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The best genre movies of 2011, part 1

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You’ve already got my list of the top ten films of 2011, but there were a lot more than just ten good movies this year. It’s time to highlight the genre standouts, the silly, scary, exciting, emotional stuff that doesn’t get the critical praise it deserves, especially at this time of the year when it’s all about gloss, and prestige, and actors eating half their body weight in ice cream and calling it “artistic commitment.” (Don’t you wish you had a job that let you call your obsession with Coffee Heath Bar Crunch art? Me too.)

This is part one of my list of the best genre movies of 2011. I’ve picked out a whole bunch of genres, from Western, to romance, to horror, and selected one exemplary entry for each. Be sure to come back tomorrow for 2011’s best buddy cop movie, best comedy, best sports movie, and more. Until then, here are our first five genre standouts.

The Best Western of the Year
“Blackthorn”
Directed by Mateo Gil

“Meek’s Cutoff” was the critical darling of the Western genre this year, but Kelly Reichardt’s bleak account of a doomed wagon train was too often an exercise in frustration to my taste. For a more satisfying frontier throwback, seek out “Blackthorn,” a sort-of-sequel to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” starring the wonderfully dyspeptic Sam Shepard as an aging Cassidy who sets out for the United States after decades in hiding in Bolivia. Along the way he encounters a man with some stolen money, which leads to plenty of double-crosses, chases, and shootouts, a new partnership to mirror the one he had with Sundance, and the occasional masculine contemplation of the meaning of life over a plate of campfire beans. “Blackthorn”‘s ending is almost as disappointing as “Meek’s Cutoff”‘s but you know what they say about focusing on the journey rather than the destination. This is a really interesting journey. Read my full review here.


The Best Horror Film of the Year
“Insidious”
Directed by James Wan

Speaking of disappointing endings, I wouldn’t for one minute pretend that the last fifteen minutes of “Insidious” — a haunted house movie from the writer and director of “Saw” — doesn’t completely fall apart after one too many predictable plot twists and a little too much unpredictable silliness. Until then, though, this story of troubled married couple and their spooky encounters in their new home on the corner of Hellmouth Drive and You Guys Are Totally Fucked Boulevard is absolutely terrifying. Every scene with Lin Shaye as the paranormal investigator called to cure the couple’s comatose son is killer. Not to be watched in a house with creaky floorboards or oversized grandfather clocks. Read my full review here.


The Best Legal Thriller of the Year
“The Lincoln Lawyer”
Directed by Brad Furman

Is “The Lincoln Lawyer” the most accurate legal thriller of the year? My night school law degree hasn’t come in the mail yet, I’m guessing probably not. But who cares? The broadcast television airwaves are littered with dozens of weekly hours of dry, by-the-books law shows; if you want pedestrian legal thrills, go there. If you want a batshit crazy story with big, fun plot twists and a deliciously evil villain, check out this sturdy adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Connelly. I can’t tell you who you the villain is because that would spoil some of the surprise, but I can say that Matthew McConaughey is in excellent form as Mickey Haller, a slick, smart Los Angeles attorney hired to defend a real estate magnate’s son from charges of rape. I walked into this movie almost at random on a day when I was stranded in Manhattan with several hours to kill. I walked out two hours later absolutely delighted by one of the most purely entertaining movies I saw all year.


The Best Romance of the Year
“Weekend”
Directed by Andrew Haigh

Two men meet in the bar on a Friday night and have a one night stand. The next morning, they discover a connection deeper than physical attraction but for reasons best left unexplained, their relationship has to end when the weekend does. This sweet, sad, and painfully accurate film about fleeting love evokes memories of David Lean’s “Brief Encounter” and Richard Linklater’s “Before Sunrise.” Director Andrew Haigh shot the film in practical locations with long, uncut takes because, he told me, he wanted “Weekend” “to feel almost like a documentary…you, as the audience, were almost sitting in the corner of the room just watching this relationship unfold.” He succeeded. Good luck trying not to cry as you watch this relationship unfold during the big climactic scene in the train station. You’ll need it. Read my full interview with Haigh here. “Weekend” is currently available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LkC7xHAfxm4


The Best Comic Book Movie of the Year
“X-Men: First Class”
Directed by Matthew Vaughn

Technically “The Adventures of Tintin” would probably get my vote for the most accomplished comic book adaptation of the year. But I’ve never read any “Tintin” comics, and neither have most of the people who’ll be seeing it in the United States, which means Steven Spielberg didn’t have to contend with angry, judgmental fanboys freaking out over his every creative decision. Matthew Vaughn, on the other hand, had plenty of nerds looking over his shoulder as he made the fifth film in the X-Men franchise. He also had to retrofit a new story to fit within the framework of old comics and movies, deal with the fact that the previous “X-Men” prequel, “Wolverine,” was one of the worst comic book movies ever, and crank out the entire project from start to finish in less than a year. Somehow, he made it work. Michael Fassbender was such a badass antihero as the young, Nazi-hunting Magneto he suggested an avenue for a prequel to this prequel. Listen to my full review here.


On to PART 2 of The Best Genre Movies of 2011.

Got different picks for the best Western, horror film, legal thriller, romance, and comic book movie of the year? Let us know in the comments below or write to us on Facebook and Twitter.

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Weird Al Conan O’Brien

Off the Wall

Watch “Weird Al” Talk About Parodying Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney

Comedy Bang! Bang! gets weird starting Friday, June 3rd at 11P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Conan / TBS

Song parodist and Comedy Bang! Bang!’s newest bandleader “Weird Al” Yankovic dropped by Conan to chat about the upcoming season of the IFC series and drop a few bits of trivia from his past. For example, did you know meeting Michael Jackson is a lot like meeting an alien? Well, you probably did, but “Weird Al” confirms it! Also, Yankovic discusses how he had a little artistic dispute with Paul McCartney over the use of “Live and Let Die” for a parody titled “Chicken Pot Pie”. (We’ll let Al fill you in on details.)

Check out “Weird Al” talking about his odd encounters with Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney’s joke-ruining suggestions in the video below. And be sure to catch Al on the new season of Comedy Bang! Bang! premiering Friday, June 3rd with back-to-back episodes at 11P and 11:30P.

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Bottoms Up

10 Movies That Make Hitting Rock Bottom Look Like Fun

Maron hits rock bottom tonight at 9P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Dreamworks Pictures

This season on Maron, Marc is hitting rock bottom. He’s lost his career, his home and even his cats. But since Marc is involved, we figure he’ll be good for a few laughs on the way down. Thankfully, Marc’s in good company here. Some of our favorite movies feature characters who have hit the emotional basement face first. We’re glad we’re not them, but we definitely enjoy watching them fall apart.

10. Office Space

Office Space

If you’re going to flame out, at least do it with some panache. That’s the lesson office drone Peter Gibbons teaches us in Mike Judge’s cult classic, when a hypnotism gone wrong allows him to gain a little perspective on life. Soon he’s phoning in his job, and happily telling his superiors the ugly truth to their faces. This, of course, only makes him more popular around the office, a place he now has no need for. Peter has a mental breakdown with a smile on his face, and a bounce in his step, showing us that there is life beyond the cubicle.


9. The Weather Man

Weather Man

Sure, your job’s a joke, your kids are a mess and your father is disappointed in you, but there’s a shortcut to self-esteem that no one tells you about. It’s like a cheat code for when you want to turn your midlife crisis into a midlife adventure. That secret is arming yourself to the teeth. In local weatherman David Spritz’s case, that means carrying a bow and arrow around with him wherever he goes. Nicolas Cage has made a cottage industry of playing people in the midst of nervous breakdowns, from Leaving Las Vegas to The Family Man, but here he really separates David from the pack by going full Hawkeye on us. The lessons is, it doesn’t matter how bad you’re feeling on the inside when everyone is scared to death of you on the outside.


8. Trainwreck

Universal Pictures

Amy Schumer seems to have flipped the script when it comes to bottoming out. Sure, your life may be an unending stream of stripper heels, hangovers and one night stands. If you keep telling yourself everything awful about your life is completely awesome, who’s to say it isn’t? Mind equals blown. That, ladies and gentlemen, is called empowerment. Or delusion. It’s called something, and either way, Schumer knows how to make it hilarious. We may not want to be blackout drunk on a weeknight, but Amy sure makes it look like it doesn’t have to be the worst thing ever. You go girl.


7. American Beauty

American Beauty

Lester Burnham is just an ordinary guy with nothing to lose, and boy does he know how to quit a job. It involves admitting to masturbating in the company bathroom, and then blackmailing your boss into a year’s pay with benefits. If you’re going to hit rock bottom, you may as well get a little cash for the way down.


6. Rachel Getting Married

Rachel Getting Married

You can’t really hit rock bottom unless you take a few people down with you. That’s the lesson of this 2008 indie drama, in which Anne Hathaway plays a destructive addict inadvertently laying waste to her sister’s wedding. Sure, that doesn’t sound like a barrel of laughs, but Hathaway’s “I don’t give a f*ck” performance makes her character Kym feel like the cool girl we all wanted to hang out with in high school. Sure, she’s probably going to end up dead or in jail, but what a time she’ll have before she gets there.


5. Anchorman

Anchorman

There’s nothing quite like chugging milk on a hot summer day to remind you that you’ve made some bad choices in life. Out of work, friendless, womanless, and mustacheless, legendary local newsman Ron Burgundy finds out the hard way that nobody loves you when you’re on the bottom. Not even your weatherman, who seems like he’d give up just about anything for one weekend alone in a New England B&B with you. Fortunately, Mr. Burgundy has a secret up his sleeve, and no, we’re not talking about his jazz flute. With a conch shell, a baby panda news story, and some swagger, Ron Burgundy reminds us that the only way to stop a downward spiral is with the help of your friends and fellow anchorpeople.


4. 28 Days

28 Days

Yes, the opening moments of 28 Days are supposed to be a cautionary tale. An out of control Sandy Bullock shows up drunk to her sister’s wedding and delivers a rambling speech, before destroying the wedding cake. In a panic, she steals a limo, and crashes it into a house while trying to find a cake store. Now, granted, if you’re planning a wedding, this is pretty much the worst case plus one we can imagine. But, if you’re a guest, well, this kind of sounds like fun. As days go, taking a limo joy ride in desperate search of cake sounds like time well spent.


3. Kill Bill

Kill Bill

Okay, being buried alive isn’t fun. That’s a given. But what if you were a master ninja who ate black belts for breakfast looking for some vengeance? Well, then waking up six feet under might just be the thing. Sure, The Bride had a bad run, with a massacre at her wedding rehearsal and the whole coma thing, but this is the moment she turned from a wronged heroine into an ass-kicking machine. Everything she did after this was thanks to her premature funeral, and the folks behind it.


2. Bridesmaid

Bridesmaids

Weddings bring out a lot of emotions. Happiness, joy, regret, bitter jealously, a need to find the open bar. But for Annie, who lost her job, her apartment, and her boyfriend, only to see a fellow bridesmaid get the credit for a bridal shower she planned, it’s just too much. And when life throws a punch at you, you need to punch back, preferably if there’s a giant cookie nearby asking for a beating. Meltdowns aren’t fun in and of themselves, but going commando on a giant chocolate fountain is a dream we’ve had since childhood.


1. Fight Club

Fight Club

Yes, a schizophrenic breakdown, precipitated by the existential pain of a life left unlived, isn’t the most desirable way to spend a weekend. But what if you found out that the coolest guy you knew, the best looking, the guy you dreamed of being was actually (spoiler alert for a 17 year-old movie!) YOU? What if YOU planned the fight club? YOU had a six-pack? YOU were a freaking legend? Well, maybe blowing up a few buildings and crashing this whole system would be worth it. It certainly beats voting for Trump.

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Marc Maron on Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon

Kool Keith

Watch Marc Maron Talk About Sharing a Cigarette With Keith Richards

Maron returns tonight at 9P on IFC.

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If there was anyone who’d geek out over a chance to meet Keith Richards, it’d be Marc Maron. The host of the WTF Podcast and star of IFC’s Maron appeared on The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon to talk about the time he broke a ten-year hiatus from smoking and shared a cigarette with the Rolling Stones guitarist. A garage rock star in his own right, Maron related how he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to partake with a music legend and how grateful he was that he “caught Keith at the right time” — given the other substances he could’ve been carrying in his younger days.

Watch Marc share his Keith Richards story — as well as discuss the preparation that went into his landmark interview with President Obama (snipers are involved) — in the video below. And catch the season premiere of Maron tonight at 9pm ET/PT on IFC.

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