Here are my 10 favorite films of last year (excluding documentaries):
(dir-Lars Von Trier)
Lars certainly knows how to kick things off with a bang, beginning with a sex scene (complete with penetration shot) that is intertwined with a kid falling off a balcony and going splat. The freshly deceased munchkin creates some grief related issues for the couple. Dafoe, as a therapist, approaches the grief intellectually, while Gainsbourg takes a more emotional approach (she is the chick in the relationship after all). They explore the woods together, trying to connect with nature and failing, while this grief manifests itself in physical form (including some wonderful surprises). Lars never loses track of the emotional core, while showing again why he has the biggest stones in moviemaking today.
9. Big Fan
A two act treatise on obsession, stripped to its (pathetic) core. Patton's surprise dramatic turn showcases an honest portrait of a man trapped in a jail cell of his own creation. I can't wait for the Zach Galifianakis movie where he plays the most serious child molester in the history of the world.
The year's best pure comedy, courtesy of cinema's greatest Judge (Judge Reinhold can eat a dick). Jason Bateman's pitch perfect performance leads the way, always hilarious, yet never betraying the character's inner turmoil; that of a man caught with one foot in corporatism, and one in a much less structured strain of humanity. Look for a supporting role from that Affleck guy that sucked in Phantoms.
7. A Serious Man
A comi-tragedy that excels at both. The whole thing is refreshingly Jewy, amidst an onslaught of gentile-based hokum. Larry's exchanges with the Korean student and his father are Lebowski-worthy; Coen-patented comedic gold that revels in starts and stops and miscommunication.
6. Goodbye Solo
Another great performance surprise, courtesy of Red West, matched step for step by Souleymane Sy Savane. A two-man tragedy push-and-pull that never hits a false note, this existential suicide drama is so good it makes me want to kill somebody.
5. Bad Lieutenant - Port of Call New Orleans
Herzog delivers the goods yet again in one of the cocainiest movies ever made, with possibly the cocainiest lead performance in history (edging out James Woods in Boost). Sets up a redemption tragedy, as in the Abel Ferrara version, but delivers with a satire on the "cop gone wrong" genre. Also starring iguanas and Val Kilmer, in that order.
(dir-Pete Doctor & Bob Peterson)
When I commit suicide because of a film, I usually do so fifteen minutes after it ends, not fifteen minutes into the movie. Either way, this already iconic opening lays the ground work for a robust geezer adventure filled with a bunch of awesome CGI dogs and a portly boy scout that looks vaguely Asian. The dreams of this old man are held up by balloon strings, just as his quest tugs at the heart strings (dear Disney Corp. - that last sentence is the real log line. You can ignore the rest of it. Thanks. Also, Paypal is fine. Thanks again.)
3. Bright Star
The year's most purely beautiful film; a rich, honest love story replete with wit and wisdom. Marred only by Paul Schneider dipping in and out of method ham (and a British accent as well). Keats would've been proud of this portrait, assuming he lived to be 220 years old and could comprehend the magical invention known as the moving pictures.
2. Crazy Heart
A wonderfully realized portrait of a flawed character (a washed up country singer/songwriter), harkening back to the character studies of the seventies. Bad Blake's selfish core strains his relationship with Maggie Gyllenhaal, and jealousy overcomes him when forced to coexist with his much more successful former protege Tommy Sweet. Includes a surprise appearance by Deborah Mansey (or whatever her name is supposed to be), star of Madonna: A Case of Blood Ambition and Kickboxer 4, of which I am her biggest and only fan.
1. Inglourious Basterds
I talked about this one already, so I'll just add that the placement of the Bowie song was fucking awesome, as is the actual song ("Cat People"), which certainly helps. Not only that, but Melanie Laurent is super hot, and that also helps. Also, the song reminds me of Nastassja Kinski running around naked. You know, I've lost track as to what this has to do with World War II. Well, regardless, I still think the song fits perfectly.
all apologies to:
Black Dynamite - I totally forgot to include this awesome homage to blaxploitation that splits the difference between parody and tribute, remaining hilarious while delivering on genre expectations. Dolemite would be proud of this assault on the rat soup loving, punk ass honky bitches collectively known as "the man".
The World's Greatest Dad - Career mumbler Bobcat Goldfarb finally makes up for the Police Academy series.
Where the Wild Things Are - I want one of those animal suits. I would look fabulous in one of those.
The White Ribbon, The Road - I haven't seen these yet, so I wouldn't feel comfortable cracking wise at their expense.
Anvil! The Story of Anvil - Any similarities to This is Spinal Tap are not a coincidence. The line between a parody of heavy metal and a dead serious rendition of heavy metal is nonexistent.
Not Quite Hollywood: The Wild, Untold Story of Ozploitation! - As an ozploitation veteran, I had already seen a lot of the clips, but I was still swept away by the many comedic behind the scenes stories, as well as the superb synch editing of clips to various cock rocking Aussie bands (AC/DC, Rose Tattoo, etc.); providing a kinetic, pop trash experience in its own right.