10 July 2006

100! Part 2: Zits, Molly Ringwald moments, and progression

I should have been more specific. When I said my "formative years" pre-high school, I think I really should have explained that this will likely not include (other than Return to Oz, but that was just a segway into my Fairuza Balk obsession) those films that touched my little boy heart. Like... The Wizard (above), Masters of the Universe, Ghostbusters, or Salo. With that said, I apologize for those wanting the goods. In looking at the films I've chosen for part 2 of this list, I find some of them to be far more embarassing than my inclusion of The Crow on the last list. 'cos here was when I really thought I knew all about film, and yet fell into the trappings of manipulation and hipness. For the sake of your lunch and your (hopefully) good impression of me, I spared all the cool-for-their-time films that I got sucked into liking (and subsequently dislike) and saved just a few special ones for the list.

1. Amélie (Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain) - dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet - 2001 - France
Let's begin with Crime No. 1. I envied all of my friends (of which there were maybe two, and both of them were older than myself) that hated this film. Why did I like it? I fucking hate cute. But the draw of that Audrey Tautou and her fucking shenanigans across Montmartre stuck its teeth deep in my flesh. I wasn't even cool enough then to pretend I didn't like it. I suppose liking this is better than my friend Dan who genuinely enjoyed Pay It Forward, but do I only say it's better cos Amélie is subtitled?

2. Citizen Kane - dir. Orson Welles - 1941 - USA
Let's just get the obvious ones out of the way. Insert joke about the film being mediocre, ensue laughter. A girl I know swears she loves The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, but I'm convinced she's never seen it all the way through (her favorite films all tend to be the films she was forced to watch in her film class), so I replaced, "Omigod, I looooove that film" to "Well, I loved what I was awake for." Apply that joke to Citizen Kane now.

3. The Piano Teacher (La pianiste) - dir. Michael Haneke - 2001 - Austria/France
My introduction to the loves of my life, Michael Haneke and Isabelle Huppert. My perception of how intense this film was made me believe the theatre actually shook during the final scene.

4. Hedwig and the Angry Inch - dir. John Cameron Mitchell - 2001 - USA
One of the more strangely remarkable films post-2000, I went on opening night after Lebanese cuisine to witness a phenomenon never fully realized. Somehow John Cameron Mitchell's rock n roll masterpiece got lost post-Sundance (though it still may resurface if Shortbus does well), and somehow it makes it a lot easier to swallow knowing it hasn't turned into Rocky Horror.

5. The Garden - dir. Derek Jarman - 1990 - UK/Germany
Experimental blasphemy. Though feature-length experimental cinema seems odd, Derek Jarman always (well, mostly) got me, and The Garden hit me hardest. Jesus is two homoseuxal lovers? Tilda Swinton is the Virgin Mary? Excellent!

6. Freeway - dir. Matthew Bright - 1996 - USA
Freeway was a left-over gem from my pre-high school years that resurfaced after my loser friends gave me much grief for liking it. Even though that bitch Reese Witherspoon has an Oscar now, she will never be better than as Vanessa Julia Lutz. John Waters named this movie one of his litmus test date movies... if they don't get it, they aren't worth dating. I concur.

7. Terror Firmer - dir. Lloyd Kaufman - 1999 - USA
I just watched the television show Weeds in its entirity the other day because I needed something to fill that Six Feet Under void in my heart. It didn't do the trick. When I got into high school, I needed something to fill that John Waters void in my heart as well. Cecil B. Demented, Pecker, and eventually A Dirty Shame just couldn't do it. And I realized repeat viewings really don't capture the same magic as first seeing Divine eat dog shit. So, thank God Troma stepped up. I'd hated them for years; my friends and I couldn't get into Tromeo and Juliet. Yet Terror Firmer rose to the occasion, being everything Cecil B. Demented should have been and restoring my faith in self-aware, gross-out camp.

8. Anything David Lynch:
Mulholland Dr. - 2001 - France/USA
The Straight Story - 1999 - France/USA
Lost Highway - 1997 - France/USA
Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me - 1992 - France/USA
Wild at Heart - 1990 - USA
Blue Velvet - 1986 - USA
Of course. Of fucking course. I really don't have anything to say about this, but as you can tell, I certainly could not pick a single film to really show how Lynch wild I was at the time, just as I really can't say which of his films I would consider his greatest achievement.

9. Anything Gregg Araki (pre-Splendor):
Nowhere - 1997 - France/USA
The Doom Generation - 1995 - France/USA
Totally Fucked Up - 1993 - USA
The Living End - 1992 - USA
So, yeah, The Doom Generation made the last list... and, yeah, I saw Nowhere before I went to high school. Yet Lynch and Araki both helped me to fully understand the auteur theory on my own, without using the example of Howard fucking Hawks in film class.

10. Muriel's Wedding - dir. P.J. Hogan - 1994 - Australia
So it's essentially a Cinderella story with a bunch of ABBA music, right? I suppose, but isn't that reason enough to see it? It was cruel, funny, and... had a rousing lip-synching dance number with Toni Collette and Rachel Griffiths doing "Waterloo." It was the only one out of the handfuls of foreign commonfolk-rise-above comedies (The Full Monty, Billy Elliot, etc) that you needed, or need, to see.

11. The Virgin Suicides - dir. Sofia Coppola - 1999 - USA
Crime No. 2. That bitch Sofia Coppola tricked me at an impressionable age that aesthetics and amazing music can really fill a film's hollowness. It doesn't help that she has the exact same taste in music as I do (I was thinking about writing a blog about the soundtrack to Marie-Antoinette, which I still may), but she has the means (daddy) to acquire such music into her visually-appealing, emotionally-bankrupt films. This one isn't nearly as loathesome as Lost in Translation as she actually has some source material other than her own boring life, but maybe also because seeing Kirsten Dunst make-out to Heart's "Crazy on You" is just brilliant in itself.

12. Come Undone (Presque rien) - dir. Sébastien Lifshitz - 2000 - France
Presque rien may actually be the most important film for me that I've listed thusfar. It was the film that inspired me to want to make films in college (I've since dropped that desire and stuck to writing about them). Lifshitz's elliptical editing, incredible use of music (and non-use of it), and silence was basically a film I had created in my head, only brought to the screen by someone else.

13. Red (Trois couleurs: Rouge) - dir. Krysztof Kieslowski - 1994 - Poland/France/Switzerland
Since Breathless put me to sleep at 13, Red was probably the film that sparked my love of international cinema.

14. Chinatown - dir. Roman Polanski - 1974 - USA
Like most great films, one cannot always appreciate them until they've matured a little bit. And that can be in emotional terms or in cinematic ones. I saw Chinatown in 7th grade and scoffed about everyone being wrong about its greatness. I saw it again as a junior in high school and then scoffed at my 7th grade self for being such a naive dick to not recognize that this film is just about perfect in every way.

15. Open Your Eyes (Abre los ojos) - dir. Alejandro Amenábar - 1997 - Spain/France/Italy
Fuck the USA. I loved this movie long before Tom Cruise and Cameron Crowe decided to fuck it all up. In fact, they fucked it so hard that I can't even watch this anymore.

16. Water Drops on Burning Rocks (Gouttes d'eau sur pierres brûlantes) - dir. François Ozon - 2000 - France
Ozon's badboy image never did it for me with Sitcom or Les amants criminels. It wasn't until I saw this baby, based on an unpublished screenplay by a then-19-year-old Fassbinder, that I truly fell in love. My love would only last two films, unfortunately. After Sous le sable, I would only half-adore his films, changing my opinion of the best working French filmmaker to:

17. Fat Girl (À ma soeur) - dir. Catherine Breillat - 2001 - France/Italy
Probably one of the very few films made within the past six years that deserve to be remembered twenty years from now, Fat Girl was so jarring that I had to bring my friends with me to see it again. I saw it alone at the St. Louis International Film Festival where it became the second-lowest rated film of the entire festival that year, where a couple on a date passed out on each other's shoulders midway through. Though I could do without Breillat's homage to Truffaut with its final freeze-frame (though after seeing À nos amours again, I think it may be a reference to that film instead), I still think it should be regarded as important of a coming-of-age film as The 400 Blows is now.

18. Magnolia - dir. Paul Thomas Anderson - 1999 - USA
Will I ever be forgiven for liking this film immensely when it came out? (I ask myself the same question when it comes to Happiness as well)

19. Freddy Got Fingered - dir. Tom Green - 2001 - USA
I can't say I like this film at all, but it keeps coming back to me as a point of reference. It's the way comedy should be -- and I'm not talking about making visual jokes about swinging babies like a lasso. But the fact that Freddy Got Fingered is so unapologetic about itself makes it sort of great. It never tries to make you feel okay by adding any sort of dramatic love story or giving its lead character a lesson in the end... instead it ends with Tom Green jerking off an elephant. It would be absolutely perfect if I actually found Tom Green funny.

20. Buffalo '66 - dir. Vincent Gallo - 1998 - USA
I love Vincent Gallo, so fuck off.

21. All About My Mother (Todo sobre mi madre) - dir. Pedro Almodóvar - 1999 - Spain/France
Here's a film that one can enjoy when they're young and stupid and old and smart(er). It got these fifteen year old tears flowing, though, now, I can't imagine how. Almodóvar is so blissfully tongue-in-cheek here, an incredible throwback to women's melodramas (a better one than Far from Heaven).

22. Manhattan - dir. Woody Allen - 1979 - USA
Manhattan wasn't my introduction to my Jewish alter-ego, Woody Allen, but it was certainly my favorite. I think some asshole said that true Woody Allen fans know that Manhattan is his masterpiece, even though Allen himself isn't wild about it.

23. Double Indemnity - dir. Billy Wilder - 1944 - USA
Easily one of my all-time favorites, I will write further on it when I pick up the new DVD in August.

24. Sid and Nancy - dir. Alex Cox - 1986 - UK
Sid and Nancy were like Romeo and Juliet... totally. Only more awesome. And they did a lot more drugs.

25. Donnie Darko - dir. Richard Kelly - 2001 - USA
Um, fucking yuck. The surprise and wonder that Donnie Darko initially inspired within me went away once I saw how many thirteen year old emo girls were filled with the same poison. Thirteen-year-old emo girls are the antedote for any poison of this calibre. My eyes were finally opened to the fact that Donnie Darko is an ambitious trainwreck, made even worse by the "director's cut," which reveals underlying Christian mythology. This, along with The Virgin Suicides, is an example of how good music (here, Echo and the Bunnymen play over the opening credits) can blind me into thinking I'm watching a good film.


Bina007 said...

I stumbled onto this blog and am ecstatic - finally someone who will admit that AMELIE is just saccharine nonsense! I can't believe it's still in the IMDB 250. I also agree that The Piano Teacher is seismic - have you seen Haneke's Hidden/Cache? It's pure genius.

Eric Dienstfrey said...

I don't know, Manhatten is good, but I'm kind of a sucker for Hannah and her Sisters. Manhatten is made during that period where Allen is trying a little too hard.

And you gotta check out Breathless again.

-Mike said...

Have no shame in liking Magnolia. It's a train wreck that gets less and less catastrophic every time I watch it, and it ALMOST makes Tom Cruise watchable. Do, however, feel all the shame you can possibly feel for letting Freddy Got Fingered make the list. No matter how you defend the decision, it's still like putting dog shit in your mouth..."just for a second, I just wanted to see how it tastes."