Saturday, January 30, 2010

Happy (Belated) 3rd Anniversary, Rants of a Diva!

I always remember my blog's anniversary because it (coincidentally) occurs on Our Lord and Savior Oprah Winfrey's birthday. For some reason, I got my dates mixed up and it wasn't until I was on my way out to work for the day that I realized yesterday was, in fact, my blog's birthday. Oops! How careless of me.

Wow, three whole years. I can't even believe it. When I started Rants of a Diva one random night as a freshman college student, I never would have thought it would last more than a couple months. I guess I underestimated how much I really enjoy getting online and bitching about any random thing thing that comes to mind. To be honest, though, I don't think Rants of a Diva would still be around if it wasn't for friends and commenters alike who express appreciation and encourage debate on many of my inane postings. So, as I say every year, THANK YOU. Thanks for sticking around and continuing to make Rants of a Diva an interesting place to come back to day after day.

As I do every year, I like to offer up a summary of my best and favorite posts of the past year as a way of celebrating of the year's accomplishments and introducing any new readers to what Rants of a Diva is all about. Let's dig in, shall we?

Film Rants
The Razor's Edge
If you ever want to find yourself attacked by random people on the interweb all you have to do is insult Tyrone Power and the vultures will come. Learned that one the hard way.

The History Boys
So much potential--namely from Stephen Campbell Moore and Dominic Cooper--squandered on morally ambivalent themes, lazy direction and a ham-handed lead performance.

So Many Women, So Little Time: Up in the Air and Nine
Was I the only one offended by the sexual politics of both of these movies?

The Hangover Will Not Be Nominated for Best Picture
The whole buzz behind this movie still baffles me. How this film won a Golden Globe will puzzle me until the day I die.

I'm still scarred.

My Inner Monologue During Twilight Saga: New Moon
Two weeks later: "WHY IS THIS FILM SO BORING?"

Were the World Mine

What a lazy piece of homophobic trash.

Performance Highlights
8 Great Things About Susan Hayward in I'll Cry Tomorrow
Easily dismissible by today's acting standards as a ham, Susan Hayward turns her usual mannerisms into one of the most psychotic looks at alcoholism ever portrayed.

Taraji P. Henson Can Do Amazing All By Herself
Ignore all the haters; Tyler Perry delivers his smoothest film to date while Taraji P. Henson proves that she's an actress to reckon with.

The Tween Subculture
Jonas With a Chance
My initial impressions of JONAS and Sonny With a Chance. An obsession builds.

Send It On. On and On.
An interpretation of the behind the scenes drama on the music video for Disney's global warming anthem 'Send It On.'

"Soooo Chad. I Need a Favor"
Is Chad Dylan Cooper the greatest actor of his generation?

Le Music
Here Come the Girls
Six music videos from both old pros (Britney!) and newcomers (Demi!)

Albums of the 2000's: Britney Spears Blackout
I haven't gotten around to writing another installment of this series (damn me for not being a music writer) but I hope you enjoyed this ode to THE best album of the past decade.

The Boys!
Lady GaGa Knows Her Stuff
The chrorus to 'Boys Boys Boys' is represented visually by yours truly. Your welcome.

Zac Efron & Les Auteurs
He wants to work with some challenging directors. Here's what I imagine his projects with various auteurs would look like.

Imaginary Boyfriends of 2009
You loved my 2008 edition and, lo and behold, you also appreciated 2009's roster. Includes Sterling Knight, Kris Allen and Chad White.

My New Favorite Gays
Kings and The United States of Tara introduced us to two gay characters I would kill to see more of in the movies and on TV: the manipulative and scheming villain and the quiet, classic film-loving cutey.

25 Best Performances of the TV Season
Truth: I actually kind of don't like this post. I think my writing is atrocious. But, nonetheless, you all went crazy for it and commented on it more than any other post this year. Thank you!

My Top 10 Ideal Action Stars
What would happen if Miley Cyrus and Victoria Beckham were cast in stupid action blockbusters?

22 Reasons to Celebrate Zac Efron's 22nd Birthday
An ode to my future husband on his birthday.

Assorted Goodies
People Who Can Suck It: Gwyneth Paltrow and Megan Fox
These two are both twatbags for completely different reasons.

Casting The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
My new favorite book was, at one point, slated to be made into a movie. Here's who I want to be cast (In retrospect, however, I would completely trade out Kellan Lutz as Tracy for, as someone randomly suggested, Chris Pine).

The Ladies of 2009
The female counterpart to the Imaginary Boyfriends. These six women made 2009 a year to remember.

Faye Dunaway vs. Hilary Duff
The Duffster tries to throwdown with the one and only Faye motherfucking Dunaway. Guess whose side I'm on.

Things I Learned at the 2008 Oscars
RDJ is hot, Zac wants to have sex with Dev Patel and Beyoncé is a motherfucking DIVA.

I Am Terrified for the Future of Filmmaking

If all directors of the future are as retarded as the ones in my film class this past semester, I mourn the loss of the medium.

My New Favorite Celebrity Couple
You can keep your Brangelinas--Meestan is the celebrity couple I can truly get behind.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

People Who Can Stop Sucking It: Katy Perry

I know I've been harsh towards Katy Perry over the past year and a half, but Lord knows she deserved it. When 'I Kissed a Girl' became an overnight sensation a couple summers ago, I dismissed her and the song's popularity quite harshly because of the fact it is just another piece of shit song about girls making out for the pleasure of straight guys. Just thinking about that song now pisses me off to no extent (let's not even get into 'Ur So Gay'). Thankfully, her next singles ('Hot N Cold' and 'Waking Up in Vegas') were great enough to slightly forgive her for 'I Kissed a Girl.' I still wasn't completely on Team Katy, however, because I still think she tries too hard to be taboo and shocking (she's not as bad as Adam Lambert, thank the Lord).

When she was announced as a guest judge for Idol this past week, I honestly wasn't expecting much: she'd deliver a couple pointless critiques, I'd yawn and we'd all go on with our boring lives. Imagine my surprise when she came out swinging, ready to piss off contestants and judges alike without giving a shit who she offended. Watch the amazingness below:

The best bits:

1. "This isn't a Lifetime movie!"
2. Kara: "Are you hot or are you cold?" Katy: Sarcastic guffaw and cymbal crash
3. Kara: "I kissed a dolphin and I liked it" Katy: "Please stop. Or I'm gonna have to throw my Coke in your face."

My favorite part about all this is that she is completely gunning for Kara. Now, I've made no secret about my hatred for the incoherent fucktard that is Kara, so seeing Katy just lay into her and call her out on her bullshit just made my day. You can tell by her demeanor that Kara cannot believe someone would have the audacity to question her judgment--she's an American Idol judge, Goddamnit. Who knows better than her how to manipulate the audience with cheesy backstories, mediocre vocals and shameless manipulation spot talent?

All I can say is, thank you, Katy Perry. Thank you for bringing Kara down a few notches and reminding her that she isn't some huge irreplaceable star with talent and wisdom to spare (like she often thinks she is). For your complete owning of Kara DioGuardi, you officially are off my "People Who Can Suck It" list. Congratulations! I sincerely hope this can list because, honestly, as a gay man, I want to like you. You seem fun, silly and ridiculously unconcerned with what people think of you- all my favorite things.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Top Rentals of 2009

While, more or less, the films of 2009 have been generally disappointing, the best of my film rentals from previous years were everything 2009 wasn't: exciting, electric, and thought provoking. I find that the older and crankier I get, the harsher my grading becomes, so color me surprised that I ended up with seven A-worthy films (two of which came over the same weekend!) at the end of the year. Without further ado, here are, in a rough descending order, the 22 best film rentals I saw in 2009. If you haven't seen these films, I urge you to stop everything you are doing and check them out now. Why suffer through 2009's shit crop of bad films when you can enjoy these flicks?


Masculin féminin
Jean-Luc Godard's wild mix of sexual politics, male/female relationships, war and 60's pop culture is both the precursor to his wacky later political films like Week End and Tout Va Bien and the main reason why I want to live in 60's France. Breathless may be Godard's masterpiece from a technical stand point, but Masculin féminin is simply my favorite from his massive filmography. Bonus points: Jean-Pierre Léaud's best non-Antoine Doinel performance.

I'll Cry Tomorrow
A clinically insane biopic of alcoholic Lillian Roth led by a ballsy, go-for-broke performance from Susan Hayward. I don't think Intervention has ever made alcoholism look this disgusting and degrading. My original thoughts here.

The Servant
The male precursor to Bergman's Persona. Young playboy James Fox hires my imaginary boyfriend Dirk Bogarde as his butler but, eventually, relationship dynamics change to the point that we are not sure who is the master and who is the slave anymore. The third act is so indescribably nutsy it has to be seen to be believed.

Ballad of a Soldier
Between this and The Cranes Are Flying, it appears that the go-to country for dreamy romantic melodramas in the late 50's was, of all places, the Soviet Union.

A Woman is a Woman

The random in-jokes, the way the characters play to the camera and the free-flow narrative all on display in Godard's New Wave homage to the musical exemplifies why I love his work.

Salò, or The 120 Days of Sodom
I still have nightmares about this film. If you think you've seen it all, try watching Salò without getting the urge to vomit. My original thoughts here.

Design for Living
The charming and dapper Gary Cooper and Fredric March match wits with the perpetually underrated Miriam Hopkins in this utterly hilarious (and quite risqué) Ernst Lubitsch comedy.

Chungking Express
The first Wong Kar-wai film I've seen that I fell hook, line and sinker for. The two sequences could hardly be any more different, but they both beautifully portrayed the heartbreak and pain that goes with being in love.

Nanook of the North
The first big "documentary" (there's still quite a bit of debate about that) also happens to be one of the most entertaining and all-around engrossing films of the silent era. Who knew that Eskimoes lived such fascinating (and perilous) lives?

Two for the Road
If you get past the annoying British New Wave camera tracks, you will be surprised to discover a smart, mercilessly funny film chronicling the ups and downs of marriage. Audrey Hepburn has never been better, both as an an actress and as a style icon (oh that big hair and those sunglasses!) and Albert Finney was surprisingly bearable, even engaging in his best moments.

The King of Comedy
Minus The Departed, this is probably the most fun I've ever had with a Scorsese film. The satire is dead-on and timelier than ever in today's web-based celebrity culture.

Given its camp reputation (and the fact it stars Bette Midler and directed by Gerry Marshall), I expected a shameless melodrama in the vein of The Notebook. Well color me surprised at how emotionally honest and unmanipulative Beaches is. When the tearjerking finale came about, it earned whatever tears it was able to generate.

Another fantastic film about the perils of celebrity. Ken Russell's biopic of Rudolph Valentino may not be historically accurate, but it's one of the few films I've seen that truly captures the spirit and insanity of 1920's Hollywood.


Sam Rockwell and Vera Farmiga star in this indie horror movie about the horror of a family breaking up amidst an upper-class surroundings. I was so entranced by this movie I kept it an extra day and watched it again; it did not disappoint on a second viewing. My original thoughts here.

The Marriage of Maria Braun
I really need to see more Fassbinder films because I'm two for three so far and the only one I wasn't crazy about (Querelle) at least had Brad Davis as a hunky homosexual sailor who gets fucked in the ass. Maria Braun boasts a fantastic lead performance from Hanna Schygulla as a headstrong woman trying to survive the aftermath of Nazi Germany.

Intruder in the Dust
A quiet, unassuming and surprisingly down-to-earth take on race relations in post-WWII America from, of all studios, MGM. For people appalled by Hollywood's treatment of blacks during the Studio Era, seek this one out to get the bitter taste out of your mouth.

2 Days in Paris
When talking about 2007's cinematic treats, why does no one talk about this gem of a romantic comedy starring and directed by Julie Delpy? Another underrated film I cannot recommend enough.

Kings and Queen
I wasn't as entranced by it as I was by A Christmas Tale, but Desplechin's film before that masterpiece ain't too shabby either. Emmanuelle Devos has such a tricky character to navigate (it's never quite clear whether she is the martyr or the villain of this piece) but she nails it without so much as breaking a sweat.

Best of the B+'s
Hiroshima, Mon Amour
I was expecting a pretentious "art" film that I would struggle to get through but, instead, ended up with a heartbreaking doomed romance that I couldn't get enough of.

Tokyo Story
I've seen a couple other Ozu films and was decidedly underwhelmed by them. Tokyo Story, on the other hand, completely captivated me. Setsuko Hara was an unexpected delight as the dutiful sister who is the only sibling who doesn't blatantly ignore her parents when they make the journey from their country home to the city to visit them.

Two English Girls
Truffaut's massively underrated tragedy about a Frenchman (Jean-Pierre Léaud) who spends years romantically involved with two sisters. Perpetually downbeat, Two English Girls is almost too heartbreaking to watch. Bonus points: the costumes are absolutely to die for. I seriously want JPL's wardrobe.

The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

This film is worth it simply for the final scene, a verbal throwdown between Dame Maggie Smith's shady teacher and Pamela Franklin as her disgruntled former student wise to her manipulative ways. The inspirational teacher drama with a twist.

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day, mate! Okay, I'd be lying if I said, as a stereotypical lazy American, I knew what Australia Day was actually celebrating. However, that doesn't matter because any day where I can celebrate Aussies is a day I can get behind. I must give a major "g'day" to Glenn, the only Australian I actually know and have had a conversation with. To celebrate the holiday, he came up with a list of the Top 25 Australian Films of the Decade, 19 of which are available in the US. Shame on me for having only seen one of these films. I guess I know what I need to work on once my latest Godard and Truffaut bender dies down. Australia has also produced some of my favorite celebrities: acting goddess Nicole Kidman, the eternally dependable Toni Collette, the sexy DILF Hugh Jackman, Australia's equivalent to Madonna Kylie Minogue, etc. The list goes on and on. However, I can't let this golden opportunity pass and not talk about my current Aussie "It Boy" Xavier Samuel. I feel a bit silly going so gaga over him after only seeing one of his films (the surfing film Newcastle where Xavier plays a gay emo/goth), but I honestly can't help it. Have you seen pictures of him? The boy can literally go for a coffee run in sweats and look like he has just stepped out of a fashion editorial. They certainly know to grow 'em in the land down under, don't they?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Rants on Avatar

I'm in a bit of a "damned if I do, damned if I don't" situation concerning Avatar, director James Cameron's epic 3D action film currently burning up box office records, becoming in six short weeks one of the top grossing movies of all time. If you have been following my Twitter since Avatar's release, I have been talking non-stop trash about the film. From the first trailer, I thought the whole thing looked incredibly stupid, but when the "Avatar is changing movies as we know it" campaign started, I, for lack of a better word, lost my shit. This angered fans of the movie, I'm sure, but, consequently aligned me with those (admittedly few and far between) haters of the movie. This is not entirely surprising given my track record with blockbuster action films, but I digress. Now that I've finally seen the movie, my problem has now become how my reaction will align myself with everyone else. I didn't outright hate Avatar like I thought I would (my friend Sammi told me to keep an open mind and I did the best that I could) but there's no way my reaction will please the fans who may not be calling it the "greatest movie EVER OMG" but were still impressed by the film. Of all the times to end up in the middle of a discussion, it has to be with the most financially successful film of our time. Go figure.

I'm one of those old dinosaurs who truly believes that CGI and computer-related special effects have ruined the movies. Often times I find they are used simply for spectacle and, as a result, do nothing for me in enhancing my movie watching experience. I don't care if they just blew up the fucking Empire State Building--that doesn't mean the surrounding film is any good. Give me Godard shooting a film about Maoism in what looks like my parents' basement or Hepburn and Grant running around the New England countryside chasing a leopard any day of the week. With that being said, I must admit that I thought the 3D special effects in Avatar were nicely done. Rather than rely solely on stupid 3D movie tricks--you know, something randomly getting thrown at the screen just so the audience can go, "Whoa, 3D, man!"--the film subtly immerses us into this invented world of Pandora. You feel a part of the movie in ways I have not experienced before. You're not "there" per se, but it is a hell of a lot closer total immersion in a film world than any CGI fuckfest I have seen before.

As great and inventive as the special effects were, I cannot fully support Avatar because, no matter the film's excessive stylization and massive visuals, we have seen everything else in the film hundreds of times before. The film, numerous times, has been compared to Pocahontas but I actually thought it was closer to another Disney film: The Lion King. With the Na'vi's deep connection to nature and the other creatures who live with them, the odd African tribal music that punctuated the score and the finale, which might as well have had a chorus of Na'vis high-kicking a verse of 'Circle of Life,' I was expecting Simba to pop out eventually and help Jake Sully fight off the Army. While the script wasn't as atrocious as I had heard, I was still concerned that most of the characters were nothing but one-dimensional stereotypes, firmly on either side of good and evil and amped up to 11. The bad guys are so unstomachably bad, I could hardly stand the implausibility of some scenes. Aside from Sigourney Weaver as the no-bullshit, ballsy scientist, the acting is fairly rote as far as these things go. The only truly awful performance comes courtesy of Stephen Lang as the juiced-up, maniacally evil Colonel who often feels like one of those cartoon-ish clowns in an early 3D video game from the early to mid 90's that would shout at the camera with the most godawful lines ever written. And I know it's unfair to compare to a director's earlier work, but the scene where the Army knocks down the tree the Na'vi live in pales in comparison to the terror Cameron drums up for the finale of Titanic. Even the finale, as epic and thrilling as it is (I, at one point, found myself shouting "Kill whitey!" and breathed an epic sigh of relief once the Colonel was killed), was really nothing that an above average action director could have done given Cameron's massive budget. Maybe if Avatar hadn't been billed as the Movie That Changes Movies As We Know Them, I could be a little more fair towards it. But to truly live up to that billing, I expect a little more than I was given in this film. C+

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon, Class of 2009: Olivia Williams in An Education

For the past two editions of StinkyLulu's annual Supporting Actress Blog-a-thon, I've written about a lovely young actress named Ashley Tisdale and her exemplary work in the High School Musical trilogy. Not only have those posts made me the sort of unofficial go-to guy on anything La Tisdale related, but, and perhaps more importantly, she has introduced me into a wonderful, largely unexplored section of celebrity and media I've affectionately come to call the "tween subculture." I'm largely thankful for La Tisdale and all the joys she brought into my life, so much so that I briefly considered watching and writing about her only 2009 film, Aliens in the Attic, for this year's Blog-a-thon. Then I thought about it for a couple of seconds and realized that there was no way I was going to subject myself to that surefire piece of horse shit just for, what I'm sure is, a fabulous performance from La Tisdale. Anyways, to make a long story short, I had to come up with another performance to talk about and, for the longest time, I was stuck. Finally, about a week ago I saw this film and all of sudden the clouds cleared, a choir of angels sang a lovely chord and I just knew I had to talk about...

Olivia Williams as Miss Stubbs in An Education

With only a handful of scenes and barely five minutes of screentime, Williams, as the Literature teacher to gifted but headstrong student Jenny (Carey Mulligan), gives perhaps 2009's best example of what StinkyLulu likes to call "actressing at the edges." She doesn't have a typical "Oscar scene" to lean on or what you would call a fully-explored character arc, yet she still gives probably the most realized and complete performance in the entire film.

Williams' Miss Stubbs, with her hair pulled straight back into a too-tight ponytail and thick, horn-rimmed glasses, is presented as the traditional, straight-laced British teacher we have seen in films for decades. She's not supposed to care about her students, their feelings or their personal lives outside of class; her job is to teach and that's that. At first, Miss Stubbs seems to follow that archetype quite well, but as the film progresses, we see her shed that image layer by layer. Miss Stubbs constantly struggles with the idea of seeing her students as actual people and has to resist interjecting herself in their situations. The second we see her, she is seen interrupting Jenny and her girlfriends discussing her blossoming relationship with the older David (Peter Sarsgaard). Desperately, Miss Stubbs changes the subject, but, through Williams and the quiet, subtle and suggestive looks she gives, we see how much it is affecting her to see one of her brightest pupils slowly slip into a frivolous life of uninhibited fun and pleasure.

After Jenny tries to "bribe" Miss Stubbs with a bottle of perfume after her much ballyhooed trip to Paris, Miss Stubbs decides to finally take a stand and confront her about the choices she is making. She tells Jenny that she is one of her most gifted students and what a shame it would be if she throws it all away at such a young age. Miss Stubbs honestly cares for Jenny's well-being; this becomes much more than the clichéd lecture she's supposed to give to students considering leaving school. What makes this scene so special is the way Williams says so much about her character while not doing much. Her face stays stoic throughout the entire scene, yet her eyes betray a deeply resonant sense of sorrow and pity when Jenny shoots her and her profession down in an angry response to Miss Stubbs's plea. But she isn't sad that Jenny has insulted her, or at least not completely. What really upsets her is that she hasn't gotten through to Jenny, her desperate pleas have fallen on deaf ears.

Like I stated before, Olivia Williams may not have had the most stand-out, attention-grabbing performance this year, but nothing else I have seen has effected me quite like her work here. It would be easy to dismiss her because of her limited screentime and superficially minor impact on the narrative--Lord knows I've done it, unfairly perhaps, to many a supporting actress. However, An Education, for me, would have suffered greatly if Williams' Miss Stubbs wasn't in the film. She becomes the only character to stand up to Jenny's bullheadedness who doesn't come off as a hypocritical joke; the fact that Jenny blatantly ignores her advice doesn't elicit an "You go girl!" but, rather, heartbreak that she is turning away from the one adult who truly cares for her and her future. In less capable hands, Miss Stubbs might have gotten lost in the shuffle, but with Olivia Williams we are given an education in actressing at the edges to be eternally grateful for.

For more Supporting Actress goodness, head on over to the Blog-a-thon Headquarters for countless other profiles on this year's batch of ladies.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Top 10 Albums of 2009

Erik Hassle
Scandinavian import Erik Hassle's debut album didn't break new ground, but Hassle was a solid, immediately enjoyable album. There's a lot of promise here and so many directions Hassle can take his sound, so I'll be anxiously awaiting whatever comes next.
Key Tracks: 'Don't Bring Flowers,' 'Hurtful,' 'All That I Wanted Was You'

Little Boots
Everytime I listen to Hands, I kick myself for not listening to it more often. The album doesn't quite linger like I would like it to, but there's no denying the power and originality of the songs. Of the many nouveau-80's music acts around these days (not that I'm complaining), Little Boots seems to be one of the few who is looking ahead as well.
Key Tracks: 'Remedy,' 'Love Kills,' 'Meddle'

Lily Allen
It's Not Me, It's You
As a fan of Lily's debut album Alright, Still, I was excited to find that It's Not Me, It's You retained her trademark dark sense of humor but allowed her sound to mature in unexpected ways. I'm still not sure what genre I would classify Lily in (pop? indie? soft rock?) but I doubt that even matters; she sounds fantastic when not stuck in a box.
Key Tracks: 'The Fear,' 'Fuck You,' 'Chinese'

Paloma Faith
Do You Want the Truth or Something Beautiful?
Well, this was a pleasant surprise. Based on the overly precious and quirky album cover, I wasn't expecting much from Ms. Faith, but I'll be damned if she didn't completely sucker me in on the first listen. With her neo-60's soul sound, I suspect she'll be making music I want to listen to for years to come.
Key Tracks: 'New York,' 'Play On,' 'Stone Cold Sober'

She Wolf
Not quite Laundry Service, but an excellent collection of songs, led by the batshit crazy title song, that practically scream "Shakira" with their oddly clever lyrics and indescribable vocals.
Key Tracks: 'Spy,' 'She Wolf,' 'Did It Again'

Natalie Imbruglia
Come to Life
There's nothing I love more than when pop stars get personal on their album. Usually, they are big a "fuck you" to anyone who has done them wrong and who doesn't love that. Natalie Imbruglia, on the other hand, explores the pain and heartbreak of her recent divorce on Come to Life. Talk about uncomfortable. Fortunately, however, the music is never uncomfortable to listen to for Imbruglia is careful to craft beautiful music around her emotions. An impressive "comeback" from our one-time One Hit Wonder.
Key Tracks: 'Fun,' 'Want,' 'Lukas'

La Roux
La Roux
Listening to La Roux's debut album is like being transported to LA in the 1980's. For some, this may be their idea of hell. I, on the other hand, couldn't think of anything better. What's so impressive about this album is that they are so unapologetic about their love for 80's synth pop. And, by some odd miracle, lead singer Elly Jackson's blankly robotic voice is able to emote better than nearly every "real" singer American Idol has ever produced. Please, La Roux, don't ever give up the good fight for 80's synth pop!
Key Tracks: 'Bulletproof,' 'Armour Love,' 'Reflections Are Protection'

Lady GaGa
The Fame Monster
Within the span of 12 months, Lady GaGa grew into a pop artist of incredible maturity. The Fame Monster only has eight tracks, but damn what an amazing group of eight tracks they are. We are all living in GaGa's world know and, you know, I think that's something I can live with.
Key Tracks: 'Bad Romance,' 'Dance in the Dark,' 'Telephone'

Demi Lovato
Here We Go Again
Speaking of maturity, can you believe that Her We Go Again came from not only an underage artist, but a Disney one at that? Constantly pushing the boundaries, creatively and vocally, Demi Lovato has become quite the powerhouse for a 17-year old. Listen how she emotes the loneliness and aching during the opening verse of 'Falling Over Me.' Again, and I hate to sound like an American Idol judge but 17 YEARS OLD. This is Demi, bitch, and Miley better watch her back because there's a new teen queen ready to take her throne.
Key Tracks: 'Every Time You Lie,' 'Remember December,' 'U Got Nothin' On Me'

Rated R
I'm just gonna say it: Rihanna's Rated R is probably the greatest synthesis of urban and rock music since Aerosmith and Run DMC's 'Walk This Way.' And, given the situation she's been through this year, it's no wonder she went for a darker, harder sound after the pop sensation that was Good Girl Gone Bad. Rihanna's operatic tribute to the glory of violence, guns and stupidity is light years ahead of anything in pop music today, so it's probably no surprise that album has done poorly sales wise. This is her My December, the darker follow-up to a singles-driven monster of an album and the one she will be remembered for.
Key Tracks: 'Fire Bomb,' 'Stupid in Love,' 'Rockstar 101'

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Anna Karina is Dancing With Herself

This is, quite literally, one of the greatest things ever. Many thanks to Kameron for pointing this out to me.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

So Many Women, So Little Time: The Sexual Politics of Up in the Air and Nine

Hollywood has always been a man's town. Wait, scratch that. Hollywood has always been a middle-aged, upper-class, heterosexual white man's town. It tries to pretend it is diverse and changing with the times but, like Washington, D.C., it is still run by prehistoric white dudes. Not too surprising, I'm afraid, given the content of 90% of the crap Hollywood releases each year. How else do you explain Couples Retreat, a "realistic" movie where bloated and puffy Jon Favreau and Vince Vaughn are somehow married to young, thin and gorgeous Malin Akerman and Kristin Davis, respectively? Something is obviously wrong with this and, yet, nothing ever seems to change. Looking at two of the year's Oscar contenders--Jason Reitman's "zeitgeist" dramedy Up in the Air and Rob Marshall's musical follow-up to Chicago, Nine--what stands out is that even the most progressive-appearing of this year's batch of films are still haunted by this male-dominated conservatism.

The fact that Up in the Air is being marketed as a "zeitgeist" film, the film of our times, is both laughable and alarming at the same time. It is laughable because the film's corporate downsizing/unemployment themes become so unimportant by the end of the movie, you barely realize the film has said anything about the subject. That's probably because Up in the Air doesn't. The widely celebrated "documentary" scenes with "real" unemployed people are hackily tacked on for some semblance of relevance that just does not exist. They offer nothing I didn't already glean from Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story and are so disconnected from the narrative they truly make no sense in the context of the film.

I am alarmed by Up in the Air's status as the film of our times because the film treats its main female characters as bad, if not worse, than TV treated women in the 1950's and 60's. When it is busy not saying anything about the recession, Up in the Air follows Ryan Bingham (George Clooney playing George Clooney), an unattached, isolated bachelor who works for a company that fires people, and his inevitable journey toward self-discovery and settling down. Along the way, he meets two women who help him change his lifestyle for the better. The first is Alex (Vera Farmiga), a fellow business traveler he has a one-night stand with after meeting in a hotel. Their relationship eventually blossoms into something where Ryan seriously considers giving up his jet-setting lifestyle and settling down with her. The other woman is Natalie (Anna Kendrick), Ryan's young co-worker who develops a program that further decreases the inhumanity of Ryan's job and threatens to ground him indefinitely. With these two women so vital to the narrative, you would think the film would treat them with more respect than they are ultimately given. For the most part, Alex and Natalie are portrayed as women who have many characteristics of men. Alex, at one point, rather vividly and bluntly describes herself as a man with a vagina. Natalie's introduction to Up in the Air is a scene where she introduces her video conferencing program that allows the company to fire people from the main office instead of in person. She is wearing a boxy, unfeminine business suit and adopts the cheesy mannerisms of a stereotypical 50 year-old businessman, cracking corny jokes and playfully grabbing the shoulders of her boss (Jason Bateman). To top it all off, in their own ways, both women are emotionally frigid and distant: Alex repeatedly insists that she does not want a complicated relationship with Ryan while Natalie is so focused on saving the company money, she does not see the inhumanity of the technology she has created. Normally, this would not be a problem, but Up in the Air feels the need to punish Alex and Natalie for wanting to act like men, pushing this idea that unless these women act like women, they are not truly women until they do. After a film-changing (and narratively ridiculous) twist toward the end of the movie, Alex becomes the villain of Up in the Air. According to the film, she's an evil harpy standing in the way of Our Hero from reaching self-actualization. I'm actually surprised that at no point does Ryan burn an effigy of her to further the point. Since Alex is so incapable of committing to Ryan, an unwomanly thing to do since women are wedding-crazy and solely focused on getting that ring, she must become the villain of the film. Natalie, on the other hand, gradually loses any male traits she had in the beginning, replacing them with softer, more traditional female traits. She gradually abandons her head-strong, businessman persona and becomes Ryan's conscience, urging him to give a chance on love with Alex. Up in the Air seems to suggest that successful females either have to choose between a career and love because women can not have it all. If you're a middle-aged man taking a chance on love for the first time while decrying the heartlessness of modern technology, however, you're off the hook. Puh-lease.

Even if the women in Up in the Air become muddled by the narrative, at least they occasionally appear to be real people (the scene in the hotel lobby between Clooney, Farmiga and Kendrick is the highlight of the entire movie). The same can't be said with the ladies of Nine who are nothing more than shallow, one-dimensional stereotypes parading around the film's soundstage. For a film all about a director whose entire life has been shaped and guided by women, it is disconcerting to find that none of these women are as complex or even interesting as Guido seems to find them. As Nine unfurls, it becomes increasingly hard to believe that anyone would have as many existential crises as Guido does about his wife Luisa (Marion Cotillard) and his mistress Carla (Penélope Cruz). To save time, I'm surprised no one thought to just name these characters Madonna and Whore to make the point even more clear. Think about it: what exactly do we learn about any of the female characters that we do not already grasp from their opening scene? Luisa is a saint for putting up with Guido's shit (although the film forgives Guido because, by golly, he's a hot-blooded Italian artist and fucking multiple people is a part of "being Italian"). Carla loves sex and loves Guido. That's seriously it. 'A Call to the Vatican' is a visual ode to the beauty of Cruz's body, but does not actually say anything about Carla besides she has a nice ass. Lilli (Dame Judi Dench) acts as Guido's conscience throughout the film but, even with the Dench touch, she still does not come across as anything more than a shallow plot device. Claudia (Nicole Kidman) has nice hair extensions. Loren, Hudson and Fergie are in the movie for so little of the runtime they barely register before they are quickly ushered off for more of Our Hero's insufferable suffering. Rob Marshall is so focused on the problems Our Hero faces juggling the numerous women in his life, the women become nothing more than pawns, or even obstacles in some instances, in Guido's journey toward making his movie. Not exactly a commendable attitude for a movie that has been non-stop in its marketing as a movie about all of these juicy, glorious actresses.

Up in the Air C-
Nine C-

Friday, January 8, 2010

Rants on Joshua

I have seen horror movies about murderers, psychotics, rapists, child molesters and other assorted social deviants. Monsters of all shapes and sizes, ranging from tiny bugs to vampires, have appeared before me. I have seen people stabbed in showers, attacked by enormous monsters, become possessed by the devil and catch a quickly mutating zombie virus. Aliens have busted out of guts, faces have been torn off and worn as masks and heads have become completely detached from bodies. I may not have seen "everything" when it comes to horror films, a genre I'm not as proficient in as I would like to be, but I would like to think I've seen a majority of the "types" of scares (whether an evil person, a monster or a psychological condition) horror films offer. I was wrong. One thing I have never seen was a film like George Ratliff's Joshua, a film about the horror of the emptiness and disconnection of today's modern family.

As most movies of this usually white-upper-class-specific subgenre start out, the Cairn family appears to be perfect. Dad Brad (Sam Rockwell) has a well-paying job as a financial analyst, affording his family a comfortable and privileged lifestyle. The mother, Abby (Vera Farmiga), is a stay-at-home mom who cares for her child prodigy son Joshua (Jacob Kogan). As the film opens, Abby has just given birth to a daughter, giving the impression that their perfect family has no become even more perfect with its latest member. But, as you are probably well aware, things are only starting to go downhill for the family. As hackneyed as this opening probably sounds on paper, Joshua quietly begins to play with its ideas about deceiving appearances. While presenting themselves as this "perfect" family, none of the characters seem to really fit or feel comfortable in the world they inhabit. Brad's boss acts friendly towards him, even calling him "buddy," but as the film moves in, it becomes clear that he and Brad do not see eye to eye on very important matters. As Brad's family life continuously grows more complicated and out of control, he is not able to focus his full attention on his work. Brad expects his boss to sympathize with what he's going through. Instead, his boss insists that work will provide a good distraction for him and does not seem to grasp the idea that Brad values his family's well-being over his job. Abby does not fit in with the other mothers at Joshua's school and has no outlets from her family besides her brother. Joshua is so intelligent his teacher thinks he should skip two grades, so it is no surprise that he is a bit of a loner and outcast in his school. At one point, his dad openly admits that he would have picked on Joshua back when he was a kid.

As disconnected from their upper-class surrounding as the family appears to be, they are just as disconnected from each other. Of course, neither Brad or Abby want to admit this to themselves and instead pass the blame on the baby. We are never shown what life is like for the family before the baby is born, but as soon as she comes home, the family and the film itself literally pushes Joshua out of the picture. As the proud parents, along with Brad's parents, fawn over the new baby, Joshua never appears in the same frame with them. Instead, he is always in a separate shot with his uncle, playing around on the piano. Later on, the film uses this technique again during a dinner scene to highlight even further how out of place Joshua is in the family. Ratliff continuously cuts between Joshua's awkward questions and demeanor and Brad and Abby stalling and attempting to find the right answers for his questions.

It is not as if you can entirely blame Brad and Abby for not knowing, at times, how to react to Joshua. He belongs to that beloved movie tradition of child characters who are wise beyond their years and act like mini-adults. Ratliff and Kogan amp up the natural creepiness that child actors possess for the ultimate benefit of the film. Sometimes, Joshua's creepiness serves to show just how empty Brad and Abby have become due to their upper-class lifestyle. When the family dog dies under mysterious circumstances (the film casts suspicion on Joshua but the mystery is never solved one way or another), Brad puts on a big display, sobbing uncontrollably in an exaggerated manner like he's in front of an audience. Joshua sees this and mimics him exactly, showing Brad just how ridiculous and insincere he looks. Other times, his creepiness is just a natural result of his high intelligence. How do you respond to your son when he tells you that it's okay if you don't love him or when he shows you the mummification process on his stuffed panda bear? Joshua's thought process and emotional age is so beyond what Brad and Abby are capable of handling, they truly have no idea what to say to him. This disconnect has gotten so deep that even a "normal" kid question like "Do you ever feel weird?" prompts Brad to mumble some bullshit answer that doesn't even answer the question.

As the film moves on and increasingly strange things happen to the family, all signs seem to point to Joshua. I mean, he's creepy, not exactly warm toward the new baby (video tape evidence of him telling the baby that "No one will ever love him" eventually surfaces) and has the ability to read people's emotions and manipulate them, so he must be the culprit, right? I'm not 100 percent sure. First of all, we never explicitly see Joshua harm anyone. He may say and do strange things, but the camera never catches him doing anything that Brad and Abby accuse him of. Secondly, the faster Brad slips into his increasing paranoia, the more his behaviors become suspicious. He's so convinced that Joshua is the cause of all the family's recent hardships, he literally locks him out his room and the kitchen cabinets, afraid of what he might do next. When Brad brings a psychologist to meet with Joshua and hopefully prove his suspicions, he's so anxious for vindication he practically leers at Joshua across the dinner table. After the psychologist reveals her findings (she thinks Joshua is being severely abused), Brad becomes enraged, convinced that Joshua had the foresight to look online and fake the results of the psychologist's art therapy tests. Eventually, bruises start to appear on Joshua and Brad manically tries to figure out who did it to him. Joshua refuses to answer, which makes way for a neat trick on the narrative's part. Is his refusal to answer an admittance of his guilt--he did it to himself and doesn't have anyone to blame--or is it proof that Brad is abusing him without realizing it? Has Brad descended so far into madness he starts hitting Joshua during hysterical fits and doesn't remember it afterwards? Joshua's silence makes sense since he might be afraid of prompting another attack if he accuses him directly to his face. So what's the answer? Who knows. Ratliff is clever enough to almost directly name Joshua as the bad guy but also sneak in hints that suggest that that resolution may be too clear cut. It's this ambiguity that's most striking about Joshua and will leave you pondering this film for days afterwards. A-

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

My Films of the 2000's: #60-41

The 2000's officially came to a close a couple of days ago (Yes, the 2000's. I refuse to call them the "naughties." Who the fuck came up with that name?). I've already started counting down the top songs of the decade, but now it is time to get started with the films. Before I begin, I must state that this list is not a definitive list of "bests." I like to think that I have expansive, exquisite taste in movies but when I compare what I've seen to someone like Nick Davis, I realize I've seen almost nothing. I forget that I was young at the beginning of the decade and didn't get hardcore into film watching until at least 2003. There are so many arthouse and foreign films I haven't yet seen there's no way I could compile a decent "best of" list. If I did, I fear it would be full of Eternal Sunshines and Kill Bills that everyone and their mother would put on their list. And if there's one thing I don't want to be, it's boring and predictable. So, in the spirit of originality, I compiled a list of 60(-ish) films that "defined" the decade for me. They may not be the ones that received the highest grades from me and, in some instances, the films themselves are quite terrible, but they're the ones I think about most often and have come to dominate the 2000's for me. Okay, now that that lengthy exposition is out of the way, let's get started.

Oh, one more thing. In two instances (both appearing on today's list) two films have become so intertwined in my head that I combined them together into one entry. And there's one trilogy that I lumped together as well (yes, it's the one you're probably thinking of and not the one on everybody else's list).


60. Star Trek (2009)

Director: J.J. Abrams
Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana, Anton Yelchin

The summer action blockbuster, a genre I normally detest with every muscle of my body, done absolutely well. Some people had problems with the sexual politics, but I, frankly, didn't find anything wrong with them (Up in the Air on the other hand...). Instead, I just sat back and reveled in a light-hearted tentpole picture that was actually consistently funny and entertaining.

59. The Hours (2002)
Director: Stephen Daldry
Starring: Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman

The Hours prompted my biggest change of heart of any film of the decade. When I first saw it in the summer of 2003, I completely detested the movie (I think I gave it a D+). Meryl Streep was my favorite section and I absolutely adored Nicole Kidman's breakdown at the train station. Years later, I saw the film again and immediately bumped it up to a great-but-still-not-perfect B. Julianne Moore became my favorite section and Kidman's breakdown was a complete embarrassment (she's much better in the quiet moment where she lies in the grass and stares at the camera). This film is the perfect example of what a few years will do to your opinion of a film.

58. 27 Dresses (2008)
Director: Anne Fletcher
Starring: Katherine Heigl, James Marsden, Judy Greer

I have now seen 27 Dresses three times and to this day I'm not quite sure why I keep coming back to it. And talk about flip-fopping! Over the course of 2008, I swear I changed this grade at least eight times, always debating the high points (exceptionally funny cast, James Marsden's face, above-average script) with its weaknesses (occasionally flat dialogue, Malin Akerman). In the end, whatever faults 27 Dresses has don't really matter because if someone asked me right now if I wanted to watch it my answer would be an enthusiastic "Yes please!"

57. In Her Shoes (2002)
Director: Curtis Hanson
Starring: Cameron Diaz, Toni Collette, Shirley MacLaine

One of the best films about sibling relationships I've ever seen. Hanson extracted all the pin-point precise and ultimately beautiful details from the schmaltzy chick lit source by Jennifer Weiner. And if you've ever had any doubts about Diaz's acting abilities, watch the scene where she reads out loud to the man in the hospital.

56. Havoc (2005)
Director: Barbara Kopple
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Freddy Rodriguez, Bijou Phillips, Mike Vogel

An insane, mind-blowing film about the problems and pressures surrounding today's teenagers. Okay, it's not exactly relatable to every teen since it's about rich white kids in a gang and their problems involve scoring drugs from the wrong side of town and getting revenge on a Mexican gang. And, okay, it's insanely bad and racist in ways even The Blind Side can't imagine. But all of that doesn't matter. Havoc is the epitome of 2000's trash cinema and features a fearless, groundbreaking performance from Hathaway (who shows her breasts three times!).

55. Jennifer's Body (2009)
Director: Karyn Kusama
Starring: Amanda Seyfried, Megan Fox, Adam Brody

Bad marketing killed Jennifer's Body, Diablo Cody's first film after achieving fame with Juno, at the box office. The film was marketed as a straight horror movie but it's truly a dark comedy/horror hybrid. I was howling at the excessively fake gore and blood. Seyfried and Brody were brilliant, as usual, and I must give props to Fox since the film didn't make me want to murder her by the end.

54. Far From Heaven (2002)
Director: Todd Haynes
Starring: Julianne Moore, Dennis Quaid, Dennis Haysbert, Patricia Clarkson

Like The Hours, this one took some time to finally "get" and boy am I glad I finally did. A beautiful and fitting tribute to the Sirkian melodrama.

53. 2 Days in Paris (2007)
Director: Julie Delpy
Starring: Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg, Daniel Brühl

I randomly found this movie on Netflix on Demand and afterwards I was furious that no one I know of had even talked about this movie, let alone recommended it. As a director, Julie Delpy has a great Woody Allen-ish knack for finding humor in the most awkward and degrading of situations. As an actress, she's probably one of the most giving actor-directors I've ever seen. I was surprised by how few of the scenes--if any--revolve solely around her or are simply there just to stroke her ego. Quite simply, 2 Days in Paris is one of the best romances of the decade. Bonus points for Daniel Brühl and his "I'm a fairy" line.

52. Day Night Day Night (2007)
Director: Julia Loktev
Starring: Luisa Williams

Day Night Day Night is not a film for everyone and, at first, I was hesitant about this plotless, nearly dialogueless film about a nameless girl who becomes a suicide bomber for a nameless group with unspoken goals. Finally, about 15 minutes in, the film clicked into place and I was entranced by the slow rhythm of the film and the way the camera carefully observed its surroundings. I honestly believe it was the success I had with Day Night Day Night that allowed me to get through and enjoy Godard's La Chinoise and (especially) Le Gai Savoir.

51. Moulin Rouge! (2001)
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Starring: Nicole Kidman, Ewan McGregor, Jim Broadbent

The moment Nicole Kidman became a star. I think that's something we can all be grateful for. And even if, for me, the ending is a bit muddled and lovey dovey for my taste, the electric musical scenes in the Moulin Rouge are some of the most exciting and alive moments in any film this decade. Bonus points for the 'Elephant Love Medley'--I always sing the Nicole part!


50. 17 Again (2009)
Director: Burr Steers
Starring: Zac Efron, Leslie Mann, Sterling Knight

Obsessed (2009)
Director: Steve Shill
Starring: Beyoncé, Ali Larter, Idris Elba

I saw both of these movies within the span of a couple of weeks and both 17 Again and Obsessed are memorable for the same (and wrong) reasons. I'm not one to usually shout in the theatres, but I was acting like I had the Spirit in me when I saw these movies. During 17 Again, I swooned and gushed (both the times I saw it on opening weekend) during the opening shot where Zac is shooting hoops shirtless (yes, I am a 13 year old girl). Then, when bully Hunter Parrish punches Zac, I literally screamed "DON'T PUNCH HIM IN HIS PRETTY FACE!" When I went to see Obsessed, I wasn't talking so much as I was giggling non-stop throughout the whole damn movie. As the climactic cat fight came on, I was a goner. As bad as both of these films are, they are the films from 2009 I think about the most, whether it is Efron or Beyoncé's star turns in their respective films, Mann's ability to look absolutely gorgeous and do no wrong in any film she's in or a fond remembrance of my discovery of Sterling Knight.

49. Bug (2007)
Director: William Friedkin
Starring: Ashley Judd, Michael Shannon, Harry Connick, Jr.

Now this is how you do a horror film. Friedkin's take on the paranoia thriller was stuck in my head for days after I first saw it (alone and late at night, I must add). I think what makes Bug a can't miss is the fact that the situation presented in the first two acts is so ordinary that anyone, in the right state of mind, could dissolve into madness and paranoia in the same way Ashley Judd does.

48. Y Tu Mamá También (2002)
Director: Alfonso Cuar&ocaute;n
Starring: Gael Garcia Bernal, Diego Luna, Marbiel Verdú

I need to see this film again for I remember very little about the film itself, other than the moments of passion and the sad, vague feeling about the end of a friendship that dominates the film as it progresses. Oh, and there's that little ole scene where Bernal and Luna have sex that I must have rewound 5 or 10 times. No one said this list was going to be totally classy!

47. Jesus Camp (2006)
Director: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady

Literally one of the most frightening experiences I've ever had watching a movie. Jesus Camp is every liberal's worst nightmare: a documentary about a religion that trains their children to become God Warriors at all costs and, ironically, idolizes the way terrorist cells trained the people who ended up flying the planes into the Twin Towers. Scary in theory, piss-your-pants frightening since it is reality. As the film progressed, particularly during the scene where the children are practically heil-ing a cardboard cutout of George Bush, I kept sliding lower and lower in my seat, trying to shield my eyes with the hood of my jacket.

46. Superbad (2007)
Director: Greg Mottola
Starring: Michael Cera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Teenage heterosexual sex comedies are not normally my thing, but Superbad is more focused on genuine bawdy laughs rather than the same boob and fart jokes over and over again. In a year where something as trite and painfully unfocused as The Hangover got wide acclaim both at the box office and critically, it makes me appreciate Superbad even more. The film may be chaotic, but there's a method to its madness.

45. Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002)
Director: George Clooney
Starring: Sam Rockwell, George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore

In a decade where biopics of varying degrees of suckiness and ineptitude where given awards like they invented movies all over again, it is not surprising that one as fascinating, immersive and, most importantly, fun as Confessions of a Dangerous Mind received very little acclaim or attention when released. I still think it's better than Good Night, and Good Luck, Clooney's best performance, Barrymore's best performance until Grey Gardens, one of Roberts' best post-Brockovich performances and one of the decade's best "star is born" performances from Sam Rockwell.

44. (500) Days of Summer (2009)
Director: Marc Webb
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Zooey Deschanel

My most anticipated movie for 2009. I waited for ages it felt like for it to come to my town and when it finally did...nothing. I enjoyed the film quite a bit, especially individual scenes like the foreign film scene, the fantasy/reality party and the musical number, but I wonder if overhyping it in my head knocked this film down a bit. Another viewing is definitely in order soon, but, until then, I'll have to live with my lovely (if not rapturous quite yet) first impression.

43. Shelter (2008)
Director: Jonah Markowitz
Starring: Trevor Wright, Brad Rowe, Tina Holmes

Boy A (2008)
Director: John Crowley
Starring: Andrew Garfield, Peter Mullan, Siobhan Finneran

As you probably know, films about emotionally damaged and/or distant young males are my crack and 2008 offered two fantastic independent films in this minor, often ignored subgenre. Shelter, aka the gay surfing movie, really had no reason to be as good as it turned out to be. The gay ghetto of filmmaking often relies on the same "coming out" crutch in every film, but Shelter deals with other themes besides the inevitable admission of homosexuality (and even that is done simply and beautifully). What I enjoyed about Trevor Wright was that he offered a gay character we haven't seen before--the emotionally closed-off gay--and portrayed it in a realistic, non-baity way. Andrew Garfield, as a young man attempting to move on with his life after committing a horrific childhood crime, has a whole film to carry on his shoulders in Boy A. As far as emotionally damaged boys go, he's up there with Hutton in Ordinary People and Firth in Equus, so I was obviously hooked like a heroin junkie to the emotional journey he goes through. When that great scene at the restaurant came around, I was so attached to Garfield, I nearly mimicked him in his unreadable reaction to the present his girlfriend gave him.

42. Thirteen (2003)
Director: Catherine Hardwicke
Starring: Evan Rachel Wood, Nikki Reed, Holly Hunter

Before Hardwicke's dull and lifeless adaptation of Twilight, she burst on the scene with this scathing look at today's teenagers. The most refreshing thing about Thirteen is the fact that Hardwicke doesn't preach morality or pass senseless judgment on any of the characters, a very uncommon feat in the teen film. Bonus points for being one of the three films one of my best friends in high school (who seriously considered The Beverly Hillbillies movie one of the best she had ever seen) and I ever agreed on.

41. Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist (2008)
Director: Peter Sollett
Starring: Michael Cera, Kat Dennings, Ari Graynor, Rafi Gavron

A 1930's screwball comedy set in the world of surprisingly non-irritating and unpretentious indie hipster high schoolers. Cera and Dennings have immense charm and chemistry, but its Ari Graynor as Dennings' drunk best friend who steals the show, providing a hilarious new twist on a stereotyped role.