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Saturday, December 12, 2009

my favorite cinematic experiences of the decade

1) The Royal Tenenbaums - Saw this with my family around Christmas time in Chicago. We missed the eight o'clock and went to the late show. I felt good vibes all around the theater and had a sense that everyone there had the same experience I did. We took the best cab ride of my life from the theater. Leather interior and jazz music and the cabbie wore a suit. He dropped us at Penn Station, which was empty and I felt buzzed on what I had just been shown. I had similar moments of quietude and borderline euphoria after the Darjeeling Limited and Mr. Fox.

2) The Rules of Attraction - I was kicked out of the theater five minutes in because I was 16 and I had actually bought my ticket to The Transporter. I had to get my mom to take me. This is my favorite adaptation ever of anything. If anyone but Avary tried half the absurdly pretentious devices that are in this movies, I would strongly dislike the result, but he never lets the film be about anything other than the story. His devices all simplify the story instead of complicating it and this is why it works. Here's some sound bites for you to show how clever and film literate I am:
- The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of college comedies.
- The opposite of Death Proof. While Death Proof is an indie drama disguised as a horror movie, Rules is a horror movies disguised as an indie drama.
Few movies convey the dire existentialism of this movie and far fewer have the cinematic mastery.

3) Beowulf - I saw this movie in theaters three days in a row. Best 3-D movie to date, a reimagining of cinematic vocabulary with inventiveness on par with Citizen Kane. Also, an interesting literary analysis of one of the oldest known pieces of English writing. Also, a kick-ass monster movie.

4) Punch Drunk Love / There Will Be Blood - Polar opposites of movies that also strangely compliment each other. Both stories of a man alone in the world. One is an interpretation of ideal love in an alienated world, as seen by a spectator on really amazing pot. The other is the story of when the two worst people in the world meet each other.

5) Grindhouse - Not a movie exactly but it is a cinematic experience, one of the best I've ever had. I saw it on it's first Saturday with my dad and about seven other people were in the theater. Everyone laughed for three hours straight. If Planet Terror isn't Rodriguez's best film, it is certainly his best screenplay. Full of amazing comic book characterization pinned on some of the best actors in America. It's even funnier than Sin City and it looks just as cool. Maybe my favorite use of video photography in a feature film (or feature video, I guess). He wanted to make a Carpenter movie. It feels a bit like The Fog, but it has a lot more going on than The Fog. What it does really well like the old Carpenter movies is make you feel caught up in the middle of something. Some part of that is the seperate story lines that slowly pull together and the other part is just the jenny say qua of the auteurs.
What really cements Grindhouse as one experience, for me, is the Doctor Block scene in Death Proof. It inscludes the audience in on the fun on storytelling, yet it doesn't feel like a gimmick. It rolls off the Park boys' tongues as naturally as any Tarantino dialogue scene. When you watch it, you forget it is both a wink at the audience and an exposition scene because it is so much fun just to hear these characters speak to each other. It is also exemplary of the off-balance character of the Death Proof story. The scene goes nowhere plotwise, just like Jungle Julia's love story with Christian Siminson or her tense relationship with her visiting old friend. They blow up halfway through the movie and the last thing in the world I expected at that point was a simplistically happy ending, but in the end, they vanquished the monster and roll credits. Woo-Hoo! The broken plot threads, through some intuitive and intricate calculation, balance each other and form what is, I think, the best horror movie of the last ten years.

6) O Brother, Where Art Thou? - The very impressive feat of being the best Coen Brothers soundtrack. It made up a look, and a whole world more complete than any of their other films, and maybe anyone else's. It's a whole universe they create, just sitting there and waiting for its characters to find adventure in it, on par with the Star Wars galaxy.

7) Donnie Darko - No other movie has the feel of Donnie Darko. Reminds me of a dream I would have had as a kid after staying up to watch Poltergeist and falling asleep halfway through Poltergeist 2 at a friend's house. It is about real growing up problems, but it also scares you into a dream state like a good horror movie ought to (though this is really a sci-fi movie). It's sneaking out of your room and into the backyard in the moonlight, it's watching They Live in your friend's attic, it's playing Super Ghouls and Ghosts until 4 AM, it's being really scared of what you may grow into and finding tentative safety in your mother's smile and Pizza Hut and a Blockbuster Card and a Lay-Z-Boy on a carpeted floor.

8) Kill Bill Vol. 2 - Could be just that black and white, L'arena coffin scene and it would still be on my list. The only epic I know of that takes the time to tell the story of a shitkicker named Budd who has to unplug the toilet at a titty bar.

9) The Dark Knight - Christopher Nolan took fun, but arbitrary ideas, and gave them dramatic integrity. He made Batman, the Joker, Two Face not just entertaining and not just real; he made them poetic. This is an exceptionally well-timed, perfectly-constructed suspense piece, moral fable, and melodrama. This is the movie Fritz Lang would have made if he had lived to 200, had 100 million dollars, and had ever had a beating heart with human feelings in it to begin with. An amazing decade for popular fiction with dramatic integrity. See also: Spielberg, Abrams, Raimi.

10) Anchorman - One of the only comedies I've ever scene with the integrity to be funny at every single moment.

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