Archive of ‘Lists’ category

The Best of Television 2016

 

Long ago (not long ago, maybe fifteen years ago which is starting to feel like long ago) if someone would ask me what television shows do I like to watch, I would answer smugly “I don’t watch television, I only watch films”. Which was mostly true, yes I would watch reruns of Seinfeld or pop in a Freaks and Geeks DVD but rarely thought about watching a show on week-to-week basis, let alone daily. Then LOST happened and it become appointment TV for me, when asked again, what television do I watch I would say, “I only watch LOST, I’m more into films”. Than someone told me I should catch up with The Wire, then Mad Men premiered, a year later Breaking Bad premiered. Comedies begin to change from studio audience laugh tracks to single camera shows like 30 Rock and Community. Eventually I no longer gave the smug response of not watching television, instead I made sure to point out all the interesting shows I was watching that you probably weren’t. I became a Television Snob!!! Television has gotten better which has made it difficult to keep up with everything. From the scope of one-hour dramas like Westworld to the unpredictability of half hour “comedies” like Atlanta, television has been inching towards the same respect its big brother known as film seems to get.

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The Real MVP (Most Valuable Performance)

Anthony Hopkins in Westworld

For all the flaws and times the show left us scratching our heads, Hopkins managed to convince us to buy into what the shows creators were trying to sell. A truly difficult feat when considering the rabbit holes the creators of the show where trying to make us follow. Every time I thought to myself what the hell is going on here, Hopkins menacing eyes and ways with absurd dialogue pulled me back in. He may never overshadow is performance in Silence of the Lambs but in Westworld he showed all the skills he has in artillery in way we haven’t seen from him before.

 

Best Moment from Atlanta Because Any Other Moment from Any Other Show Would Just Be A Lie

Umm…I mean, can I just say the whole show? From the glow of those Lemon Pepper Sauce Wings to Black Justin Bieber and everything between. This show gave us Moments on top of MOMENTS! But if I had to choose one, it would have to be The Invisible Car scene. Early in the episode titled “The Club”, it’s suggested by one of the lead characters that a star football player supposedly owns an actual invisible car. No one believes this, but instead regard it as a lavish joke to display how rich this guy could be to own an invincible car. It’s so early in the episode in which this story is told and so much stuff happens through out the episode that you forget this ridiculous story that is until….

 

 

And some how you buy into this moment, in show grounded not in some alternate universe but in your reality and some how it totally makes sense like every other crazy thing in Atlanta.

Best Use Of An 80’s Song On A Show.

You’d be surprised by (or maybe not) by how many shows I could choose from in this category. The love of 80’s music seems to know no boundaries as most shows and films are made by children of the 80’s now.   The likely sources for usage of 80’s music would obviously be in shows that take place in the 1980’s. From Halt & Catch Fire using Elvis Costello’s song “Beyond Belief” blare out of a speaker box to the nostalgia crazy episode of Black Mirror, “San Junipero” featuring a foreshadowing with 5 seconds of The Smiths song “Girlfriend In A Coma” or the dance floor ready “Need You Tonight” by INXS.   And of course how could we forget the numerous music cues from Stranger Things, especially the perfectly eerie closing credits song “Nocturnal Me” by Echo and The Bunnymen. With all that said a show not taking place in the 80’s managed to out do them all. In the opening scene of episode of 2 of season 2 of Mr. Robot, Phil Collins (yes, I said Phil Collins) song “Take Me Home” is lightly heard from a distance but as the scene unfolds the song builds momentum gradually becoming louder as scene becomes ever so more dramatic and surreal. Phil Collins song writing has become an easy punching bag for most and doesn’t seem to have the admiration of other 80’s music but I tell you this, you’ll be obsessed with this song after seeing it used so will in this scene. In an utterly disappointing season this was a highlight for Mr. Robot and maybe the A.L.F. inspired episode.

Best (Favorite) Shows of 2016

Disclaimer: I don’t know why but for some reason I never catch up to Transparent until after I do these lists. So just know that if I did, the show would probably be on this list…it would probably be in the top 5 because it’s a great show.

 

Honorable MentionsBetter Call Saul, Broad City, Fleabag, Luke Cage, Preacher, The Night Of, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

 

 

  1. Westworld – HBO and Mr. Robot – USA

Although both of these programs showed the endless scope that can be had with television, they were both kind of full of themselves too. Here’s to hoping both shows got their worst qualities out of their systems. For Westworld, the endless setting the table with plot on top of plot on top of plot has hopefully ended with the first season/Prologue. Mystery and online speculation is fun but a lot was asked of its audience to buy into that was all wrapped up with a tremendous last thirty minutes of the season finale. Which can lead for a more entertaining and character driven season two (we hope). While Mr. Robot suffered a sophomore slump of high expectations, with a terrible stretch of episodes that left its audience wondering, “where the hell is this going”? I love to be challenged by a show but it seemed as though the shows creator Sam Esmail was trying to test his audience, which sure is fine but to do it for most of the season was too much. But that is also been the pleasure of the show, the boundaries and forth walls broken down by a show that uses conventional troupes in unconventional ways. Here’s to hoping the ship finds its course in Season 3.

 

  1. The Wine Show – Hulu

I’ve been fortunate this year to do a lot of traveling, eating great food and drinking some great wine. With that I’ve had the chance to learn a lot about food and wine from documentaries like Chef’s Table, Chef’s Table: France, Uncorked and Cooked. For me The Wine Show gave me the most pleasure to watch, which also educated me about this alcoholic beverage I enjoy so much. With the added bonus of the charming host Matthew Goode and Matthew Rhys, enjoying the winery’s of Italy only made the show more delightful.

 

  1. Black Mirror – Netflix

I wouldn’t say any episode of Black Mirror was perfect this season, but almost all of them where fascinating and terrifying even the up beat “San Junipero”. It’s no secret that we has a society are succumbing to our new overlords known as technology. This year more than ever we’ve seen the power for better and for Worse that technology can have on our daily lives. Black Mirror touches upon the many avenues this can go horribly wrong, often in a Orwellian level that even George Orwell could have never foresee.

Best Episode – San Junipero

 

  1. Girls – HBO

It can be easy to forget about Girls after two lackluster seasons, but it would seem that the show figured itself out this past year. Yes these are the same narcissistic flawed characters we’ve grown to love or loathe but the mistakes and relationships they’ve chosen finally make sense. Adam and Hannah never made sense, they only seemed to be a construct for the sake of interesting television. For better or worse Adam and Jessa make sense even though that relationship could cause WWIII any day now.

Best Episode – The Panic in Central Park

 

 

  1. High Maintenance – HBO

High Maintenance has two things going for it that I very much like, New York City as it’s back drop and vignette story telling. Our guide into each story is The Guy, a marijuana delivery guy who interacts with the individuals who we follow in their own episode. The show has an amazing ability to mock and love it’s fictional archetype New York characters that we as non-New Yorkers have are own ideas of.

Best Episode – Grandpa

 

  1. Halt and Catch Fire – AMC

It’s a shame that more people don’t watch this show, but it’s hard to convince people to watch a drama without sex (there’s a lot of sexual tension) and violence (someone did kill themselves this season though). What makes this show stand out from other shows that might provide those needs you have is the unbelievably complex, intelligent, individualistic female leads. Cameron and Donna are the best of friends, the worst of enemies, without a man having to do anything with their relationship. The show is far cry from it’s first season, which came off as a Mad Men for the 80’s but it’s taking a few notes from the show in particular creating strong women in the workplace.

Best Episode – NeXT

 

  1. The Americans – FX

The Americans continues to be my favorite show about family, in the most extreme circumstances of a family unit no less. The long con of being Russian spies in America is taking it’s toll on Elizabeth and Phillip, who are trying to explain this life style to ever more curious, sometimes terrified daughter. On the grand scale we know how this story ends but that doesn’t make it any less thrilling to watch on the smaller scale for our leads in this story. The Americans manages to show that there isn’t anything sexy about spy work, it’s grunt job full of self-doubt and paranoia.

Best Episode – The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statute of Liberty Disappears

 

  1. Game of Thrones – HBO

Maybe this is what the GoT creators and fans always needed, or better yet didn’t need, a guide to explain to them where this story was headed. The results of the first season of the Game of Thrones without a book as a road map surprisingly gave us good results (for the most part). Given us some of the most memorable moments in a show already filled with classic moments. The final two episodes showed the amazing scope that could be had on the small screen.

Best Episode – The Winds of Winter

 

  1. Stranger Things – Netflix

Sometimes comfort and familiarity is needed, especially when the real world feels like it’s going to shit. Stranger Things came in a time when we needed some visual comfort food and it did so for us. A perfect construct of everything we love about the 80’s Spielbergian kids with Stephen King like scares, without the danger of the Cold War seeping in. The child like wander to keep us young and knowing that the danger wouldn’t ever come with a cost. Oh…that’s right, but what about Barb?!

 

  1. The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story – FX

What made this show were the great performances by Sarah Paulsen, Sterling K. Brown and Courtney B. Vance. Bringing to life three people only vaguely remembered as caricatures and villains. The nuances of their performances elevated them over some hefty competition, of an Oscar winner, a Friends star and John Travolta doing some sort of Marlon Brando impression. This plus the added factor of the amazing mingling of tabloid like story telling while confronting Americas continues problems of race relations made for entertaining, while most times important television even twenty years after the events.

 

  1. Atlanta – FX

Twin Peaks for a Hip-Hop generation is a cute pitch but Atlanta is more than that. Yes it takes the unpredictability of what we like out of the more weird hour long dramas and stuffs it in an half hour comedy but it handles so much more under it’s belt. Confronting race, homophobia, celebrity and being flat out broke in ways television has never encounter. Donald Glover builds his own a unique world that reminds you of other comedy geniuses like Louie C.K. and Larry David, who see life in their own bizarre, funny and sometimes fucked up kind of way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Best ( Chris’s Favorite) Films of 2015

Although this wasn’t quite a great year in films, the good and great one’s proved the value of the big screen experience that film allow us.  Nothing beats seeing the grand scope of an amazing car chase scene or great actors with emotional highs with close ups that won’t let you look away.  There are still visionaries out there trying to show the power of film or more accurately digital film, something that the best television can’t accomplish, the atmosphere and mood that film captures.  The feeling of vertigo watching someone high wire from one building to the next, the feel of a punch being landed and the capabilities of our emotions showing being on display.  This is the power the movies can have over us even in the weakest of years. (more…)

 

Best Scene In A Film (That’s Not In Mad Max)

Creed Running With Motorcycle Crew in Creed

Every Rocky film has the montage scene of the boxer getting in top-notch shape for the big fight, so you naturally expect that in Creed as well. And yes they usually end with Rocky running up those now famous stairs in Philadelphia. Director Ryan Coogler decided to go for something quite different on his take in Creed. Clearly influenced by the documentary 12 O’Clock Boys, Coogler makes it clear this isn’t your fathers Rocky film with rapper Meek Mill’s take on the classic Rocky theme providing the tempo for this conclusion for the montage with his song Lord Knows. With a young black motorcycle crew riding with Adonis Creed while he runs his last sprint the scene provides a boost of energy never seen in a Rocky film, making Coogler take on the series uniquely its own.

Best Sequel

Magic Mike XXL (That’s Not Mad Max or Creed)

The first Magic Mike, although surprisingly good, may have left you cold and seeking a little be more than what was delivered. As the sequel’s title suggest, this installment is going much bigger than the prior film while leaving all worries behind of the first film. Magic Mike XXL finds Channing Tatum and the rest of the boys embarking on a “one last ride” style road trip, to Myrtle Beach for a strippers convention. Yes, I said a stripper convention. On the way the find themselves involved in some light hearted misadventures. The film as no bones about what you came here to see but while they give you what you want, they also subversively bring up social topics without ever actually bringing them up. Masculinity, femininity, homosexuality, and race provide an avenue for the characters to show their views without ever making a heavy-handed statement about “togetherness”. It just simply does it in organically. If that’s not enough for you, less not forget the scene stealing performance by Joe Manganiello that provides one of best one of the best scenes of the year with his use of Nine Inch Nails and a sex swing.
What We Talk About When We Talk About Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I feel obligated to mention The Force Awakens, somewhere on this post despite the fact that I’m not much of a Star Wars fan. That said even I found myself sucked up in the excitement of culture phenomenon of the most recent installment. Yes, you could say it was rehash of the original Star Wars film and yes R2-D2 all of sudden waking up seemed just a little perfect but that’s ok. Let’s face it, J.J. Abrams was given the impossible job of living up to the expectations that were once faltered by a previous trilogy. Whatever you may feel for the film it’s self and Abrams table setting, you can’t deny his wonderful casting of the three leads of the film. Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Adam Driver were not only asked to take a beloved series on their shoulders but to be the new faces of it. There performances in one film, for me as already surpassed many of the actors in the original trilogy. John Boyega seems to be ready made leading man, capable to move between reluctant hero and the sidekick in one scene. Adam Driver is doing something very interesting her as the villain Kylo Ren, with the most iconic bad guy in film history Darth Vader it can be hard to compete with that shadow. Driver knows that, and over plays it in earlier parts of the film with almost “chip on his shoulder” attitude, eventually making and unfortunately making his case for true villainy. Daisy Ridley is the cherry on top of a great year for women in films, in particular action films. For what is asked of her in the closing fight scene (and a lot is asked of her in a break neck speed) we have to buy into her ask character. Ridley makes Rey instantly likeable, in her opening scenes. In the early parts of the film, we don’t exactly know where we are heading with Rey but Ridley manages to convey a comfortably with her performances as if we have been following this character for years. Ridley truly holds her own amongst actors more familiar to this world while placing herself firmly as the hero of this tale.

Top 10 Films of 2015

Full disclosure, I haven’t actually seen every film this year including Carol, Youth, The Look Of Silence, The Assassin, Son Of Saul, Chi-Raq and a few others.

  1. Spotlight

Sometimes great filmmaking is not having a grandiose vision but knowing what the script ask of you, letting the story tell itself. Tom McCarthy does so, allowing his actors showcase their abilities to perform, with small details of their characters. Nothing sexy here, just a will crafted, precise film in which everyone delivers.

  1. The Revenant

I haven’t much cared for any of Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu previous films, but even I knew that this most recent effort would be one to seek out. Mostly due to his leading man Leonardo DiCaprio, with if not his best performance (it’s not), perhaps the most demanding of his career. Not just in the physical sense but because for the majority of the film he doesn’t speak, asking DiCaprio to carry his performance in actions, not words. And yes, that bear attack scene, is probably the most terrifying scene you’ll see all year or next year.

  1. The Hateful Eight

Tarantino’s newest film is problematic at times. No filmmaker loves the sound of people speaking his dialogue more, especially when he is reading it himself as the narrator. What flaws there are don’t ruin the intriguing discussion of race, in particular the subtle racism in classic westerns of the “golden age”, such as the John Ford films. In the character Major Marquis Warren (played by Samuel L. Jackson in his best performance since Pulp Fiction), Tarantino has the capacity to talk about race relations in a modern context. The way in which black and white people need to see each other is a fascinating point of the film, especially in relationship with masculinity amongst men of any color.

  1. Clouds of Sils Maria

Of the films on my list that demands a second viewing for me, Clouds of Sils Maria is on the top of the list. Not just because it’s a great film but also because of the open questions that it leaves you with by the end of the film. Juliette Binoche, time in and time out demands your attention with her screen presents. While Kristen Stewart shows that there is real talent behind those other wise annoying mannerism that we grown use to in other films. Can’t wait to catch up on this film again.

  1. Creed

For all the complaints of sequels/remakes, Creed makes a strong case for what stories can be furthered with doing so. This film didn’t have to be as good as it ended up being. Ryan Coogler didn’t want to make just boxing film with classic Rocky montages. He sought to make expansion of the franchise while giving us character driven film of young man chasing his past and future. Michael B. Jordan makes clear that he has all the makings of a movie star, while Stallone is great in his lease all out Rocky performance (It seems Coogler kept him from doing that thick Rocky accent this time around).

  1. Tangerine

For those who know about this film, much has been made about the fact that it was filmed all on an iPhone. If that gets you to see this film, that’s great, but that isn’t what makes the film worth your time. It does what few LGBT films have done, it just tells a story about people that so happen to be transgender. Tangerine is not interested in making statements, but only say these are people, people who deal with life just as you or I do. This is what makes the film great, ordinary people dealing with their day the best they can. Not to mention the eye for detail director Sean S. Baker as for little corners of Los Angeles that may have never been filmed until Tangerine. Showing a side of L.A. that most residents are more familiar with and outsiders have never seen.

  1. Ex Machina

Feeling like a film length episode of The Twilight Zone, Ex Machina is a prime example of the power of cinema. Capturing atmosphere and tone, in such psychological level that puts you on edge admittedly when you reach the man location the film takes place in. And like great episodes of The Twilight Zone, this film subtext is the allegory of men’s need to be loved and the need for power. Alicia Vikander’s performance of Ava is of delicate nature of wonder, even in the closing moments when things begin to turn. She is freighting yes but not with malice or hurtful contempt but just wonder, that is due to Vikander’s great performance.

  1. Inside Out

Much is demanded of Pixar every year to deliver not just a terrific kids movie, but a great picture. This isn’t an easy feat to accomplish year in and year out (clearly they take a year off trying to do so when ever they release a Cars movie), but the bar is set high. Inside Out continues the (for the most part) efforts to set a standard in creative animation and storytelling. Making something as complex as our human emotions, quite easy to comprehend while asking existential questions has though Ingmar Bergman went into animation makes it far ahead than any other traditional big budget film this year. And as always Pixar does a wonderful job with casting whether the voices are familiar to us or not, they always seem to fit the character.

  1. Anomalisa

Speaking of existentialism and the human mind, Charlie Kaufman has a new film out folks. In his second endeavor as director, with the help of co-director Duke Johnson he makes his first animated feature. There’s a subtle hint in all his work of a mental horror film underlying the themes that Kaufman deals with. Whether focusing on our ego, holding on to love, fear of dying, or depression, Kaufman does it in his own unique way. His fascination with these expects of being human are all on display in this most recent film Anomalisa. As with all Kaufman films, he sends you down a rabbit hole of thought and emotion. He doesn’t do this to for us to solve the puzzle but to show the complexity of narcissism and neurosis, seeking pleasures or self worth.

  1. Mad Max: Fury Road

This apocalyptic film came out six months ago and it still stands as the best time I’ve had in theatre this year (yes, I’ve seen The Force Awakens…chill). No film had a better understanding of what it was trying to accomplish than George Miller’s visceral rock opera of chaos and terror. For Miller who hadn’t made a Mad Max film in 30 years, he accomplishes what few action films do as of late, placing the stacks of the situation in relatable way in unreal world. Along with high octane editing, this movie puts you in the driver seat in away that seven Fast & Furious movies having figured out to do yet. With Imperator Furiosa (played by underrated Charlize Theron), we are given a great female action hero, in this allegory of destructive nature of men who seek absolute power. The film speaks to willingness of the ones with power to send young men (War Boys) to fight their wars and die for their personal gain. The fourth installment in any action movie franchise has no business being this good but Miller not only made a great action movie, he made a great film. Period.

Coming Attractions in 2015


With Oscars airing this past Sunday, it marks the end of focusing and awarding the films of 2014. Now, it’s time to look ahead at the films of 2015. There are many questions we have to ask ourselves with the various pictures coming out. Does Cameron Crowe have one more good movie in him with his new release Aloha (arguably he really hasn’t made a good film since Almost Famous)? Can Mad Max: Fury Road make a movie star out of Tom Hardy? Is the new Star Wars film going to be help us forget the prequels? And how is Furious 7 going to deal with the real life death of one of its stars, Paul Walker? To celebrate the films that we are excited for in 2015, I’ve made my own awards simply based on the trailers for these upcoming films. (more…)

The Film You Might Be Surprised I’m Excited To See Award

Magic Mike XXL
Oh yes. I was convinced by my wife to see the first Magic Mike on opening weekend and walked out of theatre pleasantly surprised. The direction of Steven Soderbergh raised the level of the material in an unironic film that seemed more to be ode to a French new wave Flashdance. It also gave us perhaps the best Channing Tatum performance we’ve seen (maybe cause of his personal connection to the material). This leads us to the sequel, Magic Mike XXL, a movie that let’s you know from the title that we are here to have a good time. The stacks are low here, no villains looking to take over the world or destroy New York City for the 100th time. No, not here, just the simple pleasure of seeing this rag tag team of male strippers enjoying what they do. With that said, the noticeable draw back of the sequel, is two key components that made the first film so good…Soderbergh and Matthew McConaughey.

The Film That You Might Be Surprised I’m Not Excited To See Award

The Avengers: Age of Ultron
I should be excited for a sequel that involves several of my favorite comic book characters, yet I don’t feel anything when I see Hulk running toward the Iron Man Hulkbuster in a rage of fury. Usually, the second installment of comic book films are considered the best, they are void of origin stories that slow down the film. Yet with all the separate Marvel films that connect to this new The Avengers film, the world building (or in this case universe building) to get to this point has gotten tiresome. Nothing seems to matter in any of these films because all they are doing is setting up for the next Captain America/Iron Man/The Avengers film. With all that said, I can’t imagine not seeing this movie on opening day cause I love comic movies, so disregard everything I just said.

The Film That Twelve Year Old Version of Myself Is In Front of The Line For Award

Jurassic World
This one can be easily explained: I LOVE DINOSAURS! They are my film kryptonite, to the point that I saw Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. The original film in this series, Jurassic Park, was released in the summer I turned twelve. Its importance in how I see and appreciate film (oh I know Taxi Driver or Citizen Kane should be the answer for what film had the biggest impact on me but I would be lying if I said that) is never forgotten by me. I saw the possibilities in filmmaking with Jurassic Park, so naturally when they made the second Jurassic Park, I was going to be there (I gave it a pass up until we got the gymnastics scene from Jeff Goldblum’s daughter) and the dreadful Jurassic Park 3. So of course I’m there for what’s in store for this forth installment. Finally, we see what the park is like once it’s opened to the public, Chris Pratt now doing his Indiana Jones impression with that leather vest, and Raptors are the good guys (maybe). How can I not be excited about this?

And yes, if you were wondering I do cry every time I watch The Land Before Time and when Littlefoot’s mom dies.

The Chris Pratt Award

Oscar Isaac
This award is given to an actor or actress that breaks out to the point in which my mom knows his or her name. With Guardians of The Galaxy being a massive hit and Pratt’s terrific performance has Peter Quill, he had a breakout year, making him the next potential movie star guy. This year it looks like the next big thing could be Oscar Isaac, who in the past few years has gained popularity amongst critics and bloggers as someone with the appeal of a young Al Pacino. Seeing that there is no marketability in being considered a great actor but instead a movie star, Isaac will be seen in Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Since I have lukewarm feelings on Star Wars altogether, I haven’t kept up on the secret details of the film so I have no clue if he is a good guy or bad guy in the film. He could be the Luke Skywalker or the Han Solo for all I know. What I do know is no matter what he plays in the film, you’ll take notice of him (cause he is a good looking guy) and you’ll remember his name.

The I Don’t Need a Trailer To Know This Film Is Going To Be Good (Hopefully) Award

Midnight Special
This is awarded to the film that has yet to have a trailer released, usually do to the fact that it won’t be out in theaters for another 7-9 months from now; so there is a lot risk involved with this award. But given that Jeff Nicholas, the director of Midnight Special, has directed one of my favorite films in the past 10 years (Take Shelter), I feel safe in knowing this will at least be worth seeing. Even with little that is known about the film, the cast should spark some interest for anybody, which includes, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver and Nichols’ most reliable actor Michael Shannon.

The Film That Will Most Likely Inspire My 2015 Halloween Costume

Charlize Theorn as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
This one is a no brainier. I mean just look at how much of a bad ass Theorn is with her shaved head and black make up covering her face. Every five years or so, we are privileged to see a woman playing with the ideas of female masculinity in an action film with the shaved head look. If Mad Max: Fury Road is has good as I hope it to be, I would love the chance to make her look part of my Halloween costume, I’ll just have to figure out what to do about her amputated/robot arm, but I look forward to the challenge.

And Lastly, The Ten Films I’m Looking Forward To See The Most in 2015:

In The Heart of The Sea
The Knight of Cups
The Revenant
Furious 7
Jurassic World
Midnight Special
Sisters
That’s What I’m Talking About
The Hateful Eight
Mad Max Fury Road

Best of 2014 in Films: Part Two

And here are my (Chris) top film picks of 2014. Enjoy my friends! (more…)

Honorable Mentions: Only Lovers Left Alive, Ida, Blue Ruin, Frank, Neighbors, Dawn Of The Planet Of The Apes, Dear White People, The Lego Movie, Life Itself and The Trip to Italy.

10. Under The Skin

The best homage this year to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey wasn’t an actual space film (sorry Interstellar) but instead it was a picture centered on gaining and learning about humanity back here on earth. Jonathan Glazer’s eerie (occasionally beautiful) film on what it means to be human is uniquely displayed in the point of view of a foreigner, played by Scarlett Johansson. Sexuality is a major part of this film, in questioning how we see each other as sometimes nothing more than an object of desire.

9. Nightcrawler

We aren’t naïve to the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles anymore, yet Dan Gilroy (director of Nightcrawler) manages to show something new here. Mostly through his sociopath character, Lou Bloom (played wonderfully by Jake Gyllenhaal), an opportunist who’s willingness to be the best crime journalism videographer goes past observer to willing participant. Bloom is a great salesman (Can you imagine the hell Bloom and Jordan Belfort would raise?), who truly doesn’t take no for an answer. The great cinematography by Robert Elswit (who also shot another very L.A. film the same year, Inherent Vice) gives the feel of constant dread around every corner as most of the film takes place at night.

8. Guardians of the Galaxy

Let’s just enjoy this. Let us remember the collective pleasure in knowing that for a of couple weeks in early August we had fun watching Chris Pratt do his best Han Solo impression. The chance to see a female lead in a comic book movie not run from the battle but instead get right in the thick of it. The joy brought to us by the dynamic duo of a foul mouth Brooklyn accented raccoon and the lovable childlike somewhat talking tree. The surprise comedy timing (or perfect lack of) by Drax the “muscle” of the movie. Revel in the fact that the galaxy was saved not by a fight scene but instead by Pratt’s dance moves. Just enjoy this moment, because we’ll grow tired and cynical of this band of misfits after 10 sequels.

7. The Babadook

In the simplest of terms, what The Shining was for alcoholic fathers is what The Babadook is for widowed single mothers. That is not to say this film isn’t unique, but fair warning this horror film is doing much more in its storytelling than most of the recent that share its genre. The real horror of the film isn’t the creature/ghost/demon but that of the difficulties of raising a young boy alone. At times the mother (played by Essie Davis) seems sleep deprived, stressed and downright terrified by her son’s constant need for attention, as most young imaginative boys are required. Jennifer Kent camera picks up those shadows and sounds that terrified us when we were young children in our bed alone using are own imagination to insight our fears.

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel

I feel like I’m on an island alone on this one but this is Wes Anderson best live action film since The Royal Tenenbaums. This is mostly due to Ralph Fiennes performance but also do to the madcap energy of the film that we rarely see from Anderson pictures. Anderson films have often been criticized for the inhibited nostalgia displayed by him, but in Budapest Hotel, he shows the beauty in what has been forgotten or thrown away by the changing times.

5. Inherent Vice

Having just walked out of theater no more than 12 hours ago, I’m still trying to wrap my head around this detective story that’s…not…really…a detective story? Yes, in this familiar rendition of a counter-culture The Big Sleep, the “whodunit” aspect isn’t so much important to the film but what as become of the world around the many cases. Our hero, the pot smoking “hippie” Doc Spotello (played by Joaquin Phoenix) doesn’t know what to make of his jigsaw puzzle of a case nor the post Manson Family murders (Vice takes place six months after the Sharon Tate murder) world he now lives in, where paranoia and conspiracies run rapid. After making arguably two masterpieces, There Will Be Blood and The Master, back-to-back P.T. Anderson can appear to be treading lightly here, yet don’t mistake the comedic fair for a recess time. Anderson’s direction is fully equipped as the director who is still at the top of his game and not at a decline at all. Give me six months and this could be in my top 3 films of 2014.

4. Snowpiercer

Director Bong Jong-Ho apocalyptic look at the future was easily the most imaginative high concept film of the year. Jong-Ho continues to bring his originality and humor in familiar genre pictures such as Mother (the Hitchokian who dun it), The Host (monster movie) and now Snowpiercer (post-apocalyptic). It could’ve been easy for this foreign filmmaker to scum to the clichés of action films in his first English speaking film but Jong-Ho takes what is expected and flips it on its head (as explain in my Best Film Scene)

3. Gone Girl

We’ve been told the “adult centered film” is dead and perhaps it is but as with most things David Fincher directs (The Social Network and Fight Club), the material is risen beyond what would be in lesser hands. The strength of the film is hinged on our buying into the tonal shift the film takes half way through. Fincher manages to gracefully take a right turn where we thought we were going left and never slows down for us to catch up with him. He goes and if we can’t keep up with what he is doing, to bad for us. Despite the dark subject matter few films have been as fun to watch as this throwback to late 80’s/early 90’s sexual suspense thrillers.

2. Boyhood

Richard Linklater’s wonderful film is not a love letter to childhood (as much as people would hope) but a series of captured forgotten moments. With spanning over 12 years of a life, Linklater doesn’t have time to go down vast plot rabbit holes but instead give snippets of a life that we don’t realize matter to us until after the fact. What makes Boyhood great is the little details, those details that we hadn’t even realized had an effect but unknowingly or unspokely matter to us until years later. It would’ve been easy for Linklater to sum up the growth of human being to one speech or highly substantial moment yet he was smart enough to realize that life is way more complicated than that. Boyhood may not look like much but it’s subtly saying a hell of a lot more about life than most pictures that try to be more obvious with there statements.

1. Whiplash

In the last fifteen minutes of Whiplash, something amazing happens while we our in a daze watching the last sequence unfold. Director Damien Chazelle is in sink with his actors Miles Teller and J.K. Simmons for maybe the most sexual non-sex scene captured on film. The battle between the two principals comes to a head in amazing drum solo that ends the film. Simmons and Teller “unite” as teacher/student to give each other what they always wanted in life. But unlike other movies where are “hero” seems to have a triumphant moment, we don’t feel as if everything is happier ever after for Andrew (Miles Teller). No instead we feel something dark, something sad is on the horizon for Andrew. Pain gets him to this great point and perhaps pain is the only thing that will sustain the art. Pain is part of the game here, maybe the same pain that Charlie “Bird” Parker was touched by.

Best of 2014 in Films: Part One


Ashley here! As I have stated in the past, my husband, Chris, is a movie buff and really enjoys reviewing films. This list is his favorite films from the past year. Although our tastes can differ, I fully agree with this list and even encourage you to check some of these out if you haven’t already! Take it away, honey!

Before getting to my Best of’s, a disclaimer for several films I unfortunately missed of 2014 that you won’t see me talk about here. Selma, Land Ho!, Nymphomaniac, Love Is Strange, Top Five, Mr. Turner, The Raid 2, Force Majeure, A Most Violent Year, Two Days One Night, Listen Up Phillip and probably many, many others. (more…)

 

Best Sequel

Dawn of The Planet of The Apes

After the surprise hit of Rise of The Planet of The Apes the assumption only would be going down from there with the sequel. Yet Dawn not only succeeds from avoiding the sophomore jinx but surpasses it’s predecessor. This summer blockbuster is smarter than it has to be, with doing the wonderful job of fleshing out of its CGI and living characters. With a script that draws from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar and Richard III the film masterfully builds a case for none of it’s characters being the good or bad guy but instead sympathies with the reason they do things they do.

 

Best Doppelganger Film of 2014

Coherence

(Spoiler alert, some films mentioned below, you may not realize they deal with doppelgangers until you see them)

Yes what a weird category, but how many films dealt with doppelganger scenarios this year would surprise you. Enemy starring Jake Gyllenhaal in duel roles, The Double, which explains it’s self with in its title, and the relationship dark comedy The One I Love as well. Yet the best doppelganger film was perhaps the lease known of the year. Coherence is a little film that takes place during the night of a dinner party of eight friends. While they chat and drink wine, strange goings on begin to happen causing miss trust between the group of friends, who begin to divulge they’re “real selves” as possible other versions of themselves begin to enter or exit the dinner party. It’s a fun watch in which I have to catch up again with to figure out what who was who.

 

Best Film Scene, That’s Not In Whiplash

Snowpiercer- A Short Pause At Yekaterina Bridge

It can be hard to find yourself surprised by much in actions films lately. The thematic beats are usually going to similar rhythm that we have come accustom to. In director Bong Joon-Ho film Snowpiercer, you never know what to expect in the next train car coming up. This is what makes it terrifying and the most alive action film of the year. There is no better moment in Snowpiercer than that of the Yekaterina Bridge fight/celebration scene. Things play out in familiar manner as most fight scenes involving several people would, until both sides of the battle take a 1 minute pause to acknowledge the New Year which is celebrated every time they cross the dangerous Yekaternina Bridge. The brake in the battle scene just shows Joon-Ho ability for humorous moments in the darkest of times. Pointing out how ridiculous this whole situation is for his characters and us the audience.

 

The Most Overrated Film That Will Get 10 Oscar Nominations

Foxcatcher and Birdman

A friend recently mention to me how much he enjoyed reading my reviews but was waiting for me to write a negative review on a movie. It was a fair point, everything I’ve written about either loved it or at lease thought was worth recommending you checking out. As I’ve said before I don’t get paid, especially to watch movies that are most likely not good. With that said I do still see occasionally bad or too highly praised movies that I wouldn’t mind talking about but with work and school work, I’d rather write about the movies that are worth your time. With that said I have to give a few words regarding Foxcatcher and Birdman, two movies that surely are going to be discussed in length on their “excellence”.
Bennett Miller (director of Foxcatcher) has no interest in the reason or possibilities in his characters motivations but just the end results of their decisions. Which just leaves you empty walking out of theatre. I’m not asking for Dr. Fred Richman to come at the end of the movie to explain to me why du Pont did what he did but I believe as audience we deserve some room for interpretation or speculation of events. Miller doesn’t allow for that, instead we are giving the “facts” of the situation and follow along in uninterested manner. With that said Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo successfully push passed Miller’s need to void the film of emotion by giving two terrific performances. While the performance (surely everyone will be in high praise of) by Steve Carell as John du Pont is perhaps the most over praised part of the film. Miller and Carell would have you believe that du Pont is a terrifying and creepy character, instead Carell’s performance is silly, in a way that makes the performance distracting not in a good way. I think most of the praise given to his performance should be given to the make up people. This is just another case of people giving to much credit to the “transformation” of the actor.
While Birdman is one of the more visually alive films of the year, the script couldn’t be more unimaginative. The heavy handiness of the story and finger wagging of the story never felt series enough nor satirical but instead shaming of everyone who doesn’t have the intelligence for art like co-writer and director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu (Babel, 21 Grams) makes. His need to constantly be telling and not showing, in speeches that point out everything that is wrong in popular art just drags the movie down from something that could’ve been beautiful to a tiresome soapbox film. Inarritu as been a director whose never interested me, with his no holds bar dramas where he seems to seek to emotionally torture his characters than by torturing us. Birdman seems to be his way of telling us, the audience “hey my art house movies matter and you dummies out there who only want to see comic book movies should take notice cause I’m actually say something.” But at the end of this film (and all of Inarritu films), nothing seems emptier than something with wonderful body but no real soul to make it really matter.
The Film I’m Most Surprised I Enjoyed

Edge of Tomorrow

It’s fair to say I’ve grown a little tired of the Tom Cruise action star career the past few years. At a certain point it’s just starts to get sad to see fifty-year old man trying to pretend he’s a twenty-something bad ass. But with so few potential “movie star” male leads to pass the torch to who else is more right to save the world over and over again than TC? With Edge of Tomorrow there’s a certain pleasure in seeing Cruise playing someone who doesn’t exactly have the stomach (for the first half of the movie at lease) to be an action hero. Cruise hasn’t been this fun to watch in years because no film as let him play less than TOM CRUISE. And yes there is a sick joy that comes from seeing the many ways the “hero” dies in this Groundhog Day from hell.

 

Best Performances

Honorable Mentions: Channing Tatum (Foxcatcher), Agata Kulesza (Ida), Tessa Thompson (Dear White People), Kang-ho Song (Snowpiercer), Scarlett Johansson (Under The Skin), Josh Brolin (Inherent Vice), Hong Chau (Inherent Vice) and David Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy)

10. Mark Ruffalo – Foxcatcher

Ruffalo is often overshadowed by is counterparts in most of the films he’s in. He’s given underestimated performances with heavier hitters who are competing for screen times with him, Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Alright) Robert Downey Jr. and Hulk (The Avengers). Foxcatcher is no different, Ruffalo manages to hold is own and out shine the more showy (and not good) performance of Steve Carrel by doing what is asked of him in the part, simply being the character not a caricature.

9. Tilda Swinton – Snowpiercer

You kind of get the since that Swinton lives for weird roles like Mason in Snowpiercer. Rarely does a female get a chance to be the villain in such a playful way as she does in this post-apocalyptic picture. Swinton takes every opportunity in the Snowpiercer to have fun with her rendition of Martha Thatcher.

8. Miles Teller – Whiplash

Understandably Teller’s performance as young jazz drummer Andrew as been overshadowed by his co-star J.K. Simmons showcase but Teller holds his own in every scene. Although he may seem like drab or uninteresting character (intentionally done by Teller) while outside of music school, he fully comes alive behind his drum set. His passion is real and the desire to be the best is shown every time he starts drumming. I have no idea how talented of a drummer Teller is (outside of the film) but he had me convinced he was the real deal. With out Teller’s terrific performance Simmons great performance would mean very little.

7. Joaquin Phoenix – Inherent Vice

Phoenix is having one the great runs these past few years that most actors have to wait a lifetime for. Post I’m Still Here he has knocked it out of the park with three completely different performances The Master, Her and now Inherent Vice. Here as the pot smoking detective Doc Sportello he gets the chance to play with an interesting tone of comedy. As his character is constantly high it lends itself for comedic moments when it is necessary for Doc to play “straight” in the presents of the LAPD and clients who depend on answers from him. Many times he is asked to be a listener and observer of other characters, which allows Phoenix to perform with his eyes, something in which he has grown so well at doing this past few years. Even with an abundant of scene stealing characters (played by Benicio Del Toro, Martin Short and several others) Phoenix always stays at the center of our attention, we want to never leave his character.

6. Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler

I can honestly say I’ve never enjoyed a Gyllenhaal performance because he seems to never fit the part to me. He is unable at times to convince me that he cares about what he’s saying or the part he plays. That’s what makes his terrific turn as Louis Bloom in Nightcrawler so surprising to me. In the film he is constantly convincing other people to believe in what he is doing. He pretty much is playing a ruthless sales man whose product is himself. Gyllenhaal understands his character, not playing him as a villain at all, but the hero in his own story. It’s a freighting and funny performance of a sociopath that makes me excited to see what Gyllenhaal does next.

5. Eddie Redmayne – The Theory of Everything

It would be easy to call Redmayne role as Stephen Hawking an Oscar baiting performance in the physicality of acting, of course it naturally is going to be a nominated one. Yet Redmayne refuses or perhaps is incapable (due mostly because of Hawking who was incapable in real life) of giving the Oscar Clip Moment that you would expect from such dramatic situation. Instead with really only the use of his eyes he expresses the joy, sadness and love that this genius man feels locked in his failing body

4. Rosemund Pike – Gone Girl

(Excerpt from review of Gone Girl) I really don’t want to give much away on what her character does but just imagined Catherine Tramell and Keyser Soze had a kid, it would probably turn out be just like Amy Dunne. Pike’s performance as Amy is a sprawling one that asks her to be convincible victim terrified, darkly funny and a horrifying psychopath, at any given time. Not sure it’s the kind of performance that would get her an Oscar nomination but one that she should be getting praise for executing such a joggling act.

3. Ralph Fiennes – The Grand Budapest Hotel

For some actors, Wes Anderson’s dialogue comes naturally for them (Bill Murray and Edward Norton) and for others not so much (Bruce Willis and Danny Glover). It can be a freighting thing to jump in his unusual characters and idiosyncratic filmmaking in Anderson universe. With Fiennes first collaboration with Anderson it would almost appear as if the duo had been working together for several films. Comedy wasn’t foreign to this “series actor” prior to this film, although he is known for is villainous roles (Schindler’s List and Harry Potter series) Fiennes has held is own in small comedic parts (In Bruges). This role of M. Gustave redefines this already great actor, whose willingness to use the “serious British thespian” attributes for a wild and void of ego comedic performance.

2. Patricia Arquette – Boyhood

(Excerpt from my review of Boyhood in which I talk about Arquette’s performance of the often-single mother in the film) Never being the wet blanket, no nonsense tough mother, or free spirit guardian angel that often these types of films give us. Instead, she displays the flaws that come with having to run the parenthood gauntlet on your own sometimes. She makes her fair share of mistakes, with the unfortunate bad luck with men setting her back along the way. With Arquette’s heart breaking speech at the end of the film, she steals the movie for me (it made me want to call my mother immediately after getting out of theater just to tell her I love her).

1. J.K. Simmons – Whiplash

Simmons has been one of those actors I’ve always rooted for to get an opportunity like this (I have a soft spot for character actors). At an early age (perhaps too early) I encountered Simmons on the HBO television show Oz in which he played the despicable neo-Nazi and rapist Vernon Schillinger. Every since then I’ve been subconsciously afraid of him in every role his played in, even as the dad in Juno he was scary to me. So at last he gets the chance to use his ability to be terrifying in what is easily his best performance as the music instructor Fletcher who pushes his students often times to the limit. Simmons portrayal of Fletcher is not at all a romantic look at the teacher/student relationship but instead gives insight on the tightrope that great artist must play in order for the sack of great art. Fletcher believes he must push his students to the edge for them to reach there full potential, how fitting for an actor such as Simmons to finally reach is own full potential in such a great performance.

Best (Favorite) of Television In 2014 by Chris

Before I begin, I have to place a disclaimer. I don’t watch everything, mostly because that would be insane to do and no one pays me to watch TV. With that said, I’d like to give some shout outs to the shows I didn’t get the chance to check out that may have made my list. So apologies to Louie, The Knick, Transparent and Black Mirror. Maybe next year… Here is my favorite television shows of 2014. (more…)

The Show You Should Really Check Out of 2014:

Getting On (HBO)

To be fair, this show was underappreciated by me as well until I caught up with the first season earlier this summer (it originally aired November of 2013). HBO isn’t giving Getting On (now in its second season) much of a chance to become a well known or beloved show as it did with Veep or Girls. But to be fair, Veep had one of the most popular TV actresses (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) heading it, while Girls first season blew up your twitter feed with the continued discussions of Lena Dunham’s naked body. So what does Getting On have going for it? Three terrific, hilarious, and fully realized female characters, who are played wonderfully by actresses (Laurie Metcalf, Alex Borstein and Niecy Nash). These characters are void of egos but full of authenticity in this darkly funny, sometimes cringe worthy show about the sometimes entertaining aspects of the elderly ward of a hospital.

The Most Overlooked Performance of 2014:

Woody Harrelson in True Detective (HBO)

In every memorable buddy show or flick, there’s the wild loose cannon character that must be paired with a straight lace man, better known as the “straight man”. Riggs had Murtaugh, Buzz Lightyear had Woody, and The Marx Brothers had Zeppo. The straight man is there to keep balance to the credibility of a situation or to watch over the flawed but beloved loose cannon. Woody Harrelson in the role as Detective Marty Hart is asked to be the straight man to Matthew McConaughey’s loose cannon performance as Detective Rust Cohle. Although Harrelson received an Emmy nomination, he didn’t ever get the adoring love that McConaughey got. This was mostly because his character wasn’t full of the anti-hero mystic that Rust was given. Marty Hart was a bad husband, bad father, and genuinely a flawed, unappealing man that had nothing to show for himself but his work. Harrelson’s performance brought us into that world with his humor,intensity, and flaws; this was something needed to counteract McConaughey’s spacey poetic depression.

Best Television Moment:

True Detective (HBO) – The Six Minute Single Tracking Shot with Rust Cohle

This was a really tough choice for me. How do you not choose Bert Cooper’s song and dance fairwell from Mad Men, or The Red Viper vs. The Mountain or the share joy of watching this happen.
Instead I chose the scene that was unlike anything else on television and had only been something films had the bravado to capture. The one take tracking shot is nothing new, it’s been in several films and when not done effectively, the showiness of it can take you out of what you’re watching. Director Cary Fukunaga was already getting acclaim for his amazing eye and scope on True Detective, but the 6-minute tracking shot made him the MVP of the show. What’s key for making long take tracking shots work isn’t so much the movement of the character we are following but movement of the world around the lead character. Everything needs to fall right into place without you feeling as though it’s being choreographed. Just watch for yourself (link above).

Best Television Performances:

Honorable Mentions – Pedro Pascal (Game of Thrones), Danny Pudi (Community), Amy Poehler (Park & Recreation), Martin Freeman (Fargo), Matthew McConghauy (True Detective), Viola Davis (How To Get Away With Murder), and Carrie Coon (The Leftovers).

10. Charles Dance as Tywin Lannister (Game of Thrones-HBO)

Few have done so much with so little as Charles Dance as done in handful of scenes this year on Game Of Thrones. The harbinger of many deaths in Westeros was brought to life by Dance methodical performance. He made Tywin a terrifying character with only the use of his words and pen as a weapon of choice.

9. Woody Harrelson as Marty Hart (True Detective-HBO)
Read above about the most overlooked performance.

8. Allison Tolman as Molly Solverson (Fargo-FX)
Tolman was pretty much an unknown prior to Fargo but her performance as Molly Solverson is breaking her out. Naturally the show would be compared to the Coen Brothers film by the same name as would Tolman’s performance would be compared to Francis McDormand Oscar winning performance but Tolman is her own person here. This unlikely lead of Fargo held her own while playing along side more familiar faces (Billy Bob Thornton, Martin Freeman and Colin Hanks) giving the show a realism it needed during some of it’s bizarre moments.

7. Jon Hamm as Don Draper (Mad Men-AMC)

Not perhaps Hamm’s strongest year playing the 60’s ad man Don Draper but he continues to give great performance of one the best characters on television. That being said, I don’t think Hamm is getting the credit he deserves for his continued terrific work. Is it because we think he is Don Draper so it comes easy to him or have we just gotten so used to him being good that we’ve taking it for granted?

6. Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister (Game of Thrones-HBO)

After what could be considered a low-key season 3 for Dinklage, he came back with some of the more memorable Tyrion Lannister moments in season 4. The charm and wit that we’ve grown to love has slowly been pulled out of Tyrion as the people around him have continually tried to break him, what this has done is given Dinklage portrayal more complexity as Tyrion as had to harden as the scapegoat of Lannister problems.

5. Uzo Aduba as Crazy Eyes (Orange Is The New Black-Netflix)

Crazy Eyes was easily everyone’s favorite inmate of the first season of the unexpected hit Orange Is The New Black. Her furiously unique performance had us terrified and loving her at the same time. In season 2 Crazy Eyes becomes unlovable and genuinely terrifying, as the she is now the psychotic muscle of the new prison gang. What a risk to take for a character loved by all, to make her the bad guy. Despite Crazy Eyes villainous turn, Aduba manages to still show us the scared fragile girl inside her character who wants to be understood and loved.

4. Laurie Metcalf as Dr. Jenna James (Getting On-HBO)

The great thing about Metcalf’s performance of Dr. Jenna James is she plays it as though she is not in a comedy but in a serious drama. She believes she should be in the trenches of ER and not in the slow quiet death of geriatric ward of the hospital. Metcalf’s serious take allows for more laughs in surprising ways in this darkly funny show (that you should watch, read above).

3. Elizabeth Moss as Peggy Olson (Mad Men-AMC)

The thing you have to realize about Mad Men is that it’s not about the evolution or change of Don Draper but that of Peggy Olson. Don in one way or another is becoming extinct, while Peggy is part of the sea change of the late 60’s. Moss performance of Peggy Olson as been building season by season as the center of Mad Man’s universe, perhaps that was Matt Weiner’s (creator of Mad Men) plan the whole time but perhaps Weiner realized what he had in Moss. For Moss it’s her ability play her performance as if she is a silent film actress, she does an amazing job wearing her emotions without showing all her cards. She’ll probably never get the credit she deserves (she’s never won an Emmy for her role) but it should be said that she has been playing one of the great and consistent female TV performances.

2. Billy Bob Thornton as Lorne Malvo (Fargo-FX)

Although the Coen Brothers had very little to do with the show Fargo (they were given the credited of executive producer) the show is filled with Coenesque <(http://thedissolve.com/features/movie-of-the-week/349-in-the-coen-brothers-punishing-world-morals-are-ev/ ) inspired characters, none better than Lorne Malvo. Thornton is pretty much playing the part of Death in a grey coat and a bowl cut, which isn’t to say he has darkly comedic moments in Fargo. Thornton hasn’t been this good in a long time, giving us what we most like about his acting, the humor, creepiness and dread that he’s capable of especially in the villain part.

1. Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer (Veep-HBO)

Few are fortunate to have the career arc that Dreyfus is had; this is especially true of a woman over the age of 40. Fewer can say they’ve done their best work in the second half of set career such as she’s done too. Dreyfus provides so much to her performance, the charisma of an elected official while also having egocentricities of one as well. Her willingness to be a complete asshole to the people that dedicate their lives to her as the vice president is bold for a female character that could easily be categorized as a “bitch”. Now as the President of the free world the realm of possibilities are endless for her character.

Best Television Shows

Honorable Mentions- Hannibal, Broad City, Drunk History, Girls, Orange Is The New Black, Too Many Cooks, Too Many Cooks, Too Many Cooks, Too Many Cooks, Too Many Cooks, Too Many…

10. The Leftovers (HBO)

The question of where did 140 million people all of sudden go on October 14, can only take you so far. Damon Lindloff writer of The Leftovers and co-creator of Lost, understands how troublesome mysterious questions can become. Instead the real mystery of The Leftovers is what “Sudden Departure” day did to those who weren’t taken. This 9/11 allegory examines how we move on or don’t move on once we go through something so catastrophic.

9. Getting On (HBO)

As I mentioned above (The Show You Should Really Check Out) this female dominated show, has an amazing cast of women who occupy their space in honestly beautiful way. There are few places for women over the age of 40 to shine on TV such as this cast does. How lucky we are to see these women who are usually day players given there onstage to do so.

8. True Detective (HBO)

Who is the Yellow King? What’s carcosa? Is Rust Cohle the killer? What’s with deer antlers? True Detective gave us much needed water cooler conversation during those cold winter months of which otherwise is a dead season. Playing like a David Lynch influenced buddy comedy at times, True Detective kept us on the edge of our seat knowing any ending was a possibility for this quasi-mini series. Not a perfectly executed crime drama but it never wavered from our interest nor speculation.

7. Community (NBC)

After the terrible season 4 (known as the gas leak season to us Community fans) they could only go up for this show, which saw the return of creator Dan Harmon (Harmon was fired by NBC after season 3). The return of the shows fearless leader revitalized the show to its familiar glory days with classic moments as Lava World, G.I. Jeff and meow meow beenz. With the good, came the bad with the exit of the much-loved character Troy (played by Donald Glover) who was one half of the great duo of Troy & Abed (several tears).

6. Fargo (FX)

The expectations were high for this show that was loosely connected to the Oscar winning film by the same name. Lucky for us it delivered, given us the best attributes of Coen Brothers films (the Coen’s only executive produced the show and had very little to do with it’s creation) with bizarre plots, bizarre characters who are often on the fringe of good and evil.

5. Parks & Recreation (NBC)

Every season of Parks & Recreation can feel like it’s final season. The writers seem to be ready for the end at any given moment too (although loved by the critics and a cult following the show as never had high viewership). This allows Parks to be bold and willing to change at the drop of the hat. Whether it is the departure of beloved characters, goodbye Chris & Ann (single tear) or the emergence of new problems such as the Pawnee-Eagleton merger, the show as kept us guessing unlike any other comedy.

4. Mad Men (AMC)

Any other year this would be #1 for myself but AMC’s greediness (dividing the final season in two parts a year apart) got in the way of that. All though things felt rush at times for the first half of the season Matt Weiner still delivered some of strongest moments of the shows tenured. The show as lost some love from fans who want to see more of Don Draper being the womanizer they grew to love and hate. Weiner was never interested in seeing Draper getting laid but instead the toll in which his lifestyle was putting on his soul. At it’s core the show is about change, whether in the culture or in ourselves and the inability for some us to be able to change for the better.

3. Veep (HBO)

Is Veep the most realistic look into the D.C. politics? That’s tough to say for sure, but I’d like to believe it is. Instead of all the wishful thinking of the idealized world of The West Wing or the over the top Machiavellian corporation of House of Cards, Veep shows the self centeredness and short comings that lie in all politicians. Besides the obvious greatness of Julia Louis-Dreyfus (my #1 performance of 2014), Veep is cast with the best ensemble outside of Westeros. Each cast member has his or her moments while contributing to the bigger picture, working together in perfect chaotic harmony.

2. The Americans (FX)

Would you believe me if I told you this Cold War spy show is the best thing on television dealing with marriage and family. Handling the double life of being a Russian spy in America can be complicating enough but adding your spy spouse and teenage kids in the mix seems suicidal. Work, “work” and family are the focal point of these KGB agents (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) who try to balance all this while trying to love one another. This joggling act of being a spy and being a parent makes for truest stacks on television, in this dangerous world of espionage

1. Game of Thrones (HBO)

Given that season 4 of GoT was mostly following the second half of arguably the best book of Song of Ice and Fire series, it would be hard for them to screw this up. Thankfully as the show goes on the guys behind the wheel continue to get a good handle of the material making each season stronger than the last. This was easily Game of Thrones best season, because we seem to be finally getting somewhere (that somewhere could still be three seasons away). This is not to say Games is slowing down, the show continues to expand it’s universe with new locations and characters, making it the boldest endeavor on television, while keeping us interested with the characters we love (and hope won’t die).

Cinema Paradiso Club: Top 10 Films of 2004-2014

We are at the end of August, which means the end of the summer blockbuster season. With nothing to look forward to until the Oscar bait films of Mid-October to Late December and other than The Leftovers, there’s not much to be excited about on television right now either. This leaves you few options for entertainment for the dog days of summer. What a perfect time to look back at the past 10 years in films, to discuss in short what I believe to be the best made in this 10-year span. It’s easy to say that in the last decade, we have only been bombarded by superhero movies in which cities are destroyed over and over again. With its share of Batmans and Tranformers, the last ten years has had its quality too, with groundbreaking modern classics as well. I felt that this was a good opportunity also to show my taste of films if I am to write film reviews for Ashley’s blog once in a while. Although these reviews on my list may be short, I hope they make you curious enough to check out some of these film if you haven’t already. CINEMA PARADISO CLUB LIVES! (more…)

Honorable Mentions: The Social Network, Inside Llweyn Davis, Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, Toy Story 3, The Aviator, There Will Be Blood, Man on Wire, The Dark Knight, Boyhood, Before Midnight, Grizzly Man, The World’s End, 12 Years a Slave and Funny Games. Among many others.

10. Ratatouille (2007)

Hardly the first or second Pixar film to come to mind for most, but surely one of its best. Brad Bird, who also made The Incredibles with Pixar, brings a voice of his own to the already legendary studio with his two collaborations with them. In Ratatouille, Remy (voiced perfectly by comedian Patton Oswald), believes despite being a rat, that he is capable of the same fruits of joy as any human; to the point of bold and costly decisions he makes for his objective happiness. The film is naturally about our pursuit of making art and the price we pay to do so, whether it be in films, novels or cooking. And besides this is a food blog, I had to have one movie about food on this list.

9. Zodiac (2007)

David Fincher was already well versed in the serial killer film with the critical and box office success of Seven, but his return to the genre with Zodiac would be a quite different turn. Mostly taking place in San Francisco, also the site of a now classic Alfred Hitchcock film Vertigo, which had a clear influence and shares parallels with this film. Most prevalent being the obsession for answers to the point of damaging effects on our lives. This gives Fincher the opportunity to show his own obsession for detail in his direction, while giving him a new maturity in his filming language and tone. The films lack of traditional climax or answers, making it a returnable watch for myself, constantly leaving the possibility for a few different conclusions on who the Zodiac killer might be.

8. Inglorious Bastards (2009)

It’s probably fair to say that the events surrounding and involving WWII have been covered in film more than any other historical event. More directly, the Nazi conflicts in Europe, which have been covered in all angles in films. Yet Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Django Unchained) is clearly unconcerned with your knowledge or preconceptions of the historical facts of the WWII. Instead, he is determined to play with the facts, while showcasing his amazing talent for words. Prying into our fascination of the war drama genre with his own love of genre films such as The Dirty Dozen, The Life and Times of Colonel Blimp and Sergio Leone films, he manages to give his own flare of the events. Tarantino shows his gift for words, in two classic suspenseful scenes that simply involve characters sizing each other up for truths. The added bonus of seeing Adolf Hitler brutally murdered in a way that we all wish he had experienced in real life makes it all together fantastical Tarantino film. Not to mention the breakout performance of Michael FASSBENDER!

7. Mother (2009)

This maybe one of the few films on my list that you might never heard of, being that it’s a foreign film from South Korea, that would be understandable. With that said, director Joon-ho Bong (The Host, Snowpiercer) is dealing in a very familiar genre to American audience, the “who done it murder mystery”. This “who done it” follows a mother seeking to clear her son of a murder she believes he was framed for. Although influenced by the Hitchcockian suspense films, brings a flair and sense of humor that can be seen not only in Mother but in Snowpiercer too. The last half of the film is terrifically paced, with an ending you wouldn’t expect.

6. Where The Wild Things Are (2009)

Director Spike Jonze (Being John Malkovich, Her) manages to turn a fifteen page picture book into gorgeous images of nature in the style of Terrance Malick with small scale personalized story that would almost remind you more of Michelangelo Antonioni than Spielberg. Jonze has managed in past works to show how to engulf the strange world of that particular story with his own nuances. Directing choices that easily appear to just be “quirky” or “weird”, run much deeper dealing with mature issues of identity and control. As a fan of Jonze’s work, I knew that he was not going to give us the usual adaptation that we’ve seen recently done to Dr. Seuss books such as The Grinch or Cat in the Hat. Those cutesy versions with overtly bright sets and clever kids with too many one-liners and a clear message that wraps up everything so perfectly. Instead, Jonze does something no modern live action children’s film ever has done. Wild Things gives us a true portrait of who we all were as eight year olds: selfish, spoiled, angry, deceiving, destructive and vulnerable boys and girls.

5. The Assassination of Jesse James by Coward Robert Ford (2007)

This allegory on our modern desires for fame and riches didn’t receive as high of praise as it should’ve upon its release. The stylized “western” was overshadowed by two other revisionist westerns that came out also in 2007: No Country For Old Men and There Will Be Blood, which received the Oscar this film so dearly deserved. The films main focus being that of Robert Ford’s building and eventual destruction of the mythology of his hero Jesse James (Brad Pitt). Casey Affleck gives a great performance, as the naïve would be assassin Robert Ford, which is daring and heartbreaking, making an otherwise villain of the wild west, sympathetic for his errors. Showing us our own idiotic pursuits to build up undeserving celebrity heroes only to tear them apart in one form or another.

4. No Country For Old Men (2007)

This 2007 Best Picture winner brought the Coen Brothers (Fargo, Inside Llewyn Davis) back to form with a modern western meets cat and mouse thriller. Based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy, who seems to share the same nihilistic worldview as the Coen brothers do, gives the template for this subtle story of America’s long history of violence. Along with Javier Bardem’s Oscar winning performance, Josh Brolin gives a terrific turn as the mouse in this film who isn’t as dumb as he appears. Along with Brolin and Bardem, the Coen Brothers once again find a cast of memorable characters, that play the fine line of mocking and admiring they’re cultural surroundings.

3. Take Shelter (2011)

Although it’s the number 3 film on my list, this is perhaps the film that I’ve recommended the most of all. Mostly because it’s the film that many people know little about, which is all the better for viewing this film. The character actor Michael Shannon plays Curtis LaForche a husband and father, who starts to experience what he believes are prophetic dreams of a possible apocalypse. Curtis isn’t sure if he is losing his mind or if these vision could be a true warning of the near future. The film isn’t interested in the possible end of the world but as much as how in which Curtis seeks to protect his family. With that said Take Shelter is just as much about the struggles of a modern man seeking to physically protect his family but financially as well in a chaotic world. With an ending that is leaves interpretation and room for debate gives it a lasting impression.

2. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004)

Like Bob Dylan’s discography this film resonates with me, as I grow older and more understanding of not only romantic love but also all forms of love. When I first saw it in theaters in 04’ I really enjoyed it but grew fonder of it as I begin to experience my own heartbreaks and second chances. Michel Gondry directs in a way that can be easily written of has high concept for the sake of it but everything as it’s place and purpose as we go deeper in the visual rabbit hole of Joel’s (played by Jim Carrey) mind. Kate Winslet’s portrayal of Clementine, the dreamy pixie girl gone mad is one of more original roles of a female lead in a romantic comedy. This film was a truly unique look at love that hadn’t been seen since Annie Hall.

1. The Master (2012)

Although, on any given day I could see myself changing the ranking of several films on my list, there’s one that I’m certain wouldn’t move for me at all. That being this recent masterpiece by writer-director P.T. Anderson (Boogie Nights, There Will Be Blood), starring Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams in three terrific performance of they’re own. The film taking place shortly after WWII, deals in large part of the unquenchable thirst for all things that a man in Freddie Quell (Phoenix) a veteran of WWII desires. All you may have heard about this movie is it being that it was a fictional telling of the early days of Scientology, which is part of the story but at it’s core the film is dealing with man’s animalistic nature and attempts to subdue are violent. Joaquin Phoenix of performance Freddie is in my opinion is one of the greatest performances put on film. He brings everything in this performance and then some. The primal masculinity of Phoenix acting makes him freighting, funny and vulnerable in every scene.