If You Have Nothing To Say Then Why Not Write a Top 5 List

Really, I don’t have a lot to talk about.

I was on  the phone with my therapist last night for a phone session, something new for me, and I just didn’t know what to talk about.

I had squirreled away some time during my rehearsal to talk to her, her offer of a “phone session” given during one of our “real sessions”, and offered to me like the sort of thing that only those in truly desperate psychological straits might need.

“Well, I don’t think you are in crisis mode.” My therapist told me.

“Thanks.” I replied.

“That said, some patients find it comforting.” She said.

And it was that word, “comforting” that led me to a bathroom-stall in the middle of my rehearsal, surrounded by sweaty practitioners of a Korean form of Kendo and rumba-dancers, who we had heard practing in the next room for my “comforting” session.

To be honest, I was scared. Therapy had seemed like it had been working for me generally, or in another sense, that it was some sort of security blanket. It felt “comforting” to have it every week, a guarantee that no matter how spurious, your inadequacies would be heard, aired, absolved, even. In this way, therapy is the Jewish confessional.

Which I was now proceeding to do, with my pants at my knees in a small stall.

Eventually, when the Korean Kendoers started yakking about the evening’s activities, I decided to move upstairs to a small hallway that was abandoned to finish my conversation, since I didn’t want to feel like I was competing volume-wise when I was talking about why that girl the other night would have bad decision except that it didn’t go anywhere, or about whether rehearsal was structuring my life or merely propping up a decaying routine.

(More importantly, I didn’t want my director to hear that. Hi Michael.)

A girl ended up passing me by in the corner of the dark, empty hallway I was in while looking for a room.

“Wrong way.” I told her.

“With your life?” My therapist replied.

“No, with the classrooms.” I told my therapist and the call continued.

***

But enough about me.

THE TOP 5 FILMS OF THE YEAR, SO FAR (AND IT’S NOT TOP 10 BECAUSE IT’S ONLY BEEN LIKE HALF A YEAR AND NOT EVEN SUPPOSEDLY THE GOOD HALF)

5. IN THE LOOP-

“Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult” is the funniest line of this year so far, better than anything in The Hangover, despite how funny that movie was (though “I didn’t know they gave out rings at the Holocaust” comes close). The film is just an extremely effective low-budget British comedy reminiscent of The Office. What’s more is that it gets by without really any known talent or big names, save for James Gandolifni, who has been more of a Hollywood character actor in his post-Sopranos career. It’s just a comedy without the big names (a Frances McDormand-type instead of Frances McDormand, an Ed Begley Jr. type instead of Ed Begley Jr), which almost leads in those associations you make with how the actors look and dress to their real-life counterparts they are portraying in the political world. While the war in Iraq is not really very funny, there is something farcical in the bumbligness and insecurity of its lead-up and this is what In The Loop catches well. But, like I said, most of all, it was just really funny and really well done: derivative without being a rip-off. Feeling like television, but never slowing down or letting you get bored.

4. ADVENTURELAND-

I guess it actually has been a pretty damn-good half year so far because, unless shenanigans happen, this movie will also probably be on my top 10 list. As I’ve heard others agree, this film was poorly marketed as a follow up to the comedy stylings of Superbad, when really this film is more of a dramedy/coming-of-age movie about the time immediately following college. Following around the losers, has-beens and supposed hotties of the titular theme park where they all work provides us with a sense of angst and anxiety that feels, well, moment-y or momentous. Yes, there are elements of comedy in the film, but very little of it is slapstick-y like Superbad (a fine film in its own right). Instead, a character in Adventureland who goes for those kinds of laughs, the protagonist’s one-time best friend, is uniformly mocked in a way that almost seems a jibe at Apatovian comedy and director Greg Mottola’s previous film. What Adventureland gets to be is an honest look at a time in one’s life that I, personally, can appreciate. Only the ending is imperfect, tagged on for Hollywood style happy endings. But hey, we all wave to sell out sometimes. It’s part of growing up.

3. BIG FAN

God, number three of the top 5 and we are still on comedies. Well, I know this one’s a little bit cheating since it hasn’t officially come out yet, but I saw it at BAM and it played at Sundance so I suppose people have seen it and it’s been reviewed. Robert Siegel is just flat out one of the most promising talents out there in the American film world right now. His script for The Wrestler (as well as that film’s great supporting actor/wrestlers) lifted suckmonger Darren Aronofsky out of his own Hollywood cesspool and restored credo to his brand. Now, with this new movie, an auteured low-budget-y ultra-dark comedy, he proves himself as his own man. Looking at the lives of the truly, willfully pathetic, Siegel casts his glance at “Paul From Staten Island” a super-schlub who lives, sexless and (nearly) friendless, with his mother in their outer-borough home. He is obsessed with the New York Giants (who ostensibly did not give their permission for the film, since so much of it was shot guerilla-style) and his only pleasure in life is to follow them, his only victory, to call into late night FM sports shows and trash talk about how awesome they are. He is also party to a war on two fronts, the first of which is his mother who mocks him relentlessly and treats him like a child (which he almost seems to be, Patton Oswalt looking like an overweight, overgrown 12 year-old) and the second of which is his nemesis, “Philadelphia Phil”, who calls in to the same sports show to mock Paul’s Giants sincerity. The movie goes from dark to darker, eliciting more and more laughter in odd, unexpected places as we learn to live with Paul and accept if not condone his lifestyle. He is insane, but he wants it that way and his willful existence and his right to protect it make the film one of the best dark comedies in recent memory. Kudos to Siegel particularly on the ending (no spoilers).

2. UP

Better than WALL-E. No, I am not Armond White. But it is better than that film and the best Pixar offering since Ratatouille and Miyazaki’s Ponyo and I’m sure most of the other films this year too. Pete Docter (of Monsters, Inc.) and the rest of the Pixar bunch team up to provide something wonderful, intelligent and universal. A story about the search ofr adventure and meaning in life, physical and metaphysical exploration and also a giant multi-colored bird and a lot of balloons. UP to me is nearly a perfect film and one of the few films in recent memory and I can recall myself crying at (the last one was probably Pan’s Labyrinth). There’s not really much more to say. The animation as always is spectacular. The film never feels trite or too tongue-in-mouth. The appeal is as great for adults as it is for children and it never talks down to people, as WALL-E sometimes did in its second half. Plus, the highly touted dream sequence from UP would be a great short film even on its own. I don’t know how these guys do it, I’m jealous.

1. THE HURT LOCKER

It’s almost too obvious at this point to put this here. We have people from A.O. Scott at the New York Times to James Surowiecki of The New Yorkers’ financial page talking about why the hell this movie isn’t a bigger deal. Maybe I’m biased because I saw Escape From Alcatraz after I saw this film (in early February), which put in to perspective how old-school and craft-intensive and strict-procedural Kathryn Bigelow is. Ladies, this is who you should be aspring to be. Screw Penny Marshall and Jane Campion and Amy Heckerling (a good director who hasn’t made any movies lately) . Especially screw Nora Ephron whose works are self-aggrandizing and inane. (I still like Nancy Savoca, why isn’t she making movies?) Bigelow is a women who stands up to the male directors and show she can make a better “guys” movie than them. The Hurt Locker is simply exceptional filmmaking, visceral, the sort of film that made experience the “heat” of the desert, an experience you don’t usually get at a movie theater unless the AC is off. A showcase for prominent under-appreciated talents including Jeremy Renner (bound to be a movie star), Anthony Mackie (already on the verge) and Bigelow herself who has wowed the community and showed that she is more than James Cameron’s ex-wife. The best movie about the Iraq War certainly and one of the best movies about war ever: strict, un-preachy and always, always on the level of our characters without looking down or up at them.

***

Some movies I did not see yet (which I want to): World’s Greatest Dad, Inglourious Basterds, Thirst

Some movies I did not see yet (which I don’t want to see): The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Where The Wild Things Are, The Lovely Bones

HONORABLE MENTION- LORNA’S SILENCE-

I saw it recently, haven’t fully digested it yet. Thought it was very good. The first Dardenne brothers’ movie I’ve ever seen.

***

So agree, disagree, etc.

Thanks.

P.S.- First episode of Mad Men was awesome, ok thx.

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8 Responses to If You Have Nothing To Say Then Why Not Write a Top 5 List

  1. Me says:

    WALL-E’s most definitely better than Up. Not only does it have a far more entertaining and touching plot (Up’s emotion peters out at the end in a terrible way), but it doesn’t have the silliness of talking dogs flying planes in a dogfight.

  2. ProdigalT says:

    I’m inclined to see “Where the Wild Things Are,” because I’m a big fan of Dave Eggers as a writer and Spike Jonze as a director, and have faith that they can do something good.

  3. Clome says:

    Point Break was better.

  4. jason says:

    phew, for a second i thought you were beating me to the “top five movies werner herzog has made so far this year” list.

    i hope everyone gets over wall-e before i die because i still think the second half of that movie sucked something armond. also did you really think the wrestler script was that good? really i thought most of it was really contrived and the only thing i appreciated about it was that it precluded anyone but mickey rourke from playing randy the ram.

    lastly…so anthony mackie’s been on the verge for like 10 years now. will he ever catch his big star making point break? as much as i liked biker boyz i always wondered if it would’ve been better had hollywood c.2003 tried to push anthony mackie into ‘next big serious black actor/star’ instead of derek luke. i know this might seem heretical given that we all went to film school, and luke as Kid provided one of the most memorable yelled black trailer lines of the past 10 years (biker boyz make our own rules!) but my parents bought me a film opinion and i’m here to voice it goddamn it.

  5. If you manage to catch YOU, THE LIVING at the Film Forum, you should. Artsy (and/but) wonderful.

  6. Zach says:

    Man I agree with Jason, although sometimes his admiration for Herzog seems to teeter troublingly on the brink of irony. I’ve always felt like I owed Aronofsky something ever since snoozing through The Fountain after waiting six hours on line to see it, and I was still pretty unimpressed with The Wrestler. Regarding Up vs. Wall-E, Up is way better. Once we save the planet, Wall-E will become completely irrelevant.

  7. Zach says:

    Oh yeah, I always wanted to see Adventureland but never got around to it. I decided to check it out after reading you post. It was good, thnx. Good point about the ending.

  8. jason says:

    guys the ending to adventureland was fine. it was just like the ending to thumbsucker which yeah was pretty gay but this one ok because we got to see jesse eisenberg take his shirt off. kristen stewart take her shirt off.

    i saw the hurt locker and it was good except for five or six shots and three or four lines of dialogue. i do have a question though. why do black people want sons so badly???

    (0:23, 1:05)
    like tyrese’s delivery more than mackie’s. 2nd favorite yelled black trailer line of the past 10 years.

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