Friday, March 4, 2011

A low, unpleasant groan arises from the furnaces, the lights slowly sputter back on, and the board of health takes their 'Condemned' sign off of the Third Row once again.

It's no secret that this first year was...well...for what was supposed to be a take-off year, 2010 turned into that old stock footage of early airplane prototypes that would start to get off the ground, then crash in a spectacular fashion.

But, like the survivors of those ill-fated nosedives, the stubborn fool in the third row has vowed to persist, pick up the pieces, bury the corpses, and take another go with you all here in 2011 to get it right this time.

I'm gonna ask, in part, that you all bear with me at the start of this (for the first month or so, I will be partaking of that great holiday tradition of methodically repackaging and reserving the leftovers that weren't eaten the previous season.) These will include the final (appalingly late) installment from last year's Blaxploitation History Month (whether this custom continues this year or takes a hiatus till 2012 will remain to be seen) as well as several other titles that were lined up from last year but, thanks to a combination of sloth and general life interfering, never got off the ground.

So, what better way to begin a new year and a fresh start than by another favorite annual tradition of mine, and one I can anticipate your rolled eyes towards:
That's right, it's time for the top five of 2010.

For anyone new to this (don't be surprised if you fall under this rubric. That simply means you're in the majority) the rules are as follows:
-These aren't in any set order. Just cause one comes over another does NOT necessarily mean it has been favored.
-This is based on what offerings of 2010 I have seen at the time of this article. There are still several titles on my 'to do' list that may get amended in sooner (this bit me in the ass hard in 2007, and to a lesser degree in '09)

That said, I suppose we'd best get under way, shall we:


Yep, the ol' obvious pick (every list has one.) This is one I think kind of got misrepresented on a few levels (now this is the point where some of you are thinking "Wait...were you oblivious or...?" allow me to explain.)
Don't get me wrong, I definitely thought this was a good film, hence why it's on the list. At the same time, however, I think the film got misrepresented, both by critics making it out to be the cinematic second coming of Christ (hey, it's good, but there's limits) and by marketers who overemphasized the dream element, and left some viewers expecting a surreal reality bender in the vein of The Matrix or What Dreams May Come. As a result, some people felt burned when it turned out the movie was more a psychological heist film than a full blown 'off the rails' head trip. But I digress. In any event, Nolan still delivered a solid ride of a movie with some good casting and a plot that, while not the overly intellectual puzzle some made it out to be, still made for an interesting concept to explore.

See that?
That thing you just did with the landscape?
You just spent the brunt of our effects budget with that trick. We can't do that again, even if it WAS part of the plan. Go apologize to the viewers now.


I was actually surprised I enjoyed this film as much as I did. I went in expecting an amusing popcorn film that gave the superhero genre a good natured punch in the cojones. It delivered that, but at the same time, the film proved surprisingly more fun than I expected. Admittedly, I will agree with a lot of people, the real hook for this movie wasn't the titular green-suited hero, but the hardcore-bordering-on-insane vigilante team of Big Daddy and Hit Girl (the former played by Nicolas Cage sporting a glue-on stache and a strangely accurate Adam West Batman impression.) Nevertheless, the whole film managed to maintain a good pace with little sense of any weak or dull points. Odds are it won't make any big name lists, but all the same, again, as a popcorn movie, this exceeded expectations at least.

It takes either a creative genius or a certified madman to make their teaser for a movie this heartwarming scene of a father teaching his daughter how to take a gunshot to the chest. either case, I'd kind of like to see said genius/madman promote more movies.

-Best Worst Movie

When people look at the documentaries that came out this year, odds are better than average Waiting for Superman is gonna be the big one that makes the mark for people (personally, it's on my to do list as well, but, again...all in due time.) Despite that, this is the documentary that wound up reaching out to me this year...admittedly in part because it speaks to a subject near and dear to my heart -- bad movies and why people love them. In this case, the film is a look at the celluloid abortion Troll 2 (which, if al goes as planned, will eventually find itself before the proverbial firing squad here as well as its predecessor in name only,) and its rise to prominence as a cult film. Seeing the crowds and their following for this movie is almost infectious, and there's a bizarre love to seeing this rub off on some of the cast as well years later (admittedly, not all of the stories are happy ones, and the film isn't all smiles and sunshine...but then, that's life for you, really.) If you're a lover of bad film, or are curious to what the appeal behind it is, give this film a look. It's probably the single best explanation I can conceive of (in a nutshell, anyway) for why people love roasting a stinker.

Seeing this now-infamous clip re-enacted 20 years later by George Hardy and the now adult Michael Stephenson alone is worth this...
...if only so you may take part in the debate over whether to consider it more funny or disturbing...

-Black Swan

Because it seems it's just not a recap here in the third row unless we highlight a film about someone's surreal spiral down into madness at a rate akin to a Calvin and Hobbes toboggan ride. This time, with arguably less controversial results than last year's pick, it's Daren Aronofsky that brings us along as we watch Natalie Portman's quest to achieve perfection in surprisingly ruthless world of professional ballet (THERE's something mom and dad won't feature on those recital recordings) eventually drive her to obsession, paranoia, and insanity. Aronofsky again proves his skill as a director, giving us a film that blurs the line between what is and what the character perceives to the point we have to take a step back and try to sort out which is which ( well as to just cope with some of the intensity. WARNING: If you're squeamish, you've been warned. This isn't a grindhouse film by any means, but there are moments that still manage to make you squirm. Something to be said for the phrase 'less is more' in this case.) The only other thing can think to say for this movie without spoiling anything. I think, in light of this, we can now say Portman's worked off any karmic penalty incurred from the Star Wars prequels, and any award recognition she gets for this role, she's soundly earned.

White face make-up, check
Unusual outfits, check
Slowly sliding down path to inevitably tragic self-destruction, check
...what a difference doing this with a good script actually makes, huh?


-The Social Network

If there's one thing 2007 taught us, and this film further asserts, it's the immortal words of British actor Chris Barrie when he once said "All the world loves a bastard!"
This year's proof of that comes in Jesse Eisenberg's Oscar-nominated turn as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of what may very well be the biggest time drainer known to the internet to date (...Hell, do I even need to say which at this point?) Admittedly, the film isn't 100% accurate, nor does it pretend to be. The simple fact is, this story could have, in other hands, been a rather dry movie. What makes it work are, in part, the creative liberties taken with the story between Aaron Sorkin's script, David Fincher's sharp direction, and a largely quite talented cast for their ages (curiously, the one shortcoming being the oldest member of the core group. While pretty handy with comedy, Justin Timberlake just feels...there in this movie.) Played as a seemingly cold, detached individual whom one often wonders whether he's unaware of what he does to others, or simply doesn't care, Eisenberg's bid for this year's 'asshole of the year' role is definitely a nice piece of further proof his career's off to a good start.

The secrets to success have always been the same - lie, cheat, and steal
Or, in this case, just pretend to do them all well enough, and then see if you clean house with the critics or not.

Well, that wraps up last year's goods.
Stay tuned next week when, God willing, we'll finally get our sorry asses back to work on the backlog of other overdue reviews we owe you and, on a really long shot, get back to this on a weekly basis.

and now, as another great entertainer once allegedly said...

That oughta hold the little bastards...

...I mean, see ya next time!

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