Sunday, February 25, 2007

Low Res Oscar Week: The Top Ten (2)

Why, yes, it IS Oscar week. So glad you asked. I promise to to my level best to provide six full days of content, leading up to the big show on Sunday. It's my chance to pretend I'm a real, live blog.

So anyway, there are enough places on the internet where you can find analysis of the current Oscar nominees and who's going to win. Places that do it much better than I do. So while I plan on tossing up a predictions column by the end of the week, the bulk of my postings will be presenting my own personal ballot for the best of the year. Why? Because this blog is all about meeeeeee!

And if you thought I could resist calling these Low Res movie awards the Rezzies, well, you obviously overestimated me.


#5 -- Brick (Focus)
Truth be told, I had to turn the subtitles on my DVD just so I could figure out what the hell the characters were saying half the time. Fine. But while many saw the gumshoe-speak and high-school-noir aesthetic to be gimmicky and shallow, I saw a filmmaker enthusiastically playing with genre types and having a whole lot of fun in the process. Getting too bogged down in the details (nobody has a parent unless it's convenient? How has the drama girl been able to establish a fiefdom in her dressing room? What high school has a dressing room like that?) would keep you from the good stuff: the vivid characters. The wry sense of humor. Lukas Haas's charmingly bizarre (to be charitable) portrayal of The Pin. There were precious few film experiences more enjoyable all year.

#4 -- Little Miss Sunshine (Fox Searchlight)
The funniest movie of the year, for one. The most purely enjoyable. Pound-for-pound the best acting ensemble. The perfectly-played car horn gag. The improbably perfect "Superfreak" crescendo, haters be damned. Toni Collette speed-eating the popsicle. Steve Carell running. It's shitty to be the guy who says "check your cynicism at the door," and I hate it when people do that, but it seems with Little Miss Sunshine that you either get it or you don't. Either your problems with indie movies in general, with happy endings in general, with old men and little kids sharing screen time in general cause you to tune out, or they don't. For me, personally, this movie walked the tightrope it needed to, straight through the closing credits.

#3 -- Shortbus (ThinkFilm)
Explicit gay sex on the big screen? How could I NOT have this movie in my top ten? Umm, well, because without everything that makes Shortbus what it is, that's just porn. Shortbus is so much more than that. It's funny, for one thing. Like, un-self-consciously, belly laugh funny, at times. It's charming. It's sad. It deals with sex in a manner that's neither juvenile nor self-serious. It's a subject matter, and like any other subject matter, it tells us about who these characters are. There's a kindness to John Cameron Mitchell's movies that's unexpected for films that deal with characters who would be punished in any other film. Hopefully he doesn't take so long between projects next time.

#2 -- Pan's Labyrinth (Picturehouse)
I love how much Guillermo Del Toro loves making movies. Love it. It's infectious. It's not only present in his interviews, where he often comes across as a wide-eyed, overgrown kid with a taste for the bizarre and a remarkably developed (if a little filthy) vocabulary. It's also evident in his films, especially his latest and most justly praised. If you've heard him speak, if you've seen The Devil's Backbone (or Cronos or Hellboy or whichever Blade movie it was he directed), then you can practically feel his absolute joy when the giant frog regurgitates the giant blob of mess containing the key. Or sets up the underworld banquet with the Pale Man the way he does. Or has Captain Vidal sew his face back together. Or...just the entire ending sequence. Guillermo Del Toro's been waiting to make this movie for a long time, I'd wager. And to see him pull it off with such verve and care is infectious.

#1 -- Children of Men (Universal)
I can only ever talk about one sequence in Children of Men. I mean, it's virtues are many, and not at all limited to one sequence. That breathtaking car chase, at the very least. Clive Owen's perfectly numbed performance. Julianne Moore being a crazy terrorist prophet lady. The explosion in the coffee shop. The homeland security public service messages on busses and billboards. But I can only ever go back to that sequence near the end of the film that made me stop breathing entirely. When the cries of the miracle baby were louder than the war. When the camera raced ahead of Clive Owen to try to find source of those cries. When the entire machine of war paused to genuflect in front of the miracle they'd waited for. And then when that machine of war started up again, because they're not so easy to stop forever. I've spoken about this before, but this was the moment, for me, in film year 2006. Much credit to Alfonso Cuaron and Emmanuel Lubezki for bringing it to me.


JA said...

All wonderfully said, Joe.

Except for Babel (UGH), you and I were pretty well in agreement on most of these.

I wasn't a huge fan of Brick, either, but certainly didn't hate it and plan on seeing it again. Your subtitles suggestion will def. be heeded. ;-)


i didn't like Brick at all but there was one scene that i thought was gangbusters great. when JGL is standing in the parking lot and that guy come up to him to hit him. with the time jumps. awesome.

so... i will definitely keep an open mind for this fellows next movie even though i didn't like that one.

ALSO agreed that CoM is pretty shockingly good. Even though it's not my favorite film of the year I feel absolutely certain (at this point) that it's the one film that Oscar will be most embarrased about snubbing and that people will talk about in 20 years the way people talk about, say, BladeRunner now.