The Ides.

Today is the day you were warned about.

Honestly, I just like saying: “Beware!” And telling people to beware various things. Like, “Beware those calories!” Or, “Beware Justin Bieber!”

Recently on Counterforce:

We’ve been comparing things, things like the manic pixie dream girl vs. the amazing girl, Heroes vs. Battlestar Galactica, and Kirsten Dunst vs. Kate Hudson.

We’ve got plenty of our favorite news items and lots of mad linkage to share with you.

And we celebrated the birthday of Dr. Seuss.

We’ve been watching – what else is new? – this brand new and final season of Lost: “Dr. Linus,” “Sundown,” The Lighthouse,” “The Substitute,” and “What Kate Does.”

And, in doing so, we’ve been trying to get inside the minds of characters like Jack and Sayid. But perhaps they’ve been getting into our brains instead?

Speaking of television: Nip/Tuck finally ended, but the singularity still looms on the horizon (and perhaps on cable TV as well).

Oh, and the Oscars came and went again. We talked about afterward and talked about it quite a bit during the ceremony.

I read Tao Lin’s first collection of stories and then talked a little about short stories in general for your amusement.

The lovely Karen Gillan as a soothsayer of sorts in Doctor Who.

People tend to believe that God believes what they believe, we learned, and then we watched a bit of Chris Marker’s documentary about Andrei Tarkovsky.

Conrad talks about two of his favorite things: Prince and Kevin Smith (but more so Prince than Kevin Smith, he assures me).

from here.

Oh, and my iphone is apparently waiting to me, amidst the sea of pornography, sex pills, and mortgage help that the internet is just dying to offer me.

And our very own Maria Diaz, who’s been rocking it at SXSW this past weekend, got herself wifed up for the purposes of partying and let me DJ the party, and you were cordially invited to the event.

Fun fact about The Ides: It’s the 15th day of the month, but only in March, May, July, and October. In every other month, it’s the 13th of the month. The Roman calendar is really so weird.

All this talk of soothsaying and foretelling has me thinking… Here at Counterforce, when we’re not complaining about shit, we’re typically just slicing up bits of our subconscious, things that we like from all over the place, and sharing them with you. Sometimes it’s planned, and sometimes it happens on a deadly whim, but I wonder… Perhaps we should be planning and sharing what we’re planning more beforehand, teasing you a bit… Hmm. Maybe, right?

Or, more dangerously, just throwing out random things at the start of a month, or any time period, and then talking about them at some point, in some way. Maybe the topics are user generated, or just things the author knows nothing about but have always been abstractly interested in, I don’t know. And then they go off and learn something about that topic, or maybe they don’t. But they find an angle and attack it. Maybe it’s predictive blogging, maybe it’s something else.

OR! And this, this right here, is insane, but let me start earlier… at work, sometimes, when we’re bored, my co-workers and I will play a game, a silly, stupid game that we call “The Wikipedia game.” We generate a large group of topics and subjects, then you pick two randomly. You go to one of those topic/subject’s wikipedia pages, and utilizing only links on that page, you have to, in five clicks or seven clicks (or whatever) or less, you have to arrive at the second topic you picked. Think “Six degrees of Kevin Bacon,” but more infotastic and time wasting. Mind you, I”m just talking out loud here, so maybe this is lame, but what if blogging was like that? 

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Counterforce at the movies: Best of the decade.

Or…

TEN! TEN! YEAARRSS!”

50 films we won’t forget:

by Benjamin Light and Marco Sparks

In no particular order…

Let me repeat that, since there’s always some asshole who doesn’t read it the first time and whines about movie x over movie z: these are in no particular order.

◊ ◊ ◊

High Fidelity

Benjamin: A movie about guys who love making top 5 lists, in a big top 50 list. How meta. The opening lines sum it up:

What came first, the music or the misery? People worry about kids playing with guns, or watching violent videos, that some sort of culture of violence will take them over. Nobody worries about kids listening to thousands, literally thousands of songs about heartbreak, rejection, pain, misery and loss. Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?

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The Departed

Benjamin: My favorite thing about this film is the way it’s edited together almost as one long montage rather than a simple scene-to-scene cut. Mark Wahlberg is stunningly good. He and the other young actors were so good that Jack Nicholson actually got kind of ignored by the critics. Which is amazing. My favorite lines: “Just fucking kill me.” “I am killing you.”

Marco: Great film, great direction, great acting, just something fantastic and raw. I feel like a more talented person than I could make a serious gender studies write up with this movie because you literally have every kind of man in it.

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Children Of Men

Benjamin: Makes the list for the two tracking shots alone. Managed to capture the post 9/11 zeitgeist without pandering to it.

Y’know that ringing in your ears? That ‘eeeeeeeeee’? That’s the sound of the ear cells dying, like their swan song. Once it’s gone you’ll never hear that frequency again. Enjoy it while it lasts.

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Donnie Darko

Benjamin: Richard Kelly did everything he could to make me want to strike this from the list, but the original theatrical cut still works. Just because the hot topic kids jumped all over this and the director re-cut it in the most obvious and hackish way possible doesn’t make my old first run DVD any less good. And as a bonus, it’s got Maggie Gyllenhaal before she hit menopause.

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Once

Benjamin: I’ll be honest, I tried watching this once (sic) for five minutes and found I would need subtitles to continue. Marco?

Marco: The sum is more than the whole and it’s a slow build up, but before you know it, you’re immersed in the gradual easy attraction of this busker and the immigrant and their mutual love of music. Their real life story is a bit weirder, but not scandalous, and hey, whatever. Life is weirder, and this movie feels more realistic as if you there in the grime and poverty and creative joy with them.

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Cache

Marco: What you take out of life is about how you perceive it and even scarier than that, the the thing we never ask ourselves is: What do others see when they see us. Haneke, who’s no stranger to strong, controversial filmmaking, gives us a very raw, paranoid movie here about a French couple who start receiving video tapes of themselves. There’s much you could say about this film and I feel it’s one that people will come back to more and more in the years to come. It feels like the kind of cinema I’d like to see Hitchcock making if he was alive today.

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Traffic

Benjamin: I think we all remember the same thing from this film: the Erika Christiansen “gettin fucked” POV cam. Also, it nicely exposed the general pop to the harsh realities of the war on drugs. Then we all watched for a whole decade while the reality got worse.

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Mulholland Drive

Marco: This is a film you watch once, enjoy it or not, but after that, it’s no longer a film. It lives inside you, hovering just over you, out of the corner of your eye, always just out of sight. It’ll influence your dreams and always feel like the cold fingers of a dead man crawling up your spine for a gentle caress. And it’s beautiful and perfect, too.

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The Prestige

Benjamin: The Plot, the Turn, and the Prestige. It’s hard not to like the clockwork structure of this film. Plus, it has Tesla in it, and Tesla invented half the new technology in the 2000s.

Marco: I think it was actually Benjamin Light who saw this before me and convinced me to see it (not that I needed much convincing). “How was it?” I asked. “Not bad at all,” he said. “It’s got magicians trying to fuck each other over and a mad scientist and-” “I’m sold,” I said. Easily one of the strongest, smartest movies of the decade. And secretly one of the most fun.

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The Dark Knight

Marco: “Because some men aren’t looking for anything logical, like money. They can’t be bought, bullied, reasoned or negotiated with. Some men just want to watch the world burn.”

Benjamin: Probably the most important film of the decade. No, seriously. The Dark Knight took the soul of America to the brink of post-9/11 despair, and then pulled us back a few feet and let us stare out into the abyss. Anarchy has never seemed so terrifyingly seductive. There’s a reason this film made shitloads of money, and it’s got nothing to do with bat-arrangs and secret identities. This was America’s acceptance stage.

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The Others

Benjamin: My favorite horror film of the decade, and so much more worthy of praise than the Sixth Sense.

Marco: We’ve talked about how few filmmakers can really produce actual, real dread in their movies, the kind you can feel floating around in your blood with you, or a that constant presence out of the corner of your eye. This had that, plus that feeling of gripping your knees or fingernails digging into your armrests and your teeth grinding. And I’d hate to ever review based on its twist, but this movie’s? Perfect.

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There Will Be Blood

Marco: The perfect horror movie to precede a recession.

Benjamin: Perhaps the only way to show the sociopathic urges of unchecked capitalism is to embody it in a man.

You’re not my son. You’re just a little piece of competition.

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Lost In Translation

Marco: Too often are own lives drift towards being half asleep, confused, and having a shoegaze soundtrack. Bill Murray and ScarJo do this one easily, with charm and grace. Some movies need helicopter chases and explosions and lots of shouting to be something, and then there’s movies like this: It starts with a plane landing and ends with a plane taking off and in between it’s just two people.

Benjamin: Just like honey. Watched this at 3am drinking zima. Hit me like a cement truck and I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore. I would go so far as to throw the adjective ‘timeless’ at this film.

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The Royal Tenenbaums

Benjamin: A nice little gift to Salinger fans. It can’t be easy to pastiche the aesthetic of J.D. while still maintaining your own style, but Wes Anderson did it.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind

Benjamin: True story: I once set up my roommate with a girl I used to live with in college. They broke up half a year later. The day they broke up, me and the girl and a few other guys went to see this film. I asked the girl: are you sure you feel like seeing this? And she said no, it’s ok, I’m fine. So we saw it, then went to IHOP afterwards for some dinner. A couple minutes after we sit down in our booth, the girl just totally breaks down, completely devastated. That’s the kind of film this is.

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Before Sunset

Benjamin: As much as I dislike Richard Linklater, I really do like this film and its predecessor. Would these movies be 10 times better with a different male lead actor? I think so.

Marco: Yeah, I think you can see so very much of Ethan Hawke’s own personal story within the film, especially when his character talks about his off screen wife. But that’s art. There’s something wonderful about the world of Jesse and Celine, something that’s perfect to watch as they reconnect and get past themselves to each other. I wouldn’t mind a return visit to their world.

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The Hurt Locker

Marco: One of the most tense movies that I’ve seen in a while, and one of the most effortlessly strong ones as well. Kathryn Bigelow knows how to make intellectually muscular movies that don’t shy away from action in the slightest. Compare this to Peter Berg’s The Kingdom for poof that Bigelow shouldn’t wait another 8 years to make another movie and that Berg should.

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WALL-E

Benjamin: Only Pixar could make a CGI movie about robots with more heart and soul than nearly every live-action film of the year. Wall-E and E-va’s “dance” through space was the work of true artists. Also, E-va always reminds me of Peanut St. Cosmo.

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The Lives Of Others

Marco: I wonder now if this movie would make a good double bill with Cache… Hmm. Regardless, this is an interesting movie, so very quiet but heavy, about how Big Brother really is watching you. They know everything about you, all of your plots, your secret desires, and soon your privacy will become theirs.

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V For Vendetta

Benjamin: In retrospect, it’s amazing this movie ever got made during the Bush years, even if it is set in England. The whole film is just a complete rebuke of post 9/11 America.

How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror.

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Synechdoche, New York

Marco: One of the most depressing movies I have ever seen. Charlie Kaufman tackles life and getting old and dealing with your mistakes through an abstract eye, bulky with dream logic, but you can’t help but embody the Phillip Seymour Hoffman character’s sadness. And through the characters, your own. This one stuck with me for a while and, honestly, I think I’m glad it’s so misunderstood and underrated. It feels like my pain and I’m glad I can hold onto it just a little bit longer, just for me.

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Let The Right One In

Benjamin: It seems like you can never go wrong with a snowy setting, cinematically speaking. This film reminded me in some ways of “The Shining.” Mostly in how there are long stretches of antiseptic dread between moments of shocking gore. and I always appreciate a film that portrays children as the soulless sociopaths that they are.

Marco: Seriously. And this film is just gorgeous, and slick as any Hollywood remake could hope to be (but more on that later). There’s warmth in the cold here, nuance in the horror, and amazingly, I find myself still debating aspects of the ending with people.

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Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Benjamin: There were a ton of Crouching Tiger knock-offs after Ang Lee’s film won the Foreign Film Oscar, but none could touch the real thing. There is a fierceness to Zhang Ziyi’s performance that takes what was already an excellent adventure drama to the next level. And it wasn’t the wire-work and martial arts that made this film special, it was the way Lee used them to tell a somewhat timeless story.

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Munich

Benjamin: The scene that always stuck with me from this film was the hit on the female assassin. Her sadness in  knowing she’s about to die, that nothing she can say or do will save her. And then, after being shot, walking all the way to her chair to sit down before taking a breath and bleeding out. When Spielberg wants to, nobody puts a more haunting portrayal of realistic violence on the screen than him. And he might be the only man alive with the clout and stature to make this film without getting savaged on all sides.

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Brick

Marco: This film should not work nearly as well as it does, but it does. A lot of wild elements combine wonderfully, glued in by strong vision and good actors. Every time I watch this, I find myself intoxicated by the language.

Benjamin: Joseph Gordon-Levitt goes from being the kid from 3rd Rock to the next great hope of American acting. Film Noir in High School; perhaps a precursor to Veronica Mars. Gordon-Levitt’s nervy performance makes eyeglass cases and library research seem totally bad-ass. And the noir dialog is killer.

Brendan Frye: All right, you got me. I’m a scout for the Gophers. Been watching your game for a month, but that story right there just clenched it. You got heart kid. How soon can you be in Minneapolis?

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Cold winters, but they got a great transit system.

Brad Bramish: Yeah?

Brendan Frye: Yeah.

Brad Bramish: Oh, yeah?

Brendan Frye: There’s a thesaurus in the library. Yeah is under “Y”. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

◊ ◊ ◊

Serenity

Benjamin: A movie that should have been about 5 times more popular than it was. There’s really not much not to like. Just an excellent, original sci-fi adventure film with engaging characters, fun action scenes and an intelligent message at its core. “I’m a leaf on the wind.” Poor Wash.

◊ ◊ ◊

Gosford Park

Benjamin: A “classic British murder mystery” that’s much more concerned with the crumbling traditions of Class in England. The dry English wit is razor sharp without ever calling attention to itself.

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The Ring

Benjamin: The first, and perhaps only, successful American translation of the J-Horror movement. I thought the atmosphere and all the cold blue hues of the pacific northwest really made the movie. Like “The Others,” this film was genuinely creepy and unnerving to watch. A taut little thriller of slowly-building dread.

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(500) Days Of Summer

Marco: A mature look at an immature ideal of love. This is a slick film, ideal viewing for anyone who’s ever been in love, thought they were in love, washed out of a relationship that still keeps them guessing, or just likes well produced, well acted movies. There’s an awesome top ten list of films for romantics out there and this is on it.

Benjamin: I’ve already reviewed this elsewhere, so I’ll just say that I really liked this film and look forward to the director’s next project.

Marco: Which may or may not be a reboot of the Spiderman franchise? Benjie and I have suggesting Joseph Gordon-Levitt as worthy of taking of Heath Ledger’s Joker mantle for a while now, but JGL as Peter Parker? I’d more than buy that.

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In The Mood For Love

Marco: One of the most visually beautiful and emotionally resonant movies I’ve ever been lucky enough to see. Calls back to an era of filmmaking that is not only romantic and sweeping, but in which characters had integrity.

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Bad Santa

Benjamin: Would I like this movie less if I hadn’t seen it opening day in a crowded theater half-full of middle-aged patrons who had no idea what it was actually about? Maybe, but this was one of my most enjoyable movie-going experiences ever. “I’m really sorry Grandma, I didn’t know it was going to be like this.” The scene where everyone is punching each other in the balls made us all laugh way too hard.

Marco: This movie will ensure that “you don’t shit right for a week.” But only the “January 2003 Pasadena test screening cut.”

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Mean Girls

Benjamin: Yay Tina Fey! Once upon a time, speaking Fey’s dialog, Lindsay Lohan looked like she was going to be the can’t miss superstar actress of her generation. There’s kind of an amazing collection of young talent in this quirky little film about Girls. Who would have predicted that Lizzy Caplan would grow up to be the hottest of them all? I once made a comment that 10 Things I Hate About You was the last honest teen movie, but then Mean Girls came along and gave the decade at least one shining example of the genre.

◊ ◊ ◊

Pirates of the Caribbean

Benjamin: Forget the over-stuffed, unessential, paycheck-cashing sequels. Before parts two and three made a muddle of everything, the first Pirates movie was shockingly entertaining. Due in no small part, I think, to Geoffrey Rush’s bravado performance. When he actually yells “ARRRRGGGHHH!!” at Keira Knightly, it’s so genuine that you can’t help but smile. “Bring me that Horizon.”

Sidebar — Gore Verbinski is on this list twice for two entirely different movies. Isn’t it about time a studio let him make a vanity project instead of just throwing franchises at him?

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A.I. Artificial Intelligence

Benjamin: A lot of people didn’t like the “happy” ending to this movie when it came out. Never mind how bleak the ending really is. Gigalo Joe: “I am. …I was.”

Marco: This movie and Munich are really the most mature movies that Spielberg has ever made and, to me, they’re perfect. Do they have flaws here and there? Yeah, sure. But they’re perfect because of them, speaking to my nerdy, pulpy heart.

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Memento

Benjamin: Memento came out right at the start of the decade when there was a little quicksilver running in the veins of so many promising young directors. A tight, clockwork little story that turns the simple tactic of a reverse edit into a brilliant exposition on memory and identity.

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Closer

Benjamin: Peanut loves this movie. It’s hard to top Clive Owen growling, “Because I’m a fucking caveman!” followed by “Like you, but sweeter.”

Marco: “Have you ever seen a human heart? It looks like a fist, WRAPPED IN BLOOD! Go fuck yourself! You writer! You liar!”

Benjamin: Fuck yeah!

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X2: X-Men United

Benjamin: A thoroughly enjoyable comic book film that works on many levels. Finally a film that didn’t seem afraid of its characters’ super-powers.

Marco: Bryan Singer was on to something here, definitely, the idea that a comic book or genre movie can be fun and true to it’s source material, though not a slave to it, but more importantly, can treat it seriously, let it be complicated, and very human. And then Christopher Nolan took those notions and dragged them into the gritty real world.

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The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

Benjamin: Saw this with Peanut and August on Christmas day. Thought it was “just decent” at the time and I like it more every time I’ve watched it since. “I wonder if it remembers me?” is a fantastic line, but I think my favorite moment in this movie is right after Steve meets Ned the first time. He makes some small talk and then excuses himself and runs to the bow of the ship to have a minor freak out. Such a true to life moment.

Marco: “OK, man.”

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I Heart Huckabees

Benjamin: Jude Law plays an American Asshole disturbingly well. The Mayo Story is one of those painful, can’t look away, show-stoppers.

Marco: The kind of smart, “quirky” cinema that I feel like mainstream audiences should have more exposure to. Also, “how am I not myself?”

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The Fountain

Benjamin: The “present day” search for cancer cure parts stick with me the most.

Marco: There’s something so beautiful about the tragedy in this movie, and I think the splintered storytelling reflects that, how in these situations where life seems to be ripping apart in front of us, we’re stuck in the past, we’re stuck in the present, and we’re dreaming of a future where we’re not so damn helpless. I don’t think this movie has it all figured out, kind of like life, and I like to hear people’s theories about, espeically since this isn’t for everyone. As for me, the future stuff? Clearly that’s the last chapter of the book, right?

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Juno

Benjamin: Ellen Page FTW! It’s hard to fully put into words why I enjoyed this movie so much, but thought “Knocked Up” was shit. Diablo Cody’s script is over-written, but Jason Reitman managed to breath tons of humanity into a relatively standard story-line. I suppose it works because it’s ultimately not a story about pregnancy, but a story about growing up.

◊ ◊ ◊

Sideways

Benjamin: A depressing, yet hopeful little story about coming to terms with having your dreams crushed.

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The Incredibles

Benjamin: Pixar does comic book meta-jokes and puts most other comic-to-film adaptations to shame.

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Cloverfield

Marco: Again, another movie that shouldn’t work nearly as well as it did (for me, anyway). This is part innovative monster flick, and, to me, part new way of exposing the mass audience to an arthouse flick. The new wave turned into a monster crushing the happy little lives of a bunch of well to do twentysomethings in New York. And all of it dripping out of the magic mystery box that is J. J. Abram’s brain.

Benjamin: A brisk, fun little monster movie that never runs out of clever ways to exploit it’s first-person POV format. After a decade of almost all remakes, sequels or adaptations, it was nice to see something new and creative on the screen.

◊ ◊ ◊

Inside Man

Benjamin: Warner Bros.’ formula of star actors and high concepts works perfectly here. Spike Lee shows us with this and the 25th hour that he works better when he’s only got one foot on the soapbox. This is the kind of taught little thriller that you can recommend to nearly anyone. And if they don’t like it, they must have no taste at all.

Marco: People who tell me that they didn’t get this movie make me laugh a little. Everyone brings their A game to this sleek beast, and there’s enough fascinating stuff going on here to fill up at least a season or two of quality television.

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Star Trek

Benjamin: An all-around enjoyable movie that stands out for an excellent opening sequence and the fact that it was surrounded by total dogshit competition in the summer of 09.

Marco: You may definitely have to turn your brain off for parts of it, but it won’t disappoint in that regard, though I feel like it’s almost like watching the cast of Cloverfield (you could make the argument that every J.J. Abrams joint, aside from Lost, features “the cast of Cloverfield” in form or shape) taking on Romulans, time and space, copious amounts of lens flares, and one of the oldest American sci fi franchises out there. You’re right, Commander Light, last year really was the year of time travel.

◊ ◊ ◊

American Psycho

Benjamin: Makes the list for its first half; act 3 gets a little shaggy. But meeting Patrick Bateman and seeing him go about his lifestyle is required viewing.

Marco: I feel like there’s a whole generation who watched this film and realized that there was really something sick out there in the world, and that if you were to take a step or two back from it and appreciate it for what it was worth, the sickness was also hilarious. The beginning of Christian Bale’s understanding and assault on the satire and attire of the young, rich, professional American male.

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Atonement

Benjamin: It’s Ian McEwan, but it reminded me in a lot of ways of a Margaret Atwood story. For people who like to write, the ending may hit you harder than others.

Marco: Writers love to fall back on the idea of a writer character, someone to massage out all of your flaws and let you hide from your sins in a perfect world of your own devising, and I love that aspect of this, amongst many other things. Words and stories can damn us or save us, and I love that the sounds of a typewriter are even used as percussion and soundtrack here.

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Brokeback Mountain

Benjamin: An Asian guy makes an American film about gay cowboys. And it works, seriously. I think Ang Lee was successful because he told a story about characters who happened to be gay instead of camping it up and trying to force the audience into a queer viewing experience like some hack film school grad would try to do.

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Star Wars: Episode 3 – Revenge of the Sith

Benjamin: Fuck the haters, I’d still rather watch the final duel set-pieces in this than the action scenes in any other big-budget effects movie made this decade.

And the honorable mentions:

Half Nelson

Quantum Of Solace

The Contender

Primer

Morvern Callar

Wet Hot American Summer

28 Weeks Later

Up in the Air

Eastern Promises

Mission Impossible 3

Gangs of New York

Up

The 25th Hour

Syriana

Hard Candy

Idiocracy

Michael Clayton

Ghost World

No Country For Old Men

The past ten years have been an interesting one in film. We’ve had to sit through a lot of really stupid shit, but with it has come some truly excellent cinema. Most likely a lot of the trends we’ve hated will continue in the next ten years, but let’s hope they’re tempered with the same level of quality we’ve seen here.