Friday, January 22, 2010

2009 in Movies . . . Part One

Over the three-day MLK weekend (MLK!MLK! How many kids did you kill today?!)The Girlfriend and I watched nearly every movie of worth we'd missed in 2009 (as well as some of not so much worth cough*Jennifer's Body*cough).

I tried writing this at the end of '09 but was unprepared. After this weekend's marathon, I'm finally comfortable in giving a rundown of what i watched in 2009.

The following . . .

. . . as told to me by a friend of a friend of a nurse.

Woman comes into the emergency room. She complains of a sharp pain and a milky discharge from her stoma (the abdominal opening used for her colostomy bag). The Doctor takes a look and determines it's a simple infection. Prescribes antibiotics. Sends her on her way.

The Woman returns weeks later with the same symptoms. The Doctor administers the same treatment and has her return; the infection cleared.

On her third visit with the recurred malady, The Woman is held for observation. The Doctor inquires into her occupation. She's candid in her admission of work as a lot lizard. Offering her company to the fleet of truck drivers who lodge at the rest areas along her stretch of highway. The Doctor suggests closing the stoma and using a different appliance, given that this lifestyle may not be the most suited for the current pouch.

The Woman says, "You can't close the hole. That's how I make my money."

For me, 2008 was that makeshift fuckhole.

Which is why I'm glad to report 2009 was better. Not great. It was still a rebuilding year. But it was far from 2008 which was the year not of movies I wanted to see, but of movies I guess I'll watch since you're not really giving me any options here. Though as much as I wanted to see many of this year's releases, a packed schedule occupied my time and took me out of movie going commission for the past few months. I've been running across this city in a mad dash to catch those that I missed while they're still showing. Some I was forced to download (something I honestly never do) and will be sending their production company a check for nine dollars. How they choose to distribute it is completely up to them.

So this is as comprehensive a best/worst of 2009 list as I can complete here in today's office lull.


The Carter/Tyson





In driving from Chicago to Kansas City, you can take 55-South to 80-West through Iowa over to 35-South down into KC. Or you can simply ride 55-South to 70-West into town. The difference between the two is half-an-hour. The scenery is different, but in the end, you arrive to the same place.

With Tyson, James Toback put a camera before Iron Mike and let him go. You would think allowing Mike Tyson to speak for 90-minutes without restraint would amount to a theatrical YouTube clip. And I'm sure most people were expecting exactly that. (This is the man responsible for introducing "I'm going to fuck you 'til you love me faggot," into our lexicon.) So to give this man a soapbox seems an almost cruel show. Instead, Tyson explains the actions and events in his life with such a candid honesty, you can help but appreciate his earnestness. It's a pretty ballsy move and it pays off. The insight Tyson gives is almost unusual in the amount of resolve it provides for one of the most fascinating athletes of the past 30-years. The most fascinating (see: Hilarious) is his account of the Trevor Berbick fight for the WBC Championship. At twenty, Tyson had already mastered the art of intimidation. Any boxing fan can tell you Tyson won most fights before they began. His ability to stare down an (obviously nervous) opponent is legendary. In the Berbick fight, Tyson sweats and paces in his corner. As the footage plays out, Tyson explains that he was burning up from the gonorrhea. He had to drop Berbick and get help as soon as possible. It's these anecdotes that remind us, Tyson isn't the violent maniac on the cover of the tabloid. Tyson is the hunger artist whose cage is off on the edge of the fair. This is him telling us that he never found a food he liked.

As Tina Fey's Liz Lemon tells Jenna Maroney of Tracey Jordan biting Dakota Fanning's face, "When you hear his version, she was kind of asking for it."

The Carter takes a different path. The opening title card informs us that Lil' Wayne allowed the crew into his world right as The Carter III is about to release, or to use the industry parlance -drop. However, he refused to address the crew and would not take questions from them. Following the completion of shooting, Lil' Wayne disowned the project.

Here's the thing about artists. The more gifted a person is in whatever medium (art, sports, the sciences) the more they're removed from "our world." Look up an interview with DeNiro, Paul Erdos, John Frusciante, Slash, Bjork, Tyson (above) LeBron James, or anyone who is considered the master at what they do and you'll see one of the most stunted, uninteresting interviews ever. Whatever is it that pushed these people to their respective fields is exactly what pushed them away from the conventional life. (Einstein would lecture his 8-year old nephew for hours on advanced physics. He also owned seven of the same suit so as to not have to think about what to wear.) So it's for the benefit to the documentary that we see Lil Wayne's world from the vantage point of a fly on the wall. Hell, it seems that his closest friends haven't even cracked the guy.

The risk with this format is that the subject is even boring to observe. This is what saddled Radiohead's Meeting People is Easy, Wilco's I Am Trying To Break Your Heart, and even The Kids in the Hall's Same Guys, New Dresses. As great as those artists may be, their documentaries were pretty damned boring to get through. Fortunately, this isn't the case. The Carter provides a glimpse into the life of a man as equally tortured as he is brilliant. It's closest comparison would be DA Pennebekers glimpse into the life of a frustrated Dylan Don't Look Back. (In fact, it would seem that Dylan and Lil' Wayne would understand one another, fabulously.) In one moment, Wayne writhes on stage before a packed house. In the next, he's nervously looking up from his phone to see if a reporter he asked to be removed is gone. It's fascinating to sit up front with a man at once so strong, then so vulnerable. He doesn't care about the number or records he sells. Or what's happening in the music industry. He wants nothing more than to record his music, then listen to said music ad nasuem. Watch ESPN. Drink some cristal with cough syrup. And collect a few cars. There are moments where Lil Wayne runs absurd. As he clumsily lays down a guitar and drum track, you can feel his entourage nodding in agreement. They say, "Sounds great," while they think of who they're really going to call in for these tracks and if Wayne will even notice.

Observe and Report



What a miserable fucking movie. I can't think of a single movie I've ever gotten less out of. What's surprising is that this movie was written and directed by Jody Hill, the man responsible for Eastbound and Down -a show that I not only think is great, but made me appreciate Danny McBride. With Eastbound and in Observe and Report, Hill's love of 1970's cinema shines bright. The first season of Eastbound borrows an ending straight from Five Easy Pieces, and Observe is a heavy-distortion cover of Taxi Driver. Problem is, all of those movies offer us some particularly dark, complex character that forces the audience to think on their own and figure them out. Jody Hill is able to do this pretty well in Eastbound, but in O&R not only does he miss the target, he takes out some kid's eye and finds it hilarious.



It Might Get Loud



I'll tell you what it doesn't get . . . good.*



*I didn't watch this.


Up



I'll start this off by saying that I'm not really a fan of Pixar. The technical dazzle erodes pretty quickly for me and I'm left bored as the plot grows further and further convoluted. Up took me by surprise. Here we have a kid's movie that deals with happiness, love, sex, infertility, death, and isolation within the first ten minutes! Not only does it tread on such sensitive ground, it does so in such a tasteful manner as to be nuanced enough for the children, while sill being wholly understood to adult audiences. Throughout the entire first act of this movie, the stammered sobs of the parental guardians filled the house. So when we meet the pudgy boyscout, or the dogs who speak without contractions we laugh with such exalted relief. The harsh reality of the world we know can subside to the escapist fantasy that we, along with the characters are looking for. Reality is the ultimate villain in this movie. When it comes crashing back in, be it in the shape of a failed dream or a strained relationship we have to step out of the water and stand in the cold air before going back in.

My parents really enjoy movies. Thing is, they don't have cable, rarely go to the theater and the video store in Dodge is pretty lackluster. Last Christmas I signed them up for Netflix. They don't use the internet, so I manage their account -keeping qued the movies I think they'll enjoy. In a way, it's almost like I'm saying something to them in the movies I want them to see. The first movie I had sent was El Norte, one of the most brutal, yet honest portrayals of immigrants starting anew in America. I hoped that in my appreciation of the movie, they'd see my appreciation for them and everything they went through to make a better life for their children. When I asked my dad if he liked Wall-E, he told me it was a kid's movie and that he got through all of fifteen minutes. So it was with hesitation that I added Up to the manifest.

As we sat in my sister's home this Christmas, watching his grandchildren wrestle on the ground, he turned and said, "That Up was pretty good," a pause then, "we watched that thing again after it was over."

To me that speaks more about how fucking great this movie is than anything I've said here.


Taken




If Liam Neeson doesn't revive the role of John R. Taken in at least four sequels (including one in which he takes out several hundred street youth for no reason other than being outside), then Hollywood is ruined. My friend Brandon *lifts pocky to sky* pointed out the fatal error in this movie. Nobody is excited to go to a U2 concert. And this is the first action flick I can think of where the hero states that he has the required skill sets to handle the situation. Consultants and middle managers across the world perked up at hearing that line.

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Joseph said...

It's about time for some updates, dickhole! After seeing "Where do I level in my low 30s" for months on end, I figured you'd given up. Holy shit, Observe and Report is the worst film! Only redeeming quality: It was filmed in the (now defunct, sniffle) Winrock Mall in Albuquerque, where a good deal of my misspent youth was wasted.