The blog critic has heat blisters on his lips and tongue from getting too close to that projected light streaming high above his head. He's crawled over grease-soiled seatbacks to squeeze into that tiny little window, his mouth agape, struggling to consume the all powerful dust beam that shoots visual endorphins deep into his blood stream at fourteen bucks a pop. He lives and dies by the moving image, giving his flesh over to this fabricated God as though it were a government-controlled drug. This is his life. Yet, he has turned his back on his own purported purpose.
In the wake of Ebertgate, where the lauded (and now audibly muted) film critic Roger Ebert called our current crop of attention-seeking reviewers null and void, the sad sack masses decided to agree with him. He boldly stated they weren't critics. Because they hold no understanding of the medium. That is true: Our next generation of televised and print entertainment watchdogs have lost any true sense of film as art. What it is. How it works. What it truly does. And what it can be used for.
Instead of picking up a book on film theory, studying Pauline Kael, or even taking just a base course in literature and simply grammar, these hounds have instead decided to conform to their own harshest criticism. Our most well-know movie bloggers have now keenly stated that they are not film critics at all, in fact. They don't even have a word for what they are. They just watch movies. Because they love movies. And they want to tell us everything about them.
Except if and how they work.
Sure, they'll let us know if a certain film is bad or good. But don't call them a critic. Heck, don't even call them an essayist, because that profession demands a viewpoint as well. Their shrug is muted, because they are unable to construct a meted reason why something deserves praise or pander. Which makes them obsolete. Absolutely pointless. I can drive my jeep. I can tell that it isn't running right. But I am not a mechanic. I cannot get under the hood and tell you what is wrong with it or what needs to be fixed. If I did, I would lose my way and give you false information. I am not skilled in this profession. As such, though they are attempting to make a career out of it, our current crop of professional movie watchers are not skilled in their area of so-called expertise either. Simply put, they know jack shit about their own heated discussions. And they are now admitting it loud and clear.
When Roger Ebert declared that film criticism was dead, it wasn't meant to be a flat out statement of truth. Our Pope of Thumbs was delivering a war cry. A Warning. A shouted shot of hope that might wake up the dulling masses. Instead, our generation's loudest voices in the field of entertainment reporting rolled into the ditch like a couple of dumped, dead cows on the highway. They instantly gave up with nary a twitch. "Ebert's right. We don't know what we're doing. Or what we are talking about. We really aren't critics. Instead of doing anything about it, lets sit here and continue doing what we are doing. And say that he was correct in his assessment."
The vast majority surrendered without a fight. Instead, they took to their video Blogs crying the weak death kneels of a bloated abbreviationist. Because of that, we'll likely never have another Roger Ebert, or Pauline Kael, or Gene Siskel. Guys like Anthony Lane and Devin Faraci are slowly dieing dinosaurs. Even those guys have grown soft, accumulating a gooey, heartwarming center in the face of notoriety. Movie critic is now an ugly term. A four-letter word with some extra vowels thrown in for good measure. It's a term that has been rejected. It's the new 'blogger'.
Yet, these "movie pundits", as Faraci suggests they be called, expect us to tune in and listen closely, here at the end of the year, as they drop their highly coveted top ten lists. For the past few years, it was uncool. Uncouth. The blog enthusiasts moaned and groaned about having to write their year-end treatise. But that never stopped them from doing it anyway. This year? The flush has come full circle. We're seeing that it's a flavored practice once again. Ebert has embraced the concept with a straight ten list. No shooting over or under score. The sheep are following suit. And they want us to take notice. They want us to read, and be engaged by their similarly tinted thoughts on something they've already told us they know nothing about.
The top ten list matters once again!
The Nutcracker 3D is the worst of 2010 (but we still kind of like it)Yet, with the exception of Roger, they're all coming from people who are not film reviewers. Folks who are not critics. They've said so themselves. So why should I, why should you, why should any of us listen too, or take these lists seriously? Doesn't the list become invalid at that point? Null and void? Once you declare yourself neither a reviewer nor a critic, aren't you now just some nerd-herding gweeb who likes his fantasy shakes a little more than the rest of us? A creepy imposter imposing his misinformed, mutated thoughts on the general viewing public? They are telling us untrue facts that we'd never listen to, or consider in the real world. If we saw one of these bedraggled, blemished man-children waiting at the bus stop, we'd turn and walk the other way. We certainly wouldn't shake their hand and listen to what they had to say.
If the top ten list is going to make a comeback, it should speed from the lips of science and top dollar gross. It's basic math. And it allows everyone to join in on the fun with debate. I seriously doubt you care what my top ten choices for the year are. If you are a regular follower of this so-called column, you already know I have a whacked sense of taste that doesn't quite follow the norm. Penning a top ten list of my own would be self-serving and solely for my benefit alone. Also, consider this fact: Out of the 512 theatrical releases seen in 2010, I only saw 38 of those. Of those 38, I only saw 7 in the theater. That is a pretty shitty percentage if you ask me. While I do consider myself a film critic (I get paid to critique movies and I have studied the medium extensively in school and on my own), I have only consumed less than ¼ of the year's output. I am not to be trusted.
Instead, lets look to the critics first. Sure, they'll all have their own individual top ten lists. But when we look at their favorites graded on a bell curve, we have one single top ten list that is not at all surprising. In fact, it's quite expected, and pretty much resembles every other top ten list you're likely to read in the next few weeks. Here, we are looking at the accumulated reviews of all the top critics. Don't be alarmed if you've never heard of some of these:
#10: Winnebago Man
#10: Winnebago Man
- Boxing Gym. Two documentaries tied for tenth place. The first catches up with Jack Rebney, internet phenomenon and RV salesman, while the second looks at a neighborhood gym used by all walks of life with but one goal in common: Learning how to fight in the ring.
- The Tillman Story. Lebanon, Pa.. Three films tied for ninth place. The first two are documentaries, one about an aging comedian and the other about a fallen soldier. The third movie is a drama about an adman who travels to Lebanon, Pennsylvania to bury his father.
#8: 127 Hours
- Carlos. Two movies tied for eighth place. You all know that 127 Hours is the Danny Boyle directed true-life thriller that features James Franco cutting off his own arm. You may be less familiar with Carlos, a five hour biopic about Venezuelan revolutionary Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, who founded a worldwide terrorist organization and raided the 1975 OPEC meeting.
#7: The Town
- The Kids Are All Right. Winter's Bone. Another Year. Four movies tied for seventh place. First, there is the Ben Affleck directed bank heist thriller, followed by the lesbian romantic dramedy, then we have the Appalachian trail thriller that turned Jennifer Lawrence into a household name, and the last, and least known in the bunch, an improvisational drama from acclaimed director Mike Leigh.
- True Grit. Animal Kingdom. Mesrine: Killer Instinct (Part 1). Mesrine: Public Enemy #1 (Part 2). A Film Unfinished. Six films tied for fifth place. Here, you'll find two honest audience pleasers, along with a two-part French crime thriller, an Australian crime thriller, and a documentary about found footage shot by Nazi soldiers at a Jewish interment camp.
- Exit Through the Gift Shop. Inside Job. Mugabe and the White African. These four documentaries tied for 4th place, and you may not be familiar with any of them. The first is an Afghan War story about the most dangerous post in U.S. military history, the second looks at graffiti artist Banksy, the third exposes the shocking truth behind 2008's economic crisis, and the forth looks at racial discrimination in Zimbabwe.
#2: Toy Story 3
- Waste Land. GasLand. We have a three-way tie for first place, all of them documentaries that you probably have yet to see. The first centers on a man who loses himself in a miniature city made up of G.I. Joe dolls, the second follows a group of pickers living in the world's largest garbage dump, and the third looks at the natural gas drilling boom in the United States.
Next up we have general audiences' picks for their own top ten movies of the year. Which is determined solely by box office gross. You may not agree with the movies found here, and it shines in vast contrast to the critics' list above (only two films are shared by both, and they happen to be CGI animated family films). But hey, this is what you suckers paid to see. Whether you liked them or not (and not surprisingly, all but two are family oriented outings):
#10: The Karate Kid $176 million
#10: The Karate Kid $176 million
#9: How to Train Your Dragon $217 million
#8: Shrek Forever After $238 million
#7: Despicable Me $250 million
#6: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 1 $267 million
#5: Inception $292 million
#4: The Twilight Saga: Eclipse $300 million
#3: Iron Man 2 $312 million
#2: Alice in Wonderland $334 million
#1 - Toy Story 3 $415 million
Now lets move onto the funcore films that never make the cut. But will make it inside your player of choice more times than any of the other top ten picks ever will throughout the coming years. These are the overlooked gems, the truly great blasts of joy that are actually exciting to sit through. The repeat offenders. The cult oddities. The hilarious escapades that will be declared must-own movies in the very near future. I don't know about you, but I watch certain films to lose myself and have a good time. These are the so-called popcorn flicks, and here are the best of the bunch:
- It was a certified bomb, but more than one critic swears by this SNL knock-off starring Will Forte, Kristen Wiig, and Ryan Phillippe. It has appeared on numerous top ten lists, including that of Edgar Wright. It is absurdist humor sold through a true action flick from the 80s. More a send up of the genre than The Expendables, its definitely an acquired taste. Those who have acquired it simply can't get enough.
#9: Date Night
- Overlooked by genre lovers as a fey romantic toss-off, this action packed romp has hands-down the best car chase sequence in any film seen this year. And it's pretty funny to boot.
#8: The Crazies
- Timothy Olyphant. That's all you had to say! A minimalist blast of viscera and scares, this was the best remake of the year. Yes. Even better than Let Me In, which definitely rubbed some folks the wrong way, and borrowed far too heavily from its original source material.
- The return of the Frog Brothers! It actually captured the spirit of the original without pissing on its past achievements as a cult favorite. Fun from the word go, and one of the guiltiest pleasures of the year.
#6: The Other Guys
- It might just be the funniest movie of the year if you are counting laughs per second. The Unrated Edition that just landed on Blu-ray and DVD ups the ante, making it a must-see. Its Will Ferrell's best acting performance since the great Stranger Than Fiction, and his chemistry with Mark Wahlberg is made more appealing by the fact that Wahlberg always plays it straight no matter how outlandish things get. Forget an Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy sequel. Give us more originals like this please, Mr. Adam McKay.
- It was one of the biggest bombs of the summer, while at the same time being one of the most critically lauded achievements of the decade. A billion fanboys can't be wrong, can they? Guillermo del Toro called all those who didn't see it a "mother fucker". Are you going to argue with him? (personally, I think it rips off Berry Gordy's The Last Dragon a little too much. And if Jason Schwartzman can prove that he isn't just playing Eddie Arcadian, I'll eat my own hand without condiments...)
- The best Christmas movie made in the last decade. A true original that will be around for years to come. The funnest movie of the year.
- Frozen. The Expendables. Jackass 3D. Piranha 3D. Unstoppable. The Next Three Days.
Now we move onto the year's worst cinematic fare. It takes a lot of skill and effort to relay why truly exceptional cinema works. On the flipside, taking the piss out of a bad movie is easy. Everyone can do it. And we've had some exceptionally horrible films this year. But none were worse than Clash of the Titans. It wasn't just a bad movie. The film itself, viewed alone in 2D, is somewhat serviceable. But the 3D rendered it a pain-inducing headache to sit through. It was a $14 dollar train spike up the ass. Add into it the unruly, seat-kicking audiences and the downgrade in over the counter Multiplex snacks, and this wasn't a fun night at the movies...It was an exhibit that belongs in the Museum of Torture. It was the worst experience I ever had at a public theater. Before Clash of the Titans, which came out in March, I saw seven movies in the local Maitreyaplex. After Clash of the Titans, I saw only one. I've never had that happen before. Where a single film going experience is so horrendous, it makes me stop going all together. Instead, I went and bought a top of the line Epson projector. Which has proven to be a better value, and a hellavalot more fun. Here are the worst movie experiences of 2010 as decided by you, the audience:
- Brendan Fraser battles forest critters while developing a housing subdivision. Scored 8% fresh. Earned $17.6 million.
- The Spy Next Door. Jackie Chan baby-sits a couple of kids; hi-jinks ensue. Scored 13% fresh. Earned $24.3 million at the box office.
- Tooth Fairy. Dwayne Johnson becomes the mythical collector of children's teeth. Scored 17% fresh. Earned $60 million.
- Jigsaw returns for what is supposed to be the franchise's grand finale; lame. Scored 11% fresh. Earned $45.7 million. Little Fockers. Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro go head-to-head once again in this laugh free third outing. Scored 11% fresh. Earned $53.4 (and Counting).
- Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore. The age-old battle between domesticated animal species rages in this pointless sequel. Scored 12% fresh. Earned $43.5 million.
- Sex and the City 2. The girls take a vacation in the desert. Scored 16% fresh. Earned $95.3 million.
- M. Night Shyamalan directs this whacked out version of the popular animated series from Nickelodeon. Scored 6% fresh. Earned $131 million.
- Marmaduke. Owen Wilson brings the Great Dane from the popular comic strip to life. Scored 10% fresh. Earned $33.6 million.
- A Nightmare on Elm Street. Jackie Earle Haley becomes Freddy Krueger in this remake of the popular horror franchise. Scored 13% fresh. Earned $63 million.
- Yogi Bear. The animated pic-a-nic stealing bear and his diminutive sidekick Boo Boo come to life. Scored 13% fresh. Earned $39.4 million (and counting).
- Schlock-spoof impresarios Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer shit the bed once again, for the umpteenth time, with this harrowing take on Twilight and the vampire subgenre. Scored 4% fresh. Earned $36.6 million.
- Grown Ups. Adam Sandler and friends take a boring vacation. Scored 10% fresh. Earned $162 million.
- Killers. Ashton Kutcher and Katherine Heigl remake Mr. and Mrs. Smith. Scored 11% fresh. Earned $47 million.
- You Again. Kristen Bell stars in her second comedy of the year, fighting former school rival Odette Yustman in preparation for her brother's wedding. Scored 18% fresh. Earned $25.7 million.
- Cop Out. Kevin Smith directed Bruce Willis and Tracy Morgan in a humorless police caper. Scored 19% fresh. Earned $44 million.
- A young Hispanic woman marries a young African-American man, and a family crisis ensues. Scored 14% fresh. Earned $20 million.
- When in Rome. Kristen Bell finds romantic trouble after throwing coins in a wishing well. Scored 16% fresh. Earned $32.6 million.
- Valentine's Day. A star-studded cast searches for love on the most romantic holiday ever invented by Greeting Card companies. Scored 17% fresh. Earned $110 million.
- The Last Song. Miley Cyrus suffers through the pain of another Nicholas Sparks adaptation. Scored 19% fresh. Earned $62.9 million.
And that was 2010's cinematic output in a nutshell, no matter what those bloggers tell you. Hopefully we'll find some worthwhile endevors as the New Year approaches. It's hard to tell at this exact moment in time what will hit and what will miss. But surely there's at least one classic awaiting us in 2011. Keep your fingers crossed, and please do tell me about it when it happens. As I probably won't be there.
We'll see you soon. Eat Food! Kill grandma! Have a Whoop-doo! New Year.