Thursday, January 24, 2008

Onion AV Club 2007 Film Poll

The Onion AV Club put a call out for its third annual reader film poll. They wanted people's top five films with comments, as they are looking for a few key quotes to use when they put up the results. Though you have heard some of this before, here is what I sent them.

1. Death Proof. The pacing of a double feature probably made more sense when you could see it at a drive-in while having sex with your girlfriend. Grindhouse was annoying. But Death Proof, on its own, allows you to just relax with great characters listening to the best music ever before giving the audience the apotheosis of what popular films do best – an incredibly violent beat-down where you can fully cheer on the aggressors because Snake Plissken deserves it. He can handle the first set of girls, who engage in every slasher no-no, but is completely unprepared for Tarantino’s version of “real” girls – movie people, including Zoe Bell as herself. Tarantino, however, is never simple. You have to rethink your vicarious thrills on the way home when you remember they left Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and the intimation of sex, with the rapist from Kill Bill.

2. Ratatouille. The message of the Incredibles was “if everyone is special, no one is,” and mere mortals should not try to rise above their station, or they will become evil, like the villain. The message of Ratatouille was “anyone can cook” – not that anyone can learn, but that genius, beyond mere teaching, may appear anywhere, even in a rat. You have to think that director Brad Bird saw Amadeus and – when everyone else wondered with Salieri why God passed over them – really sympathized with Mozart. Ratatouille was a technical marvel – and the short that preceded it was a good as anything Loony Toons ever did – but ultimately you must be blown away by a major kid’s picture that eschews an easy moral in favour of a personal, harsh, totally undemocratic vision.

3. No Country for Old Men. The best literary anti-western since Dead Man, and the return of the Cohen brothers. In a normal Western (or superhero movie, or action movie) evil enters, the people that are supposed to deal with it cannot, someone comes in from the outside, fixes it, and leaves. Here neither the sheriff nor a slick outside hire can get near the alien, principled evil of Chigurh. Stunningly, in the third act, major moments are kept off screen as the film, like Tommy Lee Jones’s sheriff, looses track of the thing – and it has the total audacity to end suddenly, nothing resolved, with the openness of an enigmatic dream vision reminiscent of a strong modern poem. As in Dead Man the Spartan Western gives way to something genuinely visionary.

4. Beowulf. For twelve dollars you get to see Crispin Glover, as a mutant fish monster, recite old English poetry in motion capture animation in 3D. This is what the movies are for – showing us things we never would have thought possible. The film, in its absurd glory, and intentionally archaic obvious symbols – sword = penis, cave = vagina – captures the hyperbolic aggression of the poem, while revising it in genuinely interesting, persuasive, ironic, ways. Plus Angelina Jolie, in the nude, in a cave, rises from the lake in organic mutant high heels, which is hilarious.

5. Southland Tales. Donnie Darko is a fun movie that makes no sense if you stop and think about it. Southland Tales tested everyone’s patience by doing the same thing on a wider canvas. Whatever point about oil, republicans, the media, and Iraq director Kelly was trying to make is lost in the phantasmagoria, but the stunt casting raises it to a whole new register. The Rock and porn-star Buffy threesome slow-dancing with a pregnant Mandy Moore is one of two dozen examples. A broken film, but some of the strangest, most haunting fragments you will ever see on celluloid. Southland Tales succeeds on extra-credit glory and brazen insanity alone, which I would not have thought possible.


Anonymous said...

You're right about Donnie Darko. I saw it recently for the first time. I have watched the director's cut twice now, and the more I think about it the less "sense" I can make of it. I have my own interpretation and I'm happy with it. (I also read your essay on the film, after finally finding my way there).

Matthew J. Brady said...

Man, I gotta see Southland Tales; it sounds wonderfully insane. I doubt I'll actually think it's, you know, good, but I bet I'll enjoy it.

Similarly, I don't exactly think Beowulf is good, but it had some crazy, enjoyable shit in it, which you kind of mention. The Austin Powers-esque naked fight scene was another highlight.

Ultimate Matt said...

I didn't see No country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, or Southland tales (because my fiance didn't want to go see them and I'm completely whipped), so any list I provide should be prefaced with that warning. But of what I did see:

1) Rocky Balboa. Mock me all you like; the original is my all-time favorite movie and has been since I was 4, and as much as I enjoyed the sequels on various levels, this was the only one that captured the heart and feel of the original.

2) Beowulf. I had too much fun watching it to rank it any lower; as soon as it was over I wanted to see it again. Also, all the stuff Geoff said.

3) Ratatouille - Another very fun movie, with all the family-friendly subversion Geoff mentions that was also present in The Incredibles.

4) Live Free or Die Hard - Similar to Beowulf, this was just so much fun, but in a different way. Looking back, I feel like I enjoyed this for the same reasons you like 24, Geoff - alpha males being alpha males and looking cool doing it. Total guilty pleasure. Whenever someone asks me what I thought of this film, I just say, "Bruce Willias vs an F-16. And he wins". I think that says it all.

5) Can't think of any, actually.

Jason Powell said...

Anyone got a link to a list of movies that came out in 2007? Without that, I'm flying blind.

Geoff Klock said...

Just put "2007 in Film" into Wikipedia. That's what I did.

Streebo said...

I'm going to try to see No Country For Old Me this weekend. It hasn't been playing anywhere near me - so I'm having to go a good 60 miles to a theater that is still showing it. I want to see The Orphanage while I'm at it.

Streebo said...

That should read "No Country For Old Men" of course. . .


Jason Powell said...

Thanks, Geoff. Looking at that list, I realized that 1.) I don't really see a lot of movies anymore, and 2.) I did not see five great ones in 2007.

My best of 2007 list:

3. Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End (I don't care what anyone says!!!)
2. Juno
1. The Darjeeling Limited

That's really all I got. Everything else I saw this year kind of sucked, except for "The Simpsons Movie," which was a funny 2-hour Simpsons episode but not exactly a great film.

Matthew J. Brady said...

I enjoyed all the Pirates movies, but that one came nowhere near my "best of" list. But I guess I do see a lot of movies, whether in the theater or on DVD. So take that, Jason!

Dr. K said...

Just watched No Country for Old Men and working up a review of it. I'll probably watch it a couple more times over the weekend (got a screener from a friend, as the movie didn't get anywhere near where I live).

Much of my commentary is going to be about the fact that so much important stuff happens off-screen in the second half of the movie. It's like the first half sets up what a ruthless badass Chigurh is, and then the last hour just leaves the rest up to our collective imaginations.

And instead we get scenes that do nothing to further either plot or character, like when Tommy Lee Jones pulls over the truck with the loose load.

If this wins the Best Picture Oscar, which it probably will, I wonder how history will look back on a decade where two violent movies like this and The Departed won the award back to back.

Jason Powell said...

"I enjoyed all the Pirates movies, but that one came nowhere near my "best of" list. But I guess I do see a lot of movies, whether in the theater or on DVD. So take that, Jason!"

Honestly, I looked at the list on Wikipedia of the major movies released in 2007, and I think I've seen about eight. So it's a shallow pool I was fishing in.

Still, I think Pirates kicks. Eventually I'll watch it again on DVD, and do the definitive blog entry on why it rules. None shall gainsay it.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Actually, I did like Pirates 3; I don't want to make it sound like I was one of the people who thought it sucked (that seems to be the majority critical opinion). It might have been overlong and had some plot holes or whatever, but I walked out of the theater saying, "That was pretty cool!". So yeah, talk it up. I wanna read that post.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Looking over that Wikipedia list, I counted 40 movies that I had seen, although I'm sure there were several others that came out sometime over the year, some of which showed up on my list, like Paprika and Brand Upon the Brain. So I don't think that one is quite complete, especially when you get to smaller independent and foreign films. But it's a pretty good indicator of what came out.

Jason Powell said...

I went back and looked -- I have seen nine! That's a good point, though, about smaller films. I remember now that I saw a couple smaller films at the Milwaukee Film Festival this year, like "The Pool" and "I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With."

Matthew J. Brady said...

Ooh, I heard I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With was good. I like Jeff Garlin. Let me go run and add that to my Netflix...

Voice Of The Eagle said...

My Top Five:

Eastern Promises-best fight scene in movie history. Period.

No Country for Old Men.

Sweeney Todd.



Matthew J. Brady said...

VOE: Wow, in all of movie history? That could start a whole other discussion. I thought it was an amazing scene, but I'm partial to martial arts myself; I would probably go with something from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Hero. Or maybe the Bruce Lee/Chuck Norris fight from Return of the Dragon. But it was pretty awesome; Viggo Mortensen was incredible in that movie. It's too bad it was the same year as There Will Be Blood, because he would normally be worthy of an Oscar. But I don't think anyone's going to beat Daniel Day Lewis.

Streebo said...

Actually, I much prefer the hooker fight between Pam Grier and the rest of the stable in Jack Hill's Coffy. I would rank that as a better fight than the one in Eastern Promises - because the dangly bits are much more attractive.

No Country For Old Men was pretty spectacular. El Orfanato is in the vein of Pan's Labirynth, The Others, or The Innocents. It's a very understated and atmospheric chiller.

Matthew J. Brady said...

Damn, now I really need to see Coffy. I love those old blaxploitation movies, but I haven't seen too many of them. You've certainly piqued my interest about that one though.