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Thursday
Jan142010

Best Picture

Coming Soon to a Birthing Suite Near You...

As an answer to all the cheap, derivative crap that Hollywood puts out, my wife and I decided to create something original...a baby!

We're very excited to announce our own little summer blockbuster, which is sure to bring us thrills, screams, and memorable moments to savor for a lifetime.

So far, our little gal/guy is healthy and developing quite nicely; I dare say the baby is "ultra sound" (sorry).

And don't worry: My having a kid won't affect the quality or quantity of film criticism you've come to expect from Kicking the Seat. You might just see the names "Miley Cyrus" and "Elmo" a bit more frequently!

Thursday
Dec312009

Kicking the Seat's Top Ten Films of 2009

Don't Look Back in Anger

The year is over, which means it’s officially “Best-of” season. So here is Kicking the Seat’s Top Ten Films of 2009. Keep in mind, these are the best films that I’ve seen this year; while I try to get out to the theatre as often as possible, there are some movies that I’ve simply missed, like Precious, The Hurt Locker, and An Education.

You’ll find full reviews for many of these in the archive (with the notable exception of Big Fan, for which I inexcusably neglected to write one), so if you’re still puzzled by my choice of, say, 2012, I invite you to calm down and read what I have to say.

No doubt, some of my omissions may also prove frustrating (Avatar, District 9—both of which would top my “Worst” list, were I to write one, which I won’t). I can only say that my standards for movies are weird, but also very high and very consistent. Spectacle and hype don’t carry water with me, and if I’m bored numb by a movie that looks amazing, then, to me, that makes the film bad. These are, after all, reviews from the last guy anyone asks, so if you’re looking for someone to agree that James Cameron chose the absolute best script to go along with his Crayola-blue Thundercats movie, you should probably go somewhere else.

These ten films engaged my heart and my head, challenged my preconceived notions about their stories, and in some cases compelled me to return to the theatre for an additional viewing or two. Most of all, they entertained me. They are the reason I love movies, and the reason I love so few of the many that I see each year.

Before I get to the list, there are two honorable mentions that deserve, well, honorable mentions. Big Man Japan would have been near the top, had its last fifteen minutes not spiraled into an incoherent mess that almost completely destroyed the good will the rest of the picture had built up. And Sam Raimi’s Drag Me to Hell was a fun time at the movies, with a truly memorable ending; as a whole, though, it didn’t quite measure up to some of the lower films on the list.

10. Cirque Du Freak: The Vampire’s Assistant: At last, a young-adult-novel adaptation that doesn’t play like it was written for the kids who were held in school. The first in a franchise whose poor box office means it will likely never be resurrected, this story of teen vampires and a traveling freak show has more blood and teeth than Harry Potter and those annoying Twilight mopes combined.

9. 2012: The movie where John Cusack outruns absolutely everything is not nearly as dumb as it ought to be, and is certainly never boring. Aided by a great cast and a screenplay that turns disaster-drama tropes on their heads, 2012 slams the door on end-of-the-world entertainment.

8. Halloween 2: Rob Zombie finally puts his stamp on the Halloween franchise in this sequel-to-a-remake. No longer hiding in the shadow of John Carpenter, the writer/director delivers a weird, spirited, and more realistic take on iconic killer Michael Myers.

7. Big Fan: Patton Oswalt proves that he’s got dramatic chops that are just as legitimate as his comedic ones in this story of a New York Giants fan who goes off the deep end. Funny, moving, and seriously dark, Robert Siegel’s indie gem is worth seeking out.

6. The Informant!: Steven Soderbergh and Matt Damon team up for this farcical telling of a true story about corn and conspiracy in the early 90’s. If there is any justice in the world (which there isn’t, really), Damon will be recognized this Oscar season for his nuanced, paranoid performance, which would be worth watching even if the rest of the movie were a dud.

5. Where the Wild Things Are: This is Spike Jonze’s love letter to dysfunctional childhood. WTWTA creates a world of fantasy, wonder, and horror by letting loose the brains and emotion that James Cameron only wishes he had at his disposal.

4. Up: The best Pixar film to date, Up plots a wholly original course and conveys the youthful spirit of discovery of its characters. Like Where the Wild Things Are, Up deals with adult themes very well, but also knows when to be cute (not cloying) and silly.

3. Star Trek: This film and Up both had me wiping away tears in the opening ten minutes. J.J. Abrams has reinvigorated the franchise with adventure, comedy, and a cast with genuine chemistry; the villain and plot make more sense on multiple viewings, and I’m sure the next movie will provide more steak to match the sizzle.

2. Inglourious Basterds: Quentin Tarantino’s Jewish revenge fantasy was my most thrilling moviegoing experience this year. The action and story are superb, but the real reason to check out this picture is Christoph Waltz, who will mesmerize and terrify you in four different languages!

1. A Serious Man: The Coen Brothers delivered the most satisfying film of the year with their story of a Pittsburgh professor’s mid-life meltdown in 1967. Michael Stuhlbarg brings Larry Gopnik to life in a movie that is itself in love with movies; the textures, performances, and, yes, even that beyond-frustrating ending, make this a case study in craft.

Sunday
Nov292009

The Dinner Party

Hey, Gang! Just wanted to pop in with a quick pic from the much-anticipated Crypticon Minneapolis celebrity dinner, sponsored by Chateau Grrr. The evening was a smashing success, with great food, awesome guests, and free-flowing conversations that won't soon be forgotten.

This photo was taken by Emily Rose, and features everybody's "scary face" poses. The celebrities sat in the first row and include (from left): Bill Moseley (The Devil's Rejects), Margot Kidder (Superman), Ricou Browning (The Creature from the Black Lagoon), TNA Wrestling champion ODB (aka, Jessie), and Derek Maki (Leprechaun: Back 2 Tha Hood). Derek attended the dinner and convention as Margot's representation--and entertained several guests with pocket illusions; during the con, Margot became fascinated with ODB's wrestling videos and invited her to dinner. Suffice it to say, this was likely the weirdest, coolest bunch of folks to ever dine at the Minneapolis Sheraton!

Note: Speaking of Chateau Grrr, check out my just-posted interview with screenwriter Todd Farmer!

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