Monday, January 16, 2012

The 2011 Muchacho Movie Rankings Part 1

Last year I wrote a blog about all of the movies I saw in the theater in 2010.

I’d always been interested in the question “What is your favorite movie?” and found my answer changing based on my tastes and my mood. This, of course, is natural, but I also wondered how I would rank the movies based solely on my gut reaction to it at the very moment I saw it, so I started at the very start of the year, and listed each movie I saw as I saw it. Each time I added a movie, I placed it within the list based on where it ranked among the other movies at the time I saw it. It was easy, because I didn’t have to evaluate each movie at the same time. I was exceptionally pleased with how the list came out, and I think it’s an interesting way to rank them.

I didn’t do it the same way this year. I didn’t keep exact running track of them. Instead, I sort of just kept a list, unranked, throughout the year, and decided to evaluate them all at once by a new criteria.

“Would I want to see it again?”

I created several categories, and started at the top, picking the movies that fit into the most esteemed category (“Movies I’d want to own”). Once I’d divvied them all out, I was able to then rank the more manageable groups within their subsets.

I think it’s still a fairly accurate portrayal of the movies I loved, liked, and disliked for the year, and I’m keeping them in order… So basically you’re getting my Best to Worst. Overall, I don’t think it was a particularly strong year.

Let’s break it down…

Movies I Want to Own”

50/50 -
Maybe I’m not your typical “dude” who wants action, action, and more action. I’m definitely all about the story with many levels, and I really feel like no movie this year did a better job of mixing great acting, excellent writing, comedy, emotion, and people I liked doing interesting and likable things. Joseph Gordon Levitt should be considered for Best Actor this year, but he won’t be mainly because the movie came out too soon, and is probably considered too light for most voters (because what’s a movie about a young guy dying from cancer if it’s not light?). My girl Anna Kendrick rocked it, again. Seth Rogen proved he could act, and not just be awkward (like his performance in The Green Hornet, for example). I cried at this movie, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. It’s the only one this year that really got me without me feeling a little manipulated (I’m looking at you “We Bought a Zoo”). The Oscar talk has really gotten a head of steam lately, and I rarely hear this mentioned, which is odd since Rotten Tomatoes has this as the 2011 Winner of the Golden Tomato award for Best User Reviewed movie. Everyone loved it.

The Descendants / Moneyball
Clooney and Pitt, at it again. Um… In completely separate movies. Both feature very strong performances by these established stars, and they’re getting the majority of the attention, but they also featured great performances by other people, putting them over the top. The Descendants features Shailene Woodley as Clooney’s daughter, acting the shit out of a role that could easily be one-note, AND a barely mentioned Judy Greer as “the other man’s wife” being great in just 3 scenes. I loved her in that movie. In Moneyball, our boy Jonah Hill, before he lost a crapload of weight, playing a completely fictional person in a movie about a true story. Kinda weird, I know, but he was really good. And that movie was about baseball, so I had to give it extra points. Of all the movies on the list, theTofu Muchacha would have cared the least about this Moneyball…. One last note about The Descendants… Is it now Clooney’s secondary mission to play the leading man opposite pretty brunette girls who garner Oscar talk for Best Supporting Actress?

Harry Potter 7 part 2. –
You know what’s weird? I didn’t have part 1 on last year’s list at all. That was, I think, a mistake, or maybe I was just planning to count the whole thing as one movie and saved it for this year. Yeah… that’s what it was… Anyway, it’s very difficult to rate this movie by itself. All of the years of buildup to it sort of give it too much context for me to be completely honest about it. I could likely write a whole blog about just this movie series. It’s great, it got better as it went along, and I was totally happy with the on-screen realization of one of my all time favorite books. It didn’t pack the emotional wallop that the books did, but how could it? Still great, and I’m excited to see the kids start showing up in other movies. Radcliffe in The Woman in Black should be good.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
I was about halfway through the book when I went to see the movie. I couldn’t wait anymore. I’m super glad I was impatient. I really liked it. Rooney Mara played Lisbeth Salander as the total badass I picture when I read the book, and literally every scene she was in was so arresting that I was almost hypnotized by her. There were definitely some down points in it… I find the actual mystery they’re investigating to be a bit of a non-starter, but that’s more an issue with the source material. I found the performances, across the board, to be excellent. Daniel Craig was believable as “not Bond”, Christopher Plummer was crazy good, and I loved all of the assorted Vanger family members. The Soundtrack was also excellent. Like… really excellent.

There are a bunch of movies in the next two categories, and for the most part they could have, upon further evaluation, been swapped around and I wouldn’t have questioned myself too much… However, so much of this experiment is about “Gut Reaction” at the time of viewing that I couldn’t do too much fiddling with them. I simply separated them between categories at where I felt was the best place.

Netflix on a Saturday Night (Reasonably Good Movies, worthy of a date night)

Bridesmaids / Crazy Stupid Love
Do you know that people are talking about both of these movies in terms of OSCARS? That’s so strange, you know, because I see these movies as essentially the same kind of flick, and for the most part just really fun and fluffy. Of course, both of these movies are elevated by good writing and pretty strong performances (Wiig and McCarthy in Bridesmaids and Gosling and Carrell in Crazy Stupid Love). In the end, I came close to placing these movies in the upper category, but for whatever reason (as opposed to the ones above) neither of them stuck with me long after I left the theater. I think the TM liked them both a great deal, though, so that counts for something.

We Bought A Zoo
I really liked this movie, except for the dead wife/mommy storyline. I feel like, even though it was based on a true story, this part was overly manipulative. Especially the business at the end. I really am a sucker for father/son bonding movies, and I love animals, and I am one of the few unabashed Patrick Fugit fans out there. Overall, it was a really good movie with a lot of memorable stuff, but I couldn’t rate it higher because I couldn’t help but feel like a bit of a puppet as I walked out.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol / Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows
Okay… So… These movies were super fun. I enjoyed both of them while I watched (especially Mission Impossible), and they were both pretty stunning to look at. So… why not in the DVD category? They suffered from the same disease…. The central conceit/ mystery was a little too convoluted for me. I left thinking that something didn’t sit right. I don’t generally have a hard time following espionage plots, but the one in Sherlock Holmes was almost impossible. I did have a hard time believing that Moriarty, with his vast intellect, would be so consumed with something so pedestrian as war racketeering. And in MI… how many times is “Global Nuclear War” going to be the goal of someone in a big spy movie? How is this a reasonable goal? Anarchy is interesting, sort of, but the odds of death are far too high for the villain to truly want to blow everything up.

Super 8 / The Muppets
I had a tough time with these two. On the surface, they’re both really strong movies that also happen to sort of prey on my own nostalgia (partly for kind of awesome filmmaking with kid stars and partly for Muppets… you can guess which was which.). I think both would be higher had I felt more personal connection with The Muppets (I liked them, I think, but I was never the huge Muppets fan that some kids were) or with late 70s nostalgia. I was born in 1980. I have a feeling if some of the key situations in Super 8 had had the ring of MY childhood, I’d feel more strongly about it. In both cases, they were enjoyable, but not indelible.
* Side note… I never put together the central concept of the Muppets until recently that the difference between Muppets and puppets is that puppets are known to be toys with hands up their asses / strings on their arms, while Muppets are regarded by all humans as completely normal and fitting within the human world. Weird, huh?

Captain America
I do know a few things for sure:
1) Chris Evans has never been as good as this.
2) The effects were awesome.
3) Elrond played the bad guy
4) The action sequences were tight.
5) The period feel of it was cool for a super hero movie.
6) The main love interest, played by Hayley Atwell, is smoking hot.

All of these things are points in the favor of Captain America. Just one problem: For the life of me I can’t really remember the plot of this movie. I mean. I remember the Captain American origin portion, but lord… that whole Elrond part was crazy and I don’t remember it. I think it involved Truman Capote.

The Big Year
This movie came and went without much comment. It was largely disliked by critics. But you know… I liked it. It wasn’t anything brilliant, and it wasn’t breaking new ground, exactly, but it was a very likeable movie, about a quirky subject (bird watching… which itself is a term disliked by that community), featuring several big name, likeable stars who do largely likeable things. It’s a pleasant movie that I would watch again if it were on cable, and if I see it on Netflix on a Saturday night with the Tofu Muchacha, I’m going to push for it… because otherwise lord knows what nonsense I’ll end up watching.

NetFlix on a Thursday Afternoon (maybe part of a movie marathon, or while we’re spending a lazy day at home)

A decent movie with an utterly terrifying premise. Kate Winslett dying early on doesn’t win it any points. Ultimately, it doesn’t really do anything different than several other movies with the same concept. One funny note… I’ve never witnessed more obsessive hand-washing than I did in the men’s restroom after seeing this movie. I mean, dudes were going to town.

Horrible Bosses / Our Idiot Brother
Movies featuring guys I find funny and for the most part are funny, but definitely aren’t ground breaking at all. Horrible Bosses would have been way better had it gone much further with the bad behavior of the bosses. I kind of feel like they did it with the Kevin Spacey character, but the other two were bad but didn’t really warrant the crazy level of hatred. They were definitely bad, manipulative people, but MURDER material? I’m not sure. Our Idiot Brother was largely predictable, but had some funny scenes. Especially the ones featuring the hippie boyfriend of Paul Rudd’s ex. That dude brought this one up at least a category.

Thor / X-Men First Class
The mediocre super-hero movies of this year’s batch. They both had cool things (most of the Thor/ Asgard stuff , and Fassbender). They both also had some fairly glaring flaws (most of the Earth stuff in Thor, and the horrible, over-the-top acting of Kevin Bacon in X-Men). Origin stories are interesting sometimes, and sometimes they feel like setup. These two flicks wound up more on the “felt like setup” side. Thor was the most obviously “engineered for The Avengers” of all of the pre-avengers movies. X-Men seemed to want to establish a new group of actors to play younger versions of these characters, because presumably Famke Janssen, Hugh Jackman, James Marsden are all too fucking old at this point, or have realized they have better things to do. If that’s the case with X-Men, I give it a pass, because I like the new cast. Unfortunately, I fear that Jennifer Lawrence may have something better to do now (what with being the lead in The Hunger Games and all).

30 Minutes or Less
Okay… I loved 50 percent of this movie. The Jessie Eisenberg /Aziz Ansari portion of this movie cracked me up. I think Ansari is one of the funniest people working today. He’s fucking hilarious right now. He’s got this delivery where he points out obvious things with incredulity that makes me laugh every time. Eisenberg’s character was also funny, and a pretty interesting change from The Social Network. I mean… he was equally unlikeable in his own way, but I enjoyed his performance anyway.

And then we have Danny McBride and Nick Swardson.

I’m sorry, but I have to say it… I’m tired of Danny McBride’s “Danny McBride” bit. I like Eastbound and Down well enough, but isn’t that character a little overdone at this point? Swardson too. You can’t really call it “acting” at this point, can you? It’s just this weird character he does where he’s full of crazy, perv bravado…. Oh… and he’s an inept moron. When he did it in Tropic Thunder, it was fresh and hilarious. 3 years later, he needs to come up with a new bit, and I’ll be honest and say that he personally reduced the score and grade of this movie.

The Hangover Part 2
I love the first movie. This was not markedly different in either way, except that now it’s not as fresh or as interesting. Funny? Yes. Even remotely satisfying? No.

NetFlix at 3 AM (You know… that time of night where you’re just awake and you see something and are all “Why the hell not?”. I would watch these at work rather than a rerun of American Pickers. Probably. These are not particularly good movies.)

Tower Heist
I miss Eddie Murphy being funny like this. His presence was literally the only interesting thing about this movie (aside from a 30 second scene between him and the girl from Precious which was in the trailer). Other than this, there’s barely anything to make me remember it at all. Eddie Murphy still has it in him somewhere. That is all.

Man… There were a lot of beheadings in this movie.

Normally, I’d say this was a good thing, and it certainly wasn’t a BAD thing, but damn…This could have been a totally badass movie. It wasn’t. It was merely watchable. I would have liked to see Peter Jackson make this exact movie with his own script and effects team. It could have been fucking awesome. Oh… and Mickey Rourke is almost certainly completely insane at this point. I’m pretty positive.

Watchable, Maybe Good, but Just the Once. (Can you say artsy fartsy?)… oh… in no particular order.

Okay, okay… I know like every art snob and his/her brother is totally having a boner about this movie, and it was… you know… kinda good. That’s… that’s about all I can say about it. Gosling was good, I suppose. Albert Brooks is apparently already clearing space on his mantle. It has Brian Cranston, who is awesome. It has Carey Mulligan, who is also awesome. It has all the makings of an awesome movie, except for being an awesome movie. It was fine, but you know… I never have to see it again.

Midnight in Paris
I’ve never been one to totally get Woody Allen. I mean… the dialogue or whatever, and you could argue that Allen is the greatest Traveloguest of all time. He’s written more love letters to New York than anyone, and now he’s on to the European Capitals (First with Vickie Christina Barcelona). It’s an entertaining watch, but has far too many annoying characters for me to want to see it again. Poor Rachel McAdams, one of my all time favorites, was made to be such a horrid shrew, I had to watch The Wedding Crashers to wash my brain of her performance. She was so one-dimensionally written that I wanted to stop watching. It’s not like Owen Wilson’s lead character was much more likeable or sympathetic. He wasn’t. People have loved this movie. It’s one of the best rated Woody Allen movies in 30 years, and my thoughts? Meh. It’s pretty. It needed more Adrian Brody (and you know that’s not a good thing to think).

My Week with Marilyn
A single, amazing performance that saves this movie from being almost entirely unlikeable. Michelle Williams was worth seeing essentially become Marilyn Monroe, but even with her crazy good portrayal, she didn’t really succeed in making Marilyn a sympathetic character. Eddie Redmayne may have changed his name from Colin to “Gawker” and everyone would have gone along. I did like Judi Dench, but then… doesn’t that basically go without saying at this point? I’m glad I saw the movie for Williams’ performance, but now I have, and it can go away.
The Ides of March
More completely unlikeable people doing things I don’t care about. Regardless of what my occasional blog may indicate, I’m not all that interested in politics. I’m also not a fan of stories about adultery and political intrigue. I saw this movie because it was filmed in Cincinnati, and I was curious to see the local things they used. Of course, they edited locations strangely, and it distracted me. Clooney did a decent job, I assume, but it’s not my kind of flick. It also featured my least favorite of Ryan Gosling’s 3 roles this year, and the best performance I can recall of Evan Rachel Wood, not that that says much.

Should Have Waited for NetFlix (I would have preferred to be able to pause it to take a break and evaluate the number of movies I see).

Something Borrowed
I remember finding this to be a perfectly fine RomCom. That’s about all. Hugely wasted talent with Krasinski (who basically picks one bad movie after another) and Ginnifer Goodwin. The TM told me at the time that it’s a book in a series of books, and that the 2nd one features the utterly detestable character played by Kate Hudson. For the life of me, I can’t figure out how anyone could tolerate 5 more minutes of her. She’s one of the worst characters I can think of, and I saw Rachel McAdams in Midnight in Paris.

Water for Elephants
I read the book and really liked it. I have to admit that I hoped for more. It was a disappointment for reasons I can’t fully articulate, so I won’t. It just wasn’t a fun watch. It also featured the worst single moment of viewing of the year, when the elephant was beaten. Bad.

Killer Elite
If I told you that I saw an “intrigue” movie featuring Jason Statham, Robert DeNiro, and Clive Owen, you probably would have been excited, right? Well… I sure as hell was. And then I saw it, and I thought… Huh… That was boring as all hell. I don’t care what happens with these people at all. And it also featured Yvonne Strahovski from Chuck. A good actress who also happens to be a badass in action scenes, and also happens to be very attractive…and she’s a total non factor.

Movies I wish I could Forget (and possibly already have).

First the movies that I totally forgot I saw until I started putting together this list:

Sucker Punch/ Hall Pass/ The Green Hornet-
I guess these movies happened. I recall a guy pooping in a golf bunker. I recall a girl dressing up like a doll. I recall an Asian man making coffee, and Christoph Waltz being a bad guy. That’s about it.

I remember thinking at the time that Sucker Punch could have been cool if it had made any logical sense at all.

I remember thinking at the time that The Green Hornet would have been better had it featured bad language, nudity, and violence… Which is weird, because Seth Rogen was recently interviewed by Howard Stern, and he essentially admitted that the movie sucked because it was PG13 and not R. I kind of believe him. He’s for sure right about it sucking.

I THINK Hall Pass featured the pooping golfer. I cannot be sure.

The Rum Diary-
We’ve all seen this movie, back when it was called Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I never have any interest in seeing Johnny Depp play a drunk ever again. (more on that later). This was a movie about drugs, sex, and Puerto Rico that also happened to be completely boring. Amber Heard is in this movie and it’s still completely boring. It’s just a boring fucking movie that was unnecessary.

Just Go With It
A completely ridiculous movie whose end could have been predicted in the first 2 minutes. Also, it’s one of those maddening movies where if the main character had simply just told the truth in the first 5 minutes of the misunderstanding, everything would have been fine. Instead they go through INSANE lengths to keep a lie going for absolutely no reason.

Brooklyn Decker – “Why do you have a wedding ring in your pocket? Are you married, you asshole?”
Adam Sandler – “No, I’m not married. I was engaged once, and she broke my heart. I carry this ring around with me all the time. Sometimes, and I’m not proud of this, I show it to girls to get sympathy. Not my proudest moment, but at least I didn’t do that with you, right?”
Brooklyn Decker – “Wow… that’s super sad and kinda pathetic. Whatever, I’m over it. Let’s bone again, and then why don’t you get rid of that ring... And then let’s get married.”
Adam Sandler – “Done”

Puss in Boots
Other than the fairly entertaining concept that while it’s an anthropomorphic cat, he still acts like a cat sometimes (blatantly stolen from Dug’s squirrel obsession in ‘Up’), not interesting. Not funny. Not engaging. Just a stupid movie that is nothing more than a cash grab. And Humpty Dumpty was really weird.

Young Adult
I toyed with putting this in the last category along with the other 3 worst movies I saw this year. I know it’s a strange choice, because Charlize Theron is good. Patton Oswalt is good. Patrick Wilson is good. All three of them are good. Jason Reitman is good (I think… though come to think of it, I also disliked the almost universally loved Juno). In any case, it’s difficult for a hoard of good actors to make a really detestable film, but they somehow managed to do it, while still putting in decemt performances. Especially Oswalt, who kicks total ass. For whatever reason, though, I couldn’t wait for this movie to end. I HATED the main character. (Like… you’re supposed to think she’s a bad person. I just couldn’t stand her). I didn’t understand why anyone tolerated her nonsense. I thought, for a brief moment at the end that the movie might be slightly redeemed. But no. I know that is part of the supposed charm of it… that she’s so unapologetically awful. But I feel like for that to work really, the character has to have some sort of likeable thing going on underneath where you don’t completely despise her. Fail. I don’t feel bad for her. I just hate her.

It’s the performance of Oswalt alone that prevents me from placing it in the last group…

The Movies that Actively Made me Want to Fight Someone. They were just that bad.

Twilight –
Okay, so my relationship with the Twilight movies and books is well chronicled on this blog. I’ve compared it negatively to just about everything. Most recently to the far superior Hunger Games trilogy, that…so help me… better live up to my expectations in movie form. Anyway, there’s something truly detestable about these people taking an excruciatingly weird, awkward, gross book like “Breaking Dawn” and dividing it into two equally excruciating, awkward, weird, gross movies. Like Puss in Boots, it’s a totally blantant cash grab, and it’s taking advantage of teens everywhere (and me, who will undoubtedly see the last one in the theater too). This wasn’t a good movie. It was downright dull. NOTHING happened. If a person watched just this one movie, and didn’t understand the whole vampire/werewolf bit, they’d think it was some sort of elaborate “Sex=Pregnancy=Death” thing. Because that’s all that happened. They got married. Sexed it up (violently) for a bit, she gets immediately knocked up, and then the fetus tries to eat her from the inside. Nice huh? Good teen fun. Fuck these movies where nothing happens, and we’re expected to love it and salivate for more. There’s not even a satisfying Werewolf/vampire battle, or even one of the godforsaken teen love triangles. The choices have all already been made. Even the horrid Rosalie character gets the shaft when all of the “depth” from books is totally erased and barely eluded to. Gross.

The Green Lantern-
Easily my biggest disappointment of the year. I LOVE the Green Lantern story. Hal Jordan, test pilot, is bequeathed a magic ring that helps him guard the universe. His powers are only limited by his creativity and imagination (and the color yellow, idiotically enough). So many places to go with it. So many options. But no… It was just a bad, cheesy movie with laughable special effects and no imagination. Bad acting. Bad writing. Stupid villain. (Paralax, what?!!). Ryan Reynolds personal gift is snark, and they took that all away. Blake Lively is… terrible. What can I say? She’s the worst. It was tough to sit through. It was like they took an awesome superhero idea and spent a shitload of money on it, and instead of giving it to capable people like Christopher Nolan or Sam Mendes or Peter Jackson, they give it to a monkey with some crayons. It was just awful. Totally upsetting. Totally unoriginal.

I was especially disappointed with the lack of imagination used for the powers. When given the choice of creating anything with his mind, he made like… 14 guns, a car, and a wave. Seriously? That’s the best he could come up with? He’s the savior of the galaxy? Bullshit.

And here it is folks… my WORST MOVIE OF 2011.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
What total fucking nonsense this movie was. You know why it was the worst movie of the year? Because it was the biggest waste ever. First… I think it was so bad that it has almost sullied how I feel about the first movie. I barely regard the 2nd and 3rd movies, since they were sort of obligatory sequels with good things and bad things, but mostly guilty of pushing a little too hard when the first one was so effortless.

Well, this one pushed so hard it nearly took the good will the first one built up, and shoved it off a cliff. The first movie is easily in my Top 10 movies of all time list. (I should do that one soon. That’s so tough).

1-For the first time, Johnny Depp looked bored playing Jack Sparrow. I’m not saying he was steller in 2 and 3, but he at least seemed to be having a good time.

2-The plot was crazy, and also really really dumb.

3- Enormous wastes of Ian McShane as Blackbeard and Geoffrey Rush. I’m not saying that these guys deserve meatier material, but seriously. McShane played the greatest anti-hero in the history of television. I think he can handle a little more substance. Geoffrey Rush has a fucking OSCAR. He already played Barbossa to perfection a few times. Why was this one so stale?

4- The biggest reason it’s the worst is because it took something so awesome, and with so much great background, had infinite time, money, and scope to really get it right, and failed miserably. It was boring. It wasn’t funny. The action scenes were SOOO BAD. When you compare the fights in this one with the sword fight between Orlando Bloom and Depp in Curse of the Black Pearl, you’ll see what I mean. There was no rhythm. There was no heart to any of it.

I think this is ultimately my biggest pet peeve with big budget movies that are highly anticipated. In that group, I’ll include movies like The Green Lantern, all of the Twilights, this most recent Pirates, and the last Indiana Jones movie….

These movies are guaranteed to make a shitload of money. There’s no question that the 4th Indiana Jones flick was going to crush it at the box office. So… with that in mind, and no real need to rush something out, why not come up with something really fucking good. There’s no way that George Lucas and Spielberg thought that shit was any good. And it hurt the legacy. Same with Pirates here. You’re telling me that they couldn’t wait another 6 months to find the perfect script, and maybe get a good fight director, and maybe get Johnny Depp in the groove? I call BS. The thing is… they made a crapload of money, but they seriously hurt the legacy of the movies. Maybe they just don’t see it.

This is why I’m fine with Ghostbusters 3 never seeing the light of day. If it’s not good, don’t push it.

Let’s leave it at that. I think a five thousand word blog is quite enough, thank you.

(Stay tuned for Part 2 later in the week where I give out my Muchacho Awards. Yes, I’m really taking this “Blog More” resolution seriously.)


The Tote Trove said...

Wow. This is really comprehensive. I saw a bunch of these movies, wanted to see others but didn't make it to the theater, and didn't want to see several more. Your impressions were interesting. My favorite part was the bit about puppets (in, of course, the Muppets section).

Annie said...

Really? You name Shailene Woodey but Garbourey Sidibe is reduced to "the girl from Precious"? Just struck me. Oddly. Anyway.

I effing hate Juno. H A T E.

OMG YES the villain in Green Lantern was SO BAD. How do you remember all these things? I had forgotten entirely why, precisely, I didn't like it. But now I remember that being one of my complaints.