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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Our picks for the Top 5 films of the Spring...and yes, we are prepared for the inevitable blowback.

Now, for the controversy. Now, to stir up a spit storm or two. You can’t have ‘Worsts’ without ‘Bests’, and you can’t have either without some manner of aesthetic argument. Right now, there are lovers of a certain cotton-tailed character from a month or so back that can’t believe some cynical old jerk thought his merry little movie was one of 2011 animated abominations. Similarly, the minute this list of “likes” takes shape, there will be many admonishing the choices at numbers five and four (at least). It’s all part of the game, part of the process of trying to wrap one’s critical brain around what Hollywood hands us every January through April. Some years, selecting a group of good movies is not all that hard. In others, the pickings are slimmer than a supermodel.

In 2011, what we got the most of was promising if not completely successful content. Paul, for example, had the brilliant Simon Pegg and Nick Frost in the leads (and with the script) and the always interesting Greg Mottola behind the lens. Yet the alien on the lam with two UK geeks comedy really didn’t deliver on its percolating nerd potential. Similarly, a movie like The Green Hornet tweaked a ton of comic book conventions (pissing off the funny book fanbase in the process) and yet couldn’t quite bring together its clever combination of superhero and satire. The Mechanic was a fine action effort…and that’s about it, while Fast Five did a direct job of addressing the franchise’s often obvious weaknesses…and little else.

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Thursday, Mar 17, 2011
The ten best examples of the alien overthrow Hollywood has ever attempted...

The aliens are coming! The aliens are coming! Actually, they’re already here. This weekend (18 March), Greg Mottola and writers/stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost are bringing Paul, their geek ET comedy, to big screens nationwide, while just seven days before, Marine officer Aaron Eckhart and his ragtag group of grunts tried to save California in an epic Battle: Los Angeles. As long as there have been Halloween radio broadcasts, there has been media talk of invading spacemen and the destruction they leave in their interstellar path. Cinema has long championed the alien overthrow, using the concept for everything from comedy to commentary, action to awkward cautionary tales. Of the dozens directed at drive-ins and theaters around the world, few made the grade. The good ones stand out. The subpar simply drift off into the stratosphere.

One title destined to slip the bonds of this planet and pass into infamy, 2010’s Skyline, is about to make its debut on DVD and Blu-ray (available: 22 March), and it got the staff at SE&L thinking… what are the best alien invasion movies of all time? What war of the worlds got us thinking about the fate of the planet, and our precarious place among the others? In compiling this list, we did make a few conscious decisions. First, we discounted any movie where the confront occurred while airborne or off planet (this leaves out titles such as Alien, Aliens, and the like). We also restricted our choices to films where the outer space clash (or infestation of same) was the most important plot part. Finally, this is all a matter of opinion, though one has to admit that, when taking a look at all the possible entries, many are pretty poor.

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Tuesday, Mar 1, 2011
The magic of the movies has been slowly evaporating for a long time now... but when you reach the point where tech advances have put the dream in the hands of random guys with lightsabers -- or on a good day, action figure collections -- it's time to seriously re-evaluate your ability to throw yourself gigantic splashy parties.

I have long suspected there really is only one true Oscar host. Only one comedian with just the right combination of sharp observation and subtle expression, so outrageous yet so beloved for it, so aware of the magnitude of the task yet so utterly unintimidated by it…

...Johnny Carson.

Who, yeah, is still dead. But if this year’s Academy Awards proved anything, it’s that this is a minor stumbling-block at best. We can rebuild the Oscars. We have the technology.

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Wednesday, Feb 23, 2011
PopMatters Film Blog Celebrates the Films and Performances of 2010 With Its Own Unique Acknowledgments.

Apparently, it’s between a stuttering kind and a billionaire prick. That’s what opening up the Oscar nominations to ten Best Picture nominees has done. No chance for better fare like Black Swan or Inception, no acknowledgment of masterworks like Never Let Me Go or Let Me In. Instead, the Academy’s patented publicity grab has once again boiled down to the standard “old vs. new” disagreement to a championing for either The King’s Speech or The Social Network. It’s fogies vs. the freshmakers, an antiquated attack that fails to really address the artform’s accomplishments for the year. While 2010 wasn’t a wholly banner year for amazing motion pictures, we did she quite a few fine efforts grace the annual awards season shill. Of course, with the AMPAS doing everything it can to get those vaunted ratings up, almost all are invited for a Kodak Theater shindig.

That leaves little for Short Ends and Leader‘s yearly SEAL Awards to shift through. As usual, if Oscar has poised a certain picture of performance for little gold statue possibility, we immediately ignore the option. Our focus is on those unheralded entertainments that made a lasting impression in our otherwise preoccupied mind. Sometime, the choices are obvious. At other instances, our “No Academy” rule ruins an apparent selection (Dogtooth, Exit Through the Gift Shop). In either case, our selections come straight from the aesthetic heart, not as part of some elite group’s uncomplicated consensus. Some of the choices may shock you (as they have in the past), but for the most part, we seem to be moving closer toward the mainstream all the time. Or maybe it’s the other way around. Maybe the inclusion of ten Best Picture noms has broadened the field so much that outsides and insiders are becoming almost indecipherable.

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Tuesday, Dec 7, 2010
The enduring impact of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead might be the manner in which Stoppard takes on the Big Questions that philosophers, poets, priests and everyone else have agonized over for centuries.

Spoiler alert: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die.

They are, in fact, already dead. And they always have been.

But you knew that already, right?

Another spoiler: You, too, shall die one day.

Here’s the rub: they didn’t know when or why, and neither will you.

But you already knew that, didn’t you?

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