prologue: a lay of the land
generally, i think things such as this should be done at a nice distance. a five year wait is good before one attempts to make crass judgments like the ones that follow. but in the attempt to remain hip, to remain in the now, (although technically a few months late still) i have chosen today as the deadline for the official beer cannes review of the year that was in cinema.
2008 was a particularly lazy year for me insofar as new product goes. which is why, in addition to the aforementioned ms. reichardt, i should probably also express my sincere apology to carlos reygadas, lance hammer, guy maddin and especially to jacques rivette for taking an altogether too laid back approach and not seeking out their work in a more fervent manner. but, then again, it isn't as if you guys made your work super accessible either. no matter.
with that said, i still did manage to see quite a bit of the year's product, both import and export, at least enough to give me a pretty accurate lay of the land for the year that was. having done a recap at the halfway point, my readers will forgive if they notice a paucity of revision to my earlier list. it's just that i seem to have seen the majority of the films i truly loved and will remember in the early part of the year. but, at the same time, i am in a way cheating my readers out of the particular degree of freshness that they have come to expect from the beer cannes name.
with this in mind, i have decided this year to go an extra mile or two. and since one good idea deserves another, or at least a kind of response, i have decided to add on a second part to the post in which we, like our sibling blog my year in lists, talk about films old and new that we encountered for the first time in 2008. we really liked ryan's idea and have been meaning to do our companion piece for a while now. and since this is our designated time for the year in review, we thought that this would be an opportune time for this project as well.
the third part of this massive undertaking is set to be a small essay that will probably devolve into a rant on what we here at the beer cannes see as the current state of the cinema, our artistic medium of choice. but enough about that now.
lastly, it has always been my goal to write a post so long that it scrolls the entire length of the list of films that i have seen since i started this here blog just so you have to (hopefully) actively, mentally register the titles with the dream that my readership will be tempted to watch something and then we can discuss it on here. but either way, no worries.
chapter one: the best films of 2008
1. in the city of sylvia-jose luis guerrin---i don't really care if this film got a "proper" release or not. or if it has, in fact, actually been released yet. all i know is that i saw it and it has stuck with me ever since as the ultimate example of someone making a true work of cinema, not books on film, but cinema, that came out this year. or any other year for that matter. pilar lopez de ayala is unbelievably gorgeous and is worth the price that it takes someone to search this film out, which we highly recommend that everyone does. immediately.
2. paranoid park-gus van sant---the "true" work of art from van sant this year, i.e. not the one for which he was oscar nominated. paranoid park extends and expands upon van sant's recent forrays into temporal reality, hypnotic imagery and eliptical (non)narrative in a way that never feels contrived or arty for art's sake. van sant simply likes his characters, understands them, and uses the cinematic function to hang out with them for a bit.
3. happy-go-lucky-mike leigh---i love mike leigh more and more as time goes on, especially when he makes a happy and breezy film such as this one. this film was just a wonderful experience that i can't wait to share again.
4. baghead-the duplass brothers---no film has jumped more on my list of esteem this year than this one as it seems like i can't really ever wrap my head around what exactly it was. was it a murder mystery? not exactly, but it did have some thrills. was it a film about the filmmaking process? sorta, but it didn't really have deep shadings toward that genre. was it a romantic comedy? in a way it was. was it a character study? getting warmer. in fact, it was all these rolled into one sweet little film hybrid...getting excellent mileage out of limited resources.
5. gran torino-clint eastwood---this was the only award season release that was worth the celluloid that it was printed on. naturally it got no hardware love, but who gives a rat's ass? those peckerwood's wouldn't know quality if it spit tobacco in their face. i love walt kowalski and nominate him as the new american hero.
6. still life-jia zhang-ke---because like old walt, i have more in common with the asians(walt didn't say asians) than i do my own family. jia seems like one of the few people in the world, let alone filmmakers, who understand the true depths of despair brought onto a person's soul by industrial revolution. it is as if these products and the ability to make them have alienated us from one another and now there are just spaceship factories where trees and people used to be.
7. forgetting sarah marshall-nicholas stoller---russel brand, meet america...america, meet russel brand. fucking hillarious...and you get paul rudd as a surfer and a puppet show about vampires...hell yes.
8. boarding gate-olivier assayas---olivier assayas is your favorite director's favorite director.
9. the wrestler-darren aronofsky---it has been intimated that aronofsky's film is a stylistic rip off of the dardennes. and that is completely okay by me. i mean seriously, would you rather see aronofsky do another oliver stone style picture? or worse would you rather him redo the fountain? me neither. and beside this film rocks out, mick mars style.
10. role models-david wain---it's a simple equation really...you put paul rudd in a starring role, i come see your movie. here he proves again that he is absolutely the best comedic actor and possibly simply the best actor on the planet. a small child with a foul moth and stiffler are just a bonus.
11. snow angels-david gordon green---the better of gordon green's two efforts that unspooled this year.
12. a christmas tale-anaud desplechin---the best scene of the year is in this film, a lovely little mother-son verbal sparring match between catherine deneuve and matieu amalric on a swingset.
13. dr. horrible's sing-a-long blog-josh weedon---this is the future kids, get hip to it now.
other pretty good films that i saw that really require no further explanation or ranking were as follows: nick and norah's infinite playlist, space chimps, flight of the red baloon, ghost town, pineapple express, the last mistress, super high me, kung-fu panda, jesus castle, and step brothers.
chapter two: bonus list
hell yeah kids, we're going off the prologue's script and have decided to celebrate the occasion by shamelessly exposing the most rotten, putrid and downright bad cinematic offerings served up before my eyes this year. the worst films of 2008.
1. leatherheads-george clooney---note to george clooney: you are not not not preston sturgess, or billy wilder, or any other screwball master because those films had something relevant to say about the societies that inspired them. and yours don't. you've been a star so long that you are no longer in touch with the real world and all you can do make a bullshit, phoney, soulless version of a genre that you don't have the chops to pull off. and by the way, you also probably just made the worst sports movie of all time too. go make danny ocean's greatest hits again you unoriginal piece of crap.
2. burn after reading-the coen brothers---note to the coen's: see above and substitute your name for george clooney. your film was an absolute mess.
3. w.-oliver stone---oliver stone is soft. he is the establishment. and he is dead to me.
4. 21-who the fuck cares who directed this turd---the slickest piece of story slave bullshit that came out this year. stop your plot long enough to develop your characters, otherwise your plot rings as hollow and contrived and soulless. no doubt a money making champion, 21 was "based on a true story" in the same way that my penis is based on the john holmes model.
5. the dark knight-christopher nolan---they took the world's most bloated film and then turned the neat little trick of putting a finger down it's throat so that it could watch it vomit all over its audience a colorful stew of pseudo-intellectualism, bleak chic, and simplistic philosophy on the state of our paranoid world. like debby reynolds said about gene kelley in singin in the rain...it all a bunch of dumb show.
best to avoid this trash if it hasn't yet poisoned you mind, trust me.
chapter three: the best films i saw for the first time in 2008
i really enjoyed when ryan did this over on the my year in lists blog, for one because it was nice to see ryan actually blog(a savored rarity these days) and for two, it was kinda cool because it didn't conform to the release schedule of the movie distribution machine. it read like a personal journey through a year of cinema and that is always appreciated because cinema should always be viewed on personal terms first, and then worked out from there. i also think it is interesting that some of the same films pop up on both our lists, despite the fact that i have excluded films that came out last year(those are listed above) but anyways...
1, there will be blood-paul thomas anderson---i feel that when scholars and fans study this era in the future that this will be the film that they point to as the absolute apex of our times. when i saw this film in the theater a large crowd forces us to sit down front and at the end of the film i noticed i had sizable underarm rings as the heat, labor, grime, and intensity of this film made me sweat. it's a film so good it affected me on a physiological level...that is an amazing achievement. drainage? you ask...it sure drained some oils from me.
2. il posto-ermano olmi---this is probably both the best italian film i have ever seen and also the most sincerely humanist. the affection olmi shows his characters is immense as he never panders to the lowest common denominator during his film that is actually respectful of the sometimes ridiculous rite of young, unrequited love.
3. quiet city and dance party u.s.a.-aaron katz---if you don't like aaron katz, get the fuck off of my blog. if you haven't seen these films yet, politely put down your keyboard and go watch them right this second. yes...they are that good. over on ryan's blog he called quiet city the "d.i.y. before sunrise," but after watching it again last evening i realized that i liked katz's film so much more than linklater's. the respect he shows his audience by never having his characters verbally express the huge crush they have on each other is refreshing. he actually allows his audience to figure it out for themselves through a series of passing glances, vocal inflections, and body positions. katz is an incredible young artist whom i can't wait to watch mature.
4. requiem-hans christian schmid---this film turns the exsorcist on it's year by focusing on the mental illness side of hokey religious phenomenon. requiem is a sly nudge toward our new world policy of torture by means of religious cleansing. and it has the best club/dance sequence ever.
5. pick up on south street-sam fuller---this film is gritty, dark, and fast. it never stops moving toward it's incredible conclusion because frankly, fuller didn't want to waste your time...or his.
6. detour-edgar ulmer---this film, along with the above fuller film, really served to take any sort of hollywood sheen off of the film noir cycle. gone is the stylish chiaroscuro lighting and glamorous leads. all that is left is the dirt, the sweat, and the absolute horror of being caught in a trap from which one can't walk out. disturbing, even after all this time.
7. cria cuervos-carlos suara---i rarely cry at films, but this story of a young girl who believes that her lies are to blame for her mother succumbing to cancer got the water works flowing a bit. it is a true work of art that can push the formal envelope and engage, not the brain, but the emotions.
8. mouchette-robert bresson---god damn it...life is really fucking hard isn't it? through the story of young mouchette, bresson shows how god constantly spits in the eye of humanity and how humanity constantly gets up and asks for more...until they can't anymore. it would be absolutely horrible, if it weren't made so beautifully.
9. the puffy chair-the duplass brothers---i loved this film because it seems so fucking honest, right down to the little temper tantrums that lead us to try and annoy the world into allowing us to get our way. the duplass bros seem caught in a competition with the dardennes to see who can better step on the coen's necks and assume the mantle of the best brother filmmaking team. fuck the coens...and double fuck the wachowski's...the dardennes and the duplasses are here to stay, and they actually have something original to say and all their pyrotechnics are of the emotional variety...no doubt the best kind.
10.la jetee-chris marker---wow. this was the first of the many criterion collection dvds gifted to me by my wonderful girlfriend emily. even if it wasn't as "wow" as it was it would be memorable to me...but like i said, the film is fucking wow.
chapter four: bonus list part two
we're going off script again...this time to bring my readers a short little list of the best films of this new year(2009)so far.
1. two lovers-james gray---i've never been drawn to watch the 70's homage crime dramas that gray has previously released, but the intimate cinematography and the performance he elicits from the incredibly emotive joaquin phoenix in this film have made me change my mind and open myself to the rest of the james gray oeuvre. plus, vinessa shaw is absolutely hot like fire. gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous, not unlike the film itself.
2. fired up!-will gluck---hell yeah i'm talking about that movie where the two football players decide to go to cheerleading camp. it is fucking hilarious. chock full of cuties, witty banter, and in possession of a good chemistry between the two leads, this film actually eschews the typical misogyny of the teen comedy and finds that girls tend to be much more mature and interesting that their perpetually infantile male counterparts. a good lesson for the teeming teen masses, who unfortunately didn't go to see this.
3. i love you man-john hamburg---almost any movie with paul rudd and jason segal are gonna make a list compiled from a small sample group, but as too whether or not this holds out and makes next years edition of this list...let's just say i have my doubts. first off, jon hamburg is a sophmoric(or should that be sophmoronic) hack. i mean, we get it...animals go to the bathroom. but that shit wasn't funny in meet the parents and it still doesn't fly all these films/odes to animal urination later. and the fact that that is your only original idea in a film that cops similar tropes from much better films by david wain(the kiss/rush thing) and judd apatow(obvious). grow up already. either that or stop using prime talent and go back to making mediocre crap with ben stiller already.
sadly, that's it so far. i thought about seeing laurent cantet's the class, but having multi-cultural liberalism shoved down my throat for two hours isn't exactly my idea of a good time. plus it gave off the vibe of being super self-important what can i say, the politics of culture clash don't interest me much. i'd rather go see something like confessions of a shopaholic, because at least p.j. hogan knows that people still like to see people fall in love...no matter how plastic or hokey it seems.
my philosophy is to champion bedroom clashes over culture clashes.
the heart is greater than the head.
chapter five: reasons for things that seem wrong
i blame it on margot tennenbaum. i blame her for this current cycle of mediocre/shit films like the savages and smart people because wes anderson just made that stereotype of the depressed, self doubting intellectual look so freaking cool. but the thing is wes has some talent and decided to counterbalance that with this idea that emotional instability derives from many factors, not just this self stylized bleak, narcissistic, existentialism. it just rings as so fake. if all these professor types were like poor sad sack jack-off phillip seymour hoffman, would anybody even pursue higher education. these films just read like some poor, self-deemed intellectual feeeling sorry for themselves and putting it on celluloid. stop that bullshit.
i blame it on judd apatow, for he had to put some stupid rift in all his films that splits apart the two protagonists and has to be clumsily reassembled for this pseudo happy ending. and now it seems like it is everywhere. in a short time this has become the template for modern comedy. thank god for a badass director and truly funny guy like david wain, other than his film all the subsequent shit that reeks of apatow has gotten and just gets progressively worse. just like...
i blame it on seth rogan. seriously dude, your fifteen minutes are so up. you aren't that funny, or charming. you actually kind of suck. on the knocked up dvd there is this fake documentary that has other actors playing ben stone. almost all of them, especially michael cera, bill hader, and justin long, would have been better than rogan. sometimes i wonder if the only reason he is there is to make the rest of troupe apatow look good.
i blame it on the audience that just takes whatever hollywood feeds it. if people don't demand better films they won't get them. everytime someone buys a ten dollar ticket to spiderman 14, it is like casting a vote and the studios think that their product is just fine. and if you think it is just fine, then by all means, but i have a feeling that isn't the case. most people accept them because they are there and they are too lazy to search anything else out. meanwhile...
i also blame it on mark cuban. it seems like every time something that might actually be both good(engrossing) and important comes along, i am further delayed from seeing it because mr. cuban has to fill the screens of the one remaining art theater in town with his terrible vanity projects. take, for instance, wendy and lucy. now this is a film that by all accounts has tapped into the current zeitgeist of economic peril in a way as to make it a significant cultural signpost of it's time, but do i get to witness it on the big screen in any sort of a timely manner? not without driving a grat distance, i don't. and why, you may ask. because mark cuban uses his landmark "art house" chain to distribute his crappy magnolia/2046 "art" films. that's corporate synergy, brother! and it is also the reason why what people think the know as "art films" are really just steaming piles of shit like the great buck howard served up to you a la carte by a billionaire businessman who got bored with his struggling basketball team and decided to try to entertain you in another way. ah, the vanity of the rich, putting the screws to the notion of really interesting on the bigscreen. it sucks too because landmark has the friendliest and most intelligent staff in indianapolis and is chock full of good people.
and i blame it on myself for caring too much about these pithy things.
yet still, i do care. and i an attempt to make things better i will offer some solutions to some problems i see.
epilogue: a personal view of the future
i will demand better films by seeking better films out. i will search for the most interesting films no matter what they are about or where they came from. if i go to a hollywood film, i will do so at the tibbs drive-in, so that i can vote with my dollars for better fare and i can support a truly independent theater and help a local small business. and i get hollywood trash three for the price of one, which is still a gross overinflation when compared to their actual worth.
as for mark cuban, fuck him. landmark is just like every theater really...
as film is such a wonderful artistic medium that even in the darkest of times, little rays of light shine through any bleakness, comets shoot through the darkness. it just seems that in times like these, comets come around with a little less frequency than before. so with that in mind, i urge my readers to...
go watch your favorite film right now...you will be glad you did.