Mr. Cellophane

In a location adjacent to a place in a city of some significance, what comes out of my head is plastered on the walls of this blog.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

My favorite movies of 2009.

I know I hate ranking things, but this time, I really feel up to the challenge:

10. (500) Days of Summer - Can a film be romantic and comedic without actually being a romantic comedy? Beats me, but this is a delightfully off-beat look at the rise and fall of a relationship. The last line, in particular, is a howl.

9. Watchmen - I can't really judge this film on how faithful it is to the graphic novel (which I haven't read...yet), but I can say that it is an impressively dark comic book movie, augmented by some terrific visual effects and art direction.

8. Coraline - A little girl ends up in a perfect alternate world...with a catch. The first of the year's two stop-motion marvels, visually stunning and, at times, surprisingly suspenseful.

7. Sherlock Holmes - I expect to get raked over the coals for this, as I've never read the books, but this latest screen incarnation is a joy, with Robert Downey, Jr.'s quirky performance at its center.

6. Taking Woodstock - Ang Lee's exceptional look at the genesis of the cultural event is brought to life by a terrific ensemble and some delightful character vignettes.

5. Star Trek - Perhaps it's my love of in-jokes that caused me to rank this so high, but I don't care. A fine adventure and origin story in one, with a well-chosen cast filling the familiar roles.

4. The Princess and the Frog - Disney makes a welcome return to traditional animation with this variation on the fairy tale. Having an African-American lead (for once) is nice, but it's the story that carries it.

3. The Brothers Bloom - This story of two con artist brothers and their latest mark is one of the most original and engaging films I've seen in a long while. Even more, it's stuffed with superb little details.

2. Up - An old man with a peculiar means of travel meets some interesting characters as he embarks on a great adventure. Pixar's latest winner; touching and enjoyable.

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox - Two captivating stop-motion features in one year? Yeah, weird. Wes Anderson takes a Roald Dahl story and makes it his own, with amusing characters and an off-kilter sense of humor.

Missed it by that much:

Astro Boy - This criminally underrated adaptation of the anime was rich in action, heart and humor.
Cirque Du Freak: the Vampire's Assistant - Universal's accounting ledger was rife with underperforming titles this year (Drag Me to Hell, Land of the Lost, Bruno) but one film of theirs that didn't deserve to fail (one of two; I'll get to the other one soon*) was this exceptional adaptation of the young adult novel. A nice antidote to the silliness of that other vampire youth franchise that will, hopefully, find its audience on DVD.
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - A colorful piece of work, with all the quirky humor that one would expect from the creators of "Clone High".
Duplicity - Clive Owen and Julia Roberts make a nice team in this twisty romantic caper film, Universal's other undeserving flop.
G.I. Joe: the Rise of Cobra - To hell with the haters. This was fun. Succeeded where the Transformers films epic failed.
The Great Buck Howard - John Malkovich shines in this story of a mentalist and the aspiring writer who becomes his assistant.
The Informant! - There's more to Matt Damon's whistle-blower than meets the eye in this lighthearted true story, bolstered by a delightful Marvin Hamlisch score and a most unusual supporting cast.
Inglourious Basterds - Tarantino applies his colorful approach to World War II, well-acted and quite compelling. (Note: this would certainly be #11.)
Julie & Julia - Two fine actresses take on two aspiring chefs in this engaging feature.
Monsters vs. Aliens - Dreamworks Animation's latest is an enjoyable and funny mix of monster movie tropes.
A Perfect Getaway - Couples meet in paradise, unaware that one of them are murderers in this twisty thriller.
Pirate Radio - Not much narrative thrust in this Richard Curtis outing. Just a terrific cast and some great music.
Ponyo - Though lacking in story, this - like other Miyazaki works - is worth seeing for the lovely animation and music.
Whip It! - Ellen Page is a girl who finds herself on the roller derby track and Drew Barrymore makes a promising directorial debut.
Zombieland - A riotous mix of horror and comedy. Lots of fun as long as you don't think too hard about it afterwards.

* - One might get the sense that I hated Public Enemies. Not true. Its share of debits (distracting use of digital video, a quite unpleasant scene late in the film with Marion Cotillard's Billie mistreated by an officer) weren't total dealbreakers, but, averaged with the film's good points, put it quite a ways down my list.

Coming soon (but not too soon): My thoughts on the movies of 2009.

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Listening to Franz Waxman's (deservedly) Oscar-winning score for Sunset Boulevard. It's the composer's birthday, but this music also serves as a reminder for a post I need to do: 'Why I Like Film Music Better than People'.


Sunday, December 20, 2009

Brittany Murphy (1977-2009)

(Usually, when I see a celebrity's name in Yahoo's Top 10 searches list, I assume the worst, but nine times out of ten, it's not about said celebrity's passing. To my surprise, Miss Murphy, at this writing, isn't in the top ten.)

I don't want to dwell on her...peculiar choices in movies (like Just Married, the direct-to-DVD MegaFault and that "I'll never tell." thing*). I will say that her passing is one of the most surprising of the year. It may even unseat the King of Pop's as the biggest blind side. I can't imagine what her family is going through, but I wish them well.

* - However, it was nice to see her appear in dark, challenging fare like 8 Mile and Sin City (my favorite role of hers). Also, parts of Little Black Book are strangely watchable.


Saturday, December 19, 2009

Watching My Name is Bruce on that channel with the stupidly-spelled name that occasionally justifies its existence with "Twilight Zone" marathons. This movie's a freaking riot! Must get it on DVD, at some point.


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Something I couldn't help but notice (and I don't want to be one of those super-annoying assholes who reads into everything): two of the latest roles to be played by the now clean-and-sober Robert Downey Jr. are Tony Stark (an alcoholic) and Sherlock Holmes (a cocaine addict). A little shameful I didn't see this earlier...and now, I can't help but think of his recovering alcoholic principal in the underrated Charlie Bartlett...

BTW, am I the only person more excited about Sherlock Holmes than Avatar? I don't know. It just doesn't look that engaging to me.


Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Watching the "South Park" episode, "Over Logging". So help me, that episode is the definition of 'it's funny because it's true'.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Okay, I think this cold thing has gotten out of hand. Last night, I went to bed a little after midnight, and this morning, I wake up at ten! That never happens. Ever! Even in those ultra-rare moments when I hit the sack at two, I'm usually up by nine at the very latest.

I'm hoping it goes away on its own, but, even with the stuff I'm doing (juice, soup, etc.), who knows?


Friday, December 04, 2009

Well, I'm sick again, folks. I really miss the good old days. Not just when I wasn't sick, but when people could tell the goddamn difference between a sneeze and a cough. Honestly, are people that unaware of a world beyond themselves that they just gave up any pretense of distinguishing between the two?!


Tuesday, December 01, 2009

(I knew that I said I wanted to have longer posts here, but, believe me, this is not what I had in mind.)

It's kind of a funny story I have to tell. Whether it's 'ha-ha' funny or 'what the hell' funny is up to you.

It all started with slush.

The first snow of the season (okay, not quite the first; I remember vividly rushing from a Quiznos to a bus stop early last month under what I thought was hail, but turned out to be snow) fell on our town during the wee hours of the morning. How do I know? This sore throat I'm currently fighting wouldn't let me sleep.

Knowing I'd be called on to do so anyway, I shoveled the stuff up. (Note: Wet snow is way harder to get up than regular snow.) My boots were a little worn from treating them as work boots for the last year or so. Still, that didn't quite prepare me for the constant onslaught of coldness and wetness as I walked up the street to the bus stop. By the time I got to work, it felt like my feet were soaking in mush.

During my first break, I went to the bathroom and took my socks off. I wrapped them in paper towels and placed them in my locker. I spent the rest of the day in my bare feet. It felt so much better than wearing wet socks.

On my last break, I checked to see if my socks were completely dry. Not quite, and the brown color of the boots had bled into the socks. After my shift ended, I decided to dry the socks off in the microwave (there's a microwave in the breakroom for heating up lunches as such).

There was a manager going over some things in the breakroom when I got there. I figured, 'I'm gonna risk it'. I place the socks with the paper towels in the microwave and set it on four and a half minutes. My feet will be nice and toasty. I go to the bathroom to wash my hands.

When I come out, something smells like it's burning. It's coming from the microwave! It couldn't be! It was. My socks were smoking. No sooner did I drop them to the floor than a spark erupted from one of the socks. The manager suggested getting them underwater. Showing a surprising balance of resourcefulness and panic, I bundle the socks up and run them under the bathroom sink, putting out any potential flame. The store survived, but my socks...charbroiled; black as night and flaking apart (yes, flaking apart).

Nervous and more than a little embarassed, I offer to take whatever punishment the manager had to offer. (Honestly, how was I supposed to know that socks were combustible?!) My punishment: clean out the microwave. I doubt it's been cleaned in a while, but I do my best. The door, the walls, the caked-on whatsis on the rotating glass dish.

I was forced to throw my socks away. There was no way I was wearing those again...which left me in an unfortunate bind. I had to leave sometime, but who knows what the cold air would do to my bare feet? (I did, but still...) I called home and got a ride.

Maybe the story will get back to the head manager and maybe it won't. Who knows? Someday, when my socks end up in some landfill, found by some derelict, he may wonder, 'who would be foolish enough to do this to their socks?'. Who, indeed?

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