Best Music of 2012 – Top Albums and Songs



Best Songs of 2012

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  1. “The Malkin Jewel” by The Mars Volta
  2. “Opium” by Dead Can Dance
  3. “Kingdom” by The Devin Townsend Project“
  4. “Nothin But Time” by Cat Power
  5. “Hey Jane” by Spiritualized
  6. “Insulin” by Crystal Castles
  7. “The Seer” by Swans
  8. “Song Of The Lonely Mountain” by Neil Finn (Hobbit) and “The Rains of Castamere” by The National (the Lannister anthem of Game of Thrones). The two best licensed fantasy songs of all time.
  9. “Untouchable, Part 1” by Anathema
  10. “Comeback Kid” by Sleigh Bells
  11. “Madness” by Muse
  12. “Laura” by Bat for Lashes
  13. “The Afterman” by Coheed and Cambria
  14. “The Puritan” by Blur
  15. “More!” by The Devin Townsend Project
  16. “Cities” (from the Sound Shapes PS3 game) by Beck
  17. “I Love It” by Icona Pop
  18. “Grimes” by Oblivion
  19. “Flutes” by Hot Chip
  20. “Children Of The Sun” by Dead Can Dance
  21. “Children Of The Moon” by The Flaming Lips
  22. “Theme from Call of Duty Black Ops II” by Trent Reznor
  23. “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards” by Tame Impala
  24. “Plague” by Crystal Castles
  25. “Myth” by Beach House
  26. “In Absentia” by The Mars Volta
  27. “Rize Of The Fenix” by Tenacious D
  28. “Werewolf” by Fiona Apple
  29. NYC: 73 – 78 (Beck Remix)” by Philip Glass
  30. “True Thrush” by Dan Deacon
  31. “Kill for Love” by Chromatics
  32. “Mary” by Spiritualized
  33. “DoYaThing” by Gorillaz featuring Andre 3000 and James Murphy
  34. “Born To Lose” by Sleigh Bells
  35. “The Gathering of the Clouds” by Anathema
  36. “Under The Westway” by Blur
  37. “Drag Ropes” by Storm Corrosion
  38. “Wish Them Well” by Rush
  39. “Gaucho” by Dave Matthews Band
  40. “Catatonic” by …And You Will Knows Us By The Trail Of Dead
  41. “Yet Again” by Grizzly Bear
  42. “Not Your Kind of People” by Garbage
  43. “Duquesne Whistle” by Bob Dylan
  44. “Save Our Now” by The Devin Townsend Project
  45. “Golden Light” by Twin Shadow
  46. “Inspector Norse” by Todd Terje
  47. Animals” “Explorers” and “Liquid State” by Muse
  48. “Why They Hide Their Bodies Under My Garage?” by Blawan
  49. “Bloody Mary (Nerve Endings)” by Silversun Pickups
  50. Jessie Ware 110%

a few more cool tracks…

Top 25 Albums of 2012

  1. Swans (The Seer) — Nothing else like it except of course for more Swans. Seer is so monumental, so brutally good, that I feel like I had no choice to rank it as the best album of the year. It just is.
  2. Mars Volta (Noctourniquet) — Mars Volta finally matches (and possibly even surpasses) their debut effort. This stunning achievement is the result of a band (Omar Rodríguez-López and Cedric Zavala) that, after four disjointed (but underrated and masterful) albums, finally stopped experimenting with their unique blend of alt-prog-jazz-rock and proved capable creating a tight and focused album experience.
  3. Devin Townsend Project (Epicloud) — Though it’s not technically the best album of the year it’s certainly my favorite in terms of how much I have enjoyed countless re-listens. This album turned me into a Townsend fan.
  4. Crystal Castles (III) — Three albums in and Crystal Castles –the best new band from the last decade– is showing no signs of slowing, selling-out or, more importantly, repeating themselves. From the manic chiptune assault of their debut to this album’s smoother pop synths, the band’s sound is evolving; dare I say maturing? While the dreamy III is, if it must be judged against their other masterworks, their “least successful” album to date, that only results in them being ranked 4th instead of their usual spot of #1 or #2.
  5. Spiritualized (Sweet Heart, Sweet Light) — A triumph for Jason Pierce who’s last album, the deathbed set Songs in A&E, was a total downer. This album is his “We Love Life” in that it’s a souring affirmation of life featuring a surprisingly cynical and often funny edge. After all, the follow up lyric to the album’s title, Sweet Heart, Sweet Light is “…loving my life” which I never thought I’d hear in a Spiritualized song. Of course if you watch the video to this song above those lyrics are set to a dude beating up transgender hooker before getting his head blown off. Ah, good times.
  6. Anethma (Weather Systems) — That Weather Systems didn’t get people talking is one of 2012 music’s saddest moments. Anathema’s 9th album(!) displays the perfect blend of soft and hard progressive sounds.
  7. Dead Can Dance (Anastasis) — I’m embarrassed to admit that this is the first DCD album I’ve ever heard. And happy to admit that it’s not the last.
  8. Bat for Lashes (The Haunted Man) — Not Two Suns good but close.
  9. Tame Impala (Lonerism) — See, I like new music! While it’s trendy to fawn over Lonerism, I found this album to be a refreshing surprise in a year full of predictably good stuff. Best Australian band since Cut Copy.
  10. Sleigh Bells (Reign of Terror) — Derek Edward Miller and Alexis Krauss’s ridiculous pop-rock bravado doesn’t seem like a cocky hipster put-on anymore. Actually, it does but the result is far more likable. Great driving music.
  11. Dan Deacon (America) — Merica!!!
  12. Fiona Apple (Really Long Album Title Goes Here) — Two out of three of the most annoying women in music today (Taylor Swift and Adele) have basically made a career out of shitty mainstream pop post-break-up songs. Fiona Apple has been doing it (well) for years. Her only flaw: the wait between her albums are too long!
  13. Rush (Clockwork Angels) —  Sadly, most surviving rock legends have no clue what made them good in the first place and have no idea how to keep their music interesting and exciting. Rolling Stones, U2, Who, etc. Rush figured it out. I’m starting to think Neil Peart is not human but some sort of Wizard or Dark Lord.
  14. Grimes (Visions) — Annoying. Then mildly interesting. Then tolerable. Finally… adorable.
  15. Coheed and Cambria (The Aftermath: Ascension)— Claudio Sanchez’s “Amory Wars” reaches a satisfying apex with this first half of a double album. The second half, Descension, is out now.
  16. Muse (The 2nd Law) — It’s a sad day when including something from Muse on a best-of list counts as an irrational guilty pleasure. The album as a whole fails conceptually (obtuse thermodynamics concept of this album is “unsustainable” rubbish and hardly cohesive) and is easily Muses worst effort to date; a slap in the face to fans that have been following the band since their first few album. But… it’s hard to argue with an album that has so many good individual singles. If this is selling-out (and, make no mistake, it is) then so be it.
  17. Cat Power (Sun) — Cat Power’s best album ever. I’ve always admired her but never really “got” Chan Marshall until 2012’s Sun. Specifically, “Nothing But Time” one of the best songs of the decade.
  18. Bob Dylan (Tempest) — Here’s another (still rare) example of age only making music better.
  19. Storm Corrosion (self titled) — Mikael Åkerfeldt (Opeth) + Steven Wilson (Porcupine Tree). Yup.
  20. Tenacious D (Rize of the Fenix) — Leaves Arcade fire in the dust!
  21. Beach House (Bloom) — Every song here the essentially the same and that’s fine because every song is so lush and beautiful thanks to Victoria Legrand. Is there a better voice in music today?
  22. Dave Matthews Band (Away From the World) – After Whiskey and Gaucho I’m officially calling it: DMB is back.
  23. Godspeed! You Black Emperor (‘Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!) — Ten year gap between albums. Not cool!
  24. Django Unchained (Soundtrack) – Dig.
  25. Frank Ocean (Channel Orange) – After some resistance I’ve come around to appreciating Channel Orange.

 

The Most Overrated/Annoying/Boring/Lame Albums of 2012:

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  1. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
  2. Taylor Swift – Red
  3. Fun. – Some Nights
  4. One Direction – Take Me Home
  5. Lana Del Rey – Born to Die
  6. Gossip – A Joyful Noise
  7. Gotye – Making Mirrors
  8. Best Coast – The Only Place
  9. Green Day – ¡Uno! ¡Dos! and ¡Tre!
  10. The xx – Coexist

Worst Songs of 2012:

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  1. “Gangnam Style” – Psy
    This decade’s Macarena. May all those who listened to this without irony, mockery or hatred in their hearts be shamed for an eternity.
  2.  “Some Nights” and “We Are Young” – Fun.
  3. “Stupid Hoe” and “Roman Holiday” and pretty much everything else by…  Nicki Minaj
  4. “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen
  5. “Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye
  6. “Harlem Shake” – Baauer
  7. “I Knew You Were Trouble” and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”  – Taylor Swift
  8. “Mercy” – Cruel Summer
  9. Trying Not To Love You – Nickelback
    The worst insult I can give the songs above is to say they somehow managed to be worse than an Nickelback song.
  10. “Hot Problems” – Double Take – –funniest song of the year–

Best Albums of 2013 (so far)

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  1. Atoms for Peace – Amok (Thom York’s new band)
  2. The Knife – Breaking the Habitual
  3. How to Destroy Angels – Welcome Oblivion
  4. My Bloody Valentine – MBV
  5. Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds – Push the Sky Away
  6. Pantha Du Prince – Elements of Light
  7. Depeche Mode – Delta Machine
  8. David Bowie – The Next Day
  9. Yo La Tengo – Fade
  10. The Flaming Lips – The Terror
  11. Coheed and Cambria – The Afterman: Descension
  12. The Strokes – Comedown Machine

The Best Movie, Album, Song, Show, and Videogame of 2012!!!

The Best Film of 2012

The Dark Knight Rises

Directed by Christopher Nolan

Past #1 Film Picks…
2011: Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn)
2010: Mother (Joon ho-Bong)
2009: Antichrist (Lars von Trier)
2008: Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
2007: There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2006: The Queen (Stephen Frears)
2005: A History of Violence (David Cronenberg)
2004: Kill Bill vol. 2 (Quentin Tarentino)
2003: Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Peter Jackson)
2002: Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki)
2001: Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch)

***

The Best Album of 2012:

 

The Seer by Swans

Past #1 Album Picks…
2011: Amplifier (The Octopus)
2010: Gorillaz (Plastic Beach)
2009: Porcupine Tree (The Incident)
2008: Crystal Castles (Self Titled)
2007: Blonde Redhead (23)
2006: Muse (Black Holes and Revelations)
2005: Nine Inch Nails (With Teeth)
2004: Nick Cave (Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus)
2003: The Mars Volta (De-Loused in the Comatorium)
2002: Beck (Sea Change)
2001: Tool (Lateralus – best of the decade!)

***

Best TV Best Show of 2012:

Game of Thrones (season 2)

Past #1 Television Picks…
2011: Game of Thrones (season 1)
2010: Breaking Bad (season 3)
2009: Lost (season 5)
2008: Aqua Teen Hunger Force (season 5)
2007: Frisky Dingo (season 1)
2006: Battlestar Galactica (season 2.5)
2005: Arrested Development (season 3)
2004:  Fullmetal Alchemist (season 1)
2003: Angel (season 5)
2002: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 7)
2001: Buffy the Vampire Slayer (season 6)

***

The Best Video Game of 2012:

Halo 4

Note: I’ve never placed a first person shooter as #1 and as much as I would have like to continue that tradition Halo 4 offered the best overall experience (graphics, single player mode, multiplayer and co-op) in what was otherwise the weakest year for video games in recent memory. 

runner up…

 FTL: Faster than Light

Past #1 Video Game Picks…
2011: Portal 2 (PS3)
2010: Mass Effect 2 (Xbox360)
2009: Batman Arkham Asylum (PS3)
2008: Fallout 3 (PC)
2007: Persona 3 FES (PS2)
2006: Final Fantasy XII (PS2)
2005: Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
2004: Ninja Gaiden (Xbox)
2003: Deus Ex: Invisible War (PC)
2002: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast (PC)
2001: Metal Gear Solid 2 (PS2)

***

Best Novel of 2012

Fate of Worlds by Larry Niven & Edward M. Lerner
(Niven’s landmark Ringworld/Fleet of Worlds series ends on the highest note possible)

tied with…
Star Wars: Darth Plagueis by James Luceno
(the best Star Wars book ever written)

2011 Best Novel:
Ready Player One by Earnest Cline and A Dance With Dragons by George RR Martin.

***

Best Theatrical Performance

Liam Neeson in The Grey

runner up…

Carl Urban in Dredd
(not joking; underrated performance)

Past #1 Picks…
2011: Steve Coogan in The Trip
2010: Ben Stiller in Greenberg
2009: Sam Rockwell in Moon
2008: Christian Bale/Heath Ledger/Aaron Eckhart, all for The Dark Knight
2007: Daniel Day Lewis in There Will Be Blood
2006: Helen Mirren in The Queen
2005: Ian McDiarmid (Palpatine/Darth Sidious) in Star Wars: Episode III and Ray Winstone in The Proposition
2004: Tom Hanks in The Ladykillers
2003: Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
2002: Adam Sandler in Punch Drunk Love
2001: Naomi Watts in Mulholland Drive

***

Full lists coming as soon as I catch up on a lot of missed movies and albums.
Also, all #1’s listed below subject to change once the full lists roll out.

Best TV Shows of the Year (2011/2012 season)

Television is the preeminent artform right now. The cinema is basically a dead art right now. Yet unlike film the organization that awards TV excellence is a joke. The Emmy’s once again got it all wrong. Or, at least, mostly all wrong. I will not be watching or putting any value in their selections (unless Peter Dinklage wins again) but, instead, participating in the great television discussion by naming my favorites. As well should all do. So here they are…

1. Game of Thrones
No surprise here. Given my preference to A Song of Ice and Fire book one I didn’t think it possible that a new season based on the second book, Clash of Kings, could surpass last year’s best of the year fantasy offerings. It did, adding new layers of complexity and insight to an already rich fantasy tapestry spun by George R.R. Martin. Aspects like a more beefed up role for Stannis and Melisandre, Cersei confessing (in a way only she can) her sadness for how Joffrey turned out, Joffrey’s sadistic treatment of prostitutes, Peter’s presence on the battlefield with Renley etc. are not earth shattering on their own but flesh out the series in a truly satisfying manner. Martin’s close involvement with the show turns what could have been some pretty awesome fan fiction asides into the stuff of timeless cannon.
Game of Thrones, easily the best show to air since Buffy the Vampire Slayer, just got better in it’s second season and, just think, we have two years worth of book 3 ahead of us! And speaking of Buffy, this is the first time since the era of the Slayer that I picked a show as #1 for two consecutive seasons and I can almost guarantee not the last time it will top the list as the best show on television.

2. Homeland
An American hero might be a brain-washed Manchurian Candidate, er, terrorist. There are so many ways this could have gone off the deep end like so many modern shows and movies tend to do. But this is the first time since the heyday of 24 (season 5 to be exact) that a show really gets into the frame of mind of our modern paranoia/fear driven culture and spin it into great entertainment. Homeland has breathed new life in the dead tired post-911/Iraq/terrorism/surveillance/blah-blah-blah genre. The key, I think, is that the show doesn’t pander and it doesn’t preach, it entertains and damn if it is not the most thrilling thing on TV. Where Homeland distinguished itself from its a show like 24 is it’s de-emphasis on action and emphasis on subtlety. The simple act of the military hero Nicholas Brody (Damian Lewis) taking a polygraph is as intense as 40 straight minutes of explosions and torture in 24. As good as Lewis is at selling the intrigue and simmering madness, Clara Danes as the CIA agent doggedly chasing after Brody gives the single best TV performance of the year. She is a singularly unique protagonist; empowered, sexy and bat shit crazy.

3. Justified
Building off the momentum of season 2, season 3 continued the successful formula of long form story arcs that has worked so well for this superlative action drama. To say it matches season 2 is high praise. To say it exceeds it is, well, justified in my opinion. See what I did there?! The spirit of Elmore Leonard amazing writing is captured by the show in a way only a small handful of adaptations have reached (Get Shorty and Out of Sight).

4. Breaking Bad
What to make of a show and season that consists of 10 dreary, uneventful episodes followed by one of the most powerful finishes in television history? A rousing success considering those 10 episodes were all calculated to set-up the explosive denouement. As for season 5… so far the final season has been good as well so I’m fairly certain this show will preserve it’s legacy in its final sprint to the finish line. Walter White may not survive the events of the final season but in a way he will live on forever.

5. Community
Community finally takes the reigns as the best comedy on television from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which experienced it’s most uneven season since the pre-Frank Reynolds days. Season 3 of this random as hell community college comedy was just about perfect. Sadly, though, it will go on without show runner and chief creative force Dan Harmon (fuck you NBC… and FUCKKKKK YOU Chevy Chase). Suddenly, I have a feeling this is the last time the show will rank this high. Or rank at all for that matter. Oh well, it was fun while it lasted.

6. Aqua Something You Know Whatever
Formerly known as Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 01 which, itself, was formerly known as Aqua Teen Hunger Force. If you haven’t watched it by now then don’t bother, you’re not worthy, enjoy your Family Guy and 1000th season of The Simpsons and leave me the hell alone with your horrible taste. Just kidding, Aqua fans still love you (even though you have horrible taste).

7. Downton Abbey
I admit to not having finished season 2 but I must place it this high because what I’ve seen is up to par with what I expect from this excellent drama. May it go on past WWI and into WWII!

8. South Park
I’ve gotten back into South Park in a big way, um’kay.

9. Fringe
I’m a HUGE Fringe fan and that makes it all the harder for me to admit that Fringe season 4 jumped the shark or, more appropriately, jumped the universe. Season 4 is dull, uneventful and full of filler episodes searching for meaning and ending up (usually) empty handed and, for that matter, empty headed. Face it, Peter found himself stick in most uninteresting universe within the entire and possibly endless multiverse chain and he dragged us along with him. Not cool, dude! Last season’s steampunk-light amber universe was an exceptional setting that never failed to challenge or surprise its viewers (and ranked #2 on my year end list) so it baffles me how the show runners thought it would be a good idea to strand fans with this season’s non-eventful alt-alt-alt universe arc where meaningless freaks of the week took president over, you know, exploring actual sci-fi ideas and characters. I fear this watering down of a once good show was to bolster ratings and make it more accessible to new viewers. The result, of course, was a show that new viewers avoided and loyal viewers lost faith in as Fringe hit all new ratings (and creative) lows.
What I hate most about this season is that the new versions of old characters (well, everyone but Peter who is an old version of an old character and the only consistent thing during season 4) are just now finally starting to become halfway interesting. I’m still a fan and, bitching aside, still enjoy this show. If anything season 4 proved that bad Fringe is still far better than EVERY OTHER SHOW on network TV. I feel that after the series ends in 2013 (noooo!) season 4 will be looked back upon (by me at least) as a giant missed opportunity. The good news is that season 5 has nowhere to go but up.

10. Dexter
The crazy bible lunatic season was a mess. A fun mess. The show is long past its prime but unlike the horrible events/storytelling/acting of season 5 this season at least manages to put the fun back into good old Dexter’s serial killing exploits. Now that the show has announced it will be wrapping up in two seasons I have high hopes that the planning of a spectacular end game is in play. Or, you know, it will just get worse.

10.1 True Blood
Season 5 marked a welcome departure from the usual TB formula. Namely, interesting characters getting sucked into the bottomless vortex of Sookie and/or whatever lame subplot the whiny Tara is involved in. But this season changed the rules and the result was a show that seemed liberated from the tyrnie of Sookie. Maybe it’s because actress Anna Paquin was pregnant in real life with Stephen Moyer’s spawn, I don’t know, but by tightening things up and having the vampires take center stage to explore the Vampire authority (an ancient governing body), vampire religion and vampire politics (as opposed to redundant Sookie/Eric/Bill love triangles) the show brought back something that had been missing since season 1: focus. For the first time since season 1 I’m actually excited about a new season of True Blood. Let’s just hope it doesn’t take another three years for it to get good again.

off the list but still good…

  • It’s Always Sunny. Disappointing season but, still, some standout episodes (Rum Pug) and moments (fat Mac lugging around a trash bag full of chimichangas) made it all worthwhile. 
  • Mad Men. Ok, it’s not on the list because I haven’t gotten to this season yet. Or finished the season before for that matter. And I have no desire to but I will anyway because people keep telling me the show got better. 
  • Warehouse 13. Just discovered this quirky show. Sadly, it’s the only thing worth watching on the once great now pathetic SyFy network. 
  • Full Metal Alchemist Brotherhood. Best anime currently airing. 
  • Superjail! WTF.
  • Doctor Who. The second half of season 6 was an ungodly mess. I retract ranking (the first half of) that season as my #3 show last year. I didn’t think Steven Moffat was capable of shitting the bed to such a degree that he would make Russell T. Davis’s sloppy season 4 look almost slick and composed. 
Top Television Performances
  1. Claire Danes (Carrie Mathison) in Homeland!!!
  2. Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) in Game of Thrones
  3. Peter Dinklage (Tyrion Lannister) in Game of Thrones
  4. Brian Cranston (Walter White) Breaking Bad (#1 two years ago)
  5. Charles Dance (Tywin Lannister) in Game of Thrones
  6. Stephen Dillane (Stannis Baratheon) in Game of Thrones
  7. John Noble (Walter Bishop) in Fringe (#1 last year)
  8. Maisie Williams (Arya Stark) in Game of Thrones
  9. Alfie Allen (Theon Greyjoy) in Game of Thrones
  10. Arthur Darvill (Rory Williams) in Doctor Who
  11. Giancarlo Esposito (Gus) in Breaking Bad
  12. Conleth Hill (Lord Varys) in Game of Thrones
  13. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Jaime Lannister) in Game of Thrones
  14. Steve Coogan (Steve Coogan) in The Trip
  15. Aidan Gillen (Petyr Baelish)  in Game of Thrones
  16. Damian Lewis (Nicholas Brody) in Homeland
  17. Dana Snyder (voice of Master Shake) in Aqua Something You Know Whatever
  18. Timothy Olyphant (Raylan Givens) in Justified
  19. Allison Brie in Community
  20. Mandy Patinkin (Saul Berenson) in Homeland
  21. Rob Brydon (Rob Brydon) in The Trip

Best Individual TV Episodes

  1. “End Times”/”Face Off,” season 4 Breaking Bad. Perhaps the most perfectly crafted and meticulousness plotted season ender ever.
  2. “Blackwater,” Game of Thrones. Written by George RR! Really though, every single episode of GoT could/should be here.
  3. “Letters of Transit,” Fringe.
  4. “The Granite Family, Aqua Something You Know Whatever. Master Shakes starts the apocalypse after watching The Flinstones because he want’s the world to revert to the stone age. That’s sooo Shake.
  5. “The Late Phillip J Fry,” Futurerama. And I don’t even like this show!
  6. “Pilot,” Homeland.
  7. “Wallflower,” Fringe.
  8. “The Gang Goes to the Jersey Shore,” It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia AKA the Rum Pig episode.
  9. Season 2 Episode 1, Downton Abbey.
  10.  Remedial Chaos Theory,” Community.
Worst

1. Walking Dead
Worst show on TV. And that’s saying something. I should preface that with the fact that I feel the comic is the BEST long running comic of its day. Even the adventure game available on PC/Xbox360/Playstation3 does justice to the Walking brand. The show, however, is a different story. I’ll just let a few of my tweets/GetGlue posts speak for me…

  • Rick talks to Shane, Shane talks to Dale, Dale talks to Carol, Carol punches grass then talks to Lori, Lori Talks to Rick, Rick talks to Glenn, Glen talks to Maggie, Maggie talks to her dad who talks to Rick who shoots somebody after a nice talk. Zombies… say nothing because there are no zombies on this show.
  • s2e12 “I don’t even know who’s baby this is.” This is the world’s worst soap opera. Melodrama at its worst.
  • I pray to the zombie gods that Lori is dead. Sarah Wayne Callies is easily the most annoying and unlikable character on TV. She exists, in my mind, to prove that there are fates far worse than becoming a zombie. One is being married to that woman. Another is having to sit and watch her for an hour a week.
  • grumbles… here we go again. Let’s get this season over with so I can start bitching about how bad s3 is going to be.
  • I fully expect the 2nd half of Walking Dead s2 to be just as bad. More farm, more barn, more baby daddy drama, more Lori more trite writing and of course some of the worst acting/characters on basic cable. I ask myself if I should stop watching and the answer is away no. I like complaining about this overrated POS way too much. One can only hope that because the comic series is so good that, one day, it’s bound to rub off on this show… but probably not this this season. I hope to be proven wrong…
  • …Update: I was indeed NOT proven wrong.

2. Girls
Vile, self absorbed narcissist. Of course those traits can be priceless comedy (Curb, Sunny) but it can also be… well, vile self absorbed narcissism. If Lena Dunham is the voice of her generation then her generations needs to be gagged, peed on (in the shower!) and water boarded.

3. Glee 
My number 1 last year (and 2, and 3 etc.). I could never have imagined anything dethroning it but that was before I knew Lena Dunham had a show on TV and that Walking Dead would regress even further. Did I watch a full episode this year. Yes, and I got PTSD (poop, turd, shit and diarrhea) as a result. Rocky Horror will never be the same.

4. All Reality Shows
Self explanatory. I hate reality–really!

5. Big Bang Theory
This always annoying show gives a bad name to nerds. And comedy. It actually manages to be worse than 2 and a Half Men. Speaking of which…

6. 2 and a Half Men
More proof that the American sitcom is a dead art form. All shows like 2 and a Half Men do is exhume it’s corpse and parade it around while millions of dumb asses still watch.

7. The Tonight Show with Jay Leno
I’ve been doing this site for over ten years and not one of those years didn’t contain Jay Leno’s abominable show on my list of TV’s worst.

8. American Horror Story
I saw the pilot and gasped. Not out of fear mind you but notion that that a show could be this bad. Being that it came from the guy who made Nip/Tuck and Glee that should not have been surprising. Of course being that it’s Ryan Murphy I am now gasping at how overrated this show has become as well. Yes, I’m going to watch all of season one (and two) but I can’t say I’m looking forward to doing so.

9. Alphas
This show is like a retarded version of Fringe. It’s shallow, safe and dull. Just another SyFy show in other words.

10. Modern Family 
Seriously, I don’t get what people see in this show. It’s so corny and lame. Perfect for middle America. And is there anyone more annoying on Television (or Earth) than Sofía Vergara? Actually, yes, Sarah Wayne Callies from Walking Dead.

Ranking Woody Allen (43 films)

Ranking Woody Allen

There are two kinds of people. Those who, according to Woody Allen, “like my work go and see it and overlook my faults,” and those who “don’t like it only see where I screw up because I always screw up.” I fall into former category and am humbled by his staggering body of work. Even if  you don’t “get” Allen, the fact remains that no other director alive (or dead for that matter) has achieved what Allen has. He is peerless, which is not to say he doesn’t “screw up” from time to time but let’s see Terrence Malick make a film a year with such (relative) consistency. Throughout the hits (Allen is an Oscar winner in the 70s, 80s and 10s) and misses (um, “Curse of the Jade Scorpion”), the endlessly prolific Allen has helped to define and shape the cinema throughout multiple eras without any sign of slowing down or running out of things to say.  Last year’s best original screenplay winning “Midnight in Paris” was touted as a return to greatness while this year’s “To Rome With Love”… was not. Allen could care less either way, he just keeps making films.

So which era of Allen is best? The screwball comedies of the 60s and 70s? The sulking Bergmanian filmmaker of the late 70s and 80s? The sophisticated comic director of the 90s? Or how about his anything goes approach in the 2000s? Though I’m probably most partial to 80s Allen it’s hard to say for certain and though his work in the 2010s is limited to just “You Will Marry a Tall Dark Stranger” and “Midnight in Paris” and “To Rome With Love”  I have a feeling some of Allen’s best films are still very much ahead of him.

Below is my top 43 Woody Allen movies ranked in order of preference.  Truth be told pretty much all of them are good except for the final two or three titles. “To Rome With Love” will make it 44 and I will update as soon as I see it. Here we go, let the kvetching begin…

 

1. Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
“I don’t know from suicide, y’know. Where I grew up in Brooklyn we were too unhappy to commit suicide.” When I watch “Crimes” I’m never sure whether to laugh or cry or indulge in some pathetic variation of both. An entirely appropriate bipolar reaction considering Allen’s two major influences are Bob Hope and Ingmar Bergman. Very few can agree on what the “best” Woody Allen film is. His cannon is far too varied to yield a consistent choice. For what (little) it’s worth, “Crimes” is my top pick because, for just one in long list of reasons, it contains the best (and most cohesive) sampling of all the variations within Allen’s unique range: comedy, whimsy and a deep, dark disturbed moral pathos. The first time I saw this movie I was deeply affected by its ability to intersect a plot about a rich man (Martin Landau) who kills his mistress with a more traditional Allen plot about a filmmaker (Allen) attracted to another woman. “Crimes” contains not only Allen’s most complex story to date but it is his single best work as a filmmaker. And that’s saying something!

2. Zelig (1983)
One of the first (and certainly the best) mockumentaries ever made. Running at a lean 79 minutes I’ve watched “Zelig” more than any other Allen film. The personality shifting gimmick never gets old, it only gets better. This is not only Allen’s most stylistically innovative work to date but perhaps his funniest too. The film documents a man (Allen, of course) who is so insecure that he is able to morph physically and mentally into anybody in order to fit in. That allows for situations like… “To the gentleman who’s appendix I took out, I…I’m, I don’t know what to say, if it’s any consolation I… I may still have it somewhere around the house.“ “Zelig’s” newsreel fantasy approach is fantastical to be sure but rooted in a simple truth about the human condition. Allen carries the admittedly thin chameleon premise to its emotional (and surprisingly romantic) conclusion with an exquisite sense of pacing, dialogue, interviews and “found” documentary footage.

3. Match Point (2005)
Sex, death, blind luck and greed. “Match Point” sums up the human experience (according to Allen) and is the cinematic embodiment of Allen’s famous quote about life being “divided by the horrible and the miserable.” About a man who commits murder without any moral, social or cosmic consequences, “Match Point” is a stripped down version of what Allen was attempting to do in “Crimes and Misdemeanors.” What it lacks in that film’s variety it more than makes up with a streamlined approach to the crime genre aided by an impossibly bleak Dostoevsky worldview and a technical execution worth of Alfred Hitchcock. Haunting in its message (“you can commit a crime and get away with it because the universe is godless” according to Allen) yet timeless in its sensibilities, the sober but elegant “Match Point” may very well become Allen’s Magnum opus when all said and done. By then Woody will have finally gotten his answer to what does or does not lie beyond the chaotic void of existence.

4. Deconstructing Harry (1997)
It’s easy to overlook this one. It’s Allen’s most edgy, post-modern and alienating work to date. A great tribute to Allen’s own creations of the past, present and, without fully knowing it, future. At the same time it’s also a worthy tribute to Bergman’s “Wild Strawberries” (one of Allen’s favorite films of all time). But the influences don’t stop there. The opening, featuring multiple re-takes of a character getting out of a taxi cab, recalls the (better) moments of French New Wave while the ending devilishly reenacts the classic scene in “8½” as Allen is stuck in a room with all of his creations. Allen’s application of multiple characters in multiple realities with multiple POVs is quite the narrative juggling act and I can think of no movie in Allen’s cannon similar to this title. Or as exhilarating. I just love it when Allen experiments with the form; he does not do it often but when he does (“Zelig,” “Melinda and Melinda,” this film) I find myself blown away by how progressive this filmmaker is. And yet people still claim that Allen has limited range! I think, or at least hope, that time will be good “Harry” and that one day people will embrace it as the masterpiece it truly is.

5. Take the Money and Run (1969)
Best “old school” Allen comedy which, admittedly, is not saying much (sorry “Bananas” fans). Allen poured everything into his first proper feature and his enthusiasm translates into an unusually assured first film experience. Despite its age the laughs in this film are far from old. I lose it every time I pop in my VHS copy of this film (don’t laugh, VHS is my preferred method to watch older Allen movies as you can see in the picture of my collection above). Bottom line: this is vintage Allen at his more purely comedic.

6. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985)
We all must choose between reality and fantasy. And when we pick reality, as we all must, our dreams die. With this simple theme Woody Allen made a perfect little movie. A modern, cine savvy fairytale in the truest sense. This film cannot be praised enough and, indeed, IS praised enough, even by the self-critical Allen. It ties with “Match Point” as his all-time favorite. No arguments here.

7. Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Vintage Allen. If you don’t like it then you probably don’t like him. Sophisticated, funny and beautifully shot. This is the film where one of my favorite directors and my all-time favorite actor (Michael Caine) come together in what I can only describe as a meeting worthy of the two. I love that Allen considers “Hanna” to be his greatest creative failure. He feels he botched the ending and will never forgive himself for that. Most directors would kill or marry an adopted daughter to make a film this good.

8. Love and Death (1975)
“Love and Death” marks the end of an era. This is the last film Allen made before “Annie Hall” and it’s fun to watch it in that context. This manic period comedy features Allen as a Russian soldier who teams up with Diane Keaton to assassinate an invading Napoleon (upon hearing her request Allen says “It’s getting a little late, let’s do it after dinner”). A fitting plot for a filmmaker so obsessed with Russian literature. What makes this film truly special though is its intelligence. Sure, there are plenty of screwball/rom-com moments but the dialogue is really a step above Allen’s usual (at the time) light banter. Wrap your head around this great line: “To love is to suffer. To avoid suffering one must not love. But then one suffers from not loving. Therefore, to love is to suffer; not to love is to suffer; to suffer is to suffer. To be happy is to love. To be happy, then, is to suffer, but suffering makes one unhappy. Therefore, to be unhappy, one must love or love to suffer or suffer from too much happiness. I hope you’re getting this down.” If that doesn’t translate as well on paper then just listen to the dialogue in this clip and tell me that “Love and Death” not one of Allen’s most enjoyable films in terms of how the dialogue flows. Not only is “Love and Death” smart (with a much needed sense of humor about how smart it’s trying to be) but contains Allen’s first successful use of film and literary references: Allen jumps from Marx Brothers references to Dostoevsky shout-outs and even finds time (in a period movie no less) for a “Battleship Potemkin” homage, countless Bob Hope-isms and of course the obligatory Bergman nods.

9. Stardust Memories (1980)
I had to watch this three times to to get to a place where I loved it. Maybe four. I stopped counting when I started enjoying. About a director at a junket freaking out over past successes and future uncertainties, Woody does Fellini (again) in a way only Woody of the 1980s can: by making himself the tortured filmmaker and replacing science fiction sets with Kierkegaard. “Stardust” is another rare personal favorite of Allen’s. Only hardcore Allen fans need apply. Best line in the movie: “I took one course in existential philosophy at, uh, at New York University, and on, uh, on the final they gave me ten questions, and, uh, I couldn’t answer a single one of ’em. You know? I left ’em all blank. I got a hundred.”

10. Annie Hall (1977)
One of the all time great experimental love stories. But love is a funny word, especially when it comes to Woody Allen movies. “Annie Hall” is as much of a great break-up movie than it is a great romance. This departure from conventions is one of the cornerstones of Allen’s legacy. “Annie Hall” is also one of the best examples of a movie made/saved in the editing room. As the story goes the Annie Hall character sections were not intended to be the main storyline. The film was written from the point of view of Alvy’s stream of consciousness before being radically changed into its current form. My guess is that many of the memorable fantasy scenes (the Marshall McLuhan and Truman Capote’s cameos, Annie and Alvy’s juxtaposed family life, subtitles that reveal subtext, etc.) are remnants of Allen’s “failed” experiment. I would do anything to see the original cut but of course Allen is famous for discarding (“burning” in his words) anything not in the final cut. Despite the film’s clear lack of focus or depth, “Annie Hall” is widely considered to be his best work to date and was the winner of a ass-load of Oscars including ones for director (Allen), screenplay (Allen again), actress (Diane Keaton) and of course best picture (over “Star Wars”!). Many directors would have been ruined but such mainstream success and the pressure to follow it up with something similarly crowd pleasing but Woody just shrugged it off, sighed, and pretended it never happened.

11. Bullets Over Broadway (1994)
Another classic from Allen’s fruitful 90s output. “Bullets” does a brilliant job of blending Allen’s sensibilities with more mainstream period movie and comedy conventions. With a story about neurotic writers, divas and the mop, this is as close as Woody Allen ever got to making “The Producers.” Channeling Allen in the best way possible, John Cusack’s character insists: “I don’t write hits. My plays are art. They’re written specifically to go unproduced.” Mel Brooks couldn’t have said it better.

12. Midnight in Paris (2011)
A triumph. The film that won back the hearts of countless Allen deserters/haters and filled the pockets of his financial backers who, lets face it, rarely saw huge profit margins from his creations. With its playful sci-fi/fantasy time-travel premise (anchored by the rarest of things: a good role for Owen Wilson!) the story of a man out of time who goes back in time taps into something timeless and magical. Allen is wise not to get involved in explanations but, rather, trusts his audience to suspend disbelief as Owen Wilson hobnobs with the likes of Fitzgerald, Picasso, Dali, Buñuel and of course Hemingway (brought to life by a humorously humorless performance by Corey Stoll who gets all the movie’s best lines: “All men fear death. It’s a natural fear that consumes us all. We fear death because we feel that we haven’t loved well enough or loved at all, which ultimately are one and the same. However, when you make love with a truly great woman, one that deserves the utmost respect in this world and one that makes you feel truly powerful, that fear of death completely disappears.”). “Midnight” is Allen’s most hopeful and happy film to date but with a classic Allen twist… here’s Woody Allen talking to Film Comment talking about “Midnight in Paris”: “It’s a recurring, nagging feeling of mine that the reality we’re all trapped in is, in actual fact, like a nightmare. I’m always looking for ways to escape that reality. One escapes it by going to the movies. One escapes it by becoming involved in the trivial nonsense of ‘Are the Yankees going to win?’ or ‘Are the Mets going to win?’ When in fact it means nothing. But life means nothing either. It means as much as the ballgame. So you’re constantly looking for ways to escape reality. And one of the fallacies that comes up all the time is the Golden Age fallacy, that you’d be happier at a different time.”

13. Radio Days (1987)
I hate coming-of age movies. HATE them. Allen, however, gets a pass. By not exploiting the audience, this film is thankfully more Truffaut than Rob Reiner. The best scenes in “Annie Hall” featured a young Woody (persona) depressed about the expansion of the universe while roller coasters rattled above his family’s dumpy house. Well, this entire film is practically based on that wonderful concept. “Radio Days” is a one time deal for Allen and is a worthy addition to his oeuvre. Trivia time: this is the first Woody Allen film to feature Larry David. There’s also a young Seth Green in the lead role.

14. Sweet and Lowdown (1999)
A pleasant surprise in store for anyone who revisits this wonderful film. It contains one of the best performances ever committed to film and, no, it’s not from star Sean Penn (though he is very good here). Rather, it comes from Samantha Morton playing Hattie, a mute girl in love with a sleazy-and-loving-it Penn whose idea of a good time goes something like: “Wanna go to the dump and shoot some rats?” Set on the fringes of the swinging jazz movement of the 30s, Morton steals this movie which with, ironically, total silence. Her performance, seemingly out of a silent movie, might be the most beautiful (and heartbreaking) performance every committed to film. Just watch her in this scene where Penn plays the guitar for her and tell me I’m wrong. On an unfortunate note the film would be ranked in the top ten had Allen not made the baffling decision to literally bail on her character half way through the movie to focus on Uma Thurman as a love interest. While it makes perfect sense for Penn’s character to do this from a narrative point of view the movie’s spirit could not recover from Morton’s departure. That aside I love how “Sweet and Lowdown” jumps around the timeline in its depiction of the lost music genus Emmet Ray (Penn). The film contains a great use of Zelig-like documentary interviews.

15. Husbands and Wives (1992)
Released at the height of the public’s Woody Allen hatred (which has died down but still around today), this wonderful drama was a casualty of Allen’s scandal. A shame because this is Allen as his Cinéma vérité best. If released today it probably would have gotten him a best director nomination. The film holds up surprisingly well and is one of a handful of films that Allen does not look back on with disdain. Beyond a few well-shot scenes in “Deconstructing Harry” I’m surprised and saddened that Allen never revisited the rough style of this film because he really seems to understand its mechanics more than most directors who (over)use it.

16. Manhattan (1979)
Rightfully considered one of the best and most beautiful tributes to New York ever filmed. Iconic to be sure but also, it must be said, uneven at times. It’s as if all of Allen’s wonderfully developed characters and their plot-lines were meticulously established only to evaporate in a poorly constructed third act. Perhaps that sense of literally being cut-off is what Allen intended in his plot about an out of work writer courting a capricious high school girl. I doubt it though. The movie still holds up thanks in part to the timeless cinematography by Gordon Willis, George Gershwin’s “Rhapsody in Blue” composition and this all-time classic film moment in which Allen explains what makes life worth living. Along with “Annie Hall” and “Hanna and Her Sisters” “Manhattan” is one of his most beloved films to date and it’s easy to see why… unless you’re Woody Allen who is notorious for hating “Manhattan” with the same passion that others love it.

17. Melinda and Melinda (2004)
A brilliant commentary on the nature of drama and comedy. Life and art is all about context. And content is a slave to context. Along with “Cassandra’s Dream” this film goes down as Allen’s most unfairly neglected work.

18. Hollywood Ending (2002)
A controversial choice. One of Allen’s leanest and most economical movies. It’s simple, it’s funny (not haha-funny but smile-a-lot funny) and quick to get to the point. Other than Billy Wilder very few directors would go this far to poke fun at themselves. The central hook/metaphor about a blind director put in charge of making a movie shows that Allen is aware of his “myopic” personality. When the film came out however there was very little interest in watching Allen make fun of himself or anything else for that matter. I proudly defend this film to this day. On a final note, and an appropriate one considering the title, “Hollywood Ending” contains one of Allen’s best endings. After the botched film-within-the-film is laughed out of the States and all hope is seemingly lost for the director there is a throwaway Wilder-esq punch line about the French loving it. This notion of a culture appreciating Allen’s vision when others do no acts a foreshadowing to Allen’s own self-imposed creative exile to a region (Europe) that still values his works.

19. Play it Again, Sam (1972)
The best Woody Allen movie not directed by Woody Allen. Not saying much considering the iffy quality of “What’s New Pussycat,” “The Front,” and “Casino Royale.” “Sam” stars Allen. It is based on a play by Allen. It is written by Allen. There’s even Diane Keaton and Tony Roberts. I rank it here because it’s so damn good. Vintage Allen quirks aplenty and a breezy plot reminiscent of many of Allen’s later movies (especially “Annie Hall”) with an added bonus of an imaginary Humphrey Bogart character that Allen talks to. I love the scene where Allen scatters intelligent books and magazines around his apartment before a date. There’s also a great scene in an art gallery where Allen tries to make sense of a ridiculous piece of modern art. Woody Allen sums the movie up best: “Long after I’m dead people will be able to curl up in bed and watch Sam on TV and say, ‘Oh, that’s a cute kind of story from the sixties,’ just as we watched It Happened One Night or that genre of films now. Not that I think Sam is very good–it’s not. More likely they will curl up in bed and say ‘What else is on?’” Not me. I’ve seen it four times and not once was there anything better on TV (unless of course any of the Allen films from above were on).

20. Cassandra’s Dream (2007)
The third entry in what I would call Woody Allen’s atheistic crime trilogy (after “Crimes and Misdemeanors” and “Match Point”). Perhaps Allen’s most underrated drama/tragedy to date. Like “Match Point” (and the chorus parts of “Mighty Aphrodite”) it approaches near self-aware levels of Greek tragedy and earns every moment of it. Woody’s Dream is by and large considered a misstep (critics, box office, fan reception) but is far from that. It is an assured tale of a crime that tears two brothers apart. McGregor and Farrell, while they don’t exactly look related, deliver strong performances and really sell the viscous pathos that Allen tosses their way.  The film is, alas,  Woody’s last serious drama and I hope he returns to the noir scene because he’s damn good at capturing the moral essence of this genre.

 

21. Interiors (1978)
Allen has stated that Interiors expresses his feeling that life is a “cold, empty void we live in and art won’t save you–only a little human warmth helps.” While he views his also views this film as a pretentious misstep (ha!) this is clearly one of the most pivotal films in Allen’s filmography. Not just in terms of the skill in which it was made or it’s wonderful creative expressions (another great Bergman tribute) but, most of all, in Allen’s boldness. This was the film that let us know that Allen would rather be known as a great and enduring filmmaker than a comic actor or writer. As an answer (or from his point of view a panacea) to the worldwide success of “Annie Hall,” this film showed the world that Allen would not conform to what the system or indeed his fans expected of him. He had a lot back then and very few now which makes “Interiors” a wonderfully stated “fuck you” to just about everybody.

22. New York Stories (1989)
Ah, come on people, it’s awesome! Well, at least ? of the movie is. I’m talking about the “Oedipus Wrecks” segment from Allen’s collaboration with Scorsese and Coppola. Not only did Allen make the best story out of the three (not saying much) but one that serves as a great stand-alone truffle for Allen fans. A magician (Woody can never get enough of magicians) makes Allen’s nagging mother disappear one night only to have her magically appear in the sky where everybody can see and hear her rants about her son. This is one of the most creative and funny ways that one’s mother issues has been addressed on screen. I wish Woody made more one-act films.


23. Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008)
Great fun. Sometimes that’s all I want from an Allen film. The most crowd pleasing entry in Allen’s modern European phase and it’s easy to see why. But the film is deeper that just being fun. In particular I responded to how the film eloquently (and subtly) espouses the pitfalls of self-entitlement, especially among its American characters who demand romantic satisfaction and go home empty handed (but still entitled). This is the fourth film in which one of Allen’s supporting actresses won an Oscar.

24. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger (2010)
When “Stranger” opens with one of Allen’s signature old time tunes it occurred to me that whatever happens in the world –and a lot happens– I can always count on Woody Allen to be Woody Allen. You can’t put a price, or rating, on that. This is an artist that will not change or be influenced past his usual inspirations and this is also one of those rare instances where one’s inability to change is a good thing. The film takes me back to the days of “Hanna and Her Sisters” where a group of people loosely connected go about their lives in a way that can not quite be called realism and not quite be called un-realism. More like Woodyness.
Observations are made, arguments are animated, trusts are broken, friendships are sparked, drinks are had, love is lost, and then found again somewhere else. Any fan of Allen knows what to expect.
Woody is a master at heavy drama/Greek tragedies (“Match Point” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” are classics in their own right) and perhaps more well known for his comedies but what’s more interesting is how good he is at the in-betweens. One of my all-time favorite moments in a Woody Allen movie occurs in this movie. I won’t dare spoil it because so few people have seen this movie but I’ll just say it involves struggling author Josh Brolin getting some “good” news about a comatosed friend he was certain would die. Trust me, the movie is worth seeing just for that amazing scene.

25. Anything Else (2003)
If you ever wondered what would happen if Woody Allen wrote a novel (and, believe me, I have) then watch “Anything Else.” A little known fact is that this project began as novel Allen wrote to completion and promptly tossed in the garbage (or burned along with all of his deleted scenes–I can just picture Allen tossing it into a ragging fire like a crazed Nikolai Gogol) only to rework it as a screenplay about love and mental illness. When it was finally made, “Anything Else” the film slipped through the cracks which is too bad but understandable considering the appallingly bad poster. Allen’s writing is quite sharp here and his camerawork is as underrated as ever (I love all the long shots and Allen’s trademark of having characters walk in and out of the frame). Also, Jason Biggs… well, didn’t suck. Woody’s decision to play a supporting character (Biggs’s mentor) is so inspired that he really should do more often (“Scoop” is not enough). As a bit of trivia Quentin Tarentino named this Woody Allen film as one of the best films to be released since he started making films. First of all: what?! Secondly: COOL!

26. Another Woman (1988)
Gena Rowlands hit this one out of the park. It’s one of her best ever performances and certainly one of the most underrated lead roles in any Allen movie to date. See it!

27. Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993)
This is the last time Allen and Diane Keaton collaborated. While that’s sad considering all they had done together, “Manhattan Murder Mystery” is a pleasantly appropriate end to their legacy dating all the way back to the early seventies. They felt like an old married couple in this film, which Allen had intended to make in some form in the 70s. The “mystery” itself is nothing special but that matters very little because the film is just so charming and likable… which is kinda the point. As a final treat “MMM” contains a great Orson Welles homage. When Allen and Keaton run from a killer they encounter, the hall of mirrors chase set piece is taken directly from 1947’s “Lady from Shanghai.” It worked then and it works now.

28. Sleeper (1973)
A decent enough Woody Allen comedy on one hand but a solid science fiction film on the other. The two make strange bedfellows that’s part of “Sleeper’s” charm. The film is iconic and actually full of great, possibly even visionary, sci-fi concepts. There might not be a funnier science fiction film–unless you want to count “Starship Troopers” as a comedy.

29. Whatever Works (2009)
Speaking of something that works, I can’t possibly be alone in thinking “Whatever Works” is not that bad. Larry David teams up with Woody Allen. Hello? Anybody? Pff, fine, I will continue to search the earth until I find someone who agrees that this movie rocks.

30. September (1987)
September contains the most interesting bit of back stage trivia of Woody Allen’s films (to me at least). From the IMDb Trivia section: “Director Woody Allen cast and shot this film twice, without telling the original cast.” Wait, WHAT?! September feels more like a filmed stage play than a movie. Makes sense considering Allen’s background as a playwright.  Perhaps for that reason this is one of Allen’s more hard to define features and one that very few people talk about these days–not to mention when it was released as it’s his lowest grossing movie to date.

31. Shadows and Fog (1991)
Expressionistic Allen doing his best impression of a Fellini movie. Okay, I can get behind that. This is his second of two collaborations with John Cusack… and the worst of the two. To an Allen fan it’s a pleasant curio but like many of the circus illusions, it evaporates before your eyes once you try to make sense of it.

32. Celebrity (1998)
A noble misfire worth checking out for a number of isolated scenes (the high school reunion, the sexual misadventures, the brilliant final shot) rather than the film as a whole. Watching Kennith Branagh interpret Woody’s persona is pretty crazy but not as disastrous as others will say. There’s not much more to say about this film except that I hope Allen returns to black and white filmmaking one day. It’s been too long.

33. Alice (1990)
No, this not a movie about a decapitated head. “Alice” is a hard title to place in Allen’s cannon. I think this film confuses many Allen die hard fans. Personally, I just don’t known what to make of it. There’s a lot that works here but in the end Mia Farrow was never my favorite of Allen’s muses and while she does not outright embarrass herself she fails to carry the film on her back. Perhaps that’s because of the tone of the film. “Alice” contains an awkward mix of magic and ghosts which we’ve seen before in a number of Allen titles such as “Scoop,” “Oedipus Wrecks” and even “Match Point.” Somehow, those films integrated the supernatural elements better. Or at least with more conviction. This is one of the only Allen films I’ve seen only once so a second viewing might clear up some of my ambivalence.

34. Scoop (2006)
“Scoop” was made to be fun. Nothing more. And it succeeds on that very basic level. People are hard on this one though and, yes, it’s not that hard to see why (the movie is pretty silly after all). Every once and a while, when Allen deliberately makes a “lesser” film, they should be evaluated in that context rather than held to the standards of his so-called better works. As Billy Bob Thorton in “Bad Santa” says “they can’t all be winners.” This film is basically Woody Allen decompressing and loosening up after he bummed everyone out with “Match Point.” On the plus side there’s Scarlett Johansson in a bikini! And Anthony Stewart Head (Giles from “Buffy”)! And Wolverine! And Ian McShane as a dead reporter investigating his, uh, death. Even unpopular Allen movies have great casts.

35. Everyone Says I Love You (1996)
It pains me to say this but I could never get into this movie despite a total open mind and an enjoyment of the musical genre. I will tolerate Woody’s corny music affinities when they appear in his iconic black screen credit sequences but when they invade the movie proper with such blunt force as to have Goldie Hawn float in the air on the Left Bank, well, I just can’t abide by that. To his credit, Woody indulged in a postmodern music celebration starring non-singer celebrities before doing so was popularized by the likes of Moulin Rouge and Chicago.

36. Broadway Danny Rose (1984)
Don’t hate me but I gotta say this one of Allen’s most overrated films. Sorry. It’s too cute and shallow to respect on the same level of his other works. What kills me is how good this could have been if Allen stuck with the angle of the business of comedy and relationships between comedians and their managers because there’s something to that. Instead, manager Danny Rose (played by Allen) gets involved in a dumb as nails plot about the mob and ends up running through corn fields with that shiksa Mia. What a waist.

37. Small Time Crooks (2000)
Fumbling crooks lead by Allen open a cookie store as a front in order to tunnel next door to gain riches. The heist goes nowhere but the store takes off. A great Allen premise all the way up to the point where Woody and Tracy Ullman become rich. Then it just goes bankrupt.

38. Mighty Aphrodite (1995)
“You didn’t want a BJ so the least I could do is get you a tie.” Proof that even underwhelming Woody Allen films have their moments.

39. Every Thing You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972)
Some sketches worked. “What is Sodomy?” features Gene Wilder hilariously lusting over a sheep. Not much else does however, especially the skit set inside Tony Randall’s head featuring Burt Reynolds as a sperm traffic controller and Woody Allen as, well, sperm in the world’s worst “Fantastic Voyage” homage. This is one of the only Allen films that is far more clever than it thinks it is.

40. Bananas (1971)
This shit is Bananas: B-A-N-A-N-A-S. This overrated Allen comedy is short on the wit Allen is known for. It was a big step down from his brilliant “Take the Money and Run” made just two years earlier. Still, it’s a harmlessly stupid movie whose success got Allen on the map and, most of all, made for a great training project in which Allen learned more about what not to do when making a movie than what to do. He would later call “Bananas” a “stepping stone to the more serious things that I enjoy more.” The turgid pacing in the films centerpiece courtroom scene for instance is all kinds of lame (a black woman says she’s J. Edgar Hoover and people believe her… ugh). And gimmicky moments like Howard Cosell’s “play by play” sex scene is embarrassingly amateurish by today’s standards and perhaps belonged more in a movie like “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex…”. It’s not a total loss. It really is infectious to see this young filmmaker actually having a good time making movies. This is especially the case in some of the non-verbal visual gags that are well executed–the subway scene with Sylvester Stallone comes to mind as being a cool homage to physical gags in silent movies. But in the end the scattershot movie is basically just one corny and canned joke after another forced into a premise that is thin at best. Maybe I’ve been too hard on this title. I’ll try to watch it again one day.

41. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982)
Having shot and edited “Zelig” and this film at the same time it’s almost as if “Zelig” sucked all the nutrients out of this one. It’s the “Twins” of movies. Speaking of which, why the hell has Danny De Vito never done a Woody Allen movie?! So, yeah, not Allen at his best. Woody Allen wrote the screenplay in two weeks and it shows.

42. What’s Up, Tiger Lily (1966)
It’s hard to include this as a full fledged “Woody Allen film” because… it’s not. Allen dubbed over a bad Japanese spy movie called “International Secret Police.” He changed the plot around so that it now revolves around –no joke– the search for the world’s best egg salad recipe. Oy vey–that’s the dumbest thing Allen has ever done! The funny thing is that I’d bet the original film’s dialogue is more (unintentionally) funny that this “comic” treatment. The only consolation is that this movie is at least better than the 2002 dub movie “Kung Pow: Enter the Fist.”

43. The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (2001)
You know things are bad when this is the best line Woody Allen can muster up: “It’s a match made in heaven… by a retarded angel.” So, yes, I can unequivocally state that this is Woody Allen’s worst movie. The only Allen film I would have to call “bad” as hard as that is for me to say. In this movie Woody Allen and Helen Hunt are hypnotized into stealing jewels. That’s the whole movie! Allen literally sleepwalks through the making of this movie. The fumbling gumshoe plot is lifeless, the gags are lame, the supporting characters exist to stand around and crank out bad punch lines, the parody elements fall flat, the chemistry between Allen and Helen Hunt is toxic (resembling “Song of Thin Man” more than the original “Thin Man”) and with lines like “You don’t have a kosher bone in your body” flying back and forth the couple’s inane banter is the poison that fully kills any chance the film had of being watchable.

Since I would hate to end on a bad note here’s closing clip of Woody Allen attempting to rob a bank.

Best of 2011–Top 60 Songs of the Year

The Best Song of the Year…

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KTcrX17joIE[/youtube]

2.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQsPex0OwMM[/youtube]

3.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UKZHyVnsugg[/youtube]

4.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rZYYRQjR40Q[/youtube]

5.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sJQk0jDZx8o&ob=av2e[/youtube]

6.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVq2yMuAMVQ[/youtube]

7.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lAihDAJX8Ow&ob=av3n[/youtube]

8.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Zsnw6yxH2o[/youtube]

9.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EK65y-A_QIA[/youtube]

10.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Va0w5pxFkAM[/youtube]

Top 60 Songs of 2011
click on the song title to hear it

  1. The Birds by Elbow. Whenever I think back upon 2011 this song will always come up first.
  2. Nail In My Coffin – The Kills. Gets the blood boiling. This dirty rock howl stayed in my head all year long.
  3. Interstellar – Amplifier. Space prog at its best. A visionary song in which the only way to be truly free is to travel faster than light. Makes perfect sense to me. (note: the above three songs are pretty much tied for #1)
  4. Dystopia – YACHT. Leads the charge of great 80s inspired songs in 2011. Starts with “The Earth, the earth, the earth is on fire” and only goes up from there. Bonus hipster version of YACHT doing “Dystopia, Voodoo City and Shangra-La.”
  5. Still Life – The Horrors. A shining new wave-y song. Having scored my song of the year for “Sea Within a Sea” in 2009 The Horrors damn near do it again with “Still Life.” There’s no stopping them.
  6. Civilization – Justice. I listened to this underrated song at lest 50 times. Also, music video of the year!
  7. Curl Of The Burl – Mastodon.  One of the best metal song of all time.
  8. The Wolf – Fever Ray. Just like the Beck and Bat for Lashes song from last year featured on the Eclipse soundtrack, it’s best to forget the material this great song came from (Red Riding Hood sorry to say). Still, Fever Ray was robbed of an Oscar for best original song. You hear me Muppets!
  9. A Thousand Details – Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross. Best instrumental track of the year. It’s from Trent Reznor so, yeah, no surprise there. This intense song is from Girl with the Pearl Earing OST.
  10. The Words That Maketh Murder – PJ Harvey. “These, these, these are the words…”
  11. Lotus Flower – Radiohead. This was the lead single off the underrated King of Limbs for a good reason. Here’s Radiohead doing “Lotus Flower” live. Damn that’s good! 
  12. Index – Steven Wilson. I’m a sucker for strings.
  13. Strange News From Another Planet: Know Your honor / Rule by Being Just / The Ship Impossible / Strange Epiphany / Racing and Hunting – …Trail of Dead. Last year my #1 was a 25 minute Sufjan Stevens song. This year my favorite LOOOOOONG song of the year was only 16 minutes. What an experience though. I am officially offering an apology to this band for ranking their Tao of the Dead album so low. It really grew on me.
  14. Tiny Monsters – Puscifer.  NOT to be confused with “Little Monsters” starring Fred Savage and Howie Mandel.
  15. My Machines (ft. Gary Numan)” – Battles. One of many great collaborations on this album. Hellllo Numan.
  16. Who’s In Control – British Sea Power. Please listen to this song. The band does not get enough love.
  17. Immigrant Song” – Trent Reznor, Karen O & Atticus Ross. Better than the original song by Led Zeppelin. Also one of those rare songs where Karen O isn’t annoying.
  18. How Deep Is Your Love? The Rapture. Very deep.
  19. Neat Little RowsElbow. Elbow scores a second track on the top 20. A great song about death.
  20. Glass Jar – Gang Gang Dance. Just wait till it hits minute 6. This is the best Thievery Corporation song Thievery Corporation never recorded.
  21. Revolving Doors Gorillaz. Last year Gorillaz’s Plastic Beach and the song “Stylo” dominated my song/album lists. The fact that Damon Albarn made another list worthy song (and on his iPad!) is pretty cool. I could go for a new Gorillaz song every year.
  22. Fall (M83 vs. Big Black Delta Remix) – Daft Punk + M83. The best M83 song of the year was on Daft Punk’s Tron remix album rather than M83s.
  23. Cruel – St. Vincent. Played with passion, quirkiness a great production and an even better voice. Hey Adele, THIS is how it’s done.
  24. Stay Away – Charli XCX. The best song of the year from a new band/artist.
  25. Amor Fati – Washed Out. The (second) best song of the year from a new band/artist.
  26. Midnight City – M83. And of course I’m wouldn’t dare forget the second best M83 song. I’m amazed (and a bit sad for some reason) at how mainstream this song has become.
  27. Need You Now – Cut Copy. I didn’t love Cut Copy’s new album but this track is the band’s best ever.
  28. Shark Ridden Waters – Gruff Rhys. A very laid back beach song from the last person you’d expect to make a laid back beach song.
  29. Man Overboard – Puscifer. Does what Puscifer and Maynerd does best: dark, clever and full of energy. I love how Maynard James Keenan was able to make an entire song out of nautical sayings.
  30. The Wave – Amplifier. This is only the second Amplifier song on the list. Most songs from the best album of the year, The Octopus, should be on this list but I wanted to save room for other bands.
  31. Repetition – TV On The Radio. Repetition” by TV On The Radio.
  32. Holdin On To Black Metal – My Morning Jacket. My Morning Jacket has never, ever, made a good album. What’s so strange, then, is how many good songs they are able to put on bad albums.
  33. “Get Away” – Yuck. Sigh, this song makes me nostalgic for the 90s. Also, if you like dogs and naked girls be sure to check out another great Yuck song called “Rubber.” This album should have been higher on my list.
  34. I Can See Through You The Horrors. Another masterful Horrors track.
  35. Let England Shake PJ Harvey. Honestly, most songs from this album could make this list.
  36. I Walked Alone YACHT. More YACHT?!
  37. The Daily Mail Radiohead. What’s this?! A non-showy song off the new Radiohead album. Impossible. /sarcasm, that’s exactly why this album is so good. Oh, and it’s a b-side too.
  38. On’n’on Justice. I could have just as easily went with the intro song and/or “Ohio.” But not the song “Audio Video, Disco” which I find annoying.
  39. Last Leaf Tom Waits. Tom Waits manages to make the image of the last leaf on a tree as winter approaches into a moving poetic experience.
  40. Shake It Out Florence and The Machine. Guilty pleasure pop song. Also 1000x better than anything Adele farted out of her mouth.
  41. White Gold Ladytron. Ladytron’s new album Gravity the Seducer was a huge letdown. Tracks like this salvaged it from being a total misfire.
  42. Shangri-la YACHT. The 3rd YACHT song on the list. This song sums up the theme of the album. It’s pretty cool.
  43. Nowhere To Run To – You Love Her Coz She’s Dead. I can chew on this until the next Crystal Castles song comes out (which is hopefully soon). I’m including this to fufil my obligatory 8bit Nintendocore requirement for the year.
  44. Miss You The Rapture. Pretty much the same song as “How Deep Is Your Love?” Meaning: it’s great!
  45. Abducted – Cults
  46. In The Dark Places – PJ Harvey. Why don’t I just put the whole PJ album on this list?
  47. Queen Of Hearts – Fucked Up. As a whole Fucked Up’s album is monotonousness and at times grating. But… if you just listen to this song you will come away very impressed. That’s what they call a mixed complement.
  48. Build Me Up, Break Me Down by Dream Theater. Epic prog in a year with no shortage of that.
  49. 212 Azealia Banks. I don’t know what the hell is going on here but I love it.
  50. House Of Balloons – Glass Table Girls The Weeknd. An epic R&B/post-dubstep song.
  51. Remainder The Black Dog – Steven Wilson. A classic (modern) prog song made by the king of new prog.
  52. With Love – Elbow 
  53. Space Is Only Noise If You Can See Nicolas Jaar. Equal parts annoying and breathtaking. I’m listing it here because it’s more of the later. Err, I think.
  54. Love in the Dark YACHT. Yup, more YACHT. “I love you like a small time cop, I want to smash you face in with a rock.” I don’t know why this album didn’t take off.
  55. Green Valley Puscifer. This song helped me get over a great loss.
  56. Options – “Whatever’s On Your Mind” by Gomez. Underrated as ever. Even I forgot to rank their new album 🙁
  57. “Lonely Boy – The Black Keys. An overrated album from a very good band. Great song though.
  58. Exile Vilify – The National. Not only is a new National song awesome but a new National song that appears in Portal 2 is awesome beyond all comprehension. Also, check out the fan made video attached to the song.
  59. Living Is So Easy” – British Sea Power.
  60. Parallel Timeline with Alternate Outcome – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross.
  61. “Want You Gone”  GLaDOS. I forgive you too GLaDOS.

The 20 Worst Songs of 2011

  1. Lady Gaga  – “The Edge of Glory” –Fuck. You.
  2. LMFAO  – Party Rock Anthem. OMG STFU LMFAO. Yeah but is this song worse than “Sexy & I Know It?” That will be a debate for the ages.
  3. Nicki Minaj  – “Super Bass” Minaj’s boobs are the least fake thing about her. She is a bad copy of a bad copy (Gaga). The song “Fly” is just as bad.
  4. Adele  – “Someone Like You” –It was a mildly inoffensive mainstream pop song the first time I heard it. It was wrist cuttingly bad the 100th time. The last time some sang the lyrics “Someone Like You” this shittastically bad was King’s of Leon’s “Use Somebody.”
  5. Willow Smith – 21st Century Girl
  6. Heart2Heart – “Facebook Official,”  I didn’t even know this song/band existed until I googled “worst songs of 2011.” I’m sorry I did.
  7. EMA– “California” Ponderous!
  8. Bruno Mars – The Lazy Song. Inspirational pop from a coke head loser (with millions of dollars). Ooh look, he’s dancing with monkeys ahaha.
  9. Lady Gaga – “Judas” Really, every Gaga song from Born this way would make the top ten.
  10. Bob Iver – “Holocene
  11. Beyonce – Run The World (Girls)
  12. James Blake – Wilhelms Scream
  13. Destroyer – “Kaputt
  14. Lady Gaga –  “Born this Way”
  15. Lady Gaga – “Americano”
  16. Lady Gaga – “Marry the Night”
  17. Lady Gaga – “You and I”
  18. Lady Gaga – “Hair”
  19. Lady Gaga – “Scheiße”
  20. Lady Gaga – “Heavy Metal Lover”

Other

Best Video Game Song: Turret Wife Serenade.” Portal 2. Perhaps the best video game score ever.
Best Original Movie Song: “The Wolf” by Fever Ray.
Best Music Video: Justice/Civilization. Also “Shark Ridden Waters” by Gruff Rhys (Gruff with a beard getting fucked with by a hot chick). And
Best Instrumental: A Thousand Details by Trent Reznor
Best Bad Song:Moves Like Jagger” by Maroon 5.
Most Appearances on this year’s top 60: Yacht (4), PJ Harvey (3)

Best Albums of 2011

Best of 2011: Music


Album of the Year: Amplifier
The Octopus

     How underrated is Amplifier’s The Octopus? This album is not even on Metacritic. Rock music is truly dying but The Octopus didn’t get that memo. This uncompromising self-release from a little known Manchester trio (Sel Balamir, Neil Mahoney, and Matt Brobin) fulfilled my prog/alt-rock fix with out-of-this-world bombastic sci-fi imagery and as much intensity as Muse’s tangentially similar space-rock/prog opus Black Holes and Revelations album (also my #1 the year it came out). This groundbreaking Octopus record is full of the kind of unabashedly adventurous music not heard since the 1970s when albums actually had concepts and, for that matter, when music actually had albums.A sprawling if muddled narrative through line explores an Asimovian notion of traveling the universe to escape one form of tyranny (religion, corporate, government etc.) only to encounter another. It seems that humanity is doomed to encounter the same story as the eponymous Cthulhu-like Octopus from the cover art reaches out and threatens to destroy everything it touches. Woah. Songs like “Interglacial Spell,” “Fall of the Empire,” “Trading Dark Matter On The Stock Exchange” help build this über nerdy and often psychedelic concept into something that is worthy (and surpasses) many sci-fi movies and books of recent years. Any album that has an un-ironically song titled “Planet of Insects” on it needs to be given a high five. The album’s centerpiece is “Interstellar,” an otherworldly jam that Amplifier literally kicks it into “overdrive” by taking the listener on a trip to a distant sun “faster than a laser beam” (cue Amplifer’s laser beam sound drop) to explore far away galaxies. This sublime and, again, non-ironic 10+ minute prog fueled track crescendos with the revelatory notion that traveling faster than light is the only way to be “truly free.”

While this not a conventional pick for album of the year it’s been a long time since an album so thoroughly invaded my listening hours so I got to give credit where it’s due. Spanning two discs (what are those?) and an impossible to market sound/concept, The Octopus is in instant classic. This is a hopeful indication that music’s future has the potential to be, to borrow that Amplifier lyric, truly free when more artists realize that the narrow minded record industry is hurting the music scene more than it’s helping it at this curious stage in its evolution.


2. Radiohead
King of Limbs + King of Limbs From the Basement

Loving this album takes work and dedication. One must earn it’s respect before it whispers its secrets to you. Just another Radiohead album in other words. I was just as underwhelmed by Limbs as so many other fans were but the album’s beguilingly uneventful melodies, hypnotic rhythms and sleepy lyrics/vocals lingered far longer then I expected after my first listen. I called it a work of lazy brilliance and I would still call it that today except when I say it now I mean it as a compliment. While most are ranking Limbs just above Pablo Honey as the worst Radiohead album to date, I would argue that this is in fact Radiohead’s best album since their similarly impenetrable Amnesiac. Like that A+ album, soon after my lethargic reaction I found myself re-listening to it almost daily (alongside a superlative live version of Limbs featuring two new tracks  “The Daily Mail” and “Staircase” and a decent enough remix album called TKOL RMX 1234567) without known why. Now that the year has ended I still don’t have very good grip on the album because my approach differs from one listen to the next. There are no shortcuts to Limbs. The album’s ability to grow and evolve over time will (hopefully) earn it more fans in the years to come.

3. Puscifer
Conditions of my Parole

From looking at the cover art you would think this album was a goof. Wigs, fakes moustaches and prison outfits. Is Maynard James Keenan doing another one of his Mr. Show type skits in album form? Far from it. Crazy but fun live shows aside, Puscifer’s two album releases have been very sober (Tool pun intended).  It’s hard to convey the level of success this album reaches. It took me a few listens to orient myself to the reality that this is, in fact, a very serous and even soulful album. Elements of industrial, alt-rock and even country wash over you as the mellifluous Maynard croons and groans into the abyss of a digital oblivion. This album stands as Maynard’s most mature and deeply felt effort to date. No “Cuntry Boners” here. While low key, this is an accomplished work that has the potential to appeal to fans of Tool, A Perfect Circle and those who don’t like either. That it ranks with the best of Maynard’s previous efforts is no small feat.


4. The Horrors
Skying

How did this album not make it on more best of lists?! I don’t want to jinx the band but we really could be looking at the moder version of The Clash. Their last album snagged my song of the year (“Sea Within a Sea”) and a spot in my top five. I was blindsided by The Horrors’s Primary Colours album in 2008. Many were along with me (NME for one). And many, like me, figured The Horrors would never recover from such unexpected burst of brilliance (a.k.a. Franz Ferdinand Syndrome). Well, the band blindsided me again on Skying.I should stop being surprised when The Horrors makes a great album. It shall now be assumed that they’re going to make something this outrageously good. In an interesting twist, this new album is a departure from last. Instead of playing it safe and recapturing the gothic-punk magic of Colours, The Horrors decided to evolve into a sound that’s less Horrors and more in tune with British alt-rock bands like Doves and British Sea Power as well as a number of older influences (some shoegaze). Skying is not only better than anything from those two (great) bands have but the best thing The Horrors has ever produced. More to come.


5. PJ Harvey
Let England Shake

I was a huge fan of Harvey’s last album (the dreamy White Chalk) because it was such a wonderfully realized departure from her usual alt/indie rock brilliance. I am a bigger fan of this album however because it is such a strong example of what Harvey does best. Lively rock with a real sense of spirit guiding it along. Let England Shake is (another) rousing achievement for Harvey who has no shortage of those. It is required listening for any Anglophile and a perfect example of England’s sad and solitary duty of keeping rock music alive (7 out of my top 10 albums are from UK artists!). Lyrically, it’s the smartest album released all year as well as the most spiritually enriching. It goes beyond genres to reach the very soul of a nation. And the listener.


6. The Kills
Blood Pressures

The Kills took matters to a new level (and genre) with Blood Pressures, transitioning from what was once a decent enough punk band that, on the album Midnight Boom, achieved a sloppy form greatness almost by accident. Oddly enough I think Alison Mosshart’s stint with the abominable Jack White garage blues band The Dead Weather (let us never utter than band’s name again) somehow rubbed off on The Kills, preserving the best elements (what little there were) from Dead Weather (ack!) while shit-canning the bloated country/rock indulgences. If you want to be blown away by how good The Kills have become then listen to the track “Nail In My Coffin” off Blood Pressures. Or you could listen to just about any song here. Really, it’s that good. Blood Pressures has a smoky, bluesy sound that fits beautifully with the band’s usual guttural rock howls. The Kills nailed this album so hard that they even managed to outdo The Black Keys’s El Camino in 2011.


7. Steven Wilson
Grace for Drowning

The criminally underrated Steven Wilson’s Insurgentes solo album was a cool little side project that showed off Wilson’s penchant for rocking by his lonesome. This album is a full fledged experience good enough to be put in the same company as his seminal modern prog band Porcupine Tree. The stream of consciousness songs, spread over two discs, range in influence from Mars Volta’s jazzy dissonance, Depeche Mode’s industrial synths, movie soundtracks and too many classic prog albums to count (Yes, Floyd, early Genesis etc.). A song like “Track One” begins with a Beatles-esq sound and follows that up with a few minutes of Nine Inch Nails gloom only to end with a fluffy guitar riff. This organized chaos is why this album is such a big deal. Much as the classic progressive movement mixed and matched sounds in the 70s, Steven Wilson samples form that period and goes one step beyond by adding a modern touch of alt-rock, electronic and metal. It is a truly modern progressive masterpiece; completely original in its ambitious wide-screen soundscapes. There’s even a 20+ minute track! Indulgent, yes, but that’s the quiddity of this genre. When such a skilled musician is indulging in his craft at this high a level it’s best to shut up and just take in the experience.


8. Elbow
Build a Rocket Boys!

Guy Garvey is like a modern rock version of Frank Sinatra except way cooler and actually a talented.  Elbow, the most grown-up and downright classy alternative rock band around, has crafted their most grown up album. The band’s shimmering Build a Rocket Boys may not be as visionary as their Mercury Prize winning Seldom Seen Kid (or its equally wonderful live counterpart) but it’s actually better in a lot of ways. For one, as with The Kills and many other bands on the list this year, it’s Elbow’s most consistent effort. One soulful song smoothly shifts into another, starting off low key and swelling into a lush anthem of melancholy redemption. I listened to the proggy song “Birds” more times than I can count (it’s the perfect song to walk dogs to) and consider it in the running for song of the year. Another potential best-of for Elbow, “Neat Little Rows,” manages to make the gloomy prospect death beautiful in a strange way. Elbow is the perfect band for anyone raised on 90s music and wants to listen to something dignified but not boring for a change.

9. Yacht
Shangri-La

So many things from this band and for that matter this album should annoy me. Vegan hipster hippies Jona Bechtolt and Claire Evans cawing endlessly about extremely shallow new-age spiritual matters and pretty much nothing else. Sample lyric sound like this “Don’t you worry about god up above, we’re going to live life in… LOVE” or this “If your enemies cause you cancer then we’ll find a cure for you and bring it to the club, yeah bring it to the club!” There’s also song about “Paradise engineering” or (some such shit) that goes “If there is a hell/ that’s where I belong/for breaking all these rules/and singing all these songs.” Fuck off, posers! Except… don’t. Yacht pulls it off. And I can understand why; this album would annoying if it wasn’t so groovy. Perhaps it’s the playful sense of fun the duo brings to each song that keeps it alive and popping for every ecstatic second of its 44 minute running time. Laughable lyrics and messages aside, there’s hardly a misfire in the whole album. With its rousing anthem “the earth, the earth, the earth is on fire,” Dystopia is one of the all-time best 80s songs not released in the 80s. Yacht rocks every track as if it’s the last thing they’ll ever do before the metaphorical “end” they so love to muse over before invariably twisting that subject to focus on revolutions and new beginnings. Shangri-La is one of the more successful 80s electronic throwbacks ever, full of catchy hooks and a vocal approach by Evans that is so bad it’s downright charming. She makes Karen O look like a seasoned Opera singer. Unlike O’s Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs, Yacht seems to be incapable of making a bad album.

10. Mastodon
The Hunter

Mastodon makes a super conventional rock album yet somehow figured out how to rock just as hard within the usually damning confines of mainstream metal. The album may not be as ambitious as the brilliant Crack the Sky (or Leviathan or Blood Mountain etc.) but it’s a wonderfully managed effort that will hopefully gain this esteemed metal band some much needed new fans who could very well be eased into the metal scene thanks to The Hunter. Take a song like “Curl of the Burl” for instance. First off, it’s brilliant. Second, it’s fucking brilliant. Third, I have no idea what a curl is or, for that matter, a burl, but I love them all the same and have become quite fond of belting out “it’s just the curl of the burl, that’s just the way of the woooooooorld!” when nobody except my Pug is around. It’s the band’s best song to date despite being the kind of track the woolly metal thrashers would not have been able to pull of on past albums that were defined more by epic metal ruminations than straight forward iPod friendly tunes. If it sounds like I’m dancing (or moshing) around the fact that the band has sold out, I am, but so what, this is the kind of “selling out” that is good because it maintains a high level integrity while offering something more accessible and polished to fans and non-fans of this neglected genre. If rock is dead then metal is REALLY dead so this is a good thing. Metalica could learn a thing or two (or five thousand) from Mastodon’s latest album.


11. Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo Soundtrack
I was enthralled by Reznor and Ross’s Social Network soundtrack. It showed a side of the Nine Inch Nails frontman that I had not seen; an album that is perfectly contained with a fascinating sense of experimentation with 8-bit sounds. It is one of the most revolutionary music scores of all time, proving that all soundtracks don’t have to sound like John Williams farted them out of his crusty tuba. Just a year later and Reznor (along with longtime producer Ross) did it again! Threefold! This epic album surprises but not in the same ways Social Network did. Like the Social Network soundtrack this soundtrack is better than the movie it’s based on. After getting into the murderin’ mood with a simmering cover of Led Zepplin’s “Immigrant Song” that manages the (easy) feat of being better than anything the overrated Zepplin has ever done (not counting Tool’s version of “No Quarter”), the album wallops you with an endless stream of brooding ambient textures. Deeply resonating  guitar riffs get the blood flowing on tracks like “A Thousand Details” while the ambient sounds textures chill it at the same time. Most surprising is the album’s length: 3 HOURS. As Trent Reznor instrumentals go that’s is positively Ghost-sized. The album’s length is perhaps excessive but I appreciate the extent to which Reznor is able to immerse the listener in David Fincher’s dark film world. It’s the kind of album where you press play and loose track of time only to wake up naked in the snow with a bloody knife in one hand and a cat’s head in another. Uh…

12. M83
Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming
Not M83’s best album (more on par with Saturdays = Youth than Dead Cities) but despite a number of lulls and cheesy moments (the spoken word stuff has always been too emo), the album maintains the standards I expect from this dependable electronic band. Not only is there lots of gorgeous shoegazing but the 80s vibe (a trend in 2011) that Anthony Gonzalez infuses into his music gives Hurry Up a unique personality. I wasn’t aware of how much I liked this album until I realized that whenever a song would pop up on my iPhone’s shuffle I never skipped it. I have a feeling this album will grown on me in the months to come and while I look forward to my impendingly growing appreciation I do not look forward to the regret I will/might feel for not placing this in the top ten.

13. Battles
Gloss Drop
This is not a great Battles album but it is a great album that happens to have been made by a band that once called themselves Battles but, upon the departure of guitar/keyboard/vocalist Tyondai Braxton, just as soon abandoned the quirky prog electronic signatures that put them on the map, or Atlas as it were… this sentence needs to end.

14. Gang Gang Dance
Eye Contact
Great Great Album.15. Daft Punk and co.
Tron: Legacy Reconfigured
I never expected a remix album from a Disney movie (and a bad one at that!) to make it this high on any best of list. Not that my standards are that high but, well, it’s Tron we’re talking about here and as everyone knows by now: Tron sucks. While I really enjoyed Daft Punk’s first music soundtrack on its own terms I felt it was a perfect example of one of the world’s best bands being held back and creatively suffocated by the demands of a tame, zero risk taking cinematic vision. That Daft Punk survived the lamentable Tron debacle with a product that did not outright embarrass them just shows you how good they are. This album unloads (or downloads) more electronica awesomeness than you can shake an Ethernet cable at. It holds nothing back. It even brings to the foreground a lot of stuff I missed the first time around, showing just how complex the original soundtrack might actually be. This reconfiguration is almost what I would expect from Daft Punk if they approached the initial soundtrack as an actual album rather than a movie score. Featuring re-interpretations from electronica acts like M83, Ki:Theory, Moby and Photek, Reconfigured is that rare remix album that surpasses the original mix!

16. Justice
Audo, Video, Disco

The album was put at a disadvantage by the fact that everyone expected it to top †. Well, that’s not happening –not by Justice or anybody– but, seriously, that’s not a good reason to grimace one’s way through the likable Audio, Video, Disco. Anyone not hooked by a song like “Civilization” might not have a pulse. As the album title promises, this new Justice album is full of infectious 70s/80s era disco house dance songs that are easily as good if not better than anything Lindstrom has done in the last few years.

17. St. Vincent
Strange Mercy
In 2011 the masses were placated by the phony, slightly-above-American-Idol-standard stylings of Adele. Fools! For the people who knew what the fuck is up however there was St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) who, on Strange Mercy, took full command of her sound (arty pop on par with the likes of Annie and Nellie Mckay) and converted a lot of listeners like me who were on the fence after her underwhelming Actor debut.

18. Tom Waits
Bad as Me
Sometimes I want an artist to innovate. Other times I’m perfectly content with hearing them do what they do best. Waits has made a traditional album that only he is capable of. Only Waits could sing a song from the point of view of the last leaf on a tree as winter approaches (winter is coming!) and make you feel emotional connected. Full of growls and an indescribable carnival-gone-wrong sadness, the gravely master attains a nice concoction that, while not the powerhouse that Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers & Bastards was, settles nicely in his accomplished catalogue.

19. Tim Hecker
Ravedeath, 1972
Hecker’s last album An Imaginary Country made my top ten. Ravedeath, 1972 is actually better in retrospect. Every year I make room from some good ambient music and I have to say that Hecker is perhaps the best artist working in this genre right now. His music is truly addicting but I’ve never been able to capture why exactly because I suck at writing about music. At any rate Ravedeath (which sounds like a city in Skyrim) blankets the listener with well crafted shapes, sounds, tones and inexpressible emotions.

20. The Rapture
In the Grace of Your Love
Not even its status as the band’s worst album to date can stop The Rapture’s new entry from being great compared to most others. Like Radiohead and M83’s 2011 entries, it didn’t do much for me at first but I found myself revisiting this album countless times and getting into a surprising large number of songs such as the title track, “Miss You” and of course the band’s most popular song to date “How Deep is Your Love?” Very deep it turns out. The Rapture is a great band that has far too many albums to its name. MOAR!

Special Mention


21. Cliff Martinez
Drive
Another 80s throwback! I’ve been a huge Cliff Martinez fan every since hearing his score for Steven Soderbergh’s “The Limey.” His work on “Drive” however is an eye opening display of artistic growth. It’s just one of the many, many things that movie does perfectly. The fact that it works just as well as an album then as music in a film puts old Cliff in Trent Reznor’s company.

22. Washed Out
Within and Without
Provided 2011 with some much needed ccccccccccccccccccchhhhhhhhhhhhhhiiiiiiiiillllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll.
23. Gorillaz
The Fall
The Fall is the Gorillaz’s most problematic album. As a huge Gorillaz fan I’m hesitant to even consider it cannon–it’s more of a side-project within the overall side-project that is the Gorillaz proper. An experiment within the experiment. After the “band” made Plastic Beach, the very best album of 2010, the non-animated frontman and creative hurricane behind the band (oh, and a little band called Blur) Damon Albarn decided to have a piss and record The Fall on his iPad while on the Escape to Plastic Beach World Tour (one of the most amazing live shows I’ve ever been to). Or so the story goes. It is not an ambitious album compared to the band’s last three high concept, highly collaborative efforts, and not even a very good album in some spots, but the fact that its any good at all (“Revolving Doors” is one of the band’s best songs) is a testament to Albarn’s creativity. After hearing The Fall I am now convinced that Albarn could literally make an album in his sleep and not have it suck.

24. Dream Theater and Opeth
A Dramatic Turn of Events and Heritage
Truly a banner year for prog as evidenced by Amplifier, Steven Wilson, Opeth and of course Dream Theater’s offerings. Dream Theater’s album continues the band progressive metal sound but, as with the equally solid (though far from fan favorite) Black Clouds & Silver Linings’s album, the band mixes things up with some softer, more concept driven passages that’s less metal and more classic prog. The album is heavy to be sure but Dream Theater lets the material breath and the results are successful. As for Opeth, Heritage is one of their most progressive and palatable albums to date. Like Dream Theater’s “watered down” (not in a bad way) album Heritage lacks some of the band’s more intense death metal signatures (perhaps due to Steven Wilson’s departure as a producer) but is a worthy addition to their impressive catalog. It may not be the album that Opeth purists of 2001-2005 (Blackwater Park, Blackwater, Park Damnation) have been asking for –demanding actually– but in all honesty this direction seems more organic. Not many artists can rock and growl through an intense death metal sound after almost 30 years.

25. You Love Her Coz She’s Dead
Self Titled
Let’s hear it for Nintendocore! What’s that you say, this band ripped off Crystal Castles? Well good on them! More bands should rip of Crystal Castles. After releasing some random tracks and EPs since 2008 this British band finally got enough material together put out this full length self-titled debut. It lives up to my hopes but does not exceed them. Like Castles, the tracks here are vigorous and abrasive and the 8bit sounds are welcome. While not as melodic or clever as either of Castles perfect albums, YLHCSD finds their niche and will hopefully continue to explore the boundaries of this genre.

26. British Sea Power (Valhalla Dancehall)
27. TV On The Radio (Nine Types Of Light)
28. Gruff Rhys (Hotel Shampoo + Atheist Xmas EP)
29. Florence + The Machine (Ceremonials)
30. Trail of Dead (Tao of the Dead)
31. The Chemical Brothers (Hanna Soundtrack)
32. Nicolas Jaar (Don’t Break My Love)
33. Yuck (Yuck)
34. Liturgy (Aesthethica)
35. Fleet Foxes (Helplessness Blues)
36. Gomez (Whatever’s On Your Mind)
37. Wilco (The Whole Love)
38.  Mike Morasky (Portal 2: Songs to Test By) Videogame soundtrack.
39. The Weeknd (House of Balloons)
40. Dum Dum Girls (Only in Dreams)

Guilty Pleasure Pick: Skrillex (Bangarang)–I will not apologize for having horrible taste in music.
Best Unsigned Band: Suns–A band worth checking out. I first heard them when they opened for Crystal Castles. Hear the album on their site for free.
Best Live Album: Radiohead (The King of Limbs Live From the Basement). Runner Up: Rush Time Machine: Live in Cleveland 2011
Best Live Show: Crystal Castles

Best Film Scores

  1. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
  2. Drive by Cliff Martinez
  3. Hanna by The Chemical Brothers
  4. Jane Eyre by Dario Marianelli
  5. The Tree of Life by Alexandre Desplat

Best Video Game Score
Portal 2 by Mike Morasky. Runner Up: Skyrim 

Worst, Most Annoying and/or Most Overrated Albums of 2011

  1. Lady Gaga (Born this Way)
    Worst album of the year. Worst artist of the century. Worst music fad of, like, ever. On Born This Way the over-saturated Gaga persona sinks to new lows by sings agonizingly generic and unoriginal pop songs about individualism (a contradiction if ever there was one) while sucking a legion of fans into a hollow vortex of conformist-seeking pap and prefab pomp. Just looking at that whore-id album cover fills me with rage and sadness.
  2. Nickelback (Here & Now)
    Go & Away. Somehow Nickelback has outlived Creed.
  3. Adele (21)
    One word review: HYPE. Corporate pop soul without an ounce of anything resembling soul. Everyone fell for it. A perfect specimen of the American Idol generation. At least it’s a step up from Amy Winehouse.
  4. Daughtry (Break The Spell)
    Spell Broken.
  5. Owl City (All Things Bright and Beautiful)
    All things except this wretched album.
  6. Bon Iver (Bon Iver)
    The most overrated album of 2011. Every song is the same, which would be fine if any song was any good. This album manages the feat of being worse than For Emma. To borrow a Jack Black line from “High Fidelity,” this is sad bastard music.
  7. LMFAO  (Sorry for Party Rocking)
    Not as sorry as I am.
  8. Destroyer
    Daniel Bejar’s atonal and maddeningly smug voice ruins what would have otherwise been a mediocre album.
  9. Lou Reed & Metallica (Lulu)
    What the hell is going on here?! I expect crap from Metallica but not from Lou Reed. This confounding album makes Metal Machine Music look like a pop record.
  10. Red Hot Chili Peppers (I’m with You)
    Another turd from the eternally meh Chili Peppers.
  11. Beastie Boys (Hot Sauce Committee Part Two)
    The longest running novelty act in music history. Just shut up already!
  12. tUnE-yArDs (w h o k i l l)
    aN eXtreMely-uNpleAsaNT liSteniNg expERiencE. i muSt-bE oUt oF tOuCh-thouGh becAusE thIs feMalE veRsIoN o-f aniMaL-coLLective soMEhoW wOn eVeryboDy OveR.
  13. Coldplay (Mylo Xyloto)
    A full relapse. A rush of blood to the bowls.By favoring generic pop to their last few albums alternative sounds Coldplay hasn’t sucked this thoroughly since Parachutes

Music Ranked By Year 1970-2010

Going back into time to rank #1s in music.

1970 #1 Miles Davis (Bitches Brew). Can (Soundtracks), Simon & Garfunkel (Bridge Over Troubled Water).
1971 #1 Can (Tago Mago). Leonard Cohen (Songs of Love and Hate), Yes (Fragile).
1972 #1 NEU! (NEU!). David Bowie (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars), Can (Ege Bamyasi), Steely Dan (Can’t Buy a Thrill),  Lou Reed (Transformer).
1973 #1 Genesis (Selling England by the Pound). Pink Floyd (The Dark Side of the Moon), Steely Dan (Countdown to Ecstasy), The Stooges (Raw Power), Lou Reed (Berlin).
1974 #1 King Crimson (Red). Supertramp (Crime of the Century).
1975 #1 Bruce Springsteen (Born to Run). Bob Dylan (Blood on the Tracks), NEU! (NEU! ’75).
1976 #1 Rush (2112). Steely Dan (The Royal Scam).
1977 #1 Pink Floyd (Animals). Kraftwerk (Trans Europa Express), Elvis Costello (My Aim Is True).
1978 #1 Elvis Costello (This Year’s Model). Devo (Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo!),  Bruce Springsteen (Darkness on the Edge of Town), Kraftwerk (Die Mensch-Maschine), The Jam (All Mod Cons).
1979 #1 The Clash (London Calling). Pink Floyd (The Wall), Gary Numan (The Pleasure Principle), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Damn the Torpedoes).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IxuThNgl3YA&ob=av3e[/youtube]

Best Album of the 1970s: The Clash’s London Calling
Best Song of the 1970s: “Born to Run” by Bruce Springsteen
Most Overrated/Worst: Led Zeppelin

1980 #1 Talking Heads (Remain in Light). Rush (Permanent Waves),  Elvis Costello (Get Happy!!), Gary Numan (The Pleasure Principle/Telekon), The Birthday Party (The Birthday Party), Peter Gabriel (Peter Gabriel), The Jam (Sound Affects), David Bowie (Scary Monsters And Super Creeps) , U2 (Boy).
1981 #1 Oingo Boingo (Only a Lad). Rush (Moving Pictures), Devo (Freedom of Choice), King Crimson (Disipline), Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers (Hard Promises), The Cure (Faith).
1982 #1 Bruce Springsteen (Nebraska). Oingo (Boingo Nothing to Fear), Elvis Costello Imperial Bedroom Lou Reed The Blue Mask Prince 1999, Pat Metheny (Travels).
1983 #1 U2 (War). The Police (Synchronicity), Pulp (It), R.E.M. (Murmur), Tom Waits (Swordfishtrombones).
1984 #1 Swans (Cop). The Smiths (The Smiths), Talking Heads (Stop Making Sense), Bruce Springsteen (Born in the U.S.A.), Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (From Her to Eternity), Spinal Tap (This Is Spinal Tap), Prince (Purple Rain), U2 (The Unforgettable Fire), Run-D.M.C.(Run-D.M.C.).
1985 #1 The Smiths (Meat is Murder), Tom Waits (Rain Dogs), Skinny Puppy (Bites), Oingo Boingo (Dead Man’s Party), The Fall (This Nation’s Saving Grace), The Cure (The Head on the Door), Dinosaur Jr. (Dinosaur).
1986 #1 Spaceman 3 (Sound of Confusion–1994 Re-issue version). Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (Your Funeral… My Trial), The Smiths (The Queen is Dead), Paul Simon (Graceland), Spaceman 3 (Sound of Confusion), Swans (Holy Money),  Depeche Mode (Black Celebration).
1987 #1 Pulp (Freaks). The Smiths (Strangeways, Here We Come), U2 (Joshua Tree), Depeche Mode (Music for the Masses), Spaceman 3 (The Perfect Prescription), Swans (Children of God), Dinosaur Jr. (You’re Living All Over Me), Bruce Springsteen (Tunnel of Love), The Cure (Kiss Me Kiss Me Kiss Me).
1988 #1  Pixies (Surfer Rosa). Leonard Cohen (I’m Your Man), My Bloody Valentine (Isn’t Anything), NWA (Straight Outta Compton), Spaceman 3 (Performance), Sonic Youth (Daydream Nation).
1989 #1 Nine Inch Nails (Pretty Hate Machine), Pixies (Doolittle), De La Soul (3 Feet High and Rising), Spaceman 3 (Playing with Fire), The Cure (Disintegration), Nirvana (Bleach).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao-Sahfy7Hg&ob=av3e[/youtube]

Best Album of the 1980s: Nine Inch Nail’s Pretty Hate Machine
Best Song of the 1980s: “Head Like a Hole” by Nine Inch Nail
Most Overrated: Beastie Boys, Paul’s Boutique

1990 #1 Depeche Mode (Violator). Pixies (Bossanova), Spaceman 3 (Recurring) Morrisey (Bona Drag), Public Enemy (Fear of a Black Planet) Worst:
1991 #1  U2 (Achuting Baby). Nirvana (Nevermind), Swans (White Light From the Mouth of Infinity), My Bloody Valentine (Loveless),  Massive Attack (Blue Lines), Primal Scream (Screamadelica). Worst: Red Hot Chili Peppers and Metallica.
1992 #1 Pulp (Separations). Nine Inch Nails (Broken/Fixed), Tool (Opiate), Spiritualized (Lazer Guided Melodies), Leonard Cohen (The Future), Rabih Abou-Khalil (Blue Camel), Dream Theater (Images and Worlds), Tori Amos (Little Earthquakes), Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (Henry’s Dream), REM (Automatic for the People), Skinny Puppy (Skinny Puppy), Pavement (Slanted and Enchanted). Worst: Sublime (40 Oz. To Freedom), Pearl Jam Even Flow.
1993 #1 Tool (Undertow). U2 (Zooropa), Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang), PJ Harvey (Rid of Me), Porcupine Tree (Up the Downstair), Blur (Modern Life…), Flaming Lips (Transmissions from the Satellite Heart) Depeche Mode (Songs of Faith and Devotion), Nirvana (In Utero), Suede (Suede). Worst: Snoop Dogg, Guns N’ Roses Spagetti Incident.
1994 #1 Nine Inch Nails (Downward Spiral). Pulp (His n’ Hers), Nirvana (MTV Unplugged), Blur (Parklife), Nick Cave (Let Love In), Dave Matthews (Under the Table and Dreaming), Morrissey Vauxhall and I  Worst: Hole Live Through This, Green Day Dookie.
1995 #1 Pulp (Different Class), Radiohead (The Bends), Spiritualized (Pure Phase), Blur (The Great Escape), King Crimson (THRAK), NIN (Further Down the Spiral), Foo Fighters (self titled), Porcupine Tree (The Sky Moves Sideways), Swans (The Great Annihilator). Worst: Jewel Pieces of You.
1996 #1 Tool (Aenma), Super Furry Animals (Radiator), Beck (Odelay), Nick Cave (Murder Ballids), Belle & Sebastian (If You’re Feeling Sinister)/Belle & Sebastian (Tigermilk), Porcupine Tree (Signify), . Porcupine Tree (Signify), Sheryl Crow (Self titled), The Divine Comedy (Casanova). Worst: Backstreet Boys.
1997 #1 Radiohead (OK Computer). Spirutalized (Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space), Super Furry Animals (Radiator), Blur (Blur), Daft Punk (Homework), Blond Redheaed (Fake Can Be…), Bjork (Homogenic), Bob Dylan (Time Out of Mind) Depeche Mode (Ultra). Godspeed You! Black Emperor (F?A??), Supersilent (1-3), Mogwai (Young Team), Elliot Smith (Either/Or).  Worst: The Offspring, Creed, Limp Bizcuit, Celine Dion.
1998 #1 Massive Attack (Mezzanine). Beck (Mutations), Dave Matthews Band (Before These Crowded Streets–I totally would have ranked this DMB album as #1 at time),  Fatboy Slim (You’ve Come a Long Way Baby), Marilyn Manson (Mechanical Animals), Gomez (Bring It On), Air (Moon Safari), Swans (Swans are Dead). Worst: Dropkick Murphys, Barenaked Ladies, Reel Big Fish.
1999 #1 Nine Inch Nails (The Fragile). Pulp (This is Hardcore), The Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulliton), Super Furry Animals (Guerrla), Blur (13), Porcupine Tree (Stupid Dream), Fiona Apple (When the Pawn…), Gomez (Liquid Skin), The Magnetic Fields (69 Love Songs), Tom Waits (Mule Varaitions), Cibo Matto (Stero Type A), Robbie Williams (The Ego Has Landed), Beck (Midnite Vultures), The Chemical Brothers (Surrender). Worst: Creed (Human Clay), Britney Spears (Baby One More Time).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=snouZdW2IWg[/youtube]

Ten Best Album of the 1990s:
1. Nine Inch Nails’s The Fragile–best of the decade and all time. Also, NIN scores it’s second straight best album of the decade!
2. Radiohead’s Ok Computer
3. Pulp’s Separations
4. Tool’s Aenma
5. Spirutalized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space
6. Nine Inch Nails’s Broken and Fixed
7. Pulp’s This is Hardcore
8. U2’s Achuting Baby
9. Nine Inch Nails’s Downward Spiral
10.  Pulp’s Different Classes

Best Song of the 1990s: “Like a Friend” by Pulp. Close second: “Somewhat Damaged” by Nine Inch Nails. Also, “Numb” by U2 is pretty cool (note: that’s the last time the words “U2” and “cool” could be used in the same sentence).
Most Annoying Thing about the 90s: Sublime 40 Oz. To Freedom.

2000 #1 Radiohead (Kid A), Porcupine Tree (Lightbulb Sun), Godspeed You! Black Emperor (Lift Yr. Skinny Fists), A Perfect Circle (Mer de noms), Robbie Williams (Sing When You’re Winning–ranked #1 by me at the time… I have no idea why), Super Furry Animals (Mwng), PJ Harvey (Stories From the City etc.), At the Drive-In (Relationship of Command), Badly Drawn Boy (The Hour of Bewilderbeast)
2001 #1 Tool (Lateralus), Spiritualized (Let It Come Down), Pulp (We Love Life), Radiohead (Amnesiac), Super Furry Animals (Rings Around the World), Daft Punk (Discovery), Stars of the Lid (The Tired Sounds Of), Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (No More Shall We Part), Muse (Origin of Symmetry), Transatlantic (Bridge Across Forever), Opeth (Blackwater Park), The Strokes (Is This It).
2002 #1 Beck (Sea Change). Porcupine Tree (In Absentia), The Flaming Lips (Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots), Nine Inch Nails (Still), Wilco (Yankee Hotel Foxtrot), Queens of the Stone Age (Songs for the Deaf), Trail of Dead (Source Tags & Codes), Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Once More, With Feeling, Doves (The Last Broadcast), Bruce Springsteen (The Rising), Tom Waits (Alice).
2003 #1 The Mars Volta (De-Loused in the Comatorium), Super Furry Animals (Phantom Power–ranked #1 by me at the time), The Knife (Deep Cuts), Belle and Sebastian (Dear Catastrophe Waitress), Muse (Absolution), Blur (Think Tank), Radiohead (Hail to the Thief), King Crimson (The Power to Believe), A Perfect Circle (Thirteenth Step), The Rapture (Echoes)
2004 #1 Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds (Abattoir Blues / The Lyre of Orpheus). Gomez (Split the Difference–ranked #1 by me at the time), Wilco (A Ghost Is Born), Muse (Absolution)Franz Ferdinand (Franz Ferdinand), Arcade Fire (Funeral), Mastodon (Leviathan), Annie (Anniemal), Badly Drawn Boy (One Plus One is One), The Magnetic Fields (i), The Streets (A Grand Don’t Come for Free).
2005 #1 Nine Inch Nails (With Teeth). Porcupine Tree (Deadwing), Gorillaz (Demon Days), The Mars Volta (Frances the Mute), Trail of Dead (Worlds Apart), The National (Alligator), Sufjan Stevens (Illinois), Beck (Guero), LCD Soundsystem (LCD Soundsystem), Fiona Apple (Extraordinary Machine), Coheed and Cambria (Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV).
2006 #1 Muse (Black Holes and Revelations). Tool (10,000 Days), The Knife (Silent Shout).
2007 #1 Porcupine Tree (Fear of a Blank Planet). Nine Inch Nails (Year Zero), Blond Redhead (23–ranked #1 by me at the time), Daft Punk (Alive 2007), Justice (†), Stars of the Lid (And Their Refinement of the Decline), Super Furry Animals (Hey Venus!), Radiohead (In Rainbows), The National (Boxer).
2008 #1 Crystal Castles (Crystal Castles). Ladytron (Velocifero), Neon Neon (Stainless Style), Elbow (The Seldom Seen Kid), TV on the Radio (Dear Science), Beck (Modern Guilt), Underworld & John Murphy (Sunshine Soundtrack)
2009 #1 Porcupine Tree (The Incident). Annie (Don’t Stop), Jarvis Cocker (Further Complications), Mastodon (Crack the Skye), Fuck Buttons (Tarot Sport), The Flaming Lips (Embryonic), The Horrors (Primary Colours), Fever Ray (Fever Ray).

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJfXlm4S7fo[/youtube]

Best Album of the 2000s: Tool’s Lateralus
Best Song of the 2000s: “Optimistic” by Radiohead and “Party Hard” by Andrew WK.
Most Annoying Thing about the 2000s: Creed, Evanescence, Britney Spears, Boy Bands.
Most Overrated: The White Stripes

2010 #1 Gorillaz (Plastic Beach), Crystal Castles (Crystal Castles II), Swans (My Father Will Guide Me…), The National (High Violet).
2011 So far–in no particular order: The Horrors, Elbow, PJ Harvey, The Kills, Yacht, Tim Hecker, Radiohead.

Most #1 Appearances:
Nine Inch Nails – 4
Pulp – 3
Tool – 3
Radiohead – 2
Bruce Springsteen – 2
U2 – 2

Note: I did not originally rank Radiohead (Kid A), Nick Cave (Lyre), Mars Volta (De-Loused), or Porcupine Tree (Fear) as #1 the year they came out. The “promotion” is unofficial because I don’t allow myself to change #1s once I have ranked them so as to preserve the authenticity of the era.

Best of 2010: The Rest of the Best

Top Ten Directors of 2010:


  1. Joon-ho Bong’s Mother
  2. Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  3. Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer
  4. Mike Leigh’s Another Year
  5. Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void
  6. Olivier Assayas’ Carlos
  7. Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine
  8. Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg
  9. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valahalla Rising
  10. Maren Ade’s Everyone Else

Top Ten Stories (dialogue, story, characters etc.)

  1. Greenberg (Noah Baumbach)
  2. Dogtooth (Giorgos Lanthimos)
  3. Mother (Bong Joon-ho)
  4. Please Give (Nicole Holofcener)
  5. The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko and Stuart Blumberg)
  6. Black Swan (Mark Heyman, Andres Heinz and John J. McLaughlin)
  7. Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski and Robert Harris)
  8. Carlos (Olivier Assayas and Dan Franck)
  9. Wild Grass (Alain Resnais and Laurent Herbiet)
  10. Buried (Chris Sparling)
Performances
  1. Ben Stiller as Roger Greenberg in Greenberg (Stiller’s Punch Drunk Love)
  2. Christian Bale as Dicky Eklund in The Fighter
  3. Hye-ja Kim as Mother in Mother
  4. Lesley Manville as Mary in Another Year
  5. Olivia Williams as Ruth Lang in The Ghost Writer
  6. Colin Firth as The King in King’s Speech
  7. Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams in Blue Valentine
  8. Tilda Swinton as Emma Recchi in I Am Love
  9. John Hawkes as Teardrop in Winter’s Bone
  10. Édgar Ramírez as Carlos the Jackel Carlos
  11. Mark Ruffalo as Paul in The Kids Are All Right
  12. Armie Hammer as Winklevossx2 in Social Network
  13. Ewan McGregor as The Ghost in The Ghost Writer
  14. George Clooney as Jack in The American
  15. Geoffery Rush as Lionel Logue in The King’s Speech
  16. Chloe Mortz as Hit Girl (Kick Ass)
  17. James Franco as Aron Ralston in 127 Hours
  18. Mads Mikkelson as One Eye in Valhalla Rising
  19. Amy Adams as Charlene in The Fighter
  20. Gary Oldman as Carnegie in Book of Eli
  21. Melissa Leo as Alice Ward in The Fighter
  22. Michael Douglas as Gordon Gecko in Wall Street 2
  23. Ryan Reynolds as Paul Conroy Buried (yes, Ryan Reynolds)
  24. Jim Carrey in I Love You Phillip Morris
  25. Olga Kurylenko as Etain in Centurion
  26. Alison Pill as Kim in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World

21 Great Lines:

  1. The thing about you kids is that you’re all kind of insensitive. I’m glad I grew up when I did because your parents were too perfect at parenting- all that baby Mozart and Dan Zanes songs; you’re just so sincere and interested in things! There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying. You’re all ADD and carpal tunnel. You wouldn’t know Agoraphobia if it bit you in the ass, and it makes you mean. You say things to someone like me who’s older and smarter with this light air… I’m freaked out by you kids. I hope I die before I end up meeting one of you in a job interview. Greenberg
  2. “Shit. Shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit, shit!” King George in King’s Speech
  3. “Fuck this shit, I’m getting the bazooka!” Bad guy in Kick-Ass
  4. “Fill your hand you son-of-a-bitch” Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges) in True Grit
  5. “I feel pregnant.” Hot Tub Time Machine
  6. “Machete don’t text.” Machete
  7. “I’m weirdly ‘on’ tonight.” Greenberg (Ben Stiller) in Greenberg (great more due to the context and inflection in which it was said).
  8. “Okay you cunts… Let’s see what you can do now!” Hit Girl in Kick-Ass
  9. “We can do that ourselves. I’m 6’5″, 220, and there’s two of me.” One of the Winklevoss in Social Network
  10. “I have to go pee due to boredom.” Scott Pilgrim
  11. “He can’t drown two ghost writers, for god sake. You’re not kittens!” Ghost Writer
  12. “I need your advice like I need a cock in my ass!” Anette Bening in The Kids Are All Right
  13. “You’re a value.”
    Disgusted “I already know that. You didn’t have to say that.”  Greenberg.
  14. “And now we’re two people walking around with shit in a bag. I mean… I mean, what if we didn’t have dogs with us, and we were doing that? That would be disgusting. But, because we have dogs, it’s normal.” Please Give
  15. “If I’m King, where’s my power? Can I form a government? Can I levy a tax, declare a war? No! And yet I am the seat of all authority. Why? Because the nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them. But I can’t speak.” The future King George in King’s Speech
  16. “I partake not in the meat, nor the breast milk, nor the ovum, of any creature, with a face.” Evil Ex #3 in Scott Pilgrim
  17. “Hey guys I learned the bass line from Final Fantasy II. Check it out.”
    “You are the salt of the earth, Scott.”
    “Thanks.”
    “I meant scum of the earth.”
    “Thanks.” Scott Pilgrim.
  18. “Release the Cracken!” Zeus (Liam Neeson) in Clash of the Titans (the only time that movie and something good happened)
  19. “He punched the highlights out of her hair!” Young Neil in Scott Pilgrim
  20. Bread makes you fat?!” more Scott Pilgrim
  21. “Youth is wasted on the young.”
    “I’d go further. I’d go: ‘Life is wasted on people.” Greenberg
Memorable Moments (spoilers, obviousley):


  • The denouement of I Am Love. Rapturous wordless hyperbolic melodrama. Without any direct dialogue the ending floods the senses with images, actions and an overwhelming emotional sensation. There’s tragedy, violence, hatred, a broken family, a pregnancy revealed (a character passes her hand across her stomach) and of course hope. I love how the music swells as the pivotal scene unravels. The final moments of I Am Love move with equal parts grace and brevity. An ending is so powerful and so complete that one does not even need to have watched the movie to be moved by it or to understand what the story is about; though certainly watching is recommended as Love is one of the best movies of the year.
  • Mother dances at the beginning and end of Mother. She dances to forget. We, however, do not forget.
  • Just about every moment in Greenberg–here’s one: Greenberg gets Florence a double double from In n’ Out after she has an abortion. The first thing she sees when she wakes up is a juicy close-up of the burger. Another classic scene: Greenberg attempts to hang out with young adults is just about perfect. His description of them (see best line of the year above) is the most random and humorous (not to mention meanest) description of the youth of today I’ve ever heard. “There’s a confidence in you guys that’s horrifying.”
  • The final close-up of Manville in Another Year. Crushing isolation in the midst of a joyful family moment. Mike Leigh is one of the best filmmakers around when it comes to knowing how to close a movie.
  • Not only is Josh Brolin’s “friend” not dead (as he thought when he stole his unpublished/unready by anybody else novel) but miraculously looks to be pulling out of his coma after all in You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger. Feigning happiness (not very well), the tortured look of barley concealed despair on Brolin’s face is perhaps the best bit of acting he’s ever done. And he’s a good actor. This is one of the best Woody Allen moments/narrative punch-lines of all time.
  • Hit Girl’s introduction in Kick-Ass. See line above.
  • The King gives his big speech. Proving, among other things, that Beethoven rocks!
  • The swimming scene in Let Me In. A classic horror movie moment that, clearly, may never lose its impact. Michael Bay could re-make the remake and that scene would still probably be ranked here.
  • Samurai vs. Predator in Predators. Every since I was a child I dreamed of who would win in a fight, a Samurai or an alien. I know know. To only thing better would be to watch Joss Whedon’s dream match-up as heard in Angel, a cave man vs. an astronaut.
  • Almost any moment involving Christian Bale in The Fighter. My favorite has to be a musical moment with his mom in her car. Bale earned his Oscar many times over.
  • John Hawkes has a showdown with cop Garret Dillahunt in Winter’s Bone. More effective than the kind of showdowns where people actually shoot at each other. Only great scene in that overrated movie.
  • The Ghost finally unravels the mystery in Ghost Writer. Ewan McGregor busts the CIA… then gets busted back by an off screen car. Evil always wins. Is is logical that he outed everyone during his book’s opening ceremony. No, of course not, but the over-the-top setting makes for a more rewarding cinematic ending.
  • The trio in True Grit meet the BEAR MAN. One of the few moments in the film that feels like it’s from an actual Coen brother movie. “Do either of you need medical attention?” the Bear Man asks. Uhhhh, no thanks Bear Man. You’re awesome!
  • Hit Girl is shot by her father played by Nicholas Cage in a super-wide full shot. She is hit in her bullet proof vest and flies back like a rag doll. When she gets back up he says “One more shot than Ice Cream!” This is their idea fun. Roger Ebert cited this scene for why the film is immoral. I cite it as why it’s so special. Kick Ass.
  • Monsters have hot, steamy tentacle sex in Monsters. A great humanizing moment that brings tears to the actual humans watching.
  • Leo enters the lighthouse in Shutter Island and finds Ben Kingsley waiting for him. The moment of ultimate truth. Like the end of Dark Tower but 100% more insane. Literally. I guess that makes it more similar to “Memento.” Whatever. It’s a good moment either way.
  • The last supper in Of Gods and Men. As the men deal with their fates their fatalistic moments are captured in close-ups. Better than the actual last supper. You know, the one with that Jesus guy.
  • Milla shoots coins at zombies in Resident Evil 4. A great new way to dispatch zombies. I hate when people call this series uninspired. Tell that to the zombie with a quarter embedded in his brain.
  • Laughing at all the trendy L.A. art hipsters that unknowingly line up to see the world’s biggest modern art hoax in Exit Through the Gift Shop. People are very trendy when it comes to “the next big thing.” This doc exposes them.
  • The loooong opening of Enter the Void. The first quarter of the film consists of hanging out, making out (with your sister–eww) then lots of drugs, walking and… death. And the best part is that it’s now GHOST TIME, BITCHES! Now that you’re a ghost what are you going to do, dude? Go to the past to hang out with Jesus? Be a fly on the wall as they film Dark Knight Rises? Watch Blake Lively (not) take naked pictures of herself?…….. Seriously, you’re going to watch your sister strip, get knocked up, have an abortion and get preggers again where you will now be there during the moment of spooging? Ah, I see. Well, that wouldn’t have been my first choice.
  • Art and humanity achieve “perfection” at the end of of Black Swan.
  • The beginning of Monsters is actually… the end. Didn’t see that coming–actually, I did since it was the first thing I saw.
  • Another end-of-the-movie Shutter Island moment. Leo sitting on steps. The film’s final scene. This is a great moment. It comes at the end of the movie after Leo’s ultimate triumph over his situation (and mind). It is also a moment of utter defeat where, symbolically, the truth does not set character free but imprisones him as he regresses back into his fantasy world. His fate is sealed. Time for a cigarette with Mark Ruffalo (juxtaposed with the opening).
  • The final, one sided friending attempt in Social Network. The taping of the keyboard becomes an unlikely metaphor for a nerd’s ambiguous search human connection and, by extension, all of ours.
  • The blindsiding twist in Book of Eli. Didn’t see that coming.
  • Jeff Bridges gets off his lazy zen hippy ass in Tron: Legacy. Way more interesting than his boring son, the bland hero we’re saddled with for the whole movie. And as it turns out can still kick ass. Bridges becomes God crossed with Morpheus with a touch of the Dude abiding. Rad!
  • White guilt backfires in Please Give. Oliver Platt’s reaction to the line “I’m not homeless, I’m waiting in line” after after his wife (Catherine Keener) gives a black dude money is priceless.
  • Gordon Gecko hustles LaBeouf sorry ass out of like a billion dollars in Wall Street 2. After almost two hours of humble pie Gecko is back! A great moment in the vein of the one in Tron where an old-timer schools his annoying twit of a son (in law).
  • The incinerator sequence in Toy Story is improbably thrilling. Amazing looking. Very apocalyptic. And as good as any action movie.
  • The final shot in Pirahana echoes of Sam Jackson’s fishy undoing in Deep Blue Sea. Bring on Parahana 3DD, Aja!
  • Twin strippers do a pole dance in Somewhere as an Amerie’s “1 Thing” song plays. Stephen Dorff, in bed, looks bored then passes out. The film also put me to sleep.

Best… Random Stuff:

Music

  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross’s. The Social Network Soundtrack
  • John Adams, I Am Love
  • Hanz Zimmer, Inception
  • Alexandre Desplat, Ghost Writer
  • Clint Mansell, Black Swan
  • Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy
  • Nigel Godrich, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World
  • Lee Byung-woo, Mother
  • Daft Punk, Tron: Legacy
  • Atticus Ross, Book of Eli

Cinematography

  • Wally Pfister, Inception
  • Bill Pope, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Kyung-Pyo Hong, Mother
  • Adam Kimmel, Never Let Me Go
  • Matthew Libatique, Black Swan
  • Martin Ruhe, The American

Editing

  • Jonathan Amos and Paul Machliss, Scott Pilgrim vs. the World
  • Sae-kyoung Moon, Mother
  • Lee Smith, Inception
  • Walter Fasano, I Am Love
  • Luc Barnier and Marion Monnier, Carlos

Most Underrated:

  1. Monsters
  2. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
  3. The American
  4. Buried
  5. Live Flesh
  • Most Surprisingly Good: How to Train Your Dragon
  • Funniest Scene: Greenberg attempts to hang out with young adults. Then does some coke. #mistake Runner up: Waiting for Crispin Glover’s hand to get cut off in Hot Tub Time Machine was way funnier than it should have been.
  • Best Sight Gag: A lonely male appendage is floating after an attack in Parahana 3D. Then… gulp.
  • Best Moment in Worst Movie: The line “Machete don’t text.”
  • Worst Moment in Best Movie: a
  • Movie Most Ruined by Hype: Social Network
  • Best Sequence: The unbroken 30 minute shot that opens Enter the Void. Also Mother spills water in Mother.
  • Best Action Set Piece: Hit-Girl infiltrates enemy headquarters. Cuteness ensues. And blood. And bazookas! And freakin jet packs with gatling guns! Kick Ass delivers in every way on its title. Runner Up #2: the twisty room shoot-out in Inception. Runner Up #3: the big action scene at the end of Toy Story 3.
  • Best Trend: Artistic films making money. Are we back in the 60s? Black Swan, The Fighter, True Grit, Social Network were all hits last winter. Tron and The Tourist were not. Keep it up Hollywood!
  • Worst Trend: 3D sucking, then sinking–Hey lets pay more for horrible image quality of something that hardly even looks 3D. It’s as if
  • Worst 3D Movie: Tron: Legacy. Airbender and Clash of the Titans were obviously much worse in every respect but Tron was not only a huge let down but possibly the film that killed the surge of 3D event movies.
  • Best Character Name: One Eye in Valhalla Rising. Runner Up: Bear Man in True Grit. Nothing beats a direct name.
  • Underrated Performance: Olga Kurylenko in Centurion. Speechless and angry, this performance from Kurylenko (who was last seen sucking in that horrible Bond movie) not only surprised me but stuck with me long after the film faded. Her menacing performance as a savage warrior stole the movie. She even gives One Eye from Valhalla Rising a run for his money. Though she could cut your head off without hesitation there’s something strangely sexy about this character. Runner Up: Gary Oldman as Carnegie in Book of Eli and Elias Koteas as The Polieceman in Let Me In.
  • Best Death (spoiler a-comin’…): Double kill! The Samurai and Predator deliver a double death blow (not the gay kind either). Also, the crazy microwave scene from Kick Ass and the opening to Monsters.
  • Best Bad-Ass: John Hawks in Winter’s Bone.
  • Second Best Bad-Ass: Hit Girl.
  • Best animal or performance: The King’s Corgis in The King’s Speech. Also, the chicken in Social Network, the unfortunate cat in Dogtooth, and the Sheep stuck in mud in Robin Hood.
  • Best Boobage: None. Nekkedness in movies has hit an all-time low. The 80s and 90s are long gone.
  • Movie So Weird that I’m Not Sure if I Loved it or Hated It: (tie) Super and Book of Eli. Both seemed destined for cult status.
  • Good Movie Ruined by a Bad Central Performance: Animal Kingdom
  • Bad Movie (Almost) Saved By A Performance: Jackie Chan in Karate Kid
  • Most Miscast: Ellen Page in Inception. Oddly enough she was much better in Super.
  • Best Inanimate Object: The book in Ghost Writer, the Jetpack in Kick-Ass, the never-dying camera James Franco uses in 127 Hours, Greenberg’s copy of Heretics of Dune (try spotting all of Dune’s cameos).
  • Great Movies I Watched But Saved for 2011 (their true US release date). Uncle and Certified Copy. Both guaranteed a spot on this year’s list.
  • Movies I Should Have Watched: Agora, Chloe, and of course White Material. Shame on me for being so lazy and not giving these promising titles a chance.
Best Theatrical Posters:

Worst Poster: Takers. Look at this poster! Bad photoshop job. Fire whoever made it. Runner Up: Black Swan. Not only spoils the movie but, when shot in close-up, looks really bad. So bad that it lessens the effect of when you see the full transformation int he movie. So bad that was being mocked by Jim Carey and Tyler Perry. I hate this poster for the same reason I hate the magazine Fangoria. Some monsters should just remain in the dark.

 

Full Best-of List Here:
I’m not happy with how I ranked some of these films but it’s too late to change. Some nagging concerns: that I may have ranked Kids Are All Right too low. That Blue Valentine should have been in my top ten but that would mean losing Carlos and I just can’t let that happen. That ranking Social Network so low was a knee jerk reaction to the insane amount of hype that film got. That Black Swan will either get better with a second viewing and move up on the list or be rediclous now that I’m more objective about it and fall off it. That Monsters ranked too low. Also, the internal debate as to what really is, or, I guesss was the #1 movie of the year ragges on–if I could have a five-way tie for the top spot I would.
  1. Mother
  2. Greenberg
  3. Scott Pilgrim
  4. Ghost Writer
  5. Another Year
  6. Kick Ass
  7. Enter the Void
  8. Dogtooth
  9. Shutter Island
  10. Carlos
  11. Blue Valentine
  12. Wild Grass
  13. Of Gods and Men
  14. Everyone Else
  15. The Fighter
  16. I Am Love
  17. You Will Meet A Tall Dark Stranger
  18. Monsters
  19. Never Let Me Go
  20. The King’s Speech
  21. Predators
  22. Valahalla Rising
  23. Please Give
  24. Exit Through the Gift Shop
  25. Black Swan
  26. Social Network
  27. Final Flesh
  28. True Grit
  29. The Kids Are All Right
  30. Let Me In

The Best Films of 2010

1. Mother
Bong Joon-ho

Bong Joon-ho has once again made a crime film that defies the genre it thrives in. It’s nothing short of a monumental achievement. I come away from this movie thinking about the curious sense of humor in the first half, indelible drama in the last and all the brilliant touches in between. When a young girl in a small town is found dead, lazy authorities (are there any other kind in Bong’s films?) pin the crime on Do-joon, the village idiot. Normally that would be the end of the matter but this idiot (don’t call him a “retard” or he’ll freak) happens to have a mother that will not quit until her son is free and back at home sleeping in the same bed with her.

Do-joon’s mother has no name beyond “mother” and possesses a fierce sense of loyalty that is equal only to her eccentricities. As Oedipal movie Moms go she manages to outdo Eleanor Shaw from “Manchurian Candidate.” Her warm and motherly advice to her imprisoned son: “Even if you did do it you have to deny it.” “Mother” is about a woman’s journey to uncover the truth and simultaneous unwillingness to face the truth or for that matter deal with her own actions past and present. She is haunted but tirelessly marches forward with the drive of a hunting shark. Mama wants her son back and that’s all there is too it. Except it’s not all. There’s so much going on beneath the surface. The film, aided by such a unique character and performance by Hye-ja Kim, is not on a moral crusade and never goes soft on us. In fact as I continued to watch this quasi-thriller/quasi-drama/quasi-comedy unfold I realized, with a wicked sense of amusement, that this cuddly old mother figure is more fierce than any cop or killer in town.

Not one scene in this movie ends without something inspired or unexpected happening. Its uniqueness is a marvel. “Mother” also has an uncanny eye for detail, pacing and beautiful shot compositions (see picture above) and easily ranks as the best directed released of 2010. I was on the fence as to what movie to select as my #1 (basically it’s a four-way tie this year) but that gave it the edge… as it should. Oh but the writing (also by Bong) is also flawless! Fantastic story twists and aesthetic quirks give this film so much personality that don’t even know where to begin when attempting to describing what it does. I’ve watched “Mother” three times and catch something new every time–the way viscous blood settles on the floor, the movement of tiny figures across huge landscapes, Edward Yang-level shots that capture character actions through windows and doorways, mother’s shadow as it is cast over mourners, artfully captured candid close-ups that are held for an unnaturally long time, spilled water cascading towards a finger and threatening to give away mother’s position as she sneaks around a sleeping man’s house (one of many great Hitchcock touches), mother dancing at the beginning and end of the film (the film’s defining scene) and of course a “Rashomon”-effect that kicks in when we find out who killed the young girl. The’ll even be shots that depict a dead serious situations (like a key moment with mother on a bus) that are hard to focus exclusively on because something crazy will be going on in the same shot. Moments like those (and countless more) are enveloped by a story that is masterfully straightforward and elegant. Strange how a film this idiosyncratic can also have so much classic film sense.

How did “Mother” not make more #1s? Why wasn’t it screened in-competition at Cannes? Why didn’t the Academy see its brilliance after South Korea submitted it as its official entry? Why didn’t Hye-ja Kim win more acting awards? Most of all, why isn’t Bong  Joon-ho every movie a worldwide event? There is only a handful of “new”  filmmakers from the last ten or so years that I would consider truly worthy of note. In no particular order they would be Kelly Reichardt (“Wendy and Lucy”), Apichatpong Weerasethakul (“Syndromes and a Century”), Chan-wook Park (“Vengeance” trilogy, “Thirst”), Joe Wright (“Pride and Prejudice,” “Hanna”), Edgar Wright (see the #3 film below), Richard Kelly (“Donnie Darko,” ‘Southland Tales”) and for kicks I would also throw Zach Snyder into the mix (the fact that we know his name, can spot his style and have an opinion on why or why not we should consider him “important” only proves his cultural relevancy). At the very top of my list however would be South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho and it’s “Mother” that seals his status as a modern auteur. While “Mother” is more on “Memories of Murder’s” wavelength than that of his eco-monster movie “The Host” and “Barking Dogs Never Bite,” it is every bit as good as those titles and for that matter every bit as good as anything anyone has made in years. Most directors would kill to have made three films as good as Joon-ho Bong has in their entire career but he’s just getting started.

2. Greenberg
Noah Baumbach

“A shrink said to me once that I have trouble living in the present, so I linger on the past because I felt like I never really lived it in the first place, you know?” I sure do. “Greenberg” is the best Woody Allen film that Woody Allen never made. While set in L.A. and edgier than most of Allen’s work save for perhaps “Deconstructing Harry,” the (now) legendary writer/director Noah Baumbach taps into the same outsider’s rage with his new film. “Greenberg” is not only Baumbach’s best film to date best his best made film–for once his filmmaking and sense of style is able to go toe-to-toe with his fascinating script and characters.

About a loathsome man house sitting for his rich brother, Roger Greenberg makes everyone’s life he encounters just a little worse; Greenberg is nasty and selfish, yes, but the anger that emits from his toxic core is true to the character and not included without some considerable thought or insight. Unlike many similar angry-man-child films out there “Greenberg” is not aimless in its cynicism and does not take its iconoclastic character’s seething, silver tongued slacker attitude for granted. Thankfully it also does not coyly offer him up to us as some miserable buffoon that we are meant to laugh at. If anything, Baumbach is brave in his attempt to deal with such a prickly figure. In true post-“Squid and the Whale” fashion, you’re not asked to sympathize with this highly intellectual mess of a character, only to spend a few hours with him and develop your own impressions. For most people I know (especially women) that means hatingthe ever loving crap out of Greenberg(and the movie that’s named after him) but from my point of view, and for better or worse, I don’t think I related to a movie or character more in 2010. When an enlightened L.A. soul gave me advice one day to be a “fountain and not a drain” I was thrilled and instantly thought “that’s something that someone would have also said to Greenberg!”

Unlike a lot of characters in the mostly uninspired fish-out-of-water genre, Greenberg is stubborn, unchanging and, in a lot of ways, not nearly as horrible as all the “normal” L.A. bores who think they have it all figured. I like how his stink wafts though the pretentious streets of L.A. like an aimless plague of nebbish anxiety. The film has a strange affection for L.A. that’s hard to put into words but easy to understand. I’ve also lived in L.A. all my life and also love it despite it not loving me. The underrated (when he’s not overrated) Ben Stiller plays Greenberg in his most complex performance to date. Even something as simple as his him struggling to fill out a grocery list (all he can think of is whiskey and ice cream sandwiches) or constant application of ChapStick (OCD?) is memorably handled and a smart way of explaining who this character is by simply observing his myriad idiosyncrasies.

The film belongs to Stiller while it’s heart belongs to Greta Gerwig’s Florence, the exasperated “love interest” that is revolted and charmed by this troubled man. She’s not the only one. She even finds time to sum the character up with more of that condescending L.A. self-help advice that I just love: “hurt people hurt people.” The dialogue is just about perfect in this movie. Never straining to be too clever but smart, funny and believable which is not something I often see in independent movies. “I’m weirdly ‘on’ tonight” Rodger chirps to his friend Ivan (Rhys Ifans who manages to be funny without doing anything funny) as he steamrolls through yet another one-sided/self-centered conversation. Like Ifans and Stiller’s characters, the film is dramatic primarily but, within that dramatic realm, happens to be hilarious. As for that “hurt people hurt people” line, well Greenberg thinks it’s “kind of trite but it stuck with me.” Well said.

I’ve watched “Greenberg” four times since it was released early last year. It gets better every time I see it.

3. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World
Edgar Wright

In a year when film once again manages to hit a new artistic lows, surpasses yet again by television and video games, I am thankful to “Pilgrim” for reminding me that the cinema can be enjoyable and well made in equal proportions.
Edgar Wright, the most inspired comic movie maker since the days of Chaplin, has crafted something truly unique to the superhero genre. While only his first comic book adaption (he chose wisely) you would think Wright has been making films like this for years. So much story and visual information is covered in such an enjoyably madcap manner that, upon further viewings, I constantly found myself pausing just to look at mise-en-scène or take in one of the many layers of cleverness.
Like his brilliant zombie comedy “Shaun of the Dead” and somehow even more brilliant cop themed “Hot Fuzz,” “Scott Pilgrim” is, in a word, dense. Drawing upon a surreal concoction of “Looney Tunes” meets, uhh, Jean Luc Godard, every second yields pleasures, some hidden and some smacking you right in the face. Could be a split second sight gag (Lucas Lee’s movie posters), a funny line (“bread makes you fat?”), a funny flash-back, a funny action (the inner knee tap that orgasmicly disables Roxy), funny blocking, funny reoccurring motifs (the letter X=ex, each evil ex wearingtheir respective numbers into battle etc.), clever if not always funny play on words (“you were a VEGON, now you will BE GONE”), funny expressions (the characters react hilariously to Knives Chow getting the highlights knocked out of her hair), funny reactions to funny expressions (“what, I’m not afraid to hit a girl” the guy who punched Knives says), funny text scribbled across the screen (the game ending “Continue?” prompt pops upon death–I hate when that happens) , funny editing cuts (LOTS), funny actual cuts (made, in one scene, by pixilated light sabers–COOL!!!) funny references to the original comic (at a party Comeau implies the movie we’re watchingis “not as good as the comic”), the myriad video game references (1ups and such) and of course special effects straight out of a cartoon (Scott getting thrown into a buildingcomes to mind). “Pilgrim,” like its eponymous character, tries so hard that even when it (and he) says something stupid or falls on its face you root for it to get back up and continue doing what it’s doing.

This is a movie that was made to be enjoyed but can also practically be studied for all the technique on display. It makes sense that it’s a cult movie but could have just as easily been enjoyed by so many more if only they were more open-minded. It’s not just about a nerd, but a nerd who loves video games. And music. And isn’t very ambitious. Or smart. And is a jerk. Ah, I can see how that doesn’t appeal to a lot of people outside of the white-male-raised-by-Super-Nintendo demo. For those in it, though, this is a fairy tale for the digital age. Not only is Wright’s film well made (it’s editing, adapted screenplay and cinematography are all the best of the year) but the casting is right on the money. Michael Cera may be hit or miss (still tryingto forget that other 2010 movie featuring Cera and his evil doppelgänger, “Youth in Revolt”) but, daym, he IS Scott. Every stammer, grin and (literally) empty headed blurb is vintage Cera and vintage Scott.

This is a living breathing cartoon that only lets up when it’s being awkwardly romantic. His love interest, Ramona Flowers, is played by Mary Elizabeth Winstead (whom I’ve had a crush on well before Scott!!!). Of course in this world Scott must battle Ramona’s seven evil exes and as a bonus two of the seven are played by the Capt America of the future (Chris Evans, bro-ing it up with great pleasure) and Superman of the past (the underrated Brandon Routh steals scenes as a Super Vegan). I could continue blabbing about how much I appreciate this movie and how much it has grown on me in a few short months since its disappointing release (surpassing even the comic in a lot of ways) and, most of all, how much it disturbs me to say that Armand White’s pick for the #1 movie of the year is actually quite wise and progressive. I’ll cut my effusive ramblings short because, the way I figure, the less time I spend talking about “Scott Pilgrim” only translates into more time I can be watching it.

4. Ghost Writer 
Roman Polanski

New Hollywood titans Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese opened their respective films on the same day in 2010. Both films were thrillers and both happened to open with the glum image of a boat traversing chilly water before docking on an ominous island. Oh, and both were… really good! But where as “Shutter Island” plunges into the murky depths of psycho-fantasy, “Ghost Writer” sticks with it and doggedly attempts to unearth the dark mystery at hand. With a story about politicians that lie, governments that kill and writers that, well, write, this is “Chinatown” for the 21st Century only with GPS car navigators and cell phones instead of chatty cab drivers and shadowy phone booths. “Ghost” is a very clean and efficient movie that, like it’s workhorse writer, has a job to do and does it as efficiently as possible. Roman Polanski understands that more and different is not necessary better –especially with regards to the neo-noir– so he wrote and directed “Ghost Writer” exactly as it should be and as good as it can be. This perfectly crafted film is methodical (others might call it slow but screw them) in the way it depicts the riveting transition of a ghost writer with literally no-name (apt) to a glorified journalistic gumshoe in over his head. What begins as a in-and-out writing assignment (“you name it, he ghosts it”) turns into a murder mystery and unfolds with a worldwide government conspiracy.

Ewan McGregor plays the “ghost” with a great and wily deadpan approach and is apart of a trio of truly memorable movie characters. The other two are the subjects of his writing assignment, Pierce Brosnan and Olivia Williams as Tony Blair, er, a fictional former British Prime Minister and his wife. The film’s seemingly ordinary appearance within the detective/mystery genre makes it hard at first to process how flawless it actually is. Because it’s so good at its job the film itself is unnoticeable in the sense that you watch it without a second thought of how it was made. That’s classic moviemaking and proof, if you needed any (I did), that Roman Polanski is one of the greatest directors of our/any time.

In terms of plot and narrative structure “Ghost Writer” shares strikingly resemblance both to Polanski’s own brilliantly underrated horror fflm “The Ninth Gate” starring the then-underrated/now insufferable Johnny Depp. Books are central plot devices in both stories and the text itself acts as a desirable means to arriving at some sort of central truth about the world we live in. In “Ninth Gate” it is the forces of Satan and in “Ghost Writer” it is figurehead politicians, furtive spies and sinister government interests. There is hardly a difference. True to the filmmaker’s dependably weary world view, any attempt to uncover or attain this illusive and possibly non existent notion of the “truth” is foolish and will meet with one’s own undoing. The system won’t let the truth win. It can’t. That, my friends, is noir at its best!

5. Another Year
Mike Leigh

For what it is, it’s perfect. As if it wasn’t painfully obvious before, nobody observes the average person better or with more subtle depth than Mike Leigh. As characters sit, eat and talk about nothing particularly important or life shattering, Leigh is a master of the mundane and, through that, the human condition. Who else could make everyday matters so riveting and so relevant? Centered around the impossibly understanding and supportive couple and their ancillary relationships with various longtime friends/family/co-workers and set over the course of just another year, this movie has the ability to be quietly sad and oddly funny in it’s depiction of all these characters. That almost every scene is set and centered around the happy couple’s always-open home and domestic life makes “Another Year” a great Bizarro world companion piece to “Dogtooth.”

The most amazing thing about this picture as I see it is the skillful misdirection on Leigh’s part. What Leigh does in this movie I will admire to my grave. Most will never realize how unique this movie truly is. This well adjusted couple, played wonderfully (and in a very believable, lived-in way) by Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen, are the center of the film but at the same time not the focus of it. While deep and well rounded in their own right they are ultimately just straight men to a revolving door of acquaintances, most notably the tragic yet entertainingly loopy and self involved figure played by Lesley Manville who, by the way, was also very good in the wife roles of Leigh’s past greats “All or Nothing” and “Topsy-Turvy.” Manville plays the character of Mary as a manic, desperate and ultimately very lonely middle age secretary fully of the kind of anger of someone who has let her life slip by. A female Greenberg in other words. Despite serving the functions of both a central character and a supporting character, Manville’s chain smoking alcoholic spinster is, in the end, just one of the many shades to this film and this content couple’s colorful life. And that’s what’s so unusually tragic about her and this movie. She exists in a very real way yet is totally invisible and the last scene is crushing to a degree that I find hard to put into words. In one sense, then, this a positive and life affirming film about the power of love, community and how the people in our lives can change us while also serve to remind us of who we are. In another, darker sense it’s about how scary it is for those who have not found happiness.


6. Kick Ass
Matthew Vaughn

I can’t say I had a more purely enjoyable theater experience in 2010. Consideringhow many uninspiring big films were released last year that should count for something, right? It does. A lot in fact, because in what other year could a movie where a dude gets microwaved and a pre-teen girl gets shot by her dad for fun land a spot in my top five?! I wish more agreed with me but, as with “Scott Pilgrim,” “Kick Ass” is being relegated to the fringes of nerdy big budget cult status. Fine, a film like this deserves to be underrated. After wisely passing on the third “X-Men” movie (only to be hired back for “X-Men: First Class”) Matthew Vaughn (maker of two other great cult titles “Layer Cake” and “Stardust”) was wise to select “Kick Ass” as his first superhero movie. It bears his bloody stamp. It also does nothing less than expand my notion of what this genre was capable of.  This postmodern superhero film is “Fight Club” for the “Spider-Man” generation.

7. Enter the Void
Gaspar Noé

What has Gaspar Noé been up to since he pissed everyone off with the incendiary “Irreversible?” Probably trying to figure out how the hell to make “Enter the Void.” And a shit load of drugs from the looks of it. “Void” is not only Noé’s best film but a turning point in the filmmaker’s career and the cinema of the subjective. Noé actually figured out the whole style/substance paradigm that eluded him in the past and thus was able to artistically back up the bravado he’s known for. The result is “Enter the Void,” a monumentally trippy story of chaos, death, spiritual (as well as literal) rebirth, the translucent/transient nature of beingness, watching, and of course Paz De La Huerta’s vagina. It is one of the best crafted first person point-of-view movies I’ve ever seen (not that there’s many of them), the most technically successful ghost movie ever made and surely one of the most originally executed concepts of the year, maybe decade. And that’s just the first thirty minutes!

In the early stages I was instantly drawn to the faceless character as we both embarked upon what ends up being the final moments of his life. The viewer gets to pull a Being John Malkovich by hanging out in his cloudy head as he gets high, hangs out with his sister (their affection for each other boarders on incest by the way), gets high again, meets a shaggy French friend and walks with him through streets of Tokyo before busted by cops in a bar and coming up with a brilliant way of buyinghimself some time as he flushes his drugs down the toilet, screaming “I have a gun!”–sounds ordinary up until that last part but, trust me, there may not be a more transfixing sequence in all of 2011 movie making.

Once in spirit form the rest is solid but not brilliant. The character’s journey tends to be rambling (understandably), transgressive and a bit too obsessed with the sister character played by (the overrated) actress Huerta. The film seems unable to sustain the transcendent sensory overdrive experience that the riveting opening chapter offered. Still, the “Void” is well worth entering. It is not only eye-opening but mind altering; the warped David Lynch touches and flurry of trippy psychedelic synaptic spasms blend nicely with the floating camera realism while the influence from Kathryn Bigelow’s classic techno-noir “Strange Days” opening (one of my all time favorite sequences in cinema) offers a great point of departure for this film. In the end, the title “Enter the Void” may refer to death, the act of sex or perhaps the act of entering into the “void” of humanity (i.e. birth). Probably all. It’s total madness! If this movie doesn’t make you want to go to Japan, do drugs, die and lead a existence as a junkie ghost (which mostly entails watchingyour sister dance and blow Japanese dudes at a strip club) than nothing will.

8. Dogtooth
Giorgos Lanthimos

Set in the present, “Dogtooth” is about three children who, for reasons never explained, are raised in a deceptively ordinary house believingthat the outside world has gone to hell. Everything they are told is not only a lie but a devious and cruel deception. Imagine if the world’s most twisted psychological experiment were performed by your parents. In this topsy-turvy film world, cats are killer predators that will tear you apart, imaginary siblings exist outside of the fenced-off garden, the world is an dangerous and evil place that will eat you up if you take even one step beyond your house’s property line and, oh yeah, there are no movies beyond what you shoot in your own house. At almost every turn this film questions domestic normalcy, notions of isolationism (both personal and national) and even the arbitrary function of everyday language signifiers. “What is a zombie?” one of the grown “children” asks her mother. “A zombie is a small yellow flower,” she is told. Amazingly, there’s a lot of subversive humor to be found in “Dogtooth” until it creeps into to this unsettling, post-structuralist horror film mode where you feel like anything could happen.

Like a dog, the children are, in one character’s words, “molded” into creatures of unquestioning obedience and servitude. The tyranny of the patriarchy haunts and eventually eats away at the spotless artifice of the home. With the introduction of an outsider that the sadistic (or perhaps just crazy) father brings into the compound to alleviate his son’s, well, urges, things start to really break apart. Especially after she sneaks in the “Jaws” in exchange for oral sex. Feelings of stagnation, claustrophobia and fear of the ever present menace that is “outside” hint at broader messages of European nationalism, the complex construction of personal identities and probably a bunch of other stuff like immigration, but the film never gets carried away with forcing any clear message or, indeed, of even implicitly making a message at all. The film, in the end, is made or broken by our reading of it. For a story so confined, the narrative openness is refreshing and even revolutionary.

In addition the all heady metaphors and deranged story details Lanthimos turns out to be a capable filmmaker as well! Appropriately (and perhaps even wickedly) Lanthimos frames “Dogtooth” with low to the ground Ozu-like camera angels and applies (also like Ozu) an obsessed modern focus upon a single nuclear family. This a one of a kind vision that would be copied if anyone knew how the hell to copy it! It’s subtle and slow moving turns, punctuated by shocking moments of sexuality and violence, are all effectively used in ways that I have never seen before. The lives of these willfully imprisoned children may have no basis in reality until you realize that our own customs and traditions in the prison-like cells we call houses and apartments are just as arbitrary. In the end the real horror of “Dogtooth” is not the dreary routine and domestic illusion the children find themselves unwittingly trapped in but the one we are all trapped in right now in real life.

9. Shutter Island
Martin Scorsese

On a dark and stormy night… yes, Scorsese made that kind of movie. The inclusion of “Shutter Island” is noteworthy because I rarely enjoy Martin Scorsese movies as much as other people seem to. Two in the last decade made my list… of the WORST movies of the year (I can’t say enough bad things about the overrated “Gangs of New York” and “Departed”–they are are unwatchable messes) while “Aviator” laded a spot on my top ten best a few years back but that was hardly a film I would still maintain is still great or worthy of being included on a revised top-ten. But… by not being the filmmaker people expect him to be Scorsese was able to disappear behind his cumbersome legendary status to make an enjoyable movie with no strings attached. This is a most refreshing departure for the filmmaker, the sort of unabashed b-movie that “Departed” wanted to be but couldn’t because it was so full of its own clever devices. “Island” is filled with mystery, a beautifully exaggerated atmosphere and a clearly visible (but not ironic) joy for pulpy genre storytelling. Even DiCaprio’s usual bad/over acting (there, I said it) didn’t affect the movie adversely. In fact, Leo’s sophomoric brooding as he finds himself trapped on an island of crazy people only helps the story achieve a necessary aura of unnatural unease. It’s also a better haunted-by-my-dead-wife DiCaprio movie than “Inception” because, well, this film has an actual story nestled in its dark core.  In the end the film works as a thriller and even ends up working as a character driven piece. I’ve said it before and will probably say it again but Scorsese is always a better director when he’s not trying so hard to be a better director.

10. Carlos
Oliver Assayas

Weather or not you think it’s one of the year’s best you have to agree that “Carlos” is one of the most important and relevant films of the year, second only to “Social Network.” And it’s not even a film-film! It’s a miniseries but one of the highest order. Aside from the breathtaking, flawlessly paced and thankfully penis free middle chapter concerning the now famous hostage-taking incident by Carlos and his terrorist group at the 1975 OPEC conference, it’s not even that “Carlos” is the most groundbreaking achievement of the 2010. What’s great is more in the way everything is brought together under Oliver Assayas’ pluralistic umbrella. From razor sharp jump cuts to heated cultural interactions to disjointed location sprees to a fragmented sense of history and moral causes and of course the ironic usage of new wave music, “Carlos” is an explosion in all senses of the word.

The film is wise to borrow from the best parts of “Traffic,” “Che” and “Munich.” It actually surpasses them in a lot of ways. What “Carlos” does it does so well and with such unbridled conviction that it does not need to innovate the crime genre it is playing in. This is a staggering epic that must be experienced in all it’s glory so no settling for the anemic feature length version. The weight of it all is overwhelming and even hard to grasp at first because I was so busy attempting to take in and absorb all the information being casually thrown at me. But once I realize it’s not about the specific facts and details but about the attitude and sweeping gestures then the film worked its complex magic on me. And not to take away from all the beautiful small and innocuous but no less important moments such as the sight of a naked woman on white bed in the afternoon, the way two people look at each other while drinking or even just the way smoke dances through the air. This may be the sexiest looking terrorist movie ever made.

Olivier Assayas has made a lot of cool films (last year’s “Summer Hours” also ranked high with me last year) but none quite like “Carlos.” I never quite knew where the filmmaker was comingfrom and that kept me as on edge as anything in the film proper. Is Assayas advocating Carlos’ terrorist behavior? Sympathizing with his cause? Mocking him? Demystifying a legend? It is not spelled out for us thankfully but perhaps elements from all four. I just can’t get a fix on things. The same goes for the figure of Carlos himself played so well and with such conviction by Édgar Ramírez. This is not a a film that attempts to explore and psychologically pick apart the man underneath the so called legend of Carlos the Jackal. A wall is always up on Carlos’s true feelings and his “cause” and perhaps the only cause that ever really mattered to him with was his own via self aggrandizement. Unlike a lot of famous movie gangsters (with terrorists being the modern version of them) this film is about the rise and… not fall but sloooooowdecline of a “historical curiosity.” Carlos talks a good talk but never quite seems to care about anything and so his gradual and unspectacular undoingis fitting. You get the sense that he would rather gaze at his naked body in a mirror, got to a swinging party, romance some commie groupies and of course profit from his professional terrorist activity than to make the world a “better place to live in.” All that and so much more is what makes this such an interesting character study.

11. Blue Valentine
Derek Cianfrance

Ohhhh, damn, I wish this one could have squeaked into my top ten. Normally I’m skeptical of movies that jumble their chronology. Far too often, as in the case of Iñárritu’s insufferable “Babel”/”21 Grams” and a slew of other post-“Memento” films (and perhaps “Memento” itself!), it serves no other purpose other than to show off and ultimately conceal the flaws of a movie that would not be as interesting if it were told from A to B. “Blue Valentine”… is not one of those films. It’s dually fragmented timeline is handled perfectly by director Derek Cianfrance and makes total sense given the theme of the movie: the life and death of a romance. It’s hard to find any faults with how this film was made. The happy-times/sad-times contrapuntal editing in particular keeps the story alive and emotionally effective every step of the way. Thrilling even but in a very grounded and terse manner. The impact of all this would have been significantly lessened if not totally destroyed if the two central performances were not up to par with the film’s unique style and approach to the romance genre. The couple played by Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling are two of the best actors of their generation and if you don’t believe me then this film will show you why. The passion comes through as much as the sense of loss and decay without ever (ever!) feeling gimmicky, overly sentimental or mawkish. Despite a nomination for Williams I almost feel as if “Blue Valentine” didn’t get enough credit. It achieves so much that it’s a shame people let the fact that it made them feel awful get in the way of the impressive work at hand.  This film engages the heart and mind in a way very few loves stories have done in the past.


12. Wild Grass
Alain Resnais

A crazy old man (André Dussollier) finds a wallet in Alain Resnais new film. His attempt to make contact with the wallet’s owner makes for one of the more interesting stories told in 2010. It’s a special kind of film oddity that fits well into Resnais’ towering works (spanning almost 70 years!) but also feels like a fresh step forward for him. Even after watching it’s hard to get a fix on the style and tone of this movie. It’s fanciful and at times as drifts into dream-like passages yet serious at other times in its approach to character and plot. This is a deeply personal story relying on subjective point-of-views yet also relyingon a multi-character tapestry and the element of chance. Nothing is quite right in this movie and that’s why it’s so effective. A great mystery surrounds it and that mystery never really leaves it either. That it’s intention. Parts reminded me of Krzysztof Kieslowski’sworks in the way it observes unique personalities and how they attract, push away and bounce off each other. Other parts seem to be influenced by “Eyes Wide Shut” in terms of visuals, color pallet, and the strange sense of reality the characters exist in. And yet more elements are highly self-aware and postmodern. Oh, and strange–like, stalker love story strange. But funny all throughout in it’s extremes. As with “Everything Else,” I didn’t know if the film would end with joyful tears or blood curdling screams. I won’t say what happens but I will say that the final line “When I’m a cat, will I be able to eat cat munchies?” makes about as much sense when you first hear it than to someone who hasn’t seen the movie at all. Point being, the story takes you where it takes you so just be grateful that it even exists. “Grass” is elegant, colorful, thoughtful and incredibly imaginative. In other words, an Alan Resnais story. I can’t wait to see it again.

13. Of Gods and Men
Xavier Beauvois
The anti-“Carlos” as French movies go. As someone who has never gotten into that organized religion thing it says lot coming from me that the message and meaning of the faith-based “Of Gods and Men” spoke to me. Lead by the great Lambert Wilson and the Samurai dude from “Ronin” (Michael Lonsdale) the film follows the real life story of Catholic Missionaries who live out (the remainder of) their humble lives in a hostile war zone. And this is before 9-11! They told they are unwanted. They are told to leave or die. They stick around. The film thus becomes a modern retelling “High Noon” except with 100% more Muslims and no Gary Cooper in sight. I guess that also makes it similar to “Zulu” but with a lot more bibles than guns.

“Gods” contains a message of peace and hope but, unlike like many films with a “message” (especially those rooted in Christian ideology), does not push its dogmatic world view, only its humanism. There is a beauty to the naturalism of the performances, locations and narrative drive. With many scenes of prayer, table setting and farming the film captures the serene rhythms of these holy men and their way of life and becomes increasingly more captivating (and horrifying) when the sanctity of this peaceful existence becomes disrupted with spurts of dramatic intensity within the brotherhood, violence outside of it and, worst of all, the feeling that the worst to come is just around the corner and holding an automatic rifle. This group of men whom we get to know and love quite well over the course of the story believe they have found their calling in the Earthly equivalent to hell and yet, despite mounting fears and anxiety, they resist flight and cling to love and understanding. God, after all, must has a reason for all of this madness (or, uhhhh, not). All they want to do his help the local village and coexist with their Muslim “neighbors.” Do I buy into the Christian religion or, for that matter, the opposing religion? No I do not. Do I feel the West should be in a country that doesn’t want them there? NO, that’s an asshole move. Would I have gotten the hell out of Dodge if I were them. Hell yeah! But I am not them; even so, the dilemma that is presented to the viewer is universally understood and accepted. It’s rare to find a film made in the modern era as morally honest and agreeable as “Gods.” No film I can recall at the moment explores the religious and cultural divide between the East and West more delicately or with more insight as “Of Gods and Men.”

14. Everyone Else
Maren Ade
This is one of those cases where it pays to never read film criticism (anymore) or listen to Internet posters. I fired this bad boy up because I heard it was good. That’s all I need anymore. The film opens on an insecure German man-boy and his slightly bored but uber-passionate girlfriend. The two are hanging on in Spain (I think… maybe Italy or Greece) with very little to do but very lot a lot on the mind if you’ll pardon my grammar. Things just sort of exist and linger in this movie. The film’s tempo is strange to say the least. One scene has a way of flowing into the other, carrying with it a undercurrent of nervous energy. The pacing and editing is able to match the Mediterranean breeziness of the region. By the half-way point I was hooked and wondering where this film is going. Will it morph into thriller? A drama? SOMETHING has to happen! At this point was reminded of the early moments of “Sexy Beast” but of course there was no psycho Ben Kingsley to spice up the proceedings. Or is there? Not to spoil things but little actually happens in the second hour as well and that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s a wonderfully observed slice of life but a bitter and somewhat soggy slice that I’m glad I don’t have to actually eat. Sample dialogue: “I love you so much…” Gitti, the woman, says to Chris. His response?: “…” nothing. Full of awkward silences and indifferent glances, “Everyone Else” about a once happy, now unlikable couple told in the vein of, say, a modern Cassavetes film. Like his films, it focuses on the selfish traits of men and the infuriating nature of the women that love them. In the end, what “Everyone Else” does best is capture the little moments in a relationship. Not the big fights or the infinite sadness but the innocuous moments such as reading a book on a lazy afternoon. Watch it alongside “Blue Valentine” and you’ll never want to be in another relationship again.

15. The Fighter
David O Russell

While many gravitated towards the boxing and melodrama this is a movie made (in my eyes) by it’s smaller and more intimate details. Funny considering its director, David O Russell has historically been more of a bigger-is-better kind of guy within the indie world. “Three Kings,” “Flirting with Disaster” and “I Heart Huckabees” were not exactly subtle.  Still, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a period movie so keyed into the era it was set in. Considering that era is the 90s it’s easy to overlook what this film does. From the tattered clothes characters wear to the musky sweat stains on said clothes to the way the boxing matches are shot to look like a 1993 HBO broadcast, the film is oozingwith authentic texture. And I haven’t even mentioned the actors because, really, “The Fighter” is nothing if not an actor’s movie and it has two Oscars to show for it (last time that happened was, what, “Million Dollar Baby” and who knows what before that). The sense of place and character is uncanny here.

Mark Whalberg plays real-life underdog Mickie Ward (a boxers name if ever there was one), a stepping-stone fighter which is basically the guy you beat up to move up the ranks. On this surface this is the kind of character we’ve seen before in this genre. He’s the gentle straight man throughout the entire movie and I give Wahlberg so much credit for not only producing and keeping this movie alive but not attempting to steal the spotlight. He remains a passive character that is not a Saint so much as a slightly dopey dude tryingto get by and do right. Lead by an amazing performance by the showy Melissa Leo (in a crazy mother performance that joins the ranks of Angelica Huston in “The Grifters” and Fay Dunaway in “Mommy Dearest”), an underrated Amy Adams in her best role so far (as good as Leo is I would argue Adams is better) and, in a out-of-left-field performance character-actor Jack McGee (you’d know him if you saw him) as the resistant father. Lead by the fierce mother, the family surrounds and smothers Mickie, harnessing his talent for profit at the expense of his health and humanity. But I never disliked them because they added so much to the story.

Of course it’s old news by now to sate that Christian Bale, pardon OSCAR WINNER Christian Bale as Mickie’s crack addicted brother/trainer steals the show. If Whalberg is the heart of the movie than Bale is its voice and twitchy energy source. And it’s loud! In fact, Bale steals the show so hard and with such authority that his greatness spills over into Wahlberg/Russells other films. He’s now officially the best thing about “I Heart Huckabees” and “Three Kings!” Never has a boxing movie had such a vibrant human component. Russell is finally getting the credit he deserves.

16. I Am Love
Luca Guadagnino

Tilda Swintoncando just about anything! Speak Italian, sure why not? Russian? Yup, she does that too. How about Hungarian? Not in this film but she did that in Béla Tarr little seen “The Man From London.” So why, with all her options after winning an Oscar (how cool is that by the way?), would Swinton make a movie in which she plays the repressed matriarch of a bustling Italian family who have made their money off industry and now just sit around worrying about throwing parties? Because she’s like no other actress on earth. Here, Swinton effortlessly transforms her Anglo ice queen persona to fully inhabit a, uh, Italian ice queen. This woman can make the simple act of eating shrimpoff a plate in slow motion look cool. I bet she could play Harriet Tubman and totally pull that shit off. I’m getting sucked into the vortex of Swinton’s awesomeness so… okay, the film: “I Am Love” is a refreshing kind of story that we don’t get much of these days outside of a Todd Haynes film.

“Love’s” qualities actually takes you off guard. It took me back to the Vittorio De Sica days of unabashed Italian romances and melodramas while at the same time transcending its genre. This is a movie full of great looking food, better looking(retro) cinematography, detailed sets, a lush music composition, beautiful people and one impossibly gorgeous/well chosen close-up after another. Of course, as things start to unravel in the story (I won’t spoil the details) the beauty wilts and turns into a complicated but no less fascinating mess. The upside to that is the intensity the film takes on in its latter, darker half. When the uptight Swintonfinally lets loose and gets a little su’in-su’inon the side, the film pops with the best and most creatively shot outdoor sex scene since that amazing adaptation of “Lady Chatterley,” or perhaps just ever. The film also contains the best use of soup as plot twist ever. EVER! And, while it’s at it, one of the very best codas of the year. The emotions in the wordless final sequence gave me chills. “I Am Love” is like a lost classic Italian film had Italy not gone through its cinematic renaissance after World War 2 yet retained the magical qualities of the filmmaking from that period. It’s a real treasure.

17. You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger
Woody Allen

Woody Allen made another underrated movie in 2010. What else is new? When “Stranger” opens with one of Allen’s signature old time tunes it occurred to me that whatever happens in the world –and a lot happens– I can always count on Woody Allen to be Woody Allen. You can’t put a price –or rating– on that. This is an artist that will not change or be influenced past his usual inspirations and this is also one of those rare instances where one’s inability to change is a good thing. The film takes me back to the days of “Hanna and Her Sisters” where a group of people loosely connected go about their lives in a way that can not quite be called realism and not quite be called un-realism. More like Woodyness. Observations are made, arguments are animated, trusts are broken, friendships are sparked, drinks are had, love is lost, and then found again somewhere else. Any fan of Allen knows what to expect. Woody is a master at heavy drama/Greek tragedies (“Match Point” and “Crimes and Misdemeanors” are classics in their own right) and perhaps more well known for his comedies but what’s more interesting is how good he is at the in-betweens. And I don’t just mean “Melinda and Melinda,” a film that is literally, and by design, in between drama and comedy. This is a cheerfully modest and of course underrated effort full of everyday people that we are not asked to like or hate. There is a lot to chew on here. The title in question is used very ironically–who is this “tall dark stranger” we always hear about, anyhow? Beyond the exaggerated depiction of “him” on the film’s poster (looks like Zach Ephron with a pompadour) the tall dark man is not in this film and that’s its point. He’s never existed but he will always be brought up because we want to live in a world where he might.

18. Monsters 
Gareth Edwards

Sometimes a movie, once seen, has a way  of creeping up on you even if you don’t like it. Like a… monster. A human-based sci-fi story in the truest sense, “Monsters” is what Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” would have been had it not ODed on indulgent effects and sophomoric (soph-moronic) family melodrama and happy endings. Other indirect influences on this indie movie seem to be “The Host,” “District 9” and “Cloverfield” so goes without saying that this film is in good company. That being said it’s nice to see the influences exist without getting the overwhelming sense that the film itself is not original.

Its not the whiny characters or rudimentary “get out of the ‘infected zone, ARGH!” plot that captured my imagination so vividly but the authentic atmosphere and overarching back-story/backdrop that got its hooks in me. “Monsters” is easy a avoid given it’s poor reception and hostile viewer reactions and just as easy to dismiss on the off-off-OFF chance you actually end up seeing it. No less than a day passed for me and I could not stop thinking about it. Over a month later and this beast is STILL on my mind! I just can’t shake it. It now stands as a cult B-movie on par with the great (to me at least) 90s hard sci-fi horror masterpieces “Screamers” and “Event Horizon.”

Speaking of cult, I can’t resist evoking the great H.P. Lovecraft here (and above, in the particularly inspired Cthulhu Photoshop creation that I made) for the ways the film bases itself on unspeakable and oft-unseen horrors being thrust upon insignificant and ineffective individuals. That and of course the towering betenticled monstrosities that have fallen from the black depths cosmos (well, Jupiter’s moon at least) and engage in behavior unknowable to us humans. As with Lovecraft (and this is the last instance the grand old one’s holy name will be mentioned) it’s the mystery that makes the monster.

In the science-fiction genre sometimes less is better and, in this film’s case, less makes a lot more sense. Basically, this is an alien invasion movie told from the ground and from the point-of-view of people who are rarely in the middle of the action. If you were as unfortunate as me to have watched the thematically similar “Skyline” you may find yourself thankful to “Monsters” for treating it’s premise with respect. With strange rumblings and eerie sounds that are always somewhere off in the distance, the menace is felt even when it is not seen. When the characters do intersect with the invaders that glow menacingly, however briefly those encounters may be, the experience makes as much if not more of an impression than any non-stop ID4ish action approach. There is a scene where the main character, a douchey freelance photographer named Andrew, catches a glimpse of the “evil” aliens only to realize that they are not evil at all but perhaps just creatures who, like us, are simply trying to exist (though not coexist).  There is another scene where the protagonists charter a boat which of course gets stuck in the water. Suddenly something can be heard in the distance and whatever it is, it plops in the water and slowly drifts towards them. I thought to my self, first, “I’m glad I’m not in that boat” and second “there will be blood!!!” What I got instead was not blood but 100x more rewarding. Anxiety and ambiguously are this film’s strong points.

Again, it’s just too bad the dialogue and character interactions fail to achieve the same level of success. Full of bad chemistry and even worst decision making skills, the two shallow leads often don’t often seem to be aware (or care) that they are in a world where aliens exist (don’t count on any Bill Paxton-esq “game over, man!” reactions), much less have taken over a large chunk of Mexico which America has conveniently fenced off. Yeah, fenced off–ah, but fear not, the film does not get too carried away with Mexicans=aliens metaphors though it does make for some claver allegorical fodder.

It may not be for everybody but “Monsters” goes down as a haunting and unforgettable science fiction movie.

19. Never Let Me Go
Mark Romanek

A last minute addition to this list. I’m still letting this powerful movie sink in so I’m not sure if will rise or fall with time. Probably the later. What I can say for sure is that filmmaker Mark Romanek is a visionary that, if anything, should really get out and make more films. He’s the Jonathan Glazer of brilliant underachievers. “Never Let Me Go” is staggering work of dramatic speculative fiction and, as this genre goes, in the same league as “GATTACA” and not too far off from “Children of Men.” As clone harvesting movies go, it also beats the hell out of “The Island.” This drama raises powerful questions and does so with grace and beauty.

20. The King’s Speech
Tom Hooper

To be honest, after the Oscars I’m kind of burned out on this film. It’s a solid story full of great moments and memorable performances. I loved it… as much as you can love a mainstream biopic that wins Best Picture. It’s witty, dramatic, solidly paced, perhaps the best ensemble films of the year (Colin Firth as the man who would be King and Geoffery Rush as his glorified shrink give career defining performances) and that rare kind of biopic that feels genuinely original rather than cribbed from other movies or some grandiose book. On the other hand it’s not groundbreaking or even particularly well directed (Tom Hooper’s Oscar will go down as a mistake of Danny Boyle proportions). That’s not such a big issue in the end because the material speaks for itself, stuttering along only occasionally. Disgruntled “Social Network” fans are whining that, as Best Picture winners go, the film is not terribly relevant and will not hold up well over the years. I couldn’t disagree more. The film is a lightweight at times (more in the vein of a 90s Miramax movie than a big historical epic) but timelessly good, surprisingly engaging and will be accessible for as long as movies are (which is about 10 years by my watch). And can anyone really say that “King’s Speech” is less relevant or enduring than, say, “Crash” or “Slumdog Millionaire,” films that, as I predicted, nobody cares about only a few short years later? No. End of story. Nuff said. Moving on…

21. Predators
Nimród Antal

If it bleeds, you can enjoy it. I totally defend this pick. Why are people so afraid to embrace b-movies like this? The same people that enjoyed the first “Predator” or even a film like “Avatar” passed over this movie with jaded disgust. Whatever, dude. Unlike a lot of popular genre movies from last year, “Predators” does exactly what the franchise requires it to do. It respects the original story, maintaining the sensibilities of John McTiernan’s film while also tweaking the formula ever so slightly into something enjoyably new. This is hardcore sci-fi action with as little story as possible. What story is there is pure potboiler adventure where a group of bad-asses led by Adrian Brody of all people are stuck in a prison… the size of a planet! As they try to piece together how they got there and who they can trust (hint: nobody) the armed humans soon realize that this is the kind of hunting reserve where the humans are the hunted. No doubt that’s a huge cliche by now but there’s a reason why it’s one that has endured for so long. With “Predators” you get all that plus you get to see what happens when a Predator alien faces off against a Japanese samurai! Coolest. Thing. Ever.

22. Valhalla Rising
Nicolas Winding Refn

“A man once told me… they eat their own god. Eat his flesh, drink his blood… abominable. We have many gods, they only get the one.” Is this film “about” Christians? Not really. It’s a visual poem about The End. All sorts of ends, too. The end of eras (Vikings for one), the end of religions, the end if God, the (beginning of the) end of civilization and perhaps even the end of individuals. The film takes place everywhere and nowhere. “Valhalla Rising” is a beautiful and haunting experience that has a way of staying with you despite its lack of clarity. Can’t say it makes sense in the typical storytelling, uh, sense but it’s more of a poetic mood piece that sweeps you away for a brisk ride through the darkness of man and of nature. It’s more Joseph Conrad on psychedelic drugs than Kirk Douglass with a big horned hat. Instead of literal depictions of action and location the viewer is meant to feel their way through this amazing story like the one-eyed protagonist with no name played by an actor with a really cool name, Mads Mikkelson. He plays a force rather than a specific character. In the movie, his silent warrior character (aren’t they all) escapes bondage, travels the land, adopts a child, meets Christians and embarks with them on a three hour tour to the “promise land” that gets detoured directly to what they consider hell. Or maybe just North America. Same thing. This film is a cooler version of Terrence Malick’s “New World.” Except it has cooler swords. And Vikings. And Mads in full on survival, Danish samurai “Die Hard” mode.

23. Please Give
Nicole Holofcener

Some of the best writing of 2010 came out of this movie. Not saying much as it was a particularly fallow year for screenplays. Not here. Nicole Holofcener (“Walking and Talking,” “Lovely and Amazing”) is like a younger and obviously more female Woody Allen. Featuring two families that live next door to each other in New York, the film is not “about” anything specific. Well, perhaps life-and-death-in-the-big-city if I had to pinpoint an overarching theme (and that’s kind of a big one) but it’s the subtle approach that makes all the difference in this incredibly candid, funny, and, by the end, heartfelt film. This is as close as America may ever get to every having their own version of “Yi Yi.” Yay?

24. Exit Through The Gift Shop
Banksey

A crazy real movie about a crazy Frenchmen making a fake movie about street art. Oh, and the documentary might not even be real in the first place. Got to hand it to this film for restoring my like (not love anymore) of the documentary art form. Having burned out on the oft-smug “realism” of mainstream documentary filmmaking, I put off watching “Exit” and of course was surprised by a documentary that was not only enjoyable but the spiritual successor to “Man on Wire” in the unique way it approaches people who make art. The film is lively, well shot and topical in the most unusual of ways. It’s energy is all its own. True, it’s at its more interesting when exploring illegal street artists, an underground movement that, as the doc progresses, begins to take on all blandishments of an established art form. By doing so “Exit” makes a quirky case for street art being more important and practical than real art because it is seen and enjoyed by many instead of the rich few. Of course this doc takes an abrupt turn in direction and tone when its main subject becomes popular and puts on a show for hipsters. The film, then, goes on to show how the street art movement is just as empty and full of shit as regular modern art. I love the edgy approach. What starts off a raw depiction of renegade counter culture artists turns into a demasking of a pre-fab hype magician. This quality not only captures the art world and those who blindly follow its trends but modern “artists” in general (including film, art, music etc.) whose need to be hip and famous trumps the desire to make good art.

25. Black Swan
Darren Aronofsky

“Black Swan” is one great and giant metaphor for art, method acting and the impossible search of perfection. Of transformation in other words. Once that is understood it all has a way of falling into place. Here is a movie so good that many are not even aware that it’s a hardcore cult movie at its core. How could it not be?! The truth is that I’m not the biggest Darren Aronofsky fan (“Pi” and “Requiem for a Dream” are overrated) but, second only to “The Fountain,” “Black Swan” is one of his best movies because it eschews inept and shallow forms of experimentation in favor of a solid storytelling supported by truly skilled filmmaking. With this film it is now implicitly clear that Aronofsky has grown tremendously as botha filmmaker and a storyteller. About an artist who literally bleeds for her work, this is the movie he was trying to make with “The Wrestler” but failed. Everything is stunning and elegant but with a gritty edge. The black and white production design, the nimble cinematography, and the story about the trouble surrounding a Black Swan ballet revival, is simple yet elegantly told. And a set of performances from Natalie Portman, Barbra Hershey and Vincent Cassell recall some of the best moments of “All About Eve” yet also manages to blend in a fantastic twist in the form of its now infamous Kafka-esq metamorphosis. As Natalie Portman literally finds herself transforminginto a giant bird (wha???!!!) “Black Swan” does not get enough credit as beinga really good horror film. As Portman peels off her skin, cuts her nails, breaks her foot and clips feathers it’s more visceral than any “Saw” movie. It’s also the best ballet thriller ever made. Okay, it’s the only one ever made but at least it’s a good start. Natalie Portman takes command of her performance to create something… unforgettable and that’s something she has not done since “The Professional.” In retrospect “Black Swan” is not “perfect” (to borrow a great line from the move) but like its character its total and unyielding conviction makes all the difference in the world.

26. Social Network
Directed by David Fincher

When did director David Fincher become everyone’s favorite uncle? The man is was the best filmmaker in America. He solidified that status when he made “Zodiac,” one of the best and deepest films of the decade, perhaps ever. Then… something happened. The real David Fincher must have been kidnapped (or killed) and his evil/well-adjusted doppelganger stepped into his shoes to made a movie called “The Curious Case Benjamin Button” and it was shit. Not only did that movie emphatically end his reign of greatness but felt like a slap in the face to anyone who followed his nihilistic visions with such adoring wonder (i.e.: me). Now, the quickly made (by his standards) “Social Network,” a film about Facebook (ugh), has emerged to become his best received film ever and the single most acclaimed films in years. It is considered to be the best picture of 2010 by so many people that there’s no use in even arguing why it might not be the best film ever made. Is it? No, not really. But I will say that it is very good and a definite improvement over “The Curious Case of Forrest Gump.” I just find it funny that now that people finally agree with me about how good Fincher is, I begin to disagree. Where were all you people when “Fight Club” came out? Unlike “Button” though, Papa Fincher’s new film is more measured and exceedingly more well made because it never compromises its vision for the sake of sentimentality or narrative closure.

To its credit “Social Network” is a vast, difficult and probing look into not only how a cultural boom and “game changing” (I hate that word) business model got started but about where we are as a society because of this website (for better or worse). Fincher is wise not to glorify the lead character played so well by Jessie Eisenberg, the Harvard institution or Facebook itself. He even called his film (written by Aaron Sorkin) “glib” at one point which really endeared me to him because I feel deep down that he too feels that his last two films are not who he is as a filmmaker despite both of them being his most successful. At times the film almost seems to be mocking these preppy doouchebags scrambling for credit, fame and fortune (and even the notion of Facebook itself) but does the more interesting thing by sticking with them as the gripping story unfolds. The last shot of Eisenberg futilely attempting to make contact with a person through his own website by clicking, and clicking and clicking, in a desperate attempt to make human contact, is vintage Fincher. The movie-saving bleak and ambiguous ending offers a modern glimpse of what Charles Foster Kane would be if he existed in this era.  Both financially and critically “Social Network” is an unqualified success to be sure and while there’s nothing wrong with that (or the film for that matter), well, I just want the old David Fincher back.

27. Final Flesh
Directed by Vernon Chatman

Clearly the most disturbing piece of pornography since? The Passion Of The Christ.”
-Some guy on the Internet

In 2010 Sean Comes may have popularized the term “mind fuck” in the overrated “Get Him to the Greek” but this film actually does it! The surreal sorta-comedy “Final Flesh” is exactly what you would expect from the Vernon Chatman, the guy behind “Xavier: Renegade Angel” and “Wonder Showzen.” And if you don’t know what those are you also probably don’t know what weed is. “Final Flesh” is one huge goof. Literally. Supposedly the filmmaker hired porn actors who didn’t know (or care) what the movie was about. Which is fine because neither do those who watch it. It’s horrible (but not in a bad way) and fascinating (but not in a good way). I don’t know if it’s the best fetish movie ever made or the worst. The “story” is divided into four parts and involves a family surviving the apocalypse in their house. Along the way they get naked and bath in the tears of neglected children. This film is a a great argument for why the term Brechtian should not be derogatory. The film is so obscure that there’s not even a Wikipedia entry for it. I hope “Flesh” becomes the new must-see late-night cult movie because, really, how many times can you watch “The Room” before it gets old.

28. True Grit
Joel and Ethan Coen

Another year, another Coen Brothers film makes my list. “True Grit” does not resurrect the Western. It does not reinvent the Western either. And finally it does not deconstruct the Western. It does however settle into the Western like it’s a nice and comfy if a bit smelly old shoe. On their last film, “A Serious Man,” the Coens were at their most emotionally honest while on this one they are at their least ironic. I was expecting a film in which no other directors living (or dead) could pull off except the Coens but this is not that film. It’s strangely… ordinary. The dialogue and sense of humor stand out to be sure but the story proper is far from groundbreaking. Their last “Western,” “No Country for Old Men” approached the genre with a revitalizing energy and uncompromisingly bleak philosophy. It’s not a Western so much as an atonal hymn to the corruptible nature of man and the moral void we are constantly at risk of falling into. It is a film that will no doubt go on to help define the time it was made in. “True Grit” on the other hand says nothing and defines little other than its own tenacious gumption. Instead of standing back at a distance to observe the genre (as they usually do) the directors locate themselves and their oddly thin characters smack dab in the middle of it all and draw upon all the tropes and conventions we expect while at the same time bringing their singular voice to the mix. The film is about a young but wise girl’s quest for revenge (yawning now) and the men that help her bring those responsible to justice (Zzzzz). That’s it! The film is did not engage me emotionally but it didn’t need to and I will not hold the director’s pedigree against them. It’s just a well told story that happens to be a Western and since I’m a whore for this most pure and consistent of genres so here it is on the list. As J Peterman from “Seinfeld” would say: Congratulations on a job… done.

29. The American
Anton Corbijn

George Clooney is often at his best when he’s not saying anything. He doesn’t talk much in “The American.” And he doesn’t need to. The film speaks for him thanks to the enormously talented new filmmaker Anton Corbijn at the helm. Being famous for his album cover photography and music videos, Corbijn clearly has a eye for stunning compositions. Working in long form seems to be no obstacle and “The American” even improves upon the already impressive “Control,” his first film. After this film and Tom Ford’s “A Single Man” I’m starting to think it’s more exciting to see a film from a new director who is a fashion designer or photographer rather than someone who actually went to film school. This underrated, thinking man’s assassin movie was hated by audiences and critics when it came out (I blame the advertising… and stupid people) but I feel it has all the stuff to become a cult thriller. When a film looks as good as “The American” does, big shoot-outs are not only unnecessary but unappealing. If people wanted that then they should have just watched some horrible Angelina Jolie movie  like “Wanted” or “Salt.” As an aside I would love to see his character from “Burn After Reading” meet the one he plays in this film. I don’t know if they’d hit it off or kill each other.

30. The Kids Are All Right
Lisa Cholodenko

Really enjoyed “Kids.” I have nothing but good things to say about it beyond the non-ending for Ruffallo which is a bit limp. Great story, great dialogue, (probably) the best ensemble cast of the year and unlike so many similar independent-ish movies about quirky families (“Little Miss Sunshine” and “Rachael Getting Married” come to mind) it’s not shallow, smug or self satisfied. I think back on that movie and smile. Then I want to eat a tomato like it’s an apple. I have no idea why I can’t bring myself to get it higher on the list.

special mention:

Buried
Rodrigo Cortés

One of the best close room scenarios ever. Except it’s a closed coffin, underground, dark and full of sand and even a snake. As movies about people who are buried in a coffin go, it’s near the top of the list right below Kill Bill vol. 2. and right above “The Vanishing” and that “CSI” episode directed by Tarentino. This movie is so effective that I never, ever want to watch it again. Director Rodrigo Cortés and writer Chris Sparling find so many inventive ways to use the space of the 2×8 set that it’s above all a great film to study. Each camera angle offers a fresh perspective and all the changing light sources (flash light, cigarette lighter, glow sticks, cell phone etc.) are way more fascinating then they should be. The film is not boring for even a second. Hitchcock would be proud of that. Speaking Hitch, the “story,” what little there is, is equally resourceful as it throws new and very creative curve balls every few minutes in the telling this doomed man’s story for survival. It’s like “127 Hours” in that respect but unlike that film Buried does not get carried away with formalistic excess. It also avoids narrative tricks and twist endings. Instead, the film sticks with the character and the grim reality of his situation and it’s all the better for it. Finally, Ryan Reynolds gives a performance nobody knew Ryan Reynolds was capable of… including Ryan Reynolds.

Let Me In
Matt Reeves
“You’re not a girl?”
“No.”
“What are you?”
“I’m nothing.”

Let Me In proves that…
(a) Matt Reeves is a talented filmmaker that, after Cloverfield,  somehow acquired a keen eye for atmosphere, action and humanity.
(b) The film, while totally unnecessary, is wise to steal as much as it can from the original/better European version.
(c) The original story, written by John Ajvide Lindqvist, is so timelessly good that anyone who ever adapts is almost guaranteed a decent film as long they follow the core story/themes.

The answer: all of the above. The film is one of those rare adaptations that upholds the quality of the previous incarnations. I mean, how often is is that we root for the monster as much as we fear it? Okay, a lot these days but with respect to the horror genre, where all the good ideas are coming out of either Europe or Asia, that almost never happens. The original version is one of the best horror films ever made and the single best vampire story ever adapted for the screen. This version is… good. Everything I said about Tomas Alfredson’s film (link) applies here give or take.

Under “take” I would say that the screenplay’s dialogue is more straightforward and less enigmatic. That’s not entirely a bad thing but I personally prefer quirky mystery of the original because it heightens the horror aspects and makes for a more engaging experience since nothing is spelled out to the viewer. I also didn’t love the laughably bad crazy monkey girl CGI effects depicted every time our young little vamp springs to action. Looks unnatural and robs the film of being effectively spooky. Another strike against it is the undeniable feeling that this version is and will always be superfluous even though it’s one of the rare remakes that is watchable. Under “give,” however, I would say that the film is drop dead beautiful; the dark shadows, the stunning street light orange and the shimmering red of blood etc. Along with the original it is also one of the most improbably romantic films ever made.

The pre-teen vamp/human puppy love is juxtaposed withthe inevitable sick and twisted conclusion that answers what happens when an immortal girl spends her life witha nerdy mortal boy. As for the horror, it’s downright brutal and handled very well by Reeves. The pool scene is, once again, one of the best shot horror moments of all time (up there with Ripley’s silent showdown at the end of Alien). The solemn performances by Kodi Smit-McPhee (kid from The Road and that rare good child actor) and Chloe Grace Moretz (ARGH, STOP WITH THE THREE NAME NAMES!!!) who is bit girl instead of hit girl this time around (yes, I think I’m clever). Boththe kids along with performances by Richard Jenkins and Elias Koteas do justice to the original actors. After this film and “Kick Ass,” Moretz claimed more lives in 2010 than Cancer. While it’s not even close to the original this version seems to respect both the novel and original film and that’s why it’s works as well as it does. Um, that’s also why it probably make any money in America.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows
David Yates

Very few series get better with age. Harry Potter has.

Pirahna 3D
Alexandre Aja

You know you love it!

Splice
Vincenzo Natali

While “Splice” is not content with being a common, late night horror film, make no mistake, it is a monster movie. One that, like the failed experiment turned poison-tailed monster, fails to maintain its structural integrity (in the last act) but still succeeds on the strength of the idea that created it. The film stars Sarah Polly and Adrian Brody as the world’s smartest, hippest and stubborn rock star scientists who, out of sheer cocky defiance, create a hybrid creature. As the blob grows bigger and stronger the two grow more and more… stupid. There may be a narrative flaw in their inability (or unwillingness) to “deal” with the creature but at the same time it almost makes sense why they would allow their experiment to get out of hand (and tail). First and foremost I like is how the film’s horror elements are rooted in something deeply tragic and human. The gender issues are also compelling without feeling forced. The “monster,” named Dren (Nerd backwards–ha!) is a memorable creation. A being that would be pitiable if she, it, weren’t so eerie in the way it reflects humanity back upon us original sinners. Wide eyes, bald as a baby, pin sharp tale of death and possessing a penis shaped head, to look upon Dren is to look upon the sinister nature of creation. As she grows the film does to but, on the other hand, as she flames out so too does the story. It almost had to be that way. While a noble failure the film has a way of making science thrilling again and that almost never happens in modern science fiction/horror. “Splice” begins with the wonder and the euphoric glee of discovery, briskly moves to “wait a minute, what’s going on here?” uneasiness (a staple for good horror) and finally settles on the disappointing application of some really good ideas.

The Book of Eli
Rodrigo Cortés

I still don’t know if “Book of Eli” is one of the best films of the year or one of the worst.

Best of 2010: Video Games

1. Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360)

I don’t often give Xbox 360 games their due. Well, here I am giving them their due. Mass Effect 2 is a juggernaut and, as far as the world of video games is concerned, the year belonged to it. It’s literally peerless, especially when you take into account that not even the first Mass Effect matches up to its grandeur or efficiency. Mass Effect 2 is a perfect sci-fiaction RPG adventure and, yeah, while that’s a lot of genres at play the game is streamlined and the genres all add an invaluable imprint. I can even call it a “Choose Your Own Adventure” game because multiple playthroughs yield different experiences; all brilliant and unique. It’s similar to Heavy Rain in that respect except with 100% more alien sex. In a nutshell, the story has you traversing the universe to discover why humans are being abducted. But that description is as lacking as saying that Star Wars is story about a kid that finds his father. This is a fully realized science fiction world (as good as any other modern sci-fi mythos) where you can (or at least feel like you can) do anything. Most importantly, you feel like you, as a player, make an impact on the world(s) and that effect is unique to how you play it. In other words, it’s your game! Having a real sense of ownership of the story and characters puts Mass Effect ahead of just about anything else out there. From his and her design to the choices made under their command, Commander Shepard is, for better or worse, my character. I played through the game as two very different Shepards, one an evil male (natch) and the other a morally fierce female. As good as those playthroughs have been for me I can’t wait to start it all over again on PS3. But that’s not all because the year will end with the release of Mass Effect 3 and by that time the series’s domination will be complete. Mass Effect 2 is an easy choice for game of the year for me. I can put up no argument that, alongside Uncharted 2, it’s the most important game in the current generation.


2. Just Cause 2 (PS3)
The most underrated game of the year. I’m calling JC2 a sandbox killer because once I played it I can never go back to other open world games. It’s first victim is the overrated Red Dead Redemption voted game of the year by most sites and publications but rendered useless and boring and about 1/100% as enjoyable as JC2. If my criteria of what the best game of the year was simply what I had the most fun playing day in and day out then Just Cause 2 would be that game. It’s the kind of game where beatingit is nice but ultimately means nothing because you keep going back. When I fire up up my save I never know what I’m going to do. I do, however, know that I will have a lot of fun. As a bonus, the game even lets you record your antics and post it on Youtube! JC2 is also the ultimate time killer. Hours will go by and as you’re gliding through the air you will marvel at where you are and how you got there and appreciate theguarantee that whatever you do next it will also be a blast. Creatingan open world game where you can not only grapple anythingyou can see (including people) but also whip out a parachute creates near limitless potential for fun and mayhem. Add to that a beautiful jungle island that, to my knowledge, is the biggest open world game of all time (San Andreas might be bigger) and you have a truly special experience. As for the story and the main character go, neither are good. And that’s not a bad thing because open world games are almost always hurt by too much story. It’s not needed because it’s OPEN WORLD and story, by design, is restrictive and didactic. Just Cause 2 gets that while so many games like GTA, RDR and Mafia II don’t. Next to Red Faction Guerrilla and San Andreas this is the best open world game ever made.
3. Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
It’s rare enough for a PSP game to make the list at all, let alone at a position this high. That’s the wonder of Peace Walker. It’s NOT a PSP game. It’s a Metal Gear game. As full and complete and satisfying as the best Metal Gear Solid experiences out there (meaning: part one and three). The title transcends whatever system it’s one, be it the 8-bit NES or top-of-the-line PS3. Another reason this should not reduced by its handheld “limitations”… it’s huge. Though I spend a good chunk of my summer beating it, I’m still playing it.
4.  Alan Wake (Xbox 360) (tie)
Three games tied for the number 4. Normally I don’t like doing that but 2010 saw the impressive and unexpected return of mystery/horror games. The following three titles elevated the genre in uniquely different ways. The similarities they share is that they are all near perfect classics. Very rare for that to happen in this genre. Even more rare that it would happen three times in a year.

Another Xbox exclusive makes the list! What happens when an author’s dark imagination turns against him? You get one of the best survival horror games of all time. I put off playing this game for obvious reasons. It looked lame. Dark woods–yeah, been there. Strange hauntings–yeah, yeah, I know the drill. Creepy small town setting–that would be special if none of us ever played Silent Hill. Well I was wrong to not play this game for so long. Cliches do not slow down this air tight survival horror expiernce. In fact, as much as I love Resident Evil 4 and Dead Space (the King and Queen of survival horror in my book) this game beats them in a lot of ways. The setting perfectly fits the atmospheric spooks. The story is deep and complex and rationed out in enjoyable bits. The use of music and Television conventions is truly innovative (the entire game is a “season” with episodes acting as chapters). The central light mechanic (flashlights are your main weapon against the evil “darkness”) is smartly implemented and creates a lot of surreal sights of morbid beauty as twisted shafts of light stand out from afar and bathe you in safety when you’re in its warm embrace. You feel this game. It’s so visceral. When you’re running through the woods in dark with one bullet left and no flash light juice you WILL feel the pressure. This is a survival horror game where the menace is more or less a logical part of the narrative. And the self awareness featuring an author caught up in his own world/nightmares/mania adds a tremendous purpose to what you’re doing. The last thing this game wants you to do is question the logic of what happening and that’s ironic because this is a game that holds up quite well.
4. Heavy Rain (PS3)
A landmark in the medium of video games. A story you enjoy in the same way you might read a book, except you’re simultaneously experiencing the story and helping to create it. Or not… because this is not for everyone. Heavy Rain will or at least should be studied for the way it uses the narrative form to engage the player in a multi-faceted mystery. The game requires you to to find a serial killer and make the tough choices and sacrifices along the way to get it done. Not an easy task. This game challenges you. Not in terms of gameplay (which is smooth and well designed) but psychologically. I do not feel it’s embellishing to say that no mystery/thriller movie or novel has the ability to affect the player/viewer the what Heavy Rain does. A landmark title in not just video games but the mystery genre.
4. Deadly  Premonition (Xbox 360)
Another mystery/horror game makes the list. In a year that polished games with high production values bought um earned uniformly good reviews, Deadly Premonition, the small game that could, got awful reviews. That right there exposes the video game “journalism” industry as a bought and owned fraud. But who cares about critics, it’s all about the players and the cult experience many of enjoyed this year. When playing one must keep in mind that it’s a b-movie of a game that borrows from that other b-movies/shows like Twin Peaks. It also borrows (perhaps not intentionally) from Silent Hill, Heavy Rain and Alan Wake. And why not? It’s one of those games that gets everything right… by doing everything “wrong” technically speaking. The controls are awkward, the open world is bland and tedious, the story is weird, the characters are out of place, the dialogue is… uh, very Japanese (“What a hell! EVEN ___ has been killed” blank space added to avoid a spoil), the survival horror is well below the gold standard Resident Evil 4 set (on the PS2 no less!) and the graphics, oh the graphics, look like they were rejected from a Xbox era game. But all of that contributes to the unhinged small town nightmarish aura the game is going for.
The game is not just good but one of the most pure and endearing video game experiences of the year. Amazingly, it starts off so bad it’s good and ends up so good it’s, well, good. The game shines brighter than so many American products that are either sequels or involve the military. DP is about a quirky FBI agent named York Morgan (Agent Cooper meets Agent Mulder meets Agent Tyler Durden) who waltzes into a small, David Lynchian town with his imaginary friend, determined to investigate a murder… and drink as much coffee as possible. The the way the cream swirls in his coffee, by the way, gives him vital clues as to where to go next. Of course things go to hell (almost literally) from there and the story spirals out of control as a Raincoat killer straight out of “I Know What You Did Last Summer” strikes again and again… and again. The game never takes itself too seriously but still manages to be scary and atmospheric. And heartfelt! The character of Yorke and his imaginary friend is a gem and one of the best original video game heroes of all time. He makes creepy rape faces every chances he gets, talks to his “friend” Zach about b-movies constantly (he loves “Tremors” and “Remo Williams,” how cool is that?!) and he gets visited by demons that nobody else seems to be able to see. Actually, I’m wrong one other person can see and it’s it’s the player and we’re just as crazy as him for playing this delightful cult game.



5. Bayonetta (Xbox 360)
The best action game since the first Ninja Gaidenon on the original Xbox. This game is unrelenting. “Enough” is just not in its vocabulary. What starts as an obnoxious Japanese action game starring a naked witch with a “Tangled”-sized rope of black hair (that’s also functions as her suit!) who battles angles in her free time turns very quickly into a symphony of beauty, violence and gorgeously choreographed, balls-out hyper sexualized fighting. The creator of the game admits that each battle is basically designed as a violent reenactment of the act of sex ending in, uh, a very intense moment. From there, each individual battle does likewise as it leads up to the (always crazy) end boss of each level. And finally the bosses (and there’s a lot of em) ramp up to the orgasm of all orgasms. Your primary endgame is to defeat God, or at least a God called Jubileus, The Creator (great boss name btw!). It’s not a stretch to state that I don’t think I’ve ever played a game as over-the-top as Bayonetta. In a year with an unusually large among of fighting games, it’s curious how lazy this once great genre has grown. While not bad, the current king of action games, God of War 3, added nothing to the franchise and that was before Dante’s Inferno, Darksiders, and Castlevania: Lord of Shadows all embarrassed themselves by copying the clearly stagnant GOW formula. Unlike those button mashing boy’s club efforts (the best of which is Castlevania I guess), Baynotta changed things. She is able to take on a God and kill it in the game and does a similar thing to the action genre outside of it. Where do we go from Bayonetta? There’s no topping it!


6. Pac Man Championship Edition DX (PS3)

How good is the new Pac Man game? The DX stands for dick xplosion! It’s that fun! The most simple yet addicting game of the year. Pure kinetic movement. I sunk hours into it last year and will sink countless more hours this year trying to improve upon what I did last year. The feelingI get while gobbling up those ubiquitous dots and stringing up them sweet-ass ghost trains up before chomping them all into the digital void of nothingness with Mr Pac Man’s pizza slice shaped maw is so basic yet so fundamentally enjoyable. Eating dots and reversing the tables on ghosts is like buildingblock of all video games. AHHHH, SOOO GOOOD<<<. In a way, in a lot of ways actually, this is a perfect game in the sense that what it does, it does perfectly. There’s no room for improvement with Pac Man CE. So many late hours were spent trying to top my personal score, checking out leaderboards (you people are insane!) and of course trying to grab the most ghost combos possible. Who could have ever guessed that in a year that saw the release of new Halo, Call of Duty, God of War and Fallout games, Pac Man would beat them all! Could 2011 be the year of Pong?

7. Vanquish (PS3)

I can’t believe how good Vanquish turned out. The game looks like a generic space shooter when in actuality in revitalizes the genre much in the same way Bayonetta did. With hyperbolic flourishes of overkill. The guy behind Resident Evil made this game as the shooter to end all shooters. Vanquish delivers in ways many shooters don’t even bother with. I don’t consider myself to be a huge fan of the genre but if I’m going to play one I want to shoot! A lot! This game gives me exactly what I want, unlike Gears of War which just annoyed me with it’s false sense of story, overwrought atmosphere and annoying grunting characters. This game eschews all that in favor of, yes, shooting. Pure, blissful almost orgasmic bouts of shooting. And when you are not shooting you are dashingfrom one cover spot to another so you can shoot some more. And you shoot everything. Mech, robots, giant robots, giant mechs, air crafts, humans, you name it. This is the Bayonetta of shooting games and if there were any justice both games would have sold more than Halo and Black Ops combined. Of course that didn’t happen.


8. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (PS3)
It’s good! It’s actually good! A cash-in? Of course. This game exists to milk every last drop of blood from the franchise before the next big Creed release. Still, had they called Brotherhood Assassin’s Creed III instead not many people would have objected because it’s a full length and fully satisfying experience. One just as good as any other Assassin’s Creed title (or most games released this year for that matter) and that’s high praise. As cash grab expansions go this game fares much better than Fallout: New Vegas, Black Ops and last year’s horrible Halo: ODST. Bottom line, I didn’t expect to love Brotherhood but here I am saying I love it and meaning it. Openingup Rome is one of the defining moments of the entire series. Contrary to what I thought before playing there’s a lot to do and lot more story to uncover in the increasingly complex Creed mythology. The side quests, ranging from recruiting assassin’s and giving them orders a la Metal Gear: Peace walker to buying landmarks with all your hard earned loot, are as enjoyable as the main ones.  As an aside I can’t help but think that if Ubisoft is going to spin-off another AC game they should now make one that is Desmond-centric, but that’s just me. Maybe Ubisoft still will seeing as how you now get to control Desmond in his own little open world area (which, in a very cool twist, is the modern setting of the very same hub plaza from AC2). The story works because it expands the mythology without exhausting it (the game conveniently skirts the more sci-fi alien visitors stuff, which may or may not be a good thing) while the new cat-and-mouse multiplayer mode is actually a lot of fun and thematically relevant as MPs go rather than some forced mp component. While Brotherhood won’t win any awards for creativity it sets a welcome new benchmark for full priced expansion games. This is a must for fans of Assassin’s Creed.



9. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
I can be jaded when it comes to Wii games. Hell, a lot of us adults playing video games are and for good reason. We play games like Mass Effect and Heavy Rain and Final Fantasy and Halo etc. and have little respect for recycled “kids” fluff, especially when it appears on the more lazy than not Wii console. But the worst thing a gamer like me (or any anybody) can do is ignore a quality title like Super Mario Galaxy 2 because of the system it’s on. There’s no reason not to play this game. Mario is back and, well, that’s it. The story is of course a non-factor (this is a Nintendo game after all). The gameplay is however a major factor and that’s what matters with a series like this. Everything that was great about the first Galaxy is back, better and bigger. Sure the first Galaxy was far more innovative for its time but the platforming, the hub space ship world, and the use of gravity and planet hopping is top notch. And the ability to play as Luigi and Yoshi is the icing on the cake. This game provides non stop fun and smiles while also providing a strong challenge. It is the King of platforming. That being said it disturbs me to see that in 2010 more people were still playing and buying last years uninspired and overrated New Super Mario Bros Wii over this but, as I said, it’s on the Wii and the kids who play that system wouldn’t know or respect a quality game if they got it for free. See, there I go again being jaded.



10. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World: The Game (PS3 Network)
Not quite an 8bit game. More like 16bit. Hey, not a problem. This game takes me back to the beat-em-ups of  the golden era. Similar to games like Double Dragon and River City Ransom but with a elevated sense of humor and a lot of cool references to past games and of course the Pilgrim comic/movie. This is a meta-game about games! So much to love here, especially the price ($15). The combat is fun and actually very complex (not to mention HARD in the early stages). The co-op is exciting (even though it lacks an on-line mode for some reason). The story is classic Pilgrim pugilism. The music rocks to no end. The stat and XP building is so deep it almost takes the game into RPG territory. And the little details thrown in are appreciated by any fan of the Pilgrim film or comics; ex. Edgar Wright makes a cameo, all the characters from the book are included (love the gay bearded music guy) and you can even pay off Scott’s $400+ late fee for Land of the Lost. Haha. A lot of love went into this game. Well, consider that love reciprocated.
also…

Valkyria Chronicles 2 (PSP)
The second of three PSP games to make the list. Up until 2010 there were not three worthy games in the systems entire run! But this is not a case of too little too late. It’s never too late for a new ValkyriaChronicles game. They’re even making a 3rd game for the PSP. This is a full fledged Valkyria Chronicles game that I can play in bed. Consider me recruited to the cause. While the game is a bit watered down from the amazing PS3 cult hit (I hate how the maps are divided) it’s just great to see the series live on in any capacity. The strategy RPG elements are as sharp as ever and the game even manages to surpass its forebear in some ways by including fantastic pre-mission segments set in your company’s barracks. I love the hub world offered and feel it connects the game world more than the history book gimmick of the last game. That being said the story proper is not particularly strong and the young hero is about as annoying as JRPG young heroes get (his stupid hair and annoying laugh haunts me: “Ah HA, ah HAHAHA”). VC2 packs so much into such little space that it gives Metal Gear Peace Walker a run for its money.

Ace Attorney Investigations: Miles Edgeworth (DS)
A bold new perspective for the point and click series pays off. The series is known for it’s charming problem solving lawyer action but this spin-off focuses on detective work. And it works! Edgeworth is a fine character that deserves his own game and I’m happy to see his first outing to be such a success. Perhaps not financially (this is a cult game after all) but certainly in terms of how fun it is. For a series not known for its innovation this game is a mini-revelation. Can’t wait for the second part.

Persona 3 Portable (PSP)
Were it new and/or had it not already received the FES treatment, the PSP Persona would be the best game of the year.  No question. The PSPsimprobable rise to fame in 2010 continued with the superlative Persona 3 port. Just enough is changed from its PS2 brother to make it a must-play for Persona fans. Beingthat I picked this game as the second best of the entire decade one extra line of dialogue would have sealed the deal for me let alone an entirely new playable female character. Oh yeah, and the game came with Jumpei’s hat! The lack of an explorable game world hurts a bit but hardly enough to make a dent in one’s overall enjoyment of what might be the best JRPG of all time. I’ve beaten the PS3 version of Persona 3 two times and logged plenty of hours into this new portable version. Even if I never finish this version it makes me feel good knowing I have it and can play it anywhere. If that’s not the definition of nerdy than I don’t know what is?

Dark Void (PS3)
Perhaps the most underrated “bad” game of the year. As high profile flops go, Bionic Commando this is not. Imagine Uncharted with a jet pack. And aliens. Great fun, quit complaining. It’s world war 2 and Hitler’s winning. The solution? Fly around an alternate dimension shooting UFOs down and hijacking others only to land (or crash) them and take cover so you can kill a bunch of aliens. This game is exhilarating at times. I don’t know why people are so hostile towards it, especially now that you can get it on PS3, Xbox360 or PC for a little over $5 bucks. EA thought it had a big franchise on its hands and Brad Pitt even optioned Dark Void for a movie. Whoops. Less than a year later and very few people even remembers it existed. Those it do make fun of it. I have a soft spot for it. It’s even better than…

Castlevania: Lord of Shadows (PS3)
Definitely a love/hate thing going on with this game. Impressive looking. Insane combat. Beautiful visuals (the inside of castles look as gorgeous as snow covered mountains). Great voice actingfeaturing awesome narrative oration by Patrick Stewart. And an ending that knocked me out of my chain mail. This game has a lot going for it… but a lot going against it at the same time. Namely, it can be slow, tedious, awkwardly designed (pulling a lever and punchinga button can be a challenging!), overlong (I rarely say that) and at times infuriating. The puzzle sections also suck. Seekingto create a new line in the long running franchise the game missteps by tryingto be God of War, Shadow of the Colossus and Lord of the Rings. The fact that the one thing it does not try very hard to be is Castlevania is odd and off putting. At least until the end. Oh, the end. Loved it! Overall, and despite my bitching, not a bad game at all and easily the best 3D Castelvania to date (sorry Lament of Innocence). I hope Konami make a follow-up because I have a feelingit will be something special. If you can get this title for cheap it’s well worth picking up.

Halo: Reach (Xbox 360)
Halo is a fun. Still. Somehow, and I don’t know how or why because it’s not like the series has tried anything new since, like, dual wielding. So, yes, Halo is not better than ever but in a lot of ways (some good, some bad) it’s as good as ever. A streamlined product that is the total refinement of a truly original idea (Halo: Combat Evolved) that single handily ignited a new era of console gaming. While some fans feel the series gets better and better (story and gameplay) I have the opposite reaction. The concept gets more and more used up for lack of a better word. It’s entertainingbut not really exciting anymore. By doingthe whole Master Chief-less prequel thing (again!?) and setting the game on the doomed planet Reach, a world on the cusp of a world-ending war, this is as good of a place as any to “end” the series–certainly better than the shamefully lackingODST. The game gets points for not only providing a polished Halo experience but for connectingwith the player emotionally. The fatalism of thinggame is quite compelling. I wonder if Microsoft will quickly cash-in a la Modern Warfare’s year-in/year-out model or give the series a proper breather before craftinga proper reboot and/or exploring a new aspect to freshen up the same-y universe? I hope the Halo series is careful and takes its time but why should it be? People will buy no matter what because, lets face it, the core FPS fan is the kind of meathead who is more interested in callingpeople “fags” and spamming grenades with 12-year-olds than being challenged by a new Halo or single-player Bioshock story. And being that I’m somewhat of a Halo fan I guess I’m just as bad as everyone else. Given that even Halo is now using some of Modern Warfare’s aesthetics (the tightly shot FPS narrative passages) I think I know where this is heading and it’s fate could be far worse than that of the planet Reach.

Enslaved (PS3)
So much vision. Such a cool plot. Such intriguing characters. And yet still something’s missing! Above all I love running around in this postapoclayptic Eden. Doing so with Andy Sirkus as a buffed out brute named monkey with some random hot chick wearing ripped pants makes it even more fun in the non homoerotic sense of the word (that’s why I mentioned the girl). Made by the same crew of Heavenly Sword (and future maker of the Devil May Cry reboot that is almost guaranteed to suck), this game is full of atmosphere. The world, or what’s left of it, is lush and the remnants of a long past civilization (our civilization) is ugly, rusty and rotting. That stark contrast makes for a great visual duality. The story (basically getting from point A to B) is involving but with a premise about a (hot as hell) woman enslaving an apish man and forcing him to do her bidding while bitching at him to “hurry up!” all along the way (because god forbid he takes too long or strays too far from her clutches) I got very annoyed very quickly. When Metroid: Other M’s female protagonist was controlled by the male powers that be everybody freaked out but nobody seems to mind it when the roles are reversed. Seriously, though, we’d need about 1,000 more games like this before the it balances out so I’m far from offended. That being said, that’s not even the problem with the game. It’s the gameplay and short length that ultimately hurts the experience. The GOW fighting is shallow but at least it’s fun on that simple punch-punch-heavy-punch level. The rest of the game is climb-based platforming which is oh so popular these days. But the climbing/jumping/shimmying/dropping routine is tedious and mostly unrewarding; more Prince of Persia reboot than anything Nathan Drake got into. As for the length, well, that’s not so much of a problem now that the game (an under performer) is bargain priced. Problems aside, Enslaved is still very fun and belongs more on the good list here than the slightly-less-than-good one featured below.
Note: This is the only first person shooter to make my best list this year though I did have fun playing Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

Fable III (Xbox 360)
This is the first Fable game to make my list because it’s the first Fable game to be, uh, good. It’s true. The past games bite off more than they can chew and end up muddled and awkward examples of almost-great western RPGs. While deeply flawed this game gets a lot right. First off I love the setting. An industrialized world that’s as much steam punk as it is D&D. The characters are fun and lively, the dialogue is brilliantly wry as is the story and graphics. The main reason this Fable makes the list though is the basic hook. You play a sibling to a tyrannical king. Throughout the entire game you defect and rebel, building up your “terrorist” group in an effort to overthrow him. But that’s not the end. Once you do a new kind of game begins. Sure, the game fails in lot of areas (combat is simple, some glitches etc.) but the sense of tangible progress is undeniable winning. I not only got the thrill of overthrowing a king but of managing my own kingdom. In between, the game adds some awesome Sims/Dark Cloud elements like buying property, managing your house, raising a family and either being good or evil to the people in the kingdom. As Mel Brooks said, “it’s good to be King” and it’s just good to play as one–especially when he’s a total dick. In the end Fable III is brought down by it’s short length and inability to wrap everything up. Like the other Fable titles, it’s a victim of its own ambitions.

Professor Layton and the Unwound Future (DS)
Layton and his man-love boy Luke travel to the future to solve more random-ass puzzles. When in trouble thugs will say “It’s time to teach you a lesson! Solve this puzzle!” instead of just beating you up. No worries, Layton never misses a beat, he busts out some of his most gentlemen-like moves to date. Featuring more back story and a very fun plot, Unwound Future is the best Layton game to date. The puzzles are weak but that’s the only shortcoming in an otherwise very fun game. We get exactly one new Layton game every year and this is one of the only franchises where that’s not enough.

Super Scribblenauts (DS)
The first is still the best in my eyes. But many now prefer this one for all it improves (more words and better controls). This game’s updated vocabulary (with big hairy slimy adjectives now!) maximizes the random-ass fun to be had as your imagination runs wild. The level building feature is also very fun.

NBA Jam (Wii)
The classic NBA Jam returns. And besides graphics nothing has changed. And that’s exactly why it’s still great. It will always be great.
Alien vs. Predator–I actually had a lot of fun with this new Alien game in which you can play as humans, aliens and, um, more aliens (Predators). Each mode has its own story and mechanics. The story is decent (Bishop is back !) and the three campaigns are competently interwoven into the narrative.  During these campaign the first person shooting is innovative and switches styles based on the character (Marines shoot, Aliens crawl and Predators are stealthy bad-asses). The game is a somewhat low rent so people poo-pooed all over it. Their loss. Easy for me to say since I didn’t actually buy it but it makes for a great (and quick) rental.

Angry Birds (iPhone)
Some people are bitching that casual games are ruining legit games. Uh, hardly! As if $1 games will ever fully replace Modern Warfare. And if they do, great, that’s lets me buy 59 more games. Angry Birds came out late last year but (literally) exploded in 2010. These physics based games are very addicting. And very simple. But it’s simplicity should not be considered dumb. Far from that. This game is very challenging and very rewarding. The constant updates are great too.
The Worst Game of the Year:

Final Fantasy XIII
It’s a bad sign when the best character in a game is a black dude with a Chocobo living in his afro. It’s all downhill from there and it’s a steep hell because this is far and away the worst game of the year. The shocking thing for me though is that I never thought I have to call a Final Fantasy game the worst anything of any given year. If the series is the stuff of legend (and it is) than it’s most recent installment is the stuff of infamy. My hatred for this game is intensified by the fact that it exists in what may be my favorite video game genre of all time. This linear role playing game is of touch in almost every way imaginable and games like this are the reason American gamers laugh at Japanese RPGsand the reason many feel Japanese games are on their way out. FFXIII stubbornly withholds all the joys of RPGs and including a lamentable lack or misuse of open endedness, item management, character development, character design, story, writing and any sort of variety. That it somehow figured out how to offer a decent battle system is a small miracle seeing as how it fucks up everything else.
To play and beat the game ALL you need is two pieces of tape. That’s it! Once the game is fired up and the exasperating cut scenes play out (beware of some uberannoying anime cliche characters that giggle and “uuughn” and give their best blue steel faces while wearing outfits designed by retarded cosplay wearing teenage girls) you use the first piece of tape on the analogue. Tape it forward. Next, place the second strip of tape on the x button (or A button on the Xbox–which no Final Fantasy game should ever be played on by the way). Your character will now run and hit the action button endlessly. As your character automatically runs straight (straight is the only direction in this linear game) and fight her/their way through mildly challenging battles on her/their own, you are free to do whatever you want and, trust me, sitting in front of the game is not what you want unless you want punishment. Twenty or thirty hours later your taped controller will have beaten the game. Upon beating the game I had only one thought and feeling: I hate you, Final Fantasy XIII. I cursed it’s creation every second I played it, cursed its characters and cursed some more through the end credits. Then I cursed at my dogs for allowing me to play through this entire game without putting me out of my misery. Friends don’t let friends play Final Fantasy XIII. To put things in perspective I called Final Fantasy XII the best game of the year and ranked it as one of the ten best of the decade. It’s not just a case of how the mighty have fallen but how the mighty have fallen and dragged its fans down with it in the process.
Runner Up: Metriod: Other M
I bought this game. I actually paid money for it. Lots of people did. Why? Because it’s Metriod and not just Metriod but a console version of Metroid from the guys who made Ninja Gaiden. Well you know what, we all got screwed.
What Happened?
Overrated/Disappointing/Etc.
1. Red Dead Redemption–The most critically acclaimed game of the year and, accordingly, the most overrated. I think “older” gamers like me are to blame. I guess they like the pacing and the novelty of the western genre. Yes, I played it. And beat it. And I never want to touch it again. Not bad by any means (I’d give it a B- or 8.0 out of 10) but it’s just another pretentious Rockstar game full of pointless side quests, imprecise shooting and glitches. Maybe that’s why I call it Grand Theft Auto IV with horses. That game also got plenty of GOTY awards so I must be missing something. A big something. As an aside, I continue to detest Rockstar’scharacter models, motion capture and cinematic cut scenes. Very hackyand predictable. It’s all hand waving, pacingand silly posturing.
2. Fallout New Vegas–Ugh, this is still a sore subject. The follow-up to my game of the year for 2007 will not even make my top twenty. That’s the very definition of “What happened?” The answer:… nothing. And after sinking almost 250 hours in Fallout 3 (one of the ten best games of the last decade) I fired up New Vegas and learned instantly (and heart breakingly) that I’m kind of over it. I wouldn’t have been if they improved in any way upon the original but this game is miles behind the last one! The sun soaked world you play in is promising at first but ultimately very bland and unrewarding. It’s big, sure, but so big and so vast and so disjointed that it’s endlessly open ended immensity ends up hurting the experience. All that beingsaid, the game still could have had a shot of making my twenty best list above. Why didn’t it? Because it’s fucking broken. As in it does not work in some of the most basic of ways. As in I encountered so many game breaking glitches that to even call it a game is a bit unfair at times. My gun keeps shooting, my character falls into a non existent pit, other characters get stuck on nothing, items go flying, books open themselves (maybe they’re haunted), characters refuse to talk, my character randomly will drop dead and after putting up with all that my save file got corrupted. FUCK! I put about 20 hours into Vegas and gave up. They I played more Demon’s Souls. I will beat it one day to be sure but that day is not today.
3. Dead Rising 2–What happened is the game’s goddamn timer ruins any chance of fun you might have otherwise had (and there’s a lot of fun to be had) in this fantastically flawed open world mall/stadium Zombie action game. You can make just about anything, do just about anything, and kill just about any zombie that ever lived, oh how fun… BUT you also have to keep checking the clock and if you dare to get distracted by, you know, all the fun you’re having then you then have to run like an idiot across the map because some arbitrary timer insists you have to give your stupid daughter her stupid anti-zombie medsat the exact time indicated. If you don’t: fuck you, game over. Not level over or check point over but GAME over. The entire game ends. If you’re two seconds late: fuck you, game over. If you arrive on time your game STILL may end because the clock of death is iffy and imprecise at best. Where’s the fun in that? WHERE?! I don’t think I’ve ever played a game that was pretty much totally ruined by something unnecessary and avoidable. They should have called it Clock: The Game.
4. God of War 3–Same old God of War. That was good enough to make GOW2 a late gen PS2 classic but not enough this time around. I’ve grown so tired of Kratos’s“Wah, wah, wahhhhhhargh” histrionics. So sick of his ALWAYS ANGRY ALL THE TIME fits and daddy issues. Dude, get over it! His petulantly hyperbolic rage towards the heavens is sooo2004. His one-note to date, pure cock rage, is now laughable despite the fact that it once came from a very emotional place that the player could practically feel through the rumble of their controller. I’m being a bit harsh though. This is not even close to being a “bad” game. It’s above average, definitely falling in the B/8.0 range. The graphics are perhaps the best on the PS3 (meaning: best anywhere) and the memorable moments never stop coming at you. Still, I have to wonder if there’s a future in this series. If there is it would probably have to be without Kratos because the character is creatively tapped out. Unless… he’s the bad guy in a new adventure. That would be great because I would love to rip his grimacing head of in a final boss battle, putting an end to his stupid, stupid misery.
5. Call of Duty Modern Warfare:Black Ops–Oh look another COD game. Thank$ Activision, I’m sure you took your time to make this the best game possible. Best selling game of the year, you say? Of course it is! This is the Madden of first person shooters. I’m officially sick of this series. So why am I still playing it?
6. Transformers: War for Cybertron–Bought it, beat it, played it on-line and, in the end, I can respect the game for being the first fully realized Transformers console game ever–it’s Halo: Reach with robots. Still found it annoying. Didn’t like the controls (argh, meelee) and while the graphics are impressive, they start to get old.
7. Darksiders–Average game steals from all better games around (God of War, Zelda, Portal) and… it’s still an average game. The game has it’s fans but I just couldn’t get into it. And enough with squatty character designs. The horizontally pressed, chubby sausage finger Gears of War character designs has got to go.
8. Resonance of Fate–“What happened?” is that this effin game is hard as balls! I love this game… erm… I should say I love the idea of it. I got a good dozen hours into this quirky steam punk JRPG gem before giving up completely and I HATE giving up on games. It’s disgustingly hard and unforgiving. It punishes you because it can. You have to beat it on the impossibly hard normal mode to open us an easier mode. Really?! I love the turn based arena battle mechanics (more than FFXIII decent set-up even) but, god damn, this game kicked my ass and not in a fun and challenging Demon’s Souls kind of way. Rather, in a frustrating way that is hard for the sake of being hard. Such a shame.
9. Sin and Punishment 2–A very good on-rails shooter. Almost made the above list except this one boss keeps kicking my ass so I gave up and now I’m bitter about it. Fail–me.
10. Prince of Persia: Forgotten Sands–The magic is gone A competent POP experience but not a memorable one. Better than the reboot a few years ago but that’s not saying much. Where does POP go from here? I’m afraid it’s dead and no amount of time traveling back to the past will revive it. So sad. The memories will love on though. A great modern series.
11. Bioshock 2–I don’t dislike the game at all. Well, unless we’re talking about the shallow and fun slurping multiplayer modes which are a great argument for single player games not needing to shoehorn in MP. Parts of Bioshock 2 are even better than the ever so slightly overrated first game. The last half offers non stop jaw dropping moments. The feel you get as Rapture falls apart is exhilarating and offers some of the best gameplay moments of the entire series. Not to mention the final twist in which you play, uh, from a different character’s perspective. So, yeah, the game has its moments. I list it here however because I remembered at the very last minute that this game even came out in 2010. Despite some improvements the game ultimately fails to make the kind of lasting impression that the first had. This time next year the bulk of Bioshock 2 may disappear from my mind entirely. Especially after Bioshock: Infinite comes out. Oh boy, can’t wait.
12. Goldeneye–Sigh, you can remake Goldeneyefor the Nintendo 64 all you want but it will never be the real thing. And, sorry, the Wii is not a system for first person shooters.

Estimated Money Spent:
$1,600+ 🙂 ….   😐   … 🙁
Estimated Hours Spent Playing: I’m afraid to count.
Best Moments:
(there be spoilerisms below)

Mass Effect 2:A character you love (for me it was Mordin but it could be any character) dies during the final mission. Happened before in video games but never quite like this. If a character dies YOU are the reason and the feeling of loss is palpable. You are now faced with the choice of re-playing the game or dealing with the tragic consequences in the next Mass Effect. The flip side of that is letting Jacob die every time, haha sucka! Very few games give you such a feelingof ownership, making it a moment to remember and a moment that is, in a word, personal. Truly revolutionary gameplay.
Bayonetta: The orgasmic final act in which you kill God. Followed by flying his sorry ass into the sun. Followed by a pole dance. This game really understands what men want from video games.
Castlevania: Lord of Shadows–Not only are we surprised to see that Gabriel, the hero, turns evil after killing Satan himself but that his sidekick has been the lord of death from all the other games. As if that wasn’t crazy enough, after the credits roll the game reveals its ultimate ending. The game jumps from Medieval times to our future and, guess what, good old Gabe somehow turned into Dracula during those years. The same one you’ve been fighting in all the old Castlevania games! Holy shit! That moment just turned a flawed game into a good one.
Heavy Rain: The killer’s identity. A better twist than any movie could come up with this year.
Bioshock 2: I’ll just say it’s a moment that involves a Little Sister. Well, not a moment but the moment.
Deadly Premonition: Yorke’s fate. As “twists” go it manages to be touching, absurd and actually earned from a narrative standpoint. The fact that the game ended with genuine closure is impressive beyond comprehenson. Runner up moment: playing as the Raincoat Killer.
Metal Gear: Peace Walker: Managing Your army and base. There’s some RPG in my cup of Metal Gear and I like it.
Just Cause 2: The first time you realize you can do anything in this game. Cruising around has never been so fun in a sandbox game.
Mass Effect 2: Giant Frankenstine Robot Human Monster of Deaaaaath. As end boss battles go, this was one of the year’s best.
God Of War 3: Chronos Boss Battle. The boss is the entire level! That’s been done before but never with such pleasing rage. Here, you get feel like the world’s most angry and violent insect.
Mass Effect 2: Suicide Mission, under the force field. More Pitch Darkian than Chronicles of Riddick.
Mass Effect 2: Another ME2 moment. In this one Mordin sings Gilbert and Sullivan. First Gilbert and Sullivan shout out in video games? As sci-fiG&S tributes go, this even tops Data from Star Trek singing their tunes. Can’t wait for the Criteron of Topsy-Turvy! I’m getting sidetracked.
Vanquish: The first time you powerslide across the map down a long corridor and manage to hit cover… while shooting, and killing in slow motion. Once this game gets going the momentum doesn’t stop till the end credits. Of course, the end credits involving shooting missiles at the people who made the game.
Halo: Reach: The final stand. The “survive” moment where death is inevitable is quite moving if not totally original (it was done in Final Fantasy: Crysis Core with Zach).
Dead Rising 2: Taking a boxing glove, tape kitchen knives to them. Put them on. Light them on fire. Punch Zombies. 
Demon’s Souls: Shut up, I am still playing it. I will beat it one day (hopefully before the sequel Dark Souls comes out).
Super Scribblenauts: Making my own level. I made a homoerotic version of Lord of the Rings. My favorite touch was adding a rainbow colored Hobbit skeleton in Gandalf’s twisted layer.
Resonance of Fate: Discovering the battle system for the first time. Worst moment: getting defeated by a few short hours later. This game hates me.
NBA Jam: Unlockable characters! Clinton dunking on Palin. Feels. So. good.
The Rest of the Best:
Favorite Writing in a Video Game: Mass Effect 2. Followed by Heavy Rain.
Most Interesting Graphics:Just Cause 2, Bayonetta and Alan Wake.
Favorite Music: Heavy Rain, Scott Pilgrim and Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood.
Funniest Game: Deadly Premonition. Nothing comes close.
Most Innovative: Heavy Rain. Followed by Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Best Multiplayer: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood
Best Retro Game:Pac-Man. Followed by Scott Pilgrim
Hardest f@$#%*! Game: Resonance of f@$#%*ing Fate.
Most Underrated: Deadly Premonition. Followed by Dark Void and Alien vs. Predator.
Favorite Character/Voice Work (Male):Agent Yorke and his imaginary friend Zach (voiced by Jeff Kramer) in Deadly Premonition. Tied with Yorke is Mordin Solus (voiced by Michael Beattie) in Mass Effect 2. Runner Up: Eathan Mars and Scott Shelby (Sam Douglass) from Heavy Rain and of course the great Sir Patrick “facepalm” Stewart in Castlevania: Lord of Shadows– “YOU ARE THE ONE GABRIEL, YOOOOOUUUU ARRRRRRREEEEEEE THHHHHHEEEE ONNNNNNNEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!!”
Favorite Character/Voice Work (Female) : Commander Shepard (voiced by Jennifer Hale) from Mass Effect 2. Love her!