Category Archives: Movies

Movies of the Decade



Making one of these decade lists seemed too reductive and too vain (moreso than usual), and it still is those things, but it turned out that hearing everyone else’s lists was way too much fun.

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Best Movies of 2009



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not sure if I should like the avatar movie? : /

Hey dudes,

Finally saw the Avatar movie.  Don’t know what to say.  Was a really like weird experience for me.  Really felt like I was dreaming at times, like the movie made me feel the excitement of flying, at moments like I was ‘out of my body’ even though I was only in my seat, but also I could tell that this was just  visuals and that the movie was sort of like silly, like not serious because there were blue people and maybe I shouldn’t see something if it isn’t real, and many other things that made me feel like it could not be a good like film, which is something I care about.

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Desert-Island, All-Time, Top 5 Podcasts

Because they cost no money and no free time.


There’s really no excuse not to try listening to podcasts. They’re free, update automatically from iTunes and you can listen to them any time from when running errands to when eating to when folding laundry. This is a medium that understands modern, busy life.

Everyone’s got their own interests and you can try any you want–there are thousands–but here are my top five and some great places to start.

1.) This American Life – If you, like all people, like stories, you should probably try listening to this.  Entertaining+insightful personalities like David Sedaris, John Hodgman, Mike Birbiglia, Dan Savage and Chuck Klosterman are regular contributors. Chicago Public Radio - This American Life - This American Life

2.) Sound Opinions – Their “music news” at the top of the podcast covers the industry better than any popular online magazine (*cough* Pitchfork) and Jim and Greg are especially good at putting acts in a historical context in the reviews.  The middle’s double-stuffed with a lot of in-studio performances and interviews and they’ve got the best intro in podcastdom.  Get some more diverse critical voices in your ears, people.
Chicago Public Radio - APM: Sound Opinions on Demand - APM: Sound Opinions on Demand

3.) Slate’s Culture Gabfest – Real people talk like this?! Discussion is relentlessly intelligent if sometimes breathtakingly snobby (looking at you on both counts, Stephen Metcalf). Always goes the rare extra step of touching on what the latest cultural events mean. About the state of culture, about us. Then at the end of every episode they give their (mostly arbitrary) endorsements. Well I endorse you, Culturefest. Slate Magazine - Slate's Culture Gabfest - Slate's Culture Gabfest

4.) On Point with Tom AshbrookMonday through Thursday’s topics can be a little fluffy, but as far as I can tell each Friday’s “Week in the News” episode is the most intelligent, thoughtful round-up out there.  Might make you never want to watch cable news again. On Point - On Point with Tom Ashbrook Podcast - On Point with Tom Ashbrook Podcast

5.) Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me! – Yes, it can be corny.  Get over yourself.  It’s still nearly always funny and is definitely the next most fun way to keep up with the headlines if you can’t sit down for The Daily Show and/or The Colbert Report. National Public Radio - NPR: Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Podcast - NPR: Wait Wait... Don't Tell Me! Podcast

Honorable mention: All Songs Considered, Live Concerts from All Songs Considered, A Prairie Home Companion, NPR: Music, NPR: Environment, Planet Money.

Creme de la Meme


Roland Emmerich again sets a new record for most landmarks destroyed in a trailer:

The best of YouTube challenge videos:

And, of course, the best of  freakout kids:

(Bonus time-waster iDaft as art here:

Cold Modern Gangster: Public Enemies Review


Public Enemies is not a Johnny Depp movie, it’s a a Michael Mann movie.  Most will be disappointed that this is the result of this intersection between iconic actor and iconic role, and in that sense in particular it’s a lot like The Assassination of Jesse James.  It’s methodical, it doesn’t mug for the audience, and it is flawed.  But it’s also one of the best movies of the year.

John Dillinger’s story has been a formative one in the mythologizing of crime, from his Robin Hood-like taxing on the rich to his demise at the hands of a femme fatale in a red dress, and this is why it’s all the more surprising (and disappointing to our preconceptions) that its movie mostly avoids cliché.  For one, that femme fatale wasn’t actually sporting red but orange and white, Mann points out, while the film’s structure is more a serial alternation between robberies and prison breaks than a classic biopic arc. Dillinger doesn’t have a tragic flaw that slowly presents itself and then poetically brings him down; he’s just a tough dude that robs banks and won’t adjust to any system.

As for the performances, Depp gets precious few moments to swagger and the movie could use more emotionality (but would that be disingenuous?) from him and his Dillinger.  Cotillard is as tough as the cobalt of her eyes yet still somehow manages to convey more feeling.  Bale is, well, Bale.

But the real star is the filming, not the filmed.  Some have questioned why Mann would shoot a period piece through such an inextricably modern lens, specifically the digital one he’s been using since Ali and Collateral.  There was a concern that this disconnect would be distracting, and I worried that his signature blues and grays wouldn’t match the dusty tans and browns that define our collective memory of the era.  But the truth is that it’s sepia tones that allow us to keep the past at a distance. The contemporary look of Enemies pulls the contemporary audience in, and in made-for-Blu-Ray high definition.

If you’ve seen the trailer you’ve probably gathered that Enemies also participates in the cops-and-robbers-and-“when-you’re-facing-a-loaded-gun-what’s-the-difference” genre that The Departed (and Internal Affairs, of which The Departed was a remake) most recently took to its extreme, once again with two stars squaring off from opposites sides of the law.  Here the parallels aren’t as strong or as strongly accentuated (remember all the crosscutting in The Departed? Even Rocky had a montage), but nor should this theme again steal the show.  Still, under their relentless toughness it’s satisfying to detect each star’s struggle to keep both his brutes under control and his little compassion under wraps.

When the inevitable execution comes with its deft employ of CGI blood, you might not be reminded as much of Jesse James as of Zodiac.  Like Zodiac, Public Enemies is a modern auteur’s innovative look at the historical root of a genre and is a take that at first seems disappointing in how it frustrates our movie-and-ad-honed expectations.  And, like Zodiac in 2007, it seems destined to be one of the most underrated movies of the year.


Enemies on Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes.
And that awesome song from the trailer: Ten Million Slaves – Otis Taylor

Listomania – First Half 2009: Movies


Top 5 (Rough Order):
Star Trek
Away We Go

*New classic.

Also good:
Food Inc
Observe and Report
The Hangover

(All links are to “GLORIOUS” trailers.)

For my review of 2008 in movies, click here.
And for my review of the standout 2007, click, oh, here.