Michael Kirchhoff

What’s all this, then?

I made another guest host appearance on the Film Fustians podcast this week, joining my buddy Max Mastrangelo and the ever-entertaining Barry From Omaha.

We discussed our favorite films that take place in England.This, naturally, led Max to play extended clips of Keanu Reeves’ genius performance in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. We also review a slew of new releases, including my less than enthusiastic assessment of the turbulent Denzel Oscar-bait vehicle Flight.

We give our home video picks, production news, and an epic listener mail segment that threatens to rival Cloud Atlas in its scope and ambition.

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Dennis Franz, Oingo Boingo, and The Avengers

I was asked to reprise my fill-in host duties for the Film Fustians podcast, and it was another rollicking episode. You can listen to the whole thing at the Talk Radio One web site, or download the show from iTunes (just search on “Film Fustians”).

We discussed Dennis Franz’s masterful performance in Die Hard 2, where he managed to hit about 14 different accents in a single monologue. We detail the multiple versions of Oingo Boingo’s “Weird Science”, and give our reviews of films currently in theaters and recently released to Blu-Ray. We also give our picks for the Top 6 Anthology films, which turned out to be a surprisingly diverse list.

Thanks again to Max for inviting me to join him, and to Justin for allowing me to co-host in his absence.

Next week on the Fustians: Top 6 movie monsters. Will one of my choices be Madonna in Body of Evidence?

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Podcastor For a Day!

Ever wanted to listen to me blather on about movies for a full two and a half hours? BOOM-POW, wish granted!

My friend Max Mastrangelo was kind enough to invite me to fill in for his regular co-host, Justin Levine, on the Film Fustians podcast. You can listen to the entire podcast from the Talk Radio One web site, or download it on iTunes (just search for “Film Fustians” in the podcast section and download the 10/16/12 show).

We discuss our opinions of new releases Argo, Seven Psychopaths, and (barf) Here Comes The Boom. We also give our top 6 choices for movies about dreams, and I was surprised at how different my list was from Max’s.

Huge thanks to Max for letting me invade his excellent podcast, and to Justin for allowing me to fill his estimable, PT Anderson-hating shoes for an evening.

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“The Master” of My Domain

I was wrong about one thing, and right about another.

Wrong Thing: There is, in fact, no all-encompassing conspiracy by eminent Film Fustian Justin Levine to avoid debating me regarding the films of P.T. Anderson. As was proven on Tuesday night, when Mr. Levine and I finally had our reasonably civilized kerfuffle on his podcast, The Film Fustians.

You really should listen to the entire program, as the Fustians (both Justin and his Sylvester Stallone-obsessed cohort, Max Mastrangelo) are eloquent and passionate devotees of movies as one of the formative artistic expressions in modern life. Justin and I begin our duel at the 1 hour and 21 minute mark. I make a really stupid joke at the beginning, but after that the debate escalates quickly. Which then leads me to the thing I was right about …

Right Thing: Despite Justin’s spirited attempts at providing counterpoints to my observations regarding both “The Master” and P.T. Anderson, it is fairly obvious that I won the debate, that I rained down brilliant observations upon him, much like a storm of frogs falling from the sky. Justin put a great deal of energy into his deflections, obfuscations, and veiled insults, but in the end, I think the winner of the exchange is painfully obvious. Once Justin gave his bizarre interpretation for the ending of “Goodfellas”, his cannoli was cooked.

But in all seriousness, I give my sincerest thanks to the Fustians for being so generous and allowing me an extended segment to air my arguments. I relish the chance to speak with them again, and will continue to listen to them so that they may provide me, and the Internet universe, with the “correct film opinions”.

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“The Master” Baiter

The Film Fustians is a rare pleasure for those of us who not only like to watch movies, but dissect them as if they were those frogs in E.T. (the ones that didn’t manage to escape, naturally). Hosted by the estimable Justin Levine and Max Mastrangelo, the Fustians claim to be our brave and stalwart guardians against the unending tsunami of remakes, sequels, and adaptations of ’80s television shows their target audience would be too young to remember.

Now, dear reader, you have known me for a very long time. Or you stumbled onto this blog while drunkenly searching for latke recipes. Regardless, You know I am not one to indulge in conspiracy theories. Much like NFL replacement referees, I often have difficulty interpreting the obvious, even as it is occurring in front of me. However, sometimes you take a 2, add another 2, and can’t help but stare at the resulting 4 with a niggling sense of wary suspicion.

Of course, I do not raise this topic lightly. What I am about to disclose my be considered controversial. Nay, perhaps even incendiary. Those with small children may want to cover their eyes from what my fingers, quivering and white with fear, are about to type here, in an effort to protect their precious innocence.

A brief history: in the beginning, there were no Fustians. It then came to pass (I don’t know, last year or so?) that Fustians were released unto the Internet. And the Internet, as it always does, embraced the Fustians with warmth and compassion. Including myself in my duly appointed role as Anonymous Internet Commenter.

On one of the early Fustian broadcasts, Mr. Justin Levine made an offhanded, derisive comment about the P.T. Anderson film, “Magnolia”. Being an admirer of this film, I, in my commissioned duty as Anonymous Internet Commenter, chose to compose a polite, carefully worded rebuttal to Mr. Levine’s opinion, defending the film. I did this not knowing of the den of snakes I was unwittingly hurling myself upon.

Mr. Levine read aloud my defense of “Magnolia” during the next show, then proceeded to follow it with an excoriating screed about the film and about me, my family, my ancestors, and any pets I might happen to own. Justin verbally tore several previously non-existent orifices into my flesh, and even attacked you, Max, for making the horrific mistake of being friends with someone such as me … someone who would require a steep deficiency of taste and intelligence necessary to enjoy “Magnolia”.

A jovial back and forth then ensued. Justin and I communicated on Facebook, where we agreed we would hold a debate regarding “Magnolia” on the Fustians show. A tentative date was chosen, and I began the weeks of preparations that would be required to successfully defend Julianne Moore’s performance.

However, as the date of the great debate approached, Justin announced he had received a mysterious new “job”, and would be abdicating his Fustian duties for a temporary reprieve. “No big deal,” I thought at the time. I myself also got a new job, one that consumes a great deal of my free time, and chalked it up to One Of Those Things That Happen.

Fast-forward to early September, 2012 A.D. Justin has returned to full-time Fustianing. The new P.T. Anderson film, “The Master”, is about to be released. In my role as official PTA fan boy, I once again contacted the Fustians in regards to sharing opinions on what is sure to be a hotly debated work of art, especially amongst the exalted purveyors of correct film opinion, the Fustians. Once again, Justin and I settled on a date wherein we would have our shouting match … er, I mean, calm and reasoned discourse.

Then, suddenly, on the agreed upon date … Justin is unable to do the show! I admit, a legitimate excuse was proffered …

and yet …

AND YET …

One such as myself cannot help but allow my imagination to construct wild extrapolations. Justin has bobbed and weaved like Joe Frazier and managed to avoid TWO mediated exchanges with me in regards to P.T. Anderson films. Perhaps it is just coincidence? Or is there a chance that something else going on here? Perhaps … just perhaps … Justin harbors a sense of fear in debating me, for in the remoteness of the deepest soul of his consciousness, he knows that I am right, and that PTA is a cinematic master? And that admitting such would betray the essence of his being?

Again, this is all probably just conjecture on my part. Crazy, crazy conjecture.

And so it goes, and so it goes. And the book says, “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.”

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This Blog Post Contains A Video Of A Kitten

But first, an apology.

I suppose it’s odd to apologize for failing to update a blog that nobody reads, and yet that seems like the only emotionally available option to me after neglecting this thing for 5 months. I have my excuses, and a few of them are actually legitimate: since my last post, I have started an entirely new career, sold a condo, and bought a house. All positive steps, to be sure, but none of those things are conducive to allowing enough time and energy for writing anything longer than a Twitter post.

This paragraph is where I intended to compose a long, rambling confession about the trouble I’ve had finding what the direction of this blog should be, wondering whether it should continue to just a collection of random thoughts and lists of things that are of interest only to me or if I should focus on a particular topic, coming close to shutting the whole thing down on several occasions, including twenty seconds ago …

… but I know everyone reading this is just going to skip down to the kitten, because that’s what I would do.

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The Worst Best Pictures

I’m not really into the Oscars anymore. When I was a young and naive film nut, I thought that the Academy Awards was a legitimate attempt to honor achievements in the art form I loved most. Now that my heart is a desiccated grey lump and I am no longer equipped with the capacity to experience joy, I see the Oscars for what they are: a circle-jerk for publicists.

I am sure that a part of my turning away from caring about the Oscars are the multitude of crap films that have achieved the rare “pinnacle” of cinema: the Academy Award for Best Picture. So here are my choices for the 10 worst films to win the honor in the last thirty years. Each entry in the list also includes a subsection I call, “The Hell?!“, where I describe what should have won the stupid prize that year.

1. Crash (2005)

I rabidly hate this awful, maudlin, irritating wedge of garbage. Self-important, manipulative, and dumb as a box of rocks, I despise Crash for so many reasons, the primary one being how insistent it is that it is Important and that the filmmakers Know Better. I may have been more forgiving if its ludicrousness was leavened with any sense of humor, but no, this condescending claptrap is presented with a deadly serious manner. When it came to choose my least favorite Best Picture winner, it wasn’t a choice at all.

The Hell?! I would have been satisfied if any other film won other than Crash. How about Cheaper By The Dozen 2? Sure, why not. Be Cool? Cool with me. Of the other films that were actually nominated and didn’t win, both Capote and Brokeback Mountain are restrained, intelligent, and deeply emotional films with staggeringly great performances at their core: in other words, they are everything Crash is not.

2. Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I blame Y2K. We were all so delirious with fear at the upcoming Millennium Apocalypse, we decided to honor this safe, lame snoozer with Best Picture.

The Hell?! Was it that awful face-morph at the end of Saving Private Ryan that made it lose the award it should have won? Because, you know, the three hours before that were pretty damn good. I am also a big fan of Elizabeth, and I totally wouldn’t blame Cate Blanchett if she got drunk one night and knocked over Gwyneth Paltrow’s mailbox for stealing her Best Actress Oscar that year.

3. The Last Emperor (1987)

Maybe this emperor is the last one because all the other emperors died of boredom during the run time of this endless fucking movie.

The Hell?! I’ll admit, the competition for Best Picture for this year was pretty thin gruel. Fatal Attraction? Seriously? I mean, those idiots in the Academy didn’t even consider nominating RoboCop or The Princess Bride or The Untouchables, all of which are now universally recognized as classics?

4. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

A lot of people liked this. I wasn’t one of them. I’m probably being one of those contrarian jerkwads on the Internet when I say that I thought Danny Boyle’s Sunshine is a far more engaging film than Slumdog, what it is what it is, I suppose.

The Hell?! Geez, looking over the nominees for 2008, I don’t like any of them. Milk? Frost/Nixon? Bleh. So maybe I can’t fault them for choosing the middling Slumdog from a weak crop. The Academy should have nominated WALL-E (which was, by leaps and bounds, the best movie of 2008) and the brilliant In Bruges.

5. Gandhi (1982)

With a running time that feels as if someone turned on the VCR in 1982 and it is still going, Gandhi is cinematic brussels sprouts, experienced by many and beloved by none.

The Hell?! For once, 1982 had a killer lineup of Best Picture nominees: The Verdict, with its iconic Paul Newman performance; E.T., which was the biggest movie of all time for a long time; Tootsie, one of the essential early 80s comedies; and Missing, unseen by me, but it won the Palme d’Or in Cannes that year. Considering that formidable group, giving the award to Gandhi is a forehead-slapper, for sure.

6. Chicago (2002)

I really wish they would make movie musicals with legitimate theater people. Catherine Zeta-Jones has the talent pull it off on screen, but everyone else in this marginal adaptation looks like they are desperately playing catch-up to her. Not a bad movie, but not a Best Picture caliber one, either.

The Hell?! The Two Towers is a much better film in the extended edition than it was in the theatrical version, and I’m satisfied that the trilogy got all its well-deserved accolades the following year. Once again, the two best films from 2002 were not nominated: Adaptation and About Schmidt.

7. The English Patient (1996)

Other than seeing it in the theater, I don’t remember a damn thing about this movie. Was there a plane crash? Or something?

The Hell?! OK, I admit that I’m just bitter Fargo didn’t win. The Coen Brothers’ efficient, multi-layered masterpiece can be endlessly rewatched, and is so utterly incisive about how everyday evil (and everyday love) works, it’s difficult to imagine anything beating it for a Best Picture award.

8. Titanic (1997)

I don’t hate Titanic (though that Celine Dion song is pretty awful). It’s effective for what it is. But 1997 was a great year in film, and there were many other, better choices.

The Hell?! The wonderfully complex L.A. Confidential is so damn good, it’s shocking that it actually got nominated for Best Picture. Boogie Nights is an all-time favorite. Also worthy classics: Jackie Brown, The Sweet Hereafter, and Waiting For Guffman.

9. Dances With Wolves (1990)

I’ve only seen Dances With Wolves once, and if I remember correctly, I think I enjoyed it. “Tatanka”, right?

The Hell?! But I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as Goodfellas. So, I include Dances With Wolves not because it’s a bad movie or even a mediocre one, but because it prevented one the unequivocally greatest films ever made from achieving the Best Picture award it so obviously deserved. Now go home and get your fuckin’ shine box.

10. The King’s Speech (2010)

The King’s Speech is fine. This movie is like an old shoe, in that it’s comfortable and does everything you expect it to do.

The Hell?! Except that it somehow beat out the massively ambitious Inception, a heady blockbuster that dares you to follow it down to the inner workings of the human experience. Also, The Social Network, which took the most banal subject imaginable (Facebook) and made its creation into a penetrating and riotously entertaining drama.

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Awesome Things 2011 (#1-5)

There were many things that happened in 2011, and for my own convenience, I have chosen the most awesomest of those things in narcissistic list form. Here are my choices for the best of TV, movies, books, podcasts, music, and games.

1. Breaking Bad

Breaking Bad“I am the one who knocks!” Walter White growls to his wife. Though it appears he immediately regrets saying it, and perhaps doesn’t quite believe it himself, the primary arc of Breaking Bad season four is Walter’s horrifying transition into The One Who Knocks. It’s a direction the series has led throughout its run, but this year’s episodes showed Walter improvising madly, making heart-stopping decisions that season one Walter likely would have never even considered. As Walter’s pride and self-delusion reach an all-time peak, his relationship with Jesse bottoms out in a violent altercation, his wife secretly prepares herself for a life without him, and his brother-in-law is sniffing dangerously at the perimeter of the fortress he has built of lies and murder. And, in a show that prides itself on shocking moments, one of the final shots of the season (showing the ultimate fate of Gus Fring) is one of the most gruesomely memorable in television history. Of course, the show earns those shocks through its careful, logical exposition, meticulous attention to character detail, and emotional rawness. Breaking Bad still has 16 final episodes to go, and if they can somehow maintain the quality of what has come before, I have no doubt that Breaking Bad will not only be remembered as one of the greatest works of televised fiction ever made, but one of the defining works of art of a generation.

2. Parks and Recreation

Parks And RecreationIf Breaking Bad is pure adrenaline, then Parks and Recreation is pure joy. In its first two seasons, P&R was a sporadically funny show that seemed to be striving not to be “The Office with Amy Poehler”. Once it returned from a long hiatus for its third season, the show found its voice and caught fire, going on a run of incredibly hilarious and touching episodes without a misfire in the bunch. This year, P&R gave us the Swanson Pyramid of Greatness, Rob Lowe commanding himself to “stop pooping”, Adam Scott’s hilarious on-camera meltdown during the Pawnee harvest festival media blitz, Andy and April’s amazing wedding episode (has any other show ever had a good, let alone great wedding episode?), drunken revelry at the Snakehole Lounge, and, of course, everyone’s favorite tiny horse, Li’l Sebastian (R.I.P.). Parks and Recreation currently has the best cast and the best comedy writers living inside my teevee.

3. Portal 2

Portal 2I don’t know if there is such a thing as a perfectly executed video game, but Portal 2 comes pretty damn close. I am famously impatient with puzzle games, yet I managed to play through both the single player and multiplayer campaigns of Portal 2 without once referencing a walkthrough, which is pretty much unheard of. The game’s puzzles are challenging (moreso in the fiendishly difficult multiplayer levels), but I managed to work through all of them with heavy experimentation and logical (and creatively illogical) thinking. It also helps that the non-game elements of Portal 2 are ferociously entertaining, mostly due to the hilarious voiceover performances and the story that is cleverly told by moving through the game’s varied and massive environments. This is one of the most successful fusions of gameplay and storytelling I’ve ever experienced.

4. The Tobolowsky Files

The Tobolowsky FilesI didn’t know it until I started listening to his highly addicting podcast, but Stephen Tobolowsky is one of my heroes. A recognizable “Hey, it’s that guy!” journeyman actor who has played every role from Ned Ryerson in Groundhog Day to Shakespeare to Butt-crack Plumber, Tobolowsky is also a raconteur who tells riveting stories from his varied life. Did you know that Tobolowsky is indirectly responsible for how the band Radiohead got its name? (He tells the story in episode 44.) Or that he was in a long, tumultuous relationship with a Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright? While he tells a number of funny and entertaining tales of his acting adventures, what truly drives The Tobolowsky Files are his more personal reflections, of his family, his childhood, and his recent struggles with a broken neck and heart surgery. All of it is eloquently told by a master narrator with a genuine, emotional resonance.

5. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim ArgonianOkay, I got the crazy idea to write 11 days of posts about this one game, so I think I’ve said just about everything I could possibly say about Skyrim. Now that the game is released and I’ve actually sunk several dozen hours into this thing, it is unquestionably a masterpiece. While it doesn’t have the narrative drive of Bioware RPGs (such as the Dragon Age series), the non-linear nature of Skyrim allows you to essentially create your own story as it is happening. This kind of open-ended gameplay comes with a number of technical and role-playing challenges, this is the best example of “sandbox” gaming I have ever played, a beautifully rendered and hellaciously fun experience.

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Awesome Things 2011 (#6-10)

There were many things that happened in 2011, and for my own convenience, I have chosen the most awesomest of those things in narcissistic list form. Here are my choices for the best of TV, movies, books, podcasts, music, and games.

6. Game of Thrones

Game of ThronesI can think of about 783 reasons why the HBO television adaptation of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels should have been a colossal failure, a flop of truly staggering proportions. Fantasy adherents worldwide held their breath, waiting for HBO to bungle a truly beloved series … after all, because of the monkeys and dragons theory, there is no possible way this thing could possibly work, right? Holy moly, were all of us wrong. Game of Thrones is so fucking good, that people who don’t even know what a d20 is were sucked into the political intrigue, jaw-dropping twists, and monstrously good acting. Yeah, they overdid it on the preponderance boobs and wangs, but isn’t that why we pay for HBO in the first place? Season two is coming in April, and all I have to say is … winter is coming.

7. The Devin Townsend Project

The Devin Townsend ProjectMy choice for album of the year is actually a pair of releases. The Devin Townsend Project released Deconstruction and Ghost simultaneously, and they are two sides of a single, batshit insane coin. Deconstruction is completely deranged, a progressive thrash-metal howl of dementia. It is bombastic, profane, and totally original. Like much of Townsend’s music, it is intricately layered to the point where it’s not just a Wall of Sound, it’s a Wall of Lunacy. Ghost, on the other hand, is mellow and serene. It is a beautifully atmospheric album, equally as layered and complex as Deconstruction, but used to surround the listener in a warm bath of ethereal rhythms. I cannot stop listening to Ghost, it truly sounds like music from a different plane of existence and is the work of an amazingly talented musician.

8. Homeland

HomelandStupid Showtime. I was just about to cancel you, then you had to go ahead and make one of the best new shows of the year. Homeland was created by people who worked on the increasingly ridiculous 24, and its premise is quite 24-ish: a CIA agent (Claire Danes, who is spectacularly good) is given intelligence that a Marine POW (Damien Lewis, equally great) has been turned and is now working for the enemy. What Homeland does with this potentially salacious premise is actually quite adult and restrained (two adjectives rarely used for Showtime series). The show has its twists and revelations, but it is primarily concerned with characters and relationships, the most potent one being between Danes and her mentor, a terrific and heavily bearded Mandy Patinkin. It all leads to a nearly heart-stopping climax that nevertheless keeps the door open for an intriguing season two. If Homeland can avoid the silliness that infested the later seasons of 24, it could become a true classic.

9. Meek’s Cutoff

Meek's CutoffThis nearly silent film, filmed in an old-timey aspect ratio and with the barest minimum of dialogue, follows the wretched trail of a lost wagon train meandering dangerously through the Oregon desert. Their resources are dwindling, their hired scout seems untrustworthy, and perhaps they are being followed by Indians. Kelly Reichardt’s film is entirely about mood and atmosphere, and she captures the desperation and resolve of its characters, led by a unyielding Michelle Williams. In the theater where I saw this, there was quite a bit of “Huh?” as the credits rolled, but I bought into the film’s contemplative journey, and found that the experience of watching it hauntingly lingered.

10. The Leftovers

The LeftoversLike all of Tom Perrotta’s novels, The Leftovers deftly balances the quietly absurd with the poignant. While this novel is the most ambitious concept that Perrotta has attempted (the story begins after a “rapture”, of sorts, where a number of seemingly random people disappear from the world simultaneously), he approaches it with his typical lack of histrionics and an unyielding attention to the detail of every day existence. Despite the extremity of the novel’s basic contrivance (the rapture), the characters are faced with realistic decisions and unknowable consequences. Also, I love Perrotta’s straightforward prose, which makes his novels highly readable and lacking all unnecessary pretensions.

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Awesome Things 2011 (#11-15)

There were many things that happened in 2011, and for my own convenience, I have chosen the most awesomest of those things in narcissistic list form. Here are my choices for the best of TV, movies, books, podcasts, music, and games.

11. Jonathan Coulton, “Artificial Heart”

Artificial HeartCoulton has gained his considerable reputation as a clever musician amongst the Internet-savvy and people who are more than willing to sing along with songs about mad scientists and Kenesaw Mountain Landis. This new collection, produced by They Might Be Giants’ John Flansburgh, is anchored by new versions of Coulton’s terrific contributions to the Portal video games, “Still Alive” and “Want You Gone”. However, outside of those amusing hits, much of what appears on Artificial Heart is surprisingly dark and emotional. Coulton describes an awful breakup in “Dissolve” and harmonizes with himself on the haunting “Nobody Loves You Like Me”.

12. Boardwalk Empire

Boardwalk EmpireDuring its first season, HBO’s ridiculously expensive series set during Prohibition was predominantly known for being, well, ridiculously expensive. In its second season, Boardwalk Empire brought its storytelling up to the same impressive level as its art direction. This season tracked the progress of Jimmy Darmody as the World’s Worst Crime Boss and built towards the amazing final two episodes, where we learn the history of Jimmy’s twisted relationship with his mother and watch him make a dramatic decision in a shocking season-ending twist that I did not see coming whatsoever.

13. The Wise Man’s Fear/A Dance With Dragons

A huge chunk of my free reading time this year was consumed by two massive fantasy novels that have quite a lot in common. Both of them are the middle chapters of a multibook arc: The Wise Man’s Fear is book 2 of Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles, and A Dance With Dragons is book 5 of George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Both of them describe the further adventures of characters that fans of the series already love (or hate), while introducing whole new groups of characters of varying effectiveness on the overall narrative. Both are way too long, and suffer from interludes in the middle that seem to drag endlessly. And both of them contain moments of brilliance that make the occasional rough bits even more frustrating. Ultimately, despite my quibbles, both Rothfuss and Martin are terrific writers who elevate themselves above the common dreck of the fantasy genre to create believable worlds and avoid the painful cliches.

14. Community

CommunityAs I mentioned in an earlier post about Community, my favorite kinds of shows are the ones that create a world and populate it with characters that are more than just joke-delivery machines. Of course, I hold the minority opinion on this issue, which is why Community is one of the lowest-rated shows on a major network. However, in the face of almost certain doom, the makers of this show are brave enough not to turn into the skid, and react to their non-popularity by going to even weirder. Community has a very specific and passionate audience, and the creators decided long ago to play in its own bizarre sandbox and not care about attracting the masses to their tiny corner of the teevee-scape.

15. Rango

RangoMuch like Rise of the Planet of the Apes, this thing came out of nowhere for me. What I thought would be a mild amusement turned out to drastically exceed my expectations. Besides being a visual and technical marvel, Rango is another successful attempt at world-building. The filmmakers could have easily gone with “Johnny Depp as an animated lizard” and walked away with a few hundred million of box office, but instead, they meticulously create a beautifully populated desert landscape, with characters that blow straight past the uncanny valley and radiate real soul. It’s also very funny, which realistically should not be shocking for a “family” animated film, but sadly it is. It seems that my favorite films of what was a very lackluster year in movies were ones that were unexpected finds, and Rango is certainly the kind of movie I could easily bypass, but I’m glad I didn’t miss this gem.

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