Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything. It’s not a list of movies from best to worst — just how much I liked them. I can’t claim to be an objective judge (who can?), and I’m sure many of movies deserve far more (or in some cases less) credit than I’m giving them. I’ve seen thirty movies so far this year (first ten) (first twenty) — here’s a brief update(new additions to the list are bolded; if something isn’t bolded I probably wrote more about it earlier):
1. Contagion — I loved loved loved Contagion. Favorite movie of the year, favorite Soderbergh movie ever. I’m not generally a big fan of the guy — I find most of his movies to either be too clever or too sterile, but here his signature coldness adds a level of This-Is-Exactly-How-It-Would-Happenness to the slow horror of the premise, and mixed in with startling doses of dark humor and genuine warmth, it produces a surprisingly human film that stays with you. I am also very much looking forward to the just beginning Dad Phase of Matt Damon’s career.
2. Beginners — I need to dock some points from this movie on account of Melanie Laurent not being my girlfriend. Why aren’t you my girlfriend, Melanie Laurent? What’s that about?
3. 50/50 — I feel like I constantly forget how much I enjoy watching Seth Rogen and am always surprised by how funny he is. He’s great in this. Just the way he says words is funny to me. 50/50 is my kind of movie. Smarts and hearts. Raphael recommends!
4. Bridesmaids — This movie was not as much fun the second time as the first time, but maybe I need to keep powering through; my sister’s watched it over a dozen times now and she seems to like it more with each viewing.
5. Martha Marcy May Marlene — I thought this movie was half fantastic and half good-not-great, which I guess averages out to three quarters fantastic. All the stuff dealing with Marcy May and the cult was edge-of-your-seat can’t-look-away awful-great, and the increasing horrifyingness of John Hawkes nicely captures my own experience getting to know the actor: Me And You And Everyone We Know to Winter’s Bone to this: Adorable to Horrible! However, I found Martha’s sister to be a little too conveniently non-understanding. I get that the characters had a strained relationship, but really? You’re not going to call in a psychiatrist on day one? Your sister is clearly recovering from something horribly traumatic— you don’t want to call the police, or a social worker? Harriet Hayes and her husband were a little too yuppie straw man for my taste, which undercuts the tragedy of Martha’s inability to readjust. All in all, though, a great movie.
6. Another Earth — I’ve gone on record to say that my favorite kinds of movies are small movies about sad people, and you don’t get much smaller than this science fiction navel-gazer. It looks like the budget for the whole thing was a buck fifty and they taped it on a camera phone, but boy are these characters sad!
7. Attack the Block — So much fun! If you saw Super 8 and kind of liked it but wanted it to be a little more bad-ass? This is the movie for you! Apparently you can watch it on youtube right now for four dollars. What are you waiting for?!
8. The Future — This movie is terrifying. It’s rare that I see a movie and genuinely have no idea how things are going to turn out, but Miranda July’s disorienting mix of the fantastic and the super-real makes it feel like literally anything could happen. I didn’t love everything about this movie (I could have done with about 100 percent less talking cat), but I loved how Miranda July it was. If everyone made films so idiosyncratic and specific to their own visions, the cineplex would be a much more interesting place.
9. The Ides of March — Competent! That might not sound like a ringing endorsement, but there’s not a lot here to get excited about. As both an actor and director, I find George Clooney to be, at his best, consistent and, at his worst, adequate. As charming as his public persona is, I wish the man took a few more risks, but I guess you don’t get to be as well-liked as George Clooney is by surprising people. Also, it’s super-distracting that Clooney’s character is clearly a surrogate for the actor’s real-life politics— as if anyone that progressive would ever have a real shot at the White House. Also also, how do other people watch Evan Rachel Wood in movies without wanting to constantly shout at the screen, “You were engaged to Marilyn Manson! That is sooooooo weird!”? Am I missing the gene that makes you not totally mystified by this person and her life choices?
10. X-Men: First Class — Dear Mad Magazine, I have come up with a parody title of this movie for you. It’s Ecch-Men: Worst Gas. You’re welcome. Sincerely, Raphael.
11. Rise of The Planet of the Apes — I, like everyone, was surprised by how enjoyable this movie was, considering the title is such a slog to get through. If you’re trying to reboot your franchise for a new audience, adhering to the traditional title conventions is not a great way to start. The movie itself is fun and smart — not knowing anything about the Planet of the Apes movies except that Earth becomes the Planet of the Apes (um, spoiler, I guess?), I was particularly impressed with how the movie killed off the humans in a way that allowed the audience to continue sympathizing with the apes. Adeptly done! I’m glad I saw it, but just typing out that title in its entirety right now makes me like it a little bit less. Looking forward to The Return of The Rise of The Planet of The Apes!
12. Cedar Rapids — Anne Heche is so good in this movie, you guys. This movie justifies why Anne Heche has a career in a way that the entire first season of Hung never could.
13. Midnight in Paris — This is right around the middle of the Woody Allen pack for me. I know I probably seem like the kind of guy who’s seen all 41 of Woody Allen’s movies, but in fact I’ve only seen the following 13 (listed in order of how much I like them, of course):
- Annie Hall - Amazing!
- Manhattan - Also fantastic! (Docked slightly for its life-imitates-art icky I-likes-‘em-young undertones!)
- Bullets Over Broadway - Great!
- Sweet and Lowdown - Don’t really remember it, but I loved it at the time!
- Crimes and Misdemeanors - Spooky!
- Hannah and Her Sisters - Kooky!
- Midnight in Paris - Juuust riiiiight.
- Sleeper - I avoided this movie for years because someone (I think Max?) told me it was great, but sad. What? It’s not sad at all! So silly! Why are you a liar, Max?
- Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Kinda great, kinda boring!
- Bananas - Funny and pointless!
- Everyone Says I Love You - Less funny, more pointless!
- Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex* - Edgy at the time?
- Small Time Crooks - At least Jon Lovitz was having fun!
I feel like I’ve hit most of the big ones, but let me know what I’m missing!
14. The Adjustment Bureau — I enjoyed this movie much more than I expected to, but part of that might have been the fact that I watched it while reclining by a swimming pool on a tropical island off the coast of Belize. I particularly liked the part of this movie where I was drinking a strawberry daiquiri.
15. Drive — I mostly just like how a movie this bizarre got made and distributed and tricked general audiences into thinking it would be some kind of action-y Transporter film, and then tricked those same audiences into thinking that it wouldn’t be that kind of film, and then, surprise! It was! Kind of! At the very least, we can all agree this movie is very cool and very weird. I didn’t love it, but I’m glad movies like this exist.
16. Source Code — I guess I’m glad movies like this exist too. Sure, whatever.
17. Captain America: The First Avenger — Dear Mad Magazine, I have come up with a parody title of this movie for you. It’s (Why do movie studios always hoist this) Crap on America: The Worst Offender. You’re welcome. Sincerely, Raphael.
18. Tree of Life — “MOOOOOOOTHEEEEERRRR… FAAAAAATTTHHHHHEEERRRR…”
19. No Strings Attached — Why is this movie so high on this list? Good question, me.
20. Super 8 — FUN FACT: J. J. Abrams’s production company Bad Robot has the best waiting room of any office I’ve ever been to. I went there for a general meeting and while I was waiting I got to play with legos and draw pictures and open jars of nuts that were actually toy SNAKES! It almost felt like I was at a child psychologist’s office and when they met with me they were going to pull out my drawings and say, “Now, who’s this guy? What does this mean?” and I’d mumble, “I dunno, I just like drawing boys with udders…”
21. Thor — I’ve noticed a fun little trend in Marvel movies that I like to call: This Time It’s Personal/Every Time It’s Personal:
Marvel movie franchises where the bad guy is the good guy’s jealous brother, former best friend, or disgruntled coworker:
- X-Men (Magneto, Mystique)
- Spider-Man (Harry Osborn, Venom)
- Fantastic Four (Dr. Doom)
- Iron Man (Iron Monger, Whiplash)
- Wolverine (Sabretooth)
- Thor (Loki)
I understand how this trope raises the emotional stakes, but can you really call yourself a hero if all of your battles are because people don’t like you?
22. Horrible Bosses — I don’t remember much about this movie, except that I was pleasantly surprised by it. I’m generally unimpressed by studio comedies and kind of feel like they can only be so good just by nature of what they are. I think of Horrible Bosses as a good example of the rambly-shambly-trying-to-appeal-to-everyone studio comedy ceiling. This is as good as they get, folks! (I’m not sure what this statement says about my opinion of No Strings Attached. Apparently I thought it was transcendent?)
23. The Green Hornet — I understand the thinking behind making a movie like The Green Hornet. “We’re going to make a superhero movie, but we’re not going to follow any of the rules of superhero movies. It’s gonna be like a regular superhero story, but with like no stakes! And there will be a love interest but we’ll totally subvert it and it won’t really matter! And the villain will just be this goofy guy! It’ll be hilarious!” Well, as it turns out, all those superhero movie rules are there for a reason, and when you try to subvert them without really having anything interesting to add, you just kind of end up with a big budget Blankman. Credit where credit’s due: Michel Gondry knows how to stage an inventive set-piece, and Seth Rogen knows how to make normal words like “conglomerate” and “scourge” funny just by saying them in his funny Seth Rogen voice.
24. Submarine — I’m really surprised this movie hasn’t taken off with the indie tumblr crowd — I half-expect my dashboard would be filled with gifs and screen caps from this quirky coming of age story. I can’t really recommend it wholeheartedly, but it’s a mystery to me why some movies turn out to be big crossover sleeper hits like Napoleon Dynamite and some end up just being Submarine. I guess lukewarm endorsements like this one? I suppose if you’re shooting for the moon on the Raphael-o-meter (which this movie certainly is), you really have to nail it, or you risk being a Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: just good enough that I was disappointed it wasn’t better.
25. Make Believe — I’m kind of bummed out that this charming documentary is so low. It was fun; it was fine. I guess I need to see more bad movies to push this up.
26. Crazy, Stupid, Love — Is it true that the working title to “Crazy, Stupid, Love” was “Stupid, Stupid, Boring”?
27. The Hangover Part II — Important news! Since my last movie update, I have become employed by some of the people who made this movie! They are all good people and smart and funny and kind and have been incredibly helpful throughout the development process! That is all I have to say about The Hangover Part II!
28. Win Win — I sure hope the boom mic earned some SAG points for all of its appearances in this film.
29. Just Go With It — Jennifer Aniston is by far the most charming and charismatic part of this movie. This is not an endorsement of this movie.
30. Bad Teacher — Was this movie just a big ruse made by a mutual friend of Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake in order to lock them in a room together until they got back together? Because that explanation makes more sense to me than someone actually thinking they would be the right actors to make this movie funny.