The deliberately truncated title of Rodman Flender's terrific new documentary Conan O'Brien Can't Stop -- which takes viewers backstage on the carrot-topped comedian's 2010 live show the Legally Prohibited From Being Funny On Television Tour -- can be completed four different ways based on what we see in the movie.
We sense a great disturbance in the Force...
In Spring 2010, only two short months after walking away from The Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien took his act on the road with the Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television tour. Between April and June, he visited some 30 cities with a show that consisted of music, comedy and appearances by such big-name stars as Seth Rogen, Pee-wee Herman and Jon Stewart. Also along for the ride was a documentary crew that captured the on-stage action as well as O'Brien's off-stage brooding. The resulting movie, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop, opens in select cities on Friday. If you're looking for some more laughs before then, we recommend checking out these classic comedy concert films. (Note: All of these were released theatrically or direct to-video/DVD. That's why -- as much as we love them -- you won't see Chris Rock's HBO specials or Aziz Ansari's recent Comedy Central version of his Dangerously Delicious tour.)
For me at least, the year in film started with a bang in the form of Gregg Araki's crazysexycool apocalyptic collegiate comedy Kaboom and ended with the whimper that was Stephen Daldry's flat, feeble 9/11 drama Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close. In between those two bookends, 2011 proved a pretty great year for movies, particularly if you thought outside the Hollywood box. After lumbering through a mostly fallow winter, spring and summer, the big movie studios rebounded with a strong fall slate of releases that included the bold new works from veteran filmmakers (Martin Scorsese, Steven Spielberg, Steven Soderbergh among them), star vehicles that actually emphasized brains over brawn (Moneyball, The Descendants) and even a few above-average franchise entries (Mission: Impossible -- Ghost Protocol, Paranormal Activity 3). And when Hollywood faltered, the independent and international film industries picked up the slack. If you lived nearby an art house or had access to a video-on-demand service, every month brought a steady stream of terrific titles that ran the gamut of genres, from ultraviolent samurai tales (Takeshi Miike's 13 Assassins) to moody Westerns (Kelly Reichardt's Meek's Cutoff) to stories of young love in bloom (Andrew Haigh's Weekend). Some years, I struggle to decide which films absolutely deserve a place on my Top Ten list. This year, I struggled to decide which ones I could leave off without too much regret. (That explains, by the way, why my list of Honorable Mentions includes another twenty-odd movies I couldn't bear not to single out.) So without further ado, in one of the best years for movies in some time, here are the best of the best.