Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Some Soccer Talk

So here's the set-up. 4 weeks ago we (Aidan's team, which I coach) lost a game. That meant that with 3 weeks to go in Provincials qualifying, we were 9 points out of the 2nd (and last) spot for the city. The team of us only had 2 games in Provincials qualifying in that stretch, since they played an out of town team one night. We had 3 games. The first week we were monsters, and won 7-0. The second game should have been an easy lock: Only 8 boys for them (indoor season is half field, 8 a side) and 3 were call-ups from a younger age group. And yet they held us to a 1-1 draw for almost the whole game. And what can you say, except that it was final exams week, and the hearts and minds of 15-year-old boys can be fickle things. But with about 1 minute left we got a corner kick, and I threw everyone up; only a win would keep us in striking distance, as it counts for 3 points, and a draw only for 1. Sure enough, Josh dropped in an amazingly sweet corner, and Arsh, my leading scorer, got his head on the ball and it dropped into the corner, and after that we hung on for a very nervous few seconds.

Cue tonight's game. As can only be presented in cheesy Disney movies, we were now three points behind SUSC, and they were the team we were playing. We'd beaten them in the preseason, in a game that didn't count towards anything. But during the season, we'd taken a 3-0 lead into the half and had badly fallen apart, losing 4-3. All this meant that if we beat them tonight, we would be tied on points, and also tied head to head, with each team having won one and lost one. Which meant that it would have to go (at least) to the next level of tie breaker, which was total goals against in direct play with the other team. Which meant that we had to beat them by at least 2.

The night was filled with unlikely heroes and some of the nicest work I've seen these boys do. Another excellent corner by Josh and a run by Arsh resulted in a header for 1-0. Then later, a hard cross somehow found Nimish (not exactly my best player, but a hard worker) and he drove in a smoking hot volley from just inches out.

In the second half, another great corner from Josh found Collin's head, and he smashed it just inside the post and then slammed his body off that post and then another that was further off the field. A little later Collin again, this time being sprung free by a sublime pass across the middle, and he smoked it into the opposite corner.

Did I mention Collin is awaiting knee surgery, and I have to use him sparingly?

Then, closer to the end, Arsh somehow kept a ball in that everyone was sure was going out over the goal line, took one step out, and found Nimish (again!) standing all alone in front of the net. A great solid pass along the ground and it was in, 5-0.

Now, of course, is when the boys let their collecting boot off the gas pedal. SUSC scored a nice goal, somehow splitting our defense and catching the keeper wrong-footed. And then, a little later, Aidan and Arsh had for some reason traded positions, and a cross hit one of our boys and went in for an own goal. I think Arsh may have been trying to set Aidan up for a goal (Aidan is my central defender), and indeed he did break loose but couldn't get a good enough shot away, and the keeper parried it. There keeper actually saved their bacon many times. In the end, the score probably could have been 8 or 9-2.

But 5-2 is how it ended. I was spitting nails as I walked off the pitch, because my math skills had failed me. But one of my assistant coaches told me I was talking with my head up my butt, and indeed, our math shows that we lead the second tie-breaker 8-6. So now I await word from the league, confirmation that we did indeed make it.

But in the meantime, colour me relieved. The boys have sucked it up very nicely, which, considering the remarkable talent on this team, is pretty much expected. I'm proud to be their coach, and pleased with their hard work, especially tonight.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 22, 2012

New Book Sale

I'm very pleased to announce that Patrick Swenson of Fairwood Press will be publishing my next short story collection, to be titled Over the Darkened Landscape. This will be my fourth book and my second collection (after the late, lamented Wasps at the Speed of Sound). Official publication date is set for November of this year, but the book will be out in late October, I am told, in time for World Fantasy in Toronto.

The reprints in this book will again, like the previous book, span a wide range of my career. My second-ever sale (and Aurora nominee) "Body Solar" will be in this book, as will my last piece of short fiction, "Ancients of the Earth" from Tesseracts 12. I won't give the rest of the titles yet; once the order is settled, though, I'll toss it up here for all to see.

Also unlike Wasps, there will not be any sort of theme. Wasps was a book of eco-SF (sometimes if you looked at the stories from just the right angle). Over the Darkened Landscape will be a mix of fantasy and science fiction, and will also include my four published "Magic Canada" stories, stories that take events in Canada's history and then give them a little bit of a fantastical spin.

There will be more updates as time goes on. We have already lined up a great author to write the introduction, but until that's in I'll hold off on saying anything. And Patrick and I have already been knocking around some cover ideas (remember, I used to be the Art Director for On Spec), and I think we'll have something very soon.

I'm excited about this. Patrick does excellent books, and has published many friends of mine. As with ChiZine, I'm going to be keeping good company and will be handled by a publisher who cares about his writers.

Labels: , , , , ,

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

My Letter to the School Board

My son attends the AcTal program at Greystone (grade 7), and they are off on a curling field trip next week. We have been informed that the kids are going to be required to wear helmets for this, and that this requirement is a school board policy.

My wife and I are at a loss on this. Our son is going to be 13 in a month, and, while he has only curled once before, he has managed to play outside in the schoolyard all winter long without once falling and hitting his head (I note that this is not meant to be taken facetiously: walking on school fields before the recent snow has been monumentally treacherous this winter, due to all the ice). We also note that one of his classmates is an experienced curler and will also be required to wear a helmet.

We are raising a generation of (to use the phrase so recently picked up by a new TV program) Bubble Wrap Kids. I see nothing wrong with setting the rules and doing so firmly, letting the kids know that with the first sign of roughhousing, on the ice or even off, and they get to sit out the remainder of the field trip. But, unless there has been a rash of severe injuries involving this sport, a number that shows some sort of statistical significance, then we don't see how this makes any sense. And here let me add that a study by Monash University finds that most curling injuries involve shoulder, knee, and back pain, which comes as no surprise.

It is right and proper that we should teach our children to be safe, and I believe that the responsibility for this task falls on the shoulders of all caregivers: parents, teachers, other family members, and beyond. But we also need to teach our children that we trust them, especially when they are already under direct supervision. As they get older, children take bigger steps, remove themselves more from our obsessive need to control every little thing they do, and that's a good thing. By insisting they wear helmets for a slow-moving sport, we are showing these children that we do not trust them, nor do we trust the previous lessons involving their safety that were made by their caregivers.

If this sort of decision is made to ensure that the school board and all schools and teachers are not liable for any accident, then by all means send a release form, and we will gladly sign it. If not, then as parents we obviously will have to make our own decision about whether or not he takes part. And that strikes me as ironic, that parents might pull children out of events not because of safety concerns, but because so many of us are too afraid that some nebulous thing might happen.


Derryl Murphy

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Great Songs You May Never Have Heard (8)

I'm going to write about a voice that many of you will recognize, especially fans of Christmas music, although the type of Christmas music you would probably never hear in a church. In 1987, the Pogues had a bit of a hit song with "Fairytale of New York," in which lead singer Shane MacGowan traded both loving and hateful words with Kirsty MacColl. Remember these lines?

You scum bag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Merry Christmas your ass
I pray God it's our last

It interests me that Kirsty MacColl, blessed with such a great voice and so many friends in the business, was unable to make further inroads here in North America, and that what I consider her finest album was released almost as an afterthought by a record company that wasn't willing to sign her to a contract. There are plenty of great songs on Titanic Days; it's a very emotional album, sometimes peppy, sometimes introspective, always thoughtful.

The title track is what stands out the most for me, "Titanic Days," is an upbeat-sounding song with a deep dark secret. The words are as disturbing as anything in the Pogues song, this one though about a very different kind of relationship. It's disturbing, sexual in an off-kilter sort of way, apparently about a relationship gone sour. Which makes sense, since I read now that the album is "informed by her failing marriage with [Steve] Lillywhite."

As for the music itself, I find a sense of anticipation that grows on me as I listen to it. There's a steady but quiet beat that accompanies a a slow swell to the music, and MacColl's voice joins in early, taking us for a ride into a pretty kinky situation. I love listening to this song, but that enjoyment always turns to a knot of pain at the end, when I hear the sounds of the sea in the background.

You see, in 2000 Kirsty MacColl was on vacation with her children in Mexico, swimming and diving in the ocean (in a restricted diving area), when a speed boat owned by a wealthy Mexican entered the area, apparently moving very fast. As she and her boys came up from a dive she saw that the boat was heading right for them. She managed to push her son out of the way (he did receive some injuries), but the boat hit her and killed her instantly.

At the time, MacColl was in the process of reinventing herself, and introducing listeners to new music, especially from Cuba. She had worked on a radio series for BBC Radio 2 about Cuban music, and I know there were a lot of wonderful songs that went unwritten, and to hear her evolving take on Latin music would have been grand.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Two Tickets to Paradise

Back in 1979, rock radio in Edmonton was dominated by 630 CHED, an AM station that introduced me to the vast majority of the music I listened to from the moment I became aware there was such a thing as rock and roll, until they were eventually pushed aside by the advent of FM AOR stations, such as (at the time) K-97. In addition to the music, I was also a contest fan, and liked to phone and chat with the DJs in between songs, request music, pontificate on whatever was going on in the biz, and more. It got so I knew the DJs quite well, and they knew me; sometimes we'd be chatting on the phone and the DJ would say to me, "Derryl, are you a fan of X?" (X being defined as a certain movie, or star, or band.) I'd say yes, and he'd tell me that they were about to give away a prize (album, screening passes, tickets to a concert) and that I should hang on the line and I would be lucky caller number seven. I also became an expert in fast dialing, and in timing my dials so the phone would start ringing the second they cleared the boards. This was no small feat when you consider I was using a rotary dial phone. It used to drive my parents and my sister nuts, because I would chase them off the phone or keep them away from it, and sometimes even hung up on friends of theirs who were rude enough to dial in just as I was about to dial out. But it worked well for me, and over the few years I did this I literally won thousands of dollars worth of prizes.

My biggest payday from CHED came on my 16th birthday, though, and required neither fast dialing skills nor a personal connection with anyone working at the station. Eddie Money was coming to town, and CHED was giving away a big prize that included two tickets to the show, backstage passes to meet the man himself, and some cash (more on all that soon). To win required filling out an entry form at a stereo shop downtown (I think it was Krazy Kelly's, but would welcome someone correcting me if I'm wrong), and then you had to listen to the radio for the DJ to call your name. If he did, you had six minutes and thirty seconds (clever, huh? See what they did there?) to call in and tell them you heard your name on the radio. If you did that, then your name was into the hat for a second time, for the big prize.

I dutifully went downtown on the bus and stupidly filled out one form and put it in the box. When I got home, my friend Don Jessop told me that he'd snagged about 80 forms and filled them out, then went back and put them in one at a time. It surprises me that I'd never thought to that, but next chance I got I headed downtown again, but fear of persecution for breaking some untold law meant I could only work up the nerve to grab 14 forms, which I filled out and then hurriedly snuck into the box.

Then I went home and began religiously listening to the radio. Which I already always did, so it wasn't much of a sacrifice.

I can't remember what I was doing, but I remember my little clock radio sitting on the bookshelf in my room and Len Thuessen coming on and announcing my name. I ran downstairs and grabbed the phone and called and said, "Hi Len! Guess who?" like the idiot I was. Len quite rightly said, "I don't know. You tell me." Once we cleared that up, my name was in the hat.

Side note. Even with 80-odd entry forms, Don never heard his name. My luck in those days sometimes made me quite insufferable, and I'm sure this was one of those times.

Forward a couple of days, to April 19, the day before my 16th birthday. The phone rings and my mom answers, then gives it to me ("It's some man," she said in something of a stage whisper). I knew the voice of the DJ as soon as he said my name. Yes, I was the winner. Yes, after this part of the call was done (they were recording it to play on the air in about 20 minutes time), they would give me all the details on who and where to meet. I told him that tomorrow, the day of the concert, was to be my 16th birthday, which he thought was pretty cool. And through it all my mom was standing there, making as many disbelieving-you're-being-spoofed-by-someone noises as any mother possibly can. And so I finally, and in immediate retrospect, embarrassingly, handed to phone over to my mother so that they could convince her this wasn't some scam. And of course all of that ended up on the air. The only good part is my mom was embarrassed as well.

Next day at school, everybody had to decency to not hassle me about the call, but instead they all congratulated me on winning.  Surprising to me, considering my state of mind all through high school, I managed to work up the nerve to ask a girl if she wanted to be my date. Cindy Weir said yes, and so that night we headed off to the Jubilee Auditorium where we met two CHED DJs (not easy to miss, since they were both wearing shiny silver jackets). They sat with us for the concert, which meant that everyone there knew I was the winner. I got lots of thumbs-up and congrats from people.

Long John Baldry opened the show, with a grand total of three songs. Which was too bad, because I was actually a Baldry fan. I'm happy to say that years later, shortly before he died, I met him and told him that, which amused him.

And then Eddie Money came out on stage. At the time I would guess he was on tour for his second album, but of course his big hits were "Baby Hold On" and "Two Tickets to Paradise." He put on a fun show, a lot of energy and a pretty tight band, as I recall. But I believe I also recall that the DJs hustled Cindy and me out of our seats before the gig was over and off we went to the green room.

I stood there, nervous as hell, and then, show over, a very sweaty Eddie Money walked in, smoking (if memory serves) a big doobie. He was introduced to me, shook my hand and wished me a happy birthday, the said, "Hey! This man needs a beer! Somebody get him a beer!" Just like that, I had a beer. I sat on a couch and Cindy sat beside me and talked to me until I stopped shaking.

Some more formalities were taken care of, and then Eddie presented me with an Eddie Money money clip (which was cool, but sadly it has gone missing in the fog of years) which held five crisp $100 bills (which, surprisingly, also went missing. I wonder how?).

This was, I think, the coolest 16th birthday I could have possibly had. I am not much for classic rock, and usually listen to more current music, but "Two Tickets to Paradise" is still on my iPod and it doesn't get old, which is a sign of good quality, I would think. Every once in awhile, I've thought of that day, but I had completely forgotten that a photographer had been present. But yesterday on the phone my dad informed me he'd found a couple of pictures in an old box. He scanned them for me and sent them along, and brought back a whole flood of memories.

I can't recall all the people in this photo. There are hangers-on and probably a publicist, and the two DJs. I'm the goofy-looking kid in the middle, holding the wad of cash. On my left is Cindy, hands clasped and apparently guarding her purse with her life. And to my right, arm over my shoulder and still smoking (although at this point I'm pretty sure this is regular old tobacco) is Eddie Money.

He treated me well that night. I wish I'd been more on the ball and less freaked out by my situation. It would have been cool to have had more of real conversation with the man, instead of sounding like a star-struck lunkhead.

Labels: , , ,

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Great Songs You May Never Have Heard (7)

Since my friend Randy brought them up last week (on Facebook), I figure now is as good a time as ever to talk about Buffalo Tom, one of his (and my) favorite bands, and one that he introduced me to. They've put out quite a few very good albums, a couple of excellent ones, and, in my mind, one truly great album, Big Red Letter Day.

A three-piece band from Boston, they formed and released their first album a year ahead of Nirvana's first album, way out there on the opposite coast. It's a telling thing in a couple of ways: for whatever reason, grunge became the central talking point for pretty much anything related to rock and roll during this period (although obviously more so after the release of Nevermind in '91), and therefore the power pop-oriented sounds of bands like Buffalo Tom were kind of on the outs, at least with radio programmers.

Wrap your heads around this the next time you listen to the Foo Fighters. Dave Grohl may indeed have been in Nirvana, but I pick Buffalo Tom as his band's true progenitors.

I almost picked "Sodajerk" for this, a song that I do so love, and one that is more famous (fame being a relative thing here; the song is much loved by people who know it, but even though it's been used in TV shows, it's still relatively unknown.. And while the album as a whole deserves more attention and acclaim, in the end the song I have to throw in with is "Latest Monkey."

This song quite literally gives me the jitters. As soon as I hear those first chords my whole body starts to move. When the lead vocals break in, I'm jumping. And the remarkable backup vocals, a sort of low-fi response, help bring the song to a whole new level. "Lastest Monkey" is a song with energy to burn, and the self-knowledge that said energy is going to burn hard, burn fast, and burn very, very bright. Less than three minutes long (but a few seconds longer than what is apparently the perfect length for a pop song), this is a compact and exciting piece of music that deserves to be heard.

Oh, I forgot to mention that they are one of Jon Stewart's favorite bands, and were the last musical guests on the Daily Show.

Labels: , ,

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Another Review of Napier's Bones Sneaks In

I missed this one when it came out. Among other things he says the book is "kind of like Highlander except with numbers instead of swords" and "(m)inds may have been blown." Nice to still see good words popping up.

Labels: , , , ,

The Movies of 2011

I only managed to see 47 (No! 48!) movies in 2011, a drop from last year when I saw 53. There are several reasons for this: I think 2010 saw the overall quality of what was offered up to the movie-going public fall significantly (and I will clarify my thoughts on that in a moment); prices at the cinemas continue to climb; TV continues to impress with much of what it has to offer, and so a lot of my viewing time goes to programs I am invested in; the boys are involved in a lot more in their lives, and wish to see movies with friends, or not see the ones we would usually see together; and keeping with the boys, their lives are still so very busy, and often that involves me, coaching or cheering or watching or just chauffeuring.

Much has been made about the drop in movie attendance this past year, apparently the smallest paying audience in 16 years, and I think Roger Ebert really hits the nail on the head with his thoughts. I want to stress just how difficult it is to see many of these movies if you don't live in a major center. Saskatoon has a population a little shy of a quarter million; not huge, I know. Our movie theatre selection is therefore limited: Cineplex has a Galaxy Theatre downtown, with (I believe) 10 screens. Near our house they have another complex in a mall, with 6 or 7 screens, but they have no idea at that location how to properly run a projector or how to set the sound, so we steer clear. It's also dirt cheap compared to downtown, though, so plenty of people put up with being treated like crap to get the "big" screen and expensive popcorn experience, so what do I know? Across the mall from that one is the Rainbow, part of the smaller Magic Lantern chain. It shows second-run movies, the last chance to catch it in a theatre before it hits the rental market. They've recently invested in 3D for one of their screens, so some of the cheap movies also have a $3 surcharge. I do see lines there pretty regularly, but I don't think we saw one movie there this past year.

The other two options in town are both repertory cinemas, the Broadway (independent, a little scruffy around the edges) and the Roxy (also owned by Magic Lantern, gloriously redone on the inside to echo how going to the movies used to look and feel). We try and get to these theatres when we can, but as noted it's difficult. Also, even though Ebert in his article talks about the desire of the movie-going public to see intelligent, even challenging fair, I know for a fact that the Roxy has trouble attracting audiences to many great movies, and so they have to top things up by acting as a second-run house for films that have just finished at the Galaxy, only a few blocks away. It's frustrating for me, and I know it's frustrating for the management. And so they, like the Broadway, are turning more and more of their attention to live events which, coupled with the fact that the distributors appear to be dropping film in favor of all digital, may mean saying goodbye to the chance to see all sorts of excellent films on the big screen.

I have two specific examples about this monoculture mindset. When Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams came out, it was one of the few times I was excited about seeing a 3D film. And so of course it didn't come to the Galaxy, which has 3D (fun fact: doesn't matter how many emails you send to the distributor and the cinema owner, they will always blame each other for this unfortunate turn of events), but instead went to the Roxy, which doesn't. I quite foolishly held out, hoping that maybe it would at least go to at least the Rainbow, but that didn't happen. And so I will see it in 2D this year, in my own somewhat smaller home theatre. And then last night I talked with my parents. For New Year's Eve in Edmonton they decided to go out and see a movie (a rare occurrence for them), and went to see The Artist. At a major Cineplex cinema, no less. It's not here yet, and as far as I know will be at the Roxy, although they have yet to set a date on it. This is frustrating, as you might imagine.

I also wonder about how the cinemas approach their customers. When we went to see Fincher's English-language version of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, the audience was almost wholly made of people our age and older. Just the type of audience I suspect the theatres do not see nearly as often as they should. And so, to greet this well-moneyed but probably short of patience crowd, we were treated to the largest and longest collection of commercials I have ever see on the screen, followed by a series of highly inappropriate (for both the movie we were seeing and for the audience) trailers, including some jingoistic crap starring actual Navy SEALS as Navy SEALS (ask yourself this: is Canada suddenly keen on waving the US flag?) and the new Nic Cage Ghost Rider movie. Why bother going for a nice night out at the movies if this is how you're going to be greeted? And then, a few days later, we go to see the new Tintin movie and only get one measly commercial, followed by a series of trailers that includes The Hobbit and the new Studio Ghibli film, both of which had me and the boys (Jo, not so much, since she is less of a geek) shaking with anticipation.

There is another reason for seeing fewer movies this year, although the one is kind of a combo and could feasibly be divided into two reasons. The closest video store to our house, the only one even marginally within walking distance, closed down. Add to that, Netflix has finally come to Canada, and proudly boasts just about the worst selection one could hope for. If a movie is current, you can rest assured it will have been a major bomb, such as M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender. We may indeed invest the tiny amount of money required to stream older movies and outdated TV shows, but out of protest at being treated like the kid who gets all the hand-me-downs (and yes, I am aware that there is some strange vagary in Canada that apparently makes all this happen, although I couldn't tell you if that's just a crappy excuse) I have yet to fork over any money.

Anyhow, enough kvetching. Here's the list. As per other years, movies I saw in the theatre are denoted by an asterisk (*). I will also noted what year the movie is listed on IMDB, unless the movie was a true 2011 release. I think, though, that it shows just how tough a year it was to get to the movies by how much catching up I was doing, and by how few foreign-language films and documentaries I was able to see.

Iron Man 2 (2010) - To carry on with my inner-geek-getting-tired-of-this-shit theme from last year, I enjoyed the movie well enough, but then promptly forgot about it.

Agora (2009) - This is one I regret not having seen in the theatre. Not perfect, but a nice shot across the bow in the discussion about rational thought versus religion, and a great setting (the Library of Alexandria).

Pirate Radio (2009) - Originally known as The Boat That Rocked, this had a great cast and a can't-miss concept that, unfortunately, missed. Some fun moments don't make up for the disappointment I felt with this one.

Gran Torino (2008) - Nice to see Clint reaching out and trying to not always be so gruff. Oh, wait. Still, he played it against type by forcing us to think he was going with the grain when the movie came to a head, so that was good.

*The King’s Speech (2010) - Yes, I enjoyed it. Heartwarming, feel good, great acting, yadayada. And then it was over and I was ready to move on.

The Soloist (2009) - A little maudlin, a little too much over-the-top from both Downey and Foxx.

*127 Hours (2010) - I'd followed this story since it first happened and, as always, am intrigued by the choices Danny Boyle makes as a film maker, both in what he chooses to film and how he chooses to film it. Quite riveting.

The Social Network (2010) - An excellent film that suffers from the central character being such a cold fish that it's hard to find a central heart.

Alice in Wonderland (2010) - Hoo boy. We were airing out the house for weeks after this stinker.

The Cove (2009) - Astonishing and upsetting, this documentary about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan really should be seen by everybody.

Get Low (2009) - A nice, low key movie with Robert Duvall doing Robert Duvall as a crabby old hermit.

Monsters (2010) - Interestingly, one of three low budget monster movies I saw this year. Also interestingly, I think this was the weakest of the three. But I still enjoyed it.

Restrepo (2010) - A great doc about a year at a forward base in Afghanistan. Tim Hetherington, one of the directors and a great war photographer, was killed this past year in Libya.

The Town (2010) - I think Ben Affleck is really coming into it as a director. I do hope he continues to stretch, and by the looks of Argo, that may indeed be the case.

The White Ribbon (2009) - Quiet and disturbing as shit, this German film takes place just before WW1 and absolutely deserves to be watched.

Winter’s Bone (2010) - And hey, speaking of disturbing, this is the film that would have possibly upset True Grit to be my number one movie of the previous year, if only it had come to a theatre in town (again, barring a brief appearance at the rep cinema when I couldn't go). If you plan to see The Hunger Games this year, do make an effort to watch this one first.

*Paul - Yeah, I had fun, and I laughed. No, it's not a classic, and Pegg and Frost, as enjoyable as they are together, will probably not reach the heights of Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz again. But that's OK, I guess.

*Source Code - A smart SF thriller that held my attention. But, and I don't know if it's the movie or me getting older and therefore growing up, I don't feel the urge to own it. And that's odd for smart SF thrillers.

*Hanna - I really enjoyed this movie, as preposterous as it was. Lots of smart foreshadowing and little tricks with what the camera chose to show you, and an absolutely propulsive soundtrack to boot.

Salt (2010) - Another thriller, this one not quite so good, but OK for letting the mind for for awhile.

*Thor - And again, I went to the cinema, shut off my brain, had a good enough time, then went home and didn't worry my pretty little head about what I'd just seen. Some of which was pretty damned stupid, actually.

*Bridesmaids - Laugh? I thought I'd die. Funny and smart and of course extraordinarily disgusting. Kristin Wiig is my new hero.

*Super 8 - I know opinions varied on this, but it hit my sweet spot. A little loud and over the top a few times (train crash, and crash, and crash anyone?), it still brought me back to another time and dredged up all sorts of great filmic memories for me.

The American (2010) - George Clooney in the quietest spy thriller you could ever hope to see, directed by the guy who used to shoot U2's cover photos. I quite liked this.

The Adjustment Bureau - This was a pleasant surprise, although since we usually like Matt Damon in this house, maybe it shouldn't have been. Another smart and fun SF thriller.

Buried (2010) - This one was tough to pull off, and sometimes I thought maybe they had, but in the end it's hard to hold you when you're inside a coffin with the main character and his only interactions are over the phone.

*Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2 -  A grand finale to a series that has only gotten better with age.

*Cowboys & Aliens - This was a dog of the highest water. I really want my two hours back for this one.

Rango - Gore Verbinski and Johnny Depp may have crapped on us with most of the Pirates movies, but this was a surprising delight from beginning to end.

*The Tree of Life - Another one that was guaranteed to divide people (and, frankly, to not even interest many), this was a stunning and sometimes confusing film from Terrence Malick.

*Horrible Bosses - Another very funny and very rude comedy. Jennifer Aniston, how I love you.

Win Win - Paul Giamatti as a sad sack high school wrestling coach is very good, but the young man who plays the wrestler he takes in was outstanding, and the film left me feeling very warm and like I could walk on air.

*The Debt - A remake of an Israeli thriller I never did see. Good because of a good cast, but I just don't know if it was really needed.

Troll Hunter (2010) - A Norwegian film, the second-best monster movie of the year.

The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009) - Fun and silly and finally got to see it so I could get that itch out of my system.

*Drive - Wow and wow and wow. To that woman who was suing because the movie didn't have much, you know, driving in it, I hope you lose and are sentenced to a year of sitting and watching nothing but Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson movies with your eyes pried open.

*Life In A Day - This was that YouTube movie, produced by Ridley Scott. Quite good, actually, although the Roxy had only a slightly defective disk copy and therefore we had to put up with all sorts of fits and starts.

Cedar Rapids - Ed Helms is actually quite sweet in this, and it's fun and funny.

13 Assassins (2010) - A tremendous Japanese period piece with some major action and set pieces that didn't need buttloads of CGI to be effective.

*Attack the Block - My favorite monster movie of the year, this British film about an alien invasion coming in one of the poorer areas of London is a wild ride.

*Red State - In which Kevin Smith goes completely over the top. And honestly? When the heavenly trumpet sounded, I actually found myself hoping he really was going there.

Captain America - Well, I had more fun than I anticipated I would.

*The Guard - "I'm Irish. Racism is part of my culture." Brendan Gleeson plays it so very sly in this slightly askew take on the oddball cop/buddy movie. Well done.

*Hugo - I may have missed Herzog's film, but Scorsese shows how to do 3D right. No crap jumping out at you, rather you going in, discovering the literal depth of the movie. That, coupled with a neat story and a lovely tribute to films of old, made this one I was glad to see on the big screen.

*Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol - Yes, I enjoyed it. That said, it almost enrages me to see how many critics put this on their top ten lists for the year. Listen, people, this is not a movie, it is a collection of set action pieces designed to show how exciting Cruise can still be, tied together by only the most tenuous of plot threads, full of ridiculous excuses to take us to exotic locations around the world.

*The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo - The opening credits, as can often be with Fincher films (think Se7en) are alone worth the price of admission. I liked this one more than the Swedish version. Very good.

*The Adventures of Tintin - And here for me was the biggest surprise of the year. I have all the books, have owned them since I was a kid, and wasn't sure if I could expect anything good. But I am also firmly of the view that a movie and a book are two different things. And so I loved this movie, truly enjoyed the ride that Spielberg took me on.

LATE ADDITION KungFu Panda 2 - Forgot to mention we watched this with Brennan on New Year's Eve. Good fun, and then, like some many other movies of its ilk, it ended.

Now for my Top Ten. As usual, the usual caveat stands that I only list 2011 movies (aside from foreign films that might have been difficult to get here), and that my list of movies seen is woefully incomplete.

1. Drive
2. The Tree of Life
3. Win Win
4. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo
5. Hugo
6. Attack the Block
7. Bridesmaids
8. 13 Assassins
9. The Guard
10. Super 8

Hanna and Tintin both wrestled and came close to number 10. I ruled out The White Ribbon because it was 2009, but otherwise it would have been top 5.


This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe to Posts [Atom]