It’s that time again for the guy who saw too many movies to tell you which ones he thought were good enough to talk about and gush over. I will say that these movies are good but I think the year suffered from a real lack of stand-outs. The best this year didn’t move me like other year’s but that tends to happen during years with so many big anticipated releases. Let’s start with some honorable mentions:
DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD: THE STORY OF THE NATIONAL LAMPOON
We are probably all way past the prime of any of us being someone that actually read this when it was out. But the importance of not only the content but the talent behind it sent shockwaves throughout the comedy world still being felt today and probably for a long time coming. The institutions of Saturday Night Live and MAD Magazine owe a lot from this publication and all that’s left of it’s legacy is about 1000 terrible direct to video Will Friedle movies with it’s name on it. They discovered so much talent that went on to become icons of the industry and they were all pilfered and pillaged away toward more successful and notable ventures. Now their bittersweet story finally gets told. I sort of wish it was available to me when I was in my teens as a way to continue my humor mag education. I could have really benefitted from that vicious bite as a lad.
My era of horror preference is the 1980’s. That’s when I was most frightened of what they could do to my impressionable imagination. The video boxes told entire stories in my head that were far worse than what was actually inside. For most cases, as I would find out years later. Christmas horror is a particular favorite of mine because of the juxtaposition of hopeless against the background of the season of hope. KRAMPUS is inspired from this era and does it’s inspiration proud. It never forgets the fun and humor in the ridiculously tragic circumstances and takes delicious pleasure in the tried and true horror principle. This is all your fault.
I haven’t loved a Bond movie in almost 20 years. I love the franchise and the characters. I’ve seen every (LICENSED!!!) Bond movie made. I of course have a taste for a certain kind of Bond. The fun of being a fan is that it will always steer back to what you loved about the movies eventually when it gets tired of being a certain way. Bond has finally given up on his self importance and learned to have fun again. Learned how to do great cinematic set pieces again. And use its strengths again. It may have veered toward it’s classic sensibilities a bit too early for everyone else’s tastes, but tell them to meet me in the toilet of the facility and we’ll hash it out there.
This has become a year of the return of classic heroes. Not everyone made it through but one of the best premises managed to get executed beautifully even with a change of creative team. All of the heart and soul of the franchise beginnings return through new eyes, and Rocky Balboa, the man that has been getting knocked around for his whole life, has a new reason to keep punching.
WHERE TO INVADE NEXT
Michael Moore returns after five years to do something we’ve seen him do a little bit of in previous films but really hammers it home with this one. In this, he goes to different counties to “invade” and take the ideals and practices of the country back home to America to use. He wants us to have 8 weeks paid vacation. Better nutrition for our public schools. Better prisons and better acknowledgement of our checkered past as a nation. All of the ideas these counties have all came from American principles and it’s a very entertaining reminder that we can always do better. There’s a sequence in a Norwegian prison that is right out of a Christopher Guest movie and made me laugh like a maniac. Can’t even credit Moore for it. It’s reality.
20. THE DEATH OF “SUPERMAN LIVES”: WHAT HAPPENED?
Another documentary and it’s not just about a version of a 90’s Superman movie that didn’t happen. It captured a time and era of filmmaking that brought forth the edgy and gritty epics of the 2000’s due to it being the stark opposite of complete ridiculousness. The Tim Burton directed Nicolas Cage starrer based off the massively popular “Death of Superman” storyline that was not only the height of the sales for the comic book industry but also brought about the major implosion it has since to fully recover from. The movie’s story mirrors this pretty closely. Not only was it the corporate brand emphasized committee filmmaking that caused the destruction of this movie, it was that it was going to be yet another high concept oddity in a steady stream of high concept oddities that failed miserably. Even though I followed every leaked bit of concept art or script drafts or costume tests throughout the years, this movie still told me tons of new information of just how close we got to a movie that for better or worse, could have been talked about for decades after. I mean it was never made, and we’re doing just that.
The Peanuts gang was one of the many beloved batch of characters that came back to us this year sans its creator at the helm. But due diligence and capturing of a certain spirit lead to a successful return. Peanuts seems to be the one exception when it comes to riding art and commerce harmoniously. They are critically lauded for changing the medium they bore from with an exceptional style and wit that cannot be duplicated, and they also appear in insurance commercials. It would be easy to sell these kids out, to change them for these app obsessed kids but they don’t need to. They are timeless and still get more character added to them in this. How do you make Snoopy even better than he was? They did it. They plussed Snoopy.
18. THE AGE OF ADALINE
Blake Lively gets struck by lightning in the 1920’s and has gained the power to stop aging. I’m not entirely sure this isn’t a documentary based off her real life. Having to restart your life every couple of years is the nomadic life that I know all too well. This is a real dirge of the lonely. Of the empathetic. And the pain of the abundance of time. Blake Lively really gets to do her best work here. I mean, for Blake Lively. I really respect when an actor's personality shines in a character and even though she's a robot, she's a pleasant one. And this is the best Harrison Ford performance of the last few decades. And certainly of the year. It feels like if Philip K. Dick was a hopeless romantic and wrote this. There is a decadence to emptiness that feels like if Lana Del Rey was directing movies, they would be like this. This is what I wanted Benjamin Button to be. How come only severely hot people are the ones stuck with the aging diseases?
Last year we got a real boon of quality horror. This year, not so much. But we did get this, which was fun and tense and actually frightening. They attacked us at our most vulnerable. In our beds with our laptops. The premise of this being unfolding all in the screen of a laptop is so powerful that it was also a Modern Family episode this season and it made me a fan of that show for life. I feel this will hold up to the passing in time in the way that horror used the phone to terrorize us. This one uses our warm inviting screens. People think I don’t use video chat because I don’t want to remind people my head is shaped like Gumby’s but the real reason is that I don’t want this to happen to me. Okay, maybe both reasons.
16. INFINITELY POLAR BEAR
I have a friend named Ameesh. I have probably told you stories about Ameesh. They are always wild and hilarious. I am convinced Mark Ruffalo found and decided to base this character based of good ol’ Ameesh. I can’t prove it but I just know it in my heart. This is a movie about a father who has had a mental break down getting back into the groove of taking care of his kids in the 1970’s. It doesn’t always work out and could get kind of crazy. And not burn the soufflé crazy either. Characters that have parents you come to resent but can’t really truly dismiss also speaks directly to my inner most kindlings. Mark Ruffalo racks up another amazing performance that makes you even wonder why you’re surprised, but it still surprises you. Like when we saw his debut in YOU CAN COUNT ON ME fifteen years ago and didn’t know why were so dazzled because he is always surprising, rarely repeats himself and is always sincere. I can’t believe Edward Norton was the Hulk once.
Sony remade ROBOCOP last year to typically unsatisfying results. This year, they remade ROBOCOP a lot better with CHAPPIE. Built to be a police robot, experimented on to have artificial intelligence and emotions, becomes a liability and then must take on a bigger more military skewed robot in a David and Goliath like square off. Sharlto Copley comes at it from a much more sympathetic angle playing Chappie as a naïve newborn instead of Peter Weller playing the cold and sterile dead soul. What Copley had to do in this movie was pretty magic, and you kind of wish there was more charming robots out there for him to play. Or at least babies. Can he motion capture a baby or something for a LOOK WHO’S TALKING reboot set in post-apocolypic South Africa staring Aqua as Molly and James? Why is Hollywood not paying me?
14. ALL THINGS MUST PASS: THE RISE AND FALL OF TOWER RECORDS
I have never felt such affection for a dead past time as much as I have watching this. If you live in Los Angeles or pretty much near any big cities I can tell you with much certainty that there is most likely a record store around. But it’s not a corporate run discount big box run by hippies that jumped on the big business boom just as it was leaving the station. To feel nostalgic for a company that set up it’s own demise with greed is such an odd occurrence. But the America Dream is built up so much in our heads that we can’t help but admire the story of a small band of trouble makers that managed to put their love and attitude into every corner of the country. I think the 80’s and 90’s, their heyday was also a time where mainstream media as we know it peaked before it got splintered in all kinds of different directions by the internet. There was this manufactured rebellion that us Tower customers all fed into, as we roamed their well stocked aisles of infinite discovery. We are at the point where mourning the tragedy of the baby boomer generation and I think that’s a perfect ending to their story.
13. RICKI AND THE FLASH
A woman abandons her well to do family to play in dive bars in the deep valley. It’s hard to be mad at this woman when Meryl Streep is the one playing her. Then you’re just kind of mad at everyone that gives her a hard time. Her daughter justifiably is furious at her and is having a hard time with life and won’t let her mom show her the attitude it takes to handle a steady diet of humble pie. Diablo Cody has made this list 3 times in a row now, after her debut ended up on the worst list. And we’re not even paying attention to her. We’re really bad at this kind of thing. Blowing our wad on a debut and not even following up with your darling. Well, I am Diablo. And so is Jonathan Demme who really puts his RACHEL GETTING MARRIED chops to good use here. Especially with the musical sequences.
12. BURYING THE EX
12. BURYING THE EX
Joe Dante was forged in low budget horror and that's where you can find him these days. Not even going through the ringer on a corporate Looney Tunes commercial can ruin him. Even with little money for budget, he can still take a charming group of actors and an outlandish premise and make it one of the most fun rides of the year. There are so many things in this movie that are tailor made to pander to me. Th LA small business. The pop culture obsessed characters. The Alexandra Daddario. I can't even fully recommend this to non-me's but you should really get in my head some time. It's a riot.
Next up, THE TOP 11 OF THE YEAR!