Friday, December 14, 2007

The Ikea in Burbank (Or Hell 2.0)

Patton Oswalt is a genius. The latest proof of this fact is a list he's written of the "5 Angriest Parking Lots in Los Angeles"

5. Bally's Gym & Fitness on El Centro
4. The Ross/7-11/various other stores at La Brea and Sunset
3. The entire Century City facility
2. The Starbucks at the corner of Overland and Washington
1. The Ikea in Burbank

This is a solid list, as any Angelino would note. But his pick for number one is pure genius.

The fucking Ikea in Burbank.

That place fills my heart and brain with a burning hate and rage that no quantity of puppies or ice cream could ever hope to cure.

My friend who lives in Burbank put it best when he said, in Instant Message poetry:
Kyle: parking AT ikea, or the parking FOR ikea?
the parking lot across from Ikea?
or the parking lot where you load your stuff from?
hmm, i guess I just answered the question
he probably means both
just from the sheer act of there even being both


That place is like the tenth circle of hell, a circle so shitty and depressing that Dante didn't include it in "The Inferno" because he didn't want to bum out his readers. And that's a book where people are buried in excrement just because they were "flatterers."

The steps for parking at the Burbank Ikea are as follows:
1: Find parking in a stupid, usually filled lot across from the Ikea.
2: Go through the annoying process of fighting your way through Ikea and buying your shit (an activity infuriating enough that it warrants its own post)
3: Have a friend or loved one who accompanied you on your odyssey wait with your shit right outside the Ikea.
3.5: Failing that, if you have no friends who like you enough to go to Ikea with you (don't feel bad if they say no; they'd better like you a whole fucking lot, considering that you're asking them to go to the fucking Ikea in Burbank) leave your giant boxes of crappy furniture with cutesy Swedish names outside the store unaccompanied and pray it isn't stolen as you...
4: Run back to your parked car, fight your way out of the overfilled, tiny parking lot.
5: Turn right out of the parking lot (because there is no left turn,) then drive to the end of the street, and either turn left or make an illegal U-Turn because you're not allowed to turn into the fucking Ikea lot when you exit the parking lot.
6: Park in the temporary lot in front of the Ikea and load your heavy yet cheap furniture. (It's cheap for a reason and will probably last you no more than a year. This is why the man who own Ikea is the richest person in the world...he's made his money off the backs of all those poor college students who don't have the cash to buy something a little more expensive that will last them for much more time in the long run.)
7: Go home.
8: Drink.

And oh yeah, it's somehow always raining when you travel to the Ikea in Burbank. It never rains in LA...unless you have to go to the fucking Ikea in Burbank.

Fuck you, Ikea in Burbank. Fuck you.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

2007: It Was a Very Good Year

So I've finally got around to publishing my Best Movies of 2007 list... I figured maybe I should get to it before most of the "Best of 2008" movies hit theaters (though I'm sure "One Missed Call," "Prom Night," and "Tyler Perry's Whatever This Week's Tyler Perry Movie Is Called," will all end up on end of the year lists.)

There Will Be Blood
P.T. Anderson's stunning vision of the rise of California Oil tycoon Daniel Plainview is the most engrossing movie of the year. At times a terrifying horror movie and at times a hilariously over the top black comedy, Anderson's film is both classically structured and completely modern, and it's quirks and strange details make it of a piece with the filmmaker's other work, even though his previous period piece only went as far back as the 1970's San Fernando Valley Porn industry. Anderson really comes into his own in this stunningly singular vision, while remaining true to the promise of his earlier work. And Daniel Day Lewis's performance as Plainview is amazing, scary, and obsessive, a train wreck you can't peel your eyes away from. Johnny Greenwood's score, all screeching violins and loud bursts of noise, gets under your skin like very few pieces of film music have done before it. Brilliant.

David Fincher's obsessively detailed recreation of the Zodiac murders is a major step forward in the filmmaker's career, revealing a new maturity from the talented provocateur of "Seven" and "Fight Club." The director recreates the case and era as obsessively as the film's hero, proving along the way that mountains of facts and informaiton don't necesarrily reveal the truth. And for such an expository movie, it's awfully entertaining and thrilling. It's filmmaking of the absolute highest caliber.

I'm Not There
Todd Haynes's exhilerating Bob Dylan biopic features six different actors playing Dylan (or versions of Dylan) in an exploration of the musician's ever shifting personas. By the end of Haynes's long, strange journey, we are not really any closer to knowing the "real" Bob Dylan...and Haynes (and Dylan himself) wouldn't have it any other way.

No Country For Old Men
In a very good year for big name auteurs like Fincher, Cronenberg, and the two Andersons, The Brothers Coen deliver perhaps their finest film (no small feat from the guys who made "Fargo," "The Big Lebowski," "Blood Simple," "Millers Crossing," "Raising Arizona," and lots of other awesome,) with this masterpiece of mood, atmosphere, and tension. And Javier Bardem is scary as hell.

Brad Bird is a genius, and he sets yet another high water mark for American animation with this Pixar tale of a rat who dreams of becoming a gourmet chef. This is not just kid's stuff..."Ratatouille" is a sophisticated comedy about the struggle of an artist to create and a cry out against mediocrity. The scene in which the snooty food critic Atom Ego has his first bite of the dish created by the unlikely chef is a beauty. The silent moment is at once funny, moving, and triumphant, and a graceful reminder of how great art- any art, be it food, film, music, or even a cartoon about a rat- can emotionally affect us. It's possibly the single most trancendent moment in American film of the year. Plus that little rat is really freaking cute.

Eastern Promises
David Cronenberg's newest films have been more "mainstream" than his previous work, yet none of them have sacrificed one iota of the filmmaker's themes or personal obsessions. Viggo Mortensen is stunning as a mysterious driver for Russian mobsters in London, whose loyalties and motivations remain murky until the final fade out. And his naked knife fight is one of the most jaw droppingly well directed sequences in any movie from 2007.

The Darjeeling Limited
I'm a Wes Anderson nut, and I was initially disappointed with his latest film. But the movie has grown sturdier in my memory, revealing itself as Anderson's most mature work to date. The story of three over privileged brothers on a train ride through India who try and plan a "spiritual journey" and find something else entirely, Anderson cut down on the quirk without diluting his very strong and unique voice. I didn't get lost in the world of the film like I did with every one of his previous films, didn't laugh as often or feel as deeply moved, but it's still a damn good film...and it's got me thrilled to see what the most original and distinct voice in American cinema has in store for us next.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
One of the most entertaining movies of the year, period. A documentary about the battle to post high scores in classic arcade video games may not sound exciting, but the filmmakers take their set up and turn it into the stuff of high drama- and comedy. When mild mannered teacher Steve Wiebe sets a new record on arcade classic Donkey Kong, he unleashes the wrath of mulletted hot sauce maker Billy Mitchell, the self proclaimed "gamer of the century." What follows is a battle of wills that builds into a shockingly compelling sports movie, featuring two challengers with zero athletic ability. Mitchell turns out to be one of the most entertainingly hissable screen villains in movie history, while the good natured Wiebe becomes the arcade set's Rocky Balboa right before our very eyes. Filled with beyond colorful characters, "The King of Kong" turns a subject that could have turned off general audiences into a nail biting, laugh out loud blast of entertainment.

Knocked Up/ Superbad
Judd Apatow has had a legendary year (despite the mediocre box office of the just okay "Walk Hard," which he wrote and produced) and his one/ two summer punch of "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" are great for different reasons. "Superbad" is one of the filthiest and funniest teen movies to hit theaters in years, and it had audiences rolling in the aisles like no other comedy in a long time. But "Knocked Up," Apatow's personally felt story of a stoner who decides to grow up so he can become worthy of the beautiful woman he impregnantes after a one night stand is the one that has earned (exaggerated though not completely unjustified) comparisons to "The Graduate." A flawed, sometimes uneven comedy, "Knocked Up" became an instant classic because it's full of big laughs, heart, and if you look for it, universal truths. Apatow is surfing the zeitgeist and changing film comedy for the better, and "Knocked Up" is perhaps the most significant mainstream Hollywood release of the year. He's changing the way the industry makes comedies, and that's a good thing.

Charlie Wilson's War
In a year when a handful of political films failed to excite audiences or critics, "Charlie Wilson's War" told what could have been a boring and preachy story of the senator who got the Russians out of Afghanistan and helped end the Cold War and in the process armed and trained the very people who would turn on us on 9/11...into a light on it's feet and funny as hell comedy. Tom Hanks gets to subvert his Mr. Nice Guy family man persona yet still charms as the hard drinking, womanizing titular senator. But it's Philip Seymour Hoffman, a national treasure at this point, who steals the movie from megastars Hanks and Julia Roberts as the CIA spook who helps Charlie Wilson pull of his war.

The Host
This Korean monster movie is a crazy genre hybrid, switching tones between over the top comedy to edge of your set horror to tear jerking pathos at the drop of the hat. When pollution, dumped by American companies, creates a pissed off monster who lives in an urban river, a family fights to find their missing kid. Also, the monster looks really cool, and the filmmakers are wise enough to not hide him until the end of the movie... we get to see the beast early and often.

The animated tale of a defiant Iranian girl growing up during the Muslim revolution, this movie proves that cartoons aren't just for kids. The lovely black and white animation is used to tell a personal, political tale in a medium usually reserved for fart jokes, dated upon release pop culture jokes, and cute talking animals (not to say there's anything wrong with talking animals, considering how gorgeous "Ratatouille" turned out to be.)

The Bourne Ultimatum
The third film in the "Bourne" spy franchise is light on story, and heavy on action. Normally, this would be a criticism of the film, but my god, what awesome action. Paul Greengrass stages his globe trotting action sequences with nerve jangling shaky cam and claustrophobic close ups... and he, unlike most action directors, doesn't forget to make each sequence suspenseful. The movie is a breathless, non stop chase, and it's one of the most exciting action movies in years.

Black Book
Paul Verhoeven returned to Europe after making one too many expensive flops in America... and delivers an excellent tale of a Jewish girl infiltrating a Gestapo headquarters for the Resistence... and falling in love with the Nazi she is supposed to seduce. A crackling, well made thriller with a great performance from the gorgeous Carice Van Houte, Verhoeven's film is none too subtle (like the rest of his work,) but it's exciting, engrossing, and alive.

The three hour "Grindhouse" experience is an argument for the very act of going to the movies. Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez lovingly recreated the experience of exploitation double features while making very good films in the process of referencing generally very bad ones.