" That's just the sort of blinkered, Philistine Pig ignorance I've come to expect from you non-creative garbage!"

John Cleese

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

We're Taking A Break

Time for a much-needed rest and refuel.

We'll be back on January 4, 2010.

Happy New Year and all that crap.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Fuck Stick of the Year

In a bit of an upset Glenn Beck has pulled out his 3rd straight win! HOW? Well, the Santelli vote went with Beck simply due to the fact that Health Care Reformers and Tea Baggers won the T of A so easily.
Plus, Santelli has espoused some level of remorse for his assbaggery. Not much but a little. He's still a fuck stick but it's mainly for one day and one two minute example of it.
Glenn Beck has been consistently fucksticky for years now and it just can't be matched. Since he jumped to Fox News he may be unstoppable with a jackass viewing public that goes with that station.
ESPN College Football Writers came in third and, while annoying, not quite fucksticky...
Milton Bradley had no chance. He's a fuckstick but I think he's certifiably insane and needs help.

So, your winner is

This Asshole! (the 2:53 point put him over the top)

Programming Note: This will most likely be my last post until January 4th. I leave the BRE in the capable hands of Christo as I venture out of town for the New Year.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Fuck Stick of the Year Finalists

Winner announced on Monday!

Rick Santelli

Glenn Beck (a perennial favorite)

ESPN College Football Writers

Milton Bradley

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Happy Life Day!

Merry Christmas from all of us here at the BRE.
What better way to say it then a clip of the single most embarrassing piece of television ever produced:

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Best Films Of The Decade - Best Of The Rest

The Top 20 list is complete along with ten other films that brought me considerable joy.

Links are here:

As Mate also just completed his Top 10 TV Shows Of The Decade, it's pretty obvious that the aughts brought some of the best art and entertainment both mediums have ever produced.

To complete Christo's film series, we conclude with...

A Discussion Of The Films I Left Off For Everything From Legitimate To Stupid Reasons

In no order at all:

The Intruder was my Best Film of the Decade, but Claire Denis' Beau Travail was visually unforgettable... ...Leaving The Lives Of Others off the list hurt a bit. It's a beautiful cross between The Conformist (without the sexual impotence) and The Conservation that holds a superlative level of suspense...

...After seeing Before Sunrise come off as oh-so precious, I went into Before Sunset with a little trepidation. Linklater hits a bulls-eye with a grown-up romantic comedy that was one of the most surprising films for me in the decade. Terribly low expectations and I loved every minute of it...

...Guillermo Del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth was worth the time but his other, similarly-themed film made a few years before, The Devil's Backbone may have been better.

...I fell in love again with Werner Herzog this decade. Didn't love Rescue Dawn like a lot of people, but Grizzly Man, Encounters At The End Of The World and even White Diamond were joys to watch and forced me to revisit Fitzcarraldo and Aguirre in all their splendor once again...

...In The Loop was the perfect companion to the criminally-underappreciated BBC show The Thick Of It... ...Rat Race was a respectable updating of It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and oodles of fun to watch...

...Last year, a double feature of Man On Wire and My Winnipeg was one of my favorite random Tuesday nights of entertainment in years... ...Pixar makes adult cartoons now and The Incredibles, Wall-E and Ratatouille made for glorious visual feasts with plots to match... ...but Triplets Of Belleville beat them all in sheer quality and atmospheric wonder...

....The Belgian/French collaboration, L'Enfant (The Child) was heart-breaking but the similary-titled but wildly different film, Le Fils (The Son) was devastating... ...Tell No One was a sufficiently complex French thriller offering a web and riddle that American thrillers need to emulate...

...In the pure spectacle category that was done with grace and thoughtfulness, The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy was so much freaking fun... ...Traffic unfortunately started the mass-produced "interconnectness" crap but Soderbergh did something that demands attention... ...Black Hawk Down probably forced recent historical war dramas to bring a touch of reality to their own bloatedness... ...Pirates Of The Caribbean (at least the first one) surprised the hell out of me with its level of entertainment value...

...In the Brazilian category, I'm going to be blasphemous here but while I liked City Of God, I thought Bus 174 was better... ...In the Turkish category, Distant and Climates made me stand up and take notice of Turkish films. Great endings to both... ...In the South African world, Tsotsi offers one of the best singular performances in the lead this decade...

...Things We Lost In The Fire so thoroughly outperformed its crap-ass title... ...Casino Royale made me feel good about the Bond films' future again and then they puked up Quantum Of Solace... ...You Can Count On Me was a joyous small film... ...49Up was the best of the series I've seen so far. Just freaking captivating...

The re-releases of Battle Of Algiers, Killer Of Sheep and Army Of Shadows were thoroughly engrossing experiences and deserves some sort of special mention... ...Gomorrah serves as an essential compliment to the book... ...It's impossible not to feel for every character in The Class... ...It was tough to exit the world chronicled in Bloody Sunday...

...The Bourne Trilogy was amazingly comfortable in its own skin and entirely self-contained. Great fun, particularly the second one... ...American Psycho and The Machinist proves that Christian Bale can freaking bring the acting-type stuff even if he's a bit of a nutjob... ...King Of Kong: Fistful Of Quarters was an all-consuming flashback in the best sense... ...I never felt like I wasted my time when I watched Lost In Translation and Donnie Darko...

...And in the category of films I've "seen the most, know it's not something great, but it's about the Cold War backstory so it's awesome, damn it," I found immense enjoyment in Spy Game.

Tell me what I forgot because I know I have (haven't seen Hurt Locker or Ballast yet).

Mate's Decade In TV Top 5

Ok, we continue. I feel as I compile this list just how much I've missed out on. I still have yet to sit down and watch an episode of Mad Men, Weeds and the ones I listed yesterday among others.


5. "the Sopranos" : I know. i know. It's become hip in the last few years to slag off the show and say it was overrated. Bullshit. It's the most complete television series ever produced. At it's best every episode felt like a full feature length film and you wanted more. It got a bit frustrating when they would end an episode hanging and then abandon it the next week but it was must see. Every. Damn. Sunday.
James Gandolfini made the show his but the supporting cast was as good as any show ever on television. If you want to know how to write, produce and act a tragedy for the modern ages just watch season 2 or 3 of this show.
For the record, I hated the way it ended.

4. "Extras": I found the first season fairly pedestrian. It had it's moments but nothing earth shattering. That all changed when Andy got his sitcom and the show took on a level of comedy that was so smart and painful that it got stratospherically good. I would actually laugh at the fake sitcom he was in (When the Whistle Blows) and feel his pain when he had to plug an album for Coldplay or dress in drag.
The episode with Ian McKellan is quite possibly the funniest 30 minute episode of any show I've ever seen.

3. "Arrested Development": I gauge whether or not I respect a person (under the age of 50 anyway) on what they feel about this show. At times I would find myself not laughing at stuff that was genuinely hilarious because I was mesmerized at how fucking brilliant it was and wishing I had written something that could come in the same realm.
Every episode has more brilliant moments in it than most shows have in it's entire run. They even get away with having an evil twin!
"The Cornballer" alone is worth buying the box set.

2. "the Office" (UK): Painful. Just painful. But it gets into every aspect of human existence and does it so effortlessly that it's a joy. I know some people who won't watch it because it hits too close to home but that's entirely why it works. We know this asshat. We hate him yet feel mildly sympathetic.
I watched moments of every episode through my fingers. And it was grand. Just grand. If you haven't gotten over it, please do and watch this show. As good as the American version is, it doesn't hold a candle to this.
Ricky Gervais is my hero. Even after "The Art of Lying"...

1. "Freaks and Geeks": Ok, so technically this show started in the '90s but since nobody watched it (Natch) I'm giving it it's just due now.
I'm not a huge Apatow film fan. I thought "Knocked Up" was an overrated and bloated mini fiasco and the less said about "Funny People" the better....
BUT he absolutely nailed everything about early 80s Midwestern, small town/suburbia in one wonderful and yes, magical package.
It's hard to describe why this show is so good. It has some fairly cliche characters: the nerd, the stoner, the jocks, etc but it never speaks down to any of them yet never really makes them the silent heroes either. It's just saying what life really is, "This is your youth. Most of the time it sucks but try to make the best of it." And this show just embodies everything about that sentence and more.
Watching it is almost a privilege and I wanted to shake everyone involved hands and thank them. Only "the Simpsons" writers in the 90s got that from me.
If you haven't watched get to Netflix right now and do.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Mate's Decade In TV

Since Christo is doing a wonderful job going over film I thought it would be incumbent to me to do the tv thing.
In full disclosure there are a few shows that probably would make the list if i actually got around to watching them. So no "the Wire" or "Dexter" or "Breaking Bad"...

I'll do 10 through 6 today.

10. "the Office" (US Version): I hated the idea of this the minute I heard it. I was such a fan of the British version that I boycotted this for the first season and a half. In fact, i really haven't watched the first season to this day.
However, it won me over. Is it as consistently funny or awkwardly hilarious as it's predecessor? Not by a long shot. But Steve Carrell glues together what would normally be a mess. Too many characters, too many weird circumstances to be believable and too many Americanized romances. His Michael Scott is one part dufus and one part sad puppy. At it's best it can make you laugh hard. At it's worst it's stretching reality. Not a bad thing all things considered.

9. "Curb Your Enthusiasm": I guess i like awkward situations. How the hell do you top (or at least get near) the level of "Seinfeld"? Larry David has constructed a largely improvised (normally a big time Red Flag for me) sitcom that has the main character so vile that in any other situation it would be silly. It works so often in this show that it boggles my mind . You get past the fact that he still has friends even after befriending a pedophile because he has a kick ass backyard golf cage. Why? Because it's goddamn funny.

8. "30 Rock": Because this season and the last half of last season have been a bit subpar for the show, it falls to 8. But any show that has a main character so loony he wants to go to outer space to "Kill an Ewok" gets in my Top 10 on that line alone.
And Alec Baldwin plays arrogant so well that he should have his own special Emmy for Best Supporting Actor and let the others duke it out.

7. "Family Guy": Is it sophomoric? Yes. Is it filled with easy jokes? Yep. Is it, at times, trying too hard to be outlandish? Yes, again. Is it the most consistently guffaw inducing show on the air? You bet your ass.
Family Guy will never be as funny or smart as "the Simpsons" was at it's peak. But what is? What it is is a show that falls perfectly in line to draw the 28-45 year old guy (like me) and fill him with Dukes of Hazzard references and fart jokes with just enough funnier than hell characters to win me over (Quagmire).

6. "Late Show with David Letterman": If someone says to me "I don't like Letterman. He's too mean." I immediately hate them.
Fuck Carson. David Letterman is the funniest, most cutting edge and smartest talk show/comedy revue in TV history. The fact that it got it's ass kicked in the ratings by Jay Leno just speaks to the level of benign milquetoast bullshit most Americans think is funny more than any relevance to entertaining.
I never thought Letterman could top his most inspired acts from "Late Night" but he manages to still make me laugh out loud at least 5 times every show..Every night. Try that sometime and see how easy that is. His beatdown of Joaquin Phoenix and Bill O'Reilly are things of legend and I wanted to kiss him on the lips for it.
Funniest fucker on the planet.

Top 5 tomorrow.....

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Best Films Of The Decade - The Top Ten

Aaaahh, the Top Ten!

They're just mine.

Films are so contextual, many times entirely seen through a lens I bring to the viewing that day, that month, that year.

A film seen as the epitome of brilliance one day can easily be seen through a much more critical eye the next.

These are films that caught me on the right day, I'm sure. But they're also films that stuck with me long after seeing them. Films that left me a bit giddy, films that made me pause, films that confounded me in unique ways and films that simply felt more personal relative to all the other films I saw this decade.

Let's get to it.

A More Concerted Effort To Rank The Top Ten Films Of The Decade (...Or Not)

10. Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Sobering and exhilarating at the same time, Waltz With Bashir studies the process of remembering and repression as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War tries to understand his own moral culpability for the Sabra and Shatila massacres.

Visually striking and entirely original, the animated documentary is about the massacres, but it's also about how we remember and how we piece together things we so desperately wish not to remember. Dreamlike and surreal, it's about the process more than the conclusion, more about the way it gets there than where it goes.

In the end, you're left with a collection of mental pathways that acutely peeks into a mind as it struggles with itself in a way I haven't seen before.

It's a genuine, inventive, provocative and brilliant telling of the war and one man's psyche.

9. Synecdoche, New York (2008)

Speaking of one man's psyche, I don't recall ever seeing a film that nailed the human brain with more honesty and depth than Synecdoche, New York.

It's warts and all, incoherence and all, inadequacy and all, pain and all, narcissism and all, self-consciousness and all, beauty, love and passion...and all.

It's so damn ambitious, it doesn't matter that it gets maddening at times. So grand, Synecdoche, New York can probably never be fully grasped exactly because it becomes so personal. Not personal in the sense that you relate to how fucked up Cotard is, but because you relate to how human he is.

While about the creative process and the creative mind, the film actually attempts to get to the center of the human condition...and actually gets close.

A hair off and this film is a pretentious, self-indulgent piece of crap. As with most things, that hair matters most. Halfway through, I was leaning squarely in the direction of the crap vein.

But that last hour! Oh, that last hour!

It's a freaking Fellini film, but, in ways, better.

8. Spirited Away (2001)

I've never inhabited a world of animated fantasy as an adult more than when I first saw Spirited Away. A recent viewing not only confirmed that but took the 'animated' tag off of it.

Sucked into a totally original world, one filled with mysterious characters never before seen, Spirited Away is a coming-of-age story in its most basic sense. But it's the strangely-imaged physical world of Miyazaki that's the star. Richly textured and exquisitely drawn, Miyazaki's attention to detail allows so much of the story to be told simply through posture, expression and movement. Nearly every character that pops up on screen warrants a chapter onto itself. You want to know more about each one's odd existence.

It's a luxurious visual feast with a story that nearly keeps up.

7. The Best Of Youth (2003)

With a family standing in for post-war Italy, The Best Of Youth leaves the distinct impression that you just read a sweeping novel. The fact that it's a film is almost secondary in recollection.

What you remember is the feeling, the transitions, the mood, the connections between different story arcs in the same way you remember good literature.

It's essentially a soap opera but in only the grandest way. It covers all of Italy, both geographically and emotionally, and while films attempting to do such sweeping sweepiness usually come off a bit jumbled and staid, The Best Of Youth never stops moving and never stops hitting the right keys. It may be the quintessential example of how a film can expertly unfold and reveal itself. While the time involved essentially allows it to explore such things, The Best Of Youth never misses an opportunity to gracefully unearth another layer and shade.

When it started getting into the 2000s (it begins in 1966), I remember feeling a sense of sadness that everything will soon be over.

6. Man Push Cart/Chop Shop/Goodbye Solo ('05-'08)

It's cheating to count all three as one but it's my list. I'll do what I want.

I struggle to describe Bahrani's style and maybe that's the point. He's not styleless, just that his style and, in particular, the end-product, mimics nothing I've seen before.

It's certainly realism with sprinkles of neo-realism but that description feels insufficient. I could talk about the integrity and "independent-ness" of them all but that puts them into the context of the bloated, limp and wildly pretentious realm of independent filmmaking. I could say he's created something entirely new by offering glimpses into micro worlds but that pigeon-holes them as well.

I could say they are probably some of the best films I've seen in a long time but I don't think they really are. They might be all or none of this. Even describing Bahrani's films as ruminations, something to be Experienced with a capital 'E' isn't accurate.

What you get is a small-case 'e' experience, a cerebral peek into a group of characters' lives and choices. When they end, you don't take those perfunctory two minutes to catalog the reasons and decisions and point of it all. There really isn't one in the traditional sense. You're just supposed to watch. Not in the too-clever-for-words way some films are done. Bahrani simply offers a story he likes. Take from it what you want. He offers no hand-holding.

I think we're seeing something pretty great from a great new director. In an interview for Goodbye Solo, Bahrani talked about "exploring how people live in the world." That's a pretty accurate description.

For the viewer, you'll be shocked how much you remember every bit, every choice and every ending to each exploration.

5. Punch-Drunk Love (2002)

It's a freaking painting!

And Adam Sandler went deep here. Yes. I just wrote that. Adam Sandler. Went deep.

It's Paul Thomas Anderson's best film primarily because he went painfully small, choosing to see enormous value in capturing the color of a moment instead of exploring wildly vast themes. Magnolia tried to have it both ways and largely succeeded in my world. There Will Be Blood went large and resulted in a beautiful mess.

Punch-Drunk Love wears a huge confidence that the material speaks for itself. No pretense here. Anderson loves these characters. Unlike There Will Be Blood where it felt like Anderson wanted to simply have some fun trying to find them, these characters are fully realized from the beginning.

The cinematography, the staging of scenes, the use of color, the segues, the music and the overall atmosphere become fully-integrated vehicles to celebrate these characters and their beautiful strangeness.

It's just so well-crafted and delightful to watch, you're left with a feeling that you might have seen a film but are certain you experienced something that lies between different forms of art.

4. Time Out (2001)

The tenuousness of the human condition is always fertile ground for exploration in film. Typically, it's done terribly, used as a plot device to offer some sort of superficial depth to a thriller, but some eek out a level of integrity and offer a little more.

Very few sing and even fewer probe deep enough to allow the effect to become greater than the journey.

Time Out does in spades. Powered by Aurelien Recoing's superlative performance, the film follows the disintegration of an emotionally-isolated man unable to stop his web of lies and deceit from growing beyond his control. With such things, you have to be careful to pay attention to the details as each move must be perfectly honest and real. Time Out doesn't miss one chance.

It's a meditation on the predicament of modern man but dares to explore the psychological perils present in exploring an alternative.

Haven't seen it in probably seven years and still remember everything about it.

3. Nobody Knows (2004)

Based on a true story, Nobody Knows follows four children abandoned by their mother to fend for themselves in Tokyo.

What ensues is a chronicle of a world slowly falling apart. But what happens before the end is profoundly touching, at times comic, utterly sad and just damn wonderful.

In lesser hands, it could have been entirely forgettable. But with Koreeda, you're offered a visual marvel that enhances every emotion. Even to the point of knowing what time of day it is with the brightness of light that flows through the growingly-disheveled apartment, the film becomes a chronicling in a literal sense, following the everyday as the children find a way to do the essential things just to survive.

The extended scenes of silence, filled only by ambient noise serve as the emotional core. No heroes here, just a beautifully-told tragedy bursting with nuance.

2. Sideways (2004)
Nothing much happens in Sideways. Nobody learns, nobody grows, nobody hits some seminal, life-changing moment.

In the end, you're left with a feeling that Miles may have found something/reached some new chapter, but you can't be sure of anything.

And you don't really want to be. What you're given is such an affirmation of life as precisely something not constantly filled with moments of inherent meaning as every step should somehow be taken as a chance to grow.

Life just is most of the time. And Sideways enthusiastically embraces such a thought. Couple that with Alexander Payne's sheer mastery of observing people and you get a film with air, a film that forces a pause, a film that never plays down to the audience and is a just great little film that so big in so many ways.

1. The Intruder (2005)

Don't attempt to make narrative sense of The Intruder.

Claire Denis doesn't want you to try. Check that. I'm convinced the first hour is baiting you to attempt to try only to force the issue. It's at the point of letting go that the viewer is rewarded with something greater than the exploration of tone and wades into the definition of tone itself.

Everything you have must be handed over to Denis, and the earlier the better. Any kick or recoil along the way and The Intruder will be lost upon you. She takes you metaphysically back to something almost primal in experience, bypassing the frontal lobe and going straight for darker areas where the fundamental self was formed, accompanied with images, scenes and colors permanently burned into your cerebral cortex.

When discussing film as an art form, Denis' The Intruder serves as a great example of how high film as an art can go.

It's confounding. But understanding it isn't the point. In fact, if we could easily explain in words the places Denis goes, there really wouldn't be a point to art at all.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best Films Of The Decade - #20 Through #11...ish

Some level of attention has been given to rank the #20-11 films in order based on criteria usually used to rankity rank.

But I'm sure things would change as early as later tonight if I thought about them with a different mindset.

When I started looking into doing such a list, I was struck by not only how many good movies were released in the aughts, but how deep, varied and emotionally driven even major releases aspired to be.

It felt like a large step forward was taken when comparing it to other decades.

And our access to so many foreign films from so many different countries went up exponentially.

All hail technology! Bow to the king!


Top #20-11 Films Mostly In Order But I'm Sure Would Change With More Consideration

20. Gosford Park (2001)

You can thank Robert Altman for destroying any future efforts to lazily put out a period piece. A new standard was set with Gosford Park.

It's a film rewarded with multiple viewings, offering so much density and interconnectedness that it may be better than Nashville in many ways.

I tend to give even more points to filmmakers attempting to depict a specific moment in a country's social time and with Gosford Park, England in 1932, squeezed between both World Wars, chronicling the last gasp of traditional English mores and class structure, I was enthralled.

Layers galore!

19. Memento (2000)

Not Nolan's first film (Following, a great film for atmospherics was that), but certainly the one that launched a very entertaining filmmaker who knows how to set a mood, Memento is essentially a gimmick.

But it proved that gimmicks absolutely have a place and bring enormous value with the right script.

Memento explores not a story or character as much as the process of how we watch films. It's deconstruction to the nth degree. Sure, it loses a bit with every subsequent viewing but that first time put me into a mental knot, lost in multiple tangents and transient nodes of thought.

At its most base form, it's just such a wild ride with all the receptors firing in every direction.

18. Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind (2004)

It inhabits that magically incoherent world between waking life and sleep so fully, it's impossible to completely jar yourself out of it until well after the film is over.

ESOTSM examines the quixotic nature of love, addressing motivations, needs and paradoxes few filmmakers ever touch. And with the ones that do, this film still outdistances them with its sheer depth of exploration.

I wonder what this film would be without Winslet, or how much better it would be without Carrey, and it may ruminate on obsession a tad too much, but it's the complete package.

17. There Will Be Blood (2007)

Another 10 years from now, I'm probably going to watch There Will Be Blood and want to have its babies.

I know some distance from its place-and-time release will do me some good.

In the span of eight years, Paul Thomas Anderson made Magnolia, Punch Drunk Love (forthcoming on this list) and this one. That's enough quality for most filmmakers' careers in my world.

On the surface, Day-Lewis gives an outstanding performance. More deeply, Anderson offers up so many divergent themes and so much a visual parade, it turns into a thoroughly glorious mess.

With Anderson's films, he's always chasing something, something a bit indefinable and something that may be outside the purview of the film art form. I respect his unbridled ambition, understand the frustration from others but always love the journey. Except Boogie Nights. Didn't get it.

16. Capturing The Friedmans (2003)

The founders of the BRE used to have a bit of a man crush on Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky for giving us the documentary Brother's Keeper (and the Paradise Lost series as well).

Brother's Keeper peeked into small town life in a way not seen before or since. It went deep, sometimes to enormous comic effect.

But at its heart, it delved into the way the criminal justice system actually worked, examining what truth actually is in criminal proceedings. And it was a case study on how people come to believe things. It took me probably ten viewings to come to any real conclusion on the question of "Did he or didn't he?" and that was the real draw and the real point.

Capturing The Friedmans tugs on the same questions with the same effect, instead examining a pedophile. It's not a question of if he is, really. It's a question of whether the criminal justice system effectively meted out the proper judgment with what they had at the time and if what they did with what they had was how a justice system should ever work.

It's about truth versus the perception of truth versus the timing/manipulation of evidence versus the utter ickiness of it all versus how the degree of ickiness excuses much for some.

Flat-out creepy and flat-out riveting.

15. Amelie (2001)

Amelie gets away with so much.

And it gets away with it because it's just so damn charming.

It's two hours of whimsy in a grand sense, never too saccharine, never too winky and always protecting itself against going off the rails by knowing when to pull back a little and let the silliness air itself out.

While Amelie doesn't demand much, that may be its real essence. Just come in, hang around and stick your cynicism in your back pocket for a couple hours. It's a kaleidoscope of color, hopelessly optimistic and, at its core, just wants to make you smile.

Nothing more. It's...sweet.

14. Up (2009)

I know it's because of the dog gags.


That aside, Up successfully sheds its animation limitations and brings you into an adult world of loss and love so comprehensively, you forget you're watching animation, period.

It tugs with force but never in convoluted or manipulative ways while retaining an understanding that it's all supposed to be fun. It's a big boy cartoon with big boy pants on.

The first fifteen minutes are pure magic and the rest attempts to play catch-up, sure. But, in the end, it does a fine enough job to approach the realm of seamless even if never quite gets there.

If it did, Up could have been in the top five. It just misses but loses little for aiming so high.

And again, there were the dogs.

"I hid under your porch because I love you."


13. Munich (2005)

I'm a sucker for historical films.

I'm a bigger sucker for well-made historical films.

And I'm an absolute blithering fool for a well-made historical film that so admirably addresses such complex questions as Spielberg did in Munich.

It's a political film addressing Israel's continuing moral struggle with eye-for-an-eye tactics. Yes. That's a question that has been discussed for at least the last 40 years in Israel. Can a country compromise its values and hold a higher ground?

But with the timing of Munich, the same questions were being asked in this country after 9/11. It was relevant and needed for mass audience consumption.

And Spielberg couldn't have won any way he went with Munich. Go too heavy and he's preaching, or worse, ostracized. Too light and he's naive, or worse, he completely misses the boat.

A right balance was struck.

12. No Country For Old Men (2007)

It seemed impossible to convey Cormac McCarthy's starkness and examination of death as an omnipresent force onto the screen.

The Coen brothers did it.

They captured something so broadly outside the realm of traditional storytelling in film that they transcend place, time and plot to create one of the most original films I've seen in a long time. It's a movie to be felt and not watched.

The Coen Brothers found a way to cinematically create something approximating a series of feelings.

Thematically, they capture something close to the unending battle over the true definition of existentialism, an idea that even the biggest names in the philosophical movement wouldn't even cop to taking part and don't even know how to define.

The film/book/philosophy IS dark, brooding, borderline hopeless and incurably pessimistic.

But, at the same time, is it?

With me, it always felt more genuine when I read/watched something that made an attempt to chase the unanswerable and chase the idea that a level of dignity may be the only true human trait worth finding.

In No Country for Old Men, we are given all of it bare. And we are given it without any concern for reaction or how it fits into the world. Take it all, take a little or take nothing. It's done without transparent posing to some 'realness' or even the smallest sense of emotional manipulation, something very difficult to attain visually.

And in a world full of false notions of sunshine and lollipops, is that really such a bad thing?

It should be higher but, like McCarthy, it's a place to be seen only once if you can help it. My brain has experienced enough darkness in this lifetime.

11. Topsy-Turvy (pretty much 2000)

I'm counting it! It came out in December of 1999 but didn't reach my corner of the globe until 2000. Sue me!

Two-and-a-half hours about the making of The Mikado and I was pissed that the film ended. I could have watched twenty hours of it straight through.

Topsy-Turvy's a work of such rare genius and such a sweet song to the idea/world of theatre, you can't look away for one second and need to watch it again as soon as possible. It's the only film I can recall ever watching again right after seeing it the first time. Truly. Got a sandwich, took a bathroom break and pushed play. One of my favorite afternoons ever.

It's Mike Leigh's best film.

I'm the furthest thing from an actor but Topsy-Turvy, with its elucidation of the importance of expression and community in theatre, it almost (almost...) made me want to take to the stage...just once.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Best Films Of The Decade - Film Component Edition

It's that time of year for years that end in nine.

The ubiquitousness of the best films of the decade lists all over the internet is about to be added to with Christo's BRE's edition.

Over the next few posts, I will give mine, broken up into four parts:

#1 - Film Components/Fragments Of Films That Brought Me Considerable Joy

#2 - Top #11-20 Films Mostly In Order But I'm Sure Would Change With More Consideration

#3 - A More Concerted Effort To Rank The Top Ten Films Of The Decade (...Or Not)

#4 - A Discussion Of The Films I Left Off For Everything From Legitimate To Stupid Reasons

The criteria is simple, straightforward and pretty obvious since I'm the one typing this. It's films that were the best experiences of the decade for me.

So...for today, it's:

Film Components/Fragments Of Films That Brought Me Considerable Joy

10. The Unexpected Brutality Of Taken

Due to the utter lack of choices at the video store one day a few months ago, Taken was picked up with the enthusiasm of grabbing a Lime Shasta out of the cooler because your nephews had to have 15 Pepsis each. And I had the same feeling pushing the play button.

What ensued was a film with no backstory, no subtext and, well, very little text, period. Fundamentally, it a 'daughter gets kidnapped, dad must rescue daughter' story and that's it. And what happens in those 90 minutes is a taut updating of Dirty Harry with Liam Neeson unleashing the wrath of God on anybody that happens to get in the way.

It's preposterousness in the best sense, so bare that it completely sidesteps the political criticism that could have been laid upon it if it had just 5% more story.

A sequel is in the works. I'll watch it.

9. The Gap Between Expectation And Reality With Team America

Marionettes? It was suspicious.

I shouldn't have been. My best theater-going experience ever was South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut. Truly. 1999, Cedar Rapids, noon showing on a Tuesday, nobody in the theater except me. I was in tears...by myself.

I knew I was going at least like it but it felt like something I could put off. But like so many things I initially got a tad snobby about (Beavis & Butthead), Team America completely delivered and may deserve a place in the top 20.

Though a bit spotty in focus and a tad unclear about what exactly it wants to mock, it nonetheless had some of the funniest jokes, scenes and subplots in recent memory. I expected it to bring the funny, just not this much and so often.

The montage sequence alone...

8. The Balls Of Idiocracy

I have no idea how Mike Judge got this past so many studio filters. And the Rupert Murdoch-owned 20th Century Fox to boot.

It didn't take them too long to catch on, though. Idiocracy played in theaters for exactly one week without any promotional material of any kind - no trailers, no posters, no ads, not even screened for critics (the ...And God Spoke of our time).

It's certainly satire, but it's more of a "Fuck it. Let's say exactly what we want to say. America is turning into a bunch of moronic douchebags because only stupid people are breeding and ad guys are salivating over it' film.

It's not a good film, but the concept by itself along with about 20 jokes were entirely worth my 90 minutes.

7. The Use Of Color In Vertical Ray Of The Sun

Here's a chance to test your love of film. Or at least view a film that separates film as an art form from all other art forms.

Vertical Ray Of The Sun's storyline is tedious, meandering, trite and borderline nonsensical.

But OH, THE COLORS! And the silence! And the movement! And the pacing!

From the same director that made Scent Of The Green Papaya, a much more full-realized film, this one draws you in with its silence and camera placement and makes you stay for the brilliant color explosion. In no other film will you see better use of greens and blues with freckles of red.

The Lou Reed soundtrack works just fine but I would have loved to have seen the director, Anh Hung Tran, French it up even more with utter silence, let it play forever and make it deafening.

It's the kind of film where you forget the story five seconds after the credits roll but you never forget the hues, shades and overall tapestry of color.

6. The Last Scene Of 4 Months, 3 Weeks & 2 Days

A top five selection on many critics' best-of-the-year and decade lists, 4-3-2 has the sensibility and complexity that demands attention.

For me, the middle was a bit flat and the entire film a tad drawn out. Liked what I saw, but I wouldn't visit it again.

But that last scene, that last facial expression on Otilia's face takes a nice little film and makes it something pretty great.

4-3-2 examines the Ceausescu regime through a very personal lens - it's a reminder in many ways - and that is the subtext here but the relationship between the two women, how one risks her life for another and what that eventually means to the one whose life was saved is splashed all over a completely silent, yet oh-so-telling face of the one who did the saving.

A beautifully complex exclamation point. One might say a cynical one. I say perfect.

5. The Credits Of Caché (Hidden)

Caché is an exercise in the exhuming of repressed lives disguised as a thriller. Conventional in some ways, there are, nonetheless, some nuggets of originality involved in the standard format and the suspense is held throughout.

Toward the end, you receive a satisfyingly enough wrap-up where nobody is really that innocent and, as with most good French films, you review your own assumptions made along the way.

But it's not over. Not even close.

As the credits roll over a still-camera scene as a school lets out for the day, you begin to wonder why they chose that. It's curious. And then you watch what is actually happening among the people milling about.

It's subtle, surprising and rewarding not because it's essentially a trick to give the real ending over the credits, but because the ending they give through this trick is so utterly view-changing and topsy-turvy related to everything you just saw and assumed. And it feels right to offer such a trick with everything that preceded it. It becomes real part of the reality and depth of emotional and visual layers.

The film twists in multiple directions and they saved the best twist for after the last.

4. Use Of Close-Up Repetition In The Diving Bell & The Butterfly

Marie-Josée Croze is a beautiful woman. No doubt. And she's stunning in this film.

But how do you make something that chronicles the efforts of a completely-paralyzed editor attempting to write a novel using only one eyelid to communicate his thoughts? How do you convey such an exhausting process?

The director, Julian Schnabel does it and he does to amazing effect. Schnabel's own life has been pretty amazing, dabbling in virtually every art form. With Diving Bell, Schnabel takes the process of a man attempting to find a life when everything so important to his former self has been stripped away from him.

The most important part of that process is finding a way to communicate with the outside world. And visually, Schnabel offers at the core of the film a continuous close-up repetition to convey the monotonous process of endless repetition.

The close-ups required study. And "Ah, Eh, Oh, Uh" brought new meaning with each utterance. With each one, a new context appears as it builds on the last one and becomes something greater, more personal, more tragic yet more existential.

3. One Scene of Chopper

If you ever doubted if Eric Bana can completely envelop a lead role, you haven't seen Chopper.

Portraying someone with a definite screw loose, Bana gives the performance of a career. In other actors' hands, Chopper Read would have come off as the personification of evil, outright dismissing him and everything he is in real life. With Bana, you don't know. Oh, he's messed up, but Bana plays him so effectively in that gray area that straddles the line between evil and merely fucked up.

The entire film easily has some of the best quotes of the decade but one scene gets to the crux of Chopper's Chopperness, speaking to an interviewer in jail about the popularity of his book:
"Yeah, I know - and I can't even bloody spell. What about those poor bloody academics, those college graduates, battling their guts out to write some airy-fairy piece of exaggerated artwork? And here's a bloke, sitting in a cell, who can't spell, and he's written a best-seller. It's sold two hundred and fifty thousand copies. And it's still selling. And he's writing another one. And I can't even spell. I'm semi-bloody-illiterate!"
Once you run into someone else that loved Chopper, the quotes won't stop flying.
"Why would I shoot a bloke BANG, then drive him to the bloody car and wizz him off to the hospital at a hundred miles an hour? It defeats the purpose of having shot him in the first place."
Seriously. Can't stop.

2. The First Segment Of Three Times

Broken up into three segments, Three Times offers such visual beauty in the first one, the two remaining segments didn't have a chance.

A dialogue-free film set in three different time periods using the same two actors, Three Times documents a history of an emotional Taipei through the three different incarnations of love in three different worlds.

The second segment fell flat on me, the third one offers glimmers of beauty in its starkness, but the first one...

Sheer heartbreaking visual spectacle!

A rhythm emerges that's too precious for a full-length feature film but here...here...in 20 or so minutes...it's a ballet of the highest order. Unrequited love is at its center but the journey to the end is a bit of a marvel, something so beautiful you want to pause and go back just to see how the characters moved across the room or leaned up against the doorjamb again.

And you'll never hear 'Rains and Tears' by Aphrodite's Child the same way again.

1. 14th Arrondissement - Paris, je t'aime

Four seconds into the last vignette of Paris, je t'aime, you know you're about to see something unforgettable.

Right after seeing it, I couldn't help but think it was the best casting job I might have ever seen.

Margo Martindale gives a performance is so real, so earth-shattering, so heart-breaking and so human, her eight minutes on screen beat anything I've seen from an actor at least in this decade.

It's signature Alexander Payne, a director that knows people better than most anyone in any art form. His last vignette saves a mixed bag of offerings in Paris, je t'aime, sure. The 14th Arrondissement WAS Paris, je t'aime with a few merely fine opening acts.

But by itself, with Martindale's eyes, posture and flat, bad French voiceover, you get eight minutes of genuine humanity that destroys 99% of everything in the last ten years.

I Almost Moved There....

Via BGHP via Sportingnews.com

Yep. One "You have the job, Mrs. Famber", from moving on out and living amongst these troglodytes....

Phew...That was close....

Play the whole thing. Totally worth it. Drops a "Nig--r" around the 1:30 mark as well...

Almost moved there...

Nice boat shoes BTW...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Pierre? Really?

In L.A., enormous chuckles just went up.

Somebody actually just took Juan Pierre off their hands...and they got two prospects for him...and they only have to pay for half of his ridiculous contract.

And that team was the White Sox.

Yes, yes, yes. Quentin's a natural right fielder and the team needed a left fielder until things shake out.

But THIS is your stopgap?

Over the last two years, I've defended Kenny Williams at every turn. There was always some reasonable logic and he built a nice track record for getting undervalued talent.

This one is inexplicable, though. Borderline nonsensical.

Since Pierre signed his first big contract with the Dodgers in '06, he's been worth $15.4 million in Win Value over three years and was paid $25.5 million. Since wins are worth more every year, the forthcoming statistic isn't exactly comparable but it illustrates a point. 59 players were worth $15.4 million or more last year ALONE!

Career 5.8% walk rate. His career .348 OBP belies everything that he is now. Pierre hasn't seen a mark that high in a full-time role since 2004.

Pierre, 32, has a .289/.334/.364 line since 2005. That's...not good for a leadoff hitter. In fact, someone else has a similar line since 2005 at .278/.338/.368 and that guy's name is Scott Podsednik. The Sox had no business even entertaining the idea of bringing back Podsednik at the money he was asking.

Curiously, they just TRADED for Scott Podsednik...and gave Pierre the money and deal Podsednik was asking for. At least the real Podsednik played the majority of his games in the American League.

What Pierre offers you defensively in range, he more than makes up for in absolute arm badness. From 2006-2008, he brought new definition to noodle arm, finishing dead-last over that three-year period in arm strength.

So...I can't wait to hear the two prospects shipped off for Pierre. I expect Phil Rogers will be apoplectic over it. And I (gasp) might be right there with him.

UPDATE: It's John Ely and Jon Link. Link's just a guy but Ely had himself a decent little season last year in Double A. The Sox pay Pierre $3 million this year and $5 million next year.

There's so much more to the weirdness of this deal. And Kenny's rightly going to take a beating for it.

He just traded for a guy that is not a starter on a winning baseball team by any measure.

Mate's Musings...Kenny?...Kenny?...Kenny?

Is it a sign that I'm getting older and crankier that I wait until the neighborhood kids have left for school before i walk the dog in the morning so I don't have to deal with them? They all think Stella is adorable and want to pet her. That just interferes with my routine and I don't like it.
Yep, I'm gonna make a good 78 year old some day.
So, the boondoggle in Thompson (about 20 minutes from Christo and Mate's hometown) is getting the Guantanamo Prisoners. Terrorists a stone's throw from farms. But hey, it may create 20 jobs. So, there ya go.
This prison has sat empty for almost 10 years. After being built. Not old. Nice state.
OK, so we here at the BRE have had some issues with College Football News this season (amongst others) but I have to give credit where it's due. Pete Fituak gives a nice rebuttal to the ESPN "documentary" on the Miami Hurricanes of the 80s and early 90s...I watched this piece of garbage last night and took away two things: A) Did Bernie Kosar have a stroke and when did he become an Italian gangster? and B) Did Miami actually ever lose a game to a superior team? You know the old "We LOST that game, Penn State didn't win it." 6 INTs in that game BTW...
CFN does it better than I can so go here...
The association i live in has erected an electronic red sign at the entry to the area that scrolls announcements, birthdays, etc...If you drive by it after sunset the red permeates the entire block and actually hurts your eyes to look at it. The people across the street from it, who aren't a part of the association, have it glaring into their living rooms. It's the Kenny Rogers Roasters episode of "Seinfeld". Seriously. I'll post a pic of it later. It's insane.
Thank God I don't have to move into the neighbors house since we're behind it.
Mr. Marbles?
Went to the Wal-Mart in Clinton Saturday night (we had our X-mas this weekend for my side) because the wife needed some fruit to cleanse the insane amount of cookie dough we'd been ingesting the last 2 days.
Anyway, how do you go from overweight to Humpback? Is there a point where you look at yourself in the mirror and go "I need to lose weight...Fuck it. I'm gonna go for 400!"
I'm no Kate Moss but come on!
I'll write more about this later....
Oh, and apparently Iowa played Iowa State in basketball Friday...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Can We Not Do This?

It's pronounced "puts"

As in "He puts the lotion in the basket."

It's most likely properly pronounced "pootz" and yeessssss, it's spelled the same as the Yiddish term for penis.

Can we just get over it?

If New York can keep the stupidity to a minimum, can't we?

Oh. Wait. I forgot how futile that request is.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Now THIS Would Be A Very Smart Move

Reports are out there that the Sox want Brett Gardner.

With the Yankees now having a glut of outfielders following the Curtis Granderson acquisition, Gardner has become expendable, possibly to the benefit of the White Sox.

With some Sox fans inexplicably demanding the return of Scott Podsednik, here's a chance to get a better version of Podsednik who plays defense, walks and does everything a leadoff hitter should while being under team control for five more years.

Gardner's career minor league line: .289/.389/.383.

He swiped 156 bases while being caught only 31 times for a SB success rate of 84% (70% is the mark where SBs become worthless).

Gardner's major league numbers are a bit deceptive. For a speed guy, his .308 BABIP was low, which is just a hair above league-average. In the minors, he had a career BABIP of .355. Some adjustments for seeing better pitching and fielding should be taken into account but how dramatic the gap is shows Gardner had a bit of bad luck and the sample size (375 ABs) doesn't accurately reflect the kind of guy he is.

He does what he's supposed to do. In the minors, he hit the ball on the ground with groundball rates in the high 50s, letting his speed do the work. He even showed improvement in the limited time he saw in the majors over the last two years, upping his walk rate while simultaneously cutting down his strikeout rate (again, small sample size but more in line with minor league totals).

His defense has been flat-out ridiculous. His arm rate alone projects him as a major league player worth playing everyday. In the 99 games he saw in center last year (628 innings), he would have been the third-best CF in terms of UZR/150 with 15.4 runs, behind only Franklin Gutierrez and Rajai Davis.

Gardner isn't a guy that's going to light the league on fire with his superior power, but he is a guy that would offer the Sox a prototypical leadoff hitter with solid bat control, a good walk rate with room to grow, would play superior all-around defense, swipe bags with a high success rate while not getting picked off and be under team control for years to come.

Plus, his diminutive size should impede any stupid thoughts of becoming a power hitter. He'll stay exactly what he is and should be.

In other words, a much better Scott Podsednik in every facet of the game.

If Kenny gets Gardner and taking into account the acquisitions of Vizquel and Rios, nobody can say that Williams hasn't addressed the defensive ineptitude the team showed last year.

With Gardner in center, Rios in left, Quentin in right, Beckham at second, an expected improvement of Alexei at short (showed it in the second half of last year) and Teahen avoiding absolute brutality with Vizquel filling it everywhere in the infield (especially on Sundays as Ozzie is prone to do), this is, at worst, a league-average defense next year.

THAT...would be a dramatic improvement and a successful off-season in my world.

AND...a lot less icky to watch.