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The end of the year encourages reflection and celebration. One way I practice both is by commemorating this year’s movies that I regard with personal fervor. My tradition of making lists requires both overly geeky scrutiny and exuberant love for the art of filmmaking; what results is not only a list of movie titles, but an illustration of who I was as a person in the year 2010.

I am thankful I have this blog as an outlet, as it is a time capsule of opinions that come from someone who is currently obsessed with film. Before turning 2010 into a memory, I would like to preserve my thoughts on how five particular movie trailers astounded and affected me this year.

Honorable mentions: The Social Network, Cowboys and Aliens, Inception

5.Black Swan

Accented by a harrowing score, Black Swan’s premiere trailer chauffeurs us through a nightmare of paranoia and disillusionment. Ominous, upsetting colors clash with violent editing to celebrate the terror that only a scathed mind can conjure. With elegance, Natalie Portman and Mila Kunis enhance the beauty that ballet already provides, but with an estranged twist from director Darren Aronofsky, this preview mixes charm and delirium to create something artfully unnerving.

4. Buried

Horror/thriller films often exploit the power of sound to cheaply elicit fear. Sudden bursts of noise, typically used in a jump scare, do not motivate freight as effectively as a sound that billows with slow, insurmountable tension. Buried’s teaser trailer recognizes this, as it crescendos from quiet nervousness to riotous apprehension, all with the use of sound. In the preview’s last moments, we finally scrape an image from the darkness to reveal the context of the corresponding audio.

3. The Tree of Life

By widening its focus on humanity, the preview for Terrence Malick’s highly anticipated The Tree of Life transcends mere advertisement and propaganda. This pensive montage gallops towards a threshold that combines the plight of one’s past and the mystery of the unknowing future to illustrate the spectrum of life. Gorgeous imagery and celestial melodies course through its veins, vicariously breathing life into ourselves.

2. Blue Valentine

Blue Valentine’s highly visceral teaser manages to express love under numerous circumstances. Whether it’s through an intimate stare shared between two lovers or through a quarrel that almost dismantles them, the insight into this unabashedly real relationship strikes a chord of imperfection and solace. By juxtaposing such complex imagery with the simplistic tune of a ukulele, this preview somehow eloquently tackles both the joy and frustration of being in love.

1. True Grit

Haunted by a foreboding hymn, the terse preview for True Grit seems to solemnly strip the innocence away from our thirteen year old protagonist. Her stoic voiceover illustrates the audacity of the conquest she’s about to embark on, and I have nothing but fear for her. Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography creates an epic landscape riddled with wrath and retribution, and the characters that fill that desolate space seem just as relentless.

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3 foreign films, 2 black and whites, 1 Best Picture winner, and much more…

Close friend, Max Rock, and I discuss our top 5 favorite movies of all time. This is our first attempt at a podcast so we apologize for the sound quality, our delirium (this was recorded at 1 AM), and any harm this may cause. Enjoy!

00:00 – 01:32 — Introductions

01:32 – 03:26  — Making the lists

03:26 – 06:36 — Max’s #5: The Birdcage

06:36 – 10:57 — Glenn’s #5: The Third Man

10:57 – 18:05 — Max’s #4: From Dusk Till Dawn

18:05 – 23:40 — Glenn’s #4: The Matrix

23:40 – 34:34 — Max’s #3: Fanny and Alexander

34:34 – 42:22 — Glenn’s #3: Pierrot Le Fou

42:22 – 1:01:24 –Max’s #2: There Will Be Blood

1:01:24 – 1:08:17 — Glenn’s #2: The Apartment

1:08:17 – 1:19:30 — Max’s #1: Wild Strawberries

1:19:30 – 1:29:57 — Glenn’s #1: Punch-Drunk Love

1:29:57 – 1:35:52 — Outro/Announcements

Music — “Danger Mountain” by Anamanaguchi

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THE PAST

With the start of another semester approaching, I feel I should take a second to contemplate the year thus far. In short, I believe it’s been a cinematic drought. The past eight months have provided us with only a handful of noteworthy films. Otherwise, the lot has been filled with either cash-grabbing remakes, uninspired sequels, or straightforward disappointments. To assuage the disappointment of this year’s fruitless filmic delivery, I’ve compiled a list of my personal favorites. I should be a little optimistic, right?

3. Terribly Happy

Although Terrbily Happy hails from Denmark, it’s a film that is surprisingly inspired by some of America’s greatest directors. Impressions of David Lynch and the Coen Brothers are prevalent throughout the movie’s tensest scenes, and simple American iconography is seen percolating in the quieter, much somber moments. It’s an interesting tone for an even more interesting story. Consolidating film noir and western together, Terribly Happy saunters its way into telling a compelling and very tragic tale.

2. Inception

Unlike anything we’ve seen this year, Inception bends physics, alters time, and damns the viewers’ mind. Director Christopher Nolan imbues us with a cinematic pleasure that’s as precious as the the movie’s subject. Ornately dressed with special effects and great performances, Inception is one of 2010’s best moviegoing experiences.

1. How to Train Your Dragon

Yes, it remains! How to Train Your Dragon is still my favorite film of 2010. Sure, it’s a simple story of a boy and his pet, but to me, it’s a conglomeration of emotions so subjective and personal that it’s impossible to describe on this blog. Nevertheless, there are still plenty of things I can say…The film explores infinite terrain with whimsical scope, but the sense of danger that is projected is unmistakably real. This is done with great technical craftsmanship, but an equally satisfying core of characters also aids in making this film outstanding.

THE PRESENT

Despite my aversion towards this year’s catalog of films, there are some great titles out right now. For instance…

Cyrus

Brothers Mark and Jay Duplass, the innovators behind the mumblecore movement, dually take on their first “Hollywood” film. To the movie’s benefit, Cyrus elegantly uses minimalism to naturally elicit deep characterization and pure emotional resonance.

The Kids are All Right

I’ll be seeing this in the next few days, so I will give my full thoughts then. However, reviews for this dramedy continue to be glowing with positivity.

Winter’s Bone

Winter’s Bone has been accumulating buzz since its premiere at the Sundance Festival. Winning the Grand Jury Prize, this literary adaptation is carrying a lot of momentum on its shoulders. Hopefully, I can check it out when it comes to the local art theater at school.

Some other films available now include:

  • Mother
  • Get Low
  • Animal Kingdom

THE FUTURE

So what is there to look forward to? Well, there’s…

  • Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World (August 13)
    • Comedy action
    • Directed by Edgar Wright
  • The American (September 1)
    • Noir thriller
    • Starring George Clooney
  • The Town (September 10)
    • Gangster thriller
    • Directed by Ben Afleck.
    • Starring Ben Afleck, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Jon Ham.
  • The Social Network (October 1)
    • Drama about the birth of Facebook
    • Directed by David Fincher.
    • Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Justin Timberlake.
  • 127 Hours (November 5)
    • Directed by Danny Boyle.
    • Starring James Franco
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I (November 19)
    • Part 1 of 2 for the final chapter of Harry Potter
  • Black Swan (December 1)
    • Psychological thriller
    • Directed by Darren Aronofsky.
    • Starring Natalie Portman
  • Tron Legacy (December 17)
    • Sci-fi action sequel
    • Starring Jeff Bridges
  • True Grit (December 25)
    • Western remake by the Coen Brothers.
    • Starring Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin

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It is now 2010, and everything from reviews to teasers is suddenly culminating to this. A reflective and hopefully not so irrelevant list of my favorite movies from 2009. I know that publishing such a compilation seems so out of date when we’re already in the new decade, but I want to contemplate on the past year a tiny bit before plunging into the future.

Before we count down, I’d like to share with you the ineligibles and the honorable mentions. The ineligibles are movies that seemed likely in making the list, but are ones I never got around to seeing. The honorable mentions are films that just barely missed the cut.

Ineligible: In the Loop, Fantastic Mr. Fox, A Single Man, The White Ribbon

Honorable Mentions: Drag Me to Hell, Anvil: The Story of Anvil, Coraline, Moon

And so we begin. It’s time to throw all numerical scores out the window and to simply go with intuition.

10. Where the Wild Things Are

Spike Jonze’s adaptation of beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are, is an assortment of innocence, wonderment, and loneliness. The treatment of these consolidated emotions is a bit rushed and unfocused, however, and what remains is a frenetic and rather sloppy movie; but where the film lacks in steadiness is where it succeeds in providing unabashed and sometimes painful emotion. Jonze’s artful construction of a purely fantastical world serves as a harbor of nostalgia for those who were once tormented children. From building forts to feeling ignored, Where the Wild Things Are manages to beautifully exhibit both the wonder and terror of growing up.

9. Humpday


Humpday is a cleverly inquisitve movie. At first, the film asks questions about sexuality and masculinity, but as it meanders to a fitting end, these queries slowly transform into examinations of a concept that is far more frustrating than sex. Growing up. Unbeknownst to our main characters, Andrew and Ben, they do make discoveries about themselves, and their inner demons are quietly exorcised. What makes this overall experience so cathartic is the innate goodness and relatability of the characters we follow. Now being twenty years old, I often bump into the proverbial quarter-life crisis. Thoughts of past accomplishments and future ambitions come up for dissection, and I’m sometimes unsure how to assess myself. Humpday happens to mirror some of my thoughts and apprehensions perfectly.

8. Adventureland


Adventureland isn’t just a movie that’s set in 1987. It’s a recollection of personal memories that vicariously warps us back to our own pasts. While watching this film, it’s natural to recall that sacred instance we first fell in love; it’s reactionary to conjure up memories of simply hanging out with old friends and realizing that life is pretty amazing when shared with the right people. Adventureland’s ability to feel like something in the past tense is a reminder that these years are the best years of our lives. Its depiction of joy, frustration, regret, and inebriation is honest and endearing, making us want to latch onto our own Adventureland, whatever that may be, forever.

7. A Serious Man

The latest Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man, opens with the quote, “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you.” What follows is an hour and a half of comically tragic torture, all befalling our gentle and very disgruntled subject, Larry Gopnik (Michael Stuhlbarg). How we respond to his misfortune depends on our own religious beliefs, considering that Joel and Ethan Coen never pamper us with their own direct discernment, other than to antithetically “Accept the mystery.” Many of this film’s oddities and philosophical undertones are stylistically reminiscent of one of my favorite authors, Kurt Vonnegut, and that is perhaps why I adore it so much. Its wandering nature is not only thought provoking, but also brave, for it ultimately encourages us to find our own meaning to the movie’s unfortunate events ourselves.

6. An Education

Collectively, college students can be as pretentious as they are naive. I am no different. Nor is the main character of An Education, Jenny (Carey Mulligan). Her desire to become an adult far too quickly is triggered by the splendor of pop culture. She eventually finds herself circumscribed by an exquisite, highbrow life for which she is not yet ready, and it all clusters into a horrible yet calculated mess by the end. The illusion with which she is enamored is undeniably charming and elegant, and credit must be given to those across the Atlantic who made this film. Interestingly enough, behind said illusion is a reality we, myself included, should try to accept. We mustn’t be so quick to let our pretension overbear our not so necessarily terrible innocence.

5. The Hurt Locker


The most cataclysmic dangers in Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker are not epic or turbulent. Rather, they are unforeseeable and omnipresent. Trouble could be within a crowd of seemingly innocent civilians, or behind a wall hundreds of feet away, or dangling between loose bomb wires that are within one’s grasp. The notion that these dangers are all “could be’s” and “what if’s” is what makes the experience all the more terrifying. Additionally, the characters we see endure these crises are communally unstable and unpredictable, only heightening the already established tension. The intensity that is embedded within The Hurt Locker damages our characters psychologically, and we are challenged to accept them as imperfect individuals who are merely trying to survive.

4. Star Trek

As made evident by his television series, Lost, JJ Abrams has a penchant for creating thoughtful relationships between strong characters. With Star Trek, he takes familiar faces from a renowned franchise and still manages to create crisp dynamics. It’s an absolute joy to watch the relationship between James Kirk (Chris Pine) and Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto), one that traverses both directions in time, blossom from pure hatred to something a little less vile. Their exchanges, which range from simple bickering to physical engagement, are some of the best parts of the film, and where their individual character arcs conclude makes the journey with them that much more satisfying.

3. Up in the Air

Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) forlorn philosophy on relationships is one that I, more often than not, subscribe to. Yet, his gradual but never completed metamorphasis into a more susceptible person is alleviating on multiple levels. I say “never completed” because we don’t really know if he is a changed man by the end. Along the way, Ryan is damaged, betrayed, and abandoned, and we are left without a cathartic, warmhearted climax. Knowing that everything is literally up in the air by the end of this film, we become refugees who are forced to find a home in whatever makes the film seem whole to us. Our interpretations of such a bold ending will be subject to debate, and this is where our human tendencies will be examined. This beautiful experiment that director Jason Reitman conducts is one that I will not forget being a part of.

2. Mary and Max

Australian film, Mary and Max, is a claymation feature that is crude and sophisticated. The tone is childlike in appearance, but its deeply sad themes resonate particularly well with me at this point in my life. Currently attending college, I feel like I’m inside some sort of purgatory or in-between. I’m no longer a kid, but I’m not yet an adult. This place can be, at times, very lonely. The film’s characters are from both ends of the spectrum-Mary is a young, lonely girl, and Max is an old, misunderstood hermit. Where they converge in similarities and differences is exactly where I reside-that bubble of misunderstanding and uncertainty. Complemented by a captivating score, Mary and Max unfolds with the innocence of a children’s book, but its insight is extremely powerful.

1. Inglourious Basterds

I never thought I’d ever be putting a Tarantino film at the top of a favorites list. He’s a filmmaking genius, but the romantic in me doesn’t necessarily anchor to his masculine movies. However, upon further meditation, there’s no doubt in my mind that Inglourious Basterds is my favorite film of 2009. Tarantino’s orchestration of remorseless action serves as a shrewd device for both entertainment and examination, and I love everything that occurs on screen. More impressively, beyond the conscious brutality that Inglourious Basterds sustains is a great deal of lacerating tension that comes from people simply talking. Tarantino’s loud audacity is most prominent in his quietest scenes, creating a wholesome, epic experience-one that I admire from beginning to end.

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Here are my picks for favorite movie trailers of the year 2009. Each one brought instant gratification, but what’s more important is that they have maintained longtime appeal over the course of the year. Due to the constantly shifting world that is the internet, previews can get lost in the midst of everything-virals, fail videos, and the occasional cute animal montages. However, these trailers stand out not only as advertisements for upcoming films, but also as independent works of art.

Honorable Mentions: District 9, Up in the Air, Toy Story 3

5. The Last Airbender

In this brief glimpse at M. Night Shyamalan’s upcoming film, The Last Airbender, we’re given a combination of graceful choreography and exquisite attention to detail, all the while being expertly captured in one long shot. How this teaser conveys the film’s tone is quite impressive considering how brief the preview actually is. The spirit of The Last Airbender, which might not exactly appeal to those outside the source material’s devout fan base, is still palplable in every second.

4. A Single Man

What begins this trailer is a moment of suffocating quietness. A naked man drowning. We, too, are lonely, cold, and helpless, but before we can let ourselves be completely trapped in his watery tomb, we are launched into a frenzy of majestic yet ominous colors that are complemented by music of similar manners. The tension that fills this preview overflows with unease, and it eventually drowns us by the end, conveniently bringing us back to that frigid yet powerful moment that started this trailer.

3. Where The Wild Things Are

Arcade Fire’s “Wake Up” is a perfect accompaniment to the trailer of Spike Jonze’s telling of the widely beloved children’s book, Where the Wild Things Are. The adventurous and playful tone is akin to the mind of a child, and as we hearken to the uplifting music of Arcade Fire, we are transported to a world of gorgeous imagery and relived memories. The wonder of Jonze’s imagination gives me goosebumps everytime.

2. A Serious Man

The structure of this brilliant little trailer is very orchestral. Layers and layers of sound, all darkly humorous, build upon each other to create a frustrating symphony of disorientation. The tone of the film is accurately represented in this minute and a half with the use of repitition and misery. Quirky and odd? Yes. Intriguing? You betcha.

1. Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince

Of all the trailers on the list, this one is the most traditional. However, its unstoppable energy, its dramatic cuts, and its outstanding use of music make it the most exciting preview of 2009. I know I’m in the minority when I say this, but I think it is better than the actual film. I was rather critical of the The Half-Blood Prince, but after watching this preview several times in the past few days, I want to give the movie a second chance. Not too many trailers can do that.

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Despite my best efforts to report on all of the remaining films of 2009, I still haven’t made word on some of this year’s potential elite. The awards circuit will begin in a few months, and the inevitable question of “What is the best movie this year?” will soon come into conversations among critics, nerds, and casual moviegoers.

This point of the year is certainly the most exciting; with Summer behind us, we have a new roll of movies coming our way, and all we have is anticipation. Glimpses of trailers, promising remarks, critical speculation from the blogosphere. A film’s preceding reputation can either make or break it. Seeing which way each film turns is fun, and in the process we, as fans of cinema, get to witness art. Sometimes, a masterpiece is even unearthed.

So now, I will chronicle the movies that I have failed to recognize over the course of this blog’s existence. We all know that juggernauts such as Where the Wild Things Are, Nine, Avatar, The Lovely Bones warrant excitement. Yet, there exists a handful of gems that deserves as much enthusiasm as the films I’ve discussed in the past.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore’s new documentary takes on the subject of the current financial crisis. Although this is still in production, it is scheduled to compete for the Golden Lion Award at the Venice Film Festival.

An Education

This coming of age drama achieved critical acclaim at the Sundance Festival earlier this year. It now has plans for a wide distribution in October 9. The film stars Peter Saarsgard, Carey Mulligan, Rosamund Pike, Emma Thompson, and Alfred Molina.

Broken Embraces

broken-embraces-001

Broken Embraces, a spanish film, was put into consideration for the highest honor at this year’s Cannes Festival, the Palme d’Or.

Precious

This adaptation of the 1996 novel, Push, won the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance. Fortune was handed to this film with the promotional support of Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Productions. Now, Lionsgate and Weinstein Company are filing for lawsuit over the ownership of this supposedly lacerating drama.

The White Ribbon

the-white-ribbon2

According to director Michael Haneke, The White Ribbon is about “the origin of every type of terrorism, be it of political or religious nature.” It was the winner of this year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, and it has been selected as Germany’s official sumbission for the Academy Awards in the Foreign Language category.

Bright Star

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This romance/drama movie, directed by the Academy Award winning Jane Campion, is based on the last three years of poet, John Keats.

Up in the Air

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Jason Retiman’s new comedic film stars George Clooney, a jaded and essentially empty corporate downsizer who gets it in the ass, himself. It is scheduled to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

I apologize for the brevity of this post (there is still a lot out there I haven’t mentioned). My return back to school has deterred me from honing my energy to writing about the world of cinema. I hope this will suffice for now, and I do have plans on reviewing the movies In the Loop and Anvil! The Story of Anvil.

Again, thank you for reading this.


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The Internet Movie Database, a constantly used site with a dubious reputation, has recently chronicled the top user-rated films since the year 2000. This list will undoubtedly cause debate among cinephiles, leading them to either discredit or affirm the validity of IMDb even more.

What several militant opponents to IMDb fail to realize is that the site’s top 250 and this top 15 are not canon. Formulated by geeks of all kind, these lists reflect the favorites among a group of people, not the very best of cinema.

What furthers people away from this site is the inflation, deflation, fandom, and trolling that unfortunately plague the message boards and top 250. These problems are inherent to the site, and nothing can be done about them. Every ratings system has its own flaws. Rotten Tomatoes, AFI, etc.

I will admit my discord with the IMDb’s top 250, but never will I become hostile about it. My opinion just does not coincide with the site’s registered votes, and that’s completely fine. We’re free to disagree with lists, but we shouldn’t look down at people for (dis)liking things we don’t. What we should do with our opinions is share them, explain them, debate them. But we should ultimatley be open to differing views that come our way.

So I’ve decided to compile my own top 15. Just like IMDb, my list is not objective. It’s been devised from personal opinion as to what I love the most at this specific moment in time. Tomorrow, it could change. But for now, this will have to do.

IMDb’s Top 15
15. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
13. Spirited Away (2001)
12. The Pianist (2002)
11. The Lives of Others (2006)
10. The Departed (2006)
9. Amélie (2001)
8. Wall-E (2008)
7. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
6. Memento (2000)
5. Up (2009)
4. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring(2001)
3. City of God (2002)
2. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
1. The Dark Knight (2008)

I’ve seen all of the movies on this the IMDb list except for Amelie, so I can’t say anything on its placement. The movies I fervently disagree with are Up, The Lives of Others, and The Departed.


My Top 15
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days (2007)
14. The Dark Knight (2008)
13. City of God (2002)
12. Mulholland Drive (2001)
11. Before Sunset (2004)
10. American Splendor (2003)
9. The Divingbell and The Butterfly (2007)
8. Spirited Away (2001)
7. Lost in Translation (2003)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
5. Children of Men (2006)
4. Wall-E (2008)
3. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)
2. No Country for Old Men (2007)
1. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Honorable Mentions: Memento, Adaptation, Almost Famous, Pan’s Labyrinth,Finding Nemo, Lord of the Rings

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