Friday, July 1, 2011

Half-Way Report for 2011

Top 5 Films
05. Source Code (Duncan Jones)
The tepid reviews really watered down any expectations, so I was surprised to find a fine mix of a great gimmick, intelligent action sequences and an achingly beautiful and unsentimental romance. Source Code had me under its spell the entire runtime, a spell that even a horribly botched ending couldn't completely break.
04. Scream 4 (Wes Craven)
Instead of phoning it in, Craven & Co. deliver another excellent installment in this horror franchise. Bonus points: will I have this much fun at another movie this year? I haven't been so giggly in a theatre since I saw Secretariat and my friend Sammi kept shouting "Oscar! Oscar!" at all of Diane Lane's big Moments.
03. Downton Abbey (Julian Fellowes)
Witty, absorbing and intelligent with a great ratio of serious and silly, Julian Fellowes' expansion of his Gosford Park was one of the most surprising things I've seen all year. And who says Masterpiece Theatre is only for old geezers?
02. Bridesmaids (Paul Feig)
This film had me at Kristen Wiig in raunchy female comedy. But who would have guessed just how funny and real it was going to be?!
01. Hanna (Joe Wright)
As you are all well aware, action films are not my favorite genre, but when you have an ace stylist like Joe Wright who knows how to construct images and scenes with a distinctive visual flair that don't feel gratuitous (unlike a certain other French Canadian director everyone is so crazy about), a bombastic score from The Chemical Brothers and a hard-as-nails lead performance from one of the only decent under 18 actors around, you have the very best film of the year so far. And I can't imagine not loving this by year end either.

Top 5 Performances
05. Michael Fassbender, Jane Eyre
Sex sex sex sex sex sex. He's practically dripping with testosterone and hard, angry lust in all of his best scenes in Jane Eyre.
04. Saoirse Ronan, Hanna
Who would have guessed that the same girl from Atonement would also be a total Ellen Ripley? Kudos to her for balancing the pathos with the ass-kicking.
03. Maya Rudolph, Bridesmaids
She obviously the straight woman to Wiig's whacked out nutiness, but she kills in her own comedic moments. Plus, Rudolph adds a touch of sweetness to the bawdy comedy surrounding her.
02. Dame Maggie Smith, Downton Abbey
Dame Maggie plays Dame Maggie here--a crusty old grandmother who won't stand for foolishness or foreign ideas--but no one does Dame Maggie like the legend herself. Her wonderful comedic timing ("What is a weekend?") punctuates and accentuates what could have been a dry melodrama.

01. Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids
The fact that she plays a desperate, single maid of honor who can't hold a job, gets involved in sexual relationships with idiots who don't deserve her, likes to partaaaaaay and makes lots of penis jokes sounds like it was tailor-made for me. But, despite all the major (and deserved) guffaws, Wiig plays Annie with a sense of realness and legitimacy often ignored in comedies of this nature.

Top 5 Rentals
05. Europa Europa
A Holocaust film about survival from a different angle than you're accustomed to seeing. This one blew me away and not just because the male lead went full frontal in the first five minutes. (My review here)
04. Female
Without a doubt, the Pre-Code era was one of the most liberating for actresses. This film with Ruth Chatterton as a powerful CEO whose career is her life and men are just sexual playthings is one of the best from that period. It's not-so-subtle approach to sex will baffle audiences who think old films are all chaste and wholesome. (My review here)
03. The Last Command
Josef von Sternberg's tale of a former Russian general exiled in Hollywood as a silent film extra appears a tad farfetched on paper, especially when you consider that he begins work on a film directed by a Communist he personally sent to prison. Unbelievable or not, it's a great film, a fine example of the type of complex dramas Hollywood was able to crank out like clockwork in the Golden Age.
02. Billy Liar
Tom Courtenay is often forgotten among British New Wave heavies like Albert Finney and Richard Harris. A shame since many of his films and his performance hold up far better than any of Finney's (especially from this era). Billy Liar is a surprisingly funny and unself-conscious film for the period with Courtenay as our plucky hero, a working class chap who spends his days escaping his dreary existence through his own fantasy world. Julie Christie, of all actresses, lends support as his quirky and fun friend/possible love interest who encourages his fantasy.
01. The Prince and the Showgirl
This Laurence Olivier directed comedy about a stubborn, conceited prince (Olivier) and the vivacious, smarter-than-she-looks showgirl who falls for him (Marilyn Monroe) really should have been a disaster. The man who won an Oscar for Hamlet acting against Hollywood's most notorious "dumb blonde" bombshell? Get out of here. Somehow, by the grace of Oprah, it all came together in one of the most charming and funny romantic comedies of the 50's. Olivier is great playing the pompous cad, but Monroe is the real story here. Her umpteenth take on the showgirl role is one of the cleverest performances of her career, only outclassed by Some Like It Hot and The Misfits.

Top 5 Songs
05. Katy Perry "E.T."
An unusual but ultimately beautiful love song. Who would have guessed that after "I Kissed a Girl" Katy would have something like this in her?
04. Rihanna "Man Down"
The Rated R Era officially comes to an end with this reconciliation of that album's dark, violent imagery and the Loud Era's more commercial tendencies. The result is a brilliant synthesis of the two Rihanna polarities.
03. Eric Saade "Popular"
So gloriously over-the-top and manic how can you not love it?
02. Nicole Scherzinger "Don't Hold Your Breath"
My personal anthem for 2011. For serious.
01. Nicki Minaj "Super Bass"
It has become my main goal in life to learn all the lyrics to this song. I'm getting pretty good, for a white guy, anyways, which is especially encouraging since this is one of Nicki's faster raps. Everything about this song is pure joy. I've listened to it 60+ times in just a month and a half and I haven't even come close to getting sick of it.

Top 5 Bonus Tracks, B-sides, Remixes & Other Assorted Non-Singles
05. Le Kid "Mr. Brightside"
The reason I don't dismiss every cover song on the planet is because of covers like this, a fun and bouncy reconfiguring of the Killers' big, somewhat dark pop anthem.
04. Beyoncé "Run the World (Girls) (Dave Audé Radio Edit)"
I'm not normally into remixes except in instances when they improve the original (and don't go on for 8 minutes at a time). Why Beyoncé hasn't done a full-blown dance album yet is beyond me.
03. Andrew Rannells "I Believe"
It's all about one lyric: "And I believe that in 1978 God changed his mind about black people (Black people!)"
02. Rihanna featuring Britney Spears "S&M (Remix)"
Slutty Britney is still my favorite Britney, so I can't tell you how excited I was to hear her inimitable voice moan out "Na na na come on" in the beginning. I know a lot of people either violently hated or shrugged their shoulders at this remix but not me. It's dumb and ridiculous and slutty and exactly the way a song called "S&M" should be.
01. Selena Gomez "Who Says (Dave Audé Radio Edit)"
A vast improvement over the midtempo original. Why this wasn't done as a dancefloor inspirational jam in the first place beats the hell out of me.

Top 5 Albums
05. Alexis Jordan, Alexis Jordan
A fine debut from a rising star. Nothing especially groundbreaking but it has become a compulsively listenable album in the months since I first heard it.
04. Original Cast, The Book of Mormon (Original Broadway Cast Recording)
Everything you would expect from a Matt Stone and Trey Parker skewering of the Mormon religion and then some. Even non fans of South Park would get a kick out of this.
03. Same Difference, The Rest Is History
Everyone's favorite slightly incestuous brother-sister pop duo Same Difference is back and all grown up this time. The glorious key changes are ditched in favor of sleeker, sexier dance pop. A refreshing and worthy follow-up to their fantastic debut.
02. Selena Gomez & The Scene, When the Sun Goes Down
In the matter of 18 short months, Selena has gone from Disney's fourth largest commodity (after the Brothers Jonas, Miley & Demi, obviously) to one of the brightest beacons of hope for the future of pop music. One of the album's key tracks, the killer "Whiplash," was co-written by the Queen herself, Britney, and it almost looks like a way of her passing the torch and giving approval to her eventual successor...

01. Britney Spears, Femme Fatale
...That is if Britney was ready to go anywhere. Twelve years into her career and Britney only gets better, constantly surprising us with the directions she is taking her music.

Top 5 Music Videos
05. Rihanna "S&M"
Rihanna is not really a music video artist, which is a shame because it's an area she should be excelling in. "S&M" is one of her rare videos that deviates from the "I'm just gonna stand around and look pretty" norm. I love the bright colors of the mise-en-scène and the way Rihanna goes balls the wall with the S&M imagery. If it wasn't for the hyper kinetic editing which distracts more often than it should, I'd say it was her masterpiece.
04. Britney Spears "I Wanna Go"
"Fuck you. Fuck you. Fuck you. You're cool. Fuck you. I'm out." As if Britney could be any more legendary. Has Britney ever had this much fun in a music video?
03. Hurts "Sunday"
A glorious reinterpretation of the Orpheus myth which builds on the well-established persona of Hurts as the most depressing, dapper duo in music today.
02. Beyoncé "Run the World (Girls)"
01. Robyn "Call Your Girlfriend"
I'm pretty sure I've said all I need to say about these two videos.

Top 5 Obsessions
05. Kylie Minogue's Discography
After Christmas, I randomly picked up a used copy of Kylie's Fever album and fell in love with it. Having such a major success with that one, I downloaded another. Yet again a corker, so I downloaded another. And the cycle went on and on until I had all of her studio albums in my possession. If anything, I'm grateful for this little jaunt of mine for making me realize the absolute brilliance that is "Your Disco Needs You" and, especially, "What Do I Have to Do".
04. Michael Fassbender in Jane Eyre and X-Men: First Class
He is the walking sex. I can't even. How did those actors get through their scenes without dropping their pants and bending over in front of him?
03. Brideshead Revisited
How did people watch miniseries before the invention of the DVD?  I don't know how I would have waited a week between installments of this popular British miniseries from 1981, starring Jeremy Irons and Anthony Andrews. I was like a carnivore as soon as that red Netflix envelope came in my mailbox, tearing it to shreads and rushing to put the DVD in the player. This series was so good, y'all, especially the first half with Andrews as the drole, alcoholic, guilt-ridden Sebasitan Flyte.
02. Tom Courtenay
I've become such an uber fan of Courtenay's in the past couple of months I watched Doctor fucking Zhivago again just for him and his Oscar nomination. Yes, I re-watched a bloody David Lean film for him. If that isn't love, I don't know what is.
01. Random TLC Shows
Extreme Couponing. Toddlers & Tiaras. My Strange Addiction.  The best programming in all of television is on this channel. And to think I once dismissed TLC as the channel where every show is about midgets and obnoxiously large families.

Top 5 Hot Guys
(New/recent obsessions since this list would otherwise be all Michael Fassbender)

05. Marlon Teixeira

04. Eric Saade

03. Josh Hutcherson

02. Aaron Tveit

01. Armie Hammer

Top 5 Blog Posts
I'm still in mourning.
In which even my lovely 84 year old grandma realizes that I am Liz Lemon.
My analysis of one sex scene that haunted me in Blue Valentine.
Is this really how I'm gonna win my Oscar? Lord I hope so.
Goodbye, my beloved show. It was a great run while it lasted. Here's hoping the lovely cast finds much success afterwards (especially once this So Random! thing ends).

1 comment:

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

Why HASN'T Beyonce done a dance album? good question. And, hey, that Oscar dream is your best post. Come on.