December 31, 2005
#10 369. HALLOWEEN REUNION [This wasn't a perfect column, but it still was pretty spooky, and I did one of the stories on an audio clip, so I am proud of that.]
#9 349. DRUNKEN DILEMMAS [I mostly include this one because of how much fun I had writing it, and putting those jackasses in their place.]
#8 361. GALACTIC SLURPEES [I'm still wary when I take walks for that dog]
#7 347. THE QUESTION MATRIX [I'm including this in my pre-nup]
#6 332. MOTTO OÂ THE YEAR [I can't believe it's been a whole year. Seems like just yesterday]
#5 368. CHANGING HORSES IN MIDSTREAM [Just thinking about this column makes meJoness for those cookies. Tasie, if you happen to be reading....]
#4 360. BLISTER [In case you were wondering, there really is a Ken McCoy. And he really is a jerk. And if he's reading...ah, who am I kidding? That bastard can't read.]
#3 371. THE RISE OF CHARLIE DROP [You must buy this book. I'm fairly certain I wouldn't have been able to write such a good column without great material.]
#2 336. FIDES EXSEQUOR [When it's all said and done, this trilogy might make me famous some day.]
and the number one column I wrote in 2005.....
#1 352. BOTH BARRELS [Not to be one of those annoying chain letters, but read it again, and then send it to someone. Send it to ten someones. Please. The most important column I ever wrote.]
Up next year: perhaps more retrospective of '05, or maybe we'll look ahead. Or maybe I'll teach your grandmother to suck eggs. You never know here.
December 29, 2005
PROBABLY WOULD MAKE THE LIST IF I'D SEEN THEM: The Shield - Every year I've seen this show it makes my top three, but Canada is waging a war to keep quality programming from me. Grrr. Veronica Mars - Everyone I know who's seen this just raves, but I haven't got to it yet. Soon. Rome - I started watching Rome, and enjoyed it, but not enough to make the ten best. However, I heard that it gets so much better as it goes on that perhaps had I finished the season I would.
HONORABLE MENTION - Bones - I'm coming to love this show more and more, and the Christmas episode was one of the ten best single episodes on Television this year (now there'd be a good list). Bones is procedural, and Lord knows we don't' need more of them, but with emphasis on humor and characterization more, I've come to love it. Bones is moving from the brutal Tuesday time slot to the curiously empty Wednesday slot (8:00 eastern), so give it a gander.
#10 Prison Break - Though about as plausible as the idea that Nora Roberts writes ALL those books, Prison Break is still a lot of fun. When it comes back in March I can't wait to see what happens.
#9 Without a Trace - I've had to give up a lot of TV to get my work done, and sadly this show gets missed a bit, but whenever I catch it it's still as good as ever.
#8 C.S.I. - They can't keep up the quality forever, but right now there's no immediate end in sight. I like how they occasionally do "different" episodes that feature only one character or a different point of view to keep it fresh. And I'm still buzzing about the Tarantino finale last May; arguably the best single episode of TV this year.
#7 Grey's Anatomy - When it first premiered I wasn't all that keen, finding the plots too formulaic and the narrating kind of annoying. However, this show has really grown on me. The acting is superb and the humor and heartbreak mixed well. Grey's is as "shipper," so all those people who love to see their favorite characters get it on, this is for you.
Whoops! I mean
#6 Battlestar Galactica - It's dark as all get out, but so powerful and moving. I never saw the original (and I heard quite cheesy) BSG, but this one is great in my opinion. Watch the miniseries that started it all and see if you don't agree.
#5 Rescue Me - Tommy Gavin continues his climb into the pantheon of all-time tortured leading men. The look on his face at the hospital toward the end of the second season said everything to me. This seasons are only 13 episodes, so an absolute MUST rental of Season 1 and 2 before the new one comes in. Seriously: get on board!
#4 House - I love every actor on this show, but Hugh Laurie owns me. His brutal suffering and piercing intelligence and sarcasm get me every time. My dad doesn't seem to like him, preferring the vastly inferior Commander in Chief, but my dad can't be right about about everything. House is the man.
#3 24 - Was Season 4 the best yet or what? They've finally gotten their act together and plotted the Season fully rather than just write until they get board and go another way. Now the story is right there with the action and acting. I am so stoked to see Chloe again!
#2 Deadwood - I reviewed Deadwood over on MovieHype, so check that out for more info. Not much more to say other than what a treasure of a television show. I have no idea where Season 3 is going, but I can't wait to find out.
#1 LOST - My list includes an incredible six sophomore shows, but in my opinion, this is the best of them. LOST combines the adventure of being stranded in the plane crash, the mystery and intrigue that is the island and its other inhabitants with the strong characterization in the flashbacks. It's almost a perfect show. That at times Lost moves agonizingly slow, I don't care. I love each and every mystery I uncover. I can't wait to see what's coming next. I hurt along with my favorite characters, and shake my fist in rage as those who annoy me. For the second straight year, Lost is best of the best, which is saying quite a bit.
Up next: more best of '05
Most of the comedies out there were just so blah. The last couple of years there has been a slight uptick, but even then it looks like we will not see a great four-camera sitcom for some time. (My year-end list includes two animated shows and three single-camera narrated ones). Anyway, here are the top five comedies for 2005:
#5 Everybody Hates Chris - Based on the Childhood of Chris Rock, this is a sweet, funny, and surprisingly family-oriented comedy. Since we all had families the humor is universal, even as it's very specific to Rock's own past. Highly recommended.
#4 The Simpsons - It's become so hip these days to bash The Simpsons. I admit that two or three years ago the show wasn't firing as consistently as I'd hope, but it was still funny. Whatever; they've come out of that and now give us classic episodes almost every week. Do they resonate as much as the ones from the past? Of course, not, but isn't that a function of the fact that those were fresher (when we didn't have the huge body of work), and we tend to mythologize the past? In fact, I predict that 20 years from now you'll watch 2004-20005 reruns and talk about the huge renaissance.
#3 Family Guy - When they burst back onto the scene earlier this year (almost unprecedented), I was a little worried. And, the first episode was uneven. However, since then this show has mostly blown me away, enough so that I rank it above The Simpsons this year, a huge thing for me. That opening bit with Osama bin Laden a few weeks ago is still the funniest thing I've seen in months, and what about Stewie's rant to the frat guy? Fuggedaboutit.
#2 My Name is Earl - Another comedy that's just hilarious but with a kicking heart. Earl is a likeable scoundrel who wakes up one day after losing $100,000 to realize that bad karma got him there. He resolves to be a better person and right every wrong he's committed. Jason Lee is marvelous and deserving of an Emmy, but the whole cast is fantastic. Earl is on at arguably TV's most difficult time slot (I personally watch House live and tape Earl), but it's so worth catching. Try out a rerun in this Christmas season and then by all means jump on board when Earl moves to Thursdays next year.
#1 Arrested Development - I'm not bitter at FOX; they did all they reasonably could to support this ratings-challenged show, but I am angry at America. How on earth could so many people not discover this gem? Over the holidays I've been rewatching Season 1 on DVD with my brother and sister, and it just drives home the point to me that Arrested Development is one of the funniest shows EVER made. Jason Bateman is a regular guy trying to hold his certifiably insane family together. If you are intelligent, do yourself a favor and rent Season 1. I virtually guarantee you'll be hooked.
Up next: 2005's best Dramas.
December 23, 2005
Honorable Mention - SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS - One of the best bad movies ever made. Your whole family will have a blast watching this--especially if you get the Mystery Science Theater 3000 version. It's good to see Santa has other skills.
#12 BAD SANTA - Speaking of other skillz....BAD SANTA is a hilarious movie. Billy Bob Thornton plays a department store Santa who only gets the job to rob them. He's rude, crude, given up on life, and I've never laughed so hard in my life. Not for kids, but every adult with a sense of humor will be howling.
#11 DIE HARD - Okay, not your traditional Yule fare, but hey, it's Christmas Eve at the Nakatomi building, and John McClane is needed. One of the greatest actions movies of all time, and the Christmas time period allows me to proudly put it on my list.
#10 THE REF - A darkly funny movie. Denis Leary plays a thief who stumbles into the house of the most messed up family imaginable. He definitely got more than he bargained for. Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis are a riot, and Leary is in fine form. Great Anti-Christmas caper, but still with a warm fuzzy ending.
#9 NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION - My favorite of the Vacation movies (and that's saying something, since the first two feature nudity). Highlights definitely include Randy Quaid, the dog and that cat. The poor cat.....
#6 THE FAMILY MAN - I have loved this movie since the moment I first saw it. Sort of a twist on the George Bailey set up, Nicolas Cage's character gets a "glimpse" of what his life would have been like if he'd married the girl instead of going for the big bucks. Great great film. Can't recommend it enough. You know how I feel about kids, but the daughter in the movie is simply adorable.
#5 HOME ALONE - What more can I say about this? Kevin is great, the robbers hysterical, and in every way a superior family film. Never gets old, either.
#4 LOVE ACTUALLY - One of the real gems of the past couple of years. Set in Britain the four weeks before Christmas, LOVE ACTUALLY shows us the lives and loves of many (perhaps a couple too many) interlocking characters. The films is R (for some pointless nudity, although is any nudity ever pointless?), but even my mom was won over. Everyone will have their favorite story lines. Mine involves the kid in the band and the Portuguese woman...of course.
#3 A CHRISTMAS STORY - TBS is getting ready to run this movie 24 hours straight, and I can't wait. Perhaps the best narrated movie ever, and does anyone else feel like THE WONDER YEARS ripped off their concept? How many classics do we have from here? The leg lamp, Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra, the tongue on the pole, the dream sequences, the secret decoder, and of course, poking your eye out.
#2 MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET - Warm, heartrending, a wiz-bang of a court scene, just a little scary, a cute kid (you know how I love cute girls), the best beard ever, and anything else you can think of. This film works so well they remade it, in a fine version, but Hyperion says: when a movie is perfect, why remake it? Just stick with the original. You too.
And the number one Christmas movie ever.....
#1 IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Like there was a doubt. I could talk for years about this movie, but do me a favor and scroll back up and read that link about holiday films. I say everything I want to there.
Thanks all for reading. We'll be back December 26th for "Best of 2005" week. See you then!
December 22, 2005
#5 A Garfield Christmas - Just goofy enough to work. Highlights include several of the songs, and "Grandma," especially when she talks about how all they used to have were "wood-burning cats." What the heck are those?
#4 Claymation Christmas - This is one of my family's all-time favorites. The two dinosaur hosts talk about Christmas carols and their meanings. Well, one of them does. Herb mostly tries to find food. The announcers are also on the search for the meaning of Here we come a WASSAILING....The California Raisins end the show, but the funniest songs are actually We Three Kings (where the Wise Men are super-serious and the Camels all jazzy on the chorus), and Carol of the Bells, in which a bell choir features bells hitting themselves on the correct note. I can't explain it here, but it's hilarious.
#3 How the Grinch Stole Christmas - Just watched this yesterday to refresh; it really is lovely. Boris Karloff adds a great touch with his voice, and I love Max the dog. One question, though, what on earth are those Whos saying at the beginning of their song?
#2 Blackadder's Christmas Carol - Not very well known on this side of the pond, but those who do cherish it. My brother got it for me one year, and it's a hard-core family tradition. Blackadder, for those who don't know, is played by the incomparable Rowan Atkinson, in several specials down throughout history. He's usually a moron. In this version Blackadder is the nicest man in all of England, and the Ghost (played by Hagrid), shows him how all his ancestors were rotten, and if only Blackadder were rotten, his descendents would rule the world. The humor is very British, but I still don't see how anyone wouldn't laugh themselves sick.
#1 A Charlie Brown Christmas - I'm a recent convert to the magic of Charlie Brown. I was never that into it, but last year I got this book at the library; releasing all the old material with commentary and whatnot. Seeing the evolution of Charlie Brown made me appreciate the genius a little more. I never found Charlie Brown that funny, but I came to understand it's not supposed to be. It's the melancholy aspects to his character that make it so brilliant. When I rewatched the special the other day I realized how amazing this Christmas special was. (And for me to rank it ahead of Blackadder is saying something). I love the dance scene (Especially this one random kid in the middle who just jukes his head from side to side while dancing in place. Look for him.) I am blown away by Charlie's sadness as he searches for reason to find meaning in such a crassly commercial holiday (something I can relate to). I like at the end when they all are "oohing" Hark the Herald Angels, and their mouths all make the "OOOO" shape. Actually, the music might be the best part. The dance song number is classic, and the kind of sad one (Christmas Time is Here) is one of the best Christmas songs ever. It makes me so sad to listen to it, but in a good way. So, there you go.
Up Next: Best Christmas movies
December 21, 2005
I’ll be honest: 1992 is a tough year for me to judge films. It’s almost a toss-up with two other years, but what puts it slightly below in my opinion is that the most loved film, well, I hate. I actually was working on a column about this a few months ago that never got done, but I hate UNFORGIVEN. I really do. I realize many other people love it, and so I’ve tried to watch it again and again to “get” what other people do. I just can’t. I have too many objections to the film. Therefore, I refuse to include it. It did win Best Picture, so if you care about movies you need to see the film, but it’s not making my list. (Neither is SCENT OF A WOMAN, which I feel is way overrated and the worst movie for the incomparable Al Pacino to have won his only Oscar.)
In case you forgot, the whole reason we’re doing this series is to give you movies you need to see if you consider yourself a movie person. So often we go to the video store and we’re assaulted with the latest new releases, and forget all about great films just a few years old. Especially here at the Holidays, if you have intelligent family, pick from a movie on our list; it won’t steer you wrong.
Movies that probably would be included, but I haven’t seen and so I can’t put them on the list: MALCOLM X
Movies that aren’t really all that great from 1992, but are basically fun to watch and if you have a big family with several idiots you know you can’t go wrong: SISTER ACT; THUNDERHEART; WAYNE’S WORLD; MY COUSIN VINNY; A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN; PATRIOT GAMES; SNEAKERS; THE BODYGUARD
Kinda scary movies—if you have teenagers coming over—that they probably haven’t seen and will be kind of impressed with you: SINGLE WHITE FEMALE; RAISING CAIN
Movies that Laureate loves that I may or may not love, but don’t make my list: ALIEN 3; UNFORGIVEN, SCENT OF A WOMAN
The Top Ten Movies of 1992
#10 A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT – My favorite Robert Redford-directed movie. The film is a tale of two brothers, both very different from each other, what ties them together, and what breaks them apart. This is a great family film, and definitely worth watching. (For you ladies: Brad Pitt is super hot)
#9 HUSBANDS AND WIVES – I know not all of you are Woody Allen fans, but here he abandons his usual sense of humor—although there are quite a few laughs—to give us a very mature look at what makes love last, and what makes love fade. Not the feel-good film of the year, but a very well written intelligent funny drama. Probably his best work of the ‘90s.
#8 RESERVOIR DOGS – Before there was PULP FICTION there was DOGS. Tarantino’s first film exploded on the scene, and though few saw it at the time, it made his name in the Movie World. The tale is of a heist gone wrong, and includes all the Tarantino hallmarks: out-of-sequence timing, great witty dialogue that only he can write, and shocking hyper-violence. Not for everyone, but well enjoyed by those who like Quentin.
#7 HOWARDS END –
#6 THE CRYING GAME – It’s been so long that many of you have forgotten (or weren’t even aware) of the total furor that this movie caused. One of the first “secret” movies, in that the film contains a secret they don’t want you to know going in. (Although Gene Siskel, may he roast in hell, gave it away on his show). I saw the film knowing the secret, but the girl I was with didn’t. Her reaction remains one of the highlights of my life. If you don’t know the secret, don’t try to find out; just watch it. If you do, CRYING GAME is still a top-notch thriller and examination of what love really is. (NOT for Children)
#5 BASIC INSTINCT – Another film that caused a lot of furor. This movie doesn’t get enough credit. Along with Madonna, BASIC INSTINCT is responsible for giving us Lesbian Chic. Now, I know the film is famous for its sex scenes, but take out all the steaminess and you’d still have a top-notch crime thriller. (Of course, nobody would have seen it, but hey.) Sharon Stone gives the performance of a lifetime, and Michael Douglas is in top form. Even George Dzundza (Mike Logan’s first partner) is great. This is not a family holiday movie (unless your family is out there), but would be a great flick to watch with that certain someone….
#4 ALADDIN – Right during the middle of that incredible Disney run, and includes the best animated performance of all time. The story is fun, fast-paced, and popping with wonderful little detail. The songs are familiar and singable, the ending sweet, the atmosphere joyous. A great choice for the whole family.
#3 GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS – A magnificent small little gem of a film filled with performances to take your breath away. Look at this cast: Jack Lemmon, Al Pacino, Ed Harris, Alan Arkin, Alec Baldwin, Jonathan Pryce, Kevin Spacey; arguably the best collective cast of the ‘90s (now there’s a top ten list). Basically a filmed play, GLEN ROSS shows us one night in the life of salesmen. But it’s so much more than that. The play (written by Hyperion hero David Mamet) won a Pulitzer itself, so you know you come in with great dialogue. And that acting….This is another quiet film, but with fantastic performances all the way through. Pacino got nominated but Jack Lemmon absolutely steals the show.
#2 A FEW GOOD MEN – This film is beyond corny in its patriotism. So why do I include it? Because it works. Possibly Tom Cruise’s best performance (and that’s saying something), and it is Demi Moore’s. (That’s not saying much, but the fact that I like her at all is.) Throw in great work from Kevin Bacon, Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Pollack, and the immortal J.T. Walsh, and you have a…am I missing anyone? Oh yeah: Jack freaking Nicholson’s best work of the decade. (That’s right: better than even AS GOOD AS IT GETS.) The story is of two Marines, accused of giving another Marine a “code red,” which led to his death. But it’s so much more than that. It’s a story of honor, of following a code, of doing what’s right even though it’s not popular. When I was in Mock Trial, I brought over the other lawyers to watch this movie the night before State Competition. Featuring some of—if not the—best courtroom scenes ever. Includes now iconic lines: “You can’t handle the truth!” This is a great film.
#1 THE PLAYER – The best film you probably haven’t heard of, and almost certainly haven’t seen. Robert Altman’s THE PLAYER is a movie within a movie within a movie. I can’t tell you how good it is, other than the more you understand movies, the more you get what Altman is doing. THE PLAYER is about a movie executive Griffin Mills (Tim Robbins), who is pitched ideas all day. Terrible terrible ideas. One writer pitches him the idea of a movie executive who rejects an idea from a writer, only to be blackmailed.
Next week we’ll have the next year from the ‘90s in our countdown.
Up tomorrow: Christmas Entertainment
December 16, 2005
I thought I'd do something special for the Festivus season and ask different people about their favorite gifts. I was all set to go but then my first person bailed on me like a hater. Thankfully, Scapedragon stepped in so Dominique wouldn't be alone.
The question was: What are the five best gifts you've ever received, and what five gift would you like to get, if money, reality, and the time-space continuum were no object.
This is what Dominique had to say:
BEST GIFTS EVER
5. Dozen white roses - my b/f was out of country - remotely located but internet access - and he sent me a dozen white roses (my favorite) w/ a wonderful note (le coeur a sa raison que la raison ne peut pas comprendre)
4. Tickets to the Shirley and Lambchop show at Heinz Hall – I went w/ my Mom and Grams – even got a stuffed Lambchop puppet – it was great!
3. Red wagon - I'm not sure if my Sis got this or I did or we both did - but she'd take me around in it - ok, she was using my cuteness to exploit the neighbors and fund raise for Camp Fire or some such - but we had loads of fun with that wagon - although they manufacturers should consider putting in breaks so one does not have to wear our her shoes when going down hill.
2. Hand made doll - my mom had a baby doll made for me that looked similar to me - freckles - light auburn hair - brown eyes - she was soft and sweet and adorable
1. Doll House - my mom and aunt spent time "putting it together" before I was allowed to play with it - but once I got a go at it - I loved that house - I still have it - hoping to get to pass it on one day.
5. A house in a woody area by a lake - but not too far from Target and the movies
4. Classic ‘Stang (and the insurance paid too)
3. OFI trip to visit the orangutans (I'd say an orangutan, but that's not fair to take one out of it's habitat like that - so just a visit)
2. Trip to Stratford Canada for the Shakespeare festival and great seats to all the shows and all the chocolate monkeys I can drink
1. Hogwarts! (I'd like the castle but a trip there would be fine - and yes there is a place I've read about that is doing a 2006 trip package there - hint hint)
This is what ScapeDragon had to say:
5. A cameo ring.
4. A wrap that my mother knitted for me.
3. A KitchenAid mixer - My mother got tired of watching me fondle the mixers every time I took her shopping at Sears.
2. A toy tea set with real ceramic cups, saucers and teapot. My cousins and I loved playing tea party. We felt so grown up using real dishes.
1. A Porcelain doll with long curly blonde hair. She had blue eyes with long dark lashes that open and closed and pink lips shaped into a pout so she looked like she was about to cry. She had on a pink and white ruffled pinafore with white socks and white buckled shoes. I had never seen a porcelain doll before and I thought she was the most beautiful thing in the world. I wish I could remember what happened to her. I loved that doll.
5. A hand crafted venetian mask designed just for me by Guerrino Lovato.
4. La Scapigliata by Leonardo da Vinci.
3. The Red Violin (and possibly Samuel Jackson, with whom I fell in love with watching this movie) and lessons from a master violinist.
2. An epic love poem written for me.
1. A trip around the world with my sweetheart (tba).
Up next: more Readers share
December 15, 2005
I got to talking with friends the other day and came up with the idea of Inanimate Objects in movies. The kind that add to the film, so much so that they might be another character. I excluded weapons and vehicles (maybe we can do a side list on that another day), and focused on what had added immeasurably to a film. This is what I came up with.
#10 The Mask from Michael Myers – This one eclipses Jason’s mask and the Scream mask, in my opinion, and just frightens. I read it was actually a William Shatner mask turned inside out and spray-painted, which explains everything.
#9 The Plastic Bag in AMERICAN BEAUTY – It swirled in front of a brick wall, and it stole our hearts. (Note: Koz and I combined couldn’t find the plastic bag, so we’re showing that instead.)
#8 The One Ring from LOTR – One ring to rule them all, one ring to seal them up, one ring to destroy them, and in the darkness feel them up. Or something like that; that ring had spunk, baby.
#7 The Feather From FORREST GUMP – That thing seemed to have a mind of its own, didn’t it? Right now, you’re humming the theme song.
#6 The Poster from SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION – She gave a man hope, and covered the holes in his life. (Snicker snicker.) By the way, those great shadows were an accident, as the bulb broke when the picture was taken.
#5 Morpheus’s sunglasses from THE MATRIX – They gave him this otherworldly cool that allowed Neo to believe in him. And us too.
#4 the Briefcase in PULP FICTION – One of the greatest McGuffins in film history. Everybody wanted. No one would say what was in it. We know it glowed gold. It’s so cool, I can’t even show you the whole case. Now that’s a character. (Note: I’d have considered Jules’s wallet, but obviously couldn’t post the picture.)
#3 the push-up bra from ERIN BROCKOVICH – I’ll make this simple. I don’t like Julia Roberts, and yet I was mesmerized by her performance. Never has a support undergarment helped out someone so much.
#2 The Mask from STAR WARS – What else can be said about this mask? You saw it, you believed. You were scared. He was so badass! The mask never moved, be we felt our eyes on it.