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.