No "best of" 2012, just "films I saw in 2012" and "films that looked good in 2012"

Posted by Eric Brightwell, December 28, 2012 03:42pm | Post a Comment

Around this time of year (i.e. the end of it), film fans usually trot out their "Best of" Lists. As much as I'd like to do the same, I don't even think that I saw ten films this year. Of those I really enjoyed only a few which is why I don't ever make these lists but I'm always looking for more films to love.

Part of the problem is that I rarely see what end up being my favorites in the year that they're released -- does anyone? About 10,000 films were released on the planet so how do people find their favorites before the planet goes full circle around the sun... and how are those films supposed to find their fans that fast?

Of the films that I saw, I quite liked The master although though, as with most PT Anderson films, felt like it gave me more to hold onto than truly admire. Skyfall was mostly satisfying although the pacing allowed my mind to repeatedly dwell on Bond's waxed cotton jacket more than the story. I thought The Dark Knight rises, though deeply silly and self-serious, was really exhilarating. Flight, on the other hand, was deeply silly and self-serious yet not exhilarating at all after the opening scene -- for some reason I've seen nearly every Robert Zemeckis film despite having not honestly liked any since 1985's Back to the future. As someone who can't get enough Middle Earth I thought The Hobbit: an unexpected journey was flawed but enjoyable ...and frequently just... too much. I remember The campaign and Wanderlust both being pleasantly diverting when I saw them but now they've almost entirely extricated themselves from my memory. Tim and Eric's billion dollar movie was bizarre and should've been annoying but was mildly amusing. Casa de mi padre was bizarre and should've been amusing but was mildly annoying. 

Of those films that I had plenty of opportunity to see but still haven't, I count End of watch, Jack Reacher, and Magic Mike. I probably just need one more recommendation from someone whose taste that I trust.

For some reason I can't get excited about Amour, Lawless, or Moonrise Kingdom to follow through with the whole process of actually watching them. And finally, I have little or no interest in seeing highly-regarded films Argo, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Django unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, or The Impossible as they all look absolutely atrocious and I just know that I'd hate them. 


I suppose the films that looked most interesting to me but I missed were the following -- oh, apologies for some of them having ads at the beginning. It indeed seems perverse that YouTube would require people wanting to see ads to sit through ads first:

The angels' share is a Ken Loach comedy-drama filmed in Scotland. I've really liked every film of Ken Loach's that I've seen so that's enough for me. To be honest, the trailer makes it look pretty unremarkable but trailers more often convince me not see movies than to see them.

Damsels in distress
 is Whit Stilman's first film in thirteen years. I loved his first three so naturally I'm anxiously curious about his latest.

ライク・サムワン・イン・ラブ(Like someone in love) is a French-Japanese production about someone who supports herself through prostitution -- which sounds like it could be unbearable... but it's directed by one of my favorite directors, Abbas Kiarostami.

Nairobi half life is a Kenyan film directed by a first timer, David 'Tosh' Gitonga, that's gotten a bit of buzz. With African films continually snubbed by Criterion, New Yorker Films having reduced their output, and the Pan-African Film Festival increasingly showcasing "Pan-African" (in most cases independent black cinema from America) at the expense of actual African films from Africa, it's hard to know what great films are coming from the most cinematically-underrated continent.

アウトレイジ ビヨンド(Outrage beyond) is a Takeshi Kitano film. His output has been up and down for me for a while now but I'll always give him a chance... although I still need to see the first Outrage!

피에타 (Pietà) is the latest Kim Ki-duk film. It sounds as unsettling as most of his films but for some reason there's something seductive and poetic about his films that makes them something other than the arty torture porn or ugly endurance defiance contests (a la Lars von Trier).
Any thoughts or recommendations based on my "taste profile" that might have flown under the radar? Let me know and maybe I'll get back to you next year. 


California Fool's Gold -- Exploring Alhambra, the Gateway to the San Gabriel Valley

Posted by Eric Brightwell, November 5, 2007 05:00pm | Post a Comment

I had to go to
Alhambra to see a man about a horse at the bidding of the original San Gabriel Valley Girl, the always radiant Ngoc Nguyen. To vote for another Los Angeles neighborhood, vote here. To vote for a Los Angeles County Community, vote here. To vote for more Orange County communites, click here

Pendersleigh & SonsOfficial Map of the San Gabriel Valley


Alhambra is on the western edge of the San Gabriel Valley between posh
San Marino, trendy South Pasadena, old San Gabriel, blue collar Rosemead, and the most Chinese city in the US, Monterey Park.

Pendersleigh & Sons' Official Map of Alhambra

The center of Alhambra is the intersection of Garfield and Main, which has functioned as the hub of town at least since 1895.

                          Garfield and Main, 1890                            Garfield and Main, 2007 improved with an Applebees

My favorite historical site, however, isn't really too historical. There's a great shopping center, New Valley Shopping Center, built in 1964. Its main anchor is replaced the 168 Market -- a subsidiary of Ranch 99 Market. It's one of those many, amazing LA simulacra that make what would normally be a boring stripp mall feel like a visit to Disneyland. This shopping center is, much more successfully than the Cerritos Auto Mile, going for a New Orleans French Quarter vibe with a gazebo, faux wrought-iron street lamps and balconies, and a cupola with a liberty bell. And in this beautiful setting, things get pretty third world, just in the Big Easy. 

New Valley Shopping Center


By the 1950s, Garfield and Main was the hippest place in the San Gabriel Valley and was predominantly populated mostly by Italian-Americans. The following decade saw an influx of Latinos from surrounding areas and Anglos moving to other suburbs. In the late 1960s Alhambra was a hotbed of anti-Vietnam War protests and Brown Beret activity. By the mid 1970s tensions rose between the predominantly Anglo "surfers" and cholos. Many
Taiwanese began to move to the neighborhood, followed by Chinese from the mainland, Vietnamese, Cambodians and other Asians
. Today the population is roughly 47% Asian (mostly Chinese and Vietnamese), 36% Latino (Mostly Mexicans of any race), and 14% white.


The San Gabriel Valley is widely recognized for having the best collection of restaurants in Los Angeles County. Being the gateway to the SGV, entering Alhambra on bike I was always hit with a blast of delicious fragrances emanating from kitchens and restaurants. Even though they make up a very small percentage of Los Angeles's Asian-American population, Los Angeles being the great city of the
Pacific Rim it should be no surprise that the highest population of Indonesians is in Los Angeles County. The highest concentration within Los Angeles County is in Alhambra. I mention this first because Indonesian cuisine is one of the world's greatest and Alhambra boasts a few places to get it. Borneo Kalimantan CuisineIndo Kitchen, and Wong Java House. One can also get Indonesian and/or Indonesian-inspired dishes at Garden Café, Savoy Kitchen, and maybe Noodle World. That being said, there's no place in Alhambra that I've eaten more than Yazmin Malaysian Restaurant -- representing the cuisine of Indonesia's neighbor to the north -- Malaysia, of course. I'm also a fan of Banh Mi Che Cali, the Alhambra Lee’s Sandwiches (don’t hate!), Thai Purple, and at least the fried zucchini at Rick’s

In addition to the aforementioned cuisines and restaurants, Alhambra boasts a number of American, Cajun, Chinese, Dim Sum, Hawaiian, Hu, Indian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Taiwanese, Thai, Vietnamese restaurants including the following: