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Adam’s Pop Culture Year In Review 2010 Hello everyone and welcome to yet another year-end movie list. Or, as you may have guessed from the title, a year-end movie, music, and television list. Yes, to make up for disappointing tens of you by not putting out a list last year, I decided to make this year’s list better (read: longer) than ever. But first, while I have everyone’s attention, I’d like to mention that I’m finally retiring my ancient e-mail account, and switching for good to the more professional-sounding Please update your address books accordingly. Now, on to the lists. Mild spoilers are present throughout. The one time I venture into less-than-mild spoilers, I’ve added warnings and a red font. As always, comments, criticisms, angry harangues, and gushing praise are all welcomed equally. Enjoy. PART 1: THE YEAR IN FILM How do you gauge the quality of a year in film? If you judge solely by the number of great works produced, the instant classics that will be remembered for years, then 2010 was a mediocre, or even bad, year. However, if you judge by the number of good-to-very-good films produced, then 2010 was one of the best years in quite some time (just look at all those B+’s below!). Perhaps this trend was best exemplified by the Oscar nominations. While none of the films up for this year’s Best Picture are masterpieces, for the first time in a while, every one is at least “good.” There’s nothing on the level of The Blind Side, Milk, The Reader, Benjamin Button, or Atonement - to name but a few of the mediocre movies that received undeserved awards attention in recent years. Even The King’s Speech, the current frontrunner, is considerably lighter on its feet than your standard middlebrow Brit flick (better acted, too). More interesting than the relative quality of the films released, though, are the trends that emerged by year’s end. The most common theme was the mind-bending, “what is real?” idea that fueled pictures as diverse as Inception, Black Swan, Exit Through the Gift Shop, Catfish, The Social Network, and The Killer Inside Me. Looking further, though, I’d say these movies are all part of a larger trend: a return to 1970s-style filmmaking - not stylistically, necessarily, but thematically. If you’d allow me some shallow armchair analysis for a moment, the 1970s saw the end of the “flower power” era and, with Watergate and Vietnam, the nation’s collective loss of innocence, and yet they also produced some of this country’s finest filmmaking. Those classic ‘70s films, while diverse in subject matter, featured many commonalities that reflected the tenor of the times – a blurred moral compass, an antihero protagonist, and a downbeat ending. Perhaps, then, this year’s return to those themes can be seen as a reflection of our current economic upheaval and unemployment woes. Whatever the case, the antihero protagonist was out in full force in 2010, from the mind-raping thief in Inception, to the backstabbing programmer in The Social Network, to the psychopathic cop in The Killer Inside Me, to the self-aggrandizing street-art chronicler in Exit Through the Gift Shop, to the secret-harboring mother in Mother, to the misanthropic title character in Greenberg, to the budding child psychopath in Let Me In, to the gangsters and terrorists on the rise in A Prophet and Carlos, to the womanizing


scoundrel in Solitary Man… and believe me, I could go on. Even those protagonists who weren’t antiheroes were at the very least hard to like - witness Scott Pilgrim’s immature narcissism or the warts-and-all portrayals of real-life characters like Joan Rivers and Ron Gallela in the documentaries A Piece of Work and Smash His Camera. Antihero protagonists usually mean that their opposite isn’t needed, and as such, 2010 was a weak year for movie villainy. The few films that had a nominal “bad guy” saw him marginalized, humanized, or both. Mattie Ross’s quest for vengeance in True Grit, for instance, ends anticlimactically, with the murderous Tom Cheney portrayed more as a flummoxed moron than a true figure of evil. Lotso, the Ned Beatty-voiced villain of Toy Story 3, starts out as a good guy who’s revealed to be a bad guy, just like Stinky Pete in Toy Story 2 (On an unrelated note, did anyone else notice that Toy Story 3 is virtually a beat-for-beat remake of Toy Story 2? Just me?) But in Toy Story 2, the emotional flashback sequence is given to Jessie, a fun new character who’s firmly on the side of good. In Toy Story 3, there’s a similarly moving flashback, only it’s given to Lotso. We suddenly understand, and even sympathize with, the supposed villain of the piece. The combined absence of true villains and presence of antihero protagonists created more films than usual that operated in a moral grey zone. Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network is unfairly booted from his own company – but he also makes bad business decisions, and should have come out to California sooner. The movie’s Sean Parker is a reckless hedonist, but he’s also correct in his business advice and instrumental in making Facebook what it is today. In How to Train Your Dragon, the dragons are demonized at first, only to be revealed as misunderstood innocents rather than villainous monsters. Tellingly, the filmmakers don’t then make the humans into the film’s true monsters, as the simplistic Avatar did last year. The Vikings of Dragon are good, too. They’re just stuck in their ways, prideful, a little myopic, and above all – complex. You know, like actual people. So how do these shades of grey reflect the “what is real?” theme I first discussed? It’s a question of trust. With a virtuous hero, you believe everything he says as the truth. With an evil villain, you know everything he says is a lie. In a film without true heroes or villains, you don’t know whom to trust – so everyone is free to invent their own reality. This is what puts something like Inception or The Killer Inside Me on the same level as The Social Network’s Rashomon-like story of conflicting depositions. Tellingly, it was the year’s documentaries, despite supposedly representing “truth,” that explored this theme best. Exit Through the Gift Shop showed a buffoonish chronicler of street art become a vacuous parody of a street artist, while rumors abound that he is himself a creation, director Banksy’s ultimate art-world prank. Catfish explored a fake reality created online, and yet when the house of cards comes crumbling down, its creator is revealed as someone more lonely than evil, despite what the film’s misleading marketing campaign would have you believe. The Tillman Story and Cropsey looked at how we take complex individuals and mold them into something virtuous or villainous to make them safer and easier to understand. Restrepo told a war story as cinema verité, the enemy faceless and unseen, the soldiers not traditional heroes, just ordinary men doing a very dangerous job. The Art of the Steal was seen by some as one-sided, but even the “villains” of the piece are given their say, and you know what? A lot of their reasoning actually makes sense.


Yet there was one area where 2010 split sharply with ‘70s film - this was a year obsessed with the power of technology. Sadly, where the complexity on display in terms of character was daring, too often this year’s films retreated to a regressive fear of any new innovation. Still, these fears were a little more nuanced than they have been in the past. Gone were ideas of technology as external threat - there were no Terminator-esque robot armies coming to conquer us. Instead, the common fear seemed to be technology merging with our own minds, and even altering our personalities. That’s the idea at the heart of the Facebook-fraud piece Catfish, where online profiles are used to create an entire network of friends that don’t exist, the naïve photographer at its center falling for an artificial creation. Summer Wars sees an avatar-based social networking site turn on its users and threaten to conquer the world. Inception features thieves who use technology to break into your brain and actually create ideas where none existed before. On a lessfantastical level, the socially inept narcissists at the center of Scott Pilgrim, The Social Network, and Tiny Furniture feed their narcissism through the technology that rules their lives - the blogs, videogames, and YouTube videos they surround themselves with making them believe they are the stars of their own narratives, and causing them to lash out whenever reality proves that might not be the case. Whether or not these mostly positive trends will blossom into a new golden age of film remains to be seen, but I find it more likely that this year was an outlier rather than a sign of things to come. While the year’s prestige pictures did surprisingly well at the box office, independent films found it harder than ever to find an audience, with foreign films hit especially hard. That, in 2010, there still exists a stigma against subtitles is frankly absurd, especially when masterful films like A Prophet, Mother, and Secret Sunshine, to name but three, are going virtually unwatched. Furthermore, after a brief respite from the juvenile superhero fare that clogged the multiplexes in recent years, next year those films will return with a raft of second-tier heroes and needless reboots, of which barely any look worth seeing, and virtually none (so far) look like they could be as smart as The Dark Knight or as entertaining as Iron Man. But who knows? Part of the fun of any moviegoing year is being surprised. If you’d told me last January that by year’s end if I’d be gushing over DreamWorks Animation’s latest effort, calling Let Me In better than the original, or placing a documentary about sheep herding in my top twenty-five, I would not have believed you. So here’s to being surprised in the New Year (yes I know it’s February… this thing takes a while to write). And, as always, happy viewing. PART 2: THE MOVIE LIST THE TOP TEN: 1. Exit Through the Gift Shop A The year’s best film was two great movies in one. The first is a fascinating documentary on some of the biggest street artists in the world. The second is a twisted art-world exposé, as the street-art chronicler becomes an artist himself, his sub-par work conning everyone into thinking he’s a genius.


2. The Social Network A The unlikely pairing of Aaron Sorkin, the speechifying humanist, and David Fincher, the serial-killer-loving misanthrope, pays off huge in this highly entertaining techno-tragedy. Critics have overstated how much it has to say about “the way we live now,” and its historical veracity is sometimes dubious, but who cares? In its shifting allegiances and nuanced characters, its biting wit and seething anger, its relentless pacing and clever editing, this was the best fiction film of the year. 3. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World A Edgar Wright’s whiz-bang comic confection provided more eye candy and pure cinematic joy than anything else out there. But unlike those visual marvels that let you down the moment a character opens his mouth, Pilgrim’s as witty as it is gorgeous, the talented young cast spitting out hilarious bon mots at such speed you want to stop the film and rewind it. 4. A Prophet A On the surface, a standard rise-to-power mob movie, only with a twist: nearly all of it takes place inside a hellish French prison. But director Jacques Audiard contrasts the gritty realism of his setting with fantastical digressions like ghosts and prophecies, creating something far more soulful and ambiguous than you’d expect. The result is a movie that, even when we know where it’s going, feels compelling, dangerous, and new. 5. How to Train Your Dragon A The year’s best adventure saw DreamWorks dropping the winking references, sitcomlevel patter, and big stars of their past hits and replacing them with smart ideas, a moving central relationship, and flying sequences that wipe the floor with Avatar’s. 6. Waiting for “Superman” AUnfairly criticized as anti-union or as charter school propaganda, this winning doc is actually rather even-handed and clear-eyed as it paints a picture of an educational system in crisis, appealing to heart and mind in equal measure. 7. Mother ABong Joon-Ho, one of my favorite directors, delivers a fiendish murder mystery that takes a standard thriller plot and adds all sorts of surprising character touches and moral complexities, subverting the genre while at the same time honoring it. 8. Greenberg ANoah Baumbach’s latest is as sad and funny as all his best films, an intelligent rumination on middle-aged disappointment and regret, that perhaps alienated audiences with its steadfast refusal to pull its punches. 9. Everyone Else AThe other great break-up drama of the year, this German indie got less traction than Blue Valentine, but is arguably the better film. Finely acted and superbly subtle, Everyone Else


never takes sides or resorts to cheap melodrama, it just observes two complex, believable characters as their relationship falls apart, perhaps for good. 10. Inception AChristopher Nolan’s latest puzzle box brain bender is surely the most ambitious studio film of the year, a heist/sci-fi/noir mash up that produced too many startling images to count, all culminating in a fantastically intense dream-within-a-dream (within-a-dreamwithin-a-dream) finale. That it’s a little cold around the heart and too weighed down with exposition almost doesn’t matter. THE FIVE RUNNERS UP: 11. Another Year 12. Blue Valentine 13. 127 Hours 14. The Kids Are All Right 15. Restrepo


EVERYTHING ELSE: 16. Never Let Me Go 17. True Grit 18. The King’s Speech 19. Youth in Revolt 20. The Tillman Story 21. Sweetgrass 22. Catfish 23. Let Me In 24. Mademoiselle Chambon 25. Tiny Furniture 26. The Way Back 27. Secret Sunshine 28. Dogtooth 29. Enter the Void 30. Summer Wars 31. Toy Story 3 32. Terribly Happy 33. Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work 34. Mother and Child 35. Black Swan 36. Please Give 37. Cyrus 38. The Ghost Writer 39. Fair Game 40. Animal Kingdom 41. Solitary Man

AB+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+ B+


42. Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974 43. Winter’s Bone 44. The Art of the Steal 45. The Illusionist 46. The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights 47. Unstoppable 48. Easy A 49. The American 50. Smash His Camera 51. The Secret in Their Eyes 52. Rabbit Hole 53. The Last Exorcism 54. I Love You, Phillip Morris 55. The Fighter 56. Ondine 57. Inside Job 58. Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1980 59. Soul Kitchen 60. The Good, the Bad, the Weird 61. Babies 62. Wild Grass 63. Alamar 64. Splice 65. The Other Guys 66. The Disappearance of Alice Creed 67. Buried 68. Hot Tub Time Machine 69. The Crazies 70. Despicable Me 71. The Trotsky 72. Frozen 73. Casino Jack and the United States of Money 74. Waking Sleeping Beauty 75. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 76. Cropsey 77. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger 78. Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1983 79. Vengeance 80. The Killer Inside Me 81. Get Low 82. Monsters 83. The Secret of Kells 84. Howl 85. Get Him to the Greek 86. Knight and Day 87. Iron Man 2



88. Best Worst Movie 89. Breaking Upwards 90. Somewhere 91. Paranormal Activity 2 92. The Town 93. Tamara Drewe 94. Predators 95. MacGruber 96. Tales from the Script 97. Made in Dagenham 98. District 13: Ultimatum 99 Salt 100. The Company Men 101. Going the Distance 102. Hereafter 103. Machete 104. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale 105. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Undead 106. Shutter Island 107. Kick-Ass 108. The Parking Lot Movie 109. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo 110. Alice in Wonderland


PART 3: THE MOVIE AWARDS AND OTHER FUN STUFF, WITH SELECT COMMENTARY Overrated: Kick-Ass – As an underperforming cult film based on a graphic novel, I get why Kick-Ass is lumped in with Scott Pilgrim in year-end critiques, but the comparison still drives me crazy. Can’t everyone see that Pilgrim is a visionary comic fantasia that’s smart and genuine, while Kick-Ass is juvenile and disjointed - a tonal mish-mash of gritty realism and pop art kitsch with little to offer beyond its pseudo-transgressive thrills? Toy Story 3 – Before you summon an angry mob, let me be clear: I really like this movie. But, as I mentioned in my opening, it’s essentially a remake of Toy Story 2, which was itself a watered-down version of the original Toy Story. In recent years, Pixar has made far more adventurous, imaginative, and risky films, meaning this three-quel, as finely crafted as it is, can’t help but feel like regression. There’s nothing here as powerful as that killer montage in Up, for instance, no ideas as sophisticated as those coursing through Brad Bird’s Ratatouille or The Incredibles, and no animation as jaw-dropping as the apocalyptic vistas of Wall-E. The much-heralded ending is moving, yes, but Pixar has always excelled at moving endings. Toy Story 3 is the studio getting by on craft and nostalgia alone, when they should be using their unprecedented string of critical and commercial hits to push the boundaries of their art. That their next film is another sequel, and of Cars at that, does not bode well.


Winter’s Bone – Sold as a thriller, except it contains no thrills, this indie is a perfectly solid, well-acted character drama that’s been so inexplicably overpraised you’d think Jennifer Lawrence’s winter hat contained the hidden meaning of the universe. 2008’s similar Frozen River, featuring a fine performance by Melissa Leo, is superior in every way. The Town; Shutter Island; The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Three B-grade genre pictures that, while well-crafted, are listless and hollow, weighed down by bloated running times and heavy portent, any pulpy thrills swallowed up by their directors’ desires to be taken very, very, seriously. Underrated: Youth in Revolt – Pity poor Michael Cera. After charming turns in Superbad and Juno, all it took were some bad films and a little overexposure for the backlash to ignite. To make matters worse, Cera released two of his very best films this year – and nobody saw them. You can read my thoughts on Scott Pilgrim above, but nearly as good was Youth in Revolt, a sly coming-of-age comedy inexplicably dumped in the January moviegoing wasteland despite claiming some of the year’s funniest comic dialogue, as well as a fine dual performance from Cera himself. Never Let Me Go – Perhaps it was too subtle - never a benefit for an awards contender, where “the most” is often confused with “the best.” Perhaps the combination of stiffupper-lip drama and sci-fi parable alienated the art house and genre crowds in equal measure. Perhaps its September release came too early, leaving it all but forgotten when the heavy hitters swept in at year’s end. Whatever the reason, one of the smartest, bestacted, most exquisitely moving films of the year has been more than unfairly overlooked. Frozen; Buried; The Crazies – Unlike the ponderous bores listed in the overrated category above, each of which worked hard to make us forget they were genre pieces, here are three B-movies that wear their heritage with pride. Unpretentious, fast-paced, and often thrilling, they have the courage to be nothing more than entertaining pulp. I would add the dumb, but hugely entertaining, Unstoppable to the list, except that film actually received the good reviews it deserved. Best Opening Credits Sequences: The American – Clooney’s title character drives down an endless, yellow-tinged tunnel, the credits stark against his profile’s silhouette, as Herbert Grönemeyer’s moody score sets the appropriate tone of ‘70s cool. Buried – The Hitchcock-homaging (or, more specifically, the Saul Bass/Bernard Herrmann homaging) credits sequence has become de rigueur in recent years, but not many films do it as well as Buried, whose atmospheric titles are just what we need before we spend ninety minutes trapped in a box with Ryan Reynolds.


Enter the Void - Master of subtlety (note: sarcasm) Gasper Noé begins a near three-hour assault on the senses with this gaudy, seizure-inducing classic. Noé cycles through dozens of fonts at hyperspeed while strobe lights rage and a ferocious dance track courtesy Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter - pounds its way into your skull. Tarantino called it one of the best credit scenes in cinema history. He may be right. See it here: Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Music video gods Shynola conjure up an appropriately colorful lo-fi sequence, indebted to, among others, experimental artist Len Lye. As an added bonus, the various graphics that appear over the cast’s names contain clever references to the characters they play. See it here: Best Closing Credits Sequence: Blue Valentine – At the end of this devastating film, the dysfunctional couple we’ve watched fall apart for the last two hours – SPOILERS -- falls apart. The final scene sees Dean (Ryan Gosling) leave his wife and daughter behind, the emotional fireworks punctuated by actual fireworks (metaphor alert) in the background. As Grizzly Bear’s “Alligator” rises on the soundtrack, the credits roll, though instead of the usual white on black, we’re treated to a series of evocative images of the lead couple in happier days, illuminated by the glow of those same fireworks’ sparks. See it here: Best Musical Moments: “Baby, You’re A Rich Man” (The Social Network) - At the end of Fight Club, David Fincher surprised us by eschewing the Dust Brothers’ atmospheric score for the soaring guitars of the classic Pixies track “Where Is My Mind?” He repeats the trick in The Social Network, where, after two hours of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s moodily brilliant compositions, the film ends on The Beatles’ “Baby, You’re A Rich Man.” John Lennon’s gently sneering lyrics perfectly encapsulate the tragic arc of the movie’s take on Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. See it here: “Don’t You Want Me” (Cyrus) - It sounds like a tired scene from a big studio comedy – drunken loser performs embarrassing solo karaoke performance to ‘80s duet, only for girl of his dreams to bail him out. And yet it’s performed in such a way that the moment feels fresh, funny, and painfully real. It is the treatment of scenes like this that make Cyrus the Duplass Brothers’ best film to date. See it here: “O Children” (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1) - When Alfonso Cuarón left the Harry Potter franchise after one go round (his Prisoner of Azkaban is still the best in the series), I figured that was the last time an ‘80s music icon got anywhere near the boy wizard (The Stone Roses’ Ian Brown had a cameo in Cuarón’s film). I was wrong. Nick Cave doesn’t cameo in Deathly Hallows, he does one better – he gets a song in it. As Harry and Hermione are forced to come-of-age, Cave’s gospel-tinged 2004 ballad, “O


Children,” becomes accompaniment to a mournful slow dance. The result is a beautiful “quiet before the storm” moment. See it here (low quality): “White Moon” (The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights) - This excellent music doc ends with one of the most moving moments of the year. Jack White sits at a piano bench and sings a tender, stripped-down version of “White Moon.” Meg’s by his side, bobbing her head along, until, halfway through the song, she starts to cry. And I don’t mean “dabbing the corner of your eye,” crying. The tears are positively pouring. The burst of emotion is unexplained, enigmatic – but the fact that the Stripes canceled a US tour soon after this documentary was filmed, and finally broke up just a couple of days before I wrote this, only adds to the moment’s power. See it here: “You Always Hurt The One You Love” (Blue Valentine) - A ukulele, a funny voice, a closed dress shop, and a dancing Michelle Williams - what more do you need? See it here: Best First Shot: True Grit – Long-time Coen Brothers collaborator and all-around visual genius Roger Deakins opens their latest with one of his finest compositions: a gorgeous snowbound tableau that slowly drifts into focus. It’s so spellbinding that it takes you a moment to notice it has more than beauty on its mind – there’s a dead body lying at the bottom of the frame. A second later, the man’s murderer is galloping away, and the Coens’ captivating fable is off and running. Best Last Shot: Mother – It’s hard to talk about the significance of this one without giving too much away, but even without context it’s a stunner. Our titular mother finds herself seated on a bus of dancing, joyous moms on vacation. She inserts an acupuncture needle into her leg at a spot that supposedly will allow her to forget her worst memories. As she stands and begins to dance with the others, director Bong-Joon Ho cuts to a shaky handheld tracking shot from outside the bus. The camera follows the mother’s silhouette, struggling to keep her in frame as her dancing grows more and more frenetic. Like the movie itself, it’s gorgeous and haunting. The Ghost Writer – This one’s even harder to talk about spoiler-free than Mother’s, so let’s just say it involves an offscreen car crash and a flurry of incriminating papers floating on the night breeze. It’s a shot as formally brilliant as it is thematically rich, worthy of Hitchcock at his best. In fact, it’s so good that it almost elevates the rest of the film - otherwise a well-made but somewhat unremarkable thriller - into something far grander.


Best “How’d They Do That?” Shots: Let Me In – One of the few major changes to the Swedish film is an ingenious new botched murder sequence. Instead of the abandoned locker room of the original, here the murder takes place with Richard Jenkin’s “father” character in the backseat of a car. His plans are thwarted when his target picks up a friend – and then they stop for gas. The suspenseful sequence ends with an incredible single shot, as Jenkins frantically backs the car out of the gas station and onto the street, before careening off the road and flipping into a ditch, the camera somehow remaining inside the car with the panicking killer the entire time. The Secret in Their Eyes - This Argentinean mystery, while stylish and well-acted, often doesn’t add up to much, mostly feeling like a Spanish-speaking episode of Law and Order mixed with a pretty good melodrama. But there’s one bit of showmanship at its center that film geeks will remember for years to come: a six-minute tracking shot that, with the aid of digital trickery, somehow goes from the sky over a soccer stadium into the packed stands, before following a breathless foot chase through the stadium’s various tunnels and exits, making a twenty-foot jump along with a pursued man, and finally leading us back out onto the field. Brian DePalma, eat your heart out. The Quantity, Not Quality Award: Kristen Bell – Burlesque, When in Rome, You Again Emily Blunt – Gulliver’s Travels, Wild Target, The Wolfman The Quantity AND Quality Award: Andrew Garfield – Never Let Me Go, Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord 1974, The Social Network Naomi Watts – Fair Game, Mother and Child, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger Best Quotes: “Youth is wasted on the young.” “I’d go further. I’d say life is wasted on people.” - Greenberg. If there was a line of dialogue this year more funny, insightful, sad, and true than this one, I must have missed it. “It’s so FLUFFY!” - Despicable Me. All in the delivery. “Did you google ‘cupcakes’?” - Tiny Furniture “You could have texted me.” “Machete don’t text.” - Machete


Best Last Line: “I used to encourage everyone I knew to make art. I don’t do that so much anymore.” - Exit Through The Gift Shop “Mama, when I’m a cat, will I be able to eat Cat Munchies?” - Wild Grass. In one of the great non-sequitur endings of this or any year, we leave our romantic leads behind just as a zipper malfunction has caused the plane they’re in the crash (don’t ask). We then enter a random home and push in on a little girl we’ve never seen before, who says the above line. Roll credits. As the kids say, WTF? Best Use Of The Movie’s Title In Dialogue: “It must be some kind of… Hot Tub Time Machine.” - Hot Tub Time Machine Best Moments: Babies - Mari, the Japanese baby, throws the world’s greatest tantrum when she can’t figure out how to work a toy. Dogtooth - The two daughters’ odd choreographed dancing takes an odder turn when the sexually liberated older sister breaks free from the established steps and engages in a bizarre, funny, and increasingly frenzied solo performance. Easy A - Olive Pendergrass gets Natasha Bedingfield’s “Pocketful of Sunshine” stuck in her head all weekend. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – A stylish shadow puppet sequence tells the story of the Deathly Hallows. How to Train Your Dragon – Toothless the dragon allows Hiccup to touch his snout for the first time. Monsters - Two menacing squid-like aliens engage in a courtship ritual and have weirdly beautiful sex while floating over an abandoned gas station. Never Let Me Go - Tommy lets out a chilling, cathartic scream. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Scott Pilgrim summons a green-eyed monster to battle deadly twin dragons. The Social Network – The Winklevoss twins race the Henley Royal Regatta to the strains of a Trent Reznor take on “In The Hall Of The Mountain King.” Toy Story 3 - Andy passes along his toys to the grateful Bonnie and the audience turns into a blubbery mess.


True Grit - Rooster Cogburn and a snake-bitten Mattie Ross make a nighttime ride through Indian Territory. Waiting for “Superman” - The kids go through the nerve-wracking charter school lottery. Best Pre-Credits Sequence: The American - A scene of domestic bliss is interrupted by an attempted hit. Our unnamed protagonist kills the hit man, tells his beloved to call the police, then shoots her in the back. Ouch. Machete - Machete leads a bloody raid of a drug kingpin’s Mexican fortress, complete with plenty of excellent grindhouse-y decapitations, not to mention a cell phone hidden in a woman’s private parts. Unfortunately, it’s all downhill from there. The Social Network - Jesse Eisenberg and Rooney Mara race through nine pages of gloriously barbed Aaron Sorkin dialogue. Sweetgrass - A grazing sheep stops what he’s doing and looks directly into camera. Trust me, it’s freaky. Best “Two Characters, One Room” Scene: The King’s Speech - Bertie and Lionel meet for the first time and engage in a fiercely witty battle for dominance. True Grit - Mattie Ross proves to be a tough negotiator despite her young age, as Col. Stonehill discovers when he tries to haggle over horses. Winter’s Bone - A desperate Ree visits an army recruiter looking for a way out of her bleak situation. **********SPOILERS******** Best Death Scene (Shocking): A Prophet - Malik’s first murder, a mob initiation whereby he is forced to kill a fellow inmate with a concealed razor, goes horribly, and bloodily, wrong. Best Death Scene (Funny): The Other Guys – Cocky Highsmith and Danson make a fatal error in judgment and leap to their deaths to the tune of Foo Fighters’ “My Hero.” Best Death Scene (Non-human): Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 – Alas, poor Dobby. *********SPOILERS********


The Five Best Putdowns In The Social Network: 5. “I like standing next to you, Sean. It makes me look so tough.” 4. “Ma’am, I know you’ve done your homework and so you know that money isn’t a big part of my life, but at the moment I could buy Mt. Auburn Street, take the Phoenix Club and turn it into my ping pong room.” 3. “Sorry, my Prada is at the cleaners, along with my hoodie and my ‘fuck you’ flip flops, you pretentious douchebag!” 2. “You are probably going to be a very successful computer person. But you’re going to go through life thinking that girls don’t like you because you’re a nerd. And I want you to know, from the bottom of my heart, that that won’t be true. It’ll be because you’re an asshole.” 1. “I think if your clients want to sit on my shoulders and call themselves tall, they have the right to give it a try – but there’s no requirement that I enjoy sitting here listening to people lie. You have part of my attention – you have the minimum amount. The rest of my attention is back at the offices of Facebook, where my colleagues and I are doing things that no one in this room, including and especially your clients, are intellectually or creatively capable of doing. Did I adequately answer your condescending question?” Best Poster:

The American

The Art of the Steal


Black Swan


A Prophet


The Social Network Best Trailer: 127 Hours - Inception - The Social Network - True Grit - Best Action Sequences: How to Train Your Dragon – The final battle. Inception – The rotating hallway fight. Iron Man 2 – The Monaco sequence. Kick-Ass – Hit Girl vs. an apartment full of thugs. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World - Scott Pilgrim vs. Roxy Richter. The Good, the Bad, the Weird – The final chase through the desert. The Town – The car chase through Boston’s north end. Vengeance - The forest shootout. Remakes That Were (Arguably) Better Than The Original: The Crazies Let Me In True Grit Best Villain: Animal Kingdom - Andrew ‘Pope’ Cody (Ben Mendelson) Toy Story 3 - Lotso (voiced by Ned Beatty)


Best Use Of Matt Damon: True Grit Worst Use Of Matt Damon: Hereafter Best Use Of Mark Ruffalo: The Kids Are All Right Worst Use Of Mark Ruffalo: Shutter Island Most Surprisingly Badass Performance: Adrien Brody, convincing action star, Predators Supporting Characters Who Nearly Stole The Movie From The Leads: Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), Kick-Ass Rosemary (Patricia Clarkson) and Dill (Stanley Tucci), Easy A Kim Pine (Allison Pill) and Wallace Wells (Kieran Culkin), Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Breakouts: Elle Fanning, Somewhere Armie Hammer, The Social Network Jennifer Lawrence, Winter’s Bone Chloe Moretz, Kick-Ass, Let Me In Noomi Rapace, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Hailee Steinfeld, True Grit Emma Stone, Easy A Ellen Wong, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Best Soundtrack: Blue Valentine – I normally find Grizzly Bear dull, but their subtle folky charms worked well here. Despicable Me – Really just for that totally infectious Pharell theme song. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Anyone sick of me talking about Scott Pilgrim yet? This thing already had me salivating when I found out it included two of my favorite songs of the decade: The Black Lips “O Katrina,” and Broken Social Scene’s “Anthems For A Seventeen-Year-Old Girl.” Turns out the whole thing is golden, from the lushly romantic Sade cover “By Your Side,” to Beck’s storming garage rock Sex Bob-Omb songs, to the Plumtree and Frank Black tracks that inspired the comics to begin with.


Best Score: Carter Burwell – True Grit Daft Punk – TRON: Legacy Alexandre Desplat – The Ghost Writer Michael Giacchino – Let Me In Nigel Godrich – Scott Pilgrim vs. the World Clint Mansell – Black Swan Rachel Portman – Never Let Me Go John Powell – How To Train Your Dragon A.R. Rahman – 127 Hours Hans Zimmer – Inception Sixteen Fun Double Bills: The “Don’t Mess With Michael Cera” Bill Youth in Revolt Scott Pilgrim vs. the World The “Don’t Mess With Teenage Girls” Bill True Grit Kick Ass The “Eccentric, Controversial Hollywood Legend” Bill Smash His Camera Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work The “The ‘80s Almost Killed Me, Let’s Not Recall Them Quite So Fondly” Bill Hot Tub Time Machine MacGruber The “Fuel for Populist Rage” Bill Casino Jack and the United States of Money Inside Job The “He’s Dreaming At The End, Right?” Bill The Killer Inside Me Inception The “Irish Folklore” Bill Ondine The Secret Of Kells The “Let’s Solve This Twenty-Year-Old Mystery” Bill The Secret in Their Eyes The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo


The “The Location Scout Had It Easy” Quadruple Bill Frozen Buried 127 Hours The Disappearance of Alice Creed The “Loveable Supervillains” Bill Despicable Me Megamind The “Relationships Suck” Bill Blue Valentine Everyone Else The “Grieving Mothers” Bill Rabbit Hole Secret Sunshine The “Terrifying Mothers” Bill Mother Animal Kingdom The “They Have Gangsters Overseas, Too” Bill Animal Kingdom A Prophet The “What Price Art?” Bill Exit Through the Gift Shop The Art of the Steal The “Who Needs Narrative Coherence When The Action Is This Crazy?” Bill The Good, the Bad, the Weird Vengeance The Five Best Older Movies I Saw For The First Time This Year: 1. Crumb (1995) A 2. Knife in the Water (1962) A 3. Candyman (1992) A4. Thelma and Louise (1991) B+ 5. Primer (2004) B+ 75 Movies I Wanted To See But Missed (Movies I’m especially disappointed to have missed are in bold): 8: The Mormon Proposition Amer Army of Crime


Barney’s Version Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo Biutiful The Book of Eli Boxing Gym Carlos Centurion Chloe Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer Henri-Georges Clouzot’s Inferno Conviction Daddy Longlegs Daybreakers Defendor Down Terrace The Exploding Girl The Extra Man Farewell Father of My Children A Film Unfinished Fish Tank Four Lions The Freebie Green Zone Hadewijch Hatchet 2 Heartbreaker Heartless Holy Rollers Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, and Rebel The Human Centipede: First Sequence I’m Still Here It’s Kind of a Funny Story Jackass 3D Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child Lovely, Still Lake Mungo Last Train Home Lebanon Leaves of Grass Let It Rain Life During Wartime Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders Looking for Eric The Lottery Mao’s Last Dancer


Marwencol Mesrine Part 1: Killer Instinct Mesrine Part 2: Public Enemy #1 Metropia Micmacs Night Catches Us Oceans Piranha 3D Punching The Clown Racing Dreams [REC] 2 Red Red Hill The Runaways She’s Out of My League Skeletons The Square Stone Survival of the Dead Tangled Trash Humpers Undertow Valhalla Rising Waste Land White Material Winnebago Man 55 Movies I’m Glad I Missed: A Nightmare on Elm Street After.Life The A-Team The Back-Up Plan The Bounty Hunter Burlesque Case 39 Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore Charlie St. Cloud Cop Out Country Strong Creation Dear John Devil Eat Pray Love The Expendables Extraordinary Measures Faster


Flipped Furry Vengeance Grown Ups Gulliver’s Travels Jonah Hex Killers The Last Airbender The Last Song Leap Year Legion Letters to Juliet Life as We Know It Little Fockers The Losers Marmaduke Multiple Sarcasms My Soul to Take The Nutcracker 3D Paper Man Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time Remember Me Repo Men Resident Evil: Afterlife Saw 3D Sex and the City 2 Skyline The Sorcerer’s Apprentice Tooth Fairy The Tourist Valentine’s Day Vampires Suck Welcome to the Rileys When in Rome The Wolfman Yogi Bear You Again 70 Movies I’m Looking Forward To In 2011: 13 Assassins 2 Days in New York 30 Minutes or Less A Dangerous Method Attack the Block Bad Teacher Bridesmaids


Butter Captain America: The First Avenger Cedar Rapids Ceremony Certified Copy Contagion Cowboys & Aliens Crazy, Stupid, Love Damsels in Distress The Darkest Hour The Descendants The Details Dredd Drive Everything Must Go Fright Night The Future The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Hanna Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 Haywire Horrible Bosses Hugo Cabret I Saw the Devil Immortals In a Better World The Innkeepers Jane Eyre Jeff Who Lives at Home Kung Fu Panda 2 Limitless Meek’s Cutoff Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol Moneyball The Muppet Movie My Idiot Brother My Week With Marilyn Now One Day Paul Poetry Red State Rampart Sherlock Holmes 2 The Sitter Snabba Cash


Source Code Submarine Sucker Punch Super 8 Take This Waltz The Thing Thor The Tree of Life Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives Vanishing on 7th Street Wanderlust Water for Elephants We Bought a Zoo Win Win X-Men: First Class Young Adult Your Highness PART 4: THE MUSIC LIST THE TOP TEN: 1. Kanye West – My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Key Tracks: Power, All Of The Lights, Monster, Runaway 2. The National – High Violet Key Tracks: Bloodbuzz Ohio, Conversation 16, England 3. Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring Key Tracks: Straight In At 101, A Heat Rash In The Shape Of The Show Me State: Or, Letters From Me To Charlotte, The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future 4. Titus Andronicus – The Monitor Key Tracks: A More Perfect Union, Four Score And Seven, The Battle Of Hampton Roads 5. Sleigh Bells – Treats Key Tracks: Tell ‘Em, Rill Rill, Crown On The Ground 6. Robyn – Body Talk Key Tracks: Dancing On My Own, Hang With Me, Call Your Girlfriend 7. Spoon – Transference Key Tracks: The Mystery Zone, Trouble Comes Running, Out Go The Lights


8. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left Foot: The Son Of Chico Dusty Key Tracks: Shutterbugg, Hustle Blood, Fo Yo Sorrows 9. Dum Dum Girls – I Will Be Key Tracks: Bhang Bhang I’m A Burnout, Rest Of Our Lives, Baby Don’t Go 10. Menomena – Mines Key Tracks: TAOS, Dirty Cartoons, Five Little Rooms THE RUNNERS UP: 11. Sharon Van Etten – Epic Key Tracks: Don’t Do It, One Day, Love More 12. Wolf Parade – Expo ’86 Key Tracks: What Did My Lover Say? (It Always Had To Go This Way), In The Direction Of The Moon, Ghost Pressure 13. The Dream – Love King Key Tracks: Yamaha, Abyss, Florida University 14. Deerhunter – Halcyon Digest Key Tracks: Memory Boy, Helicopter, Coronado 15. The Walkmen – Lisbon Key Tracks: Angela Surf City, Stranded, Woe Is Me EVERYTHING ELSE: 16. Shearwater – The Golden Archipelago 17. Foals – Total Life Forever 18. LCD Soundsystem – This Is Happening 19. Janelle Monae – The ArchAndroid 20. The Black Keys – Brothers 21. The Roots – How I Got Over 22. Laura Marling – I Speak Because I Can 23. Girl Talk – All Day 24. Best Coast – Crazy For You 25. Tokyo Police Club - Champ 26. These New Puritans – Hidden 27. Free Energy – Stuck On Nothing 28. The Corin Tucker Band – 1,000 Years 29. Drive-By Truckers – The Big To Do 30. Hot Chip – One Life Stand 31. Frightened Rabbit – The Winter Of Mixed Drinks 32. Clogs – The Creatures In The Garden Of Lady Walton


33. The Gaslight Anthem – American Slang 34. Sufjan Stevens – The Age of Adz 35. Sharon Jones And The Dap Kings – I Learned The Hard Way 36. Gil Scott- Heron – I’m New Here 37. Gorillaz – Plastic Beach 38. Ted Leo And The Pharmacists – The Brutalist Bricks 39. Les Savy Fav – Root For Ruin 40. The New Pornographers – Together 41. The Hold Steady – Heaven is Whenever 42. Surfer Blood – Surfer Blood 43. Freddie Gibbs – Str8 Killa EP 44. Vampire Weekend - Contra 45. School Of Seven Bells – Disconnect From Desire 46. The Ponys – Deathbed +4 EP 47. Evelyn Evelyn – Evelyn Evelyn 48. Yeasayer – Odd Blood 49. B.O.B. - The Adventures of Bobby Ray 50. Love Is All – Two Thousand and Ten Injuries 51. The Thermals – Personal Life 52. The Dead Weather – Sea of Cowards 53. Blonde Redhead – Penny Sparkle 54. Arcade Fire – The Suburbs 55. Band Of Horses – Infinite Arms 56. Bettye Lavette – Interpretations: The British Rock Songbook 57. MIA – Maya PART 5: MUSIC AWARDS AND OTHER FUN STUFF Best Musical Moments: - Freddie Gibbs effortlessly jumping into double time 33 seconds into “National Anthem (Fuck The World).” - The mash up of Jay-Z’s “Can I Get A” and General Public’s “Tenderness,” beginning at 0:10 in Girl Talk’s “Let It Out.” - The bit where the beat kicks in, 3:05 into LCD Soundsystem’s “Dance Yrself Clean.” - The second verse of Los Campesinos!’s “The Sea Is A Good Place To Think Of The Future.” - The way Marina sings the line, “and let the drum beat drop,” in “I Am Not A Robot.” - The Michael Jackson-esque backing vocals at 3:52 in Menomena’s “Dirty Cartoons.” - The guitar solo at 2:00 in Janelle Monae’s “Cold War.”


- The horn-drenched ending to The National’s “England,” beginning at 2:52. - The gorgeous bridge in The National’s “Little Faith,” beginning at 2:50. - The electronic breakdown beginning at 2:26 in Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend.” - The speaker-blowing finale to Sleigh Bells’ “Infinity Guitars,” beginning at 1:52. - The abrupt ending to Spoon’s “The Mystery Zone.” - Sensitive folkie Sufjan Stevens letting out his inner sailor and wailing “I’m not fucking around,” about twenty times in the second half of “I Want To Be Well.” - 1:36 into Titus Andronicus’ “A More Perfect Union,” where Patrick Stickles references Billy Bragg and Springsteen back to back: “I never wanted to change the world, I’m just looking for a new New Jersey / Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to DIIIIIIIIE!” Cue massive guitar riff. - When the bagpipes come in at 9:17 in Titus Andronicus’ epic “The Battle Of Hampton Roads.” - Sharon Van Etten’s vocals coming in 35 seconds into “Love More.” - The chorus kicking in for the first time, 56 seconds into The Walkmen’s “Angela Surf City.” - Nicki Minaj’s verse on Kanye West’s “Monster,” beginning at 3:35. - The final three minutes of Kanye West’s “Runaway,” especially the strings at 6:10. - The bridge in Yeasayer’s “Ambling Alp,” beginning at 2:30. Favorite Concert I Attended: Sleigh Bells, Hot Chip, and LCD Soundsystem at the Hollywood Bowl Five Good Songs From Not-So-Good Albums: 1. “Windstorm” – School Of Seven Bells, from Disconnect From Desire 2. “I Don’t Believe You” – The Thermals, from Personal Life 3. “Ambling Alp” – Yeasayer, from Odd Blood 4. “Bet I” – B.o.B., from The Adventures of Bobby Ray 5. “Sleepless In Silverlake” – Les Savy Fav, from Root For Ruin Best Packaging: The Black Keys – Brothers. The whole thing is beautifully designed, but it gets bonus point for the disc art that changes colors when hot, like a hypercolor T-shirt. Awesome.


Best Cover Art:

Free Energy – Stuck on Nothing

Grinderman – Grinderman 2

The National – High Violet

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Spoon – Transference

Wolf Parade – Expo ’86 28

Worst Cover Art:

Los Campesinos! – Romance Is Boring

Menomena – Mines

Yeasayer – Odd Blood The Five Most Egotistical Lyrics From My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy: 1.

“I embody every characteristic of the egotistic / He knows he’s so fucking gifted.”


“This pimp is at the top of Mount Olympus / Ready for the world’s game, this is my Olympics.”


“Address me as Your Highness, high as United / Thirty thousand feet up and you are not invited.”


“Hood phenomenon, the Lebron of rhyme / Hard to be humble when you’re stuntin’ on a jumbotron.”



“I’m living in the future, so the present is my past / My presence is a present, kiss my ass.”

The Three Best Punk Rock Rallying Cries From Titus Andronicus’ The Monitor: 1. “IT’S STILL US AGAINST THEM!” 2. “THE ENEMY IS EVERYWHERE!” 3. “YOU WILL ALWAYS BE A LOSER!” Best TV Performances: Conan, Will Ferrell, Beck, Ben Harper, Max Weinberg, and that guy from ZZ Top do “Freebird” on Conan’s last Tonight Show. See it here: Janelle Monae does “Tightrope” on Letterman. See it here: The National does “Terrible Love” on Fallon. See it here: Not online anymore, unfortunately. Kanye West does “Power” on SNL. See it here: 30 Albums I Wanted To Get But Didn’t: Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti – Before Today The Besnard Lakes – Are The Roaring Night Caribou - Andorra Cee Lo Green – The Ladykiller Charlotte Gainsbourg - IRM Emeralds – Does It Look Like I’m Here? Eddy Current Suppression Ring – Rush to Relax Erykah Badu – New Amerykah Part Two (Return of the Ankh) Fang Island – Fang Island Flying Lotus - Cosmogramma Four Tet – There Is Love In You Future Islands – In Evening Air Gayngs - Relayted Ghostface Killah – Apollo Kids Harlem - Hippies Jamie Lidell - Compass Josh Ritter – So Runs the World Away Let’s Wrestle – In The Court Of The Wrestling Let’s Local Natives – Gorilla Manor Male Bonding – Nothing Hurts


Maximum Balloon – Maximum Balloon The Morning Benders – Big Echo Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday Perfume Genius - Learning The Radio Dept. – Clinging To A Scheme Superchunk – Majesty Shredding The Tallest Man On Earth – The Wild Hunt Tame Impala - Innerspeaker Teenage Fanclub - Shadows Wavves – King Of The Beach The Five Best Older CDs I Heard For The First Time This Year: 1. Okkervil River – Don’t Fall in Love With Everyone You See (2002) 2. The Notwist – Neon Golden (2002) 3. Four Tet – Rounds (2003) 4. Blackalicious – Blazing Arrow (2002) 5. McLusky – My Pain and Sadness is More Sad and Painful Than Yours (2000) PART 6: TELEVSION I don’t watch enough TV to claim to be an authority (still two seasons behind on Mad Men! Never seen Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, In Treatment, Boardwalk Empire, or Friday Night Lights!), so I’m not going to rank shows here. Instead, here are some my favorite episodes of TV from the last twelve months. Community – “Modern Warfare.” A pitch-perfect action movie parody. Doctor Who – “The Pandorica Opens” / “The Big Bang.” A moving, action-packed finale up there with the best of Whedon as far as bigass two-part finales to genre shows go. Plus, fezzes are cool. Dollhouse – “Getting Closer.” More gut-wrenching twists then a particularly twisty rollercoaster. Louie – “Bully.” So many great episodes to choose from here. This one provided one of the most uncomfortable and unpredictable half-hours of comedy I’ve seen in a while. Modern Family – “Fizbo.” The moment at the end that ties the various comic strands together is up there with the best of Seinfeld and Arrested Development. Party Down – “Steve Guttenberg’s Birthday.” The clear standout episode of a series that ended too soon. Terriers – “Fustercluck.” When the show went from a loveable shaggy dog story to “holy crap, this is the best thing on TV.”


The Walking Dead – “Days Gone Bye.” The best pilot in several years. Most Improved: Parks and Recreation - Season one was a mostly blah knockoff of The Office. Season two was often the funniest thing on TV. Popular Shows I Do Not Get, Despite Repeated Attempts To: Glee – Terrible, overproduced karaoke versions of mostly terrible pop songs, wild tonal shifts, poor plotting, stereotypical characters… I could go on. With the exception of Heather Morris and Jane Lynch, whose characters are more one-liner machines than actual people but are at least funny, it’s not just overrated, it’s irredeemably awful. I do not know what people see in this show. Sorry, Gleeks. How I Met Your Mother - A bland lead, obvious jokes – this feels like one of those Friends’ clones from the late ‘90s. Not terrible, but way overrated. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia - Consistently less funny than the underrated show that follows it, The League. And that’s it. You made it to the end. Now go for a walk or something. Oh, and thanks for reading. Until next year…


Movie List 2010  

Adam's Review of A Year In Pop Culture