As Oscar Season heats up, many are starting to pay attention to the best movies of the year, but I’ve seen precious little ink spilled over the most Channing Tatum-y movies of the year, a glaring oversight of the mainstream media, in this, The Year of Channing Tatum. I’ve been ranking every movie I see this year by how Channing Tatum-y it is, because a list of what movies I think are “the best” feels just as arbitrary, so why not?
You can read my previous posts on the subject here, here, and here. New additions to the list are in bold; if a movie isn’t in bold it means I wrote more about it earlier. Actual Channing Tatum movies are in italics.
Okay, let’s do this, from least Channing Tatum-y to most Channing Tatum-y:
30. Beasts of the Southern Wild
29. Sound Of My Voice
28. Moonrise Kingdom
27. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
26. Lincoln — This movie had pretty much every white male actor except Channing Tatum! It’s like they were trying to not have Channing Tatum! Partial credit for that joke goes to my sister Becky who saw the movie with me, our parents, and our grandmother over Thanksgiving weekend. Could there possibly be a more See-It-Over-Thanksgiving-Weekend-With-Your-Parents movie than Lincoln? I don’t think so, but I’m not making that list. I’m making a Channing Tatum list.
25. Sleepwalk With Me — I loved this movie — equal parts hilarious and heartbreaking — but Mike Birbiglia is a little too self-aware to be a Channing Tatum surrogate, if that is indeed what he was trying to do (I’m not a hundred percent sure he was).
23. Cabin in the Woods
22. Celeste and Jesse Forever
21. The Campaign — The less said about this movie the better. Was it Channing Tatum-y? Uh, sure, I guess, whatever. Can we move on now?
18. Skyfall — I saw this late at night and immediately fell asleep. It seemed good though! The parts I saw! Although it left a lot of loose threads hanging, like: Who’s that guy? And why does that other guy want to kill that lady? Highlights include: the opening credits. Lowlights include: the movie theater was really cold which made it difficult to sleep. But somehow I found a way! Also, this was on a date!
17. The Raid: Redemption
16. Argo — This is pretty medium-of-the-pack for me as far as Channing Tatum movies go. It WAS based on true events (like The Vow) and Ben Affleck DID take his shirt off for no reason in the middle. But on the other hand, John Goodman. I think John Goodman must be like the opposite of Channing Tatum in pretty much every conceivable category. I actually have a hard time imagining ANY movie with John Goodman in it cracking the top ten on a Channing Tatum list. Maybe the Flintstones. MAYBE.
14. Pitch Perfect — Channing Tatum math: (Step Up - Magic Mike) x (21 Jump Street - GI Joe) = Pitch Perfect. This movie is a lot of fun if you like this sort of thing (and I do!), but a little too straight ahead for my taste. I would have liked a little more nuance and personal stakes — nothing that happened felt like it mattered in any real important way, as opposed to, say, Bridesmaids or Legally Blonde, two movies this movie would clearly love to be. Rebel Wilson is great, as were most of the group-of-misfits, but every time the dad appeared on screen was my cue to go to the bathroom (I went to the bathroom three times during this movie! Why did I have to pee so much? That’s maybe a mystery better explored elsewhere) and the Dane Cook lookalike love interest was a total drip.
13. Snow White and the Huntsman
12. The Dark Knight Rises
11. The Amazing Spider-Man
10. The Master — Ugh, MEN, right? A lot of bro-ing out in this movie, which is oh so Channing Tatum. I liked this movie (if I have to fall down on one side or the other), even if it did kind of feel like I just watched the same ten minute movie fifteen times in a row.
9. Looper — Very Channing Tatum this movie, but I had to dock it slightly for not actually having Channing Tatum in it when there were several characters he could have played. This is a dumb popcorn movie done right — fun, twisty, and pulpy — but like all of Rian Johnson’s movies, I felt like the director was more interested in moving around narrative puzzle pieces than he was in piecing together an emotionally satisfying through-line. Also, the entire central premise of loopers being asked to close their own loops is so ludicrous and unnecessary and an early sign that this is a movie more interested in Big Ideas than in human characters, which, hey, man, whatever floats your boat. In conclusion, LIKED, DIDN’T LOVE.
8. Silver Linings Playbook — Saw this at the Austin Film Festival and fell for it hard, head over feet. A really fun crackling heartfelt crunchy ugly hilarious movie. Also: surprisingly Channing Tatum-y, from its tough guy with a heart of gold lead to its big show finale. HEY, DAVID O. RUSSELL. MAYBE GET CHANNING TATUM FOR YOUR NEXT MOVIE? JUST A SUGGESTION. I FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS COULD GET ALONG.
6. The Avengers
5. 21 Jump Street
4. Step Up Revolution
3. 10 Years— I missed this high school reunion movie in which Tatum stars with his real-life wife while it was playing in LA, so I drove two hours in the rain in bumper to bumper traffic to Anaheim one weekday afternoon so I could catch it. I ended up being the sole audience member at the theater which was kind of eerie. If it seems like I’m spending a lot of time not talking about the actual movie, that’s because outside of Channing Tatum being his dopey self, the film was pretty unmemorable and I spent most of its running time feeling embarrassed for the large ensemble cast. There were a few moments of grace, but mostly this was an awkward and uneventful evening in which the cast skated by on remembered charm from past triumphs. So I guess in that way it was an accurate representation of a high school reunion.
2. The Vow
1. Magic Mike
P.S., also, I just realized that there were TWO different movies this year (21 Jump Street and Magic Mike) in which a character tells Channing Tatum point blank something along the lines of “Hey, we’re best friends now.” ALSO THAT’S WHAT AMERICA DID.
As you may recall, this is the Year of Channing Tatum (case in point: Ryan Lochte), and I’m ranking every movie I see by how Channing Tatum it is, because it seemed like a fun idea six months ago and now I’m stuck with it. New additions to the list are in bold, actual Channing Tatum movies are in italics. If a movie isn’t in bold, I probably talked about it in one of my previousposts on this very important subject. Here we go, from least to most Channing Tatum:
20. Beasts of the Southern Wild - I mean, can you even imagine this movie being in the same sentence as Channing Tatum? I guess Hushpuppy has some Tatum-like qualities, but, really, let’s not force this.
19. Sound Of My Voice
18. Moonrise Kingdom
17. Seeking a Friend for the End of the World - If Channing Tatum took a pass at this script, things would be a liiiiiittle different, let me tell you. First of all, Steve Carell’s wife leaves him in the first scene? That wouldn’t happen if it was Channing. Too unbelievable. Next, how come the main character never takes his shirt off? Like does he never have to take a shower or go swimming or change clothes? It’s really unrealistic that we never see the main character without his shirt on. Also, a big asteroid is going to destroy the earth? What if instead of just going on some pointless road trip, the protagonist goes to where the asteroid is going to hit and when it’s about to land, he just gives the asteroid sad puppy dog eyes and then it explodes into a million pieces? Then he’s sweating, because it was really intense puppy dog eyes, so he takes his shirt off. Then he picks up a kitten and just kind of holds it, with his shirt off.
I actually really loved Seeking a Friend — I thought it was really gentle and sweet and hopeful without betraying its dark premise — but it seems like nobody else liked it, so I guess I was wrong?
15. Cabin in the Woods
14. Celeste and Jesse Forever - Andy Samberg plays a lovable goof who has some growing up to do. Remind you of anyone?!?!?!!? Rashida Jones, did you even think about casting Channing Tatum in your small movie about feelings? He would have nailed it!!!!
13. Brave - This movie has a good schmear of Channing in all the boys-will-be-boys posturing and rampaging of Merida’s father and his many frenemies. I love that Pixar finally made a movie where the lead protagonist is a female, BUUUUUT what’s great about Pixar is how they make movies about things like bugs and monsters and robots and rats, so why did their first female main character have to be a princess? I get that she’s a princess whose primary function isn’t falling in love and I get that the princess-mother relationship is a weirdly unexplored one in this genre, but even the reluctant princess feels like a bit of a stock trope at this point, and to me Brave felt more Disney than Pixar, and as far as Channings go, more Stockard than Tatum.
12. Chronicle - Yeah! Dudes wailing on each other! Bloody noses! Now we’re talking! This movie is dripping with Tatumtosterone but I have to ding it slightly for spending so much time on the moody outcast character at the expense of developing all the other more Channing-like characters. What about that cool, popular kid that everyone likes? What’s his story?
11. The Raid: Redemption
10. Wanderlust - This one gets surprisingly high marks by winning the Channing Tatum award for Most Shirts Off. An out of nowhere upset by Wanderlust. Well-maneuvered, Wanderlust.
9. Snow White and the Huntsman
8. The Dark Knight Rises - Love it or hate it, I think everyone can at least agree that The Dark Knight Rises is a bad movie that is stupid and not good. But there are a few not terrible parts! More relevant to this list, there are some very Channing Tatum-y parts. For example, the bat-voice. I think after three movies we can finally say definitively that Batman’s affected tough guy growl is fucking stupid. It’s the kind of thing Channing would try out in rehearsal and the director would be like, “Uhhhh, what are you doing? Just talk like a normal person.” But of course you can’t say that to Christian Bale or he’ll throw you down a flight of stairs.
7. The Amazing Spider-Man - Channing-style action plus Channing-style soppy romance. What else could you possibly want in a movie? You know, other than a single reason to exist outside of Sony’s desire to retain the rights to the Spider-Man franchise by rehashing a story everyone knows to death by now. This is maybe the most narratively unnecessary movie of all time, but I will retroactively give it some points for gutsy followthrough if in the sequel Gwen Stacy does the one thing that the character of Gwen Stacy is most famous for doing in the comics.
5. The Avengers
4. 21 Jump Street
3. Step Up Revolution - Even without Channing Tatum (spoiler: he does NOT make a surprise cameo, trust me, I waited all the way through the credits), the franchise carries on in fine Channing Tatum tradition: good-looking people staring off dully into middle distance and taking their shirts off. It’s a fine movie for what it is, and it mostly knows what it is, but it does have one of the most amazingly tin-eared happy endings I’ve ever seen.
So the whole movie is about these local poor kids in Florida who love to dance. Peter Gallagher comes into town and he tries to price out all the local small businesses so he can make room for a big soulless development to house his gigantic mutant eyebrows. So the locals start protest-dancing in order to fight back. It’s all very 99% vs. 1% and there’s a lot of talk about suits vs. artists, and the Man, and the cruel callousness of huge corporations.
Then in the end, the dancers stage this big protest. Peter Gallagher vows to change his ways, and a guy in a suit goes up to the dancers and says, “Hi, I’m an executive from Nike and we’ve been looking for some kids like you to head up a new viral marketing campaign.” And Oh my God, the dance crew can’t wait to sell out to Nike. Like they can’t become the thing they spent the whole movie hating fast enough. And there is zero internal debate. The suit makes his offer and one of the main dancers — the one who’s had the biggest chip on his shoulder the whole movie — literally says, “Where do I sign?!” grinning madly.
You might not remember, but this is the Year of Channing Tatum (even though the new G.I. Joe was pushed back to next year so they could work in, no joke, MORE CHANNING TATUM), so I’ve been ranking every movie I see in terms of how Channing Tatum-y it is.
New additions to the list are in bold, actual Channing Tatum movies are in italics. In this case, I talked about all the actual Channing Tatum movies in my last post on the subject.
10. Sound Of My Voice — Brit Marling, the star and co-writer of last year’s fantastic Another Earth, is 2 for 2 as far as I’m concerned in making smart, fragile and surprisingly moving sci-fi-ish movies, and 0 for 2 in making the kinds of movies Channing Tatum would star in. There is nothing Channing Tatum-y about this movie at all, and trust me, I was looking. I don’t know if Brit Marling and director Zal Batmanglij were trying to make a Channing Tatum movie, but if so, F.
9. Moonrise Kingdom — This is the kind of movie Channing Tatum is going to be doing in thirty years, if he’s smart. I think Bruce Willis could be a good role model career-wise. What did I think of this movie? Look, me, Wes Anderson is never going to make another Rushmore, a movie that for all its whimsical trappings still feel likes it exists in the real world or something like it. I would put Wes Anderson movies into three distinct eras: 1) The Owen Wilson Years (Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) — I’m not sure if it was co-writer Wilson that kept these movies grounded or if Wes just felt more tentative about pushing his own style, but this is my favorite era. 2) Serious Movies For Grown-Ups (The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited) — these movies replace real sadness (Dead mother! Suicide attempt!) with real tragedy (On-screen violent deaths! ). I imagine after Tenenbaums, these are the movies where Wes thought, hey I might be able to win an Oscar here, but his increasingly fanciful form can’t sustain the seriousness of the themes he wants to explore. These movies are wildly ambitious, but for me, they don’t stick the landing, and the whole thing comes off as shallow. (However, The Hotel Chevalier, the companion short to The Darjeeling Limited, is a dark beauty that fits in nicely with his earlier work.) 3) Full Tilt Whimsy (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Moonrise Kingdom) — Here, Anderson fully embraces his flair for visual storytelling. Every frame is gorgeous and the stories are simpler to better support the look-don’t-touch aesthetic. It seems Anderson has found his wheelhouse here. Watching kids and stop-motion animals inch awkwardly toward sexuality and spout too-true emotional pearls is loads more moving and appropriate than watching stunted adults do it. There are ripples of real emotion and pain here (Thank God!), but the films are otherwise dioramas. The lower stakes actually work in these movies’ favor, because the fetishistic visual detail doesn’t feel quite so inappropriate. For better or worse, no one can describe either of these movies as “a mess.”
8. Prometheus — Can we all agree that Michael Fassbender is like the gentleman’s Channing Tatum? This movie is a tedious slow-drip of nonsense, followed by one amazing gruesome alien abortion sequence, followed by a slightly shorter tedious slow-drip of nonsense. I’m sure there’s a great movie in there, somewhere, but this isn’t it. Honestly? Could’ve used a little Channing Tatum.
7. Cabin in the Woods — This was a little too clever to be a Channing Tatum movie. I loved it personally, but if I had to give notes on how to make it more Channing Tatum-y, I’d say, Can we dumb this down a notch or twelve?
6. The Raid: Redemption — This movie was pretty Channing Tatum-y in that I guess it was good, for what it was, but I also found it pretty tremendously boring and there wasn’t a lot there for me to care about. Kind of like Dear John, but with more brutal depictions of grisly murders.
5. Snow White and the Huntsman — This movie is a dire incomprehensible slog, but it’s also admittedly very very good-looking. I kind of think dating Channing Tatum would be a lot like watching this movie. Like you’d be constantly alternating between gaping at the lush visuals and making snarky comments to your friends. It would be kind of cool at first but ultimately I think you’d end up being pretty embarrassed about the whole thing.
3. The Avengers — I am aware that on my Tatumometer, I am ranking this above an actual Channing Tatum movie, which is a dangerous precedent, but couldn’t you just see Channing Tatum as one of the studlier Avengers? Like as a Thor or a Captain America? Frankly I’m surprised they didn’t slather Channing up in green paint Lou-Ferrigno-style and have him run around punching buildings while grunting. Maybe that’s in the deleted scenes.
I’ve seen three movies so far in 2012, and while normally I rank movies by how much I enjoyed them, this year I’m doing something a little different and ranking them by how Channing Tatum-y they are, from least Channing Tatum-y to most Channing Tatum-y. For those who don’t know who Channing Tatum is, first of all, kill yourself, because the un-Channing-Tatum-ed life is not worth living. Basically (and this is all paraphrased from Wikipedia), Channing Tatum is a hunky pouty character from a Nicholas Sparks book that magically came to life because enough adolescent girls quietly wished it while weeping softly into their Lisa Frank notebooks. (Is Lisa Frank still a thing? Sure she is.)
Okay, here goes, list-time:
3. Haywire — This movie only has a little Channing Tatum in it, but he does get a decent fight scene. The action set pieces are all fantastic, because there isn’t so much cutting around that you can’t tell what’s happening, but everything else is pretty forgettable. Could’ve used more Channing Tatum, honestly.
2. 21 Jump Street — I saw an early screening of this and had a blast — this movie is way funnier than it has any business being, and Channing Tatum is great at playing his big dumb handsome guy routine for laughs. I definitely recommend seeing this when it comes out, unless it gets really bad reviews and it’s generally considered not “cool” to like this movie, in which case I take back everything I said.
1. The Vow — this movie is soooooo Channing Tatum-y. The Vow was pretty much made for Channing Tatum to squint and pout his way through with his dumb squinty pout-face. Apparently it’s “inspired by true events” and I’m pretty sure the true event that happened was a guy walked into a movie studio and said, “I’ve got a great idea for a movie starring Channing Tatum!” How well does this movie make use of Channing Tatum’s talents? At one point, Channing Tatum says he doesn’t like cats, and then, later, he is sad and lonely, and he cradles a homeless cat, with his shirt off. THAT IS EXACTLY HOW CHANNING TATUM SHOULD BE USED, LIKE SOME SORT OF MODERN-DAY KOKO THE GORILLA. Oh my God, Channing Tatum is the new Koko the gorilla! Don’t crush that kitten, Channing Tatum!
I will keep this list updated throughout the year as I see more movies with Channing Tatum in them (he’s in like a billion this year, rough estimate). BTW I am seriously considering only seeing Channing Tatum movies this year. Like, seriously. Like, what is wrong with me?
So, I don’t know if you know this, but every year I keep a running tally and ranking of every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything. I’ve seen forty movies so far this year (first ten) (first twenty) (first thirty) — and I’ll keep updating this list as I see 2011 movies well into 2012 (although I might have to switch to a different format, because these posts are getting looooong) — here’s how I liked ‘em so far (new additions to the list are bolded; if something isn’t bolded I probably wrote more about it earlier):
1. Contagion— A star-studded romp from the director of Ocean’s Eleven!
2. Beginners — Give that dog an Oscar.
3. The Artist — A trifle, but what a gorgeous trifle it is — a beautiful example of form elevating content in consistent and surprising ways. It’s possible that if I were as familiar with silent movie tropes as I am with, say, the Muppets, I would find the constant homages/rip-offs to be grating and skin deep appropriations, but as it stands, this is the most fun I had at the movie theater all year. Give that dog an Oscar.
4. 50/50— Unlike some other movies in my top twenty that fade with time, the more I think about 50/50, the more I like it. I don’t know what it says about me that four of my top five movies are all about death. I recently made a list of all the people I knew who died — it was less than twenty. I wonder if as I get closer to death, and more of my loved ones pass away, it’ll be less fascinating/terrifying to me. (Or more?)
5. The Descendants — I like Citizen Ruth and Election so much, it took me a while to get on board with Alexander Payne’s transition into making serious films for grown-ups, but I think this movie is much better than About Schmidt and Sideways. As usual, George Clooney doesn’t really stretch as an actor, but also as usual, his usual schtick is solid enough to carry the film. The movie has enough jagged edges to give it texture — nobody gets off too easy — and it hits a mark Payne sometimes misses: it’s darkly funny without being suffocating and quietly sweet without being cloying.
WARNING: this movie features about eight different kinds of crying, so bring a notepad if you’re interested in taking a master class.
6. Bridesmaids — For all the talk about the arrival of the Dirty Woman’s Comedy, and as funny as the dress shop scene was, can we all agree that the best parts of the movie were the small character moments? Wiig and Rudolph joking around over breakfast; Wiig and Byrne’s awkward speech-off; Wiig grumbling to herself while driving up the long driveway and drinking the fresh lemonade; “Civil rights. It’s the nineties.” I guess that’s true of most comedies: the big set-pieces get people into the theater, but it’s the smaller hilarious moments that make you fall in love with the characters.
7. Martha Marcy May Marlene— When describing the plot of Martha Marcy May Marlene, or MMMM, it’s important to do it to the melody of that horribleMmm Mmm Mmm Mmm song from the 90s. “Once… there was this girl who… wanted to feel wanted so she fell into a cult and… “
8. Young Adult — Admittedly, this kind of thing is my bag, baby — unsentimental portraits of prickly characters — and I loved all the nuance and specificity of the protagonist’s everyday life, the difference between her Off and On, and all the effort that goes into switching from one to the other.
I think that one’s enjoyment of Jason Reitman’s movies depends on where one places him in the film landscape. If you consider him an indie auteur, it can be disappointing how he sometimes seems to take refuge in cuteness instead of truly diving into the darkness of his characters — it’s tempting to imagine a Noah Baumbach’s Young Adult, a Nicole Holofcener’s Juno, or a Sofia Coppola’s Up In The Air — but if you view Reitman as a big commercial director on the fringes of the mainstream, as I tend to, his movies are a refreshingly complicated and cluttered antidote to the sterile and straightforward standard Hollywood fare. Reitman denies his audience the catharsis movies have taught us to expect, which sometimes feels cheap, and not so much Refreshingly Truthful as A Different Kind Of Unearned, but at their best moments, his movies say things that no one else in Hollywood is saying, with a striking confidence and a deceptively professional sheen, and there’s something thrillingly off-putting about that. It’s cherry-flavored medicine, and it doesn’t always go down easy.
This all may come off as a little backhanded, but if so I don’t mean it as a backhanded compliment, I mean it as a backhanded rave.
9. Moneyball — Great, decent, good. Even knowing the movie’s postscript ahead of time doesn’t dampen its uplift, which is quite an achievement, although Ben Joseph’s hilarious takedown of the film’s use of “The Show” is a fair critique. ALSO: It took me way too long to figure this out, but this movie really cemented why baseball is the only sport I can get into on any level. It’s for nerds. Baseball, with its box scores and batting averages and playing the percentages, is a game for nerds. The jocks get football, the popular kids get basketball, the preps get polo, and the artsy kids stay indoors. If you’re shy or easily startled you can get into golf; if you were born anywhere other than America, enjoy your soccer. Pool is for cool kids, lacrosse is for the intellectually curious, and rugby is for rebels. But baseball is for nerds. Long live baseball.
10. Another Earth — I don’t really have much new to say about Another Earth — it’s great; I loved it — so I’m going to use this space to talk about how stupid We Bought A Zoo looks. What the fuck? You bought a zoo? “You don’t need any special knowledge to run a zoo, what you need is a lot of heart.” What?! Wrong! So wrong! You need so much special knowledge to run a zoo!
11. Attack the Block — WHY WOULD ANYBODY BUY A ZOO?!?! Okay, sorry. Back to the list. Attack the Block is a delight.
12. The Future— The characters in this movie were so aimless and depressed in ways heartbreakingly and terrifyingly familiar. Maybe, in order to give their lives some purpose, they should have bought a zoo.
13. The Ides of March — Right now this movie holds the record for most actors that I also saw in other movies this year. It’s one of three Ryan Gosling movies, three Paul Giamatti movies, two George Clooneys, two Philip Seymour Hoffmans, and two Marisa Tomeis. I don’t know if that’s any kind of accomplishment, but it’s certainly something.
14. X-Men: First Class — ”You know what America wants to see? A sexually predatory Professor X!” “Brilliant! Write it up!” I’m being snide, but you know what? IT WEIRDLY KIND OF WORKS.
15. Rise of The Planet of the Apes — It’s strange that Hollywood keeps rebooting franchises earlier and earlier. Nevertheless, this is a fun prequel to the Contagion series.
16. Cedar Rapids — Is John C. Reilly ever not great? Even in so-so movies (SEE DIRECTLY BELOW), he stands out.
17. Carnage — I saw God of Carnage on Broadway, and I have similar opinions about the play and the film: all the early awkward comedy of manners stuff is fantastic, but once it gets into larger statements about the nature of the universe, the narrative loses me. The actors all great, but at a certain point their characters get replaced with IDEAS and the whole thing becomes a forced joke: ha ha, aren’t these straw men we made up ridiculous? It’s never a good sign if halfway through your movie you switch to handheld cameras and things get less real. Still though, some hilarious moments up top before the whole thing turns into a Polanski movie.
18. Midnight in Paris — So were Owen Wilson and Rachel McAdams reprising their Wedding Crashers characters or what? How did things get so sour between them? And how did Wilson transition from his career in divorce arbitration to screenwriting? And what happened to Vince Vaughn and Isla Fischer? Now that I think about it, this sequel sure had a lot of holes.
19. The Adjustment Bureau — Fun new game: pretend you’re a member of the Adjustment Bureau and every time you inconvenience one of your friends, it’s for some greater purpose. “Dude, could you ask next time, before just reaching over and stealing one of my fries?” “YOUR LUNCH HAS BEEN ADJUSTED.”
20. Jack and Jill — OKAY, I KNOW, BUT HEAR ME OUT.
I really enjoyed Jack and Jill, as did Margaret and Emily who saw it with me, as did the big opening weekend crowd at the Grove. Now I don’t mean, we all liked it in a so-bad-it’s-good kind of way; I mean we liked it. We laughed at the parts that were supposed to be funny and afterward, we all looked at each other and said, “Uhhh, that was kind of good, right?”
NOW, I can accept that when it comes to this movie, I am wrong and everybody else is right, and I’m furthermore aware that I watched the trailer for the new Three Stooges movie like four times the day it came out, and giggled like an idiot each time, so maybe there’s just a piece of my brain missing.
There were definitely some really bad parts in Jack and Jill — mostly involving farting or pooping — but a lot of it was really funny. I urge you all to watch the movie’s final scene with Al Pacino — I thought it was amazing, and I’m ninety percent sure that wasn’t just the Stockholm Syndrome setting in.
I do think Armond White’s observation that Jill is a representation of the assimilated Jack’s ethnic shame is actually pretty on-point — the characters’ relative Jewishness is discussed at length, as is the WASPiness of Jack’s wife Katie Holmes — but it’s obviously pretty understated/underdeveloped and I think the film could have pushed further in that direction (not that it ever seriously would). This is also Sandler’s most nakedly sentimental movie since Click (I’m not counting Funny People or Reign Over Me as Adam Sandler movies), and while Click was way too dark, I really appreciated in this movie how seriously all the characters took the movie’s ridiculous central relationship. Not to spoil anything, but the emotional breakthrough of the film happens during a completely straight-faced and understated conversation between Al Pacino playing himself and Adam Sandler playing Jack disguised as Jill. I don’t want to oversell this movie, but it’s certainly a lot more sophisticated than Norbit.
This is by no means an unequivocal endorsement. Please put everything I said in a parentheses labeled “I AM TALKING ABOUT ADAM SANDLER’S CROSS-DRESSING COMEDY JACK AND JILL.” Make no mistake, this movie is a phenomenal clusterfuck, but I’ll take a fascinating mess over a well-constructed bore any day.
21. Drive —I didn’t like Drive as much as I liked Jack and Jill.
22. Captain America: The First Avenger — Hey, Captain America! You just discovered that you’ve been frozen for 60 years, the world is not at all the one you left, and everyone you ever knew is dead. What’s the first thing you’re going to do? Make a dumb inside joke that nobody you’re talking to will understand! Cut to credits!
23. Tree of Life — I didn’t like Tree of Life as much as I liked Jack and Jill.
24. No Strings Attached — Sooo… can sex friends stay best friends?
25. Source Code — If only I could go back in time and relive the last seven minutes of editing this movie, maybe I could have prevented them from including that bullshit ending that knocks the whole movie down a full letter grade.
26. The Trip — I don’t know if I would have ever seen this British mini-series had it not been cobbled together as a feature for American audiences, but I bet I would have enjoyed the TV version more. The thing feels like a TV show, and had I watched it in 30-minute chunks I’m sure I would look forward to every morsel, as opposed to rolling my eyes at how repetitious everything was. Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon have an unbelievable chemistry which I hope they exploit further, and the thing is full of great moments, both hilarious and moving, but even the film’s strong undercurrent of sadness doesn’t change the fact that you’re basically just watching two guys joking around in a car for two hours.
27. Super 8 — FUN FACT: The movie Cloverfield was named after the exit you take off the freeway to get to Bad Robot’s office in Santa Monica. It was a dummy title they were using before they came up with a real title, but then they never got around to renaming it. FUN FACT: I HAVE TAKEN THAT EXIT. #tumblbrag
28. Thor — “Hey, guy with a lisp, did you like this movie?” “Thorta.”
29. Horrible Bosses — IDEAS FOR SEQUELS: 1) DEPLORABLE BOSSES: just like the horrible bosses, but even worse. 2) ADORABLE BOSSES: the bosses are all kitty cats! 3) IGNORABLE BOSSES: the bosses aren’t really good or bad, they’re just kind of there. 4) HOORAY FOR CAPTAIN SPAULDING THE AFRICAN EXPLORABLE BOSSES: did someone call me schnorrible bosses? Hooray, hooray, hooray!
30. The Green Hornet — As I was about to write about The Green Hornet, either Seth Rogen just walked into this cafe, or a stocky, hairy guy with glasses just walked into this cafe and I thought it was Seth Rogen because I was just thinking about The Green Hornet. Either way, pretty spooky, right?
31. Submarine — This movie contains no actual submarines.
32. Make Believe — I’ve never read the Harry Potter books, but they’re pretty much like this, right?
33. Like Crazy — This movie gorgeously captures the swells and aches of being young and in love. You know what it doesn’t capture? Why I should give a shit. Next!
34. Crazy, Stupid, Love — I kind of wish I was given the opportunity to give a round of notes on this movie before it went into production, because I feel like it could’ve been exponentially better if they’d just gotten rid of that awful kid. That kid — not the actor, his story — was such a black hole, it sucked in everything that got near it. The further away from the kid the stories got, the better they were. OBSERVE: the horrible kid < the teenage girl the kid had a crush on < Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore, whose story had a lot of great moments but suffered from some major kid-influence in the third act < the Carrell-Gosling bromance < the courtship of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone
35. A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas — Before we saw this movie, my friends and I wanted to make sure we got in the right mindset, if you catch my drift, and I think I got a little too in the mindset, if you get my meaning, because I could barely follow what was happening. Still, we all had a lot of fun, I think.
36. The Hangover Part II — I really hope the third movie takes place on an international space station.
37. Win Win — Hey, Tom McCarthy, this is embarrassing, but you accidentally wrote “win” twice in the title. I guess your script could’ve used a second draft.
I’m a little torn on the very idea of making new Muppets movies. Part of me feels like Jim Henson was the Muppets in the same way Peter Sellers was Inspector Clouseau, and making new Muppets movies after he died, and without Frank Oz, and without Richard Hunt, and without Jerry Nelson, would be like making a Woody Allen movie without Woody Allen. But another part of me believes that Everything is a Remix and our myths belong to us all and why shouldn’t other people get a chance to play around in the sandbox with these iconic characters?
The answer, as it turns out, is because they end up making a movie less about the Muppets than about how much Jason Segel loves the Muppets.
There are a few interesting plot strands in the movie — I would love a richer backstory about why the gang split up, or more specifically what happened between Kermit and Miss Piggy — but everything gets second billing to the main plot of the movie: We’re not as famous as we used to be and isn’t that sad and boy wouldn’t it be great to be popular again?
I’ve never seen a billion dollar franchise feel so sorry for itself. Dude, the legacy of the Muppets is secure. If enthusiasm has waned over the years, it’s not because they all went away for a while; it’s because they wouldn’t go away, thrusting more and more inferior products on their loyal fan base. There’s a scene in the movie where an evil executive threatens to take control of the Muppets’ name and use the rights to make whatever he wants regardless of the opinions of the original Muppets, and I whispered to Caroline, “Uuuuhhh, is this movie real life? Because that’s exactly what happened when Disney took control of the franchise.”
There’s something morbid about hearing a Jim Henson impressionist sing A Rainbow Connection. There’s something metatextually off-putting about introducing “The Moopets,” a band of cynically off-brand Muppets and contrasting them with the “real Muppets” who may have the same felt as the original characters, but not their voice.
The whole thing had a strange Weekend At Bernie’s feel to it. As much as I wanted to get into it, to be swept up in the nostalgia, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching dancing corpses.
39.Just Go With It— Look, I have no one to blame but myself for seeing so many Adam Sandler movies, but I wish that didn’t also have to automatically mean I’ve seen so many Nick Swardson movies.
40. Bad Teacher — With Segel in this, and Franco and Rogen in Green Hornet, is Cameron Diaz working her way through the entire Freaks and Geeks cast? Looking forward to her upcoming romantic period epic co-starring Samm Levine.
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)
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.
I’ve seen twenty movies so far this year (first ten) — here’s a brief update (new additions are in bold):
1. Beginners — This movie is fantastic. A remarkably sincere and heartbreakingly specific work. My favorite quality in a movie is the feeling that what I’m watching is somehow personal — that it could only have been made by this person at this time. A movie doesn’t have to be semi-autobiographical like this one is in order to have that essence, but Beginners is so full of well-observed details and moments, it makes other movies seem fake.
2. Bridesmaids — I was recently asked by someone if I genuinely loved this movie or if I was just one of those people who felt like I should love it, because of Feminism. The answer is that this movie is great and I loved it. I want to see more female-driven comedies that aren’t just about how hard it is for gorgeous Katherine Heigl to find a decent man until she learns to settle for a grotesque muppet-slob like Rogen or Butler, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to automatically love every, say, Bad Teacher.
3. Another Earth — This movie is kind of the opposite of Bad Teacher (see below; far, far below). A lot of things about it don’t work for me, but Brit Marling’s star performance is so fantastic it elevates the whole thing. I really enjoy this kind of feelings-based low-budget science fiction (see also: Moon); I hope there’s a market for it, because I’d love to see more.
4. X-Men: First Class — Oh man, I was not prepared for how much I would love this. I had such a blast, you guys. This was a comic book movie done right, brilliantly capturing the perfect blend of silliness and pathos, but it was also a franchise film done right — a strong piece on its own, not relying on an elaborate knowledge of the previous entries in the series (*cough* Superman Returns) or weighed down by teasing future installments (looking in your direction, Iron Man 2), but also using what the audience knows about the characters in exciting and interesting ways that you can’t with a one-off. This movie made me feel like a little kid again, poring over the comics for the first time, in a way a superhero movie hasn’t since Spider-Man 1 and 2. The X-Men movies always felt so crowded and muddy to me, but there’s a clarity and focus here that really allows the material to soar. I think the period detail really helped in this regard (as it did in Captain America), along with the whole team-coming-together-for-the-first-time thing. More than any movie in recent memory, X-Men: First Class really captures the wonder and danger of living in a world with super powers. Excelsior! (Oh, yeah, and also: a lot of problematic race/gender stuff, ESPECIALLY for a series that mines its drama from the oppression of a disenfranchised minority, so, uh, points off for that.)
5. Cedar Rapids — Not much to say about this movie that I didn’t already say last time, but I will add that I am always a fan of movies that explore a low-rent version of something, like this movie’s treatment of Cedar Rapids as a low-rent Dubai.
6. Midnight in Paris — This is Woody Allen’s highest-grossing movie ever? Okay, whatever. Midnight in Paris is slight, but delightful. It could’ve used more Rachel McAdams, like all movies.
7. Source Code — This movie also could’ve used more Rachel McAdams, but if you can’t get Rachel McAdams, I guess Michelle Monaghan is an adequate substitute.
8. Captain America: The First Avenger — This movie was a lot a lot of fun, but they kind of botched the ending. And when I say “ending,” I’m not referring to the part after the credits, because I saw a late showing of this with Margaret and by the end of it, we were both pretty tired and she said, “Let’s go,” and I said, “Really? Don’t you want to see what’s after the credits?” and she said, “Movies like this never have anything after the credits,” and I said, “But Thor did! And so did Iron Man, and Iron Man 2!” and she said, “I’m tired; let’s go,” so we left, and I didn’t get to see what happened after the credits. I’m sure it was nothing, Margaret.
9. Tree of Life — Ever since seeing this movie, sometimes for no reason or if I’m bored I’ll just start shout-whispering: “MOTHER… FATHER… BROTHER… MOTHER… YOU ARE MY FATHER, MOTHER… ALWAYS WILL MY MOTHER BE MY BROTHER…”
10. No Strings Attached — If you can’t get Rachel McAdams or Michelle Monaghan, Greta Gerwig will do in a pinch.
11. Super 8 — This movie was super well-cast — all the stuff between the kids was really great — but I feel like the monster stuff was just kind of shoehorned in. It was like J. J. Abrams said, “Okay, guys, I want to make this really delicate coming of age story set in the eighties,” and the studio was like, “With a monster?” And Abrams was like, “It’ll be a throwback to Spielberg’s early work,” and the studio was like, “His early monster work?” And Abrams was like, “It’ll be about young artists dealing with grief and regret—” and the studio was like “And a monster, right?” And Abrams was like, “Fine, whatever, there will be a monster.”
12. Thor — or as the teenagers sitting behind me called it, “Thor Hours Long” AKA “It Was So Long My Butt Is Thor”
13. Horrible Bosses — Surprisingly not terrible! Jason Bateman, your movies are consistently among my least favorite of the year (Extract, The Switch), but not this year! Looking forward to The Change-Up!
14. Submarine — I was in a really bad mood when I saw this quirky Welsh coming of age story and I was hoping it would make me feel better. It didn’t. Sorry, Submarine, maybe I would have liked you more if I wasn’t already feeling shitty about things, or if you were just a little bit better. Hard to say.
15. Make Believe — If you can’t get Rachel McAdams or Michelle Monaghan or Greta Gerwig, at least get a bunch of teenagers who like magic and are really intense about it.
16. Crazy, Stupid, Love — MIIIIDDLLLLEEEBRROOOOOOOOW. This movie is so middlebrow, it should be called Middlebrow, Stupid, Middlebrow. If you don’t know what I mean by “middlebrow,” don’t bother looking it up, because no wikipedia entry could properly describe the elaborate middlebrowishness of this crunchy-on-the-outside gooey-on-the-inside Hitch-for-white-people. The very idea of something being in-the-middle-of-brow was made for movies like this one (in which Steve Carell is stuck with a bill for eight hundred dollars and sees it as a mild annoyance, in which a grand romantic gesture takes place during a middle school graduation speech, and in which women are either sexual objects or somebody’s daughter and not, you know, both), so whatever the connotations the word had before don’t matter — the new definition of middlebrow is: Crazy, Stupid, Love.
Don’t get me wrong — it’s not at all terrible, and that’s what makes it so bad. Crazy, Stupid, Love has just enough good-to-great moments to make it incredibly frustrating that the whole thing isn’t better. The best sequences make use of the four main actors’ not inconsiderable charisma and infectious chemistry (as well as charming supporting turns from Bacon and Tomei [side note: If The Bacon and Tomei isn’t the name of an omelet at some diner in West Hollywood, then you’re not trying hard enough, West Hollywood]), but the bad parts (mostly involving a precocious adolescent who has a lot of romantic ideas about soul mates) are like a black hole of obviousness, sucking the specificity out of the room with barf-inducing cuteness and eye-rolling broadness and taking what could have been a sophisticated and deeply felt comedy-drama for grown-ups and Love-Actually-izing it into bullseye-direct-center-of-the-brow slop.
17. The Hangover Part II — Both Hangover movies, by design, peak early. The best sequence in each is when the characters wake up in a seemingly inexplicable world of chaos — the terrifying remnants of a night of debauchery. The following hour-long explanation of that chaos then can’t help but be anti-climactic. Also, hey, we got a Paul Giamatti club going on over here, down at the bottom of this list. Yo, what up, Win Win?
18. Win Win — Not much, Hangover 2, just chillin’.
19. Bad Teacher — this movie is filled with hilarious actors giving great performances. Too bad the star is Cameron Diaz.
20. [SECRET MOVIE] — I saw an early advance screening of this so-bad-it-could-make-an-atheist-think-God-is-punishing-him movie and signed a thing saying I wouldn’t talk shit about it on the internet. Honestly, I’m not sure this pungent fart of a film will ever see release, in which case I will drop it from this list. I kept it on this go-round just because I didn’t want people to think the secret movie I hated last time was Bad Teacher. This movie was so much worse than Bad Teacher, guys.
Most comedies these days seem content to just be comedies — an hour and a half of people riffing, without a great deal of world-building or visual flair. One of the things I like about director Miguel Arteta (who also directed The Good Girl and Youth in Revolt) is that his comedies feel like real movies, with specific color palettes and senses of weight. Cedar Rapids has a simple premise, but it benefits greatly from rich three-dimensional characters and genuine honest relationships.
3. Tree of Life
Finally, a movie about the entire history of the universe, told in real-time. I found the majority of this movie endlessly boring and indulgent (emphasis on the endlessly), but the parts that worked were so incredibly beautiful and immediate and honest, that it still gets slotted above movies I enjoyed more thoroughly like No Strings Attached. Still, I would have loved it if I felt like those parts were in the service of something a little more interesting than Enter the Void for middle-aged people.
4. No Strings Attached
This movie was a delightful surprise — smart, sweet, and funny — and much much better than its ad campaign made it look. If you’re a fan of good romantic comedies, seek this out. The writer of No Strings Attached, Liz Meriwether, also created the Zooey Deschanel show New Girl which is premiering next fall on Fox and is also very good.
5. Source Code
This movie really botched the ending, but I chose to forgive it by convincing myself that it was actually ambiguous and open to interpretation (even though it definitely wasn’t), and that the lazy, nonsensical, insulting resolution was just one way among many to interpret it. Sure, all signs point to this ending being total complete bullshit, but maybe if you look at it another way, it could maybe not be?
Better than Iron Man 2, not as good as Iron Man 1.
7. Make Believe
This documentary about a teenage magician competition is a lot of fun, full of great hilarious characters, but there isn’t quite as much suspense as there should be for a movie like this, since from the beginning, one of the kids is clearly a much better magician than the rest of them. Still, I don’t want to undersell how fun this is. Not that it’s relevant, but this movie was also much better than Iron Man 2.
8. The Hangover Part II
I think I liked this better than most people, but I’m not sure why. Maybe because I didn’t think the first one was all that great, so I wasn’t disappointed? I found both Hangover movies to be more fun than they are funny. I didn’t really laugh at any of the jokes, but I enjoyed the mystery and adventure inherent in the premise. I know a lot of people are criticizing this movie for biting the first one’s structure beat-for-beat, but that’s really the only thing about the movies that I like. I hear they’re thinking of dropping the premise for the next sequel, but I don’t know how much time I want to spend with these characters outside of a hangover.
9. Win Win
This movie disappointed me, mostly because I’m such a fan of Tom McCarthy’s previous movies, The Visitor, and (especially) The Station Agent. Win Win has elements of what made the other films work, but it’s way too crowded (What is the point of Jeffrey Tambor’s character?) for anything to really get resolved satisfyingly. You could make a whole movie about Melanie Lynskey trying to get her son back, or Bobby Canavale trying to get his life back on track, or Paul Giamatti dealing with the guilt of manipulating the elderly, or you could make all of those movies and none of those movies and call it Win Win.
(Win Win is still better than Iron Man 2.)
10. [IT’S A SECRET]
I saw a movie at an early test screening, but I don’t want to say what it was because it hasn’t been released yet and also it was terrible. Now it’s possible they can still fix a lot of the problems with this movie before they release it (I saw a very rough cut), but I thought it was pretty unsalvageable, so I’ll be surprised if it moves from the bottom of this list. There are problems that can’t be fixed in editing. The story makes no sense, every actor seems like they’re acting in a completely different movie, nobody at any point does anything remotely related to what a human person would do, and also, the title is garbage, so hopefully they can at least change the title. If, when this movie is released, it ends up getting higher than a fifty percent on Rotten Tomatoes, maybe I’ll give it another shot, but I would honestly be shocked if it got higher that twelve. This movie is a mess. It’s worse than Iron Man 2. In my own admittedly subjective opinion, this movie is objectively, empirically, inarguably awful.
A number of people warned me that I wouldn’t like Enter The Void, but I thought that was because it was really fucked up or something, not because it was really boring! Why didn’t anyone tell me this movie was so so boring? I was really into it, and then it just kept going, for like hours and hours, and then I was less into it, and then there was still like five more hours of movie. Did someone see the video to Smack My Bitch Up and say, “Yeah, that’s good, let’s do that, but make it last forever”?
I like a good movie about ideas (I’m currently in the middle of a Richard Linklater kick), but there’s indulgent and then there’s I N D U L G E N T.
I N D U L G E N wait for it wait for it T.
I would probably love this movie if I saw it in a gallery where I could enter and exit (the void) as I pleased, or if it was, like, a screensaver (which it kind of just was for long stretches). Or if I really liked endings, and just wanted to watch like twenty endings back to back.
“Hey, which of these endings should we use for this movie?” “Why not all of them?” “Yeah, why not? It’s not like anyone watching this will have shit to do.”
So, yes, I applaud the makers of the movie for doing something different and ambitious and challenging— and that is not faint praise, because most movies are not different and ambitious and challenging— but also I didn’t like it and I wouldn’t recommend it and I am not interested in seeing what else these guys do (until they install a “Cut Out An Hour” button on their editing software).
I’m officially closing the book on my 2010 movies list. There are still a few I wanted to see that I never got around to, but honestly, who has the time? So, what did we learn from all this? I don’t know, man.
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
A few days ago a Robin Gunningham posted a ten minute documentary about Banksy and his tenuous relationship with the art world called “B Movie.” The short has since been removed from its vimeo page, perhaps to prove some point about how the internet, like street art, is an ephemeral art form, but more likely for less interesting reasons. (Here’s a small portion of it I was able to find.) I’m not sure if B Movie was a section of Exit Through The Gift Shop that was cut for length, but if that’s the case, I think the film is worse off for not including it. The short’s exploration of graffiti’s uneasy relationship with art and art’s uneasy relationship with commerce is exactly what was missing from ETTGS’s first half— a facile (though well documented) summary of the last twenty years of street art.
The second half of the movie (documentary?), the part about Mister Brainwash, I found much more interesting— a hilarious meditation on the commercialization of art, the power of hype, and the increasingly thin line between recontextualization and appropriation, between homage and rip-off.
So much of our appreciation of art is influenced by how it’s sold to us and what the larger narrative is. Looking at my list of 2010 movies, I see some of those narratives play out. Was I sucked into the Inception hype? Did Tangled and Easy A benefit from low expectations? Is it more fun to be a cheerleader of something small like a Catfish than something universally accepted like a Toy Story 3? As an artist myself, I like to believe that marketing doesn’t really matter, that meta-narratives, and targeting demographics, and counter-programming, and isolating niche audiences— that all of it is ancillary to the quality of the product being sold; that the good stuff will rise to the top. But of course this isn’t true.
When I made videos with Olde English, we discovered pretty quickly that videos that related to something with its own fan base — like math, or Lost, or popular music, or veganism — always got a lot more hits than other more self-containedsilliness, even if the contextless silliness was really funny. But you know what did even better than videos with built-in audiences? Videos with sexy ladies in them. Anyway, what was I talking about? Believing the hype, or not believing the hype, something about hype? I kind of got distracted watching all those old videos. Some of those really hold up, you should watch them.
OR DID YOU JUST GET EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOPPEDED?
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
I have never read Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, but I feel like it’s been read to me after watching Mark Romanek’s perfunctory film adaptation, a pretty Cliff’s Notes of a movie with all the brightness and vivacity of dutifully checking items off a to-do list.
Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Keira Knightley are all great as mopey teenagers who wistfully look out windows, and they deserve more than a two hour commercial for a book which I’m sure is much much better.
Also, a few people have asked me this, and yes, I am aware it is no longer 2010, but I have about four or five more movies to go through before I officially put a bow on the year that was. I’ve already started watching 2011 movies (No Strings Attached is— no joke— surprisingly charming and I highly recommend it if you like good romantic comedies) but, outside of an occasional update, I’ve decided not to blog about movies again this year, because: a) there are other things I can blog about, and more importantly b) as I live in LA and take meetings with studios and production companies, I am less and less enthused by the knowledge that the people I am meeting with are a short google search away from discovering that I thought their last film was “the platonic ideal of a just okay movie,” or “thoroughly unpleasant,” or “a pretty Cliff’s Notes of a movie with all the brightness and vivacity of dutifully checking items off a to-do list.”
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
BAD NEWS: Last night someone smashed my car window and stole my GPS.
GOOD NEWS: The cute barista at this cafe I go to asked me what my name is. I guess we’re in love now!
BAD NEWS: The guy (OR GIRL! Look how not sexist I am!) who stole my GPS could have at least taken my parking tickets as well, but alas, they remain unpaid.
GOOD NEWS: The other day I read Alison Bechdel’s fantastic graphic memoir Fun Home (p.s. Becky, I stole your copy of Fun Home). Near the beginning of the book, Bechdel quotes Camus’s A Happy Death:
He discovered the cruel paradox by which we always deceive ourselves twice about the people we love— first to their advantage, then to their disadvantage
The quote feels particularly appropriate to Blue Valentine, an exquisite document of how we fall in love and how we fall out of it, often for the same reasons.
BAD NEWS: It made me sad. (The book, and also the movie.)
By cross-cutting between the last days of Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling’s marriage and their early courtship, the movie lets the audience connect the dots of how you get from one to the other. The acting is fantastic (frankly I expect no less out of these two) and the storytelling is specific and well-observed. My one complaint was that the film was a little one-sided— it was too easy to sympathize with one character and despise the other— but afterward I discovered that Emily had come out of it with the exact opposite impression, so, touché, Blue Valentine.
The movie also reminded me of a monologue I loved when I was in high school. It’s from Steve Martin’s short play The Zig-Zag Woman, and as an adult it strikes me as a little cute and smug and late-career Steve Martin, but the central thesis still holds:
In the beginning of something, its ending is foretold, and we met in an elevator going down. After she left, in my travels I would sit in hotel lobbies expecting her to appear, telling me what a mistake she’d made. I would land at airports, thinking that she got my flight number and would be waiting for me. When I went to a show, I would buy two tickets in case she found out where I was and quietly joined me, nothing having to be said. I never figured out why she went away, but I did figure out this: love is a promise delivered already broken.
Love is a promise delivered already broken? That is heady stuff, Steve Martin.
GOOD NEWS: The cute barista and I are going to get maaaaarrieeeeeeeed!!!!!
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
Somewhere, the movie, is basically just Somewhere, the trailer, stretched out over ninety-seven minutes. No more, no less. If that sounds boring to you, you will probably not like this movie. I however loved it. I really like small movies about sad people (in my top ten this year: Catfish, Winter’s Bone, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work, Rabbit Hole, and Greenberg).
I also like movies that feel personal, like no one else could have made them, and this is very much a movie by Sofia Coppola, a woman who is not afraid to indulge in her own Write-What-You-Knowness. It’s gentle and intimate and not too sweet and not too sour and lovely and genuine and just the right amount of sad.
Look, some people love this movie, and that’s peachy for some people, but some people ain’t me! (Forgive me, I’ve been on a Sondheim kick.)
An exercise in gruesome claustrophobia, Dogtooth effectively reaches new heights of audience discomfort (or at least new heights of the-me-part-of-the-audience discomfort), effectively answering the question “Can we?” without ever answering the question “Should we?”
Yes, it gave me nightmares, but part of that is because the plot— a couple keep their three children locked away their entire lives, feeding them ridiculous lies about the outside world — evokes horrific real life scenarios. There’s something there about how easily we swallow what our parents, what our communities, what our governments feed us, but the movie isn’t fantastic enough to work as a parable or funny enough to work as a satire. It’s a sick joke without the joke.
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
[The following review was co-written by Kevin, Dave, and myself, the three of us each contributing one. word. at. a. time.]
Once* we watched 2010’s Buried. While the movie made** a mediocre story bearable, it ruined our opinion of gimmick and its applicability to moviegoing. This movie hooks Ryan in and doesn’t spit him out. That sucks balls because the plot sucks, though it is better than Tron, which Legacy. So flee while you watch. Reviewing this monstrosity is harsh. We are being attacked by ourselves projected into darkness. Sequels to twentysevenhours? Onehundredtwentysevenhours. Iraq is mentioned throughout this quasi. Buried wasn’t spectacular nor disastrous. In passing and closing and in conclusion to Buried, Ryan Reynolds returns! What?
* Dave asked that I point out that he really wanted to go first because he had a really good idea for a first word. **at this point, Dave said “PASS” and the writing of the review was paused while we had a long argument over whether or not you were allowed to pass in this game; finally we agreed that he could, but he shouldn’t do it again.
Every year I keep a running tally and ranking of how much I like every movie I see because apparently I can’t just enjoy anything anymore:
Hi. My name is Raphael and this is where I write about my feelings. I am in the comedy group Olde English and we made this movie. I currently live in Los Angeles where I spend the majority of my time trying to find a parking space.