2002 GRAHAMMY AWARDS (FILM
Dear Valued Subscribers,
Damn That Shit Was Dope, Gimme Anutha Hizzit! More More More Grahammys Please!
You are my peeps. You deserve the best. And despite Hollywood's general insistence on turning out dreck that aspires to do nothing other than appeal to the lowest common denominator, I work very hard to bring you what I consider to be "the best of the best." I managed to hit 67 films in the theater from last February until now, and saw another 20 or so on home vidds. Listen to me now and believe me later when I say that it is all in an effort to satiate the needs of you, my valued subscriber. Please understand that I am honoured that you are about to take the time to wade through close to 3,400 words devoted to the Year In Film, 2k1 stizz. Fasten your safety belts muthascratchaz, cuz here goes nuthin'.
THE BEST FILMS OF 2K1
Close But No Cigar: "Gosford Park" (directed by Robert Altman) was a delightful return to form for America's best-loved independant curmudgeon, marked by especially fine performances from Maggie Smith, Clive Owen and Kelly MacDonald; former members of MTV's cult fave "The State" reunited on this year's "Wet Hot American Summer" (directed by David Wain) in what ended up to be this year's non-stop, knee slappingly best evs laff riot; Tom Green's first (and likely last) performance as a leading man/director in "Freddy Got Fingered" was triumphant in what turned out to be quite a Dali-esque fin de siecle for the entire gross-out genre of films.
10) "The Anniversary Party" (written/directed by Alan Cumming and Jennifer Jason Leigh) - This movie should NOT have worked. The subject matter has been covered before (how Hollywood types spend their spare time), it reeks of being a vanity project (since when are Cumming and JJL besties, and more importantly, who do they think they are? Matt & Ben? Wes & Owen?), and it was shot on DV (could we BE any more trendy?). Well spank my ass and call me Charlie, I was completely blown away by the entire production. The performances by a veritable Who's Who of Best Evs Actors (Gwynnie, John C. Reilly, Kevin Kline, Parker Posey, etc.) were top-notch, but more importantly, the filmmakers' dissection of what happens to couples when love, jealousy, ego and desperation collide seemed right on the money. Star-crossed stars crossing...not too shab shabbs.
9) "Sexy Beast" (written by Louis Mellis and David Santo, directed by Jonathan Glazer) - You sexy muthafucka. Though you may not realize it now, decisions that you make today have the ability to come back from the grave and fuck with your life years from now. "Sexy Beast" is a testament to this, and it shows how the potential for these disruptions is amplified by 1000 when you're part of the Mafia. Led by Ben Kingsley's searing performance as certified Mafioso nutjob Don Logan (imagine Pesci on 'roids and meth), Jonathan Glazer's feature debut careens from the idyillic paradise of Spain to the murky underworld of London with a startling visual style.
8) "Le Fabuleux Destin d'Amelie Poulain" (written by Guillaume Laurant, directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet) - Why this movie has not swept through and conquered America like a "Crouching Tigs" or "Life Is Beautiful" will baffle me for at least the next few years. It couldn't be the subtitles, it couldn't be the subject matter, so it must be the universal lack of respect for the French. Anyhoots, ignore the general malaise that somehow attached itself to this film (shame on you, Miramax!) and get out to see it today. The film riffs on the importance of individuality in mind, body and spirit, but keenly shows that life tastes sweetest when shared with others. And Audrey Tatou's breakthrough as the gamine title character (which marks the 8,452nd time that "gamine" was used to describe Tatou) is positively delightful. Voulez Vous!
7) "Donnie Darko" (written/directed by Richard Kelly) - Even with a good three months to digest this film, I am still rather confused by what actually happened. Here's the best way I can think of to describe the film: gather two cups of the feeling that you left with after watching "The Ice Storm", one cup of John Hughes, and one cup of David Lynch and mix it in a bowl. Slowly add a healthy dose of confusion derived from Stephen Hawking's theories on time travel, then mix together adding a few tablespoons of fear. Don't forget a sprinkling of paranoia that occurs when a human-sized rabbit contacts you from beyond this world, and Voila! You've got "Darko". Best. Obvs.
6) "Ghost World" (written by Terry Zwigoff and Daniel Clowes, directed by Terry Zwigoff) - Somehow Thora Birch was the only one to emerge from "American Beauty" a better person. Spacey went all K-Pax on us, Bening was in that Garry Shandling horny alien movie, Mena Suvari became a Loser, and Wes Bentley has yet to show his face in public. And have you seen Scott Bakula in anything since? Didn't think so. Despite her minor misstep in "Dungeons & Dragons", Thorzies has emerged as the true talent of the group. Her ability to get the audience on her side as a largely unlikeable teenager named Enid carries a great film about teen angst, confusion, fear and friendship.
5) "Memento" (written/directed by Christopher Nolan) - If you thought "The Game" was a ridiculously tiggs mind-fuck (which it indeed was), this movie makes "The Game" look like "Jimmy Neutron". Utilizing a loopy and fucked-up time structure that makes Quentin Tarantino look like Dennis Dugan, "Memento" grabs you by the shirt collar in the first three minutes and doesn't let go. Normally I try to avoid profanity in my reviews because it's just too easy, but I vividly remember leaving the theater with Peabs and saying "Dude, that was fucked UP!" Which it was, and which it is. I loved this movie and was 100% sure it would be my movie of the year when I saw it, but I'm pretty convinced I've been negatively impacted by the bare bones DVD. Don't let this fool you, howevs, because "Memento" is the most unique thing committed to celluloid since "The City of Lost Children."
4) "The Man Who Wasn't There" (written by The Coen Brothers, directed by Joel Coen) - All the reviews got caught up in how this was The Coen's spin on film-noir, but after seeing the film, I hardly think that is the case. I see it more as a representation of an epic emasculatory meltdown on par with D-FENS (from "Falling Down") or Harry Angstrom (from John Updike's "Rabbit" novels). But where the aforementioned breakdowns result in frustrations being taken out on others, the main character of this film (Billy Bob Thornton) internalizes everything and releases it through cigarette smoke. Across the board, this film boasts magnificent peformances (Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini, Tony Shalhoub, Scarlett Johannsen), but this is really Billy Bob's movie through and through. His career-best performance as a barber who just can't seem to catch a break was overlooked by the Academy in one of history's greatest jack moves. But what really sucks is that I had a great joke in here about how much The Coens hate those Truth.com commercials, but I took it out after my bro beat me to the punch with his version of The Grahammys. Ya bast!
3) "The Royal Tenenbaums" (written by Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson, directed by Wes Anderson) - It took me awhile to warm up to both "Bottle Rocket" and "Rushmore". In the case of "Rushmore", I didn't even acknowledge it on my 90/90 countdown, but over the years, it has grown into one of my all-time faves. So I went into "T.R.T" with both high hopes and a mild expectation that I was going to be a little let-down (at least initially). Wrong-O! From the opening scene set to "Hey Jude", I was right there alongside Eli Cash in wanting to be part of the Tenenbaum clan. Throwing mad props to J.D. Salinger (and, to a lesser extent, Woody Allen), Anderson and Wilson gloriously paint the picture of an eccentric family of geniuses and their tenuous (at best) relationship with the pater familias, played pitch-perfect by Gene Hackman. Which, btw, was another monstrous Academy slight. "The Royal Tenenbaums" speaks volumes about love and loyalty and family and forgiveness in a style which never gets sappy, melodramatic or unrealistic. What makes Anderson's films best, however, is the way that he works subtleties into his scenes in such a way that makes the viewer immediately identify with his characters and their respective situations.
2) "Mulholland Dr." (written/directed by David Lynch) - Simulataneously twisting and turning like the road in the hills of LA that it was named after, David Lynch's "Mulholland Dr." makes "Memento" look like "Jimmy Neutron." Somehow, the deviously brilliant and utterly perverted Lynch formulates a film that is a confounding amalgamation of all of his past projects. While the plot chugs along in a straight-forward (remember, it's straight-forward in the Lynchian sense, which obvs is not really straight-forward at all) manner for the first 90 or so minutes until the visit to Club Silencio. Then Lynch cranks everything up a notch and the movie spirals into an alternate, Bizzaro-world where you cannot take for granted what you have come to know as "real". Up becomes down, right becomes wrong, sexy becomes strung-out. Which reality is "real" is debatable, but my take is that the first 3/4 of the movie is some sort of mastubatory fantasy of a starlet that never became a star. Fixated on an actress whom she only met once, Naomi Watt's character does anything and everything she can to escape from the Jungle that Axl once sang about to the mythical Hollywood that she was hoping to find. I could go deeper and deeper into this, but I'll probably wait until the DVD release. I once said that a bad David Lynch movie is better than 90% of what is released, so the rationale follows that a great David Lynch movie is probably the best movie of that given year. Well it would be except for...
1) "Moulin Rouge" (written by Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce, directed by Baz Luhrmann) - Cameron Crowe once said (through Jerry Maguire) that "We live in a cynical, cynical world." I could not agree more. And with the stratospheric increase in the amount of communication pieces that we are bombarded with (soundbites, commercials, emails, JPEGs, etc.), we all yearn for the time when things seemed a little more innocent and a lot less stressful. When jump cuts and MTV and "news crawls" were not even a figment of our imagination, namely the time in the 1940s and 50s that our parents always tell us about. Most of us (the author included) were not alive for this time in mythical time in American history; being that jaded generation Xers and Yers that we are, we spend great amounts of time and energy exposing the chinks in the armor that cloak the 1940s and 1950s. Well, truth be told, things weren't perfect then, but they certainly were simpler. People went to the movies not to see people fucking pies, they went to see Fred and Ginger dancing into the sunset. Baz understands this. Baz "gets" this. But, in a strange twist of fate, Baz is also a world class hyperspaz. Occupying a space somewhere between "normal" and "crazy" is the place where geniuses live. And "Moulin Rouge" is nothing less than the work of a certified genius. Baz takes us by the hand into a world that solely exists in his head, a world where truth, beauty, freedom and love are the guiding principles and everyone sings songs that you already know. A world where a lyric like "How wonderful life is now you're in the world", a line whose very meaning has been eroded by millions of spins on FM radio, sounds fresh and inspired and becomes an idea worth dying for. A world where a "Christian" (Ewan McGregor's character called Christian, all noble and Scottish and innocent) is able to redeem "Satan" (Nicole Kidman's Satine, defined importantly by her red hair and icy blue diamonds) with music and the power of love. And while it has been said that this film reinvents the movie musical, even praise like this doesn't pay the movie enough compliments. The movie's editing, score, cinematography are designed to overwhelm and intoxictate viewers, taking full advantage of our collective love for the familiar and beloved formula of movie musicals and completely spins roughly 90 degrees from that, somewhere high upon the Y axis of brilliance. Easily one of the most emotionally stirring (in every possible sense of the word) films of all-time, Baz Luhrman's "Moulin Rouge" is your grand prize, Grahammy Award winner for Best Film of 2001.