee Steinfeld – True Grit as Mattie Ross
* Jacki Weaver – Animal Kingdom as Janine "Smurf" Cody


As much as I want to give the award to a lady playing a Smurf, I think TRUE GRIT should get some true recogniton (shoot me) through it's most surprising asset. Li'l Haliee Steinfeld. Her burden in this movie is almost too much for a girl of any age, and this 14 year old shows a staunch bravery and determination that you just can't fake. She gives a performance that is more than solid, because she's going toe to toe with some of the most hard ass actors working today at their most hard assiest. Never does the character of Mattie Ross feel like she doesn't belong at the side of Rooster Cogburn, tracking the no good bum that killed her father. It takes Cogburn far too much longer to see what the audience sees fairly quickly. Ruin this young girl's life with an Oscar please. Heroin ain't cheap.


Best Actor

* Javier Bardem – Biutiful as Uxbal
* Jeff Bridges – True Grit as Rooster Cogburn
* Jesse Eisenberg – The Social Network as Mark Zuckerberg
* Colin Firth – The King's Speech as Prince Albert / King George VI
* James Franco – 127 Hours as Aron Ralston


Bridges is pretty amazing as Rooster Cogburn, even if we don't know half of what comes out of his mouth. Jessie Eisenberg is great too, internalizing the fears and regrets of Mark Zuckerberg and channeling them into chilling ambition. I just do not understand all the hullabaloo about Colin Firth in KING'S SPEECH it is a fine performance, do not get me wrong. But it was not that slow of a year. The evidence that James Franco should be the first Oscar host to win an Oscar while he's hosting is all in the scene where he interviews himself with his camera while he's stuck in the crack. At the same time, he's clearly gone insane while simultaneously showing restrained remorse for his simple but epic mistake. It should be shown in every acting class because at no point does Franco ever lose subtly which seems impossible considering what I just described. He never mugs or overdoes it. I can't even compare that scene to anything else I've ever seen. It's such a deserved moment for the character. When I was younger, I always thought I would be the first Oscar host to win an Oscar on the air. How adorable am I?



Best Actress

* Annette Bening – The Kids Are All Right as Nic
* Nicole Kidman – Rabbit Hole as Becca Corbett
* Jennifer Lawrence – Winter's Bone as Ree Dolly
* Natalie Portman – Black Swan as Nina Sayers
* Michelle Williams – Blue Valentine as Cindy


None of the women in this category are even close to being in the same league as Michelle Williams. She seems to be that rare breed of actress that actually cares about the roles she gets and doesn't bother herself with being cast in empty romantic comedies (I'm looking at you, Hershlaag). She seems to always find great roles, albeit in small under seen films. Williams plays a woman in two stages of her life, falling in and out of love with the man whom she married. Williams has her fucking shit together in this one convincing us that even though she's breaking the heart of probably the most charming character of the decade, that she's not the bad guy. Threads of the same emotions tether the two different time periods together while still being different. This is professional work here. She creates a living, breathing person who probably exists a thousand times over in this world. Someone we invest far too much emotion to in two hours, who leaves our hearts shattered in the wake of the closing credits. She probably won't win, but I think she accomplished a career highlight this year.


Best Director

* Darren Aronofsky – Black Swan
* Ethan Coen and Joel Coen – True Grit
* David Fincher – The Social Network
* Tom Hooper – The King's Speech
* David O. Russell – The Fighter


Three of these knuckleheads do not deserve to be here. First off, Darren Aronofsky lost the very little credibility he had left with me the second that goose neck shot into the air. More on that later. There is/was nothing special about the way Tom Hooper made THE KING'S SPEECH and David O. Russell made a gigantic SNL sketch. We are missing Danny Boyle and Christopher Nolan up in dis bitch. Some dudes that really threw their fucking balls over the wall this year. Edgar Wright created the first ever live action comic book this year. I would give the award to him if there was any justice in this world. But Fincher definitely deserves an Oscar for his amazing films. And this one is a return to form after all that razzle dazzle bullshit with BENJAMIN BUTTON. Fincher has a lot of style, and it's what he's known for. But with ZODIAC and now SOCIAL NETWORK, he told a compelling story about fascinating characters while leaving all the movie magic to work in silence in the background. Tons of people didn't figure out that Armie Hammer played both twins, or that on a consistant basis, Hammer's face was CGI'd onto a double. It's the ideal kind of special effects at work throughout the movie. Where you don't know special effects are happening. I think he's got a strong chance of winning, and I'm glad it's for some of his best work.


Best Picture

* 127 Hours – Danny Boyle and Christian Colson
* Black Swan – Scott Franklin, Mike Medavoy, and Brian Oliver
* The Fighter – David Hoberman, Todd Lieberman, and Mark Wahlberg
* Inception – Christopher Nolan and Emma Thomas
* The Kids Are All Right – Gary Gilbert, Jeffrey Levy-Hinte, and Celine Rattray
* The King's Speech – Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, and Gareth Unwin
* The Social Network – Dana Brunetti, Ce├ín Chaffin, Michael De Luca, and Scott Rudin
* Toy Story 3 – Darla K. Anderson
* True Grit – Ethan Coen, Joel Coen, and Scott Rudin
* Winter's Bone – Alix Madigan and Anne Rosellini


Ah, the big nut. Don't get scared now. We've talked about all of these films a bit already, but let's boil them down. 127 HOURS is perfect and triumphant. BLACK SWAN had the audacity to SPOILERS -----------have Portman be turning into a fucking swan. If you're going to be retarded, at least be COMPLETELY retarded and give me a swangirl monster eating everyone that showed up to the ballet. No, we get a regurgitated THE WRESTLER ending. Fuck you, Aronofsky. Stop contributing to the continued ruination of my beloved Wolverine character in film and go peddle your maudlin art house garbage elsewhere. THE FIGHTER is a joke, inside and out. INCEPTION is a good watch, and satisfying entertainment. I'll allow it to hang out here. THE KIDS ARE ALL RIGHT is one long awkward staredown between the screen and your eyes. THE SOCIAL NETWORK is better than we deserve. TOY STORY 3 is the triumph and crown jewel of the best studio in Hollywood. TRUE GRIT is the Coens delivering on the promise that they are the most consistantly entertaining filmmakers working today and WINTER'S BONE wandered in here probably looking for the bathroom. You're lost, WINTER'S BONE! You have no business in here, take it outside! It's incredibly rare when my favorite movie of the year gets nominated for Best Picture. Hell, three of them made the list this time around. I think the 10 nominees idea is actually starting to work. TOY STORY 3 is the winner in my heart, but realistically I will root for THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Just today I told someone that there is no difference between what you want to win and what should win. Well, this is my blog and in the McWorld, kids rule. So I'm putting it that way.

Now that awards season is over, let's stop pretending that most of these movies were ever actually important and venture into more classic territory...

Which is exactly what we'll do next time on PICTURE START. If any of this opinion actually makes you some money in the Oscar pools, I want my cut.

- D

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Best of 2010

Okay, here I am. Starting another blog. It's been a rough time trying to separate from my old Myspace blog. She was my one true. My mainstay. My first. And like Norm said in the last episode of CHEERS, you never truly stray from your first love. Well, here I am. Straying again. Proving George Wendt wrong. In that old blog, you might find several highly acclaimed peices such as that time in Summer of 2008 where I attempted to blog once a day for 30 days about Batman all leading up to the impending release of THE DARK KNIGHT aka the apex of my existence. Or that time in Summer 2009 where I wrote about a few movies that were intended to be blockbusters but were not. That kind of stuff always got tremendous feedback and this is where you're going to find crap like that. Most of my blogs were movie related anyway, so I might as well start a movie blog.



That's where I welcome you to "Picture Start with Derick Armijo". A place where movies will be discussed and dissected and all together celebrated in a jovial and highly offensive manner. I am not going to review everything I see because I see far too many movies and you don't really need me telling you that MORNING GLORY is a pile of garbage. You already knew that. Sure, they'll be reviews of movies in theaters. Movies I love. Movies you're not watching because you're a huge idiot with an enviable social life. And highlights from the best and worst of what I've seen in my past 24 years of life. BASICALLY I'M GOING TO TALK A LOT ABOUT MOVIES, OKAY? Great. Question: Derick what does Picture Start mean and why are you naming your stupid blog? Answer: Picture Start is the frame right before a film starts back when movies were films and shut up.

I usually try to do this every year with varying degrees of success, so what a great time to start a new movie blog what with the Oscars being so near and all. What follows is my list of my top ten favorite movies of the year 2010. Since they are my favorite, they are obviously also the best so get READING!

10. FLIPPED

Directed by Rob Reiner


Screenplay by Rob Reiner & Andrew Scheinman




Rob Reiner is a great of example of one of those directors who showed a great amount of promise with his awesome (and financially successful) movies and somewhere down the line got soft and retarded and made nothing but mishugas for most of the recent past. He's made some good shit though, yo. WHEN HARRY MET SALLY, THE PRINCESS BRIDE and the all important tome of boyhood friendship, STAND BY ME. And then there was garbage followed by more garbage followed by ALEX & EMMA. He came back this past Summer with a coming of age tale of romance that takes place in the 1960's. FLIPPED is about a young girl who has a crush on her neighbor who is a little prick who can't process the love of a female. We've all been there right? And we've certainly had enough inner monologue about it to narrate an entire feature film. A lot of people hate excessive narration and unfortunately there is tons of it by the two leads. The girl, Juli is hopelessly in love with someone who doesn't appreciate her or her efforts or her views on life. The boy, Bryce can't handle being the object of affection to such a weirdo. If you have a pulse, you've probably had in your life an attraction to someone or something that gave nothing back to you. The intensity of these feelings is only amplified by youth and feeling them for the first time. It makes them that more confusing and heart wrenching. Hollywood is lousy with stories of unrequited love and the back and forth between total opposites. We've seen this story many times before but Madeline Carroll as Juli gives it a face and someone to root for. We get a living breathing character and get inside her mind and inside her life and we really like it there. We want to tell her she's stupid for liking such a dillhole but that's what she wants so badly. Does that make it something she deserves? Her means to an end will probably lead to heartbreak and disappointment but we want to see her take the leap anyway. This is probably not a movie for everybody. There's plenty to annoy you at first, but under all the jumble is something that really massaged by soul muscles.

9. 127 HOURS

Directed by Danny Boyle


Screenplay by Simon Beaufoy & Danny Boyle




EW! SOMEONE SAWING HIS ARM OFF! TORTURE PORN! I'M NOT SEEING THIS. This is kind of what my mom said about 127 HOURS. I told her it was a story of the triumph of human will. I'm pretty sure she tuned me right out by the time I said "triumph". She was always really good at tuning me out. I remember repeating the words "mom! mom! mom!" into her ear for about an hour while she was reading her romance novels and she would even flinch. She later on made this soundbite the ringtone on her phone when I called. Mama has a cruel memory.

Anyway, we've all heard this movie is about a guy who falls into a cavern and gets his hand caught in a rock. He must cut his arm off to escape or stay there until he dies. Obviously, he escaped because it's a true story and we know of it. Why go see it? You know what happens. Well, Aron Ralston as portrayed in this film by James Franco is the living embodiment of what Madonna was singing about when she was singing that song "Ray of Light". This was a good person. He has done nothing wrong. He lives life to the fullest and is a joy to be around. Early on in the film, he meets some hikers and not only helps them find from getting lost but also shows them some pretty cool shit along the way. He touched their lives in a matter of minutes and as Joan of Arcadia hiker says "We probably didn't even factor into his day". Aron as far as we can tell, is a good person who's only sin is not telling anyone he was going to go to the middle of nowhere and jump into a hole in the ground.

Aron has about five days to really ponder what he's going to miss if and when he dies. Aron was already living an amazing life, you'd figure he'd accept his fate with a minimal amount of fuss. But it wasn't enough for him. He started seeing visions of his past and visions of his future. Lamenting even the smallest of missed opportunities. What it felt like to drink awesome orange soda. What it felt like to be warm. What it felt like to be with his lamewad parents. All things we take for granted. The little cracks and crevasses of life that we often forget about. Just like the one he was stuck in. There was an entire world for him to explore but none more important than the hole in the ground that Aron's fate lies in. It's these small parts of life that Aron is really concerned about, enough to find the courage to mutilate himself in order to be set free.

The movie really makes you feel it's elements in clever ways. When Aron is thirsty or cold, the way he thinks about drinking liquids and feeling heat is present with sounds, color and images. Boyle uses sound to make you feel that nerve that Aron has to cut through in order to free his arm and it's almost like YOUR arm is being sawed off. We will probably never have to make a decision like Aron's to save our lives and appreciate what it means to us. But a story like this can remind us that we may have more inside us than we realize when we have to cut a part of our bodies off so we can live to have our mothers ignore us just one more time.

8. BEST WORST MOVIE

Directed by Michael Stephenson




TROLL 2 is a movie that was the labor of love to a some Italian filmmakers that wanted to tell their story using a few local amateur actors in the Summer of 1989. Their efforts yielded a cult classic that has become beloved and severely mocked by many. This is the story of filmmakers and the cast in the present day and how they are dealing with their new found fame. Upon original release, it was an embarrassment to all involved. Now they must try and understand why anyone would love such garbage or are they just the butt of one big joke? The main focus of the story is the man who played the father in TROLL 2, George Hardy. Now a dentist and respected member of his community, he also is the most fascinating and likable character in a movie in 2010. He is charming and goofy and you can't help but love him. He has moved on with his life and started a loving family and a successful practice and everyone loves him because he is amazing and psychologically stable. TROLL 2 is not an embarrassment to him, but an amusing anecdote to tell his patients. He auditioned on a whim because he felt his heart was always in front of the camera or on the stage. It didn't work out. No biggie!

When the popularity of TROLL 2 started to rise among the midnight movie set, it's youngest star, child actor Michael Stephenson decided to make a documentary about the craze. He not only found our beloved George Hardy but also everyone else. They weren't as lucky as old George and it seems like they are all still chasing the dream while dealing with their inner demons. The small cult like sensation of the movie brought everyone back together for the acclaim they felt they deserved. But it is not acclaim that they fully understand. It's a whole rush of emotions watching these people embrace such a wretched embarrassment in their life. If it brings people joy, is a mistake really a mistake? More on this phenomenon later in the list...

7. YOUTH IN REVOLT

Directed by Miguel Areta


Screenplay by Gustin Nash




I know you are tired of Michael Cera. I know you heard that at a party or read it on a message board and decided that this is one of those ideas that you have to adopt. I get it. You don't have to tell me. But I feel I do have to tell you that you're an idiot. Raspberry Lemonade tastes the same every time I drink it...DELICIOUS. Michael Cera is immensely entertaining. And in this movie we get a double dose of awesome. He plays a loser that meets an insanely hot woman and develops a dangerous alternate personality in order to pursue and keep up with her. It's based off a book, and I'm not sure if I've seen a movie like this before but I want to see more like it. It at least feels original and the comedy comes from a lot of really weird areas. Most importantly it's really funny and had me laughing the whole way through. When I first saw it, I felt it was going to be a sleeper hit and become the next phenom. The passed around college dorms type of movie. Well, they're still passing around NAPOLEON DYNAMITE, so that never happened. But I still feel a cult following could happen for this one. Let's start it now.

6. HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON

Directed by Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois


Screenplay by
Adam F. Goldberg, Peter Tolan, Chris Sanders & Dean DeBlois



I sort of hate pets. Why? Because animals are dickheads. They're sort of like Kyle Reese's description of Terminators. They can't be reasoned with, they don't feel pity or remorse and they won't stop until you are dead. That's an animal from my perspective. Someone I can't talk out of eating me. This movie is one of the best depictions of pets on screen I've ever seen. Young Hiccup is a Viking who really sucks at being a man. Sure he can build things, but Vikings have no place for creation. Just destruction. He comes into contact with an injured dragon of an incredibly rare breed. The relationship between Hiccup and the dragon can be compared to that of a boy and his dog. Or a boy training a wild bronco. The dragon is an asshole and won't do for any of the boy's foolishness. But it can't fly anymore and needs someone to feed it. So, it will let the boy pet it every once in awhile and because Hiccup is so smart he begins to see how dragons operate up close and personal. See, in Hiccup's world, dragons are mysterious and dangerous creatures who act as the mortal enemies to the Vikings. Because Hiccup is learning about them so much in secret, he is excelling at Dragon Fighting lessons better than the best and bravest in his class. Hiccup becomes closer with his people because of his new pet and a bond between man and beast is forged just in time to battle a common enemy.

The voice cast is flawless and the characters are fun and engaging. The movie is full of imagination. There are different breeds of dragon that look different and do all sorts of cool and awesome things unique to their class. The settings are gorgeous and the action is among the absolute best I've seen in quite some time. The final battle is jaw droppingly intense and only made better in IMAX 3D. A movie like this is the reason to pay that extra money for those dumb glasses because they truly make a difference. As if that wasn't enough, the movie has a surprisingly touching ending that left me swooning for DreamWorks like they were fucking Pixar or something. With this and KUNG FU PANDA, I think the boys over at the Lamp have some serious competition. Good thing DreamWorks also makes tons of shitty Shrek and Madagascar sequels. They make John Lasseter sleep better at night.

5. THE SOCIAL NETWORK

Directed by David Fincher


Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin




A movie about Facebook? What's next? A movie about the ViewMaster? Oh, it's the story of the creation of Facebook? Well, how boring is that going to be? You may have heard this argument a few times when the movie came out and those people are welcome to that opinion. They probably didn't know such an amazing director and writer were involved and even if they did, how interesting could this story be?

FUCK YOU. HOW DARE YOU SPEAK ILL OF THE FINCHER/SORKIN COLLABORATION, YOU FOOL! That is the correct response to the people who are unwilling to be entertained by THE SOCIAL NETWORK. There is not much when it comes to the subtext of the creation of a website that has connected hundreds of millions of people. The people who were responsible for it had their relationships crumble in the wake of it's success. People bringing people together! Getting further apart! Film students, are you listening? In the opening scene of the movie (which is probably the best scene in a movie this year), Mark Zuckerburg let's it known to a pretty young date that he is a judgmental asshole who only cares about being successful and powerful. His rejection by this girl is the catalyst for Zuckerburg's internet empire. Constantly driving him to push it to the next level. In the heartbreaking final scene, he sits by his computer awaiting the confirmation of his friend request of her that will never come. It's such a genius descent into madness that is the perfect exclamation point at the end of a beautifully directed and tautly written masterpiece. Even the score which sounds like modern Clint Eastwood scores is just so enjoyable. Everything about THE SOCIAL NETWORK is tops. The trailer, the poster, the actors, the dialogue. All of it. If you choose to ignore it then God help you that Wes Anderson and Charlie Kaufman make the Twitter movie so you can jump on that bandwagon.

4. BLUE VALENTINE

Directed by Derek Cianfrance

Written by Derek Cianfrance, Cami DeLavigne & Joey Curtis



This is probably the most complicated movie I've seen this past year. A married couple is having some serious trouble with their relationship and we watch it unfold, intercut with how they fell in love in the first place. It's sort of like ETERNAL SUNSHINE how the past and present co-exist with each other. In the past, we see Ryan Gosling fall for a young Michelle Williams. A girl who has grown up surrounded by the loveless and overbearing marriage of her parents. He tries his hardest to appeal to her and slowly but surely it begins to work. In the present, because of recent domestic troubles, Gosling tries to get away for a romantic weekend with his wife. He tries his hardest to appeal to her here as well, but after a few years of disappointment and regret, it's starting to take it's toll on Williams as she tries for what could be the last time to connect with her husband.

It's very easy to fall into demonizing the woman character in this one. Gosling clearly has a lot of love to give and Williams is stuck in her own thoughts for a lot of the time. There's one scene where they both get drunk at a sleazy sex motel and she finally feels comfortable enough to talk with her husband one on one about where they are in life. He's defensive, like he always is and not realizing what a big deal it is for her to open up like this. Her father was a tyrant and she was pretty much raised to keep her mouth shut. She makes a conscious decision here that effects the rest of the movie, and even though our hearts have been cracking the entire time, the final smash plunges us into right into bittersweet numbness. Again, we've seen love stories a plenty from Hollywood moviefilms but rarely does it seem so real and rarely do we feel so invested in two people trying to make it work for themselves.

3. WINNEBAGO MAN

Directed by Ben Steinbauer



Once upon a time, in the Summer of 1989 (the best Summer ever), a video was produced to help sell Winnebagos in the mid-west. This video starred Jack Rebney and the outtakes of this video became a viral video hit. Jack was very annoyed during the making of this video and let it be well documented. He constantly flubs his lines and curses the heat and flies and unseen obstacles that arrive when it comes to producing videos. Filmmaker Ben Steinbauer decided to go and find him. Twenty years later, Jack Rebney is living alone in the mountains with his trusty dog. Seemingly unaffected by his internet fame, as we get closer to him we discover his not-so-silent shame.

Jack is getting older. Going blind. Becoming increasingly angry with a society that never accepted him. He has been miserable for a very long time and doesn't fully understand why a movie is being made about him. At the same time, he's both guarded and wanting to embrace the film. Because it will probably be the last time anyone wants to hear what he has to say. His last chance to connect with the human race. Jack and Steinbauer are in constant argument about the documentary until the climax. A local comedy theater is running a collection of viral videos including Jack Rebney's. Rebney is terrified as he literally comes face to face with his fears for probably the first time in his life. I won't spoil the ending, because I highly recommend you see it yourself. But it goes hand in hand with BEST WORST MOVIE and what happens when people attempt to embrace their embarrassing past. For better or worst, they seem to always find the unexpected.

2. SCOTT PILGRIM VS. THE WORLD

Directed by Edgar Wright

Screenplay by Michael Bacall and Edgar Wright



Probably the most ambitious movie of the year. Slacker idiot Scott Pilgrim falls for a mysterious American courier and must defeat her seven evil exes in order to be with her. Not only that, but it seems that his current girlfriend, his friends, his family and even an ex of his own all have something to say about it. There is so much to say about SCOTT PILGRIM. It's visually gorgeous and supremely exciting. We get to see action unlike anything we've ever seen this side of our Nintendo Entertainment Systems. It has one of the best ensemble casts of young talent that we're going to see for a long time. It has love. It has laughs. It practically dares you to be entertained. But if there is anything that American moving going audiences hate it's BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO.

I can't talk about the awesomeness of this movie without talking about the backlash. Hipsters and geeks alike came together and made a stance against this movie unlike any other. It wasn't TRANSFORMERS or TRON they decided to unite against, it was this. A movie that attempted to capture the imaginations of geeks. Show them something completely different made up of things that are far too familiar. Edgar Wright put a mirror to our faces and a lot of people didn't like what they saw. To paraphrase a quote from NO STRINGS ATTACHED of all places "Some people live like there are no such thing as miracles, and some people live like everything is a miracle". SCOTT PILGRIM is a miracle. Movies like this aren't made, and in this movie making climate probably won't ever be made again. In terms of that quote, this is a movie about the former learning that the latter is true. If there's one thing I resent about my generation is that it exists only to point out how everything is terrible and how smart they are for pointing it out. But I never subscribed to any of that malarky. Life is beautiful and filled with amazing people and surprises. It's worth fighting for. It's worth improving yourself for. We fight these battles every day and there's nothing routine about it. It's epic. It's worth exposing your inner uselessness for. Perhaps it isn't as bad as you thought. Is it ever? SCOTT PILGRIM is sure begging for some of your love, but you know what? It loves you right back, you stupid asshole. You're going to ignore that? Please die, then.

1. TOY STORY 3

Directed by Lee Unkrich

Screenplay by Michael Arndt

Story by John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton & Lee Unkrich



The story of this film is a lot more important for this generation than we realize. We live in an age where nostalgia is bigger than ever. We walk into the mall and we can buy a surprisingly tremendous amount of merchandise from things we loved as a child. It becomes a bigger and bigger monster because we keep feeding it. We choose to live in the past because we remember better days gone by, and refuse to believe that it will ever be that good again. Let's face it, the 80's was the most entertaining decade in the history of mankind. So much of current culture is based on that fact. Andy has kept his toys around throughout his teens (albeit tossed aside in a box) and when he finally moves out of the house for college he decides to take his beloved cowboy doll with him (good luck getting laid with that in your dorm, Andy) while throwing the rest in the attic for a lifetime of collecting dust. In the final scene, Andy does something pretty remarkable considering what these movies have spent years telling us. He decides to give his toys to another kid. Even his best one, Woody. But this wasn't entirely his decision. Woody put himself in the box and basically told Andy where the toys will find a good home. For 15 years, Woody's number one goal has been Andy. Get back to Andy. Find Andy. Make Andy happy. Even when he spent years in a box, waiting for Andy to acknowledge him, he still kept desperate hope that one day, Andy would find him again. He's been told several sob stories from other toys about their owners and how it often it ended with neglect. He refused to believe it. Andy was different. We've been told that for three movies by now.

And then Woody finally makes a grownup decision. He decides to give himself away. For the good of his friends. For the good of himself. For the good of Andy. Even Andy is surprised by this but ultimately realizes that this is the way things have to be. And Woody is rewarded for this. He finally is told by Andy what he has meant to him over the years and upon being given to new owner Bonnie, teaches Andy the valuable lesson of letting go of the ones you love and saying goodbye. We can't move forward if we're stuck in the past. We can't become better people. We can't improve. We must always strive to be better. To stop growing is to start dying. The ending of TOY STORY 3 is made all the better because of the history we have with these characters. We've been along for the ride the whole time. It's a unique opportunity to actually have the characters feel like old friends and come full circle with them. It's these rare gem moments that Pixar takes advantage of that makes them the best storytellers in the business. It's hard to realize we must put childish things away in this current culture and become adults. The line between kid and adult is more blurred these days with grown men walking around as Boba Fett in broad daylight and in PUBLIC no less. It's nice to hear someone say "Hey, maybe moving on with your life is cool too". I have so much clothing that I wore in high school right now, and you know what? Maybe it's time I stop wearing this Fantastic Four shirt and head to the Gap. I will see you there.

Thanks for reading. Give a brother a follow and don't forget to listen to Pop Sickles, a weekly podcast I do with Brendan Creecy and come up and see us sometime, live every Friday at 8pm from Kevin Smith's World Famous SModcastle Theater. That's all for now. And remember, if you disagree with me on any of this, write it up in an email and then delete it. Never send it. Ever. Thank you.

- D