<![CDATA[              THE IRON LIST - Blog]]>Sat, 12 Mar 2016 21:55:16 -0800Weebly<![CDATA[THE IRON UNCLE: Bill Karp's Top 49 Movies of 2012]]>Sat, 23 Feb 2013 17:06:12 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/the-iron-uncle-bill-karps-top-49-movies-of-2012Picture
Before I submit my list I feel a need to say a few things.  This list is based primarily on pleasure.  I'm not smart enough to know whether a film is well-made any more than I know if my house is well-built or my car is well made.  I have certain expectations that when met seem to make me feel satisfied with their construction.  As long as my car gets me where I'm going I am confident that it is well-made.  My movie going habits are the same.  If the movie is entertaining, if it captures my attention and keeps it, if I am on the edge of my seat, if I stay awake; these are all signs of really good movies to me.  I don't look for movies to educate or enlighten me so they get no extra points from me if they happen to do that.  In fact, they are likely to loose points if I feel preached at or even taught too much. There is a reason that I still celebrate every morning when I wake up and realize, I don't have to go to school today.  

49. Darling Companion.  Diane Keaton as a whiny, bratty crone whimpering about a dog she hardly knows reached a new low in yet another aging actresses' declining career.  Oh, and Kevin Kline was also on-screen but for the life of me I couldn't tell who was more bored, Kevin or me.  I have a feeling he lost a big bet with his agent.

48.  Ghost Rider Part Two: Spirit of Vengeance. The interesting parts of this movie lasted fewer seconds than the time to say the title.  Nicholas Cage, like a bad penny, gets worse every time I see him. 

47. This Means War.  How can three really good looking people manage to be so freaking annoying.  They all deserved each other.

46.The Three Stooges.  The film speaks for itself.  My low expectations were too high.  I thought Sofia Vergara could save anything.  I was wrong.

45. Dark Shadows.  I cant think of anything to say about this movie. Michelle Pfeiffer looks great but I am so over seeing Johnny Depp in white face.  This man must own a shit load of Noxzema stock.  

44. Rock of Ages.  OMG....  

43  Jack Reacher:  The lowest rated film I actually saw in the theater.  I take some comfort in the fact that I got in with a premature senior ticket and Robert got in with a post-mature child's ticket.  I recall that we shared a really large box of popcorn and I think my stomach ache was as much about this lousy mush of a movie as the over indulgent treat.  Could somebody tell Tom Cruise that he needs to take a nap.

42. Piranha 3D Nasty teeth chewing more than just the scenery.

41 Total Recall  Boring and ridiculous and totally un-memorable.  Should have been titled No Recall.

40. The Words.  Its a movie within a movie within a movie within a movie.  It just keeps abruptly moving through time and space like John Carter with less muscles.  But, Bradley Cooper and Zoe Saldana look fabulous.  Every now and then Dennis Quaid wanders in.  I think he must have been getting lost trying to find his new tv show set.  

39. The Dictator. Sasha Baron Cohen needs to restrict his career to other peoples movies.  I fell asleep halfway through. 

38. People Like Us.  There are no people like "us", certainly no one like anyone in this insane movie that reminds us of the timeless cinematic contrivance that death is a pretty good time to teach the kids a few lessons about family.  An episode or two of Brothers and Sisters might have been more effective.  I was more than just a little worried about the incest threat too.  

37. Chernoby Diaries. Lets just say I was rooting for the rabid dogs and leave it at that.

36. John Carter.  Somewhere this movie took a left turn and I clearly got lost.  I'm still waiting for a ride home.  what kind of name is Taylor Kitsch anyway?   

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35. Wanderlust.  Jennifer Aniston was a cutie on tv but she is shrill and irritating on the big screen even when you watch her on the small screen.  Whaaat??  Get some decent material to Paul Rudd.  The man could be this generation's Jimmy Stewart.





34. The Five Year Engagement.  I usually like Emily Blunt and Jason Segal but they had zero chemistry and I was much more intrigued by her sisters relationship with his friend.

33. Big Miracle  I Liked the John Kasinski film.  I did not like the Drew Barrymore film.  I am a sucker for animal movies so this film was predestined to get at least a C because lost stranded whales are catnip for me.

32. Jeff Who Lives at Home.  Sort of funny, sort of sad.  Sort of pointless.

31. To Rome With Love. After Match Point, Vicki Christina Barcelona, and Midnight In Paris I had high hopes for Woody does Roma but alas, I fell asleep;  something I haven't done in a Woody Allen movie since Everyone Says I Love You.  Actually You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger was pretty awful too but I have chosen not to remember that particular mess since I am such a Woody buff.  

30. Mirror Mirror.  Julia Roberts does ok evil.  Nice updating of the fairy tale. Sleeping Beauty as envisioned by Gloria Steinem.  But who was that extra lady in the mirror?

29. Contraband  Good guys win in the end.  Don't bother.

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Sorry, Bill W.
28. The Vow.  I told Bill W. that if Channing Tatum shows up and tells me we are married I am so out the door.  I have secretly packed a bag just in case.

27. Friends with Kids.  I had expected this movie to be really hip and funny and so next week.  Instead I was completely distracted by how much I don't like Jennifer Westfeldt as an actress.  It is criminal to waste  the talents of Kristin Wiig and Jon Hamm who could not have been less believable.  

26. Sleepwalk With Me.  Mildly funny but the movie was a little too sleepy and he definitely did not deserve the luminous Lauren Ambrose

25. The Amazing Spider Man.  This is the first movie I have ever seen in a theater by myself.  I had just had a
blue light treatment on my scalp and was required to stay out of the sun for 48 hours.  A darkened theater seemed the perfect retreat.  I guess I enjoyed the movie but so close after Sam Raimi's trilogy I dont know why it was made.  

24. Lincoln. I am often troubled by Steven Speilbergs odd affinity for framing his films seeping in drippy melodrama. So it was no surprise at how irritated I was by Thaddeus sudden wig toss and romp into bed with his black lover at the end.  Are you kidding me?  It was all for a chick???  Lincoln gets my award for the preachiest movie of the year.  DDL is quite effective as St. Abraham but I kept feeling like I was in school and big famous people were reading text books to me.  Sure, they were more interesting than Mrs. Alston but I couldnt wait to get out of the movie and was relieved that there was no homework.  

23. The Odd Life of Timothy Green. Jennifer Garner and Joel Edgerton are so attractive and so sincere for  heaven's sake I wanted to give them my own children.

22.  Lawless.  I liked the feel and look of this movie.  Having lived and worked in real backwoods Virginnie I know the descendants of these people.  Jessica Chastain and Jason Clarke were warming up their intensity chops for their future romp down Bin Laden Lane.

21. How To Survive A Plague  I know in my preface I said that I dont go to movies to be enlightened or educated but I guess every rule has to be broken occasionally.  So, there.  The movie is a taut chronology of a devastating history, the magnitude of which remains unknown.  

20.  Hope Springs. Nothing a little intimate munching couldn't cure

19.The Queen of Versailles  How awful do I feel watching filthy rich people suffer.  I refuse to answer the question.  Just let them eat cake.

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Just keep on nodding, Bill W.
18. 21 Jump Street You can't go wrong with Channing Tatum. I told Bill W. if CT shows up and wants to take me back to high school I am so history.  I found my old worn out overalls just in case. Bill W. just nodded but you never know......

17. The Dark Knight Rises. I think time ran out for Batman before the end of part 3.  The film is so technically cool that I frequently lost track of the story which in this case was probably a good thing.  

16. Take This Waltz. I like Michelle Williams but I did not particularly like her character in this interesting but a little soul-less movie.  Its hard to depict passive-ness without being boring so the movie gets a lot of credit for keeping me engaged until the end.  Also, I have to be honest.  I like nudity as much as the next guy but the shower scene seemed more than a little gratuitous   Not that I'm complaining.  


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Poor Bill W., indeed.
15. Magic Mike.  It makes me skittish to be around really beautiful people so you can imagine how nervous I felt for the entire duration of this film.  The most amazing looking men this side of Chippendale's and man can they move.  I'm even nervous just thinking about it. But, we saw it in a theater full of gay men and the extra energy in the room was something to behold.  I don't care if you are man or woman, straight, gay, bi, lesbian, republican, how could anyone not be in love with Channing Tatum.  Sigh.  Poor Bill W....  when we got home I wanted to play Magic Bill but sadly we feel asleep before we even picked out our outfits.  Next time we'll take naps.

14. Ted. Man, is this movie juvenile and even offensive but it sure is funny.  And Mark Wahlberg is cuter than the Bear.

13. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  I liked it.  Im not ashamed to admit it.  I loved the old crumbling masterpiece and thought it was a perfect venue for my best friend Maggie Smith.  I think that she should be cast in every thing I see because all I have to do is look at her and I am swooning.  

12. Argo.  Lets just ignore the fact that Ben Affleck cast himself in a part that I guess Javier Bardem was unavailable for.  The movie was exciting and full of twists and turns as this motley group of badly dressed, poorly coiffed Americans try to get the Hell out of Dodge.  The movie would have landed higher on my list but for the completely unnecessary and therefore highly irritating scenes of Ben's marital woes.  

11. Premium Rush.  I know, I know.  It was ridiculous.  An underground militia of bicycle delivery folks that can be activated by a single call is about as believable as the republicans giving Sarah Palin another shot.  But I was enveloped by this movie's adrenaline.  I loved the cycling ballets and loved the inventiveness of showing the characters calculating and re-calculating their turns in a series of split second frames.  Finally I am ashamed to admit that I even got suckered in by the Asian re-unification under story.  Go figure.  

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The eleven movies that make up my top ten 

10 a. Ethel.  I was mesmerized by Rory Kennedy's documentary about her mom.  Ethel Skakel Kennedy was nobody's  shrinking lady behind her man.  She's all piss and vinegar and well into her 80's still full of tremendous energy.  The movie is a love story from a daughter to her mother.  

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10. Your Sister's Sister.  YSS is about the rarely depicted intersection between sibling rivalries and love triangles or really love quadrangles if you factor in the dead brother.  Actually the main character is the Pacific Northwest which looked magnificent, both wild and approachable.  The tension the characters are feeling with their partial pieces of the puzzle was terrifically written and acted and appeared totally natural.  I wish more families could be so forgiving.  After the movie ended though, I had this odd dread that forty years later those sisters would have devolved into Bette Davis and Joan Crawford and somebody being served a dead rat at high tea.  

9. Beasts of the Southern Wild.  Little Hushpuppy and the Bathtub came alive in this beautiful romantic vision of abject poverty and the moral superiority of having nothing.  OK, it's not true but it came alive for me.  For 90-odd minutes I believed the fantasy as much as Hushpuppy's mystic visions.  You can taste the tabasco.  

8. Django Unchained.  The best buddy move of the year if not the most unlikely.  As in most of Mr. Tarantino's recent work, each scene is beautifully realized and maybe a touch over long. It seems like there could have been five or six different movies here. This movie might have teetered at the top of my list if Broom Hilda hadn't been such a sorry reason for anyone to risk his freedom and his life not to mention killing most of the confederacy.  

7. Zero Dark Thirty.  I am going to let everyone else debate the politics of this movie and whether or not it is an accurate depiction of the events leading up to the big bang ending.  The movie is a well written, well acted thriller that kept me on the edge of my seat for a long time. This is a pretty amazing feat considering we all know how it ends.  The audience cheered and clapped and generally acted like goons but I cant blame the film for that.  Given how easy it was for Bill W. to locate his fathers long lost friend Pearl, I cant help wondering if anyone ever tried to google Bin Ladin, for crying out loud.  

6. Killer Joe.  I am probably pretty alone in my love for this movie and it probably reveals a lot about my own pathology to share my admiration for Killer Joe and its band of truly awful irredeemably unsavory people.  But its true, I love it.  From the shockingly early shot of Gina Gershon and her lady parts to the grand operatic blood bath I was drunk with delight. Matthew McConaughey is a revelation.  This movie crossed every line of decency and made me laugh more than any other movie this year.  

5. Skyfall  I have never enjoyed Bond more.  Nuff said.  

4. Bernie.  Shirley MacLaine is such a grouch.  I think it should have been justifiable homicide.  Bernie was a hero and Jack Black inhabits him perfectly.  You can give Danial Day Lewis all the big awards this season but for my money Jack Black gave the best performance of the year and Bernie is a masterpiece, a must-see.  

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3. Les Miserables. It seems that you get true cine-file cred by dissing Les Mis and I was prepared to give it a sound drubbing.  But damn if it didn't grab me from the start and keep me all the way through to the glorious end.  The pace and tone were brilliant and each song captivated me, even Russell Crowe's crowing got to me.  The costumes!  The sets! The music! Its been well over a month since I saw Les Mis but I am still hearing Bring Him Home in my head.  

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2. Life of Pi:  I fell hard for this movie.  I loved the lush cinematography, I loved the journey Pi and Steve McQueen take on-screen almost as much as I loved the journey the audience was taken on.  The ending brought me to tears and regardless of how ridiculous, I wanted Pi and his tiger to become Sigfried and Roy or whatever their tiger is called; before the mauling of course.  


1. Looper:  The most entertaining movie I have seen in many years.  It has it all.  Action! Adventure! Science fiction! A love story!  A child in peril story! Time travelling, crime melodrama, strong defiant woman, and the absolute purest depiction of the essential conflict of man against himself you will ever see.  I found Looper to be inventive, unpredictable and even astonishing.  The first movie I have ever seen where strangers in the audience debated it after the credits had rolled out.  When I saw it a second time it reinforced the spaghetti theory.  Even better as seconds. 
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<![CDATA[The 39 Films; or, Matt Karp's Best Movies of 2011 (Pt. II)]]>Fri, 24 Feb 2012 21:43:24 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/matts-best-films-of-2011The 39 films continue, now with #10 through #1:

10. The Descendants
First, the great mysteries: why does the disturbingly sexy daughter character switch instantly, at about the 35-minute mark, from a boozy, moody punk into a model of mature wisdom? Why does the proud cuckolded Clooney character decide to make this same teenager his intimate, trusted confidant in all matters pertaining to his cuckolding? And where the hell is Randy Quaid in all of this? I can't find him anywhere!

These aren't minor issues, but still, Alexander Payne delivers the goods, and so does Hawaii, the funny 'Scott' kid, and, most surprising of all, Matthew Lillard, who has apparently come a long way from Summer Catch (you can tell, in part, by the "Stanford" t-shirt he wears while jogging).
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Don't tell me you forgot about Lillard!
9. Melancholia
Irving Howe once wrote an essay about what he called "punitive novels" -- works that "solicit pain and hoard guilt," ultimately provoking their reader to wonder, "Is this a punishment I am morally obliged to endure, even welcome, perhaps out of a sense of human solidarity?"

It's hard to believe he could write these lines before the emergence of Lars von Trier. This film, which is apparently much less punishing than many other von Trier exercises, nevertheless indulges in more than its fair share of guilt-hoarding and pain-solicitation. A portrait of a broken woman on the eve of the earth's destruction by a wayward planet, the film is managed with considerable, even astounding cinematic craft. The raucous, hollow din of the wedding party; the stomach-churning eerieness of the countdown to armaggeddon; the luscious greenish gloss that seems to coat the entire frame from beginning to end, making Melancholia look and feel like few other films: unlike 2011's other John Hurt vehicle (ha), this one will stick with me until 2020 and beyond.

But the problem is that all this skill and all this power is harnessed to a rigidly punitive -- and tediously simplistic -- vision of the world. Von Trier is filled with the self-satisfaction of the dissatisfied. Unlike the great modern classic of planetary sci-fi, Solaris, towards whose air of tragic melancholy it obviously aspires, Melancholia neither poses nor possesses any existential mysteries.  And unlike 2011's own grandiose exploration of world-making and un-making, Tree of Life, its luridly sketched population lacks human complexity or even human interiors. Instead we have the rational-financial-male caricature of Kiefer Sutherland, the cowardly-bourgeois-female caricature of Charlotte Gainsbourg, and the Obvious Philosophical Voice Of The Director, Kirsten Dunst. She's gorgeous and merciless and all, but to what end? To make Lars Von Trier seem more coolly above it all? (If so, um, it didn't work.)
 
8. Shame
OK, that mini-dissertation on Melancholia leaves precious little space or time for the depth of analysis that Michael Fassbender's naked butt cheeks clearly deserve. I take Will's critique of the movie's implicit sexual conservatism, but as we discussed after watching together in D.C., there are a lot of mitigating factors, chief among them director Steve McQueen's sensous, penetrating lens -- this movie is beautifully shot and wonderfully paced.

So yes, I like my sugar.

7. Midnight in Paris
Woody, Woody, Woody! This dizzy farce lacks the dramatic urgency of Match Point (my IRON LIST #64) and the sexual verve of Vicky Cristina Barcelona, but I'll be damned if Owen Wilson isn't the best Woody-substitute I've ever seen. He blows Kenneth Branagh and Will Ferrell clean out of the water (it's best for all parties concerned to forget that Larry David thing happened at all). A delightful valentine to Paris, a city where all wines are delicious, all midnight walks are rewarded, and each woman is more beautiful than the last. If I'm not mistaken.
6. Source Code
Once again I must butt heads with my esteemed IRON UNCLE, but this might be the most underrated movie of the year. Director Duncan Jones, of the David Bowie Joneses, did Moon in '09 (personal IRON LIST #32) and this smart little sci-fi pic picks right up where that one left off. OK, so it doesn't quite have the magical simplicity of that film, either in its filming or its plot, but it does play its low-concept Groundhog Day gimmick to maximum effect. Jake Gyllenhaal is effectively exasperated and heroic, as the situation demands, and Jones's pacing is superb. My vote for raw action-entertainment film of the year.

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5. The Artist
On second thought, even Gosling's scorpion stitching doesn't get to be Coat of the Year: that honor must go to Jean Dujardin's racked jacket, brought wondrously to life by Bérénice Bejo. Sure, it drags a bit in the middle, and Happy George is much more memorable than Sad George, but still: this is a damned enjoyable silent film. To those who aver from on high that the original silent films did it better, well, I'm guessing most you haven't voluntarily settled in on a recent Saturday night with a DVD copy of George Fitzmaurice in The Son of the Sheik (if you have, let me know -- it looks pretty badass). In a year of movies about movies, and movies about planets, this is the best of the former bunch.

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4. Meek's Cutoff
I have nothing whatsoever to add to Katherine's take on this, cut and pasted here for my pleasure and your edification:

"Yes, it’s slow, but so is walking the Oregon Trail! Yes, many of the scenes are hard to hear, but whispering men don’t intend to be heard when they’re lost in the wilderness with their wives. Yes, many of the nighttime scenes are dark, but many more are shot in the blisteringly bright light of day, with wagon train and human figures shrinking against a heat-cracked and unforgiving landscape. I love the way the characters are introduced, the men faraway and flimsy as reeds across a river, the women (led by Michelle Williams) faceless behind their bonnets. Even more, I love the way those bonnets continue to shelter and stifle the women in their timid challenges of male authority. Never has a head turn communicated so much about a culture so subtly. In scene after scene, the film depicts the group walking stoically alongside their wagons, a passage in American life I suppose might’ve envisioned before, but which Reichardt to her great credit made me consider as if for the first time. Seriously—they walked? Another stirring meditation on vulnerability at America’s edge."

3. The Trip
No cute comments necessary here, but if you haven't seen it (or if you have), do yourself a favor and watch the funniest film scene of 2011:
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2. Another Earth
So many interstellar objects, so little time. (Clearly, the outer-space arrival of Selita Ebanks in Kanye's Runaway film at the end of 2010 anticipated the whole of 2011 in cinema).

Mike Cahill's gently devastating debut illuminates a planet's worth of pain in just under ninety minutes of film. Far less ponderous than Melancholia, but at least its equal in dramatic distress, Another Earth rises to the challenge of its own agony. Like The Son, the Dardenne Brothers' great 2005 film of trauma and catharsis (my IRON LIST #13), it recognizes, without an ounce of schmaltz, that the power to harm is also the power to heal. We cannot all be redeemed, but we can always be forgiven.

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1. The Tree of Life
Conveniently, my favorite film of the year was also the topic of my favorite film essay of the year (Yes, I'm the kind of person who reads a great many film essays; couldn't you tell by my references to Solaris and Irving Howe?)

So I'll happily lend this one out to Geoffrey O'Brien in the New York Review, who is at his best in describing why the National Geographic "cliches" of The Tree of Life's first hour are so essential to clinching the film's connection between the cosmic and the intimate:

"The extreme variations of scale are no afterthought in [Terence] Malick’s scheme. To show the world in a grain of sand he must first establish what the world is. So he will walk us through the stages and conditions and outer boundaries of human existence, provide a basic introduction to annihilating and fecundating cosmic forces, move freely back and forth in time for lingering glances at birth and death and family and memory as if they were only marginally familiar phenomena, as if no one had ever done any of this before, in a movie at least—and indeed who ever did in quite this head-on fashion? He manages to make childhood (and The Tree of Life is beyond anything else a movie descriptive of childhood) seem a somewhat neglected condition, deserving of reexamination. He is continually trying out different ways of representing acts of perception: the perspective of a child looking up at the adult world, or looking down from some hidden perch, the abrupt rhythm of a child looking quickly at some terrifying outburst of adult anger and then looking away, the sheared-off gaps in editing that can mark a moment as a fresh eternity disconnected from what preceded it."

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<![CDATA[The 39 Films; or, Boy, I Ate A Lot of On-Screen Shit in 2011 (Pt. I)]]>Fri, 24 Feb 2012 19:07:55 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/the-39-films-or-boy-i-ate-a-lot-of-shit-this-yearYes, that is a proud Bryce Dallas Howard reference!
Anyway, last year at this time I had only seen 25 movies, about 20 of which were decent, and only two or three truly execrable. This year I've seen all of 39, about 25 of which are decent (Yes, the 'decent' tier begins with Hall Pass). The execrable count meanwhile, has naturally gone up. And I didn't even see The Lincoln Lawyer. (NTGUILTY as charged, McConaughey!)
That said, my determination to climb the 39 steps of 2011 has not diminished. So let's begin with films #39 to #11.

39. The Help
Truly, who doesn't love a shit-eating, brazenly ahistorical melodrama? Me, I guess. On the basis of craft, coherence, and raw entertainment, I saw several (although not many) worse movies than The Help this year, but none managed to be so self-important and so brain-dead at the same time. The Help isn't so much Bad as it is Wrong: about race, class, culture, human character, and Emma Stone in 'serious' roles. Uck.

38. Captain America: The First Avenger
I thought this was supposed to be a classic antidote to overblown contemporary superhero movies. Turns out it was a classic antidote to staying awake past 11:30 on a Tuesday night. I did watch the final 15 minutes at breakfast the next morning, but only in the vain hope that Tommy Lee Jones would somehow work in the "outhouse, dog-house, hen-house" monologue from The Fugitive into his last scene.

37. Like Crazy
An adorable British sprite falls in love with a dog-eyed, vanilla-dough American chair-maker. Their cell phones grow progressively more advanced as they send each other text messages across the decade. Somehow Jennifer Lawrence (!!) wanders onto the set and agrees to sleep with the chair-maker, but he leaves her for the sprite anyway. End.

36. Limitless
In the words of John Marvel, what would you do if you could harness the full capacity of the human brain? I know: I'd buy some pinstripe suits, head to Vegas, and proclaim myself King of Chotches.

One of my favorite aspects of this film is that in trying to make the pre-drug Bradley Cooper character the saddest, schlubbiest, most pathetic human creature in existence, they decided to make him a "novelist." ZING. I guess nobody in the script-writing team was familiar with the idea of a "graduate student."
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You'll never believe it, but this is actually what our house looks like when Katherine is working away at her novel. Once, I was almost cold-cocked by a fiercely descending golden 'w.'
35. The Ides of March
Can we really be sure that Aaron Sorkin wasn't involved in this glib, trite "political film," whose cutting edge political dilemma is lifted directly from 1997? Sorry, Billy: I just don't see it. The best thing here is Ryan Gosling's sleek black man-coat, and even it, after all, is only the second coolest Gosling man-coat of 2011.

34. A Dangerous Method
Jaw of Knightley, beard of Viggo;
Fassbender's glare, and away we go;
Flagellation fantastic and talk psychiatric;
Sex, says Freud, is not such a plague;
Jung disagrees but in terms quite vague;
English-speaking Austrians have nothing to say;
Cronenberg films them for two hours anyway.

33. The Way Back
Six men, or eight men, or three men -- I forget -- stagger out of a Stalinist prison and across the wastes of central Asia. One of them is Colin Farrell, who brandishes a massive knife and an even more massive Russian accent. Watched it on the plane ride from Toronto to China, and I think we got halfway across the Pacific before these clowns made it out of the Gobi Desert.

32. Thor
Everything here is disappointing, except for Chris Hemsworth's impossible trapezius muscles and Idris Elba's appearance as Heimdall, Great Guardian of the Norse Warp-Machine Thingy. Actually, Idris is totally wasted here, but his casting as Heimdall -- described in Norse legends as "the whitest of the gods" -- touched off my favorite idiotic film controversy of 2011, as both white supremacists and Norse mythology pedants cried foul. Can we please have more Wire actors playing ancient deities in 2012? You gotta admit, Felicia Pearson would make a hell of an avenging Artemis.
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Is this the shit you were learning over at that community college, String?
31. Unknown
The 2011 edition of the annual February Liam Neeson-wears-expensive-clothes-and-kills-things movie. I don't remember much about the plot except that in between fisticuffs Neeson keeps insisting that he is "Dr. Martin Harris," but ultimately, it turns out he is not.

30. Hanna
If I had to be born again as a female, I'd want my childhood to be spent in the Arctic, learning awesome fighting skills from Eric Bana.

29. Horrible Bosses
None of the celebrity bosses (Spacey, Aniston, Farrell) are anything but painfully unfunny, but the spritzy humor between the three comic chumps (Bateman, Sudeikis, Day) is occasionally amusing. And following the theme of latter-day Wire sightings, we have Wendell Pierce cast against type as a jaded black cop, plus Chad Coleman,  (Cutty! CUTTY!) who appears for about 3.5 seconds as a tough, "urban" bartender. Really! See below:
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Cutty!
28. Bridesmaids
Like Will and Dave, I don't get all the fuss. It was a little funny and a lot sloppy -- a typically Apatovian muddle of syrupy rom-com, scatological formula, and the occasional dollop of genuine charisma. I would very much like to get drunk with Kristen Wiig on a plane ("Stove! That's not even a name!") but I can take or leave the rest of 'em.

27. The Conspirator
Editor's note: all Civil War-related films earn an automatic six rankings points, even -- especially -- if they feature Kevin Kline hamming it up as a Rumsfeldian Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton.
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"Screw the Constitution, Mary Surratt will hang and we'll be in Baghdad tomorrow!"

26. X-Men: First Class
Have I really gone through thirteen flicks already and I'm still working through superhero films with unnecessary colons? I agree with Seth D. that a great opportunity is wasted here. The first thirty minutes are pretty sweet, but when Michael Fassbender trades in his swingin' Michael Fassbender clothes in for Magneto's cape-and-underwear, it's a letdown. And the ending, of course, is an epic cock-up.

25. Hall Pass
The "Hot Tub Time Machine" of 2011: a title and a concept that were funnier than the movie, but still: the movie was kinda funny. In fact, I submit that everything that Lame Owen Wilson's character does (from his fake "Harvard" t-shirt to his "keep on rockin' in the free world' parting line to his feeble club dancing) was hilarious. More laughs per square foot here than any other summer comedy I saw -- not exactly high praise, of course, but I scoff at the scoffers of this movie. I'll take Farrelly crudity over Apatow treacle any day of the week. In the immortal words of Jenna Fischer: "THE HALL PASS WAS FOR ME."
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Wilson's "Harvard" (Insurance Group) t-shirt set the tone for a year's worth of unnecessary college tees.
24. Higher Ground
Vera Farmiga sheds her Source Code epaulets and dons a lot of droopy maternity dresses. She also prays a great deal, but is rarely answered. This is an earnestly crafted film about faith and family that hovers so close to its characters that we never really understand their world or their motivations in it.

23. The Adjustment Bureau
What the world would look like if it were run by Mad Men's Roger Sterling: brisk, vivid, chaotic, whimsical, and in the end totally unconvincing. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt do have real (and rare) chemistry here, but they belong in a better movie.

22. Straw Dogs
The original Peckinpah is one of my favorite films of all time. Did this one need to exist? Emphatically, no. Did I enjoy watching it? Emphatically, yes. (See Katherine, above, and James Marsden's t-shirt, below, on why I don't think the remake totally abandons the moral complexity of the original in favor of muscular, blue-state, beat-on-the-hick cheerleading).

Also: one awesome fact of 2011 is the emergence of Alexander Skarsgard (Meekus from Zoolander!!!--no, I don't watch True Blood!!!) as a bona fide film star. Earth to Brint, can't you hurry up and get your act into the movies?
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The Apotheosis of the Douche: not just a Harvard shirt, but a Harvard Lacrosse shirt.
21. Beginners
Jolly old gay dad Christopher Plummer, dour singleton Ewan McGregor, quirky Melanie Laurent -- it's a great set-up. But let's face it, this movie has a premise, not a plot. It doesn't develop; it reiterates: Plummer is ever jolly and gay, until eventually he's jolly, gay, and dead; McGregor is ever dour and single, until eventually he's dour and coupled. Woohoo.

On the other hand, Plummer brims with the joy of being alive, and he does get one of the great one-liners of the year (and one which really would have improved the furniture scenes in Like Crazy): "The chair is not gay. Obviously."

20. Moneyball
Unfortunately I can't find a screenshot of Jonah Hill standing in his hotel room with a Yale shirt on, so the pictorial barrage of college tees ends here. But just in case you didn't hear clearly when he mentions he went to Yale, it's nice to have a visual cue, too.

As for the film, well, there's not nearly enough Miguel Tejada (played by Royce Clayton!!!). And it's probably not as cool as it would have been if Steven Soderbergh had finished the project and filmed documentary style, with David Justice as himself and a less obviously Sorkin-y narrative arc. It's still a worth an evening on the couch, though.
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I can spot a fake David Justice from a mile away.
19. Jane Eyre
I find that exquisitely faithful adaptations of favorite novels are often good, but never great, and this is no exception. (I say that, of course, but I'm still totally looking forward to Fish Tank director Andrea Arnold's strangely Fassbender-less Wuthering Heights.)

18. Hugo
An old person's idea of a young person's movie. Happy to farm this one out to Drew and Katherine: the Melies 20 minutes were splendid; the rest was sorta charming but pretty creaky.

17. Contagion
It's interesting that this film subverts Hollywood stereotypes and sides with responsible bureaucrats over rogue bloggers with bad teeth -- but it's not that interesting. Competent and gripping, but inessential.
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I think we can all agree that the real contagion is your dental structure, buddy.
16. Drive
As Katherine says, it's a B-movie with a strangely silent Ryan Gosling and one too many deadly venetian blind stabbings. The L.A. River culvert driving scene is a fun nod to Repo Man, though. And the movie does, without a doubt, feature the costume piece of the year:
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In the future, all men's jackets will come with massive scorption stitchings.
15. Winnie the Pooh
Not the best or most original iteration of Pooh, but impossible to resist anyway. Pooh himself, of course, is still worthy of what A.A. Milne once said about Wind in the Willows: you don't judge this book, it judges you. So watch this luminous preview, right now, and be judged:
14. Our Idiot Brother
Ned: [looking for his dog Willy Nelson] Hey man, have you seen Willy Nelson?
Billy: Oh, yeah, definitely.
Ned: When?
Billy: [realizing what was actually asked] Oh you mean recently? I just meant, in general, I have seen him!

13. Cedar Rapids

If only John C. Reilly made as many stupid comedies as Nic Cage makes stupid action movies, the world would be a better place. Isiah "Sheeeeeeit" Whitlock Jr. is here too, and easily tops the list of 2011 appearances by Wire vets. Full disclosure: I did not see Amy Ryan in Win Win, Dominic West in Johnny English Reborn, Deidre Lovejoy (Rhonda) in Bad Teacher, Aiden Gillen (Carcetti) in Blitz, or Frankie Faison (Irving Burrell) in Mayor Cupcake. Wait a minute. Why the hell am I writing this blog, when I could be watching Commissioner Burrell THROW IT DOWN in a movie called Mayor Cupcake!
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Dude, face it, John Doman was WAAYY better in "Admiral Donut."
12. Tinker Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Between Drew and Miya's zealous enthusiasm, and Will's beleaguered indifference, is it possible that Tinker, Tailor is the most divisive movie of 2011? That would be a mystery even more impenetrable than this plot. In any case, I'll take the middle ground: a great sad saggy '70s vibe, and an admirable execution of Le Carre's jaded moral ambiguity, but will I really be talking about this film in 2020? Or 2012? Probably not.

11. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Katherine says everything in here except the apes isn't very good, and she's right. But the movie is, um, about a planet of, um, apes. And they're great! If the human characters come off as cardboard stock next to Andy Serkis's Caesar, that's not just because they're all so bad (though they are), but because he (and his CGI-aided friends) are so good. Caesar's gradual transformation into a simian Spartacus -- a chimpanzee Che -- a testing-lab Toussaint! (OK, I'll stop) -- is one of the most moving narrative arcs of the year.

Oh, and if you're keeping score, geneticist James Franco is at one point shown wearing a gratuitous "Berkeley" t-shirt. Though not in any screenshots I could find, dammit! Still, the Hollywood trend of developing character through college tees continues apace.
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Gorilla + Helicopter = Best Action Scene of the Year, Gosling and Cruise be damned.
To Be Continued: Films #10 through #1 are next.
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<![CDATA[Katherine Hill's Best Movies of 2011]]>Fri, 24 Feb 2012 13:44:57 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/katherine-hills-best-movies-of-2011IRON WIFE Katherine Hill comes through with this epic 32-movie tour through the wilds of 2011:

32. Thor
A Norse myth directed by Kenneth Branagh, with Idris Elba and Chris Hemsworth’s explosive pecs in tantalizing featured roles—how could this be bad? Maybe because Hemsworth’s pecs only got their one shining moment (see: trailer for Thor) and then remained uselessly clothed? Maybe because Idris remained trapped behind a stupid mask in something called a Bifrost for the entirety of the film? Maybe because Natalie Portman plays a scientist or something? I don’t really know actually, because I fell asleep halfway through. That’s how tiresome Loki was.
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Free those pecs, please!
31. The Help
A truly interesting historical paradox—white babies raised by black women in the segregated South—is treated with all the seriousness of a cartoon. At least the Nazi-killing revisionist fantasy of Inglorious Basterds was supposed to make us uncomfortable. This revision—Look! Racism has been exposed! Hallelujah!—is supposed to make us feel good. Well, shame on us. So glad I didn’t waste a second on the book.

30. Limitless
Why did I see this instead of Certified Copy?

29. The Way Back
Why did I see this instead of Certified Copy? (Oh right, because it’s about escaping a Siberian gulag. Anyway…)

28. X-Men: First Class
Why did I see this instead of Certified Copy???

27. Like Crazy
Sure, Felicity Jones is lovely and passably intelligent, and sure, Anton Yelchin is admirably ordinary and good at drawing chairs. But I never really believed their ocean-apart romance. Probably because they never really talked.

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It's just like Romeo & Juliet, minus all that boring yakkety-yak, and with more nuzzling.
26. Straw Dogs
Well, of course it was bad, but I enjoyed it. As a virtual minute for minute remake of Peckinpah’s gritty original, it was bound to be at least half-terrible. But the story’s exploration of class, masculinity, and blame is all still there, and the self-loathing Hollywoodness of this remake is, if not deeply meaningful, at least kind of fun. Local girl Kate Bosworth hadn’t just married up; she’d also been making it for awhile in TV, to everyone’s ambivalence back home. Here is a movie about a very specific kind of Southern town, and yet the only actor even sort of from the South is Oklahoman James Marsden—Mr. Out-of-Touch Hollywood himself. Poor straw dogs; they never had a chance. 

25. Hall Pass
Applegate’s still got it, and Owen Wilson does a delightful impersonation of Ryan Gosling’s “Hey Girl” meme. Plus, sweet house tour. Every dumb comedy induces groans—it’s part of the genre—and whatever the critical opinion, this was really no worse than most.  

24. Hanna

Fun opener. Great stuff with the British family. Increasingly stupid as the plot unfurls. If I never see Cate Blanchett vamp it in a bodaciously evil accent again (see also: Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), it will be too soon.

23. Winnie the Pooh
A most pleasing nostalgia trip for Hunny with Zooey Deschanel singing just the sort of music that she was born to sing.

22. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Ugh, why is this so high on the list? Except for those loveable primates, this was really pretty bad.

21. Moneyball
Nothing disappoints me more in a sports movie than the total neglect of the athletes. Billy Beane the touted prospect who gradually underperforms his way out of the majors only to end up in senior management is a fascinating character, but we really only get a cross-section of him here. This movie seemed to be primarily concerned with putting Hatteberg at first and demonstrating the tensions that arise when stubborn managers refuse to explain their (relatively simple) logic to the troops. Because of Billy’s boring superstition, we didn’t even get to watch the games. Still, the furious phone negotiations were fun, and so was Pitt’s cocky ex-jock walk. And I guess I have to admit that I was never not entertained. I just really wanted more.
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Brad Pitt, you are such an effective cocky motherfucker.
20. Beginners
An unintentionally perfect title for a movie that had so much promise at the start but failed to hold me by the end. Christopher Plummer was a ceaseless delight as the finally uncloseted Hal, and so was that dog and Oliver’s artistic excavation of his past. But even the undeniable appeal of Ewan McGregor and Melanie Laurent couldn’t make up for Oliver and Anna’s underdeveloped relationship. How many times do I have to watch them take each other on tours of their living quarters to understand their relatively mundane and obviously surmountable fears of commitment? You might say that this was just Mike Mills’ way of running with a theme, but to me Beginners just seemed to run out of ideas.

19. Cedar Rapids

I imagine regional insurance conferences are pretty much exactly like this: the belle of the ball escaping her life for the weekend, John C. Reilly in the pool.

18. Higher Ground
An admirable movie and a tough one to rank because it seeks to portray an American evangelical character struggling earnestly with her faith. And it is earnest. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a character like Corinne before, so sportily urging God to fill her with his light. There was a genuine impatience about her—she wanted it—like a pregnant woman trying to induce labor. In the end, though, the film felt hamstrung by the facts and limitations of its source (a memoir by Carolyn S. Briggs). Sure the van crash was scary, but why then immediately run for Jesus when you’ve shown only passing interest in him before? Still, I look forward to more from Vera Farmiga both in front of and behind the camera.

17. Source Code
Speaking of Farmiga…Jake Gyllenhaal’s endless do-over attempts to stop a bomb from ripping through a Chicago commuter train makes for some pretty entertaining cinema. The science of it all was a bit hokey, but Gyllenhaal’s emotional response kept things lively. Only the silly smiling Michelle Monaghan and the disappointing identity of the terrorist keep this little gem in the middle of the pack.
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Really, this is more of a fantasy film about what it would be like if your entire life were just one long morning commute with Jake Gyllenhaal.
16. Bridesmaids
Maybe the year’s most controversial movie, which is sad. I’m sure I’m overrating it because I like Kristen Wiig and fierce feminine comedy in general. After all, the world of weddings and female friendships is so much richer than this half-slapstick-half-honest movie is able to contain. But here it is.

15. Hugo
Too long, and too maudlin, as though the worst thing about World War I was that people forgot about Georges Melies. (You can practically hear Scorsese in the pitch meeting: “We’ll save the history of cinema by passing it on to the children. Especially those with limpid blue eyes.”) On the other hand, trains, timepieces, and film really do all belong in the same conversation, both scientifically and artistically (see Rebecca Solnit’s River of Shadows, on the life and times of Edweard Muybridge—thanks Katie!). And, as Drew has already written, those moments of Melies’ genius were pure genius and kind of made me want to protect old films. Well, Marty, you win again!
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"Books! Don't you love books???"
14. Midnight in Paris
Not nearly as philosophically rich as Allen’s best romps, but still such fun. Owen Wilson’s wide-eyed joy at meeting Hemingway, Zelda, Scott and the rest was so over the top that it actually felt just right. And I have to give Woody props for his many great casting jokes, starting with Carla Bruni and ending with Marion Cotillard, who really can’t live in any era but the 1920s (see: Contagion).

13. The Descendants
So uneven! Part of me loves the way the King family just strolls along resplendent beaches, even as wife and mother Liz remains a vegetable and her secret lover remains on the lam. It’s sort of a perfect metaphor for useless affluence and leisure time and protracted death all at once. On the other hand, do they really need to walk around so much? This is not the Oregon Trail (see: Meek’s Cutoff, ahead). On the other hand, I did love Judy Greer and Matthew Lillard, Shailene Woodley’s dangerously sexy Alex (please let her avoid the fate of Lohan!), the overdeveloped Hawaii, and the all-American land drama that Clooney’s haole clan—subjects of that great title—face. And you have to admire all those unflinching shots of Liz’s contorted body in a film otherwise bathed in paradise.

But in the end, this was a movie that was too obviously drawn from a novel (which I didn’t read). The slowness that might’ve seduced me on the page distracted me on the screen; too many themes and scenes were overstated; and any real interiority got sacrificed to voiceovers and pregnant pause. Who is Matt King, other than George Clooney? I wish I could say I knew.
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Useless affluence, dangerous sexiness.
12. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Tomas Alfredson literalizes the spy game by time and again offering windows into many hotel rooms. Great windows, too, from the glass terrariums of a modern Istanbul hotel to the peeling frame of a dump near Liverpool Street. And then of course there is the window onto the culture of the buttoned-down Circus, the British intelligence agency emasculated by a Soviet mole. Here we’re treated to some broken individual lives (a cuckold, a gay man in the closet, an ex-spy further tormented in his second life as a prep school substitute teacher) and a totally bodacious office Christmas party featuring lots of booze and a guest appearance by Stalin-Claus. Not to mention Tom Hardy’s plump, wounded, and incredibly tasty lips. (I can’t not mention them.)

But in the end, what was the point—that in the Cold War, both sides were corrupt? Really, that’s all? I guess I need to do like Dave said, and revisit it (or read le Carre) because this one ultimately left me confused, and dare I say it, cold. So why rate it so high? Because I am shallow and go for looks, and this pic was brilliantly photographed, awesomely dressed, and tricked out with some seriously wicked gadgets.

11. Our Idiot Brother

What can I say? I was totally taken with this sweet movie about Paul Rudd as a stoner hippie whose too-honest kindness screws him (and his family) again and again and again. His boneheadedness is played for laughs of course, but it’s also a corrective against the sisters’ spinelessness, greed, and carelessness. They may be right—he is an idiot—but his is the better way to live.

10. Jane Eyre
Two words: Michael. Fassbender.
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Reader, I f***ed him. In my mind.
9. Drive
Basically a B movie, but super stylish and fun, if also a big bloody mess. Well-plotted, well-scored, well-peppered with meaningful repetitions. But Gosling is best when he babbles, and he was all but mute to me here.

8. The Artist
A charming movie that I thoroughly enjoyed, for its homage to Singin’ in the Rain, and its dashing leading man Jean Dujardin, if not for its originality. The endless retake scene was lovely, and so was the magical moment when Peppy Miller embraces herself with Valentin’s coat. Talk about physical acting! Was this a great movie? No. But it was nice to be reminded that certain talents that have fallen out of vogue have at least not fallen out of existence.

7. Contagion
The third movie of the year to feature an ethically dubious black boss (after the laughably cartoonish David Oyelowo in Planet of the Apes and the glowering Jeffrey Wright in Source Code). What are you saying, America??? Still, Laurence Fishburne is obviously the best of the bunch as a girthy CDC chief who can’t help using his access to life-saving technology to help his own family first. But really, who among us wouldn’t?

Contagion is the rare crisis film that generally puts its faith in institutions over mavericks. Soderbergh also wisely avoids scenes of panic, deftly managing multiple personal and professional narratives instead. Not all of them work (can’t they make Marion Cotillard just a little less ravishing—can’t they even try?), but the ones that do work beautifully. Of course Elizabeth Bennett would grow up to be a sure of herself holiday-working scientist, without a Mr. Darcy in sight. In 2011 anyway. Matt Damon is the heart of the film, negotiating personal grief in the midst of global disaster, and even I can’t deny the great joke of Gwyneth Paltrow’s horrifyingly addled brain.
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Black boss of the year Laurence Fishburne.
6. Shame
It’s too bad there was virtually no healthy sex in this film, but I guess that’s the point of the title. What a shame. Otherwise, I pretty much agree with everything Will said, from the disappointing bender to Carey Mulligan’s transcendent song, except I must have liked all the parts he liked even better. Additional highlights: the lecherous boss, the way Fassbender flinches at the stray utterance of the word “disgusting,” the bored, businesslike way the hotel hooker puts her tangled bra back on, and of course, that insanely arousing date with Marianne. I should note that I am dangerously obsessed with Michael Fassbender (He. Just. Oozes. Sex.) which might account for my perspective here.

Top 5! Finally, the movies that aren’t just here because I saw them and had opinions, but rather the movies I would strongly recommend.
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5. Tree of Life
There’s probably no such thing as a fair ranking for this movie. On the one hand, it is as bold as any movie ever made, asking the largest, simplest question: “Why do we suffer?” It is unbelievably expansive in its imagery and its concerns. And its depiction of family life—the child’s emergence from those two giant opposites of Mother and Father—is deeply observant and humane. (I keep remembering the young Jack bouncing about experimentally on his doorstep, because his body is still so new to him, and so exhilarating.)

This is a movie without irony, and in its miracle of life interlude, it is utterly unafraid of cliché. (Sperm swimming! Sperm swimming for the egg!) So how can I question its clichés? Malick, whose storytelling and frames I normally love has finally put me in an impossible position. The end, I can say with confidence, is flat out corny, even if it is what grown Jack desires. But Brad Pitt, who is no harder on anyone than he is on himself, might almost make up for it on his own. I don’t know, I just might not be churchy enough for this movie. But I know I will see it again, and it will no doubt enjoy my wavering opinion—probably depending on who I’m talking to—for many years to come.

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4. Meek’s Cutoff
After Old Joy and especially Wendy and Lucy, I doubted Kelly Reichardt could make a movie I wouldn’t love, and so far, I’ve been right. Bruce Greenwood is unrecognizable as Meek, the itinerant, know-it-all guide who maintains an effective trade stoking fear for power while leading three Oregon Trail families considerably off their course. Intentionally, unintentionally? Hard to say, but I think he’s more ignorant than insidious.

Yes, it’s slow, but so is walking the Oregon Trail! Yes, many of the scenes are hard to hear, but whispering men don’t intend to be heard when they’re lost in the wilderness with their wives. Yes, many of the nighttime scenes are dark, but many more are shot in the blisteringly bright light of day, with wagon train and human figures shrinking against a heat-cracked and unforgiving landscape. I love the way the characters are introduced, the men faraway and flimsy as reeds across a river, the women (led by Michelle Williams) faceless behind their bonnets. Even more, I love the way those bonnets continue to shelter and stifle the women in their timid challenges of male authority. Never has a head turn communicated so much about a culture so subtly. In scene after scene, the film depicts the group walking stoically alongside their wagons, a passage in American life I suppose might’ve envisioned before, but which Reichardt to her great credit made me consider as if for the first time. Seriously—they walked? Another stirring meditation on vulnerability at America’s edge.

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3. The Trip
Some walking in this trip, but mostly, they drive. I saw the feature film made for American audiences rather than the six-part British miniseries, but the cut I saw struck me as exactly right. With Michael Winterbottom behind camera once again, Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon reprise their roles from Tristram Shandy—essentially exaggerated (or maybe understated) versions of themselves. The Trip is a moody, hilarious film about professional rivalry (who does the better Michael Caine, et cetera), weird gourmet foods, coming to terms with one’s artistic and professional limitations, and the joys and tedium of touring in even the grayest and most obligatory country. Much is made of Romantic poetry and the epic business of riding at dawn. And in both cases, rightly so. “Gentlemen, to bed!”


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2. Another Earth
Thank you, David Goldfarb and Anthony Lane, for mentioning Another Earth. This is a small film that asks a big question: what if you did something unforgiveable? How would you atone? And what if at the same time, a parallel planet appeared suggesting an alternate past? Would you want to live it if you could? Mike Cahill’s haunting film stars the almost too-lovely Brit Marling as the wrongdoer, a weather-beaten and unsuspecting William Mapother as the wronged, and DJ Flava as himself, saying exactly the kind of idiotic thing a radio DJ would say if a second Earth all of sudden appeared in outer space.


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1. Melancholia
The final planetary film of the year, and by far the best. Matt can say what he wants about von Trier’s heavy, misanthropic hand (and I know he will). But this film was legitimately gorgeous, a moving painting, and probably the best terrible wedding I have ever had the pleasure of attending. As the tormented bride Justine, Kirsten Dunst is radiant and perfectly attired—but who cares? A giant planet called Melancholia is coming, and the world is about to end!

Of course I personally preferred Another Earth's vision of a second chance to Melancholia's obliteration, but I have to reward von Trier for seizing depression by the jugular here. Or in the words of Tony Scott, “To the extent that the destructive potential of Melancholia is a metaphor for [Justine's] private melancholia, it is perfectly apt. One of the chief torments of serious depression is how disproportionate and all-consuming the internal, personal sorrow can feel. There is a grim vindication — and also an obvious, effective existential joke — in Justine’s discovery that her hyperbolic despair may turn out to be rooted in an accurate and objective assessment of the state of the universe. Mr. von Trier, inspired (if that’s the word) to make this movie by his own experience of depression, gleefully turns a psychological drama inside out.”

We so often disagree, Tony, but this time, you’ve got it totally right.

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<![CDATA[David Goldfarb's Best Movies of 2011]]>Fri, 24 Feb 2012 02:14:43 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/david-goldfarbs-best-movies-of-2011IRON CRANKYPANTS David Goldfarb delivers his Top Ten Least Awful Films of The Year:

Honorable Mentioned:
The other good comedies of 2011: Cedar Rapids and My Idiot Brother. The stylish B schlock of Drive. The absurd, bombastic of Cronenberg's A Dangerous Method. The dancing and mannequin scenes of The Artist. Not a goddamn minute of the execrable Bridesmaids.

10. Martha Marcy May Marlene
The year of the small film. Elizabeth Olsen reminds me of early Scarlett Johansson. In the best way: va-va-voom! But also in the best way: her quiet, nervous beauty wrapped itself around this lil' thriller. But also in the worst way: Scarlett can't act, even if she used to be a genius at looking both vulnerable and otherworldly.

9. Beginners
Thoroughly enjoyable and sweet. I barely remember any of it. There was a cute dog.

8. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
I found myself rolling my eyes and growing frustrated and bored through much of this. Magical realism in a Thai setting? Ugh. And then, after all that, a long, static finale of quotidian quiescence: utterly brilliant. And I was red-faced at my boredom and rolled eyes. The type of movie that kept returning to me.

7. The Trip
God, I laughed hard. Did I mention how hard I laughed?
6. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
Spoiler alert: the British miniseries is a mile better. See this first: deadpan, humorless, clinical and a great ride. Then see Alec Guiness blow it way.

5. Melancholia
A great year for movies involving planets moving towards earth. As big as Another Earth was small, and dazzlingly so. Hard to sit through, in the best way.

4. The Tree of Life
An infuriating failure of a film. Malick's worst by a mile. That dinosaur? Gag-worthy. But also bedazzling, confounding, breaking. Without doubt the most beautiful movie made this year: even more beautiful than the sight of Gwyneth's gagging death in Contagion.

3. Hugo
Scorsese does family and charms my pants off. It's a little awkward leaving the theater full of children with no pants on.

2. Weekend
I didn't hate Like Crazy. Until I saw this. An entire world of two people.

1. Another Earth
There are so many things in this movie that are disjointed, in need of editing, in need of an experienced hand for plotting. It's in every way a small, even little movie. An Atlantic literary science fiction short story. But if it's all those things, it's also so damn good it reminded me of how hard it was, after I had finished the short fiction piece in the waiting room of a doctor, how very hard it was to pretend to those waiting patients  that my world hadn't been shaken. This movie left me silent, pondering.
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<![CDATA[Seth Dunipace's Best Movies of 2011]]>Fri, 24 Feb 2012 00:41:18 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/seth-dunipaces-best-movies-of-2011IRON SWINEHERD Seth Dunipace, another one of our Danish correspondents, submits his meticulously graded list of 2011 films.

14. Win-Win
Saw this on the plane and it was boring. It needed more wrestling scenes and less Giamatti. I guess there’s some human drama and a funny line or two, but there’s no need to see the film.
D

13. Thor
A movie for the plane. It entertained me more than Win-Win so it wins a better ranking.
C-
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You're telling me those pecs are a C-?? Look at that trap development! Get outta here!
12. X-Men First Class
Decent special effects, weak story telling, sub-par character development. The development of the rift between Professor Xavier and Magneto is one of the compelling stories in the X-Men franchise. They could have spared a couple explosions to develop this relationship and its breakup more thoroughly. Because they had great material but failed to develop it,
C-

11. Rango
The animation is decent. Not as compelling as other films in the genre (Finding Nemo, The Incredibles) and not as inventive as other animated films such as the Triplets of Bellville or The Secret of Kells. Still it is entertaining, but the film is at once a little too silly and a little too risqué. There’s no compelling reason to see this movie except that I like the animated genre.
C

10. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
The Swedish version was better. The casting of Rooney Mara as Lizbeth Salander is in no way convincing. From a cultural perspective of contrasting this version with the Swedish version, this movie was worth seeing. I wouldn't believe it to be worth the price of admission otherwise. Unless you are seeing it out of some intellectual curiosity. It has come to me attention that the movie and book is somehow supposed to be feminist. I would argue that only in the most shallow, juvenile way is it feminist. It's also interesting to note that all Swedes apparently speak English with each other. If you have a free afternoon or don’t have to pay to see it, it may kill a few hours of boredom.
C

9. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
Not bad, but not great. Moves a little too fast, characters motivations are not always clearly understood, the theme park ride events stand out clearly, some of the special effects are down right hokey (everything always turning to ash, a python/boa constrictor type snake being used to play a venomous viper that would strike a man to death). This movie would be more tolerable if it didn't try to take itself seriously. I felt this one was phoned in but I’ll give it a passing grade. C+

8. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
Overall not bad. As always there are some plot holes, and the chemistry between James Franco and whoever the female lead is (it really doesn't matter because the point is she's forgettable). I was a little surprised that Franco wasn't terrible, and the special effects are solid. I only saw 14 movies this year, and so while this would never be a top ten, it manages to slip in because of a small bracket.
C+

7. Pirates of the Caribbean 4
What can I say, I like the franchise. I simplistic movie with a simplistic plot and Johnny Depp rehashing the same character for the 4th time. The movie gives you what you want, Pirates.
B-
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What you want: Pirates!!!!!
6. Jane Eyre
It's been a long time since I've seen this movie so it's difficult to correctly place it. I remember liking older versions better. One staggering disappointment is how unscathed Mr. Rochester is after being burned in a fire, the guy has his face burned off in the 1800s and somehow has access to a better plastic surgeon than anyone living today, or so I would believe from seeing the results. This version was a little too fluffed and watered down in order to appeal to a larger audience, but in doing so loses some of the gothic bite of the story that needs to exist to make the film a good film.
B-

5. Midnight in Paris
I have a complicated relationship with this movie because I want to like it more than I do. There are exceedingly exact characters, such as the pedantic pseudo-intellectual Paul and then there are caricatures, such as Hemingway, which some people found delightful but I found slightly annoying. I understand the point was the one dimensional simplistic Woody Allen image of these people, but it still annoyed me enough to knock the movie down a couple spots.
B

4. Captain America
Best superhero/action movie I saw this year, if only because the protagonist had some character development. But what do you want from a comic book movie? Good movie for the genre.
B+
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B+ beefcake, no question about it.
3. Melancholia
I'm a fan of Lars von Trier since Anti-Christ gave me nightmares. Charlotte Gainsburg is always a rewarding actress too watch. I enjoyed the hollowed out, self-involved loneliness of this movie which combines with panoramic views teaming with life but desolate of joy.
A

2. Tree of Life
I struggle with the position of this one in relation to Melancholia. I give it the better ranking because it leaves one more to think about than just the calm that comes with depression.
A

1. In A Better World
By far and away the best movie I saw all year and among the top 10 best movies I have seen. The movie manages to deal with human failure in a very honest way, without being melodramatic or plot driven. There were only three movies I saw this year that occupied my mind after the film ended. This was one of them.
A+
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<![CDATA[Miya T.'s Best Movies of 2011]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2012 23:18:13 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/miya-tokumitsus-best-movies-of-2011A quick 'n dirty nine-part list from IRON CHILD-BEARER Miya T., one of our official Copenhagen-based correspondents.

Here are my films, ranked from shoulder shrug (9) to rapturous delight (1):

9. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Manages to make Daniel Craig unsexy. Also zero chemistry between Mara and Craig; there was nothing more preposterous than Mara's Lisbeth Salander climbing into bed with Craig's Mikael Blomkvist. "Even I have standards," he says as he tries to resist. WELL. Also, the identity of the killer was obvious from the first frame in which he appeared. And yet, in spite of all of these things, I was entertained for 2+ hrs.
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Unsexy Swedish Daniel Craig.

8. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part II
A rather disappointing final film for the franchise with awkward pacing and confusing character motivation, but I like the franchise, which keeps it from the bottom of the list.

7. Midnight in Paris
Woody Allen playing some of his best character cards: neurotic protagonist, shrewish female, tiresome pedant, gorgeous women, charming city. Palatable.

6. In a Better World
Danish people trying to be good, plus a large helping of first-world guilt. Suzanne Bier charts her characters' experience of violence, both mundane and extreme in ways that are disturbing and sympathetic. It's like "Crash" if "Crash" was global in scope and good.

5. Jane Eyre
I saw this twice and liked it better the second time. It's impossible to do justice to the sweep of the novel in a 2 hour film, so if a movie version of this novel is to be successful, the director has to choose one element to focus upon, which in this case was the romance and eroticism that pervaded Jane and Rochester's exchanges.

4. Drive
The coolest movie around. Also, that soundtrack!

3. The Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Not to get all cheeseball, but this movie really "took me somewhere." Like, to a cave in France. Thousands of years ago. Weird coda with the albino crocodiles aside, it was a thrilling ride. Seriously, though--this was just astonishing and Herzog at his least annoying.

2. The Tree of Life
Malick actually pulled off a movie about the sweep of human existence and of *a* human existence.

1. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy
I don't think a movie of mostly people talking has ever had me so riveted. The flashback structure was complex, but totally paid off if you were paying attention for every moment. Rule no. 1 for this movie is "no spacing out!"--it should probably appear after the opening credits, and it's worth heeding.
Ed.-- In its three IRON LIST appearances so far, "Tinker, Tailor..." has now topped the rankings twice (!) and finished last (20th of 20) once. Then again, it can't be surprising that a Benedict Cumberbatch film would inspire such a strong range of reactions.
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<![CDATA[Kirk Michael's Best Films of 2011]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2012 21:49:11 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/kirk-michaels-best-films-of-2011IRON SPARTAN Kirk Michael composed his 'Best of 2011' list when all the conventional movie critics were doing it, back when 2011, you know, ended. Obviously, he neglected the First Rule of Iron Listing, which is that you never recap one year's movies until the next year's Liam Neeson-wearing-a-sweater-and-killing-living-creatures film has been released.

Regardless, you should all click this link and read Kirk's authoritative recap of 2011. Trust me: it features plenty of Rihanna side-boob.
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<![CDATA[Katie Marshall's Best Films of 2011]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2012 21:29:37 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/katie-marshalls-best-films-of-2011IRON HIPSTER Kate Marshall checks in with the most concise film list yet.

The Descendants is the film that is most likely to inspire a move to a tropical island so that I can belong to a beach club.

Moneyball is the movie that made me acknowledge the existence of a local sports team.

I thought The Artist was the most overrated film of the year.


3. Beginners

2. Melancholia

1. Drive
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<![CDATA[Tom Isler's Oscar Documentary Film Analysis]]>Thu, 23 Feb 2012 18:19:17 GMThttp://theironlist.weebly.com/blog/tom-islers-oscar-documentary-film-analysisAward-winning documentary filmmaker Tom Isler (having wandered onto this amateurish site for reasons that remain unclear) checks in with his breakdown of the five Oscar-nominated documentary features.

What I look for in a documentary is a combination of discovery (uncovering an interesting issue or a perfect character or characters to tell a story), access (the achievement of being in the right place at the right time and actually documenting people and events), and artistry (making life literary).

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5. If A Tree Falls... .
Solid film about the Earth Liberation Front. Well-made by a talented filmmaker, but, in the end, it's a traditional documentary that doesn't push the form in the way Hell & Back Again does (see below).

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4. Undefeated.
(NOT to be confused with "The Undefeated," about Sarah Palin.) An inspiring story about sports and the challenges facing Memphis youth. Seems like similar stories have been told before, and I think this film's chances will be hurt by the existence of so many other great films about high school kids or young athletes; the bar has been set high.

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3. Pina.
A dance, performance film. Striking visuals and amazing choreography. Normally I don't get into the debate of what is or is not a documentary, because the label can be limiting. But I do wonder with this film why it deserves to be in this category any more than a film documenting a stage play---so it ranks lower for me on discovery and access, everything exists here solely for the purpose of the camera, which usually doesn't make for a great story about life/reality. Still, wouldn't be surprised if this took home the award.

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2. Paradise Lost.
An award for Joe Berlinger here would be an award for his body of work: three films about the West Memphis 3. He was there at the original trial and his film was in large part responsible for keeping the spotlight on the injustice of locking up the WM3 for so many years. This film itself is well edited, juggling a complex set of facts and legal procedure. The achievement here is telling the story and documenting the effect the prior films had on the real world; the filmmaking on display is more traditional. [Also why is Peter Jackson producing a fourth film about this? Premiered at Sundance this year.]

1. Hell and Back Again.
Almost plays like a fiction film, beautifully observed, shot and structured. A veteran copes with reentry to civilian life. Filmmakers document his struggles and also were filming with him in the war zone prior to his life-altering injuries. Similar in some ways to the doc Restrepo, which I thought was outstanding and underappreciated last year. But I think this is more intimate, and a more complex, emotional story than that film, and deserves the award.
Documentary Short
Will see them all this weekend up in NYC---but haven't seen any of them yet. Early favorite probably is The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom, by Lucy Walker, who has made a few outstanding documentary features and is probably the most accomplished of the filmmakers in this category.

[ed.--none of these shorts, presumably, is nearly as good as Tom's 2011 short Two's a Crowd: see below.)
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