Monthly Archives: December 2009

Top 5 Best-of Lists of 2009

by Tony Nigro

I find end of the year/decade lists are to be as stimulating as McDonald’s food is nutritious.  Somehow the Fourth Estate got the impression that we not only crave but need these round-ups, which generally prove little more than a publication’s lack of cultural memory, or a writer’s desire to prove his/her cultural memory is better than yours — and maybe revise some embarrassing choices from the past.

I don’t get list-making, but I am morbidly fascinated by it.  Hence, my favorite movie best-of lists of 2009.  And by “favorite,” I mean, like, whatever.  I don’t even care what movies these people selected.

5.  Mr. Beaks Presents His Top 100 Films Of The Decade!
[Ain’t It Cool News]

One hundred movies is a cop out, even when summing up a decade.  But that’s if you can make it past the 664 word, rambling preamble by the revered critic Mr. Beaks.  In it, he makes excuses for not seeing a bunch of big movies yet, including AICN fodder like Avatar, released a mere couple weeks after the list was started.  My favorite part has to be how impossible it is to find Part Four of the list, either through links or by searching.  I still don’t know what this guy’s top 25 of the decade are.  It’s a perfect example of the slipshod journalism that makes Harry Knowles’ amateur empire little more than a fanboy circle jerk.

4.  The 100 Best Films of the Decade [The Times of London]

One of the earliest lists I read — November 7! — this collection of films only released in the UK runs the gamut from Morvern Callar to Dancer in the Dark to Bad Santa. It goes out on a limb with a top pick of Michael Haneke’s Hidden (Caché), inspiring a New York Times blog post calling the list “more provocative than definitive.”  And all this weeks before Thanksgiving.  Scandalous!

3.  Movie Posters of the Decade [The Auteurs]

Now this is something I can get behind: a list of images looked at from a new perspective, and a nice batch from a decade in which Hollywood overdid the floating head formula.  Leave it to Adrian Curry to point out how Naomi Watt’s giant close-up for the Funny Games poster is more effective than the played out alternatives, or how the poster for The 40 Year-Old Virgin prompted “the Sears photo portrait genre,” mostly seen with movies involving Judd Apatow.

2.  The 19-plus Worst Films of 2009 [The A.V. Club]

A semi-ironic list to prove that I’m not the only genius out there, this one only makes my cut because I actually worked on the pick for number one worst movie, Miss March.  “Running incontinence jokes set the lowbrow standard,” but the assistant editing is beyond compare!

1.  Do Knowing, Funny People, or This is It Belong on Best-of-2009 Lists? [Vanity Fair]

I’ll be honest: I like Karina Longworth.  She’s no Jonathan Rosenbaum, but she does represent an evolution of blogging and print media that our generation will ultimately be remembered for.  The real reason her list is selected, however, is its original take on some critics’ “contrarian” selections, or “one list wonders.”  Armond White is an easy target for that, but I applaud Longworth for going there with his choice of This Is It.

Incidentally, my top pick for Best Film Critic Beef of 2009 is a non-beef in which White dissed Longworth, or maybe online writers, or something.  It was a messy Armond moment that became even greater recently when Longworth was named the new film editor of LA Weekly.  Now they’re officially colleagues, whether White likes it or not.


Christmas Movie Marathon: Red State Subversion

by Lewis Manalo

This holiday season, when you’re stranded, staring at your relatives with nothing to say to each other, remember that the remedy to your boredom is just a DVD player away. Nothing will keep you from feeling obligated to speak to each other like some good, ol’ film de cinema.

If you have the poor fortune of getting stuck visiting relatives (or in-laws) in one of the Red States, do you part to bring peace on Earth and make it a marathon of those movies that are guaranteed to subvert their conservative expectations.

1. Talladega Nights: the Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Nothing says Red State like stock car racing. Adam McKay, Will Ferrel, and company will reel them in with fast cars and hot Southern gals, then send them off with a moral about accepting gay French people as human beings.



2. Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist

Yeah, they’ll go in thinking it’s a movie about being young and cool in New York City, but they’ll be busy having fun when they realize it’s really about being young and cool and Jewish with non-stereotypical gay friends in New York City.

3. Love Actually

Wow. This movie poses as a harmless romantic comedy, but it has gay love, miscegenation, a soft core film shoot, group sex, and more, all show in a positive light. Your Red State relatives will be too busy feeling warm and fuzzy inside to realize that they’re watching all the things their preacher says will send them to Hell.


4. Golden Compass

Yes, it really is anti-Catholic Church.  Decide for yourself if this will subvert how your relatives feel.

5. Breakfast at Tiffany’s

It’s cuddly Audrey Hepburn and Hannibal from The A-Team! Your Aunt Grace already loves this movie. Who cares that it’s about two prostitutes who fall in love?

Zoom! Enhance!!

by Tony Nigro

I work in post production.  I am an editor.  We don’t use film anymore, only video, and mostly the digital kind.  It makes the job easier but is far less tactile.  Rather than literally cutting shots together, we push some computer buttons and stuff happens magically.  It’s abstract, and really no different from the last time you “talked” to your friend via IM.  But even with that kind of daily abstraction, I’m still not fooled by the entertainment industry’s lies about “zoom and enhance” technology.  The truth is, few cops could zoom in enough to accurately identify the drunk guy at the 7-11, let alone decipher the inscription on his belt buckle.  Sorry to ruin your day, CSI:Miami fans.

I’ll spare you the explanation about resolution and pixels.  Instead, try this test: Open a book, preferably to a picture.  Put your nose against the page and then try to focus on the page.  Video and digital photos look like that when you get too close.

A man named Duncan Robinson is no more fooled than I am.  He made an amusing montage to illustrate the ubiquity of Hollwood’s ridiculous lie.

The funniest part may be that I know editors who worked on some of those shows.

Area Man Mistakes Avatar for a Stimulus Plan

by Tony Nigro

Besides blue aliens and some planet named after an online radio service, what is Avatar about?  From the sound of most pre-release coverage, one might think it’s about hundreds of millions of dollars and marketing.  Take away the 3-D and CGI and it could be a hotly debated economic bailout.  Obviously there’s everything but a story going on here.

Yesterday’s All Things Considered on NPR featured a piece detailing the perils of hyping James Cameron‘s overly huge movie because it’s — hold your breath — an original concept.  How might Hollywood ever sell the drooling masses a blockbuster to that isn’t based on a book, a video game, a Disney pop star, or another movie?  Surprisingly, George Lucas was not interviewed.  Neither was anyone at Pixar.  But what would they know?

In all seriousness, the NPR story has the makings of an article for The Onion.

Freak of the Week: Gordon Ramsay

by Lewis Manalo

This past Tuesday America received another gem from the network that brought it Man vs. Beast. This Christmas, our gift from Fox Television was the U.S. version of Gordon Ramsay: Cookalong Live. British television viewers have had the privilege of watching this program for nearly two years running, and somehow they keep watching it.

In some ways it reads like a more sadistic version of Celebrity Survivor: put a few celebrities in a potentially dangerous environment, and then give command of the situation to a coked-up chef on a talking jag. Just add fire.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

by Tony Nigro

After the Los Angeles riots in 1992, community cleanup was all the rage.  One of the most unique projects was a fourteen-acre community garden in the heart of burned-out South Central on land purchased by the city via eminent domain.  By 2004, neighborhood residents were farming the land to an amazing degree, using it for food and as a point of community pride in an area that to this day is mostly associated with poverty and crime.  Wealthier urbanites were already “going green” and the Slow Food movement was gaining momentum, so a local farm seemed perfect.  But the Los Angeles real estate bubble was also at its peak, and Robert Horowitz, who originally owned the land, wanted it back ASAP.  What followed was a fight to the bitter, disappointing end, all detailed in the documentary The Garden.

Between the movie’s emotional portrayal of the farmers’ rise and fall and the backroom dealings of elites, The Garden is a quintessential Los Angeles story, a lost chapter in Mike Davis’s City of Quartz.  Watching it sums up my retired cop father’s thirty-plus years of complaints about Los Angeles politics.  It’s an angry, sad and solitary voice in a city of embittered people who shrug off the City Council’s antics as “corrupt” but rarely seem to vote them out of office.  In this respect, The Garden serves as an admirable document of the Council’s bullshit-as-usual legal wrangling, finger pointing, racism and various self-interests, all common practice in a city where the slogan “No Justice, No Peace” means someone might be pissed enough to throw a trash can through your storefront window.

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DVD: Inglourious Basterds

by Lewis Manalo

Now enjoy watching Jews act like Nazis from the comfort of your own home!  And don’t worry about the violence, because it’s all in good fun.  Like the Hostel movies. Inglourious Basterds is just a harmless (sub-par) revenge fantasy — and it’s Jewish revenge against movie Nazis, so it’s not just okay, it’s awesome.  We know Nazis aren’t human, that their form of violence could never happen again, and that none of us is even capable of that kind of behavior — unless it’s against Nazis.  Everybody’s happy.