The most irritating thing about making a year-end list of favorite movies is that so many of the top-releases (especially those considered “Oscar Bait”) are jammed out in the last month of the year, and if you miss them in theaters there’s no way to see them until spring. Zero Dark Thirty is the film critics’ consensus film of the year, but it’s only open in NY/LA right now and won’t even come out here until Jan. 11th. It’s irritating to read a bunch of critics’ top ten lists and see several movies that I couldn’t even see now if I wanted to.
Anyway, it was a good year for movies! Here is my list. Usual disclaimer – I’m not much of a film critic (not even much of an amateur film critic) so don’t take my opinions too seriously or anything. These are just the movies that tickled my fancy.
- Moonrise Kingdom. I run hot and cold on Wes Anderson so when I heard that this was his “most Wes Anderson-y” film I prepared to dislike it. Instead it was both the funniest comedy and the most heartfelt romance on screen this year. I love Anderson’s visual sense of humor – his ability to tell jokes just by juxtaposing things in the frame. Key Ingredient: Bill Murray.
- Life of Pi. Another one I thought I wouldn’t like. Perhaps low expectations are the key to maximum enjoyment? This film was incredibly lush and beautiful, especially in 3D. I’m not ashamed to say I cried a little at the end. Key Ingredient: tigers.
- The Master. Don’t ask me to explain the themes or symbolism of this movie. I found it beautiful but frustratingly opaque and I still don’t think I understand it very well. But I saw it twice in the theater and couldn’t get it out of my head for several weeks – a mark of a great film, no? Key Ingredient: moonshine liquor made out of boat fuel.
- Haywire. Those first three are at the top of a lot of peoples’ lists, but I feel like I may be alone with this one. But I love a well-made action movie and Steven Soderbergh made a great one with MMA star Gina Carano. The AV Club review of this movie called it a “delivery system for ass-kickings” but I think it was more than that. Great camera work, well-told story, and a few hilarious surprises. Key Ingredient: watch out for that moose!
- The Avengers. Another one that’s not exactly Citizen Kane, but I try to grade movies according to what they are trying to accomplish. Joss Whedon set out to make a smart, funny, tremendously entertaining superhero movie and he nailed it. It’s amazing how characters that annoyed me in previous films (Thor, Captain America) took on new life with better writing. Key Ingredient: HULK SMASH.
- Sound of Noise. I watched a fair number of foreign films but this was the only one to crack my top 10. It’s a Swedish film about a tone-deaf cop trying to catch a group of anarchist musicians. A must-see for drum players or fans of “Stomp”. Key Ingredient: metronomes.
- Lincoln. Spielberg, Day-Day Lewis, it was exactly what we thought it would be. I found it a little drab but it was too well-constructed not to make the list. Who knew parliamentary procedure could be so thrilling? Key Ingredient: “harrumph”s from the gallery.
- The Cabin in the Woods. Clever premise, unpredictable plot twists, and a veritable plethora of great monster effects. If you change the ending, it would make a great pilot for a TV show. Horror films have been deconstructed before but never as cleverly as this. Key Ingredient: hot girl making out with taxidermied wolf head.
- Looper. One of my favorite movies of all time is 2005′s Brick, which was also directed by Rian Johnson and also starred Joseph Gordon Levitt. So I was pumped for this movie. While not as good as Brick, this twisty time travel tale was both thought-provoking and a lot of fun. It reminded me a lot of another favorite of mine, 12 Monkeys. Key Ingredient: Evil Jeff Daniels.
- Premium Rush. Third movie featuring JGL in my list (with one more in the Honorables). What a year for the little kid from Third Rock from the Sun. This is another movie that scores high marks for being terrific genre entertainment. It’s a fast-paced chase movie about bike messengers featuring great bike stunts and a deranged villain performance from Michael Shannon worthy of Nicolas Cage. I was on the edge of my seat. Key Ingredient: fixed gears.
Honorable Mentions: Cloud Atlas, Silver Linings Playbook, Damsels in Distress, Goon, The Dark Knight Rises
I Also Enjoyed: The Loneliest Planet, Ted, Django Unchained, Lockout, Casa de Mi Padre, Bernie, Dark Shadows, Seven Psychopaths, Argo, Safety Not Guaranteed, Seven Psychopaths, Wanderlust, Flight, Magic Mike, Skyfall, Oslo August 31st, Sound of My Voice, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Sleepwalk With Me, Chronicle, John Carter, 21 Jump Street, The Hunger Games, Beasts of the Southern Wild, parts of Prometheus
Meh: The Hobbit: Something Something Something, Men in Black 3, Brave, Savages, The Deep Blue Sea, The Bourne Legacy, Miss Bala, The Campaign, other parts of Prometheus
Bleh: Safe House, One for the Money, Amazing Spider-Man, Total Recall
Worst Movie I Saw This Year: Snow White and the Huntsman
That’s literally every 2012 release that I watched this year. There’s a lot more films that I liked than ones I didn’t like. I think this is because I read reviews and try to avoid most movies that I won’t like. For instance I did not go see Twilight: Moons Over My Hammy: Part 4 or Tyler Perry’s Madea Said What Now?. Then again I did go see Total Recall so obviously I’m not perfect.
Still to be seen: Zero Dark Thirty, Elena, Ruby Sparks, Killer Joe, Cosmopolis, Compliance, For a Good Time Call, Arbitrage, Smashed, Berberian Sound Studio, Holy Motors, Wreck-it-Ralph, The Man with the Iron Fists, Anna Karenina, Killing Them Softly, Deadfall, Les Miserables, Save the Date, Amour, This is 40, Barbara
I just got back from two weeks in Morocco (plus a few extra days in southern Spain) with my friends Chris Cook and Chris Bradbury. I’m not sure I’m going to write anything up about it like the South America trip, but if you want to see the pictures they are on Picasa.
I recently realized that I completely forgot to post my top 10 movie and TV lists back in January. Well I doubt anyone is reading this anyway, but just for posterity here they are, devoid of the usual commentary because hey, it’s almost April.
Best TV of 2011
1. Breaking Bad
6. Game of Thrones
7. Parks and Recreation
8. The Good Wife
10. Boardwalk Empire
Honorable Mentions – Daily Show, Jeopardy!, Revenge, Lights Out, Portlandia, Happy Endings, Childrens Hospital, NTSF:SD:SUV, Sons of Anarchy
Best Films of 2011
- The Descendants
- Young Adult
- Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
- Fast Five
- Attack the Block
- Midnight in Paris
- Martha Marcy May Marlene
- Tree of Life
Honorables: X-Men First Class, Bridesmaids, The Artist, The Debt, Moneyball, Harry Potter and the whatever whatever, Bad Teacher, Hugo, Mission Impossible: Ghost Hunters, Tabloid, Dragon with the Girl Tattoo, Source Code, Rango
Best Documentaries: Tabloid, Beats Rhymes and Life
Here’s my totally unqualified, completely arbitrary top 10 lists of my favorite albums of the year. Enjoy!
- Tune-Yards, Whokill (I know it’s supposed to be “tUnE-yArDs” but I feel stupid typing it that way.)
- Wye Oak, Civilian
- TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light
- Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
- P.J. Harvey, Let England Shake
- Bon Iver, Bon Iver
- Steve Earle, I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive
- The Black Lips, Arabia Mountain
- The Decemberists, The King is Dead
- Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues
Honorables: The Weeknd, Jay-Z and Kanye, Wilco, the Roots, M83, Foster the People, Iron and Wine
Best Comedy Albums:
- Amy Schumer, Cutting
- Patton Oswalt, Finest Hour
- Sklar Brothers, Hendersons and Daughters
- Natasha Leggero, Coke Money
- Tig Notaro, Good One
Had a little get-together this weekend to answer an age-old question: what’s the biggest breakfast sandwich we could make in our small apartment kitchen? Props go to the master chef, my roommate Chris Cook.
Credit for inspiration as always goes to the guys at Epic Meal Time.
1 Domino’s X-Large “Brooklyn”-style pizza with sausage/mushroom
20 McDonalds Chicken McNuggets
1 Wendy’s Double Baconator
1 Wendy’s Large Fry
1 Taco Time Large Mexi-Fry
2 KFC Double Downs
Assorted shit from Taco Bell
3 bags of cheese from the grocery store (Taco Bell would not sell us a large bag of shredded cheese)
Inspired by: http://www.epicmealtime.com/
Follow-up to my Samoas post: I sent a couple boxes to a friend of mine, Patrick Lebow, who is stationed overseas and flies Predator drones for the US Air Force. He took a photo of a Predator with Samoas hanging out of the missile bays.
Unlike my pictures from the previous post, this isn’t Photoshopped (the actual number of boxes I purchased was closer to 40 than to 1000).
When I was a kid, once a year my mother would find some Girl Scouts and order up several boxes of cookies. We’d get a couple boxes of tasty Thin Mints, some humdrum Tagalongs, and at least one box of the execreble Trefoils. Then there would be three boxes of the delicious, perfect-in-every-way Samoas (depending on what part of the country you live in, you may know them as “Caramel DeLites”). The problem was that Samoas were the favorite of my parents as well, and all three of us had a nasty habit of covert late-night binging. Since we all knew that the Samoas would be gone within a matter of hours, it was like an annual race to consume as many Samoas as possible before the rest of the family could. Within a day or two, the Samoas would be gone. The Trefoils would hang out in the kitchen for another three months, taunting me with their non-Samoaness.
As an adult, I’m always on the lookout for Samoas during Girl Scout season. But it’s not always easy to find Girl Scouts (and people get the wrong idea if you ask around for them). Also, when I can find them selling cookies, half of the time they’re out of Samoas. Never out of Trefoils, though.
That scarcity may have led to a bit of an obsession. It’s hard to get obsessed over, for example, Oreos – since you can drop by a grocery store and buy as many as you want. But when a cookie is both perfectly delicious and nearly impossible for me to get, that can lead to a bit of craziness when I do land a good connection. The good news is that I think I’ve paid for the college education of several local Girl Scouts. Did I go overboard this year? Look at these pictures and decide for yourself…
Those who know me know of my abiding love for the Utah Jazz. I grew up in Eastern Idaho and they were the only professional sports team in a 500 mile radius, and my boyhood was during the heyday of Stockton and Malone. While I rarely visit Salt Lake City, I make it a point to see the Jazz play whenever and wherever I can. When I moved here I could see them play the Sonics twice a year, but since the Sonics have been cruelly ripped from the bosom of Mother Seattle, I’ve had to make the pilgrimage to Portland periodically.
The plan for this week was to drive down to Portland with several friends, and to meet some friends of mine who live in Oregon for dinner and the game. However, one by one, everyone cancelled. One friend had to return home for a family emergency, another’s wife threw out her back. Eventually it was down to just myself and my stalwart roommate, Chris. We should have seen these cancellations as omens that the trip was ill-starred. Yet we decided to press on!
The first order of business as we drove to Portland was to find an interesting place to eat. As much as I love the Jazz, I love pig-out spots and eating challenges even more. Hence, when I head to a new city I always check the website of the Travel Channel’s “Man vs Food” for restaurant recommendations. This time the MVF site steered us to a place called Salvador Molly’s. The restaurant was excellent – great decor, fine service, intriguing culinary options. But most importantly, they had a big wall covered with photos of people who had completed the “Great Balls of Fire Challenge”. If there’s one thing I can’t resist, it’s getting my picture on the wall of a restaurant.
There are generally three types of eating challenges: eat something huge, eat something quickly, or eat something spicy. While I’ve done plenty of the first two, I have never attempted a “spicy challenge”, so this was new to me. But I figured, how bad could it be? All I had to do was eat five habanero cheese fritter balls and the salsa that came with them. I’ve eaten extremely spicy foods before, it hurts for a while but then it goes away. I knew that I could handle this.
And I was right! I quickly downed the fritters, my mouth and throat burned something fierce, but I endured and it subsided. We then ate a delicious meal, I got my picture on the wall, and I left Salvador Molly’s triumphant and sated. As we headed to the Rose Garden for the game, I commented on how I should take spicy food challenges more often.
Then, as we took our seats and the game started, I got my comeuppance.
It started like regular indigestion but quickly became an explosion of fiery acid in the depths of my stomach. It’s tough to describe this pain without sounding like a wuss, but you’ll have to trust me that I’m not a particularly pain-sensitive person. This was the worst pain I’ve ever felt, worse than any migraine headache or post-dental-surgery throbbing. I felt like John Hurt in Alien.
After several minutes of clutching my stomach and groaning, I dragged myself to the arena’s first aid station, where two paramedics asked me lots of questions, tested my blood pressure, and pricked my finger to test my blood sugar. In their words I looked “pale, sweating, and wobbly”. Despite my certainty that this was some kind of ulcer bomb detonating in my vitals, they diagnosed “indigestion caused by spicy foods” and told me there wasn’t anything they could do. At that point I commenced staggering around the Rose Garden looking for a place to purchase antacids.
I should mention that I was wearing my Deron Williams jersey and was decked out in Jazz blue, one of only a handful of Jazz fans in a crowd of 20,000 screaming, red-clad Blazers fanatics. At halftime they all spilled out into the halls and my jersey was like a magnet for every drunken Blazer fan to come and heckle me about how my team was losing. Normally, I enjoy this – mixing it up with the home crowd is the best part of coming to the game! But in my current excruciating state, I was in no condition to react well to drunks getting in my face. Luckily, I looked like the Black Death incarnate, so not many got too close. Whenever anyone did come up to me to make some comment, I would grab them by the shirt and scream at them, “DO YOU HAVE TUMS? PEPTO BISMOL?”. This proved to be a good way to deal with hecklers but did not result in obtaining any Pepto Bismol.
I managed to tough it out. I got back to my seat eventually and we stayed until the end of the game, and although the game went poorly for the Jazzmen, I felt a kind of triumph in staying for the final buzzer and never removing my jersey. We decamped the stadium, and soon antacids were acquired and we were heading back to Seattle. My stomach slowly returned to normalcy.
There is a terrifying coda to this tale however, which has caused me to rethink everything I know about human digestion and the way our bodies process food:
The fritters burned on the way out.
The moral of this story is that there is always a price to be paid when placing fiery balls in your mouth. If you don’t pay the price now, you’re sure to pay it later!