Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 7

7. Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt (2004)

My sister, my mom and my main man Bruce Gibson are long time Townes van Zandt fans, and I honestly didn't get it until I saw this movie. I remember being in my early 20s and just thinking 'this music is depressing' when I heard it. A little growing up and a whole lot of dark times later and I see this movie, summer of 2006. As soon as the opening song "Rake" kicks in, I'm a fan for life. Van Zandt is one of the most truthful singers ever, and you can tell he's been through it when you listen to him. I would place him at the very top of the folk/country canon. I think he's better than Dylan, which is of course, saying something. Steve Earle said "Townes Van Zandt is the best songwriter in the whole world and I'll stand on Bob Dylan's coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that!" Upon hearing that Earle said this about him, Townes replied "I've met Bob Dylan, and his bodyguards wouldn't let Steve Earle anywhere near his coffee table." A typical Townes quote: succinct, simple and funny on the surface, but packs in some meaning underneath. This is not only good-natured ribbing towards his friend Steve Earle, it is a subtle jab at Dylan. Dylan was a huge Townes fan, and Townes turned down offers from Dylan to write songs together. Townes liked Dylan's early music, but didn't admire his celebrity status. Dylan, in turn, doesn't seem to admire his celebrity status as well, so you could make the assumption that Van Zandt is the real McCoy. He's the musician Bob Dylan wishes he was. Which of course, put Van Zandt at the top of the pile.
Townes Van Zandt is a bewildering, completely mind-boggling subject. Become a fan and its not hard to become obsessed with this man and his music. You could listen to any of his songs and write a huge essay about that one song. The stories about the man himself are just as incredible as the songs, so he was long overdue for a quality documentary. This film was Margaret Brown's first, and its a true labor of love. She loved his music and thought that it was under appreciated. So, she went out there and interviewed Townes' family, friends and fellow musicians. She came away with a truly beautiful film, a documentary that is as heart breaking and profound as Townes' music and his life. Anyone who hasn't discovered the undiluted genius of Townes Van Zandt, see this film and if you aren't affected by it, you probably are dead.

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 8

8. Stepbrothers (2008)

This is not only one of the funniest movies of the past decade, its Will Ferrell's funniest movie. Which is saying something. Anchorman was a tour-de-force, showcasing not only Ferrell's comedic prowess but also a great ensemble cast including Paul Rudd, Steve Carell, David Koechner, Chris Parnell, Christina Applegate and more. That movie is pee your pants funny, but this movie is even funnier. This is poop your pants funny. The equally hilarious John C. Reilly comes in with more than an assist, Ferrell and he share the spotlight, and their back and forth idiocy is up there with the all time great comedy duos. This is a laugh riot! Sorry, I just wanted to sound like Bill Diehl for a second. This movie is hilarious from the beginning straight through the end. There is no lag time. It hits the ground running and just increases speed. The dialog is so good, you will catch hilarious lines that you missed from laughing hard at the line right before it. I think I've seen this movie 9 or 10 times, and I catch little, hilarious throw away lines every time I watch it. Reilly and Ferrell are masters of taking a concept and pushing it as far as it will go, catching the energy of improvisation and applying it to the scene and maximizing the comedic potential. This is one of my favorite movies of the oughts (obviously, its on my top 10), I can't recommend it enough. Beware, however, you may poop your pants and drool all over yourself from laughing so hard.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 9

9. Jackass Number Two (2006)

Its strange to think that one of the greatest TV shows of the past decade basically consisted of a bunch of somewhat insane, non sober dudes doing terrible things to each other and themselves. When historians look back that this era, I'm sure they will hold Jackass up as an example of the decline of western civilization. Whatever, the shit is funny. And gross, and insane and awe-inspiring and sickening. Basically its awesome. I was really bummed after the first Jackass movie. It seemed like that was it. The Wildboyz with Chris Pontius and Steve-O was pretty hilarious, the Bam show made me not really like him that much and Johnny Knoxville tried to make regular movies. It looked like the end of an era. Then, WHAM! A week or so before it hit theaters, the trailer for Number 2 hit the internet and TV. I was very excited. I was also skeptical of the film, would it eclipse the first one? It not only was better than the first one, it was the best thing these guys have ever done. They raised the bar so high with this movie that I'm a little worried about next year's Jackass 3. If they get even crazier than they did with this one, somebody is probably gonna die.
I remember going to see Number Two with my friends, we may have smoked some semi-legal cigarettes before going in, and we may have brought beers into the Wellfleet Cinema. (Note: One of the creators of Jackass and Executive Producer Trip Taylor is from Wellfleet.) I remember being simultaneously revolted, shocked, amazed and I, of course, laughed my ass off the entire time. Johnny Knoxville, who had been called a 'pretty boy, hollywood' type by skeptical fans, emerged as the bravest, most batshit insane of the bunch, and everyone else followed suit, upping the ante with each imbecilic prank or stunt. It was easily the best time I had at a movie in 2006, and probably ever. Jackass isn't for everyone, obviously, but even people who don't like it have to admit that these guys have created something that borders genius when it comes to moronic humor. They have taken stupidity to heights undreamed of. And I love them for it.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Top Ten Movies of the Oughts: Number 10

2000 to 2009. A decade that I rank as pretty lame, as far as pop culture goes. 9-11, cell phones, the death of the recorded music industry, George Bush destroys the world, Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Obama. That's basically it. For a cinephile, the past ten years make the 70s, 80s and early 90s look like an amazing golden age of amazingness, which they were. Amid the crappy remakes, CGI fueled brainlessness and nonstop plundering of past eras which were far more creatively fertile, there were some really, really good movies. Or at least movies I liked. Here's my list of the top ten, in installments. I promise I will finish this list by the end of this rad decade.

10. Wrong Turn (2003).

Female lead Eliza Dushku is from Arlington, MA. The lighting in this movie strangely seems to highlight the area just below the nape of her neck and above the beginning of her tank top. The lighting technicians were either European or just rascals.

Horror nerds and Rue Morgue Magazine subscribers (same thing) are no doubt turning their noses way up right now, but I'll tell you something. For you spoiled little pricks that just got into horror movies yesterday because the tranny you are dating likes them, there was a time when hardcore, gory, gritty, horror movies were a thing of the past. I've been a horror movie fan my entire life, and in the late 90s, early 00s, the genre was dead. I had no interest in the endless stream of lame teenie bopper horror films like I Know What You Did The Last Time You Frosted Your Tips, Urban Blemish, and so on. Basically every single 'horror movie' from 1997 until this one featured about 6 or so faces that would be recognizable to basic cable subscribers on the cover all in the same lame lineup. Lame. The whole idea of 'grindhouse, hardcore, gory, shocking' horror was completely missing from theatrically released films. I was "helping" my friends move out of our house on Logtown Road in Amherst, summer of 2003. I was mainly helping by going to Video Gallery in Belchertown (they had weird, crappy stuff that Video To Go didn't even have) everyday and renting 5 horror movies, then getting drunk and watching them with my friends at the house. Needless to say, we didn't get our security deposits back. I glanced at the free, weekly tome of effete bullshit (except for Jon Keane's old food column) which was "The Valley Advocate" and saw a review for something called Wrong Turn. Those snobby pricks gave it 1 star and said that it was a trashy, gore-filled, brainless backwoods slasher film that harkened back to the 80s and 70s. I showed it to my friends, and we immediately agreed that we needed to see it. Horror movies were so incredibly lame at this point in time that we were completely prepared to be let down. We made some mixed drinks, and just settled in to watch some crap. We were surprised. That movie kicked ass. Supremely gory, suspenseful, just cheesy enough but not intentionally cheesy.... I remember being really impressed with how irony-free this ridiculously gory and nasty film was. It really was the first American horror film that ushered in this "let's take it back to the 80s" movement. I feel that that trend has run its course, with everything down to Nail Gun Massacre getting a big budget, music video director remake these days. Not to mention all the wussy Twilight style crap out there. (I like True Blood, but that show is awesome and not wussy and lame at all.) On that August night, which does not feel like it was 6 and a half years ago, in the Hadley Mall, with a rum and coke in my hand, I had one of the most fun times I've ever had at a movie. Sneer all you want, horror nerds, but I love this movie, and it holds up really well. You can watch it today and its way better than many of the other 'throwback' horror films that followed in its wake. People love this movie, as well. Nobody I've ever shown it to for the first time has not liked it. Including people that thought it looked terrible.