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The Top Ten Movies of 2009 (and the decade)

I thought this year was a really good year for movies, despite the garbage that was listed on this site yesterday.  Before getting to the top 10 movies of 2009 (and the decade) here are some special (mostly positive) awards for movies in 2009.

SPECIAL AWARDS

Most Surprisingly Good Movies (in no particular order)

1) This Is it– Thoroughly enjoyed the concert (rehearsal) documentary about Michael Jackson.  Great music and a worthy tribute to the fallen icon and aficionado of play dates with tweens.

2) Taken– The Liam Neeson film is a perfect example of how a movie that has no ambition, only one star and a simple plot can still deliver if it just tries to do the simple things well.  And the scene where he shoots his friend’s wife to show that he means business was one of the best this year.

3) Crank 2– Either the most ingenious quasi-spoof of action movies ever or just a ridiculously entertaining goof.  Either way I had no idea that I would enjoy this movie as much as I did.  It now validates Jason Statham’s work visa to me, though his films have only grossed slightly more than my YouTube videos.

4) Drag Me To Hell – This Movie almost made the top 10.  Funny, creepy, gross, and all on purpose.  A good, but not great movie.  However, there were very few movies I enjoyed more than this one.

Take My Wife, please.
Take My Wife, please.

The Any Given Sunday Award For Most Disappointing Movie Based On Awesome Trailer

Watchmen.  Blue genitals and a waste of time is all I remember from this movie.  The trailer, however, was perfection.

The Two Towers Award For Great Trailer That Delivered Great Movie

Nothing.  But The Men Who Stare At Goats was my favorite trailer of the year and the movie was solid, but still did not meet expectations. 

2009 Honorable Mention (A/K/A The Unpaid Guestspot of Movie Awards)

Avatar, The Hurt Locker, Two Lovers, Food Inc., State of Play

2009 Top Ten Movies

10) (tie) Sugar, The Messenger

Sugar is the story of a Dominican immigrant seeking to become a baseball star.  Came out early this year to rave reviews, but has long been forgotten.  Anyone who is a baseball fan or interested in the immigrant experience should see this.  Or just hang out by Yankee Stadium.

The Messenger is the best war movie this year.  It is about two soldiers who report to next of kin of the loss of loved ones.  The things people do for work in this economy.  Really strong and simple movie.

9)Capitalism: A Love Story. 

This movie is a reminder that America used to be a place where a middle class person could thrive (middle class meaning one blue collar job with could salary and benefits, not $5 million dollars or less like John McCain seemed to think).  Now thanks to a selfish, never too rich mindset the wealth is more concentrated at the top than ever before.  Sadly for working Americans and Michael Moore, America is one big casino and the house always wins.

Michael Moore was right America - these guys are stealing your pensions, your country and your daughters - actually if you live In NYC you know that the daughters are mostly willing participants in the, "profiting off the misery of most Americans is such a turn on" industry, like less forthright versions of Ashley Dupre
Michael Moore was right America - these guys are stealing your pensions, your country and your daughters - actually if you live In NYC you know that the daughters are mostly willing participants in the, "profiting off the misery of most Americans is such a turn on" industry, like less forthright versions of Ashley Dupre

8) 500 Days of Summer

The fact that Music and Lyrics was my favorite romantic comedy before this movie came out (yes I have seen Love Actually, but have not seen When Harry Met Sally yet – gasp!) may diminish my credibility in this genre,  but I am probably not the only person telling you how great this movie is.  Funny, heartfelt and thoroughly enjoyable.  And the lesson of the film couldn’t be more optimistic: if you find yourself in a relationship with a cu-t, don’t worry because eventually you may go out with Derek Jeter’s girlfriend.

7) Bruno

The selection most likely to anger people.  First, yes I thought it was funnier than Borat.  Second, the best opening of any film since The Dark Knight.  As the techno music began blaring and the words “black guys” and “taint” flashed on screen I could not stop laughing.  For many the film was too crude.  Other complaints I heard was that Borat had a point in showing some ignorance in funny ways, whereas this just went for cheap laughs.  Probably true.  Perhaps it was easier to embrace a character who was exposing racism and sexism and, most flagrantly, anti-Semitism in Borat and feel good about laughing than in Bruno, where you are just laughing at the absurdity of a gay character’s libido on steroids.  My advice to the self-righteous – take the champagne bottle out of your ass and watch Bruno pour some champagne out of his boyfriend’s.

"Throw your shoulders back, this is a fashion show, not a slave auction!"
"Throw your shoulders back, this is a fashion show, not a slave auction!"

6) Precious Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire

Fat, pregnant by her father (again – fool me once shame on him, fool you twice… shame on him again in this rare exception to that saying), illiterate and Mariah Carey as your social worker.  And I thought being a comedian was tough.  This movie is a powerhouse and Mo’nique’s performance is one of my three favorite this year (Christopher Waltz in Inglorious Basterds and Paul Rudd in I Love You Man being the other two).  And I would like this movie to win Best Adapted Screenplay so that Sapphire, who probably negotiated the self-indulgent title has to hear the dumbest phrase ever uttered at an awards show: The winner is Precious Based on The Novel Push By Sapphire Based On The Novel Push By Sapphire.

You look like my career.
You look like my career.

5) Up

The opening to this movie may be the most touching sequence in movies this year.  It is just another great movie from Pixar.  Normally stories of old men hanging out with young fat kids is awkward (think Herbert the Pervert and Chris Griffin from Family Guy as one such pairing), but this movie is nothing of the sort.  Plus it has a talking golden retriever, which will always get support from me.

This is not the plot of Up, but I bet even Pixar could make it work.  MMMMMMMMMM
This is not the plot of Up, but I bet even Pixar could make it work. MMMMMMMMMM

4) Inglorious Basterds

Christopher Waltz was amazing, but surprising to me was how good Brad Pitt was.  A funny, intense, enjoyable movie about Nazis and the Jews that hunted them.  It was also a welcome relief from the usual parade of mediocre, maudlin films about the Holocaust that are raised to critical praise because of the subject matter.  After Schindler’s List I think Hollywood could have just waited for this one .  After all slavery has had what, Roots and Amistad?  I think 6 Holocaust movies come out last year alone.  But I digress.  Basterds is awesome (and my favorite Tarantino film – that is what I think, but I am also writing it because I want to anger those who worship at the altar of Pulp Fiction).

3) Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs

Even more than Bruno, this choice is likely to bring on some WTFs.  I did not even want to see this movie, but then reviews kept talking about how much fun it was.  The biggest shock of the year for me was this movie.  It was hysterical from start to finish.  It was like the humor of Family Guy, but not as crude or easy.  I flirted with putting this #1, but the last two choices, upon reflection, were the two best movies of the year.

2) Up In The Air

 I am tired of the “this is the movie that defines our times” type quotes, but besides that this is a great movie.  George Clooney’s best (unlike his win for Syriana, no complaints if he gets Best Actor) and a movie that is so good that I cannot exactly explain why it is so good.  Perhaps it is because it is a movie that defines our times… oops.

1) District 9

The most original movie I have seen in a long time.  The biggest crime of the Oscars could be if Avatar gets a best picture nomination and this does not (if they only feel like honoring once sci-fi-ish film).  Since it is #1 I don’t think it needs any explaining, other than the fact that it comes out on DVD today so you should rent it if you have not seen it.

After thinking again about the 4,558 movies I saw this year, District 9 is #1.
After thinking again about the 4,558 movies I saw this year, District 9 is #1.

TOP TEN MOVIES OF THE DECADE

10) School Of Rock – Along with The Wrestler, no movie has matched an actor better this decade than Jack Black and SOR.

9) The Departed – I hate the Boston accent, but that was the only thing I hated about this movie.

8) Eastern Promises– Russian mob in London and the best fight scene in any movie ever.  Sorry Bourne Ultimatum.  You were second.

7) Million Dollar Baby – The only movie that made me cry this decade (joining E.T., Glory and Dead Poets’ Society on the career list).  Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank all at their best.

6) Traffic – A decade later the violence in Mexico is worse and the liberal pot smokers who abhor the violence of war or the treatment of chickens that are not free-range, but still help fund the cartels that propagate massive bloodshed in and around the border.  This movie would go under the category of wake up calls unheeded.  Great movie.

5) Finding Nemo– My favorite movie from the most consistently great movie studio.

4) 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days – I am not a big foreign film guy, but this was so intense and so good I regretted not speaking (Romanian if my recollection is correct) the language because even checking the subtitles was too much attention away from the acting.

3) The Dark Knight – I have never seen a movie in the theaters more than this one.  And it’s not even close.  Die Hard, The Matrix and The Dark Knight are the three films that changed and elevated action movies higher than any others in the last 20 years.  To me, it was even more impressive to take action, the way Christopher Nolan and Heath Ledger did, and turn it into art.

2) The Lord Of The Rings – Because of The Godfather III’s mediocrity this is the greatest trilogy of all time.  Shut up Star Wars people. (and if I had to pick just one – The Two Towers).

1) United 93 – I have only seen two perfect movies in my lifetime.  One was Amadeus, my favorite movie of all time.  The other was United 93.  I am not saying it is my favorite movie of all time; it would be hard to make that claim about a film focused on 9/11.  But the realism, the intensity, the respectful rendering of an incredibly sensitive subject and the overall product was second to none this decade for me.  In a sad way I guess it is fitting that the decade’s defining event yielded the decade’s best movie. Besides, a movie about our collective self-indulgence and self absorption called Twitter v. 3.05 would not be nearly as riveting.

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A Night of Ridiculousness

The New Yankee Stadium & The Season Finale of 24

PART I

Last night I was engaged in not one, but two events of gross excess.  I went to the new Yankee Stadium for the first time last night and was treated to the most gaudy piece of architecture south of Newport, Rhode Island.   I began my evening at the Hard Rock Cafe where a tasteful mix of Bronx natives and aspiring actors served me some decent food in a chaotic environment.  My plan for any future games will be to go to the Court Deli (as any good Bronx native/cost conscious human being should go – they have better french fries than the HRC anyway), but I wanted to soak up as much of the new amenities as I could on my first trip.

After the Hard Rock cafe I strolled around the stadium for about an hour burning off some of the 45,623 calories I had consumed (according to the helpful/guilt inducing calorie counts in the HRC menu) admiring all the amenities of the new stadium.  Here are a few:

  • Helpful greeters before the game and people directing you to the subway after the game.  Wow – when they expect a greater influx of rich people (given the ticket prices) they really go all out.  Sure, the charm is almost completely gone and it feel s a little like the manager of Chotchkie’s is running the Stadium (Office Space reference), but that is a small price to pay for the Roman Coliseum that is Yankee Stadium.  Did people not need help getting around or getting to the Stadium last year?
Welcome to Yankee Stadium.  Please spend all your money inside and avoid the brown people outside the Stadium.
Welcome to Yankee Stadium. Please spend all your money inside and avoid the brown people outside the Stadium.
  • The sushi bar and farmer’s market stands – what would a baseball stadium be without these classic additions.  Take me out to the ball game, buy me some sushi and pomegranate…  
  • There is a roped off bar in centerfield.  Because nothing says classic baseball than artificially pumped up exclusivity, privilege and status.  I assume wine bars and tapas bars are coming soon behind home plate, as well as some stylish new one word named frozen yogurt place – perhaps called “Juice.”
We are so going to Yankee Stadium.  Just one question - what's baseball?
We are so going to Yankee Stadium. Just one question - what's baseball?
  • There are what appear to be at least 5 or 6 large stores dedicated to selling Yankees merchandise.  It is as if the Stadium is screaming, “WE NEED TO SELL A LOT OF STUFF TO MAKE A PROFIT.  OK THAT’S NOT TRUE, BUT WE FIGURED WE GOT TAX PAYERS TO PAY FOR A LOT OF THE STADIUM – NO NOT YOU D-BAGS FROM JERSEY, JUST YOU NEW YORKERS,  SO WE FIGURED WE COULD SQUEEZE MORE CASH OUT OF YOU.”
  • There is a small art gallery in the stadium, curator included.  See #2 and realize that I did not exaggerate nearly enough.
  • Forced nostalgia.  Everywhere you walked pre-game there was epic music playing and slow motion video every fifteen feet.  It is as if the Stadium is telling the Twitter/YouTube generation, “Don’t worry about forming your own memories or nostalgia, we are beating you over the head with sentimental sensory overload so that you don’t have to experience nostalgia, we’ll simply tell you what your nostalgia is.”
Kids, this is the time Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez saved the world - cue the inspirational music.
Kids, this is the time Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez saved the world - cue the inspirational music.
  • Energy Overload – I was told that the new Yankee Stadium has a significantly larger carbon footprint than the old one (the 1700″ HD flat screen probably has something to do with that).  The comparison is like the old stadium is the carbon equivalent of an old Asian woman with bound feet and the new Stadium is Shaquille O’Neal.

Other than those things the Stadium looks great and I saw a great game (Yankees won 7-6).  So if you like your baseball like you like your trophy wife, attractive, expensive and soulless I think we have found your stadium.

PART II

And if you like your television loud and absurd then I am sorry that 24’s 7thseason ended last night.   Rumor has it that Season 8 will be the most explosive ever.  In it the writers will have condensed 14 months worth of time into 24 hours, which people will still believe if the show continues to post incongruous times on screen.  Jack, who clearly survives at the end of Season 7, will have to stop terrorists who plan on destroying 350 nuclear warheads at 350 different locations around the world.  Unfortunately the only people who can help him are Tony Almeida, who makes a deal for immunity, ex-President Logan, who has been exiled somewhere and David Palmer whose head was blown off in Season 5, but is secretly still alive.  One bomb will go off only killing competent screen writers, but Kim Bauer will be kidnapped.  Jack will have to sacrifice his life to save Kim, but only after he tracks down the the cure to AIDS, rebuilds the World Trade Center and uncovers Jimmy Hoffa’s body.  But before all this can happen, Jack must be brought out of retirement because he is at peace with himself and regrets all the people he has murdered.   And in the final twist (7 minutes left in the season) Jack realizes he has been the bad guy the whole time and must torture himself and kill himself to stop the attack.  You heard it hear first – Season 8 will be the most explosive season ever!!!!

Next season Jack Bauer discovers that Jack Bauer has been behind everything and he must kill himself to stop the attack.
Next season Jack Bauer discovers that Jack Bauer has been behind everything and he must kill himself to stop the attack.
Blog

The New Yankee Stadium

If you thought the American Pastime needed more meatpacking district influence – here’s your baseball stadium.

A couple of days ago I received an amazing investment opportunity in the mail.  If I invest the GDP of a small country I can receive some entertaining sports surrounded by all the bells and whistles of a Manhattan club delivered in the form of a product that has had diminishing returns over the last decade.  That’s right I received my Yankees prospectus a/k/a ticket information and fan guide in the mail.

Like General Motors the Yankees have cost the American taxpayer more while providing less over the last several years.  There are several problems I have which were only augmented by the mailing I received.

To quote Notorious B.I.G - "Gimme the loot"
To quote Notorious B.I.G - "Gimme the loot"

The Prices

The Yankees, my second favorite team in all of sports, belong up there with the executives who received bonuses from AIG.  The ticket prices are absurd – it literally feels like what a night out to a Broadway play was before Broadway had to sell out to get seats filled in the theaters.  Baseball was not supposed to be high society  – it was supposed to be a day or night for families and working class folks who could enjoy entertainment with superstars without a bank loan or a blow job being involved.  There are now six (that’s six) special tiers of tickets for which the prospectus does not even list prices.   Presumably because they are so special and elite that only people with American Express black cards can even hear the prices without going deaf.

The Bronx

The Stadium was completely unnecessary and with the economy as it is , completely irresponsible.  What’s worse is that with the hollow promises brokered by the Yankees and the city and in part by former Bronx Borough President Adolpho Carrion, the Yankees got a subsidized stadium and in the process destroyed a massive, well-attended park with no equivalent replacement in waiting.  In one of the poorest communities in America, do you think destroying a quality outlet like a park with softball/baseball/soccer fields, a track and all sorts of other amenities is a wise decision?

The other promises that are often made – pumping money into the community, a school structured for high school students interested in sports management, etc.  seem to not be panning out.  Even worse is that all the restaurants (NYY Steak, Hard Rock Cafe) will actually probably take from the local businesses that thrived with the extra customers coming in for games.  Why would a tourist try local fare when they can go to the more familiar and ethnically-cleansed Hard Rock Cafe.

I would also love to know if Bronx residents were given priority for jobs created by the stadium and all its surrounding new businesses.  The Bronx has the highest unemployment rate in the city and this could have been an opportunity to make a small dent in it (very small, but at least meaningful as a step that says the Yankees will give something back – even if it is only salaries earned).

The Stadium

This thing looks beautiful.  Plush lounges, high end suites, a sports bar in centerfield, numerous quality food retailers at the stations in the stadium are just a few of the upgrades.  Hell, there’s so much at the Stadium that if they have a store producing Latino people they could render the Bronx completely obsolete.  However, isn’t this a fu-king baseball game?

Will there be a cover charge on top of tickets and techno blaring as you enter the stadium and some giant black dude frisks you and some sleazy grown-up prep school kid asks you if you party?  The American pastime should not be so slick and corporate looking.  People used to go to baseball games for the game – but now it seems that Manhattan spirit of needing to be seen has officially immersed itself in the Bronx, even if that immersion does not spread 20 feet outside the Stadium.  Now you can say “I have tickets to the Yankees” and it can mean more than “I like baseball and the Yankees.”  Now it can mean “I like status symbols and high fives.”  It won’t be long until Yankee fans become, due to financial restrictions and character depletion, like an LA Dodgers Crowd – famous for arriving in the 3rd inning and leaving in the 7th inning.

Isn't there a baseball game going on?
Isn't there a baseball game going on?

The old stadium used to be called The House That Ruth Built.  This one seems to be destined for The Club That Douchebags Inhabit.  Or maybe in the spirit of its apparent inspiration, just call it Stadium.  Or Douche.

I have my tickets for May 18th.