December 31, 2009

Favorite Movies from 2000 - 2009

There are 30 movies here. I trimmed it down from 40 but it's hard for me to cut any more. I tried to make it using the following criteria:

a. I have to think the movie is great. Even today.
b. I had to remember watching it and how I felt when I watched it.
c. I have to have a desire to see the movie again. Must have potential to hold up to repeat viewings. For example, I loved "Brokeback Mountain" but I don't think I could watch it again.
d. It had to influence me artistically or personally in some way.

1. Children of Men (2006) - In the top 5 of the best movies I have ever seen in my life. The cinematography blew me away. The acting and story engaged me completely. I still speak of this movie with awe and reverence, almost in a whisper.
2. Amélie (2001) - This movie opened my eyes to so much ... how movies could be made and how movies could make me feel. There have been many movies since that have tried to capture everything this film was but none have succeeded.
3. Finding Neverland (2004) - Broke my heart, sewed it up and broke it again. It's a gorgeous film and the script is impeccable to me.
4. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) - Wes Anderson is an artist in every sense of the word. Made me wish I owned a track suit and liked the Rolling Stones. Also made me want to write movies.
5. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-03) - Epic. Especially Return of the King. You can't do fantasy better than this. Sorry, boy wizard.
6. Dark Knight (2008) - The only movie I've seen on IMAX and the best "comic book" film ever made. It's fun, scary, exciting, sad and beautiful. It's bottled chaos.
7. Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind (2004) - Heart wrenching and funny and visually amazing. Michel Gondry knows how to create a world where anything can happen at any time and still make it seem like real life.
8. Kill Bill 1 and 2 (2003-04) - A bloody good time. This super badass heroine cuts through equally badass villains blocking her from achieving one clear goal. A pair of visual and technical masterpieces.
9. Up (2009) - Perfect. As it goes along, it just keeps getting better and better. It's such a simple message: "It's less about where you end up and more about how you get there and who you get there with." It's also really funny.
10. Shaun of the Dead (2004) - Comedy and horror and romance have never been done so well together. It made me want to write witty horror movies. I think it influenced the horror genre immensely. I could watch this movie once a week for 5 years in a row.
11. Casino Royale (2006) - The best Bond movie ever made. The opening 10 minutes leave my jaw-dropped open every time. It is amazingly shot and full of action and, for once, James seems more vulnerable which I think makes him more dangerous.
12. Memento (2000) - One of the most unique movies ever made. Great noir with a great device. Blew me away. Still does.
13. No Country for Old Men (2007) - Going to this movie felt special. Like an event. I ate up every frame of film and replayed it in my head for days. Love it or hate it, it has one of the best villains ever. I happen to be someone who loves it and gets it. Jealous?
14. The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) - Made me like Matt Damon. The best one of the three and one of the best-directed action movies ever. Strangely, watching this makes me want to be a better prepared actor.
15. 3:10 to Yuma (2007) - There's not a better modern Western. A Western should make you feel like you want to be a cowboy. "Yuma" does this. "Unforgiven" can suck it.
16. United 93 (2006) - If you haven't seen this, you need to rent it. It's important, well-done, reverent, cathartic and heartbreaking.
17. Hot Fuzz (2007) - Yes it was hilarious and I smiled the whole time but I couldn't stop being amazed at how exact Simon Pegg and Edgar Wright got the buddy cop genre. I kept looking at Amelia like, "Huuuhh? Right?"
18. 28 Days Later (2002) - Two words: fast zombies. This is the mother of all modern horror movies. A game changer.
19. Once (2006) - I knew I was in love with this movie within the first five minutes. We still sing that song a cappella around our house when the urge strikes.
20. Half Nelson (2006) - I don't exaggerate when I say Ryan Gosling's performance in this movie could be the best male lead performance of the decade.
21. Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) - The comedy that defined the 00s and brought absurd comedy into the mainstream. Probably the most quoted movie of the decade.
22. About a Boy (2002) - Ok, I admit it. This made me cry like a baby. It probably prepared me, however slightly, to take on a role as instant dad when the time came.
23. Incredibles (2004) - Splentacular. I think Ratatouille may be "better" but this movie is here because of the awe it gave me when I watched it at the time. It showed what was possible with animated movies (again) and it happened right before my eyes. I watch it every chance I get when it comes on TV. I never tire of it.
24. Hamlet 2/Tropic Thunder (2008) - I cheated. But I loved these movies so much for the same reason. They made me pee myself with laughter and they both feature Steve Coogan. In "Hamlet 2" there is a moment that was the most brilliant acting I think I have ever seen in a comedy in my lifetime.
25. The Hours (2002) - Crushed my soul and filled me with hope at the same time.
26. History of Violence (2005) - This is how you protect your family. (If you are a former mobster, that is.) I still can't quite put my finger on why I love this movie so much. But I do.
27. Almost Famous (2000) - Full of delightful characters, one-liners and the right amount of drama. Just so you know, music journalism isn't like this anymore.
28. Road to Perdition (2002) - My favorite gangster movie of the past 20 years. The cinematography, editing, direction, acting and score are all perfect.
29. Minority Report (2002) - One of Spielberg's minor efforts for some but this was my favorite action/sci-fi movie for quite a few years ... at least until "Children of Men" came out. It holds up too.
30. King Kong (2005) - Knock it if you want but this was a pretty darn good movie. It pushes a few others off the list (Spiderman 2, Star Trek, Batman Begins) because it was the first movie I saw with Amelia. Walking through the parking lot to get our tickets I was hoping and praying she thought I was as funny and cool as I knew she was beautiful and strong. I held her hand through the whole thing and my life has been better ever since.

Late additions: Signs (2002), Mouin Rouge! (2001), Punch-Drunk Love (2002), Before Sunset (2004), Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)

Do you have any that you think I forgot? What are your lists?

December 29, 2009

My Top Movies of 2009

I see a lot of movies. Now that I have children, I see even more. Ones that I would normally skip. It's a good thing that 2009 was such a great year for animated films. Now, you may find a few omissions here. It may be because I have yet to see some of the movies on many other Top 10 lists (The Hurt Locker). Or it may be that I didn't think certain movies were as good as everyone else thought they were (A Serious Man). And, I still haven't seen Blue Pocahontas. But whatever the case, these are the movies I did see and enjoyed thoroughly. I hope you get something out of it.

The Ones that Amazed:
1. Up - A near perfect film in every way. Great story, well-acted, exciting, tender and a joy to behold in each frame.
2. Inglorious Basterds - There may have not been a better first 15 minutes of any film this year. The rest of it is pretty damn good as well.
3. Star Trek - If you must "reboot" a series, this is how it is done. I hope there are at least two more of these so I can sink my eyes into them. The action was exhilarating. The dialogue was witty. The characters were perfect. I love J.J. Abrams.
4. Drag Me to Hell - I don't think I've ever grabbed the arm of a chair so hard in any movie in my life. Definitely scary and genuinely funny too. (I assumed because I liked it that Amelia would too. We rented it on DVD. I think she was with me until the ending. Then she almost divorced me.)

These Were Great:
5. District 9 - Proved that originality still exists in Hollywood (via South Africa).
6. (500) Days of Summer - Proved that great romantic movies don't have to just be full of silly jokes and fat best friends or end the way you think you want them to.
7. The Hangover - Proved that what happens in Vegas should never stay there if it is this funny. Just don't watch the credits.
8. Taken - Proved that dads with military training should never be f---ed with. A fantastic surprise at the movies this year and a technically great film as well.

Better than Most:
9. Sherlock Holmes - I had problems with the length and the ending but everything else was delightful: acting, direction, costumes and the action/fights.
10. Zombieland - Best cameo ... ever. This movie is splendid exercise in horror-comedy-road-trip movies. After the success of "Shaun of the Dead" it's hard to be original with the horror-comedy genre but this movie is.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox - I still like most of Wes Anderson's movies better but this was entertaining from start to finish. I had more fun than my kids. Why didn't more people see it?

Very Good Indeed:
12. I Love You, Man - Say what you want about Paul Rudd. But don't say anything negative around me. I love him, man. It's nice to see a raunchy comedy explore brotherhood instead of machismo.
13. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - I was surprised how good this movie was. Great to look at, funny in all the right places and a great moral without being heavy-handed.
14. The Blind Side - I kind of wanted to hate this movie. I did. But I can't. It is really, really, really good, ya'll. I wish Sandra Bullock would pursue these types of films instead of trying too hard to make us laugh and failing.

Honorable Mentions

Better than I Thought They Would Be: G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra, Land of the Lost
Animation is King: Coraline, Ponyo, Astro Boy, The Princess and the Frog
Found Myself Completely Immersed: The Informant!, Anvil! The Story of Anvil, Food, Inc.

There you have it. If I get enough courage I may attempt to figure out what my favorite movies of the decade were (like Chris did) as well as share my favorite music of the year (and decade).

What were your favorite films?

Note: I have now rearranged this list twice. I reserve the right to reorder it again if I see fit. This isn't the Times.

September 16, 2009

Brawl Cat: A Photo Essay

Meet Jane. She is a cat.

Sometimes she has friends over. Her friends are often naked. And drunk.

Sometimes her naked friends ramble on and suddenly pass out.

This display of low self-esteem angers Jane. She expects more from her friends.


Ashamed at her display of violence, Jane cries herself to sleep.

June 13, 2009

Poem of the Day: "Our Own" by Margaret E. Sangster

I know it's re-post from another entry but, really, how many of you read that far before? Anyway, I think it's a great little piece.

Our Own

If I had known, in the morning,
How wearily all the day
The words unkind would trouble my mind
That I said when you went away,
I had been more careful, darling,
Nor given you needless pain;
But—we vex our own with look and tone
We might never take back again.

For though in the quiet evening
You may give me the kiss of peace,
Yet it well might be that never for me
The pain of the heart should cease;
How many go forth at morning
Who never come home at night,
And hearts have broken for harsh words spoken
That sorrow can ne'er set right.

We have careful thought for the stranger,
And smiles for the sometime guest,
But oft for our own the bitter tone,
Though we love our own the best.
Ah, lip with the curve impatient,
Ah, brow with the shade of scorn,
'T were a cruel fate were the night too late
To undue the work of morn.

June 11, 2009

Poem of the Day: "If" by Rudyard Kipling

Potentially a new feature of this blog that I can try out for a while and then abandon, Poem of the Day will feature, doy, a poem. Maybe some of them will be written by me. Who knows? I'm winging it here.

The first entry is "If" which I was challenged to memorize in the Art of Manliness Blog's "30 Days to a Better Man" program (which I am failing to keep up with). And, no, I have not memorized it yet. But, isn't it just a cool poem?


By: Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
If you can dream–and not make dreams your master,
If you can think–and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ‘em up with worn-out tools:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And–which is more–you’ll be a Man, my son!

May 27, 2009

Delicate Etiquette

I was reading a cool blog/website called "The Art of Manliness" and came across a post that listed a bunch of etiquette rules from a book called "Hill’s Manual of Social and Business Forms" published in 1880. (Read the full post here.)

The article lists a ton of examples of things a gentleman in 1880 was to do or not to do. Below I have listed a few of my favorites with commentary in italics where possible:
  • Never exaggerate. Oops. I always exaggerate about everything.
  • Never laugh at the misfortunes of others. Sorry, it's kind of how I make part of my living.
  • Never give a promise that you do not fulfill. Gulp.
  • Never send a present, hoping for one in return. This is why I don't send presents.
  • Never speak much of your own performances. Instead, ask people how you did.
  • Never fail to be punctual at the time appointed. Guilty.
  • Never make yourself the hero of your own story. We all know this guy, right?
  • Never fail to give a polite answer to a civil question.
  • Never question a child about family matters. Especially our children. They know too much.
  • Never present a gift saying that it is of no use to yourself. Sorry I gave you that copy of "Jack" directed by Francis Ford Coppola.
  • Never call attention to the features or form of anyone present. Bella ...
  • Never associate with bad company. Have good company, or none. Poison or Warrant is, however, just fine.
  • Never look over the shoulder of another who is reading or writing. Aidan ...
  • Never appear to notice a scar, deformity, or defect of anyone present. Bella and Aidan ...
  • Never punish your child for a fault to which you are addicted yourself. If I can't say bitchface, then you can't say bitchface.
  • Never answer questions in general company that have been put to others. Pick me! Pick me! Pick me!
  • Never, when traveling abroad, be over boastful in praise of your own country. U-S-A, U-S-A!
  • Never attempt to draw the attention of the company constantly upon yourself. Have you ever been in a room full of theater students?
  • Never exhibit anger, impatience or excitement, when an accident happens. Impossible not to do one of these things. Do YouTube accidents count? (Thanks, Eric, for the link.)
  • Never enter a room noisily; never fail to close the door after you, and never slam it.
  • Never will a gentleman allude to conquests which he may have made with ladies.
  • Never fail to offer the easiest and best seat in the room to an invalid, an elderly person, or a lady.
  • Never give all your pleasant words and smile to strangers. The kindest words and the sweetest smiles should be reserved for home. Home should be our heaven. Amen.
Which old-time customs, etiquette and rules would you like to see more abundantly in 2009?

May 26, 2009

Here's What I've Been Doing Instead of Blogging

Where does the time go?

Honestly, it goes here:

Twitter -- If you aren't on it or following me, you are basically missing 140 character blog entries from me a few times a day. It's called micro-blogging ... go on, get some.

Facebook -- Where you can find out what I'm up to, what events I'll be attending or participating in, which celebrities I look like and what we have in common, if anything.

World of Warcraft -- Yes, I still play. You still golf (or other hobby), don't you? Plus, Patch 3.2 is going to be super cool.

Plants vs. Zombies -- I can lose 2 hours on this game faster than any other tower defense game I've ever played. Try for free here.

Southland -- Watch this show. I'm not kidding. Not since "The Shield" have I been this excited about a TV show featuring L.A., criminals, police and detectives.

You: "Oh, but I've seen enough cop dramas."
Me: "Stop. Right. There. It's not at all like anything else on TV right now which means it's good. Not perfect, but really really good."

Note: It was a shortened season and the finale was last week. Still, check out episodes on NBC. The network has ordered 13 episodes for Fall 2009. *Update: NBC cancelled the show but TNT picked it up. Check it out in January 2010.

Crossfit -- Took a 10 day break early in May but am back at it and killing myself for a better me. The gains I've made in performance are so crazy! And I think I've lost a little weight too.

Family and Friend Time -- Watch a video of kids cavorting and dancing below. Also, Mega Trampoline Wrestling Gauntlet of Doom (not pictured) could become a family summer evening tradition.

Sorry about the month-long break, readers. I guess the point I am making with this post is that the problem is spreading myself too thin with my online time. I could blog more if I wasn't so interested in what quizzes you are all taking on FB or what Eric D. Snider is tweeting.

I've actually been thinking of devoting more time to the TV blog we started a few months back and taking it more seriously. Maybe making it into a legit enterprise. Would that interest any of you? Would you read a blog about TV from me and my friends?

April 27, 2009

April 24, 2009

Acting Tips: Viewer Response

Here's the follow-up to my audition tips post, as promised. Great feedback all around. I'm glad we can foster this community together. To the reader tips!

Hailey said ...

"... you need to rush as quickly as possible through your sides, as not to waste the director's time by having any real moments."

True. I mean the director has better things to do than audition people. Hurry it along! He probably precast the show anyway. Also, I like to not only go fast but never look up from the sides as well. Thanks for the tip, Hailey!

Emmie said ...

"When deciding between fighting against emotion and crying, always choose crying. The more you can cry during an audition piece, scene, or play, the better! Crying is very dramatic, and shows the director and audience how good you are (at crying)."Delete

Good one. Real emotional loud crying is the best in theater because even if the audience can't see your face they can hear you sobbing. And that means you are having a serious dramatic moment. And then the audience will cry too. If you can't cry, force it.

My hot wife Amelia said ...

"... actors should always go out of their way to help out in other departments, when on set. And if you ask, "Can I help you steam those curtains?" or "Can I help you carry those stingers?" and the answer comes back a hearty "NO!" then don't listen and pitch right in without hesitation."

I love this woman. Also, she is dead on. In film, everyone just shares each others' jobs. Unions be damned. Am I right? So, feel free to pick up a sandbag and move it. Just be ready for the grip to come along and tell you that your scene could be faster and have more crying.

Take care, everyone. Until next time, may you nail your auditions and not the director!

February 26, 2009

Some Acting Tips

The first in a series of my (sarcastic?) musings on acting.

What are some of your acting/auditioning observations and tips? I'll include them with commentary in my next post.