What They Blogged For.

Love. Hate.

Before we say our final goodbye, I just wanted to leave you with a random sampling of posts from some of my favorite people on this blog:

Benjie’s Skyrim addiction.

Occam Razor on “The Seven Robots You Meet In Heaven.”

Benjie and I watching New Moon and The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants 2.

A Movie Script Ending.”

The MPDG vs. the Amazing Girl, Heroes vs. BSG, and Kirsten Dunst vs. Kate Hudson.

Peanut St. Cosmo saying goodbye to her Blackberry.

(And really, just anything by Peanut, cause there’s too many to list.)

Fuck Yeah Sayid!

Anytime we talked about Lost.

High Fidelity vs. 500 Days Of Summer.

Hey, Shitface, Get Off My Lawn!”

Benjie and August Bravo on internet hype, and meeting expectations, and also Super 8.

Independence Day 2?

The end of the Counterforce podcast, and the birth of Time Travel Murder Mystery.

J Fran Fran.

Jonathan Franzen and his “Strong Motion.”

Benjie on his favorite sequel ever.

Occam Razor on a post peak oil world, and big booty bitches.

Benjie on how to properly spend New Year’s Eve.

While my torrent gently downloads” by Benjamin Light.

This is by no means a complete list, not at all. It is, in fact, an extremely rushed list. And may actually be a really terrible retrospective, at least in terms of showing what we did best, when we did our best, but oh well.

It’s just a few of my favorites. I would invite you to explore further, if you get the chance.

What are little girls made of?

Sugar and spice and everything nice. If you’re baking a cake, that is.

Let me first just bring up three movies…

(500) Days Of Summer:

The upcoming Kick Ass:

The (also upcoming) completely unnecessary Let Me In:

I mention these three movies because of their common quality: A young lady by the name of Chloë Moretz who appears in all of them. This actress, who is all of 12, already has three very interesting movies on her resume, as well as a slew of others in her past and most likely upcoming. She’s listed on IMDB as one of the 10 to watch in 2010.

I thought she was excellent in (500) Days Of Summer, far exceeding things we expect from child actresses in her role as the strongest voice of reason/youngest sister of the Joseph Gordon-Levitt character. And while Kick Ass looks kind of dumb to me, she easily looks to be the best part of it.

Easily.

I’m kind of concerned about Let Me In though, directed by Cloverfield’s Matt Reeves, which is a remake of Let The Right One In. Well, not concerned so much, because I honestly don’t care, but someone changing the setting from snowy 1980s Sweden to America just didn’t seem all that exciting to me. Then they cast Moretz as the little vampire girl with a complicated past and I was more interested. I don’t expect her to play the same character as in the original movie but I’m impressed with her and curious what she’ll do with the role, how the role will translate into something new with her performance.

Also, I’m not all that impressed with how the title changed from Let The Right One In to Let Me In, thereby losing all the nuance of the original title in exchange for something that sounds like a pop song. Which is ironic, I know, considering that the original story gets it’s title from a pop song.

You can click here for a description of the new film.

As for Kick Ass… Eh. Whatever. Scott Pilgrim looks more interesting to me, but in part, they seemed design to be specifically baiting the nerds. Or just those creatures of fish and human that latch onto all hype, either as fodder for incessant bitching or joining a bandwagon of… something. Kick Ass may be fun, may be a joke onto itself (and may very well be in on the joke as well), and it may also just be a silly, stupid super hero-y popcorn movie, but something feels insidious about it, completely non-genuine.

Part of that, though, I think falls back onto the writer of the comic it’s based on, Mark Millar. But that is a whole other post right there, isn’t it?

Regardless, I want to talk about young miss Chloë Moretz, a very talented actress at the early age of 13. I remember being really impressed by her in (500) Days Of Summer, because, let’s face it, child actors are usually terrible. Her role in that movie was a pretty simple one: the little sister with the juxtaposed wise knowledge about human relationships that she could give to her heartbroken older brother, as played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. I thought she handled it well, with charisma, and that right mix of qualities you want in a child character in stories, a sense of them being wise beyond their years, but still very much a product of their years, a child.

And then I heard she was going to be in Kick Ass and I kind of felt bad for her because I remember the comic being kind of cheesy. But, unshockingly, I think, if any part of this story will be interesting, it’ll be the parts dealing with her. They will also be the most controversial parts as well, of course.

The comparisons between her role and Natalie Portman’s in The Professional, or Leon, fascinates me. I get it, knowing the gist of what goes on in The Professional, even though I’ve not seen it. And neither has Chloe Moretz. And neither will she probably be able to see Kick Ass in theaters either.

But I hear a lot of the people who don’t find the idea of a young girl running around killing people crazily in this movie and cussing talking about how the movie is a satire of stuff like The Professional. Or that it’s empowering. I don’t know that I really learned anything on my journey from being a boy to a man, so I’m not going to pretend I understand the even more complicated path from girlhood to womanhood with it’s myriad of stops in Hollywood at “Not a girl, not yet a woman”-type places.

from here.

And I’m not going to talk about the fear of the youth taking a bad message away from watching Moretz as Hit Girl violently killing and shooting and slicing people up in Kick Ass, because… well, that’s a topic for pundits more likely. And child psychologists. But the that New York Times profile I linked to goes into quite a bit about her family, her growing up, and how it was beat into her head pretty hard over the course of the filming that she was an actress in a movie, doing a performance, and there was a different between reality and fiction. Isn’t that what most modern parenting seems to be lacking anyway?

But I foresee Moretz getting stereotyped as the tough girl, which is okay. To an extent, anyway. I don’t like that word. “Tough.” It’s a bullshit word. I try not to think of Angelina Jolie characters as “tough,” but perhaps women who are just… confident? We talk about empowering roles for women, which can be things where a woman gets to pick up a gun and run around shooting and blowing things up like a man does, which is fine, because women should be allowed to do that too. But I think with a word like “tough,” we have to be careful. If we’re to say that a woman is being tough because a man can be tough, I think we need to take what that quality is within a male character…

And usually it’s compensation. It’s a lack of something and the making up for it. It’s a show. There are no real cowboys, at least, not anymore. Well, maybe, but either way, the harder and the tougher we get, well, that’s just the farther we’re running from something, or reacting to something. We’re faking it til we make it. But I’d like to see a new generation of confident boys and girls growing up in this world and surviving despite the mixed messages we give to the youth.

Just remember that behind every little girl in the guise of a juvenile vampire or hyper assassin, there’s someone’s daughter there or little sister, or big sister. But, more importantly, there’s a person there. A person who sees the world differently than you and perhaps sees it in a way that you haven’t in a long while, or perhaps never will. I don’t know what little girls are made of and I don’t really want to know. But I suspect that it really all depends on your definition of “everything nice.”

Counterforce at the movies: Best of the decade.

Or…

TEN! TEN! YEAARRSS!”

50 films we won’t forget:

by Benjamin Light and Marco Sparks

In no particular order…

Let me repeat that, since there’s always some asshole who doesn’t read it the first time and whines about movie x over movie z: these are in no particular order.

◊ ◊ ◊

High Fidelity

Benjamin: A movie about guys who love making top 5 lists, in a big top 50 list. How meta. The opening lines sum it up:

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

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The Departed

Benjamin: My favorite thing about this film is the way it’s edited together almost as one long montage rather than a simple scene-to-scene cut. Mark Wahlberg is stunningly good. He and the other young actors were so good that Jack Nicholson actually got kind of ignored by the critics. Which is amazing. My favorite lines: “Just fucking kill me.” “I am killing you.”

Marco: Great film, great direction, great acting, just something fantastic and raw. I feel like a more talented person than I could make a serious gender studies write up with this movie because you literally have every kind of man in it.

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Children Of Men

Benjamin: Makes the list for the two tracking shots alone. Managed to capture the post 9/11 zeitgeist without pandering to it.

Y’know that ringing in your ears? That ‘eeeeeeeeee’? That’s the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song. Once it’s gone you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

◊ ◊ ◊

Donnie Darko

Benjamin: Richard Kelly did everything he could to make me want to strike this from the list, but the original theatrical cut still works. Just because the hot topic kids jumped all over this and the director re-cut it in the most obvious and hackish way possible doesn’t make my old first run DVD any less good. And as a bonus, it’s got Maggie Gyllenhaal before she hit menopause.

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Once

Benjamin: I’ll be honest, I tried watching this once (sic) for five minutes and found I would need subtitles to continue. Marco?

Marco: The sum is more than the whole and it’s a slow build up, but before you know it, you’re immersed in the gradual easy attraction of this busker and the immigrant and their mutual love of music. Their real life story is a bit weirder, but not scandalous, and hey, whatever. Life is weirder, and this movie feels more realistic as if you there in the grime and poverty and creative joy with them.

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Cache

Marco: What you take out of life is about how you perceive it and even scarier than that, the the thing we never ask ourselves is: What do others see when they see us. Haneke, who’s no stranger to strong, controversial filmmaking, gives us a very raw, paranoid movie here about a French couple who start receiving video tapes of themselves. There’s much you could say about this film and I feel it’s one that people will come back to more and more in the years to come. It feels like the kind of cinema I’d like to see Hitchcock making if he was alive today.

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Traffic

Benjamin: I think we all remember the same thing from this film: the Erika Christiansen “gettin fucked” POV cam. Also, it nicely exposed the general pop to the harsh realities of the war on drugs. Then we all watched for a whole decade while the reality got worse.

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Mulholland Drive

Marco: This is a film you watch once, enjoy it or not, but after that, it’s no longer a film. It lives inside you, hovering just over you, out of the corner of your eye, always just out of sight. It’ll influence your dreams and always feel like the cold fingers of a dead man crawling up your spine for a gentle caress. And it’s beautiful and perfect, too.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Prestige

Benjamin: The Plot, the Turn, and the Prestige. It’s hard not to like the clockwork structure of this film. Plus, it has Tesla in it, and Tesla invented half the new technology in the 2000s.

Marco: I think it was actually Benjamin Light who saw this before me and convinced me to see it (not that I needed much convincing). “How was it?” I asked. “Not bad at all,” he said. “It’s got magicians trying to fuck each other over and a mad scientist and-” “I’m sold,” I said. Easily one of the strongest, smartest movies of the decade. And secretly one of the most fun.

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The Dark Knight

Marco: “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Benjamin: Probably the most important film of the decade. No, seriously. The Dark Knight took the soul of America to the brink of post-9/11 despair, and then pulled us back a few feet and let us stare out into the abyss. Anarchy has never seemed so terrifyingly seductive. There’s a reason this film made shitloads of money, and it’s got nothing to do with bat-arrangs and secret identities. This was America’s acceptance stage.

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The Others

Benjamin: My favorite horror film of the decade, and so much more worthy of praise than the Sixth Sense.

Marco: We’ve talked about how few filmmakers can really produce actual, real dread in their movies, the kind you can feel floating around in your blood with you, or a that constant presence out of the corner of your eye. This had that, plus that feeling of gripping your knees or fingernails digging into your armrests and your teeth grinding. And I’d hate to ever review based on its twist, but this movie’s? Perfect.

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There Will Be Blood

Marco: The perfect horror movie to precede a recession.

Benjamin: Perhaps the only way to show the sociopathic urges of unchecked capitalism is to embody it in a man.

You’re not my son. You’re just a little piece of competition.

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Lost In Translation

Marco: Too often are own lives drift towards being half asleep, confused, and having a shoegaze soundtrack. Bill Murray and ScarJo do this one easily, with charm and grace. Some movies need helicopter chases and explosions and lots of shouting to be something, and then there’s movies like this: It starts with a plane landing and ends with a plane taking off and in between it’s just two people.

Benjamin: Just like honey. Watched this at 3am drinking zima. Hit me like a cement truck and I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore. I would go so far as to throw the adjective ‘timeless’ at this film.

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The Royal Tenenbaums

Benjamin: A nice little gift to Salinger fans. It can’t be easy to pastiche the aesthetic of J.D. while still maintaining your own style, but Wes Anderson did it.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Benjamin: True story: I once set up my roommate with a girl I used to live with in college. They broke up half a year later. The day they broke up, me and the girl and a few other guys went to see this film. I asked the girl: are you sure you feel like seeing this? And she said no, it’s ok, I’m fine. So we saw it, then went to IHOP afterwards for some dinner. A couple minutes after we sit down in our booth, the girl just totally breaks down, completely devastated. That’s the kind of film this is.

◊ ◊ ◊

Before Sunset

Benjamin: As much as I dislike Richard Linklater, I really do like this film and its predecessor. Would these movies be 10 times better with a different male lead actor? I think so.

Marco: Yeah, I think you can see so very much of Ethan Hawke’s own personal story within the film, especially when his character talks about his off screen wife. But that’s art. There’s something wonderful about the world of Jesse and Celine, something that’s perfect to watch as they reconnect and get past themselves to each other. I wouldn’t mind a return visit to their world.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Hurt Locker

Marco: One of the most tense movies that I’ve seen in a while, and one of the most effortlessly strong ones as well. Kathryn Bigelow knows how to make intellectually muscular movies that don’t shy away from action in the slightest. Compare this to Peter Berg’s The Kingdom for poof that Bigelow shouldn’t wait another 8 years to make another movie and that Berg should.

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WALL-E

Benjamin: Only Pixar could make a CGI movie about robots with more heart and soul than nearly every live-action film of the year. Wall-E and E-va’s “dance” through space was the work of true artists. Also, E-va always reminds me of Peanut St. Cosmo.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Lives Of Others

Marco: I wonder now if this movie would make a good double bill with Cache… Hmm. Regardless, this is an interesting movie, so very quiet but heavy, about how Big Brother really is watching you. They know everything about you, all of your plots, your secret desires, and soon your privacy will become theirs.

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V For Vendetta

Benjamin: In retrospect, it’s amazing this movie ever got made during the Bush years, even if it is set in England. The whole film is just a complete rebuke of post 9/11 America.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

◊ ◊ ◊

Synechdoche, New York

Marco: One of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. Charlie Kaufman tackles life and getting old and dealing with your mistakes through an abstract eye, bulky with dream logic, but you can’t help but embody the Phillip Seymour Hoffman character’s sadness. And through the characters, your own. This one stuck with me for a while and, honestly, I think I’m glad it’s so misunderstood and underrated. It feels like my pain and I’m glad I can hold onto it just a little bit longer, just for me.

◊ ◊ ◊

Let The Right One In

Benjamin: It seems like you can never go wrong with a snowy setting, cinematically speaking. This film reminded me in some ways of “The Shining.” Mostly in how there are long stretches of antiseptic dread between moments of shocking gore. and I always appreciate a film that portrays children as the soulless sociopaths that they are.

Marco: Seriously. And this film is just gorgeous, and slick as any Hollywood remake could hope to be (but more on that later). There’s warmth in the cold here, nuance in the horror, and amazingly, I find myself still debating aspects of the ending with people.

◊ ◊ ◊

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Benjamin: There were a ton of Crouching Tiger knock-offs after Ang Lee’s film won the Foreign Film Oscar, but none could touch the real thing. There is a fierceness to Zhang Ziyi’s performance that takes what was already an excellent adventure drama to the next level. And it wasn’t the wire-work and martial arts that made this film special, it was the way Lee used them to tell a somewhat timeless story.

◊ ◊ ◊

Munich

Benjamin: The scene that always stuck with me from this film was the hit on the female assassin. Her sadness in  knowing she’s about to die, that nothing she can say or do will save her. And then, after being shot, walking all the way to her chair to sit down before taking a breath and bleeding out. When Spielberg wants to, nobody puts a more haunting portrayal of realistic violence on the screen than him. And he might be the only man alive with the clout and stature to make this film without getting savaged on all sides.

◊ ◊ ◊

Brick

Marco: This film should not work nearly as well as it does, but it does. A lot of wild elements combine wonderfully, glued in by strong vision and good actors. Every time I watch this, I find myself intoxicated by the language.

Benjamin: Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes from being the kid from 3rd Rock to the next great hope of American acting. Film Noir in High School; perhaps a precursor to Veronica Mars. Gordon-Levitt’s nervy performance makes eyeglass cases and library research seem totally bad-ass. And the noir dialog is killer.

Brendan Frye: All right, you got me. I’m a scout for the Gophers. Been watching your game for a month, but that story right there just clenched it. You got heart kid. How soon can you be in Minneapolis?

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Cold winters, but they got a great transit system.

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Yeah.

Brad Bramish: Oh, yeah?

Brendan Frye: There’s a thesaurus in the library. Yeah is under “Y”. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

◊ ◊ ◊

Serenity

Benjamin: A movie that should have been about 5 times more popular than it was. There’s really not much not to like. Just an excellent, original sci-fi adventure film with engaging characters, fun action scenes and an intelligent message at its core. “I’m a leaf on the wind.” Poor Wash.

◊ ◊ ◊

Gosford Park

Benjamin: A “classic British murder mystery” that’s much more concerned with the crumbling traditions of Class in England. The dry English wit is razor sharp without ever calling attention to itself.

◊ ◊ ◊

The Ring

Benjamin: The first, and perhaps only, successful American translation of the J-Horror movement. I thought the atmosphere and all the cold blue hues of the pacific northwest really made the movie. Like “The Others,” this film was genuinely creepy and unnerving to watch. A taut little thriller of slowly-building dread.

◊ ◊ ◊

(500) Days Of Summer

Marco: A mature look at an immature ideal of love. This is a slick film, ideal viewing for anyone who’s ever been in love, thought they were in love, washed out of a relationship that still keeps them guessing, or just likes well produced, well acted movies. There’s an awesome top ten list of films for romantics out there and this is on it.

Benjamin: I’ve already reviewed this elsewhere, so I’ll just say that I really liked this film and look forward to the director’s next project.

Marco: Which may or may not be a reboot of the Spiderman franchise? Benjie and I have suggesting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as worthy of taking of Heath Ledger’s Joker mantle for a while now, but JGL as Peter Parker? I’d more than buy that.

◊ ◊ ◊

In The Mood For Love

Marco: One of the most visually beautiful and emotionally resonant movies I’ve ever been lucky enough to see. Calls back to an era of filmmaking that is not only romantic and sweeping, but in which characters had integrity.

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Bad Santa

Benjamin: Would I like this movie less if I hadn’t seen it opening day in a crowded theater half-full of middle-aged patrons who had no idea what it was actually about? Maybe, but this was one of my most enjoyable movie-going experiences ever. “I’m really sorry Grandma, I didn’t know it was going to be like this.” The scene where everyone is punching each other in the balls made us all laugh way too hard.

Marco: This movie will ensure that “you don’t shit right for a week.” But only the “January 2003 Pasadena test screening cut.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Mean Girls

Benjamin: Yay Tina Fey! Once upon a time, speaking Fey’s dialog, Lindsay Lohan looked like she was going to be the can’t miss superstar actress of her generation. There’s kind of an amazing collection of young talent in this quirky little film about Girls. Who would have predicted that Lizzy Caplan would grow up to be the hottest of them all? I once made a comment that 10 Things I Hate About You was the last honest teen movie, but then Mean Girls came along and gave the decade at least one shining example of the genre.

◊ ◊ ◊

Pirates of the Caribbean

Benjamin: Forget the over-stuffed, unessential, paycheck-cashing sequels. Before parts two and three made a muddle of everything, the first Pirates movie was shockingly entertaining. Due in no small part, I think, to Geoffrey Rush’s bravado performance. When he actually yells “ARRRRGGGHHH!!” at Keira Knightly, it’s so genuine that you can’t help but smile. “Bring me that Horizon.”

Sidebar — Gore Verbinski is on this list twice for two entirely different movies. Isn’t it about time a studio let him make a vanity project instead of just throwing franchises at him?

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Benjamin: A lot of people didn’t like the “happy” ending to this movie when it came out. Never mind how bleak the ending really is. Gigalo Joe: “I am. …I was.”

Marco: This movie and Munich are really the most mature movies that Spielberg has ever made and, to me, they’re perfect. Do they have flaws here and there? Yeah, sure. But they’re perfect because of them, speaking to my nerdy, pulpy heart.

◊ ◊ ◊

Memento

Benjamin: Memento came out right at the start of the decade when there was a little quicksilver running in the veins of so many promising young directors. A tight, clockwork little story that turns the simple tactic of a reverse edit into a brilliant exposition on memory and identity.

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Closer

Benjamin: Peanut loves this movie. It’s hard to top Clive Owen growling, “Because I’m a fucking caveman!” followed by “Like you, but sweeter.”

Marco: “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, WRAPPED IN BLOOD! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!”

Benjamin: Fuck yeah!

◊ ◊ ◊

X2: X-Men United

Benjamin: A thoroughly enjoyable comic book film that works on many levels. Finally a film that didn’t seem afraid of its characters’ super-powers.

Marco: Bryan Singer was on to something here, definitely, the idea that a comic book or genre movie can be fun and true to it’s source material, though not a slave to it, but more importantly, can treat it seriously, let it be complicated, and very human. And then Christopher Nolan took those notions and dragged them into the gritty real world.

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The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Benjamin: Saw this with Peanut and August on Christmas day. Thought it was “just decent” at the time and I like it more every time I’ve watched it since. “I wonder if it remembers me?” is a fantastic line, but I think my favorite moment in this movie is right after Steve meets Ned the first time. He makes some small talk and then excuses himself and runs to the bow of the ship to have a minor freak out. Such a true to life moment.

Marco: “OK, man.”

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I Heart Huckabees

Benjamin: Jude Law plays an American Asshole disturbingly well. The Mayo Story is one of those painful, can’t look away, show-stoppers.

Marco: The kind of smart, “quirky” cinema that I feel like mainstream audiences should have more exposure to. Also, “how am I not myself?”

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The Fountain

Benjamin: The “present day” search for cancer cure parts stick with me the most.

Marco: There’s something so beautiful about the tragedy in this movie, and I think the splintered storytelling reflects that, how in these situations where life seems to be ripping apart in front of us, we’re stuck in the past, we’re stuck in the present, and we’re dreaming of a future where we’re not so damn helpless. I don’t think this movie has it all figured out, kind of like life, and I like to hear people’s theories about, espeically since this isn’t for everyone. As for me, the future stuff? Clearly that’s the last chapter of the book, right?

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Juno

Benjamin: Ellen Page FTW! It’s hard to fully put into words why I enjoyed this movie so much, but thought “Knocked Up” was shit. Diablo Cody’s script is over-written, but Jason Reitman managed to breath tons of humanity into a relatively standard story-line. I suppose it works because it’s ultimately not a story about pregnancy, but a story about growing up.

◊ ◊ ◊

Sideways

Benjamin: A depressing, yet hopeful little story about coming to terms with having your dreams crushed.

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The Incredibles

Benjamin: Pixar does comic book meta-jokes and puts most other comic-to-film adaptations to shame.

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Cloverfield

Marco: Again, another movie that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it did (for me, anyway). This is part innovative monster flick, and, to me, part new way of exposing the mass audience to an arthouse flick. The new wave turned into a monster crushing the happy little lives of a bunch of well to do twentysomethings in New York. And all of it dripping out of the magic mystery box that is J. J. Abram’s brain.

Benjamin: A brisk, fun little monster movie that never runs out of clever ways to exploit it’s first-person POV format. After a decade of almost all remakes, sequels or adaptations, it was nice to see something new and creative on the screen.

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Inside Man

Benjamin: Warner Bros.’ formula of star actors and high concepts works perfectly here. Spike Lee shows us with this and the 25th hour that he works better when he’s only got one foot on the soapbox. This is the kind of taught little thriller that you can recommend to nearly anyone. And if they don’t like it, they must have no taste at all.

Marco: People who tell me that they didn’t get this movie make me laugh a little. Everyone brings their A game to this sleek beast, and there’s enough fascinating stuff going on here to fill up at least a season or two of quality television.

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Star Trek

Benjamin: An all-around enjoyable movie that stands out for an excellent opening sequence and the fact that it was surrounded by total dogshit competition in the summer of 09.

Marco: You may definitely have to turn your brain off for parts of it, but it won’t disappoint in that regard, though I feel like it’s almost like watching the cast of Cloverfield (you could make the argument that every J.J. Abrams joint, aside from Lost, features “the cast of Cloverfield” in form or shape) taking on Romulans, time and space, copious amounts of lens flares, and one of the oldest American sci fi franchises out there. You’re right, Commander Light, last year really was the year of time travel.

◊ ◊ ◊

American Psycho

Benjamin: Makes the list for its first half; act 3 gets a little shaggy. But meeting Patrick Bateman and seeing him go about his lifestyle is required viewing.

Marco: I feel like there’s a whole generation who watched this film and realized that there was really something sick out there in the world, and that if you were to take a step or two back from it and appreciate it for what it was worth, the sickness was also hilarious. The beginning of Christian Bale’s understanding and assault on the satire and attire of the young, rich, professional American male.

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Atonement

Benjamin: It’s Ian McEwan, but it reminded me in a lot of ways of a Margaret Atwood story. For people who like to write, the ending may hit you harder than others.

Marco: Writers love to fall back on the idea of a writer character, someone to massage out all of your flaws and let you hide from your sins in a perfect world of your own devising, and I love that aspect of this, amongst many other things. Words and stories can damn us or save us, and I love that the sounds of a typewriter are even used as percussion and soundtrack here.

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Brokeback Mountain

Benjamin: An Asian guy makes an American film about gay cowboys. And it works, seriously. I think Ang Lee was successful because he told a story about characters who happened to be gay instead of camping it up and trying to force the audience into a queer viewing experience like some hack film school grad would try to do.

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Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith

Benjamin: Fuck the haters, I’d still rather watch the final duel set-pieces in this than the action scenes in any other big-budget effects movie made this decade.

And the honorable mentions:

Half Nelson

Quantum Of Solace

The Contender

Primer

Morvern Callar

Wet Hot American Summer

28 Weeks Later

Up in the Air

Eastern Promises

Mission Impossible 3

Gangs of New York

Up

The 25th Hour

Syriana

Hard Candy

Idiocracy

Michael Clayton

Ghost World

No Country For Old Men

The past ten years have been an interesting one in film. We’ve had to sit through a lot of really stupid shit, but with it has come some truly excellent cinema. Most likely a lot of the trends we’ve hated will continue in the next ten years, but let’s hope they’re tempered with the same level of quality we’ve seen here.

The year in pictures, part one.

…but not for much longer.

Midnight In Dostoevsky” by Don DeLillo, who has a new novel in 2010!

Plotting the ruination of Radiohead?

Lady Gaga and the Queen.

This is easily the film I’m most looking forward to next year.

2009 was the year to set aside childish things. Namely, the last eight years.

Putin to retire soon? “Don’t hold your breath,” he says.

“Like taking candy from someone who seriously likes candy.”

There’s always time in time and space to stop and smell the flowers.

from here.

There’s water on the moon!

What this decade has been lacking thus far: Authenticity.

Who’s your favorite Beatle?

The end of love, part one.

Person of the year?

Is this what the culture’s come to?

You know what, don’t answer that.

Going where others have gone before.

Iran pisses on itself just a little more.

“You better be in fear.”

If you are neighbors with Sarah Palin, I guess that puts you within visual range of Russia?

New terror in the skies?

First rap is dead, then love (part two)?

Serious contender for best picture of the year, right?

Both Winston Churchill and Pynchon love inherent vices.

LUV U, LILY.

MISS U, SWAYZE.

New Justice.

Hacker of the year?

Just think about all the sex you’ve had in the past year (or should have been having.)

MISS U, Batman (though not for much longer).

MISS/LUV U, Juliet.

Tiger Woods killed Brittany Murphy!

“Memes” and “Contraflow.”

I saw her again last night.”

Birds successfully begin phase one of their attack on humanity.

In the year full of recurring royalty and ending love affairs, of course the king of pop songs would die. Makes me want to scream.

Was 2009 the year of sci fi?

The end of love, part three.

To be continued!

No hugging, no learning

My first thought, upon walking out of the showing of (500) Day of Summer at the theater, was: Fuck. I wish I’d seen this movie 9 years ago instead of High Fidelity.

High Fidelity

Which is no knock on John Cusack’s last great film. But when Rob asks the question, “What came first, the music or the misery?” we all know what he means. We’ve got 3 generations raised on a shared history of pop songs, rom-coms and happy Hollywood endings. Rob still got his Hollywood Ending, more or less. For High Fidelity, it was daring enough to suggest a happy coupling with no plans of marriage.

500 DaysPoster

(500) Days of Summer is the movie for all those people who didn’t get the happy ending. It’s kind of an anti-romantic comedy, while still suggesting that the idea of romantic happiness isn’t totally absurd, just hard to attain. John Cusack convinced us, a decade ago, that with the right musical tastes, self-deprecation, painful yearning and a timely death in the family, you can, in fact Get Her Back. It made for an enjoyable movie, but did it not make High Fidelity ultimately as culpable as all those thousands of love songs Rob decries? High Fidelity told us what we wanted to hear, but (500) Days of Summer tells us what we need to hear.

Day 488

I’m not spoiling anything by telling you that Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel do not end up together. If they did, there’d be no reason to make this movie. This is a wonderful, charming, devastating, enjoyable movie that cuts very deep into your soul. If you are a man who walks out of this movie without seeing a piece of himself on the screen, then fuck you. This is not a movie of happy banter and meet-cutes, it’s about playing music by a band you know she likes, hoping she’ll notice, and getting nothing. As Chuck Palahniuk once wrote, back when he was good: “The one you love, and the one who loves you, are never, ever the same person.”

Tom and Summer

I could go on and on here, about the way the movie portrays memory in relationships to heighten the good or the bad, depending on mood, but there are other, better reviews written out there. I just wanted to say that I really liked this movie, probably my favorite of the year so far. I mean, what’s not to love about a film where Gordon-Levitt’s Tom Hansen looks at his reflection after nailing Zooey and sees Han Solo winking back at him? If Tom ultimately learns any life lessons, he’s willing to forget them immediately upon meeting a new target of infatuation at the end of the film. And ain’t that how it always goes.

We've all been here.

I’m telling you all this, because I’m going to absolutely bury the next movie I talk about. So don’t say Benjamin Light never liked a good film. I’m not pure hater; I just have standards.

Judd Apatow does not.

The movie review headlines just write themselves

The movie review headlines just write themselves

There a million flaws I could nitpick in Funny People, but I just want to focus on one scene and one joke. They do well enough to illustrate Judd’s complete lack of talent. (Yes, I actually watched this movie. I am a masochist. It’s 2 and half fucking hours long. Seriously)

Adam Sandler’s George Simmons has beaten cancer and gone up to Nor-Cal to steal Leslie Mann away from her husband. Leslie obliges by making George go down on her, then forcing him to watch a home video of her older daughter performing Cats in a school play. George finds it vaguely entertaining in a “youtube unintentional comedy” sort of way, and when Leslie calls him on it later, he’s like look, I’ve been to Broadway, I’ve seen the real Cats.

Leslie Mann glances over at the Hollywood Actor she's cheating on Judd with

Leslie Mann glances over at the Hollywood Actor she's cheating on Judd with

Properly delivered, and with balls, this is a great joke. Comedy is about taking risks, after all. There’s plenty of laughs to be mined in telling someone that their kid is a hack. But here’s the problem: it’s Judd Apatow’s kid. And Leslie Mann is Judd’s wife. If Judd had any balls as a comedian at all, he’d play a joke like this up. But instead, it gets tossed off a signal to the audience that George is To Be Frowned At. Because how could you not like watching Judd’s cute kids in their home videos?

And therein lies the problem with Apatow. Always striving for the sentimental bullshit he didn’t earn. He name-checks Seinfeld, but he’s learned (sic) nothing from Larry David?

The Gold Standard

The Gold Standard

This is also another example of the Peter Jackson corollary: if you feature your kids prominently in more than 100 frames of your movie, you’re a self-indulgent ass. Nobody cares about your wife and kids, Judd. Your movie is an hour too long and real comedians would have taken the piss out of a mom who entertains herself by putting peanut butter on her face for the dog to lick off. There’s actually a whole scene devoted to letting us know that Leslie Mann still fits into her old jeans and has nice abs. Yeah, we get it, Judd. Bully for you. P.S. You’re Jewish? Hoolllly Shit! I never would have known that. You only announce it five times in every one of your movies, as if anyone in 2009 America gives a shit about your religion.

"These two pages are the script, we improv all the unfunny bits."

"These two pages are the script, we improv all the unfunny bits."

It’s nice to see that audiences are finally moving beyond this hackish crap. Which doesn’t mean that Americans are getting less stupid, but even they know to look askance at a movie that calls itself Funny People and delivers ads that are not. $23 million opening for a $75 million budget film? That’ll put the brakes on the Apatow mediocrity train. “The Third Film From Judd Apatow” intones to trailer. Christ, what a prick. Sorry, Judd, but even hiring Speilberg’s D.P. won’t make you a good director.

There is hope. (500) Days of Summer averaged more $$ per screen than Funny People.

There is hope. (500) Days of Summer averaged more $$ per screen than Funny People.

In conclusion: Benjamin Light has been saying that Apatow and Rogen sucked for two years. Nobody wanted to admit it, but now you know. People will call this a “backlash,” when Judd was never very talented to begin with, he just had a knack for hating women and appealing to the mouth-breathing mediocrity of his base. Gravy train’s over, Judd. Go ask the Farrelley’s how the ride back down the hill feels. Counterforce 1, America 0.

You don’t know what the fuck you’re doing

RROD

I’m thinking of starting a new feature here on Counterforce. It will be called “Haha! You’re Dead!” and consist of making mean jokes about the recently deceased. Here, I’ll start:

Looks like Country Strong is still no match for a gun! lulz!ROFLcopter!

Fun fact: Steve McNair had a career quarterback rating of 82.8.

But please, a moment of silence for Molly Ringwald.

Apple Jacks

Apple Jacks

I would like to take Paul McCartney in the deadpool. I’ve been saying for years that Ringo would outlast ‘em all. Plus, Paul’s always seemed like the biggest douche of the band. As long as we’re on this subject, I have to tell Marco’s favorite Beatles joke.

Q: What were John Lennon’s last words?

A: That’s not a real fucking gun!

So I’ve returned to the grid. Near as I can tell, the only interesting thing that happened in my absence was… … yeah. Still, there’s this feeling that I missed some tidbit that got lost in the news cycle. 3 years from now, someone’s gonna tell me that Martin Sheen is dead and I’ll be all “when the fuck did that happen? Oh, right.”

Time to give poor Kat a little love

Time to give poor Kat a little love

Seriously, how the fuck is Ted Kennedy still alive?

I googled it so you won’t have to.

Movies I want to see that aren’t playing in my city yet: The Hurt Locker, 500 Days of Summer

Marco hates Zooey, I have no opinion

Marco hates Zooey, I have no opinion

I’d like to give Party Down the official CounterForce seal of approval.

Counterforce-approved

Counterforce-approved