Friday, December 31, 2010

My Top Ten Films for 2010

Okay, here are the rules.

I) The film had to be released in U. S. theaters in 2010. (Which ruled out things like the amazing restoration of 1927’s “Metropolis” or the purely imaginary adaptations of my Bill the Warthog books.)

II) I had to see the film in the 2010 calendar, in theater or on DVD. (I haven’t seen “Black Swan” or “The King’s Speech” and others that might have broke into the top ten, but I really think “Waking Sleeping Beauty” is the only film that probably would break the top five.)

So here they are from the bottom up.

10) “Daybreakers” – I’ve always loved vampire fiction, from Bela to Barnabus to Buffy, so if you come up with a new angle, I’m easy to please. The idea of this film is that vampires have taken over the world but now they’re running out of humans and therefore out of food. I liked the little creative touches like blood baristas and daylight proof cars with cameras and screens that allow vamps to drive. Ethan Hawke is a solid lead, but the real fun is seeing Willem Defoe and Sam Neill bite the scenery like it was a tasty neck.

9) “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World”- Director Edgar Wright did very creative, innovative work in this film (though I didn’t like this film as much as his “Shaun of the Dead” or “Hot Fuzz”.) But though this film is adapted from a graphic novel, it is arguably the first decent video game adaptation.

8) “The Fighter” – It just seems right that Christian Bale steals this film in the supporting role as the crack addicted brother of true life boxing champ, Micky Ward. After all, Heath Ledger stole “The Dark Knight” from him (partly because of his death, but chiefly because it was a fantastic performance.) The true story is an inspiring one, but there are a few too many Jerry Springer stereotypes on the screen.

7) “Winter’s Bone” – One of the great things about this film is the opportunity to a part of the country that films rarely, venture to, the Ozarks. A sad tale of the meth culture in this destitute region, but the hope is supplied by the courageous character of the young girl, Ree, played very well by Jennifer Lawrence. Looking forward to more from writer/director Debra Granik.

6) “The Town” – The MA accents in “The Fighter” were fun, but even better are the Boston, MA accents in this Ben Affleck directed crime flick. Based on a very good Paul Hogan novel, this film has good performance and some excellent action sequences. Who would have thought after “Gigli” that we would be looking forward to Ben’s next flick (along with Debra’s.)

5) “Inception” – Even better action sequences than in the town (especially in the gravity hallway) than in “The Town” and fun mind games, too. Christopher Nolan has yet to make a film I didn’t like (his “Momento” is one of my all time favorites.) I wrote about it here:

4 ) “Toy Story III” – It’s hard to make a good Number III as the Godfather, Spiderman and Mad Max will testify. But James Bond assured us it could be done. Pixar does it with this return to the adventures of Woody and Buzz Lightyear. Very funny and yet also with an ending that is ripe with sniffles. Sure to win Best Animated Feature.

3) “The Social Network” – Many people scoffed at a Facebook movie, but computer geeks have a vast impact on our day to day lives. But this movie isn’t just about playing Farm and Mafia Games online, but about greed and genius, loyalty and friendship and many other very important things. May well win the Best Picture Oscar, which would not be a bad choice. David Fincher has come a long way from “Aliens 3”.

2) “True Grit” – Remakes are often scorned and rightly so. Even good directors have made bad remakes. (Did “Psycho” really color, Gus Van Sant? Did “Planet of the Apes” need monkey Abe Lincoln, Tim Burton? And is James Marsden a great replacement for Dustin Hoffman in “Straw Dogs”, Rod Lurie? Oh, that’s right Rod, I was talking about good directors.) The Coen Brothers sure screwed up their remake of “The Ladykillers”. But they do it right with this film that made me laugh more than any other film this year. Jeff Bridges has the really tough job of taking the John Wayne role and he pulls it off. People often slam Ethan and Joel Coen of being cold, but I found the last third of this film very moving. And the spiritual content of the Charles Portis novel was not forgotten.

1) “Get Low” – Two favorite actors, Robert Duvall for drama and Bill Murray for comedy. And they’re together. In a very Christian film. I’m happy.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Now there is a reason why this is a Top Seven list rather than a Top Ten. I decided this should be for shows broadcast in 2010 and that I viewed in 2010. Three shows I watch on DVD I'm watching in a time delay (so don't tell me spoilers.) I watched the 2009 seasons in 2010 and won’t see the 2010 seasons until 2011 at the earliest. I’m pretty sure they would make the list if I was watching them when broadcast. So there are three less titles on the list in honor of MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD and DEXTER. (And these are all scripted shows, which explains the absence of CASH CAB and Oakland A’s games.)

1) LOST – Yeah, I had problems with the possible purgatory subplot, but that wasn’t the whole story, even in Season 6. No show has ever astonished me, made me cry or even laugh as hard as this show. I loved the characters, and not just because so many of them were so very pretty. And it was always so rewarding to see Linus punched in the face.

2) 30 ROCK – It’s amazing how this show still brings the funny in the fifth season. The Christmas episode alone would have earned this a place on the list with the Black Swans and Jack’s Christmas card (“Happy Holidays…Is what terrorists say, Merry Christmas”)

3) COMMUNITY – This almost took spot #2 and it may next year. Love the characters, Abed speaks the meta truth. Paint Ball and Zombie episodes were fantastic movie parodies while barely keeping within the confines of the world of sitcom.

4) THE PACIFIC –Maybe this would have a higher spot if I had finished the whole thing, but four episodes have earned it this spot. Hope to finish the show before 2011 and that more episodes are like Guadalcanal and less are like Melborne.

5) MODERN FAMILY – Now that LOST is gone, this may be the prettiest cast on television. And quite funny.

6) RAISING HOPE – The only new show on the list. (I like RUNNING WILDE, but it’s about to die and I also like HAWAII 5-O, but that’s because it’s awesome stupid.) Finds a nice balance between gross and sweet, hysterical and bizarre. Particularly like Garret Dillahunt who I’m used to as psycho killer (DEADWOOD and LIFE), but now is a zany sitcom dad (grand dad.)

7) CHUCK – The show is more than inconsistent, but when it’s on, it’s on. Plus Adam Baldwin. ‘Nuff said.

May TV be your friend in 2011. (But just one of your friends. Probably not your BEST friend.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Blake Edwards passed away last night

My Top Five Blake Edwards films:

1) The Return of the Pink Panther

2) The Pink Panther Strikes Again

3) The Revenge of the Pink Panther

4) S.O.B.

5) Breakfast at Tiffany's

"Does your dig bite?" "No" Vicious champ "I thought you said your dig did not bite?"
"That's not my dog."

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I Don't Want To Be Like You-ou-ou

The saying goes that you don’t want to see how sausage or legislature or children’s songs are made. Okay, they haven’t said it much about children’s songs in the past, but people might start saying it after they see the 2009 documentary The Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story.

Of course, Richard and Robert Sherman didn’t just write children’s songs. The brothers began their career together writing pop songs like “Tall Paul” and “You’re Sixteen”. Disney Studios took an interest in them and asked them to write a song for the Hayley Mills comedy, The Parent Trap (“Let’s Get Together –Yeah, Yeah, Yeah”.)

Walt Disney put the brothers on contract (the only songwriters the studio had on contract.) At the studio they wrote songs for such films as The Sword and the Stone, Winnie the Pooh and The Jungle Book, winning Oscars for best score and best song for Mary Poppins (“Chim Chim Cher-ee”. They also wrote one of the most popular and annoying songs of all time, “It’s a Small World”, for the ride of that name.

After Walt Disney’s death, the brothers left the studio and continued to write for films like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Slipper and the Rose and Charlotte’s Web. During all this time, people assumed that since the brothers worked so well as a team, they must get along well together.

But we learn in the film that the brothers who were just two and a half years apart in age were much further apart in personality and disposition. They couldn’t stand each other. They worked together in the office, but kept their distance outside of it. They didn’t allow their families to socialize. When their father died, they held two separate receptions after the funeral.

Those closest to Richard and Robert knew their differences. Robert, the elder, born in 1925, is introverted, quiet and moody. Richard (born in 1928) is extroverted, talkative and on occasion has a sharp temper. In World War II, Robert experienced much. He said he had been a know-nothing kid, but in the war “I learned.” Richard, on the other hand, served in the USO.

Their differences arguably made them a great song writing team. Their differences also drove each other mad.

Really, not a very new and different story: brothers not getting along. Starting with Cain and Abel, on to Jacob and Isaac, and even Jesus had brothers who said he was crazy. What is strange is that the authors of “A Spoonful of Sugar” and “There’s a Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow” couldn’t get along.

In I Corinthians 13 we read that without love, one is nothing. So is there value in the work of the Sherman brothers? The odd thing is that although they couldn’t get along, the Sherman brothers surely love each other. In the interviews in the film, that love comes through, even as the brothers admit their resentment.

If this story sounds a little dark for a tale of the composers of “The Aristocats”, you might be interested to know who made the film. The film was directed by Gregory Sherman and Jeff Sherman, cousins who are sons of the composers. They were kept apart for decades by their fathers, but they came together to make this film with the hope of bringing their fathers together. We never see if that part of their plan worked. But this film, certainly, is a work of love.

(Two other documentaries about Disney film making have recently been released, Waking Sleeping Beauty about the revival of Disney animation and Walt and El Grupo about Disney in South America.)

(The Boys: The Sherman Brothers Story is rated PG for language and smoking.)