Thursday, December 31, 2009

My Favorite Moments of 2009

So another year has passed and it feels like it was merely a month long. So much happened to me this year (probably more so than any other year of my life) that it really is difficult to recollect all of them, so this is my best shot. Here we go...

10. The Cliffhanger of Season 5 of LOST. EPIC!

9. Surfing the Longest Left in the World in Chicama, Peru.

8. Finally Seeing Sci-Fi Get the Respect it Deserves in Cinematic Offerings: Star Trek, District 9, Avatar, and Moon

7. 4th of July in Front of the Washington Monument

6. Summitting Machu Picchu

5. Witnessing In-Person Ben Roethlisberger's Game Winning Pass to Mike Wallace With No Time Left on the Clock Against The Packers in Pittsburgh PA With My Dad

4. Getting My First "Real" Job

3. Moving Away From my Hometown For the First Time

2. The Inauguration of Barack Obama

1. Getting Engaged to Lia Daniele Kerner

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Romantic Comedies of 2009: A Rebirth in Honesty

In previous years, cinema was jam packed with cliched stereotypes of modern relationships. They always characterized men as "A" and/or women as "B." It was always black and white, with the blame of a failed relationship resting on one or the other's shoulders—never both, which is often the case for most relationships.

But this year we saw something different, a rebirth in "date-cinema" if you will. This year we had movies like Away We Go, Julie and Julia, and (500) Days of Summer. In these films we see couples go through hard times, find themselves, fight, make-up and grow in different ways.

In Away We Go we track a madly-in-love couple on their search to find a home for themselves and their new baby. This is probably the most optimistic-without-being-overly-sentimental take on a couple I have ever seen. Why in the past has it been a bad thing to show a couple that is completely falling apart in every area of their lives except for their love? Sure, they have financial problems, they don’t really have direction in their lives, but they know they have each other and to them, that’s all that matters. Perhaps that’s why the film was not more widely praised. People like to see couples that fight—they like for someone to do something wrong or screw-up. But that has since become tired. Perhaps what would be more interesting is a couple, madly in love in a cynical world.

Julie & Julia we see two couples that strain as the women in the relationships try to achieve their own personal goals. Here's where the film gets original: both of the men in the relationship are 100% supportive. They love their wives and want the best for them. It's when faced with challenges—either self-inflicted or from an outside source—that we see a struggle. You never for an instance doubt that these couples love each other. It is assumed that these men will support their wives, these are good guys. The real question is how much will the women allow their men to support them? What happens when these women become consumed by their work? It’s refreshing to see men displayed in a positive light—as many times and stereotypically, they are seen to be threatened by their mates’ success and ambition.

The oddball of the three—and my favorite is (500) Days of Summer. A story told about a 500-day relationship between a guy and a girl told out of order, this flick is original and refreshing. What happens when you have a hopeless romantic fall in love with someone who doesn't believe in love? Joseph Gordon Levitt plays a Lloyd-Dobler-esque guy who is trying to figure himself out as he finds himself falling for a girl, a girl who he thinks is the "girl of his dreams.” The little film has a lot to say about fate, coincidence, reality vs. expectations and how we often idealize certain parts of our relationships, or certain aspects of our partners. It is Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind meets Say Anything. The thing I loved the most about this film is that both characters are young, funny, flawed and irresistibly lovable. Both do their fair share of damage, even though the film is told from the male perspective. They are real and hilarious, which in turn makes them touching and heartfelt. They are the opposite of the one-dimensional male/female archetypes that are found in so many romantic comedies of the past.

Perhaps what we need today is to stop looking at who is right and who is wrong in relationships. We love to blame and we love to generalize. "Men are so blah blah blah.” "Women are so blah blah blah.” Instead, how about this: we are all out of our minds. Every single one of us is just as nutty and ridiculous as the other. We all screw things up at one point or another. It's when we find the person that we want to spend the rest of our lives with that things begin to make sense. That we REALLY begin to mature. Because it’s then and only then that we are able to put someone else’s needs in front of our own. We need more movies that show us these things. We need movies showing a relationship being destroyed by (and from) both sides. And we really need movies showing couples that love each other without reason and without condition. Because, let's face it, in this world, if two people can find a way to love each other like that, there may still be a little hope for the rest of us.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Chan Chan Chan

I've been listening to Cat Power a lot lately. Actually, to clarify: I've been listening "Metal Heart" by Cat Power a lot lately. The reason is because at work I've just recently moved into a big room, and I'm the only one in it. It's probably a 30x10 foot room, all by myself. But this emptiness comes with a new freedom--and this is where the Cat Power song comes into play. I've hooked up these speakers to my computer--and I play that shit loud. I'm on the first floor--far away from everybody so I'm not disturbing anyone (even though I imagine the lame fifty-five year old men directly above me on the second floor complaining about "that damn twenty-something"). There is just something about the soul of her voice that fills up that room. It envelopes the corners and pulses in the walls.

Basically it's about the little things. It always has been. It probably always will be. Life is too short to listen to music played too softly.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Movie Review: Food Inc. (2009)

One of the best documentaries I have seen in a while. The non-biased approach to this film makes it very hard to argue against. But who really would want to? I mean I dont know very many people who would argue for these big corporations that would rather see dollar signs than a healthy America.

The food industry is one of the biggest, as well as highly subsidized, industries in the United States. Although some of the information in this film may seem like common sense (for instance food being cleaned or inspected before it is shipped to consumers), it's shocking how much is ignored. The film also brings to light how difficult the fight in Washington is because these corporations have so many well-paid lawyers determined to bring down any kind of hardship these corporations may face.

Food Inc. (2009) brings to light several issues that are often overlooked, making you very careful of where you shop, and what you buy--as you should be. I would be surprised if anyone watches this film and then goes straight back to their regular eating habits.

What I found most interesting about this film is that it doesn't just tackle the health risks of these big corporations not getting the proper oversight over their products, but it also tackles the economic issues as well. These large corporations are slowly but surely putting hard-working, honest farmers out of business.

I read in a magazine the other day that 70 cents of every dollar that you spend in a local store stays in your community, while only 20 cents of every dollar spent in a chain stays. Hard facts to ignore when the economy is in the can...

Check out this film--it may be the most important film made this year!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

My Favorite Films of the Decade

So I put this list together kind of haphazardly. I was reading a lot of other peoples (EW, The AV Club, Total Film etc) and found that I had a lot of agreements as well as a lot of disagreements. So I decided to go through the arduous task of making my own--which proved to be more difficult than I had foreseen. It basically made me come to the conclusion that we may have had one of the best decades for cinema since the 70's. There were breakthrough's in all fields (animation, technology, even script syntax).

Now please keep in mind that I haven't seen very many films of this year, so there is a lack of 2009 films--but I will try to update this list if I do see anything that deserves to be on this list. I put these films in a vague kind of order, but I'd pay no real attention to that. All of these films are fantastic in their own right.

Here we go:

1. There Will Be Blood (2007)
2. City of God (2003)
3. Children of Men (2006)
4. The Departed (2006)
5. The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003)
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
7. No Country for Old Men (2007)
8. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
9. Volver (2006)
10. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
11. Control (2007)
12. The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)
13. WALL-E (2008)
14. The Pianist (2002)
15. Adaptation. (2002)
16. The Lives of Others (2006)
17. Amelie (2001)
18. All the Real Girls (2003)
19. Up (2009)
20. The King Of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)
21. Zodiac (2007)
22. Lost in Translation (2003)
23. Amores Perros (2001)
24. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)
25. The Dark Knight (2008)
26. Pan's Labyrinth (2006)