Monday, December 22, 2014

Top 10 Christmas Songs

I love Christmas because it's a moment of brightness during the darkest time of the year. The message of peace in a tumultuous world is particularly resonant now. Plus I happen to love sad music. Naturally, my top Christmas songs are mostly dark, minor numbers with hopeful lyrics. I hope you enjoy.

10. God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen
The Barenaked Ladies and Sarah McLachlan were recorded singing this song impromptu, and mixed it with We Three Kings. Probably the cheeriest song on this list:

9. Carol of the Bells
You may remember this carol from Home Alone, or perhaps you've heard The Trans-Siberian Orchestra's fantastic instrumental version. I'm a big fan of this a capella rendition, which has a nontraditional beginning and then lets the innate epicness of the original take over:

8. River
I will admit Neal introduced me to this one only today, and it was the impetus for this post. Love her voice, love the longing, relate to Christmas in L.A.:

7. Song for a Winter's Night
Gordon Lightfoot crafted a beautiful winter song, and Sarah McLachlan covered it in dense harmonies and sad accompaniment. Simply gorgeous:

6. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Nobody sings this like Judy Garland. The sadness and the hope:

5. The Coventry Carol
This song from the 1500's is seriously about the mothers of all the other children massacred by Herod at Christmas time. It's haunting, and I've always loved it. Sufjan Stevens does a folksy, intoxicating, and even strange version, which, is that a theremin? Outer space. Love this:

4. O Come O Come Emanuel
Another very old song. This one was translated from Latin. This arrangement uses the piano and the violin and some sort of thundery sound to perfectly capture what it is about this song that I love:

3. Flight 180
The lyrics to this song make it one of my favorite songs no matter what time of year. Set on a flight returning to New York, and brilliantly musing on love and and its relevance in a world of darkness and distance:

2. What Child is This
The tune is Greensleeves, and the words were penned in 1865. Kristin Chenoweth really has one of my favorite voices:

1. O Holy Night
The consummate Christmas carol, sung by the world's best choir. I love the harmonies on this song, and it is my number one for the second verse: "Chains shall he break for the slave is our brother, and in his name all oppression shall cease." Check it out:

Monday, October 20, 2014

These are a Hundred of My Favorite Things

Almost ten years ago I posted a list on my blog. It's my favorite thing in a hundred different categories. I started by coming up with the categories, then came back and filled in my favorites. I thought it would be interesting to see how much my tastes have changed over time. Since 2005 I have moved back to California, studied theater, traveled in Europe, left the LDS church, and learned to be honest with myself and others. So here are the results (Answers that have changed have the old answer in parentheses).

1: Classical Composer: Grieg
2: Muppet: Crazy Harry
3: Game Show: Jeopardy
4: Vegetable: Peppers (Corn)
5: Candy Bar: Orange Kit-Kats (Tropical Almond Joy)
6: Sitcom: Arrested Development (Seinfeld)
7: Movie: Gattaca
8: Food: Enchiladas (Twinkies)
9: Superhero: Green Arrow (The Confessor)
10: Number: 22
11: Color: Brown (Orange)
12: Foreign Country: France (Madagascar)
13: Band: The Barenaked Ladies
14: Smurf: Snappy
15: Burger:Anything with pineapple (Double Double, ksgr only)
16: Magazine: (Entertainment Weekly)
17: Book: The Poisonwood Bible (Through the Looking Glass)

18: Asian: Yunjin Kim (Margaret Cho)
19: Crime: Vandalism (Kidnapping)
20: Season: Autumn
21: Elvis Song: In the Ghetto
22: Musical Instrument: String Bass
23: Insect: Mantis
24: Spice Girl: Baby (Posh)
25: Provo Location: Provo River Trail (Vermillion Skies)
26: Stephen King Novel: The Stand
27: Restaurant: Mama Chu's (Chevy's)
28: Place: The Redwoods (Wooden Roller Coaster)
29: Gem: Orange Topaz
30: Famous Lesbian: Ellen Degeneres (Melissa Etheridge)
31: Video Game: Banjo Kazooie
32: Comic Strip: Calvin and Hobbes
33: Letter: R (Q)
34: Bird: Peacock
35: Natural Disaster: Volcanic Eruption
36: Mouse: Sneezer
37: Disease: Kuru
38: Political Party: Green (Libertarian)
39: Painting: The Lament For Icarus (Sistine Chapel)
40: American Novel: The Poisonwood Bible (Snow Falling on Cedars)
41: Musical: Les Miserables
42: Tree: Redwood
43: Baseball Team: A's
44: Ice Cream Flavor: Strawberry Basil Sorbet (Swiss Orange Chip)
45: Landmark: Palace of Fine Arts (Golden Gate Bridge)
46: Merit Badge: Astronomy
47: Language: English
48: Dinosaur: Iguanodon
49: Disney Movie: Frozen (Hercules)
50: Spice: Cumin
51: TV Show: Louie (The X-Files)
52: Pet: Raccoon
53: Female Vocalist: Jewel
54: Continent: Europe (Africa)
55: Cereal: Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries
56: Fast Food: Chick-fil-A
57: Weather: Raining
58: Hair Care Product: Caffeinated Thickening Shampoo (Tea Tree Pomade)
59: President: Roosevelt (Lincoln)
60: Dr. Seuss Book: One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish
61: Word: Zeugma
62: Sexual Position: Nothing fancy (Haha Just Kidding)
63: Old Person: Max Von Sydow (President Hinckley)
64: Harry Potter Character: Lupin
65: Weapon: Crossbow
66: Thing to Eat: Ice Cream (Porkypines)
67: Classic Rock Band: Kansas
68: Animal: Fossa
69: Fruit: Pomegranate
70: SNL Alum: Gilda Radner
71: Root Beer: IBC
72: Curse Word: Assclown (Bitch)
73: Flower: Poppy
74: Sport: Water Polo
75: Greek God: Hermes
76: Board Game: Trivial Pursuit
77: Beatles Song: Eleanor Rigby (Nowhere Man)
78: Hymn: How Great Thou Art
79: Jelly Belly: Juicy Pear
80: Punctuation Mark: Elipsis
81: Bone: Hyoid
82: Car: (Bicycle) Volkswagen Bug
83: Soup: French Onion
84: Black Person: George Washington Carver
85: Cologne: Drifter (Very Sexy)
86: Comedic Movie: The Hudsucker Proxy (Dumb and Dumber)
87: Card Game: Spades
88: Job: Storyteller (EFY Counselor)
89: Category So Far: This One
90: Holiday: Thanksgiving (Easter)
91: Marsupial: Tree Kangaroo (Wallaby)
92: Organ: Tongue
93: Football Player: Joe Montana
94: Jam: Raspberry
95: Appliance: Toasteroven
96: Fish: African Lungfish
97: Meat: Chicken (Chipped Beef)
98: Soda: Cucumber Soda (Hansen's Cherry Vanilla)
99: Tool: Monkey Wrench
100: Actress: Emma Stone (Catherine Zeta Jones)

Friday, October 17, 2014

Gone Girl Reaction

Eric has challenged me to start blogging more, so done. First up, my response to David Fincher's latest thriller, "Gone Girl." This is the kind of review to read and discuss AFTER you’ve seen the movie. A movie like this hinges upon several spoiler-able twists, and I’m not holding anything back.

I went in to Gone Girl on the recommendation of my boyfriend, who’d read the book; Rotten Tomatoes’ score; and the trailer. I was unaware that the movie had spurred fervent online debate about whether it was pro- or anti-feminist. There are so many branches and waves of feminism at this point that any action can be heralded by one camp as pro-woman and decried by others as misogynistic. So I don’t claim to be able to reveal definitively whether this movie was good or bad for the cause of gender equality. But I would like to point out some evidence on each side of that argument, as well as point out things I thought the movie did well or poorly along the way. It’s a complicated film, and some of that is intentional.

The film opens with the idea of violence against a woman. We see Amy: beautiful, blonde, carefree, upper class, lying in some state of dishabille in a bed I probably can’t afford. And we hear Ben Affleck’s voice (is this his journal?) saying he’d like to crack open her skull to see what’s inside. With a statement like that, suspicion is placed on each of them immediately. Our hackles go up (or are meant to) in defense of this woman, but we also know that this statement is telling us she keeps secrets. Logged that away.

Then we get a scene with dialogue, and for the first time I am worried. As Ben Affleck talks to his sister, we realize this is going to be a cute movie. We’re not going for realism here, we’re going for clever and cute, with characters speaking quirky lines so rapidly they look like they don't know what’s going on. “What’s up, Jitters?” says the sister, because the writer does not trust her actor to be able to portray nervousness. Lots of cleverness with the board games “Mastermind” and “Life” (What, no “Clue?”). This might as well be called Gone Gilmore Girl at this point.

Then something about a missing wife, and then we flashback to our first real scenes with Amy, and there are bigger problems. Off the bat Amy is portrayed as distant and calculating. We believe that Ben Affleck is in love with this woman because he tells us he is, and because she is pretty and we accept the conventions of film. We see her essentially telling the audience that she was raised in the shadow of a fictionalized version of herself written by her mother in a series of children’s books. Why doesn’t this actress act like she cares about anything? Neal, who knew where this was headed, felt she did a good job of portraying the character as a sociopath. I don’t disagree, but I think a real sociopath would probably be better about pretending to have normal emotions, and this actress seemed to spend all of her energy on pretending she didn’t. You got it wrong, blonde generic actress. I’m calling you out on it.

And then we get our first of many discussions about Amy’s genitals, when Ben Affleck interrupts an interview with a bunch of book reviewers to make an official statement to the press about his girlfriend’s “world class vagina.” Naturally, Amy is flattered; everyone is charmed. She agrees to marry him, not bothered in the least that this is only happening because of her mother’s orchestrations through the children’s books.

Much to the movie’s credit, after those early scenes with Amy, I didn’t really think about the glibness of the writing, and besides Amy the characters got a lot more fleshed out and natural. The next section of the movie threw a few twists at us in an attempt to make us question the innocence of our protagonist. He has an affair; his wife reveals that he was violent toward her. Cool, so we’re spending a lot of time on this, which means to me that clearly he’s innocent. Occam’s razor should never apply in a thriller. And really there was never a moment when I thought that maybe Ben Affleck had killed his wife. I was pretty sure from the beginning that she was staging the whole thing, but even that seemed a little obvious. I also considered the idea that they had been in cahoots for the insurance money. When they discovered a lot of blood, I finally believed that maybe Amy was dead, but I never thought Affleck might be behind it.

And then Amy wasn’t dead. I thought the movie was over, and felt a little cheated by how easy it had been to see what was coming. But then I realized Neil Patrick Harris hadn’t been in this movie yet, and I was like WHUUUUT this is only half over. So from here on out I was very engaged in the intricate plotting of the movie. One of the most impressive feats it pulled off was the fact that with each new twist, all of the previous clues still worked. It was clockwork, and I loved it.

Here’s where we run into feminist problem #1. So we’re seeing Amy as Not a Victim. Wonderful. We have a lot of movies already if we want to watch privileged white women as victims of violence. Nice to see this movie portray a Strong Female Character instead, right? After all the movies where men take advantage of women, we’ve turned the tables! But I couldn’t quite rejoice. You see, Amy is not destructively strong in this movie. She is destructively weak. This isn’t a woman who has turned the tables by raping and murdering men. Instead she keeps the tables where they are by falsely accusing men of raping and murdering her. Throughout the destructive swath she cuts across the men in her lives, she exerts her power by maintaining her status as victim.

And we HATE her for it. I mean, we hated her already--don’t get me wrong. When Amy gets her head knocked against the wall and gets ripped off by a lower-class neighbor, we are elated. I’m afraid poor Amy had lost us long ago, if not by being icy cold from the start, then at least by the scene where she insists that losing almost a million dollars is just “background noise.” This is a woman whose problems range from “having to give back a lot of the trust” fund to “not really relating to the small-town neighbors.” I am annoyed that movie succeeded in making me briefly wish for a violent end for this woman.

Of course I have to compare Gone Girl to Alien at this point. Ridley Scott once explained that he made Alien in part to help men understand the terror of getting raped. They designed the alien to look like a big penis, had it penetrate the men, and then after a gestation period its offspring would come ripping its way out of the victim. It’s very effective, and plays off of an extant human fear of sexual violation and unwilling procreation. The most effective horror movies tap into fears we already have, which is how we get horror films about clowns and viruses and dogs and foreign travel and midgets. And when we look at the horror in Gone Girl, we see that this movie is fundamentally the opposite of Alien. It plays off of not the fear of sexual violation, but the fear of being accused of sexual violation. Any men’s rights activist could watch the scene where some deadbeat talks about how being falsely accused of rape has ruined his life and think, “Oh man, that could happen to me because women are psycho bitches.” The fear that feminism is secretly trying to destroy men is one that we should be fighting to expel from the social subconscious, not reinforce with movies.

Not that we have to see this movie and believe it. An educated audience can still enjoy the twists and turns of this film and then go home and learn for him or herself that only a very small minority of rape accusations prove to be false. We can understand that this movie’s twist is in making the ending the less likely outcome wherein the man was innocent and the woman falsely accused him. We can remember that in the real-life event that gave this story its inspiration, Scott Peterson really did murder his wife. OR we can take the less enlightened path and the next time we hear that someone has been raped or sexually harassed, we can assume that they had it coming or that they exaggerated the facts. That is a dangerous course to take, and thus my apprehensions about Gone Girl. The media are rife with examples of victim blaming. Ask anyone who’s had to report sexual misconduct of any kind: that kind of thinking is already prevalent and harmful.

As the movie enters its third act, Ben Affleck keeps being Ben Affleck (meaning we are aware of what a skeeze he is and we wonder how his charms seem to work on everyone else in this world. I mean, didn’t people see this, a year into his marriage with Jennifer Garner?). The supporting cast puts in a pretty universally great set of performances, including Tyler Perry and especially the 7 or 8 women with interesting characters to play, so we’ll give this movie some more feminist points for that. And Amy takes her game to new levels. In the most shockingly gore-nographic (did I just coin that? [Oh, I just googled it, and no.]) scene I’ve seen since Prometheus, she sex murders Neil Patrick Harris and once again makes it look like she was the victim. Which, can I just say that if Ben Affleck has been aware this whole time that she had a “stalker,” and that stalker even showed up at the search for her body, why did he tell the police to look into the homeless people in the area? And on that note why did he not just tell the police about his suspicion? Or about the trove in the woodshed? Or even move the stuff out of the woodshed? Why don't any of these characters' accents match? /endrant

Back to Amy’s vagina, which is where the movie wants us to go. Among her many crimes, she mutilates her world-class vagina with a wine bottle. We hear the lie that NPH had shaved her down there against her will. And in the climactic scene of the movie, in a final act of unwitting desperate synecdoche, Ben Affleck finally calls her a “fucking cunt” while slamming her head once again into the wall. So here we go again, in one move wrapping up the film’s twin running motifs of bashing out Amy’s brains and reducing her to her sex organs. And Strong Female Character Amy’s reaction? She agrees with him: “I’m the cunt you married.” Then they say “cunt” a bunch more, and yes, we get the point. Women are scary and play up their victim status. Men are hapless cheaters and oppressors, but in the act of accusation, women escalate the game beyond what is fair or deserved. All of this is marriage, and we will all find ourselves trapped in this mind game of violence and secrets and dissatisfaction.

On the other hand, briefly, this movie does subvert the age-old gender trappings in one important regard. In the final moments of the film, Ben Affleck ends up trapped in a marriage to an abusive partner because of his lack of prospects, lack of income, and his concern for the child they’re making (which, where did this baby come from? Is this Neil Patrick Harris’ baby?) But that’s pretty clever, as historically many women have found themselves stuck in that position. That’s a pretty good argument for this movie taking a feminist stance. Even the vagina fixation could be seen as an attempt to de-mystify female sexuality, to make the topic of the vagina less taboo. I support that.

So which column do we put this movie in? The author, Gillian Flynn, describes herself as feminist. That’s a good sign. Then again, my grandparents would describe themselves as not racist. Flynn also said about writing this novel and screenplay, "I've grown quite weary of the spunky heroines, brave rape victims, soul-searching fashionista that stock so many books." If the maker of the film herself is tired of brave rape victims, maybe this isn't someone we should be listening to. As long as sexual violence exists, we need to be actively fighting against it, championing the cause of its victims. It's not a time to lie down and declare ourselves tired of their cause and start producing whatever socially unconscionable art we deem interesting or twisty or money-making.

So did I enjoy this movie? I did. The score, the plot, most of the acting, the art direction really elevated this story. But I did not agree with this movie. If I trusted every audience member to make that same distinction, I could feel better about recommending Gone Girl.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Top Ten Sketches

An appreciation for sketch comedy is in my blood. My parents were SNL and Monty Python fans in their teenage years. We grew up on Hans and Frans, The Vancome lady, and the Dead Parrot Sketch. In college my best buddies and I started what I think we can safely call Orem, Utah's largest and most popular sketch group ever. Lately I've been thinking about what my favorite sketches ever would be. So I thought I'd do a top ten list. I've rewatched all my favorites in my attempt to come up with a definitive list. Some came so close (The Argument Sketch, Norm MacDonald as the straight man in the Westside Story, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton's cold open), and some almost made it because of their impact on me (Sandler, Farley, and Spade deserve mention as the Gap Girls, because without them we never would have come up with the Provo Girls, and Adam Sandler's Canteen Boy almost made it for the sheer outrageousness he and Alec Baldwin got away with). But these are the ten that have that special place in my heart and on my blog. Enjoy!

10. Mad TV: Can I Have your Number?

This sketch was hilarious the first time I saw it all over the internet. The actor's commitment to the role is complete.  Only later did I learn that the main character in this sketch was portrayed by female comedian Nicole Randall Johnson. I think it may have been the first time I realized that one angle to comedy is to fully become someone who drives you crazy, and then exaggerate them a bit.

9. Abbott and Costello
This is one of the great classics. I've seen many an attempt by other performers to replicate this, but there's nothing like the original. Abbott and Costello performed this sketch many times, though rarely the same way. This is considered to be their best recording. The magic for me in this sketch is the precision and control it takes to look like you have no clue what's going on. Everything is tight, but the characters are never in on the fun.

8. Key and Peele: The Auction Block
From the days of Garrett Morris to the portrayal of President Obama, SNL has never quite had a handle (at least maybe until this season) on what to do with the question of race. In many ways this is how Mad TV kept its head above water opposite SNL on Saturday nights. Especially after the addition of Key and Peele, who currently are producing some of he boldest content out there when it comes to questioning racial or sexual inequality through satire on their Comedy Central show. Here they are going after slavery in a way no one else could.

7. Monty Python: The interview from the episode "Man's Crisis of Identity in the Latter Half of the Twentieth Century."
The Pythons were masters of absurdist comedy. But always with a point. After all, isn't life absurd? Here's a sketch from The Flying Circus that succinctly demonstrates how much absurdity we'll put up with because life is insane.

6. Saturday Night Live: Brian Fellow's Safari Time
The last half hour of any ninety-minute episode of Saturday Night Live is generally accepted to be the dumping grounds for sketches that they're not sure about. You usually get some pretty odd or even awful stuff at the end there. In the late nineties, this was what I would stay up late for, though, because that's when Tracy Morgan would get to step out of Tim Meadows' shadow and do his own thing. And it was usually crazy. I can't fully explain why Brian Fellow's Safari Time cracks me up so bad. Maybe it's because of my own love of nature shows, and somehow they found the worst person ever to host one. But you be the judge. (You'll have to click over to Youtube to watch; SNL is picky about sharing and this host won't let me embed).

5. Portlandia: Cacao
Maybe it's the fact that this sketch has such a perfect arc and lands back on its feet with an emotional resolution, or maybe it's just the fact that the coffee shop my boyfriend and I go to is called "Cacao," but this sketch kills me. Really everything Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen do on their groundbreaking show hits close to home, maybe because northern California is so close to Oregon. The first few times seeing Carrie use her voice modulation kinda threw me, but her commitment to the character makes that easy to get over. This one is a little risqué, for those who can't handle it.

4. Mad TV: Bon Qui Qui
All I want in my life is more Angela Johnson. Here she is doing her youtube-famous terrible BK employee, Bon Qui Qui. I can only say that I love this character because I know her.

3. Saturday Night Live: Tech Talk
The best satire should hit close to home. SNL did just that with this sketch that blasts American consumerism with the ultimate comedic perspective on first world problems. This is the kind of sketch I aspire to write. (Again, you have to click)

2. Monty Python: The History of the Joke
This is from the Python's live stage show. These masters of comedy here do what they do best: Mashup highbrow and lowbrow comedy. Here we have a scholarly analysis of one of the cheapest jokes out there: the pie in the face.

1. Saturday Night Live: The Judy Miller Show
My favorite comedian of all time is the luminous, fearless Gilda Radner. Here she is playing a simple concept, alone on stage for five minutes, but her truthfulness, manic energy, and unfettered imagination make her infinitely watchable. I can't imagine how you would tap into something so insane yet universal, and then have the guts to put yourself in front of an audience and just let it all out. She was taken from us too early, but we will always have her wonderful creations captured on film. Click the link!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Robscars

I love the Oscars. But my choice for best picture rarely wins. So here's my choice for best picture for every year I've been alive.

What Should Have Won:

2016: Moonlight (Rotten Tomato Score: 97%)
What won: Moonlight (97%)
Top of the Box Office: Captain America: Civil War (90%)
I was completely willing to give some affirmative action to my best picture choice in 2016 after the previous year's #oscarssowhite scandal. But then a movie came along that didn't need it. Moonlight was perfectly crafted, down to the selection of color and framing and every single cast member's acting. The use of sound and music. The use of silence. The subtle intimations in the script about what happens offscreen. That's all before you even consider how important a film it is, and how infrequently we hear stories like this one.

2015: Room 
What won: Spotlight (96%)
Box Office: Star Wars Ep. VII: The Force Awakens (92%)

I was basically a sobbing mess by the end of this. It's Plato's allegory of the cave, but told through a pair of stellar and complicated performances. It speaks to abuse, and also to anyone who's had to escape from anything, and possibly leave both their loved ones  and their captors behind.

2014: Wild (90%)
What won: Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (91%)
Box Office: Transformers: Age of Extinction (18%)
It's a really tough call for me between Wild and Birdman. Both feel like perfect films to me. In the end Wild felt so personal. I know those trails. I was on those trails on some of the same days that Cheryl Strayed was in the 90s. The setting, the earnest soul searching, and the redemption all stole my heart, while the nonlinear plotting and cinematography were everything I could hope for. A gorgeous, meaningful film.

2013Before Midnight (98%)
What won: Twelve Years a Slave (97%)
Box Office: The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (89%)
I still have't seen the slave movie. I never even saw last year's slave movie [note: as of 2017 I have seen both of the slave movies. Both very good; no changes to my list]. Gravity (97%) was also in the running, and while I loved that movie (and Frozen [89%] even more), the slow burning, no-frills Before Midnight is the most anxious and moving movie of the year by far. The follow-up to two movies (100%, 95%) all made a decade apart, this movie joins the other two as a must-see.

2012: Beasts of the Southern Wild (86%)
What won: Argo (96%)
Box Office: The Avengers (92%)
Beasts was the underdog, and really it's an honor just to be nominated. Argo was a fine film, and there was some stiff competition this year, but Beasts stole my heart with its unconventional story and a breathtaking performance from an incredible child.

2011: The Tree of Life (84%)
What won: The Artist (98%)
Box Office: Harry Potter 7.2 (96%)
I get that this movie split audiences. Roger Ebert said he couldn't rightly review it because it was less movie and more prayer. But it changed everything I believed about the potential of film. There was a rumor at one point that there would be a 16-hour director's cut. I'm the guy who would watch that.

2010: Incendies (92%)
What won: The King's Speech (94%)
Box Office: Toy Story 3 (99%)
Sorry, I didn't buy the king of England as an underdog. Incendies was a French-Canadian family drama set in the Middle East that had such a strong message about cruelty and forgiveness and the fact that we are all one. I sat there and wept through the last ten minutes of that movie. Toy Story was also incredible, but everybody has seen it, so my vote is Incendies.

2009: Where the Wild Things Are (73%)
Oscar: The Hurt Locker (97%)
Box Office: Avatar(83%)
I know most wouldn't agree with me. I actually loved both Avatar and the Hurt Locker. But Where the Wild Things Are was a movie with a clunky elegance, a simple nobility, a warm message about the need to adventure and fight and then come back home and be loved.

2008: Slumdog Millionaire (94%)
Oscar: Slumdog Millionaire
Box Office: The Dark Knight (94%)
Dark Knight was the finest (and only great) batman film. But for once I side with the academy. I laughed and I cried with Slumdog. It's such an impossibly optimistic movie. Through its ingenious script, it shows us that all the crap we go through in life is for our own good. Sometimes literally.

2007: Atonement (83%)
Oscar: No Country for Old Men (94%)
Box Office: Spider-Man 3 (63%)
I get the feeling that I'll appreciate No Country fully when I'm an old man. Not even going to touch Spider-Man. Atonement had that incredible score that incorporated diegetic sounds, it had the amazing twist ending, the impossible tracking shot along the beach, and the best use of the c word ever put on film.

2006: Children of Men (93%)
Osar: The Departed(92%)
Box Office: Pirates of the Caribbean 3 (44%)
Children of Men is tied for my favorite movie of all time. The director of Gravity made this movie that was sci-fi, pro-life, had intense tracking shots and strong female characters long before his latest turn with Gravity. Check this one out!

2005: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (76%)
Oscar: Crash (75%)
Box Office: Star Wars III (80%)
The big debate this year was whether Crash stole the Oscar from Brokeback Mountain (87%). Both were excellent movies, but neither totally sparked my interest. Narnia is my choice because I just love it. Screw you guys, I love Edmond and I wish I could live in Narnia.

2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (93%)
Oscar: Million Dollar Baby (91%)
Box Office: Shrek 2 (89%)
I never saw Million Dollar Baby. But I doubt it could be as timeless, as twisty and brooding and hopeful and INSANE as Eternal Sunshine. Really the perfect postmodern love story.

2003: Return of the King (94%)
Oscar: Return of the King
Box Office: Return of the King.
Love me some hobbits. So did audiences and the academy. And this year really had no competition. I did love Finding Nemo (99%), but after 3 years of maybe the most incredible movies ever made at that point, it was time for Peter Jackson to take home the gold.

2002: The Hours (81%)
Oscar: Chicago (87%)
Box Office: Spider-Man (89%)
I haven't seen Chicago (the LDS prophet at the time told us not to), and I love Spider-Man 1 with all my heart. But the Hours gets my brain as well. It's emotional, it's complicated, and it's got the best score of any movie ever. There, I said it.

2001: Amelie (90%)
Oscar: A Beautiful Mind (76%)
Box Office: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (80%)
The first time I watched Amelie, I then started it over immediately. In fact, I watched it three times that day. Every aspect of it is finely crafted and perfect. The coloring, the movement of the camera, the symmetry of the shots, the acting and the script.

2000: O Brother, Where Art Thou? (77%)
Oscar: Gladiator (76%)
Box Office: How the Grinch Stole Christmas (53%)
I was on my mission this year, but I gotta say I don't feel like I missed much. The Coen Brothers are always contenders for me, so I'm gonna give them the nod for what amounts to my second favorite movie they've done. They'll appear on this list more, though. Also, what the Grinch?

1999: The Iron Giant (97%)
Oscar: American Beauty (88%)
Box Office: Star Wars I (57%)
A lot of great movies came out this year. Also Star Wars Episode 1. But the movie that stole my heart was The Iron Giant. Never has a film better portrayed what I was like as a child. The way autumn was displayed, the way the snow fell, and that amazing flight sequence. This is my favorite animated movie of all time, and it never got the attention it deserved from audiences. It did launch director Brad Bird's career, however, and he went on to direct The Incredibles (97%) and Ratatouille (96%).

1998: What Dreams May Come (54%)
Oscar: Shakespeare in Love (92 %)
Box Office: Saving Private Ryan (92%)
In a year where every best picture nominee was set in either Elizabethan England or WWII, my vote goes to the movie set in hell. What Dreams May Come is a visually stunning film that explores the question of where we go when we die and the ways we create our own heaven or hell. Robin Williams has never been more low-key and effective.

1997: Gattaca (82%)
Oscar: Titanic (88%)
Box Office: Titanic
Gattaca is my favorite movie of all time. So inspirational. I love movies set in the not-too-distant future, as they have the ability to tell us so much about where we are right now and the direction we're facing. Plus everything was finely crafted about this movie, from the coloring to the names of the characters to that brilliant double helix staircase. Titanic was sappy and boring. I mean, after the boat crashed, that was great. But do they really think we have to have a romantic story thrown in in order to care about the Titanic?

1996: Fargo (94%)
Oscar: The English Patient (83%)
Box Office: independence Day (60%)
I will admit I saw Independence day in the theater. Twice. But upon the second viewing I noticed how not good it was. And Will Smith annoys me. The English Patient is the boringest film ever to win an Oscar. Fargo is unadulterated Coen Brothers goodness.

1995: 12 Monkeys (88%)
Oscar: Brave Heart (78%)
Box Office: Toy Story (100%)
12 Monkeys is Brad Pitt's best performance, and Terry Gilliam's finest film. A twisty time-travel post-apocalyptic movie that is an homage to Alfred Hitchcock films. Cast of Braveheart: everyone go home and take a shower and THEN we can make a movie. Fun fact: Babe (97%) was nominated for a best picture Oscar this year, though Toy Story wasn't.

1994: The Hudsucker Proxy (58%)
Oscar: Forrest Gump (72%)
Box Office: Forrest Gump
The recent movie This Is The End (83%) had the following dialogue:
jay:! no i'm not a hipster, at all
craig: yeah, yeah you do seem to hate a lot of things. and the bottom of your pants are awful tight
i bet you hate movies that are universally loved
jay: i...i don't even
craig: you like Forrest Gump?
jay: no, no that's a horrendous piece of ****
I'm with Jay on this one. I hate Forrest Gump. It's so dirty. And history is boring. And The Hudsucker Proxy is my favorite comedy. The Coen Brothers again, and they are geniuses. I watch this every year on New Years Eve.

1993: Rudy (84%)
Oscar: Schindler's List (97%)
Box Office: Jurassic Park. (93%)
Holy cow. This was a good year for Steven Spielberg, no? And while either of his 1993 movies could have topped my list, Rudy. Rudy! Rudy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy! Ru-dy! You gotta cheer for the underdog, right? And Jerry Goldsmith's score to this film is gorgeous.

1992: A League of Their Own (77%)
Oscar: Unforgiven (96%)
Box Office: Aladdin (94%)
Now we're getting into territory where I didn't see or appreciate a lot of the grown-up movies that came out that year. And I was too cool to like Aladdin because my parents made me stay home and do homework while the rest of the family went to watch it. A League of Their Own was the first movie that made me cry. Don't ask me why. I definitely have a soft spot for sports movies.

1991: Oscar (13%)
Oscar: Silence of the Lambs (94%)
Box Office: Terminator 2: Judgment Day (92%)
This is another year where I really loved the Oscar and Box Office winners. But if you haven't seen Oscar, stop everything an watch it. It's a return to the screwball comedy and I don't think anyone has done it this well since. Sylvester Stallone proves his comedic chops and Tim Curry steals the show, as usual. And ignore that 13 %. Hardly anyone has ever seen this movie.

1990: The Lord of the Flies (61%)
Oscar: Dances With Wolves (81%)
Box Office: Home Alone (54%)
I hardly remember the movie of Lord of the Flies. But we watched all 3 hours of Dances with Wolves in the front row of the Cinedome, and all I remember is hella skinned bison and some American Indians having sex right next to Mel Gibson. Or was that Kevin Costner. Maybe I am the least qualified person to pick a best picture for 1990. Maybe the best picture was Ghost (74%).

1989: Dead Poets Society (85%)
Oscar: Driving Miss Daisy (81%)
Box Office: Batman (71%)
I'm such a superhero nerd. So maybe it's blasphemous to admit I don't like the Tim Burton Batmans (Batmen?) at all. I just really hate Tim Burton movies, with the very rare exception. Dead Poets Society, meanwhile is one of the best movies ever made. Also, how many Ethan Hawke movies are on this list?

1988: Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (98%)
Oscar: Rain Man (90%)
Box Office: Rain Man
Wow, I guess I need to see Rain Man. That doesn't mean Who Framed Roger Rabbit wasn't incredible, though. The story is is a whip-smart metaphor for racial issues in Hollywood and the special effects were groundbreaking. And if you can get past the line "Toon killed his brother. Dropped a piano on his head" without cracking up, we don't have enough in common for this to work out.

1987: The Princess Bride (97%)
Oscar: The Last Emperor (91%)
Box Office: Three Men and a Baby (75%)
What was wrong with audiences in the 80s? Also, I never Saw Emperor. William Goldman's script is the real star of TPB, though all the actors were luminous. The guy who played Westley is in the TV show I was in now, putting me two degrees from House of Cards (88%). Bazinga.

1986: Labyrinth (66%)
Oscar: Platoon (88%)
Box Office: Top Gun (55%)
I haven't seen either of those movies, but I don't really like war and soldiers and guns and stuff. Meanwhile, you want a formula for a winning movie? Take Rockstar David Bowie and Oscar-winner Jennifer Connelly, drop them into a movie directed by Jim Henson, produced by George Lucas, and written by one of the Monty Pythons, set it in a fantasy land and make it the most concise textbook-to film adaptation of Freud's theories ever made. If this film were a person I would kill my step-mom to gay marry it. Labyrinth was 66th at the box office, but I was there in the theater with my family.

1985: Back to the Future (96%)
Oscar: Out of Africa (52%)
Box Office: Back to the Future
Out of Africa sounds important and everything, but Back to the Future. I don't even have to say anything else. Who thought of this whole concept? A kid gets the ability to travel through time and accidentally prevents his mom from falling in love with his dad. Because she's in love with him. Apparently lots of Freud comedies in the 80s.

1984: The Karate Kid (90%)
Oscar: Amadeus (95%)
Box Office: Beverly Hills Cop (83%)
Ok, I didn't see either of those movies, either. I recently went back and watched Karate Kid for the first time, and I can finally say I agree with the midget at Blockbuster who made fun of me for not having seen it as a kid.

1983: Return of the Jedi (78%)
Oscar: Terms of Endearment (88%)
Box Office: Return of the Jedi
I don't care what you say, I LIKED the Ewoks. And the opening sequence of Jedi where everyone is infiltrating Jabba's palace and then Luke comes in and for the first time he's a full-fledged Jedi and he's all sexy and confident and then he kills the Rancor? This is pure movie magic.

1982: The Dark Crystal (71%)
Oscar: Gandhi (87%)
Box Office: E.T. (98%)
Apparently 1982 was the year of the movies about tiny shriveled brown guys who aren't from around here. I personally think E.T. is scary and disturbing. Never saw Ghandi. Jim Henson was sort of our third religion growing up (after Mormonism and Taco Bell).

1981: The Great Muppet Caper (79%)
Oscar: Chariots of Fire (84%)
Box Office: Raiders of the Lost Ark. (95%)
Maybe my just-mentioned bias is showing here, but Caper is a top-notch Muppet movie. I would say it's the funniest of them for sure. Not a huge fan of Raiders. Really Last Crusade is the only Indiana Jones I truly love. I find my level of love for them is directly proportional to the love I have for the girls in them.

1980: The Empire Strikes Back (96%)
Oscar: Ordinary People (92%)
Box Office: The Empire Strikes Back
I am just realizing that the real winner as far as performers on my list is not Ethan Hawke but rather Frank Oz, at a whopping 5 movies. Well done, sir. Empire is probably the best of the Star Wars films, and all of the original trilogy fill me with a sort of nostalgia/longing for the future that no other film precisely can.

All right. Before that, I didn't exist, so I can't really be sure anything else did, either.