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!
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.