Category Archives: Pointless Listmaking

My favorite films of 2012

moonrise kingdom
Lots of good films to be spied this year.

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.

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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!
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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

Better late than never? Top TV and Movie lists

Gus Fring
Gus Fring!

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
2. Justified
3. Community
4. Archer
5. Fringe
6. Game of Thrones
7. Parks and Recreation
8. The Good Wife
9. Louie
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

  1. The Descendants
  2. Drive
  3. Young Adult
  4. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  5. Fast Five
  6. Attack the Block
  7. Midnight in Paris
  8. Martha Marcy May Marlene
  9. Tree of Life
  10. Hanna

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

My favorite albums of 2011

Just use capital letters like a normal person, Merrill.

Here’s my totally unqualified, completely arbitrary top 10 lists of my favorite albums of the year. Enjoy!


  1. Tune-Yards, Whokill (I know it’s supposed to be “tUnE-yArDs” but I feel stupid typing it that way.)
  2. Wye Oak, Civilian
  3. TV on the Radio, Nine Types of Light
  4. Lykke Li, Wounded Rhymes
  5. P.J. Harvey, Let England Shake
  6. Bon Iver, Bon Iver
  7. Steve Earle, I’ll Never Get Out of this World Alive
  8. The Black Lips, Arabia Mountain
  9. The Decemberists, The King is Dead
  10. 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

My favorite films of 2010

OK Mila Kunis, I put your movie at #1. Will you be my girlfriend now?

I watched a scary number of movies this year so (unlike with my music list) I feel like I have a pretty deep pool to draw from here. The challenge with lists like these is striking the balance between entertainment and artistic merit. For instance, I felt like “Scott Pilgrim vs the World” was a flawed film and I could point at several things wrong with it. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ve had more fun in a theater this year. By contrast a film like “The Kids are All Right” is less entertaining to me but ultimately seems more deserving of respect. Good thing I don’t do this for a living, so I don’t actually have to come up with a real answer to that.

On to the list!

  1. Black Swan. I would not have wagered that my favorite film of 2010 would be about ballerinas. That’s the beauty of cinema – its endless capacity to surprise you. Black Swan is over-the-top, ridiculous, suspenseful, bold, entrancing, full of clichés, and yet completely unlike any other movie I’ve ever seen. I had to sit in the theater for several minutes after it ended in order to shake off the spell it put me under. Hats off to director Darren Aronofsky for the way he uses the visual grammar of horror movies to tell a story about the price that must be paid to produce truly great art.
  2. Exit Through the Gift Shop. It’s tough to describe this hilarious documentary by street artist Banksy without spoiling it. It’s nominally about graffiti art, but takes some unexpected turns and makes viewers question what they are actually seeing.  This would make a terrific double feature with another wonderful documentary about art, 2007’s My Kid Could Paint That. Both movies question the commercialism of art and ask – how much of a work’s value derives from the art itself, and how much from the marketing around it?
  3. Scott Pilgrim vs the World. Maybe it’s only fun for GenY video gamers and indie rock nerds, but I fall in that category and there was no film more fun to see in a crowded theater than Scott Pilgrim. Unfortunately it bombed at the box office, but I have a feeling it will live on as a cult film as long as there are people who get the 8 bit references. Frenetic energy, great jokes, and a surprisingly tolerable Michael Cera. It’s the kind of film you want to see again as soon as it’s over.
  4. Winter’s Bone. On the opposite side of the fun spectrum, here’s a miserablist Ozarks drama about a young girl trying to find her meth-cooking father in order to save her young siblings from being homeless. Jennifer Lawrence delivers the performance of the year (better than Natalie Portman in Black Swan). This is the kind of film I wish conservatives would watch so they can see how hard it is to be poor in America.
  5. Inception. I think everyone on the planet has seen this, so let’s move on, shall we?
  6. The Social Network. It’s strange how minor factual errors in this film bothered me a lot, even though it’s a fictional account, while I’m not bothered that a documentary like Exit Through The Gift Shop might be a giant hoax. I guess I just feel that this movie may end up being the definitive record of one of the most interesting stories of our time, and Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher just didn’t give Mark Zuckerberg a fair shake. That said, how about that wonderful dialogue? I could listen to Jesse Eisenberg deliver the “you’re getting the minimal amount of my attention” speech a hundred times.
  7. The Kids Are All Right. I’m a supporter of gay marriage but if I really thought that two lesbians might name their son “Laser”, I might jump to the other side.
  8. The King’s Speech. Middlebrow and predictable, yet it brought a tear to my eye. Definitely recommended but the best scenes are in the trailer. Also, does it mean I’m juvenile if my favorite part of the movie was when Colin Firth yells “tits”?
  9. True Grit. I’ll admit a slight disappointment here as my love for the Coen brothers knows no bounds. Instead of making a transcendent Western they merely made a great Western. Oh well!

I’m leaving the tenth spot open because I have some films left to see and none of the Honorable Mentions really feels like a top ten film to me.

Honorable Mentions: A Prophet, The Secret in Their Eyes, Unstoppable, The Town, Never Let Me Go, Shutter Island, Mother, The Ghost Writer, RED, Fair Game, How to Train Your Dragon, Harry Potter 7.0, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Kick-Ass, Green Zone, 127 Hours

Still in the Netflix Queue: Blue Valentine, Toy Story 3, Dogtooth, Enter the Void, Carlos, Catfish, I Love You Philip Morris, The Fighter, Four Lions, Waiting for Superman

Disappointing: Machete, Robin Hood, Iron Man 2, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, Hot Tub Time Machine

Worst Movies I Saw: Legion, Daybreakers, The Bounty Hunter, Clash of the Titans, Jonah Hex

My favorite albums of 2010

Janelle Monae believes she is some kind of robot.

I have even less credibility as an amateur music critic than I do as an amateur TV/movie critic, so I won’t pretend like I even heard a fraction of all the music that came out in 2010.  Here’s my favorites anyway!

  1. The Walkmen, Lisbon
  2. The Arcade Fire, The Suburbs
  3. Janelle Monae, Archandroid
  4. LCD Soundsystem, This is Happening
  5. The Roots, How I Got Over
  6. Band of Horses, Infinite Arms
  7. Sufjan Stevens, Age of Adz
  8. Broken Bells, Broken Bells
  9. The New Pornographers, Together
  10. Gorillaz, Plastic Beach

Honorable Mentions: Kanye West, Frightened Rabbit, Josh Ritter, Nicki Minaj (more for her scorching guest verses than her album), MGMT, Vampire Weekend.

Best Concert I Attended: Josh Ritter at the Showbox

Best Comedy Albums:

  • Anthony Jeselnik, Shakespeare
  • Hannibal Buress, My Name is Hannibal
  • Aziz Ansari, Intimate Moments for a Sensual Evening

    My favorite TV shows of 2010

    Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James from TERRIERS

    I’m definitely a television geek so it’s strange that I’ve been making best movies/music lists all these years but have never done a best TV list. Probably because in the days before I had DVR, I caught up with everything on DVD and never watched shows week to week. Well, in 2010, I watched a lot of shows as they aired. I probably don’t watch more TV than your average American but I’m efficient about it – I try lots of shows and only stick around with the ones that are very good. We’re in a golden age of American television – if all you can find to watch are crappy reality shows and Law and Order spinoffs, you’re not looking hard enough!

    Here are my personal favorites. Usual disclaimer – I’m an amateur critic only and don’t watch everything, so if your favorite 2010 show isn’t listed I probably just haven’t seen it. Or maybe I think it’s shit. Find out by posting your favorites in the comments!

    1. Mad Men. The fourth season of everyone’s favorite 60’s nostalgia series was the best one yet. The show’s amazingly talented writing staff made a smart decision to keep most of the action in the office of SCDP. Jon Hamm’s work as Don Draper was incredible as always (hopefully Emmy voters watch the best episode of the year, “The Suitcase”, where Don and Peggy work all night and Don copes with a personal loss). Mad Men is also one of the funniest shows on television – no other show can swing between tragedy and comedy as deftly. RIP Mrs Blankenship!
    2. Terriers. Never heard of it? Not surprising, seeing as how this scruffy private-eye show never got more than 800,000 viewers on the FX channel before being cancelled. I choose to focus on the positive and be thankful that we got 13 incredible episodes full of humor, pathos, and great dialogue. We also got a pitch-perfect series finale, which is more than most brilliant-but-cancelled shows get. In the immortal words of Hank Dolworth, “this may be more complicated than I thought”.
    3. Justified. FX also premiered this little gem of a show about a trigger-happy US marshal returning home to rural Kentucky. Luckily for us, it avoided Terriers’ fate and will be airing a second season in January 2011. Do yourself a favor and watch, and don’t forget that if Raylen Givens has to pull his weapon, he shoots to kill.
    4. Boardwalk Empire. HBO spent a fortune producing this Prohibition crime drama and it shows. Incredible production values and sterling performances from Steve Buscemi and Michael Pitt elevate the uneven plotting. I ain’t making no bookshelves.
    5. Rubicon. Also from the brilliant-but-cancelled file is this AMC conspiracy thriller. It had a slow start and a rather stupid finale, but in between were some excellent episodes and unforgettable characters. The show was at it’s best when getting away from the silly conspiracy storyline and focusing on the lives of the people who analyze intelligence for a living, and the immense human cost of the War on Terror. Also, Truxton Spangler taught us something about ties.
    6. Community. The best new sitcom of 2009 was the best overall sitcom of 2010. Highlights include the paintball episode from last spring and this fall’s brilliant bottle episode where the gang tries to figure out who stole Annie’s pen. Don’t get chloroformed!
    7. Venture Bros. Here’s a show that probably isn’t on many top 10 lists, but I have fierce love for the Venture family and the rich world they inhabit. We had to wait many many months for the show’s creators to finally finish season 4 but it was worth it to hear Brock and Col. Gathers discuss the world’s saddest tits.
    8. Fringe. This mad-science show was good-but-not-great in 2009, but towards the end of season 2 made the leap to greatness as the show ditched most of the Freak-of-the-Weeks and revved up the alternate universe storyline. Let’s make some labels and smoke some Brown Betty.
    9. Archer. Yet another stellar new show from FX (what a year for basic cable!). At first this animated spy comedy seemed completely unnecessary. Did the world really need another James Bond spoof? After watching this show, the answer is clearly “yes!”. Also, I learned about online pregnancy tests.
    10. The Pacific. HBO’s newest WWII miniseries was lethargic in it’s early installments and probably had a few too many characters. Still, the unrelentingly grim portrayal of soldiers being pushed to the limit and beyond had me riveted. War is mean, and you better get mean too boo.

    Honorable Mentions: Daily Show, Sons of Anarchy, Lost, Chuck, Childrens Hospital, Treme, 30 Rock, and of course Jeopardy!

    Great Shows from 2010 I Still Need to Catch Up With: Breaking Bad, Party Down, Parks and Recreation, The Good Wife, Louie, Friday Night Lights.

    Guilty Pleasures: Hellcats, True Blood.

    Best Films of 2009, a work in progress


    I love movies and I love making lists. The problem with making a “best of the year” list is that, unlike real film critics, we normal people have to catch up with most movies on DVD several months later. I feel like I can’t make an actual Top 10 list until I’ve seen all the movies from 2009 that I want to see, but it feels dumb to put out a list in June of the following year. So I’m going to put out my list now and call it a rough draft. Maybe I’ll give it an update in a few months when I’ve had a chance to catch up with films like A Serious Man, A Single Man, An Education, Moon, Extract, In the Loop, Passing Strange, Precious, Big Fan, The White Ribbon, 35 Shots of Rum, Where the Wild Things Are, and of course Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.

    Top 10 (for now)  

    1. Up in the Air
    2. Coraline
    3. The Hurt Locker
    4. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus
    5. Fantastic Mr Fox
    6. District 9
    7. The Informant!
    8. Inglourious Basterds
    9. Duplicity
    10. Avatar

    Honorable Mention: Adventureland, Up, Star Trek, Watchmen, Crank 2, Drag Me to Hell, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, The Men Who Stare at Goats, The Girlfriend Experience, Away We Go, World’s Greatest Dad, Observe and Report, The Hangover

    Worst movies that I sat through this year: X-Men Wolverine, The Ugly Truth, GI Joe, Taken.

    Biggest disappointment: Sherlock Holmes

    My favorite music of 2009

    Best album cover of the year
    Best album cover of the year

    I don’t listen to enough new music to be able to declare the “ten best” or anything like that, but I love making year-end lists anyway. Here are my favorite albums of the year, in no particular order:

    • The Felice Brothers – Yonder is the Clock
    • Neko Case  – Middle Cyclone 
    • The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s – It’s Blitz
    • Regina Spektor – Far
    • Wilco – Wilco (The Album)
    • The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
    • Florence and the Machine – Lungs
    • Tegan and Sara – Sainthood
    • Phoenix – Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix

    No rap albums really spoke to me this year, although Raekwon’s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx pt 2 is still on my “to listen” list.

    Here’s my favorite “orphaned singles” – songs I loved on albums I didn’t love:

    • The Decemberists, “The Rake’s Song” and “The Wanting Comes in Waves / Repaid”
    • Animal Collective, “In the Flowers”
    • Steve Earle, “Lungs”
    • Muse, “Uprising”
    • That one song on the Apple commercial where all the people are dancing in front of the iPod video cameras in different colors.

    And finally, my favorite comedy albums of the year:

    • Maria Bamford – Unwanted Thoughts Syndrome  (I can’t recommend this enough)
    • Patton Oswalt – My Weakness is Strong
    • Eugene Mirman – God is a Twelve Year Old Boy