Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Best of 2009

1. THE HURT LOCKER
dir. Kathryn Bigelow

I am imagining Kathryn Bigelow (above) as the Evelyn Mulray to Howard Hawks' Noah Cross and I mean that in the best possible way because I revere Hawks uber alles and this would be perhaps a non-incestuous version, one with more fishing and hunting and target practice. I'm sure Hawks would have called HURT LOCKER "a damn good picture" and Bigelow "a damnned good-looking girl."


2. ANTICHRIST 
dir. Lars Von Trier
Poor Lars, so blinded by panic he could barely film the best movie of the year. As in DOGVILLE, the subject matter is the absolute rejection of patriarchal mores and logic in favor of the dark chthonic evils at the base of sexual desire. Lady MacBeth once cautioned her husband "Appear the innocent flower / but be the serpent under it." And even if you don't know the blooms, you can always just soak in the ground zero madness and spooky charm of the serpent under it, as Willem Dafoe is exhumed like a living corpse and cognitive therapy gets a well-deserved smash to the groin, Charlotte Gainsbourg delivers five actresses worth of the performance of the year, and there's a talking fox that says more in two words than Wes Anderson's menagerie would ever dare.

3. OBSERVE AND REPORT 
dir. Jody Hill
The near constant amount of pumping rock music-scored slow mo walking illuminates not only the inherent psychosis of action movies, but the way blind self-confidence and insane conviction are the backbone of America. the script is packed with bizarre lines like: "If anything I laugh at other people who try to do what they want, not do... what I want." When people try and reach out to our heavy mall cop (Seth Rogen) he declares: "Save your sorries and put 'em in a sack." Splitting the difference between DON QUIXOTE and TAXI DRIVER goes to THE 'BURBS, Jody Hill proves himself the only American auteur with the guts to show his country in the same twisted light as Von Trier and Herzog, and then embrace with it anyway the deadpan zeal of a true convert. Best of all, he loves his characters even when no one else does --even a vomit kiss is rendered crazy romantic by just the right song. America's bi-polar disorder is perfectly embodied in Ronnie's gun-shaped birthday cake, linking the film to another classic wherein malls and guns go hand in hand to paint America black: Romero's original DAWN OF THE DEAD.

4. INGLORIOUS BASTERDS 
dir. Quentin Tarantino
...Rather than as a war film, BASTERDS should be met as a meditation on artifice, cinema and power. The main scenes people don’t like in the film generally revolve around women: the protracted tavern scene with the movie star fending off drunken Germans; the projectionist dealing with the amorous German movie star. Their point is that real life under occupation–or as a woman–involves always living under threat. There is no cathartic respite, no “now we’re safe” moment when you’re a woman in a man’s world.

5. BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL NEW ORLEANS 
dir. Werner Herzog
Going off to AA and leaving your druggie mate behind to drink alone is hazardous to any relationship, an instant point of necessary cataclysm from the sober person's point of view (28 DAYS, CLEAN AND SOBER), but Herzog would never dream of following the sober person's point of view. When everyone else is slinking away as the abusive crackhead rants and raves and loses his shit, Herzog walks boldly in with his camera and asks him about his dreams. Herzog would be a great "guide" on an acid trip. You can see him getting all up in a cop's face over his charge's right to make out with the flowers in Central Park or to bite the heads off slow-footed squirrels. 

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