Monday, January 28, 2013

My Own Subjective Top 10 Movies of 2012

2012 was the year of the television series for me. I spent so much time watching TV series on Netflix such as Psych, Breaking Bad, Prison Break, Battlestar Galactica, Raising Hope, Monk, Malcolm in the Middle, Phineas and Ferb, Portlandia, Downton Abbey, How I Met Your Mother, Sherlock and Futurama (all of which I recommend) that movies took kind of a backseat for me. Nevertheless, I still managed to watch more than my share of films this year. So, much like I did in 2009, 2010 and 2011, here is my own subjective top 10 list of movies I saw in 2012.

Please keep in mind, faithful readers, that these are not films that were necessarily released in 2012. These are movies that I saw for the first time in 2012. Also, keep in mind that I normally have to wait until these movies are out on DVD, so I'm a little behind the curve. And keep in mind that art is subjective and your opinions may differ from mine. And let us never forget that Kate Beckinsale is strikingly beautiful.

Now, on to the list:

10. The Seventh Seal (1957) - Yes, it took me 55 years to see this movie. Although, in my defense, I wasn't even alive for 23 of those years. However, as a film geek, I felt it was my duty to watch this classic piece of cinema by Ingmar Bergman. The Seventh Seal is a special kind of film because it deals directly with the reality and indifference of death, yet it oddly retains a feeling of hope. Ingmar Bergman projects his fear of the unknown on the screen and, as an audience, we are able to relate because we've all felt the same type of fear. It is a beautiful film and it features iconic images and ideas. This is truly a classic and I'm glad I saw it.

9. Warrior (2011) - I have three brothers, so the idea of working out some fraternal aggression in the octagon is somewhat appealing. I was worried that Warrior would be a cliché-fest, but it's actually a fairly impressive movie. It's not every day that you find a story that makes you truly feel conflicted about who should win in the end. The fights are raw and realistic without being excessively violent. Plus, Warrior has as much of an emotional punch as it does actual punching. My wife and I both enjoyed this film.

8. Chronicle (2012) - Finally! A movie I saw in 2012 that actually came out in 2012! Now, truth be told, I am absolutely tired of "found footage" films. I didn't have much hope for this film, but I walked away pleasantly surprised. This movie is actually quite good. If a group of teenagers suddenly got superpowers, this is exactly how they would act. Dane DeHaan gives a performance that is both vulnerable and frightening, and the rest of the cast does a fantastic job making this far-fetched story seem a little more realistic.

7. Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010) - I can describe this movie in two words: Fun. I love the premise of Tucker & Dale vs Evil, and the execution (pun totally intended) is great. However, I wish they wouldn't have given so much away in the trailer. Almost every major joke and plot twist is revealed in the preview, which I watched multiple times before seeing the movie. All of those trailer spoilers lessen the impact of when you actually see the story unfold onscreen. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed this film. It features great performances from both Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk, and it's a fresh take on a tired story. I would definitely watch this one again.

6. The Dark Knight Rises (2012) - Much like the final Harry Potter movie, The Dark Knight Rises is good, but it's not the best of the series. Although, to be fair, I like The Dark Knight so much that "Rises" couldn't possibly live up to my expectations. However, this final installment ends the trilogy well. It gives us inspiring heroes, intimidating villains and plenty of dramatic action. However, some important plot points seem glossed over and, if you stop and think about what is actually going on in the movie, you'll find a few plot holes. Plus, there are some overly cheesy moments. Anne Hathaway's character, for example, seems out of place when compared to the rest of the cast. Nevertheless, I liked it and I will be proud to have all three of Nolan's Batman films in my collection (that, sadly, does include Batman & Robin).

5. The Avengers (2012) - I know there are a lot of haters out there, but I still say the Avengers is an entertaining and satisfying film. I was worried that, with so many characters, the story would be messy or rushed, but everyone seemed to get equal time and the plot flowed smoothly. Yes, it does have its flaws and yes, it does have long stretches of slow moments, but this movie mixes nerd-fantasy action with sharp-witted humor, and it does it well -- but who would have expected less with Joss Whedon at the helm? No, it wasn't as amazing the second time through, but it's still a fun ride and I loved watching it with my 3-year-old son. Yes, I let my 3-year-old son watch a PG-13 movie. You know what the "PG" in PG-13 stands for? Parental Guidance. And I'm the parent -- so there!
. . .and I got my wife's permission.

4. The Help (2011) - I was worried that The Help was going to be a heavy-handed, one-sided, racially-charged film, but it surprised me. It wasn't a "black people are good, white people are bad" kind of film. There are good white characters (other than Emma Stone) and there are bad black characters. The Help is full of touching scenes, humorous moments and interesting, complex characters. And while I was happy to see Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain get Oscar nominations, I also think Bryce Dallas Howard does a fantastic job as the villainous Hilly Holbrook. She really makes that character fun to hate. I liked this movie much more than I thought I would. Plus my wife loved the book and she said the adaptation was very well done.

3. The Descendants (2011) - Not only did this movie make me miss Hawaii, but it also made me very grateful that I haven't had to deal with the problems that Matt King has to deal with. The Descendants does a great job of dealing with a variety of complex emotions. This movie manages to maintain a lighthearted feel, despite the dark and depressing subject matter. Each one of the performances feels genuine and heartfelt, and I felt myself getting caught up in it all. This movie definitely deserved the Academy Award nomination for Best Picture. My favorite line of the movie: "You give your children enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing." I hope to one day have enough money to be able follow that advice.

2. Attack the Block (2011) - Once you get used to the heavy, heavy British accents, Attack the Block is a lot of fun. At first, I was a little put off by the young thug protagonists, and I could barely understand what anyone was saying (ClearPlay muting every other word didn't help), but soon I got caught up in the story. I'm not normally that big of a fan of alien movies, but this one is very entertaining. I also don't normally root for street gangs, but when they're pitted against aliens, you have to cheer for someone. This movie features some awesomely creepy creature effects. The aliens were unique and terrifying. Plus, it ended up having a heart, too, which I didn't expect. I would definitely watch this one again.

And my #1 favorite movie of 2012 is. . .

1. The Hunger Games (2012) - I know. I know. I sound like a teenage girl by putting this as my #1 of the year. Heck, I feel like a teenage girl for putting this as my favorite film of 2012. But the fact remains that when I was reviewing my ratings of the past year, this movie had the most stars. It got four and a half stars, which is the highest rating that I will give a movie after the first viewing. I was very impressed with The Hunger Games. Of course, I love the book, so I may be a little biased. I wonder how enjoyable it would be to someone who doesn't know all of the background information. I think I was most impressed by how well the book was adapted to the screen -- I guess it helps when the author of the book writes the script. The story is compelling and the violence is suitable for the target teenage audience -- it isn't excessive or gratuitous, but it's enough to get the brutal point across. Jennifer Lawrence once again proves herself as a talented actress, and the supporting cast is enjoyable to watch, as well. This is a powerful, well-made drama. Please stop associating it with Twilight.

Now there maybe some of you who disagree with the order of my rankings on this list, but you can't possibly deny. . .that I watched these movies!

I would also like to give an honorable mention to the following films, which I also watched and enjoyed in 2012: The Cabin in the Woods (2011), Iron Monkey (1993), 50/50 (2011), Seven Samurai (1954), The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966), The Thing (1982) and Les Miserables (2012). Sorry you didn't make the top ten list, gang, maybe next year. . .except I've already seen you in 2012, so. . .yeah. . .

Until next year!

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Movie Snack to Tide You Over

Faithful readers, I'm cooking up my lengthy, annual, subjective 2012 movie list for next week, so this week's post is just going to be something to wet your whistle. However, this video deserves a post of its own anyway. I've featured the work of Gen Ip on Slice of Fried Gold before, but every year I am amazed how she can take a plethora of films and piece them together in a beautiful way that brings out common themes and ideas -- and that plus the music make these yearly Filmographies strangely inspiring. Every time I watch Gen Ip's Filmography videos, I feel inspired to do something more with my life. . .and I feel the urge to watch more movies. Those two things aren't mutually exclusive, right? Right??

So, without further ado (because I said this post was going to be short), here is Gen Ip's Filmography 2012:

How many of these have you seen? I've only seen about 21 out of the 300+ portrayed in this video.

P.S. If you want to figure out which movie is which in that montage, here you go.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Ladies, What Does a Lightsaber Say?

During a company party last year, the comedian entertaining the group asked for one male and one female to join him onstage. My table volunteered me and I was then asked to face off with a female coworker named Shannon in a battle of sounds. I was asked to provide a sound effect (such as a machine gun and a lightsaber) and then Shannon was asked to do the same sound effect. The point of the exercise was 1. to entertain the audience and 2. prove, once and for all, that men are better than women at sound effects -- keep in mind that this was his theory, not mine.

I thought it was a bit unfair, initially, because I figured my female opponent would simply hear the way I did a sound effect and then copy it, but I was surprised to find out that the noises I have been making since I was a little boy didn't come as naturally to her. Shannon has a fun, outgoing personality, so I knew that it wasn't because she was nervous -- she just didn't have as much practice as I did making punching noises with my mouth.

And then, as I was chuckling about that experiment with my wife on the drive home, I challenged her to give a few of the sound effects a shot. The chuckles soon escalated to full-blown guffaws. Even though she had heard the differences in my sound effects and Shannon's, she still made noises like "pew, pew" when imitating gunfire. I was stunned. Men and women really are different when it comes to sound effects.

Shannon and I have exchanged a few light-hearted barbs since that party. Recently, she sent me the following video along with a note saying, "Just to point out that nobody even knows what a light saber is....boys or girls." And while I don't agree with her on that specific point (there are some good lightsaber noises from the men AND the women in this video), I'll let you, the faithful readers, be the judge of which gender makes the best sound effects in this highly entertaining short film.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Pointless or Awesome?

When I was a kid, my dad had something in his office called the Do Nothing Machine. It looked something like this:

Go ahead, give me a spin. You know you want to!
The idea was simple, you would grab the handle and spin it around, and the little wooden pieces would go back and forth, slowly missing each other. Pointless? Sure. But my brothers and I would spend hours spinning that thing around and around while sitting in his office. I remember trying very hard to get the pieces to collide with one another, but, obviously, it never happened. This wasn't like my dad's Rubik's Cube, where we could easily peel the stickers off and put them back on where they belonged -- this was something special.

Now, before you judge me for spending so much time on the Do Nothing Machine, think about how many times you've checked your Facebook or Twitter account today -- I'd say we're about even. And even though technology has advanced drastically since I was a kid, there are people today who are making machines that are just as pointless, and just as entertaining.

Check it out:

Full disclosure: I find this video (and this machine) to be endlessly entertaining. I like to imagine that the little robot inside the machine (who I've nicknamed Preston) is getting so annoyed that someone keeps flipping his switches. But what about you, faithful readers? Do you think this is the most useless invention ever invented? Or is it simply awesome?

I eagerly await your feedback.