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best films of 2010

Listomania: 2010 in One Hundred Sentences, Pt 2

[You have selected: Alex Spencer] Disclaimers: these continue to be non-numerically ordered, except occasionally. Very much continued from Part One: 50. Cee Lo Green – F*BOING!!!* You (Single, August 19)…But not by this, which achieved the rare feat of gaining all the popularity it deserved.49. Lost – ‘The End’ (TV: Series 6, Episode 17)Far from perfect, but it was the culmination of six years waiting, and it delivered in at least a few ways.48. Taskmaster #1 (Comic, Marvel)A perfectly-structured comic with a sense of humour, about memory and the silliness of supervillians.47. Super Meat Boy (XBLA Game, Team Meat)Tender meat crashes against hard-as-nails levels, again and again and again.46. Robyn – Indestructible (Single, December 15)The best Robyn song of a year of great Robyn songs, paying off a mild acoustic version into full-on electropop heartbreak.45. Mystery Jets – Serotonin (Album, Rough Trade)Which has faded for me a little with time, but remains a fantastically well-sculpted piece of work.44. ‘The James Franco Project’ (Article, New York Magazine)As this list probably shows, 2010 was the year I discovered profiles of celebrities; also how fascinating James Franco is.43. House to Astonish (Podcast)Perhaps the most particular pleasure on this list: two blokes analysing and chatting about the world of comics.42. Christina Aguilera – Woohoo (Single, May 18)One of the excellent (and in this case ridiculous) tracks – of which there are a few – on Bionic, in case featuring Nicki Minaj and childlike euphenisms.41. Xiu Xiu – Dear God, I Hate Myself (from Dear God I Hate Myself)Proving that any emotion, pushed far enough into melodrama, can be unexpectedly catchy pop.40. N-Strike Night Finder EX-3 (Nerf Gun)There have already been a couple of late nights defined by these ridiculous, hilarious toys.39. Super Crate Box (PC Game, Downloadable)Apply large range of weapons to rapidly approaching enemies in a 2d platforming landscape; only held from Spelunky-esque greatness by its brevity.38. The Arcade Fire – The Suburbs (Music Video, dir. Spike Jonze)Arcade Fire continued work on winning me over on this album with… a Spike Jonze sci-fi-inflected suburban teens video? 37. Big Boi – Sir Luscious Left-Foot (Album, Def Jam)Continues to defy my every attempt to write about it: top-end, foot-stomping, inventive hip-hop.36. Kylie – All The Lovers (Single, 28 June)2010 was the year I got why people fancied Kyle: All The Lovers definitely helped.35. Invincible Iron Man: Stark Disassembled (Trade Paperback, Marvel)A story of which Stark spends 90% unconscious on the floor of a school’s basement has never been so thrilling.34. Crystal Castles with Robert Smith – Not in Love (Single, December 6)Putting a heartbeat in the frozen chest of the Crystal Castles machine.33. LCD Soundsystem – This is Happening (Album, DFA Records)The one album of this year (that I was able to get into) that still felt bigger than me, and probably always will.32. The Redletter ‘Attack of the Clones’ Review (Youtube Video)Not as good as the original Phantom Menace review, perhaps, but still observant and inventive enough to (almost) justify the films’ existence.31. Lady Gaga – Alejandro (Single, May 18)Gaga drawing from a slightly different, more Euro-centric set of influences and screaming my name in Spanish.30. @kanyewest (Twitter Account)I’ve had to break it off, now, but this was amazing fun – Kanye sharing his passion for rugs, and begging our forgiveness – while it lasted.29. Nicki Minaj – Your Love (Single, June 1)Ms. Minaj has been one of this year’s most interesting cases, and Your Love is the perfect debut single28. PunisherMAX: Kingpin (Trade Paperback, Marvel)Really, deeply horrible stuff, with the odd dirty laugh, in the fine tradition of the Punisher.29. Gameboys From Hell (Article, Rock Paper Shotgun)How I came to meet and love Solium Infernum, but also an unusually compelling game-diary in and of itself.28. Standard Fare – Fifteen (from The Noyelle Beat)The year’s best song about that paedophilic gray area known as 15-years-old.27. Belle & Sebastian – I Didn’t See it Coming (from Write About Love)Write About Love didn’t quite find my heart this year, but a lot of its songs did, and this climbed straight to the top of the pile.26. Come Dine With Me (TV, Channel 4) Which I watched everywhere, with everyone, inspiring a multitude of emotional responses, all year long. 25. Los Campesinos! – Romance is Boring (Album, Wichita)Didn’t go quite as far as I wanted into EMO, but is still a fantastic album.24. Mystery Jets – Flash a Hungry Smile (from Serotonin)Being a bit embarassingly frank and earnest about sexual urges, whilst whistling, is what Mystery Jets should always sound like.23. Hot Chip – One Life Stand (Music Video, dir. Peter Serafinowicz)Equal parts hilarious and horrifying.22. Blur (360 Game, Bizarre)Probably the most consistently underrated game of the year; that Bizarre are non-existent is tragic.21. Katy Perry – Firework (Single, October 26)Actually kind of standing in for the joint impact of this and Teenage Dream, which were slow burners in my affections but both worked perfectly.20. Perfect Dark (XBLA Game, 4J)It’s pretty surprising, given my lack of nostalgic attachment to the original, how well this stands up 10 years on.19. ‘Roger Ebert: The Essential Man’ (Article, New York Times)Which was a pretty heartwrenching way of learning the year’s gaming boogeyman was ill18. Belle & Sebastian, Birmingham Symphony Hall, 06/12/10B&S + Orchestra + Musical Storytelling as Support = Best Gig of the Year17. The Divine Comedy – At the Indie Disco (from Bang Goes The Knighthood)A great gimmick to build a song around, perfectly observed.16. The xx – Islands (Music Video, dir. Saam)A perfect, neat conceptual video of an endlessly looping, slowly changing three-second dance: this is my bag, baby.15. Robyn – Dancing on My Own (Acoustic, BBC Live Lounge)Should’ve been on the final Body Talk, to complete the cycle of acoustic/dancefloor versions of singles, and because it is best.14. Ellerbisms (Webcomic)Which ended with a classically Ellerbisms emo-sweetness earlier this year.13. Daisy Owl (Webcomic)Which ended, completely without warning earlier this year.12. Kermode & Mayo’s Film Reviews (Podcast)Which have owned the vast majority of walks I’ve taken this year, and […]

Listomania: 2010 in One Hundred Sentences, Pt 1

[You have selected: Alex Spencer] My latest experiment in making end-of-year lists a little more interesting, for everyone involved. One hundred short(ish) sentences on the years best … well, anything. I never can confine myself to one medium very successfully, a fact to which this website is testament. Arranged in little to no particular order, except when there’s a reason. 100. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Film, dir. Edgar Wright)Not Scott’s finest hour (or Wright’s) but merely not-screwing-up makes it one of the best films of the year.99. The Indelicates – Flesh (from Songs for Swinging Lovers)At least briefly my song of the year, for its absolute brutal beauty.98. The Arcade Fire – Sprawl II (from The Suburbs)Arcade Fire would have to work pretty hard to get me to fall for this new album: Sprawl II, being another best-of-year prospect, worked harder than that.97. Batman & Robin #13 (Comic, DC)One of the best issues of the greatest fun I’ve ever had with a superhero.96. Inception (Film, dir. Christopher Nolan)Lots of moving parts and head scratching: the year’s best-designed puzzle.95. Sleep is Death (PC Game, Jason Rohrer)I love it just for existing: a game of telling stories and endless lo-fi possibilities.94. Big Boi – Fo Yo Sorrows (from Sir Lucious Left Foot)The first teasing appetiser which got me all excited for Big Boi’s solo debut.93. Panique au Village (Film, dir. Stephane Aubier & Vincent Patar)You know how sometimes you see films on a whim of a lazy Sunday afternoon, and sometimes they’re insane genius?92. Rihanna – Rude Boy (Single, February 22)Female all-powerful sexpop: mm, my favourite!91. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii Game, Nintendo)Like a blackhole, it sucks you in, time is compressed: on the other side lies a new world of twisty beauty.90. The Social Network (Film, dir. David Fincher)Which I still haven’t seen twice, otherwise it’d probably be my favourite of the year and I’d have written a 2,000 word post on why.89. Die Antwoord – Enter the Ninja (Single, August 9)If only for Danny Stoker spitting the “my life’s like a videogame” lines at every opportunity.88. Vampire Weekend – Giving Up The Gun (Music Video, dir. The Malloys)Pop-surrealism, tennis, RZA and a Jonas Brother… you wanna watch it now, don’t you?87. Night & Day (Short Film, Pixar)In which Pixar play to their masterfully efficient storytelling skills, and present, essentially, an update Chuck Berry cartoon.86. Phonogram: Singles Club #7 (Comic, Image)Because sometimes you just have to go howling into the night. 85. Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill (Single, July 26)In which Gorillaz strip away most of what makes them Gorillazy, and reveal a pure reverberating heart.84. Green T (Restaurant, Lichfield, UK)The all-you-can-eat philosophy applied to an actual fantastic menu of freshly-cooked Chinese food.83. Robyn – Indestructible (Music Video, dir. Ljunggren & Vitali)Gets sex more right than any video/film/etc I’ve ever seen.82. Example – Kickstarts (Single, June 14)Given the last thing I liked of Example’s was 2007’s Don’t Want To, I was totally blindsided by this shard of perfect pop music.81. Halo: Reach – Beta (360 Game, Bungie)I’ve still only played the Beta, but that month of four maps and three game-modes gave me more fun than most entire games.80. Sleigh Bells – Treats (Album, N.E.E.T./Mom & Pop)…Which, when pressured last night, I named my Favourite Album of the Year.79. Lost – ‘Dr Linus’ (TV, Series 6 Episode 7)The last time Lost was ever truly great.78. Kate Nash – Mansion Song (from My Best Friend is You)It’s been a great year for songs that make me feel uncomfortable about being male, and for good reason.77. Super Scribblenauts (DS Game, 5th Cell)The cause of a couple of entirely welcome sleepless nights of wondering ‘what if you tried…?’.76. Neil Young’s Greendale (Comic, Vertigo)Bundling together a load of stuff I have no interest in, swiftly solved by Cliff Chiang’s art.75. LCD Soundsystem – I Can Change (Single, June 26)Pathetic in the all the right, searingly honest ways.74. Robyn – U Should Know Better (from Body Talk Pt 2)The second best song this year to feature Snoop Dogg.73. Stacja De Luxe (Bar, Gdansk, Poland)If you don’t like the idea of drinking cocktails in a converted Polish petrol station, well, you’re dead to me.72. Four Lions (Film, Dir. Chris Morris)Thought very deeply about, and humanised the terrorist threat … and then blew it up.71. Astonishing Spider-Man & Wolverine #1 (Comic, Marvel)Probably the most fun you can have with 22 pages of drawings of guys in their pyjamas. 70. Scott Pilgrim vs The World (Soundtrack, Various)The best soundtrack in a year of great soundtracks…69. Inception (Score, Hans Zimmer)…and the best score.68. Los Campesinos! (Gig @ The Rainbow, Birmingham, 1 March)The only gig that’s ever left me excited enough to follow the band to Northampton the next day.67. The Expendables (Film, dir. Sylvester Stallone)Perhaps the greatest comedy film of the year.66. Solium Infernum (PC Game, Cryptic Comet)Boardgames aren’t cool; screwing your friends over is cool.65. ‘The Gastronomic Logic of No Puddings’ (Blog, Lunch & Dinner Made Me)Made a no-pudding tragedy into something clever and funny that only Dan could/would have written.64. Crystal Castles – Crystal Castles (Album, Polydor)Which got overshadowed by Treats, its younger sexier cousin, but was the Right Thing To Do Next for Crystal Castles.63. Lady Gaga & Beyonce – Telephone (Music Video, dir. Jonas Akerlund)Self-consciously Gaga’s ‘Thriller’: any possible self-inflation was undercut by the brilliance of the cigarette sunglasses.62. Big Boi feat. Vonnegutt – Follow Us (Single, July 20)Just another fine cut from Big Boi’s album that works even better standing alone.61. Atta Girl (Club, Island Bar, Birmingham) Girls-only music + Phonogram posters + free veggie cakes + hugging the DJ at the end = best clubnight ever.60. Lara Croft: Guardian of Light (XBLA Game, Crystal Dynamics) Tomb Raider used to encourage you to yell at Lara; this encourages you to give your co-op buddy a dead arm. 59. My Chemical Romance – Na Na Na [Na Na Na Na Na] (Single, 7 November)If you don’t pump your fist in the air at the beautiful […]

TIM’s Top Cinematic Experience of 2010

[You have selected: Tim Maytom] Art feeds the soul. Trite, I know, but true. With music that I connect with, this experience arrives in a rush of nigh-religious euphoria, a shivering electric high that shoots up my spine and makes me feel like I’m levitating. With films, I can tell I’ve had a truly meaningful experience because I leave the cinema with my head abuzz with ideas. Something in the film will spark of part of my brain, and I’ll rush home and start writing almost straight away. In 2010, for all the wonderful films I saw, only one triggered this kind of reaction. Inception was a mind-twisting masterpiece, Scott Pilgrim Vs The World was a multi-layered pop-culture brainsplosion and Toy Story 3 turned me into a blubbering heap of manly weeping before lifting me up again, but in 2010, my heart belonged to The Brothers Bloom. The Brothers Bloom wasn’t widely seen in the UK (or the US for that matter, where it was released over a year earlier) but it’s sort of a tough film to sell to a wide audience. It follows the exploits of Bloom (Adrien Brody) and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo), two con artist brothers, alongside their “fifth Beatle” and explosives expert Bang Bang (Rinko Kikuchi, once again playing mute), who are looking to steal the fortune of an eccentric heiress who has lived at home her whole life, played with effortless charm and enthusiasm by Rachel Weisz. Of course, things don’t go quite to plan, and there are double crosses and unexpected twists a-plenty. So far, so standard fare, right? However, the whole film takes place in a world not unlike that constructed by Wes Anderson in his films – a sort of timeless, hyper-real universe where characters cross the Atlantic by steamer, rather than jet, and children still wear their crisp white Sunday best to church. This sort of filmic universe created by director Rian Johnson (of the equally brilliant and underseen Brick) mirrors the tone of the film quite appropriately, because The Brothers Bloom is a film about films, or more accurately, a story about stories. From it’s opening flashback, with narration in verse, the film draws attention to the way we consume stories, and the way we use them to define our lives. Stephen, the older brother and brains of the operation, constructs his cons “like dead Russians write novels, with thematic arcs and embedded symbolism and shit” and the whole film plays with the ideas of life becoming fiction and vice versa. For all those critics who broke down Inception into a metaphor for filmmaking, The Brothers Bloom offers an examination that is both more overt and subtle. Rachel Weisz’s Penelope talks of deciding what sort of story she wants her life to be, while Bloom has grown tired of being a character in the tales his brother weaves. The idea of agency within someone else’s story is picked apart as characters struggle against their roles and try to find their own path, and when you take a step back and think about them as characters in a film, the whole thing takes on a metatextual flavour that wrinkles the brain quite effectively. Of course, the film isn’t just a clever examination of the human instinct to search for narrative. It’s also a fantastic caper film, the sort of good-natured romantic adventure that you rarely see nowadays. The timeless atmosphere reinforces the feel that it’s a throwback to an older Hollywood, as does the choice of actor. Brody and Weisz are both established character actors (Weisz has come close to breaking through, but even with The Mummy series, never really convinced as a straight-up blockbuster love interest) who you wouldn’t normally attach to such lightweight fare, but they bring a classic charm to the film, and both seem to be having great fun. Brody displays a hangdog charm and desperation throughout, convincing as someone who can only truly be himself when he’s playing a part, and as for Weisz…well, if there is another actress out there who can make the audience fall as quickly and completely in love with a character as Rachel Weisz, I’m not sure I want to know. She manages to balance Penelope’s naiveté with her fierce intelligence and array of skills (Penelope collects hobbies, from break dancing to karate to card tricks) while still selling the central love story between her and Bloom. Mark Ruffalo continues to be dangerously charismatic in everything he does, and Rinko Kikuchi shows some impressive comedy chops as Bang Bang, playing the deadpan snarker of the gang despite not saying more than 3 words in the whole film. So what secured The Brothers Bloom so firmly into my heart and soul? I can’t say for sure – it’s that unknowable alchemy of context, state-of-mind and art all at play, but I can say that I went in with high expectations and it still managed to surprise me with how much I enjoyed it. I’m a sucker for postmodern, metatextual shenanigans, for a well-executed caper and for the kind of stylised world that The Brothers Bloom weaves around you. The soundtrack was understated and unique, the plot was twist-filled without descending into incomprehensibility, and the tone manoeuvred from physical comedy to heart-breaking tragedy without ever succumbing to mood whiplash. More than anything, it is a work of charm, both in direction and performance. In the film, Stephen notes that “the perfect con is one where everyone involved gets just what they wanted”, in which case The Brothers Bloom has pulled the wool over my eyes completely. About the author: Tim Maytom is a man of style and taste, though –I suspect – not wealth. This is a great travesty as,being one of the English language’s finest and mostarticulate nerds, he deserves the world. Give himyour attention, if not your money, at trivia-lad.tumblr.com

2010: The Third Quarter – Filmz

Toy Story 3 It’s been a remarkably strong few months in the cinema. I started to suspect that as I emerged from Toy Story, for my money the strongest entry in the series and quite possibly a goodbye to Pixar as we know it. (I never exercised my theory in the below review, but looking at the schedule – Cars 2 next, then splintering off into a mix of unnecessary sequelitis, unpromising fantasy fiilms and even live-action – it seems like the beloved company is undergoing something of a sea change, and that we stood, in the brief moment between Up and this, at their high watermark. It feels like that beautiful ‘wave speech’ from Fear & Loathing.) “Because Pixar have discovered the magical formula, now. The film consistently pulls on a visceral emotional response. Sometimes that’s laughter, or warm nostalgia. Sometimes it’s pure, big, colourful spectacle. Often it’s trying to make you cry.” The review is the second part of a double-feature. Keeping the original confusion alive, it’s probably best to read the Inception half first. Inception Inception consumed the public consciousness for a good month or so. It’s settled down now, but I suspect, if picked at, those wounds will prove easy to reopen. I talked about it at length, because it’s Inception and that’s just what you do, here. “It’s a film about films, just in the sense that it’s such a shining example of a film that understands films. Inception’s basic premise, and the early reveals, are based around the most obvious narrative cliche in the world: …and it was all a dream. The twist becomes not oh it was all a dream but rather, already knowing that’s in the deck, will they play that card? And where?” I would have liked to see it twice, in this year of double-dip cinema (Scott Pilgrim and Toy Story so far, undoubtedly going to see The Social Network again). My opinions never got tested, and I missed the chance to wail along with that score. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World The film I had to see twice: “The hits that it lands are truly triumphant, though. The thing that struck me most second time was the music. It’s brilliant, and brilliantly used, and Edgar Wright’s description of the film as a musical with punches rings really true.” It didn’t occur to me either time, but Scott Pilgrim is a pop-song of a film. Catchy bits get stuck in your head. It doesn’t necessarily make 100% sense, but when it catches you, and you’re dancing frantically in the moment, it’s all you need. And like any pop song, it needs to be heard more than once. Otherwise how would you know when to dance? The Expendables See, here’s the problem with The Expendables: I wanted it to be one thing, though I knew it would never be that thing. Given its unique selling point is ‘we have all the action stars’, I hoped for a reflection on the genre and its heroes. Whenever the film lagged (and during a lot of the dialogue-heavy segments, or the exposition stuff, it really lagged), I couldn’t help but figure out how that film would work. Jason Statham the representative of the Modern Action Hero, against the ridiculous colossi of Stallone & Schwarzenegger? Each character an amalgam of the characters that actor had played? I wanted something simultaenously less serious and more intelligent. A post-modern wink of an action film. What I got instead, though, was occasional brilliance. A feeling augmented by the company and mindset I saw it in : we were the people laughing hardest in the cinema, perhaps the only people. The violence is ridiculous, and set up like a well-told, but silly joke. The opening scene drags on too long, trying to pile on tension and real-world allusions. And then, BAM, the first shot is fired and a man is ripped in half, his torso flying across the screen followed by flowing red ribbons. The four of us laughed uncontrollable squealing, ribcage-rattling laughs. Crap dialogue. Rubbish attempts at emotion. Ultra-violence. It was the best comedy I’ve seen this year. When the lights went up, a couple sat in front of us turned round and smiled what I think was a sincere smile. The film that could have been… this was our only shot at it. And that beautiful, strange film can never exist. But I did get to see a man take another man’s head off with a throwing knife. Shrek Forever After Provider of undoubtedly the biggest face-palm moment of my blogging year, when I accidentally linked to the review in my Summer Without Games article (the most popular post this humble website’s ever had) instead of the intended Mario Galaxy, presumably confusing the hell out of hundreds of readers. Sorry guys! “Being honest, I didn’t really want to like Shrek Forever After, or Shrek The Final Chapter, or whatever the hell it’s calling itself. I’d heard bad things; I automatically mistrust franchises that stretch beyond trilogies, and I oppose Dreamworks’ animated films on principle. In return, Shrek did its very best to make this easy for me.” That’s how the review in question starts. The rest is here. Panique au Village Or, if I’m being a little less precious, A Town Called Panic. Absolutely the purest cinema experience I’ve had all year. Decided arbitrarily to go and see it based on a convenient showing time and use of the words ‘parachuting cows’ in the synopsis. It didn’t fail to live up to that promise. Full of wonky DIY inventiveness, the film is the greatest fountain of ideas I’ve experienced since Mario Galaxy 2. It’s lovingly, obviously crafted in that Aardman way: you can almost see the hands moving the little plastic indians and animals around the screen. The film’s a PG but I couldn’t help but feel like a naughty child who’d snuck into a grown-up’s screening: not quite knowing what they were seeing, but loving every […]