a few notes on the top 1000 films of all time
why i’m looking forward to the return of damages

what i watched last week

Funny People. Critics who liked this movie tended to describe it by what it wasn’t: it wasn’t just another stoopid comedy, it wasn’t just a comedy at all, it was funny but it wasn’t just funny, it had real people instead of the stereotypes we usually see in comedies. All of this is true. It also features some excellent performances, led by Adam Sandler, who, it is safe to say, is not my favorite comic actor. The film is admirable in all the right ways, and it’s disreputable when necessary as well. But it’s also 146 minutes long for no good reason, it’s funny but not funny enough, dramatic but not dramatic enough, a step forward for Judd Apatow but not quite progress. Which is to say, despite a good movie career that has made Apatow the exemplar of 21st-century comedy, he still hasn’t done anything as good as Freaks and Geeks. Docked a point for being way too fucking long. 6/10.

My Family. I am such a sucker for this movie, I am incapable of evaluating it fairly. I have watched it many times; I will watch it many more times. Its strengths are not really the things I like about movies in general … it’s hyper-emotional, wears its heart on its sleeve, has scene after scene meant to elicit tears from the audience. But I’m sucked in, for whatever reason. There is some terrific acting … Esai Morales is charismatic, iconic, and Jimmy Smits, well, he is never bad, and this is one of his finest roles. Is it true to the spirit of Mexican-Americans? I have no idea, but it feels true to the spirit of immigrant families in general, it makes me want to be a part of their family without idealizing their lives. And while the ending is perhaps too willing to accept a second-rate existence (“it is wrong to wish for too much in this life”), the lives we see are anything but second rate. 9/10.

Jailhouse Rock. Justly considered one of the King’s best movies, which doesn’t mean much … it doesn’t suck, the acting is OK, the story is interesting. Elvis is impossibly young and beautiful. The “Jailhouse Rock” production number is considered the pinnacle of Elvis’s movie career, and as a presentation of his moves, it more than serves its purpose (you can be sure Bruce Springsteen watched this one more than once). But a fundamental problem with the film is found in the very scene which gets such great praise. The record version of the song is a stripped down rocker with a brutal vocal by Elvis … despite being silly, it’s one of his best records because of his vocal performance and D.J. Fontana’s killer drumming. All of that survives in the movie’s big production number, but we also get crappy, unnecessary backup vocals. The message is clear: the people making the movie didn’t trust Elvis’s music enough to leave it alone. (Perhaps more forgivable is the continuity error during “(You’re So Square) Baby I Don’t Care,” where Scotty Moore's sunglasses appear during long shots and disappear during medium shots.) 7/10.

Caprica. I don’t know, is this a movie? The series finally kicked off this week with the feature-length pilot. We had watched it on DVD last summer, but watched it again to get ourselves up to speed. The DVD has a few things not in the SyFy version … nudity, don’t know what else. Anyway, it’s an intriguing setup for a series, it has a couple of my favorite actors (the aforementioned Esai Morales and the delicious Polly Walker), and I’m willing to give Ron Moore a lot of room … I look forward to the series. 7/10.

(500) Days of Summer. Many critics got it right: Annie Hall for a new generation. And I’ve got a crush on Zooey Deschanel, so I’m inclined to cut this romantic comedy some slack. Not that it needs my help … it’s as charming as it thinks it is. 8/10.

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