Monthly Archives: December 2009

21st-Century Films I Can’t Get Outta My Head

These are the films I am most constantly revisiting, in my head and on my TV screen. They are a good way to measure the noteworthy films of the last decade because, while they have myriad artistic merits, they more importantly have that certain something that creative, ambitious cinema can produce. My head tells me so, at least.

Sexy Beast (2000): Few characters scare me…Ben Kingsly’s Don Logan terrifies me.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001): How we deal with technology and how it deals with us. I remember many people thinking that the ‘future robots’ were aliens, which is an example of how outright misunderstood this film was.

25th Hour (2002): There are certain times when we can look back at our decisions in earnest. In the wake of 9/11, we could relate to this.

Irréversible (2002): The entire length of this film captures pure states of emotion, a unique feat. It is by no means an easy viewing experience, but one that is rewardingly unforgettable.

Finding Nemo (2003): The first Pixar film that hit me on all levels, this is one I’ve kept on my mind. Family and friendship is even better illustrated without the bitter-sweetness of nostalgia that its Toy Story films swam around in.

Lady Vengeance (2005): The entire Chan-Wook Park Vengeance Trilogy is amazing. This one has the most emotional impact in my book.

Shaun of the Dead (2004): I think I’ve mentally exhausted everything this film offers, but it took about a dozen views to get there. It’s the best comedy and the best zombie film of the decade.

The Host (2006): A dysfunctional family melodrama with a monster. This film has it all. If only more films would just add a monster.

Zodiac (2007): This film tells us, in a brilliantly moody way, that it’s about the journey, not the destination.

There Will Be Blood (2007): Cue the chorus to the theme from America’s Funniest Home Videos. “America…America…This is youuuu.”

And I am prone to panic at the moment where I have to cut my list off, so here are a few very honorable mentions:
Battle Royal, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Dancer In The Dark, Requiem For A Dream, Amelie, Mulholland Drive, Y Tu Mamá También, 28 Days Later, Adaptation, City Of God, Punch-Drunk Love, Road To Perdition, Solaris, Dogville, Kill Bill 1, Oldboy, The Dreamers, Collateral, Kill Bill 2,  Sideways, A History Of Violence, The New World, The Departed, A Scanner Darkly, Borat, Children Of Men, Little Children, United 93, Once, Death Proof, Eastern Promises, No Country For Old Men, Persepolis, The Orphanage (El Orfanato), Burn After Reading, Let The Right One In (Låt Den Rätte Komma In), Milk, Slumdog Millionaire, The Dark Knight, Wall-E, Waltz With Bashir, Where The Wild Things Are, Coraline, Thirst, Inglourious Basterds, Star Trek, A Serious Man

-Patrick Starr

Decade List TK — The Best Movies Since 2000

We are working on it with great intensity. Here’s a recipe for Russian Tea Cakes (my favorite Christmas cookie) for the mean time.

Betty Crocker has a simple version, an index card somewhere in my Mom’s old cookbook has a better one. I’m going to try the former and see if I can possibly go on in life with 2nd best.

-Heather

We’re Not Totally Sure What He “Does,” But Here’s Reggie Watts, and It’s Good

There are two reasons that Reggie Watts makes for a good set, and they are 1) he doesn’t get bogged down in, you know, ‘jokes,’ which, let’s face it, can be onerous and tiresome, and 2) he’s referred to as a “performance artist” more than anything else. This is a word that, above all else, means that if you don’t catch this set and whatever happens in it, you never will. Alright, obviously. The poster above is not for this New Year’s Eve, it was last year’s, but I imagine his performance at the event advertised above was altogether similar and different to the one he delivered at The Onion’s holiday party this month (in Bell House, an oasis in the seedy part of Brooklyn used in Goodfellas for Ray Liotta to cut his teeth).

Performance is impermanent, off-the cuff and consists of energy that people often only derive while in front of a group of people, or peoples (in an anthropological sense). Yes, Watts could have been doing his thing in a midnight fire and steel drum session as part of a native community in the West Indies. It would be the same creative burst and the same reception.

I don’t know what actually culturally happens in many West Indian territories as much as I’d like to, alas, but even in New York, theater is often the same. You can’t capture that energy and hold onto it in anything but memory, which is bittersweet, because what stays in memory tends to get more and more gilded and more distant from the moment of creation as time passes.

Reggie Watts fits in this world, where music and impromptu story-telling are the ways to pass our time. His music is extraordinary in such a way that he could easily be that quirky member of the band with the massive afro and the hookups to all the good parties. But while he’s onstage at a comedy show, getting laughs the way a musician snags cheers over a toss of the head or a killer solo, his promenence among a culture of performers is clear. Watts is a student of meta-analysis, and he takes care in reigniting songs and ephemera from our memories so that we can see what had made them so meaningful in the first place. In a lot of cases, we don’t know what the hell made them so meaningful. They were single-celled, monotonous, catchy pop culture. It’s not so important what the words to any of the pop songs in the early 1990s actually were, since we laugh and sway to Watts’ reimagined version of a song by Third Eye Blind or somesuch band, in which he stumbles over lyrics and sustains only the pop-beats that made the songs so catchy in the first place.

It’s all, really, a bit of fun of course. Nothing to be taken so seriously as a communal ritual or a Harold Pinter play. But it’s a comedy show, which is, of course, one of the most serious things in the world to those who love them.

-Heather Struck