Just for the sake of my own sanity and desperate need to have these written somewhere, I give you my favourite forty-two films of the past decade. There are at least fifty-six other films I would like to put onto a list, but I think I need to forcefully prevent any more decade-based listmaking as quickly as possible. So beneath is the top ten list, along with a sentence or two on each film and then thirty-two, out-of-list-order, films which I had to include.
You can listen to us discussing these films at length on the podcast on the show, but please do check out the list below for perpetuity. Sam’s list is annotated and included below, Tom’s is not annotated and its right here. This just means you will have to check out the podcast to hear Tom’s viewpoints. So check out Sam’s choices after the jump, along with a few choice thoughts and honourable mentions. Enjoy!
So, in the wake of Transformers revenging the fallen all over our minds, we were in need of cooling down from the sheer anger and exhaustion felt in the studio. Though Sunshine Cleaning should have been a great example of an indie to bring us back onto home turf, it ended up an underwhelming experience. The eminently crushworthy pairing of Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, along with the solid Alan Arkin and roles for Steve Zahn and Clifton Collins Jr, just couldn’t quite drive us into anything beyond a tepid lack of satisfaction. Ideas involved were strong, but the execution was half-hearted, even if all of the above tried really hard to elevate the material. Continue reading →
Comedy-tastic. Honestly, this is truly comedy-tastic news.
Seth Rogen, Jason Bateman, Kristen Wiig, Bill Hader and the great Jane Lynch have all joined the cast of Paul, the upcoming sci-fi road trip comedy from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost.
The Spaced pair wrote and will star in the film about two sci-fi nerds who embark on a road trip and encounter an alien, called Paul, who has escaped from Area 51.
The alien is to be voice by Rogen, fresh from his excellent voice-acting work in Monsters vs Aliens, with Superbad and Adventureland director Greg Mottola helming the project.
I’m a huge Pegg-Frost fan, so much so that their upcoming appearance in Spielberg’s Tin Tin film has got me excited for that project, long a ‘meh’ for me. Their work together in Spaced is of modern British comedy legend and while Hot Fuzz isn’t as consistent as one might hope, Shaun of the Dead is a bona fide slice of zom-com mastery.
This, with all of those other added, is now sounding like a saliva-worthy project.
Seth Rogen is fast-becoming a very interesting type of new movie star. Not typically handsome in a matinee idol sense, he does have a loafish aesthetic charm and, when scrubbed up, isn’t too bad to look at. Despite that potential lack of looks, Rogen has formed a position as one of the top names in modern comedy, standing alongside the likes of Will Ferrell and, to an extent, Paul Rudd in having the chops to carry and open a movie while managing often to take over and control scenes and dominate the centre of a film. More than this though is his working ethos. It had seemed his desire had been to make films which entirely explore arrested development of the American male. He’s done this with 40-Year-Old Virgin, with Knocked Up, wrote this with Superbad and Pineapple Express and now, in a movie made entirely around him, has found a darker vein of this subject matter to mine.
It’s testament to his ethos of picking projects that Observe and Report is such a flagrantly provocative and difficult film. I’ll talk a little more about how far it goes later, because really it’s not quite as relentlessly dark as some would have you believe, but this is a film in which the lead character, Rogen’s bi-polar, semi-sociopathic mall cop Ronnie Barnhardt, is the most difficult depiction of arrested development you could imagine Rogen taking on. You could possibly argue that Barnhardt is a working pastiche of those aforementioned characters, someone who doesn’t have the kind of gen-X lacksadaisical attitude to life which, for example, Rogen’s Ben in Knocked Up has. Rather, Barnhardt is desperately seeking a purpose to his life rather than being pushed into it by a relationship or any kind of societal responsibility he may feel.
It’s that search for responsibility and a place in the grand scheme which forms the core of the narrative. Barnhardt essentially sees his opportunity for notoriety and purpose presented by the emergence of a flasher in the parking lot of the mall in which he works. The flasher exposes himself to a number of women, including Anna Faris’ make-up counter girl Brandi, the object of affection for Barnhardt. In a joint effort of his desire to protect her and his want to prove his worth as a security official at the mall, he embarks on a mission to find the pervert, thwarted by the efforts of actual detective Harrison, played in a creepily accurate portrayal of his own persona by Ray Liotta.
From there on in, the film is a series of events in Ronnie’s life which will eventually lead to his acceptance of his place, culminating in an ending to the meat of the plot which is both very funny and quite unexpected. That ending plays well with the rest of the violence seen in the film as director Jody Hill juxtaposes scenes of brutal fighting, primarily involving Barnhardt and often against a number of different opponents, with moments of comedy you would expect to find in Apatow-set films. This tonal shifting doesn’t always work and one scene, in which Rogen squares off with Human Giant’s Aziz Ansari in a lengthy exchange of ‘fuck you’s is funny but out of keeping with the rest of the humour used.
In fact, the humour portion of the film suffers a great deal from a desire by Hill to have characters and situations which associate more closely with high concept than finding humour in the actions, however brutal and difficult to take they may be, of the characters. In example, the entire performance of Michael Pena as Barnhardt’s sidekick is too broad to be in this film, coming across like a grown-up version of Pedro from Napoleon Dynamite. Take that against a scene when, after being told about the verbal abuse being suffered by Colette Wolfe’s sweet coffee girl from her boss (an all-too-brief turn from Patton Oswalt), Rogen’s character does precisely what we’re led to believe he would do and marches into the back of the restaurant to violently attack and threaten both Oswalt’s character and his female cohort. Uncomfortable as it may be, that scene is funny because it rings true to the character Rogen and Hill have drawn. The laughter may be Freudian but it’s not manipulative in the way that Pena’s lisping fool often is.
Though that juxtaposition often suffers, the lengths to which Hill goes on the violence and more difficult parts of the movie are admirable. Not only that, but the actual fight scenes are extremely well-filmed and utterly heinous in execution. The scene in which Barnhardt takes on a group of crack dealers on the street is exhilarating and provides a neat turning point in adding a sense of actual danger to our protagonist. After this, his temper becomes a genuine threat to other characters in the film.
The most infamous sequence since its release however has been the sex scene between Barnhardt and Brandi, described by some as a date rape given the wild intoxication of the female character and the relative straightness of Barnhardt in the lead-up to their coupling. It’s a valid criticism to make but this is one of the points where, in all honestly, Hill shifts back from taking it too far and, as the close of the scene, has Brandi urge her paramour to keep going after he double-takes on her near comatose state. No doubt the scene is not pleasant but I can’t see the argument that it is date rape. I would argue that the scene is another in keeping with the character Hill has built. Barnhardt is bi-polar and misconstrues certain social situations throughout the entire film. While this is a very difficult misconstrument to justify for the character, that is what it is and to argue that is possibly missing the point.
I think however that a more prescient point about the scene is that it’s not very funny. Hill has said about the scene that he thought showing Ronnie having sex with her passed out “would be funnier”. That’s the point at which his decision to include the scene in the movie becomes more difficult to take. The scene itself pulls back from being a true date rape by having her urge his continuance but, while this could give Hill an out, that statement indicates something slightly disturbing about the kind of deliberate provocation he may have been seeking to tap into in the film and, rather than simply criminalise the scene, just provides a further indication that he was never quite sure what kind of film he was making here.
Black comedies, especially the most pitch black, must commit fully to that vein or risk blunting their teeth at the key moments. The date rape scene, as it’s likely to become known for eternity, is in keeping with a truly dark comedy about a serious anti-hero, but this is undermined nearly entirely during the closing scenes of the movie as Barnhardt is granted some sort of redemption and hero status. If Hill had stuck to the half of this film where he truly mined a really dark, difficult vein of humour, he would have created something really interesting. As it is, this is a bit of a hollow sell that has some outstanding moments but bottles it at key moments when it should be at its strongest. The people can complain about the date rape scene all they want but, really, this is just a decent black comedy attempt which defangs itself too easily to truly inspire cult devotion.
Impish auteur Michel Gondry has been talking to all and sundry about his involvement in the much-anticipated, Seth Rogen-headed adaptation of The Green Hornet.
Gondry said to Total Film that he was surprised that Rogen was even listening to many of his ideas given his current box-office clout compared to the former Freak and Geeker. He said the trust put in him by Rogen is “quite amazing”, adding: “I mean, look at my numbers on IMDb, and my average is $10 million and his average is $90 million a movie, so I’m glad he’s paying any attention to what I’m suggesting.”
He goes on in the interview to say that this could well have something to do with the fight scene he made for his audition tape to try and get the job. He describes the seen as being “not elaborate”, explaining that he changed the camera speed at “different spots in the image at different times”. Going further, Gondry illuminates:
“The camera speeds up and slows down but at different times for different characters’ images. So one will go fast and the other will go slow — and then they’ll meet. It’s as if they’re in different dimensions, but when they touch each other, they come into the same dimension”.
Deeper than this is a short interview with Sci-Fi Wire in which he explains his entire directing style. He says he takes the comments from critics of his work which hurt him – “Generally if I was upset about a comment, it was because there was some truth in the comment,” he says – and compiles them into a notebook to help him improve as a director.
He goes on to explain his ethos in approaching the Green Hornet project:
“I’ll try to portray a human quality I see in real life and I appreciate through the medium. That’s my job, to not use the film to camouflage moments of a person’s personality, but to reveal that personality, and I think this is a very clear and broad statement, maybe something to do with feeling good or this type of direction, so I don’t see why this should not be easy for people to appreciate.”
As usual, his comments seem encouraging for his plans on the project, indicating a desire not to fall into the traps of so many indie film directors entering into the Hollywood machine and losing their personality in the process.
There seems to be a desire on the side of both Gondry and, importantly, Rogen to make something outside of the standardised formula now prevalent in comic book hero movies. More and more, this is becoming a very anticipated project in my book.
Photo from Flickr user tomsaiyuk
Seth Rogen and Andy Samberg are teaming for an incredible new flick, The Fast and the Bi-Curious. The trailer, I cannot deny, is pretty hot. Check it out below.
The Green Hornet has become something of a buzzed-about project since the addition of Michel Gondry as director, adding his talents to those of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg in the writing department, the former also starring. For all the excitment building around the film however, it seems even Rogen is a little unsure as to how things will pan out when it comes to fruition.
Speaking in an interview with Collider, Rogen said he and Goldberg had been given a rejection by Gondry after coming to him with ideas which involved incorporating some of his own style, “weird people made out of string and shit like that” as Rogen puts it. “He’s like, ‘No, I don’t want to (do) any of that’,” Rogen says of Gondry’s reaction, adding that he hates to be “predictable and repetitive”.
The other question Rogen is fielding is over the involvement of Hong Kong action star, and the creator of Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer, Stephen Chow. The latter had been tapped to play both Kato and direct at one point, although this then devolved into him only playing Kato and on to further speculation that he is not involved at all.
On the issue, Rogen : “He may be Kato. I’m not 100 per cent sure if that’s the case, but it’s a very likely possibility”, adding the movie is in the very early stages and that he honestly knows nothing else.
On the subject of the actual story however, Rogen indicated that he and Goldberg were edging towards doing an origin piece. He said the two had resisted such an option to begin with, “but then we realized if we kind of embraced it and played with that idea it could be a lot better so that’s something we’ve added”.
The whole project still sounds pretty decent, especially with the visual style and imagination of Gondry on board. I would also like to see Chow take on the role of Kato, mostly to provide him with a way into Hollywood and an opportunity to start competing for those Jackie Chan comic-kung fu roles he so richly deserves.
Debate has begun to rage, at least for me, over the move by Kevin Smith to drive out of the View Askew-niverse to take on his first major studio movie, A Couple of Cops (or possibly its original title of A Couple of Dicks). Ben Child, writing for The Guardian, wrote on the subject last week, at least partly-lamenting the move by the ‘one-time doyen of indie comedy’.
I would argue immediately that this is no sell out. Yes, its a big budget studio movie. Yes, he used to work within his own movie universe and will have to compromise on that. But, he is developing as a movie-maker. Clerks 2 and Zack and Miri Make a Porno both feature much more visual spark and maturity of writing than has been seen in previous years. His work on Zack and Miri in particular did indicate a shift into a new type of comedy. Still keeping in his verbose gross-out conversational style and blending that with the gutteral world of pornography, it may not have endeared him to the intellectual glitterati. But no doubt that he is developing and moving on. Working in Hollywood with a new producer and a commitment to learning and adapting could see Smith return to his muse-land with a greater degree of skill than ever before.
A better question that Child poses is whether the world needs Kevin Smith even more. His deconstructive dialogue on relationships, male insecurity and geekdom have been co-opted by the Apatow crowd which, unfortunately for Smith, has a stronger stable of performers than his troupe. Child points out too that the verbose language and constant deconstructive commentary has been taken further into the leftfield by the mumblecore crowd. It is a disturbing thought that perhaps Smith has become somewhat obsolete. His Evening With… series is very good but perhaps through there, and through his Smodcast and online obsession, is where his influence now lies.
Zack and Miri is one of his best movies, even employing one of the key Apatow players, seemingly with a view to both working with a like-minded comedian and also to tap into Seth Rogen’s box-office potential. It’s perhaps ironic that, as identified here, Apatow has made Smith’s Zack and Miri possible despite Smith influencing Apatow (something Smith agrees with). Maybe the casting of Rogen indicated his desire to shift closer to the mainstream but maybe, just maybe, there just isn’t any space for Smith anymore and those to have been influenced by him, notably in the Apatow crowd and in the mumblecore genre, have taken the place which may well have been his had he been braver earlier on. It would be a sad filmic world to me to see Smith, one of the best screenwriters of his whole generation, fall by the wayside when, in my opinion, he still has much to give.