Things that Happened in 2010: TV and Movie Edition

I think at some point somewhere on this blog, I mentioned that I have a Memento-like condition that makes it difficult to remember details of what I’ve said and done.

This is both amusing and disturbing, because (1) I’ll be that grandpa who keeps retelling the same stories over and over and over again, and (2) if I ever tried to become a secret vigilante superhero, I would have a really hard time keeping my stories straight. In any case, it helps my memory to recap the various things that blipped on my radar this year.

Here are a few TV and movie-related ones, in no particular order. (The life-related musings are forthcoming…)

TV

In case it’s not obvious, I love TV. Like, I looooooooooooooooove it. Like, if it were legal, I’d convince TJ to let me marry my 52” flat screen TV (which, incidentally, he gifted me). But TV this year featured some awesome doozies that elated me, frustrated me, showed me something new, and made me laugh out loud like a crazy person.

I’ve already sung the praises of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which is easily my favorite new show of the year. The fun, obviously, is that the show isn’t really about zombies but instead about people trying to adjust to life now that zombies roam the streets. This “I-can’t-believe-this-is-on-TV” series is so compelling and diabolically addicting that it didn’t matter that I fundamentally hate zombies and post-apocalyptic shows. I was wowed by the series pilot and have had my mind blown week after week of this season’s six-episode run. Can’t wait to see what happens when the show returns next year.

I’ve also already expressed my frustrations with the second season of Glee, the only show this year to elicit highly visceral reactions—both positive and negative—in me. My hope is that the second half of the season gets focused a little more and brings us back to the core values of the series. I hope Ryan Murphy et al quit with the “tribute” episodes that were fun, yes, but that did nothing to improve the show’s already problematic consistency. (I swear, if there’s a Barry Manilow episode in the works…)

A few honorable mentions: This season’s Dexter, which took a little bit of time to build but which eventually delivered in a big way, exploring a side of our favorite serial killer that we hadn’t seen before and raising the stakes/hopes that perhaps Deb will find out about Dexter at some point and actually accept him.

Ditto HBO’s True Blood, which finally admitted that Sookie was a fairy (I know, right? WTF?) and introduced us to a very sexy werewolf who apparently manscapes when he’s in human form.

Also, kudos to old standbys Modern Family and 30 Rock, which every week provide giggles, quality one-liners, and visual ticklery.

Final kudos to Family Guy, which kicked off this redefining season with a Clue-inspired whodunit that killed off several regular characters. It takes ginormous balls to do something to cartoon canon like kill off a major character (e.g., Maude Flanders), let alone several. Glad to see Seth MacFarlane still has his.

Movies

Similarly, I love movies. Really, it’s like watching something on a giant TV. And we all know how I feel about television. I saw a whole bunch of films this year, most of which were actually quite good.

A few highlights:

Toy Story 3. Like the rest of America, I bawled several times during this sweet aria to childhood. Indeed, what would life be like if we dropped our bitter cynicism and instead approached our daily adult lives with optimism and wonder?

The Kids Are All Right. With an outstanding cast that includes Annette Bening, Julianne Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and that girl from the Johnny Depp Alice in Wonderland remake, this engrossing movie doesn’t feature explosions or wizardry or superheroes trying to thwart an evil arch villain. What it does feature is a fascinating peek at a family quietly but devastatingly shaken by the introduction of a proverbial third wheel—the children’s biological father. The chemistry between the cast is so palpably real that the human drama that results is often poignant, funny, and sad all at the same time. This film gets my vote for one of the best films of the year.

Black Swan. I’m a Darren Aronofsky fan. I’ve been one ever since I saw Pi in 1998, so it helps that I already know that this risk-taking filmmaker is anything but boring. And boy, was I sooooooooooooo not bored, especially watching a movie about ballet. Of course, TJ—who used to work for Miami City Ballet—gave me the full primer on Swan Lake, the authenticity of the scenes, including the backstage politicking, and the tortures that dancers go through, so I felt somewhat prepared for the subject matter of the movie. What I wasn’t prepared for was to see Natalie Portman (who generally registers as cardboard for me, with the exception of her performance in Closer) really dig into this role and to see her character’s psyche unwind with each pirouette. Her descent into madness is so fascinating, terrifying, and ultimately so sad that you want to feel bad for her but also egg her on to see how low she goes (I guess kind of like how I feel about Lindsay Lohan). Special extra kudos points go to Mila Kunis, who I’ve been a fan of since her turn as the voice of oft-abused Meg in Family Guy.

Tron. I’m a boy. I like video games and other manner of techno-geekery, but again, not in a post-apocalyptic way like the The Matrix or Terminator movies featured. This movie was just plain fun. And I also loved the retro-cool world that Tron—in IMAX 3-D no less!—transported me to. It was like traveling back to a sleeker version of the 80s, without the clunky Delorian and without the Miami Vice wardrobe. Time magazine’s movie critic, who enjoyed the movie but didn’t really consider it a knockout, called it “like visiting Satan’s spa.” To a 12-year old trapped in a 31-year old’s body, that’s a compliment of the highest order.

Scott Pilgrim vs. The World. See entry for Tron. One of the best boy movies ever made, this Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz) masterpiece captures the innocence (?) of young love and swathes it with nostalgic 80’s videogaming culture. The result is a highly entertaining movie that will leave you wanting more, especially if you’re an ironic hipster.

Inception. Not as groundbreaking as Chris Nolan’s other movies, but this one hooked me from the get-go. Good yarn to play with for a couple of hours, supported by a strong cast and an even stronger visual palette.

Conviction. Full disclosure: I’m not a fan of Hillary Swank. But man, she’s fantastic in this based-on-a-true-story movie about a high school dropout who puts herself through law school for almost two decades to try to free her brother (played with aching gravitas by Sam Rockwell), who was wrongfully accused of murder. This is a well-acted, well-written, and well-paced movie that didn’t get much attention in the theaters but is definitely worth a look.

Burlesque. My guilty pleasure of the year is this Christina Aguilera vehicle, which is unquestionably redeemed by Cher and Stanley Tucci’s superb performances. The two veterans are so old-hat at this acting thing that watching their on-screen chemistry is quite spectacular—like watching two Broadway divas take turns on the microphone to sing a Dreamgirls number. Compared with Aguilera’s forced giddiness, Cher and Tucci exude a relaxed and truthful aura that makes them instantly engrossing to watch. The soundtrack is also pretty good (even though each song is apparently required to have the word “burlesque” in it), and the film’s happy ending—while utterly predictable—is no less satisfying.

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