Top 10 Films of 2011

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have time to see all the arty, critically acclaimed and popular movies that come out each year—for instance, I heard Drive was really good, and I still intend to see it when it comes out on video—but there were 10 films that struck me this year, and here they are!

10. Attack the Block – This UK comedy asks the question, what would happen if aliens landed in the projects? A funny concept and one that is executed well, with a young cast that does a great job kicking alien ass while speaking in largely unintelligible (to me) British accents. Seriously, I had to rewind this movie so many times to attempt to hear what was being said, but at least I learned some cool new slang words, like “bare” and “merked.” I wish I’d seen this page before watching the movie. All in all, as alien movies starring kids go, I preferred this one over Super 8, if only because Super 8 had a noted lack of Nick Frost.

9. The Tree of Life – Okay, it was super pretentious and overly long, but this movie was still pretty interesting, and certainly ambitious. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain both do good work as suburban parents here, but the real star is the camerawork, which captures beautiful moments of all sorts, many from the point of view of a child. This innocent approach to the world makes you see it in a new light, and that’s not easy. I still say that Adaptation did the whole “origins of the universe” thing first, but it’s hard to argue with dinosaurs. I just wish there’d been more of them and less Sean Penn walking around a damn desert.

8. The Muppets – It’s so good to see the Muppets back on screen doing what they do best, and for once it doesn’t seem like kids are even invited to the party. There are really no children in the film, in typical Muppet fashion, and most of the jokes and references are aimed at adults who grew up watching The Muppet Show and the original movies. Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller’s sweet and funny script makes this a Muppet movie worth watching, and Bret McKenzie’s songs (while sometimes a little too reminiscent of songs from Flight of the Conchords) are ideally suited to the movie’s sense of humor. Amy Adams was my least favorite part, but she did her best with a boring role. And with “Man or Muppet” nominated for an Oscar, I’m really hoping to see Bret up there on stage (while Jemaine kicks himself for not helping out).

7. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo – Sure, it was an unnecessary American remake, and Rooney Mara may not be the best choice for the title role, but damn if I didn’t have a good time at this movie. David Fincher does a good job directing, and Daniel Craig is both sexy and believable as Mikael Blomkvist. And after seeing this and Melancholia, I’m convinced that nobody can play a rich asshole quite like Stellan Skarsgård.

6. Bridesmaids – Kristen Wiig does a terrific job leading this ensemble comedy, which features perhaps the funniest poop-related scene ever put on film. Melissa McCarthy is a standout and deserves every accolade she’s received, while Chris O’Dowd from The IT Crowd makes a suitably adorable love interest. But what really got my attention in this movie was the unusually dark and realistic tone with which it approached the subjects of jealousy, failure and disappointment. We can all relate to these feelings, and Wiig demonstrates them without being too heavy-handed. Oh yeah, and Jon Hamm is in it.

5. Young Adult – Pretty much everyone hated Jennifer’s Body except me, and I can understand that, but otherwise Diablo Cody has been a pretty reliable voice in movies and TV. Charlize Theron does an amazing job in this bitter dark comedy, making me wonder why she doesn’t get cast in more funny roles. Those who liked United States of Tara will be glad to see Cody working with Patton Oswalt again, this time playing a home distillery running, sarcastic, disabled-since-high-school hate crime victim who bonds with Theron’s washed up writer character. As someone who recently moved home for a while, not to mention someone who drinks too much at night and chugs Diet Coke out of the bottle in the morning, I can definitely relate to Theron’s character, which is kind of scary actually.

4. The Descendants – George Clooney looks totally ordinary and not like a sexy movie star in this movie, which helps to ground the plot and makes you remember what a good actor he can be when he’s given the right material. All of Alexander Payne’s movies have been great in my opinion, and this is no exception. Quirky characters, witty writing, a thoughtful tone and solid performances (even from Matthew Lillard!) give this movie a life of its own, and the Hawaiian setting is just lovely.

3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – In this thriller which I’m sure everyone is calling densely plotted, but is in fact rather airy and atmospheric rather than totally plot-driven, features all kinds of recognizable British actors, from reliable standbys like Colin Firth and John Hurt to young hotties like Tom Hardy and Benedict Cumberbatch. They come together to do some cool spy stuff in the 60s, but it’s less James Bond and more Mad Men, with a hefty dose of “What the hell is going on?” interwoven throughout.

2. Midnight in Paris – You don’t have to be a fan of 1920s literature to love this movie, but it certainly helps. From Fitzgerald to Hemingway, all of your favorites are brought to life in this delightful fantasy, where Owen Wilson plays the Woody Allen character to neurotic perfection. Rachel McAdams and Michael Sheen play his fiancée and his snobby nemesis, and they totally hooked up off screen, which is cute. And Marion Cotillard is gorgeous as the mistress of various famous artists in the past. What a great idea for a movie!

1. Melancholia – (pictured above) Beautiful, haunting, wonderfully acted (especially by Charlotte Gainsburg), cool end of the world themes—oh yeah, and it features sexy Eric from True Blood. What more could you want from a movie? Unlike all those big budget Hollywood apocalypse movies, which are fun in their own right, this one tells the story of the end of humanity in a personal and intimate way, which makes it all the more scary and devastating. But somehow it feels uplifting, at least for Von Trier, whose movies are usually a lot more bleak (which is funny to say when you’re talking about a movie about the destruction of humanity). See it on the big screen if it’s still out, or watch it on a big screen TV at home, because the visual effects are pretty damn cool.

Laura’s Golden Globe Awards predictions

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It seems like no time has passed since the last Golden Globe Awards, but the 2011 awards are upon us and airing tonight! I always get excited on award show days, what with the red carpet coverage, the celebrity musical numbers, the uncomfortable banter between wildly mismatched celebrity presenters, and of course, Jon Hamm. I imagine my dreamboat of choice will be singing, dancing, or at least playing off his Don Draper persona in hilarious ways. Make it so, Golden Globes!

Here are my predictions for how it will all play out, and here’s the full list of nominations for the curious.

Best Picture (Drama): Black Swan

Duh.

Best Picture (Comedy or Musical): The Kids Are All Right

The other nominations are shitty so this is a no-brainer.

Best Actress (Drama): Natalie Portman, Black Swan

She made her feet bleed and lost a ton of weight, she deserves the accolade, and hopefully a free ham.

Best Actor (Drama): Colin Firth, The King’s Speech

I wish that Jesse Eisenberg would win because he totally transformed into Mark Zuckerberg. It was spooky. But Colin Firth was supposedly really amazing in that stuttering movie, and everyone loves period pieces. Plus I can’t imagine little young Jesse Eisenberg getting an award just yet. He still needs to prove himself.

Best Actress (Comedy): Annette Bening, The Kids Are All Right

I always liked her and she deserves more awards. And why is Emma Stone from Easy A even on this list? What’s next, Anna Faris in The House Bunny being nominated? Please tell me Anna Faris was not nominated for The House Bunny, because I’m too lazy to look it up and I fear a world in which it could be true.

Best Actor (Comedy): Paul Giamatti, Barney’s Version

It comes down to Paul Giamatti and Kevin Spacey, and that’s a tough call for sure, especially since Mr. Spacey has been receiving a lot of attention for his turn as Jack Abramoff in Casino Jack. But when it comes down to it, for my money, Kevin Spacey isn’t half the actor Paul Giamatti is, so this one goes to Paul.

Best Supporting Actress in any movie: Melissa Leo, The Fighter

I haven’t seen this movie and I’m still not quite sure who Melissa Leo is, but she seems to be one of those “serious” actresses, like Laura Linney or Tilda Swinton, who people like to give awards to because they add a note of credibility to the proceedings with their bemused attitude that totally takes seriously meaningless drivel like the Golden Globes.

Best Supporting Actor in any movie: Oh great, Michael Douglas is nominated

Well I guess we know how this one is going to go, even though he’s in remission and even he took his diagnosis with good humor. OK, let’s just play, if Michael Douglas was in perfect health, who would win? I say Christian Bale. But it’s a moot point because, you know, cancer. See: Michael C. Hall and Bryan Cranston.

Best Animated Movie: Toy Story 3

Duh.

Best Foreign Film: I have no idea

Best Director: Christopher Nolan, Inception

Sure, David Fincher did a great job with The Social Network and all of its cornflower blue icons, but Christopher Nolan made like three interwoven virtual worlds, man. And like, folded a city in half or some shit. I don’t really remember, I was drunk as shit when I watched that movie.

Best Screenplay: Aaron Sorkin, The Social Network

It’s Aaron Sorkin, and for some reason Hollywood has it bad for this guy. Don’t ask me why. I never did like The West Wing. And remember 30 Rock at the Sunset Strip or whatever, that mess was just awful. But yeah he’ll win.

Best Song and Score: Who the hell cares, get to the TV shows

Best TV Show (Drama): Mad Men

It better win, because that means more shots of Jon Hamm!

Best TV Show (Comedy): Modern Family

It’s hilarious, and it singlehandedly revived the TV sitcom format. And, even though I’m a total Gleek, I have to admit that Glee really isn’t all that good as a show. It’s the music we care about! And even that they screw up.

Best Actress (Drama): Katey Sagal, Sons of Anarchy

Peg Bundy taken seriously as a dramatic actress? Only at the Golden Globes!

Best Actor (Drama): Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad

Bet you thought I was going to say Jon Hamm! But since Bryan Cranston, ahem, lost to cancer before, it’s his turn now. And, you know, he’s a totally amazing actor.

Best Actress (Comedy): Toni Collette, United States of Tara

She is totally incredible in this show, and deserves every award, period. And Lea Michele? Bitch please.

Best Actor (Comedy): Steve Carell, The Office

He’s kind of heartbreaking in The Office at times, and that’s more than you can say for Alec Baldwin, who has basically one expression at all times. Sorry Alec.

Then there’s a bunch of mini-series nominations that nobody on Earth cares about.

The End!


Best Movie Haircuts

Have you ever seen a movie and walked away thinking, wow, I want that haircut? Yeah, me too. Movies are full of all sorts of good haircuts, and these are only a few of my favorites.

1. Uma Thurman in Pulp Fiction

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2. Audrey Tautou in Amélie

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3. Patricia Arquette in Lost Highway

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4. Nutsa Kukhianidze in The Good Thief

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5. Helena Bonham-Carter in Fight Club

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6. Mia Farrow in Rosemary’s Baby

Mia Farrow in "Rosemary´s Baby"

7. Veronica Lake in Sullivan’s Travels

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The 5 Best and Worst Horror Movies of 2009

2009 hasn’t been the best year for scary movies. Some have been interesting, others horrifically bad, but overall they’ve been disappointing in their unwillingness to take a chance. Still, a few rose to the top (and sunk to the bottom), and here they are. As always, leave your comments below!

The Best

1. Drag Me to Hell

2. Jennifer’s Body

3. A Perfect Getaway

4. Zombieland

5. Trick ‘r Treat

Honorable Mention: Orphan, My Bloody Valentine 3-D

The Worst

1. The Final Destination

2. Sorority Row

3. Paranormal Activity

4. The Uninvited

5. The Stepfather

Honorable Mention: Quarantine, Friday the 13th (the remake)

The 5 Best and Worst Movies of 2009

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What were your favorites (and least favorites)? Voice your opinion in the comments section below!

The Best

1. Gomorra

2. District 9

3. Precious

4. Taken

5. Up!

Honorable mention: Inglourious Basterds, 500 Days of Summer, Extract

The Worst

1. Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

2. Confessions of a Shopaholic

3. The Ugly Truth

4. Bride Wars

5. Observe and Report

Honorable mention: I Love You Beth Cooper, Miss March, He’s Just Not That Into You, The Proposal

The 10 Best Movies to Watch on Christmas

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After the presents are unwrapped and the egg nog hangover has worn off, it’s time to celebrate another age old holiday tradition — watching sappy Christmas movies. Here are ten of my favorites, just in case you need ideas for what to rent or download.

1. A Christmas Story

I could recite this movie from beginning to end. Best line: “It must be Italian!”

2. It’s a Wonderful Life

Best character: Mr. Martini!

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol

Clearly the best interpretation of Charles Dickens’ classic tale that has yet to be made. You know that if the technology had existed at the time, Dickens would have made the story into a muppet musical himself. Just fast forward through the boring love song.

4. Home Alone

You’ve gotta love a movie that teaches young boys that it’s okay to be friends with creepy old quasi-homeless men.

5. Bad Santa

A fun twist on Miracle on 34th Street, and it really holds up over time.

6. Miracle on 34th Street

Best character: a tie between the drunk Santa at the beginning of the film and the sassy janitor kid from Brooklyn.

7. The Nightmare Before Christmas

A fun twist on The Grinch Who Stole Christmas that obviously still holds up for film geeks and goth kids alike.

8. Scrooge (1951)

This is the old black and white version of A Christmas Carol, not to be confused with “Scrooged” starring Bill Murray, also an excellent film. Alastair Sim standing on his head at the end makes this whole movie.

9. The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

So cynical and fun, and Boris Karloff’s narration is brilliant.

10. The Yule Log

Not exactly a movie, but still worth watching.

Merry Christmas, readers!