Not only was 2010 a record-breaking year for me on the big screen, but because I am an insane person, I also watched more movies via the wonders of Netflix than ever before -- a total of 120 movies, either on Blu-Ray/DVD or streaming video directly through my Blu-Ray player. I believe the previous record was 108 movies, set in 2008, so it wasn’t even close. As you might imagine, my Netflix queue is kind of on crack -- it contains a random mix of mainstream films that I missed/skipped in theatres, indies I’d never heard of, foreign films, classics, etc. -- and despite so much movie-watching, I can never seen to make a dent because I’m always adding new stuff. I do love me some Netflix... and here’s the crème de la crème of my 2010 rental experience....
(NOTE: The criteria for inclusion on this list are films that I’d either never seen before, or was revisiting for the first time in a long time. Old favorites or recent films that I decided to re-watch -- for example, KICK-ASS, which I saw in the theatre in 2010 and then rented a few months later -- do not count. Just FYI.)
10. BEST WORST MOVIE (2009) -- Gotta admit, I’ve never really fallen into the cult that worships at the altar of TROLL 2. I’ve seen the film and acknowledge that it is quite possibly the worst movie of all time, but personally, my guilty pleasure is the original TROLL. (Fun fact: my friends and I loved this movie so much that we once made big plans to film our own version, shot-for-shot. Sadly, this never moved beyond the casting stages -- I was going to be Harry Potter, Sr.!) However, this documentary that tells the story behind TROLL 2 is truly fascinating. The making of the film and its eventual leap to cult status is one thing, but I was particularly enthralled by the reflections of the cast about their place in film history. Some of these non-actors are, um, characters to say the least. Whether you’re a TROLL 2 disciple or not, this doc is highly entertaining, funny, bizarre, semi-disturbing and even poignant at times.
9. NEVER SLEEP AGAIN: THE ELM STREET LEGACY (2010) -- I’m a gigantic fan of the NIGHTMARE series, so I was excited to learn about this epic, four-hour documentary that examines, in extraordinary detail, each installment of the saga. I watched it one night till about 3:00 in the morning and it is seriously the most comprehensive documentary I’ve ever seen about anything. They go all-out with the behind-the-scenes stories and cast interviews, revealing and debunking of rumors & legends. Aside from interviewing such luminaries as Wes Craven, Robert Englund and Heather Langenkamp, they pulled almost every other obscure actor out of the woodwork, too (Lisa Wilcox, who played Alice in parts 4 & 5, is still hot!). An outstanding exploration of the greatest slasher film series of all time. Unlike BEST WORST MOVIE, this doc is really only relevant and enjoyable if you’re a Freddy fan -- but if that is the case, this is a must-see.
8. THE MAGDALENE SISTERS (2002) -- A unsettling film about several Irish girls in the 1960’s, considered “fallen” women in the eyes of their families, society and the Catholic Church, who are sent to a Magdalene Asylum where they are forced to basically live in slavery and endure unspeakable hardships, mental and physical suffering in order to be “cleansed” of their supposed sins. The abuse that these girls endure is unrelenting and hard to watch. Kind of crazy to think that this sort of thing was not only the norm back in the old days, but actually lasted through the ‘90s! This movie is a major indictment of the actions and hypocrisy of the Church -- which of course is just as relevant today as it was back then, not to mention the past couple of millennia.
7. GOMORRAH (2008) -- This exposé on the Camorra crime syndicate in Naples is not officially a documentary, but let’s put it this way: The author who wrote the book upon which the film is based has been living under intense police protection for the past few years because the mob wants him dead. Yikes. The film gets off to an explosive start as a bunch of gangsters are executed in a tanning salon, and doesn’t let up for a moment -- completely gripping even as it gets more introspective, with five intersecting storylines dealing with various individuals whose lives are affected by the Camorra in different ways. This is an unflinching look at the brutal reality of Italian organized crime -- a brilliant film, to be sure -- though personally, I’ll take the glamorized mafia as depicted in THE GODFATHER any day of the week.
6. THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO (2009) -- I’m usually a little behind when it comes to popular book series. I didn’t start reading HARRY POTTER until shortly before the first movie came out. Same with CHRONICLES OF NARNIA and THE GOLDEN COMPASS. Hell, I’d never even read LORD OF THE RINGS until the movies were announced! And I sure as hell had never heard of the MILLENNIUM trilogy until the Swedish film adaptations came to the U.S. I missed this one in theatres but caught it on Blu-Ray and I liked it a lot. The story is gripping, characters intriguing, and I was actually taken aback by the violence, sex, brutality and general fucked-uppedness. I was expecting another young adult-type thing, and this clearly is not that. Good stuff. Unfortunately, the trilogy gets less interesting as it goes along -- but this first installment is top-notch. Very curious to see what David Fincher does with the material in the upcoming Americanized version.
5. SHAMPOO (1975) -- At some point last year, I think after seeing NINE, which starred a crappier-than-usual Kate Hudson, I decided to watch a bunch of of Goldie Hawn movies to remind myself of how much better she is than her crappy daughter. This one, starring Warren Beatty as a womanizing hairdresser, was by far my favorite. Kind of shocked I’d never seen this movie before, because it is outstanding -- equal parts raunchy sex comedy and cautionary tale about the consequences of Free Love as the ‘60s begat the ‘70s. Beatty is at the height of his powers (pop quiz for all you ladies out there: who would you rather bone -- Beatty in the ‘70s or Clooney in the ‘10s?), Goldie is as vivacious and adorable as ever, and oh yeah, how about super-young Carrie Fisher in her movie debut?
4. ALFIE (1966) -- Hey, another one about a ‘60s womanizer, this time starring Michael Caine in what is arguably his defining role. I re-watched this movie as part of a big Michael Caine Netflix kick, which I began after seeing the recent HARRY BROWN, a solid film in which Caine returned to his ass-kicking roots. Of course, it could be argued (and I would agree) that Caine has never stopped kicking ass and breathes life into every movie he is in, good or bad -- but that’s a discussion for another time. In this classic, Caine is at his best as the promiscuous cad who, after a series of life-altering events, begins to reassess himself in order to answer the age-old question, “What’s it all about?” Smart, funny and poignant, with a look & sound that just breathes London in the swinging ‘60s.
3. THE WHITE RIBBON (2009) -- Winner of the Palm D’Or at Cannes and an Oscar nominee for Best Foreign Film, this is an ominous, disturbing masterpiece that delves into the darkness of humanity as a means of foreshadowing an even greater darkness still to come. Set in a small German village shortly before World War I, the story traces a series of brutal, unexplained events that send the community into a downward spiral of suspicion and fear. Featuring some incredible cinematography in stark black-and-white (really wish I had caught this one on the big screen -- it was on my radar for months but I never got around to it), this is the kind of affecting, thought-provoking film that grips you as you watch it and then doesn’t let go.
2. THE CONVERSATION (1974) -- Francis Ford Coppola’s classic starring Gene Hackman as Harry Caul, an audio surveillance expert who is socially-awkward, paranoid and wracked with guilt over a past job that led to several deaths. While attempting to decipher a conversation between a man and a woman, he begins to suspect that the subjects may be in grave danger and a new moral quandary kicks in as he tries to uncover the truth. A riveting film, featuring some outstanding performances (Hackman, John Cazale, Teri Garr, even Harrison Ford in one of his earliest roles) and tremendous use of sound to illustrate its themes of perception vs. reality. The 1970s are often thought to be the pinnacle of American filmmaking, and this is certainly among the best. (Side note: Has any filmmaker ever had a better year than Coppola in 1974 with THE CONVERSATION and THE GODFATHER PART 2? I mean, damn.)
1. RED RIDING TRILOGY (2009) -- Watch all three parts of this trilogy in one six-hour sitting and you have yourself one of the best, darkest, most complex and enthralling movie-watching experiences of the year. Originally aired on British TV and based both on actual events and a fictionalized book series, it traces the search for the infamous Yorkshire Ripper over a number of years, from several different angles, using various intersecting storylines and characters. Part noir, part crime thriller, part introspective study of human nature, the trilogy features stellar filmmaking from three directors, all of whom use different techniques and perspectives; outstanding performances from such actors as Andrew Garfield, Rebecca Hall, Sean Bean and Paddy Considine; plenty of dark and brutal visuals and unsettling events. It’s a dense work that requires lots of attention to detail, but it’s well worth the effort. My biggest movie regret of 2010 was missing this when they showed the complete trilogy at the IFC Center for like $20 -- but that is why God created the glory that is Netflix!
Other Noteworthy Titles (in no particular order):
Barry Munday. Me and Orson Welles. Battle Royale. Cannibal Holocaust. Two of Us. The Brothers Bloom. The Cove. The Slammin' Salmon. Pirate Radio. After.Life. Tyson. Diner. Trucker. Deathtrap. Get Carter. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. The Italian Job. Dead Ringers. I Spit On Your Grave. Audition. Dead Snow. In the Loop. Cactus Flower. The Secret in Their Eyes. Escape From New York. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans.
And now... The Top 10 WORST Netflix Rentals of 2010:
5. THE EXPLODING GIRL (2009) -- This kind of pretentious Brooklyn hipster bullshit is bad enough in real life; it’s even worse in this movie about a girl with epilepsy who must deal with her feelings and whatnot. Zoe Kazan has been touted as one of the better young actresses around, but she’s going to need to do better than this.
4. TWILIGHT: NEW MOON (2009) -- You may have noticed in a previous blog post that the most recent TWILIGHT film (which I saw on the big screen at an advance screening) did NOT make my Bottom 10 of 2010. It was bad, but surprisingly did not suck quite as much as the previous installments -- the second of which I watched on Blu-Ray earlier in the year. The worst of the series so far.
3. HITLER MEETS CHRIST (2007) -- Based on title alone, you’d think this could be a tremendous satire/philosophical mash-up... but it fails miserably. A rambling, ultimately laughable mess of a film (written by and starring Michael Moriarty, which is odd in itself) -- an unfortunate waste of a potentially intriguing concept.
2. HALLOWEEN II (2009) -- I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Rob Zombie’s HALLOWEEN remakes. The first one was a wildly unnecessary travesty of epic proportion, and this sequel takes that and basically takes a gigantic, wet, steaming shit upon the whole franchise. Ridiculous.
1. TIPTOES (2003) -- Matthew McConaughey as a regular-sized person from a family of dwarfs. Kate Beckinsale as his pregnant, freaked out girlfriend. Gary Oldman digitally transformed into a dwarf!? Lots of other dwarfs, including Peter Dinklage (natch) as a French Marxist. Material that tries to be PC but ends up making fun of dwarfs half the time. Unintentional hilarity & ridiculousness. This movie is astonishingly bad -- I cannot believe this movie actually got made and, unfortunately, I cannot un-see it.
By the way, it’s also worth noting that aside from seeing 141 movies in theatres and 120 via Netflix, I also watched another 92 via miscellaneous means -- random stuff on TV, stuff from my personal movie library, etc. That’s a grand total of 353 complete movies watched in 2010. I’ll give you a moment to allow that number to sink in...... Clearly, my goal for 2011 should be to watch an average of one per day. Can it be done? Time will tell... but be sure to keep track of my progress (and the most-recent movies I’ve seen) with the little widget over there in the sidebar. Exciting!