Friday, November 02, 2007

The Halloween Horror Movie Challenge is Done

Well, I'm a failure. I didn't manage to watch 31 horror movies.

I saw 28 movies in 31 days, 21 new to me. Too bad I didn't have a copy of Horror 101 at the beginning of the month. Picking movies would have been much easier as I've hardly seen any of the movies in it, because of my long history of avoiding horror movies because they are scary. I was so silly, cuz being a little scared is FUN.

Hard Candy (2005)
This might have been the most uncomfortable movies I've watched during the horror movie challenge and I've been trying to put my finger on just what makes the viewer so uneasy. The sound design always impacts my mood while watching a movie. One thing I noticed was a distinct lack of music. Seems to me that Haneke's films have also lacked a traditional movie score and I experienced a similar unsettling quality to Cache. So it could be simple manipulation via the sound design.

But I suspect it has more to do with the subject matter. Hard Candy opens with a chat dialog between Jeff (Patrick Wilson), an adult, and Hayley (Ellen Page) a 14 year-old girl. The implication of such an encounter is all over the media and everyone knows who the predator is in this situation.

And they would be wrong. Haley has and maintains the upper hand. This is apparent when they are in the cafe, when they go to Jeff's apartment, but Jeff doesn't grasp what is going on until he is drugged and wakes to find himself tied up. It is at this point that Hard Candy becomes troubling. One explanation is that one is confronted with the question of whether Jeff deserves what is coming to him. All we know of Jeff is what is given; he's a photographer, he has worked with numerous young models who's photos decorate the walls of his apartment, and that he has decided to bring a 14 year-old to his place after meeting in a chat room. To some, this alone would be enough to condemn him, but the audience for this movie is not as likely to hold very mainstream values. Speaking for myself, I was asking questions about consent. Jeff didn't appear to be manipulating her and she was clearly in the driver's seat. Sure, one can argue that Jeff is still in the wrong, but we never find out what exactly Jeff had planned.

But I'm not all that concerned about whether or not Jeff had it coming. I believe Hard Candy is a reaction to the power imbalances between men and women. This is a culture where men get away with murder. Just the other night, I listened to a very drunk man, who was booted from a party, yelling profanities right outside my window. When is the last time that you saw a woman booted from a party for trying to pick fights? Or when was the last time someone stepped outside on someone's deck in order to take a piss? These are things that men do, that women don't and it is because we as a culture expect crudeness from men that would never be tolerated in girls.

And Hard Candy forces us to look at a young girl acting in a way that is totally unimaginable. And this bothers us, even us liberals who believe men and women are, or at least should be, equals. So we ask ourselves whether she is acting in revenge for some past wrong that we do not know about so that we can identify with her and justify her actions. And you just don't get to know her motivations until the very end, making it unthinkable to cheer her on in a quest for revenge.

So this movie is definitely thought provoking, but wow is it a nerve-wracking journey.

Frailty (2001) I'd already watched a Bill Paxton vampire movie this month, so why not the thriller that he directed? I've had this in the home DVD library for a while, but it seems to hold up well. I've become a fan of Big Love, the HBO serious about a polygamous mormon family headed by Bill Henrickson (Bill Paxton). It was interesting watching Frailty again, because there are quite a few similarities between these two characters. Both are deeply religious men who have spoken to God and believe they are living a righteously and in accordance to God's plan. One via pleural marriage and in Frailty, by ridding the world of demons.

I found I was just as challenged by Frailty today as I was back in 2001 and still surprised by the ending. Again, a bit like Big Love, Frailty is fascinating for its very deeply religious point of view that is totally at odds with my own.

Phenomena (1985) Dario Argento is insane, but he definitely makes aesthetically pleasing horror films, even if they are totally insane. It has only been a week since I watched this movie and it was so bizarre that I'm struggling with piecing together any semblance of a plot. There was a boarding school where girls are being murdered, a special girl (Jennifer Connelly) who really likes bugs, an entomologist, and a monkey. I'm not sure how all of the pieces fit, but this movie was something.

Santa Sangre (1989) This is probably the most interesting film I've seen all month, but it is a shame that my grasp of Catholicism is fairly weak, because Santa Sangre is overflowing with religious imagery and subtext so I'm not in a position to really appreciate this film. Despite my shortcomings, this film was simple to appreciate for its beauty and the surreal absurdity of much of the plot. Santa Sangre is set in a carnival where a boy magician, Fenix, witnesses his father brutally cut his mother's arms off before committing suicide. Understandably, Fenix goes a bit crazy. But it isn't until Fenix escapes the crazy house that the movie becomes really interesting as he becomes his mother's arms.

Ganja & Hess (1973) I stuck with this movie to the very end, but I wish I had some clue as to what Ganja & Hess was about. Occasionally, I see a movie where I am obviously not the intended audience and thus, I never connect with it or really grasp the film. I suspected that was what was happening with Ganja & Hess as it was made as a blacksloitation vampire flick in the 70s and thus, I'm not the intended audience. But then I realized that it wasn't that I'm too white for this movie, it just doesn't make any sense.

And I must not be the only one that had trouble with this one. I wanted to see it because after looking at IMDB, I thought it was a voodoo movie. It isn't. It's a vampire movie. No zombies or anything even remotely voodoo related, other than a lot of unexplained african drumming. But I'm still at a loss for what was going on other than there wasn't any voodoo, just blood sucking.

Kiki's Delivery Service (1989) I'm cursed. I am never going to see the end of this movie. And my DVD players hate me. Both players refused to play the end of the movie. But I have now seen the first 3/4 of Kiki's Delivery Service. And it is about a witch, so it totally counts.

No Country for Old Men (2007) I was invited to a screening last night with Josh Brolin! It rocked. I mean, come on, how could it not being a Coen Brother's movie.

Obervations: Javier Bardem is terrifying. You might have noticed this in the past, but this natual state is an advantage in this role, which is heightened by the world's creepiest haircut. The other thing out of the ordinary is that this film borders on being a western. There's no mistaking that the American movie western has made a come back. I'm immediately reminded of The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, likely due to the Tommy Lee Jones connection, but it seems like I'm seeing quite a few movies set near the border of Mexico that reflect the values of the west. No country for Old Men does this while being a Thriller/Horror that is probably the most intense viewing experience I've had all month.

This might be the Coen's best film yet.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

I smell smoke

Halloween is quickly approaching. No dressing up this year as I just cannot think of anything that would go right with my wheels. Originally, I figured that I would go as a pirate as I could paint a peg leg onto my cast. The problem would be the rest of the ensemble. I am stuck wearing sweat pants, because the couple of times I did get jeans over my cast, they got stuck. So I figure I should stick to athletic wear this winter instead of a more piratey ensemble.

Speaking of that, I'm pissed. This is my favorite time of year. The weather is nice and cool meaning that it is time to put away the capris and shorts and dust off the boots, jeans, and sweaters. And it is jacket weather. I love jackets. Riding the bus with so many students every day, there is a constant parade of young women wearing good boots and nice jackets. And then there is me, in my cut off pants and sweatshirt. I am so jealous. I'd shrug it off and say I'll get around to that once my cast is off, but that won't be until spring. I'm gonna miss jacket and boot season!

So this year to celebrate the season, all I have is movies and skulls. I went shopping for markers and paint and spent some of last weekend painting some $0.99 plastic skulls. I also plan to decorate my cast, but I'm nervous about messing it up. I'm also going to make sugar skulls and I hope to even decorate an altar this year, complete with offerings. The projects are going slowly though because I still get tired from all activity that involves scooting about on my rollie cart or even worse, hopping.

But watching movies doesn't take too much out of me. I've seen 20 movies in 22 days for the Halloween Horror Movie Challenge now.

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: I am a scientist, not a philosopher! You have more chance of reanimating this scalpel than you have of mending a broken nervous system!

Medical Student: But what about your grandfather's work, sir?

Dr. Frederick Frankenstein: My grandfather's work was doodoo! I am not interested in death! The only thing that concerns me is the preservation of life!


Great movie. Excellent entertainment while painting skulls, or really anytime.

The Corpse Bride (2005) This was on and I was still painting skulls and figured it would be entertaining. It must not have been, because I kept forgetting to pay attention missing large portions of the movie. I'm not sure I can actually count this one, because I watched so little of it. Painting veves onto colorful skulls was just more fun apparently.

Carnival of Souls (1962)

I really connected with the main character, Mary (Candace Hilligoss). At the beginning of the movie, Mary emerges from a terrible car accident, where she is the only survivor. She finds herself drawn to an old, abandoned carnival and she often sees a strange man that seems to be following her.

Mary seemed like a kindred spirit. She stated a couple of times, "I don't belong in the world. Something separates me from other people." This is an outlook that I share, although in Mary's case, it probably says more about what changes are happening in her after the accident. I wouldn't describe Carnival of Souls as a particularly scary horror film, but instead thought provoking. Interesting movie.

Spider Baby or, the Maddest Story Every Told (1968)

I caught a big fat bug right in my spider web and now the spider gets to give the bug a big sting. Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting! Sting!


Spider Baby is about a family of freaks. Actually, if we can trust Bruno (Lon Chaney), the family suffers from a rare malady that causes them to regress to a very basic state, like infancy, as they age. The family is cared for by their driver, Bruno, who keeps the kids in line as the rest of the family stay, unseen, in the basement. The children, Elizabeth (Beverly Washburn), Virginia (Jill Banner), and Ralph (Sid Haig) own this movie. Virginia is always loudly proclaiming how much she hates, Ralph creeps about, and Elizabeth is always looking to catch a bug in her web. Spider Baby is a comic horror movie, but one that takes the horror a bit more seriously than other films of this genre. Elizabeth, Virginia and Ralph made this movie a blast to watch.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Ride the Snake

I went back to work this week. Though with how much I've had to do, I wonder why I bothered. Just ordering and making sure things are in place so that I might be able to do some science in the near future. I'm planning to try to do actual experiments next week and hope for the best. Maybe eventually, I'll even get a lab aide to help me. This would be great even once I have two working legs because it would allow me to focus on experiments if I don't have to worry about the dishes, tips and reagents. I should know something soon as to whether I can afford a helper. Plus, it would be nice not to be in this basement lab totally alone everyday too, but that argument for a coworker has failed thus far, so I'm trying the gimp routine now. :)

On Wednesday, I saw my doctor and got to see pictures of the hardware in my ankle. Its pretty cool to see a big metal plate and a handful of screws in an x-ray of my leg. Hopefully, my doctor will send me a picture so I can show it off. While there, I learned that it is healing nicely. the stitches were taken out and I am now sporting a new, fiberglass cast for 4 weeks. I guess after 4 weeks, I get more x-rays and changed to and yet another cast for 12 weeks. Sigh. I'm never going to walk again.

But I guess that means that there is plenty of time for movies, although now that I'm working, not quite as much time as there was a week ago. So the Halloween movie challenge is rolling along and I'm still a bit behind.

Tally: 16 horror flicks in 19 days, 12 new.

Near Dark (1987) I blame cable, but this wasn't a bad thing. I had to join lazing around watching this last weekend when he hollered at me that a cowboy vampire movie was starting. Well not exactly, but you don't see too many vampire movies set in Texas, although the setting did allow for the great visual of smoke coming off the vampires as they walk through the desert. In Near Dark a young farm hand falls for a hot babe and she bites him. He then ends up hanging with her gang of vampires learning the ropes of the bloodsucking monster lifestyle. Near Dark was highly entertaining and it was a little different then many movies of the genre. These vampires were less supernatural then the modern movie vampire. Sure, they are hard to kill due to the whole undead thing and sunlight burns them, but they don't fly, no big obnoxious fangs, no obvious super-human strength and powers. But what I most liked about this movie was how much fun they had with it. The vampires were a bit punk rock and killed with some finesse. Plus, Bill Paxton was one of the vampires. He was a little like his character in Aliens, but a vampire.

The Brood (1979) When his daughter returns home covered in bite marks and scratches, Frank begins to ask questions about the controversial methods of therapy used where his wife is institutionalized. While trying to delve into the methods, people close to the family are being attacked by creatures that appear to be mutant children. I found this to be an absolutely terrifying and absorbing movie. This seems to fall into that genre of horror that stems from a fear of parenthood, since the kids in this movie are really creepy, even the non-mutant one. But it also contains plenty of medical anomalies and much of the really scary ideas are about psychological manifestations on the body. Creepy stuff, but very much a Cronenberg film.

Lair of the White Worm (1988) I was tempted by this one while perusing the halloween section at Scarecrow because I've seen this movie at video shops forever and was always curious, but never succumbed. I knew it was going to be terrible, but how bad can a movie be if it stars Hugh Grant? I figure at least, I get to be charmed by Mr. Grant for a bit even if the movie ends up being total shite. Well, it is, but it was giggle inducing shite. I liked the recurring song about the evil worm, the snake woman/femme fatale was over the top silly, there was plenty of gratuitous nudity, and ya gotta love plots that start with a bit of back yard archeology. But sadly, while snake women are amusing, there isn't as much comedy fodder in worms as there is in zombies. Zombies are comedy gold.

Quills (2000) My personal movie collection has so many of these films that are making a statement about the importance of literature and in the case of Quills, the importance of literature on living a moral virtuous life. Or to quote Madeleine (Kate Winslet) when defending the Marquise DeSade's writing, how can one truly understand virtue without first knowing vice. Quills defends the dark, vulgar and evil by saying it is needed in order to keep us from seeking them out in real life which is a great argument for throwing oneself into a Halloween Movie Challenge.

Cabin Fever (2002) I haven't been keeping up on the new wave of horror, but I know that Eli Roth is one of the young noteworthy horror directors. I was totally sucked in to Cabin Fever and I wouldn't have watched it if I weren't trying to see 31 horror movies this month. I had the impression that Eli Roth's movies were nothing more than a gore-fest from start to finish. It was heavy on blood splatter and gore, but was also an entertaining movie about a group of college students at a cabin as a skin eating bacteria/hemorrhagic fever epidemic strikes. Eli Roth definitely has a twisted sense of humor. I'm not going to get into the specifics of all of the things that were oh so wrong about this movie, but I found myself laughing out loud at times, especially the ending. So wrong. So amused.

30 Days of Night (2007) I love Ben Foster. I've had a little Ben Foster crush ever since 6 Feet Under and I am really enjoying his movie career thus far. He was great in Hostage and really brought a creepy, homoerotic element to 6:10 to Yuma. So you knew I would be at 30 Days of Night last night. And Ben was great, but sadly, the about the only good thing about the flick.

Yep, this was horrible. It might not have been so bad if I hadn't lived in Alaska for close to a decade, but even if you can suspend disbelief about the realities of the setting, this movie is still a failure for a horror movie. It wasn't scary or even very entertaining. So I spent the movie ranting in my head over the inaccuracies over the setting.

First of all, Barrow, Alaska does indeed have at least 30 days of night, but it ain't the way it was depicted in the movie. You don't get a last sunset! No you get 6 months of mostly night where the day proceeding this "30 days of night" would have a short period of dusk where the sun doesn't even make it over the horizon. The sunset at the opening of the movie totally pissed me off. Then there is the problem of Josh Hartnett and Melissa George as the law enforcement. In Barrow, Alaska? You have to be kidding me. The locals would so laugh at a trooper that can't grow a beard and Stella in her fashionable parka. And lets not even talk about the people depicted at the locals. Where were all of the Alaska natives that make up probably 60% of the population of Barrow? Well, at least they got the name of the airport right. and let's not even get in to the realities of the weather on the darkest days in Barrow. I don't think anyone would survive more then 20 minutes outside laying in the snow under a truck in a fashionable parka, much less hours, days, how ever long she was supposed to be stuck under the truck in hiding.

As for what was good about the movie, there was one sequence that was entertaining. At one point, Mark Boone Junior takes out a bunch of vampires with a snow moving tractor and some dynamite. That was a good bit, but the rest was just dour. No joy of finesse was put into this movie and it shows.


Sunday, October 14, 2007

Brand Upon the Brain! And more horror...

Brand Upon the Brain (2007) - I'm on so much crack! I'm a huge fan of horror. Guy Maddin! I love his movies and he was just in Seattle to perform Brand Upon the Brain! I'm certain I've written about Guy Maddin's films in the past, because he has been in Seattle several times for screenings and discussions of his work, especially since he spent quite a bit of time here casting, filming and scoring Brand Upon the Brain! with all local talent.


What is so unique about Guy Maddin is that he creates modern, silent expressionist horror movies. His other films have been scored and therefore have the look and feel of a 1920s era silent picture without being silent. Brand Upon the Brain! is a silent movie and his best feature thus far.

Like much of Maddin's previous work, this is totally autobiographical, or to quote Guy, "The thing is literally a true story - only much, much better." The main character is the prepubescent, Guy Maddin (Sullivan Brown). He lives in his family's lighthouse with his teenaged Sis (Maya Lawson). This lighthouse is also an orphanage, run by Guy's parents where the children are made to clean away the dirt and filth and all have mysterious scars on their heads. It is these mysterious head marks that the sibling teen detectives, Wendy and Chance Hale (Katherine E. Scharhon), arrive at the island to investigate providing Guy with the object (Wendy) of his first infatuation. The film encompasses so many diverse emotional notes, mystery, fear, curiosity, beauty, passion, and a tale that feels genuine about the psychology of childhood. While few of us have an overbearing mother who kept watch over us with the bright beam of a lighthouse watchtower or a father who was rarely seen, but whom we knew to be conducting strange scientific experiments in the basement, I think there is a certain emotional truth to the memories of childhood. This is an absolutely marvelously constructed story.

Brand Upon the Brain! is a film that must be enjoyed live. It is a total magical experience. Since it is a silent film, the film is accompanied by an orchestra, narrator, foley artists, and a castrato singer. This is amazing to watch, when you remember to peel your eyes away from the glorious imagery of the film to see the others that share the spotlight with the film. I share Guy Maddin's amazement with foley artists, the men and women who provide the sounds in movies. In Seattle, The Aono Jikken Ensemble provided foley with percussion equipment, a tub of water, crying baby dolls, cranks, bottles etc. Aono Jikken are well known for providing the sound effects and score for silent movie screenings in Seattle and I always enjoy watching them work. There is also a castrato singer that tours with the film, Dov Houle. I was unaware that castrati still existed, but they do. The difference is that Dov is a natural, or medical castrato meaning someone with a medical condition the prevented his voice from cracking at puberty. He was amazing to listen to with the unearthly quality to his voice, that is neither male or female sounding.

Guy Maddin provided the narration for the screening that I attended and was spot on perfect. I seriously cannot imagine anyone doing it better since the narration is the internal voice of Guy Maddin, the boy. But I'm betting that Crispin Hellion Glover, Laurie Anderson, Justin Bond, Udo Kier, and the many other voices lent to Guy Maddin as Brand Upon the Brain! tours are also great. But as of this moment, I seriously cannot imagine anyone, but Maddin doing it better.


I Spit on Your Grave (1978) Now I remember why I was so adamant for so many years that I don't watch horror movies. Movies like I Spit on Your GraveAKA Day of the Woman. I made a promise to myself that I would try to watch a few of the feminist revenge classics after Kill Bill and then again after The Brave One, but I forgot how hard I find these movies to watch. You see, in order for the woman's revenge to be justified, something unspeakable has to happen to warrant the comeuppance. The act of violence is often a long, brutal rape scene and these are very difficult for me to stomach. Always has been. In this film, I was very bothered by the rapes and while I was on her side for the vengeance, I didn't find myself cheering it on either. I didn't much enjoy this one, but I did appreciate it for not destroying the female lead and letting her drive into the sunset.

Cronos (1993) I always thought the The Devil's Backbone was Guillermo del Toro's feature debut. I learned that he had a previous release Cronos while browsing the Halloween movie selection put together at Scarecrow. And I'm happy to have made this discovery. Cronos is about a mysterious gold encapsulated mechanism that was invented by an alchemist that appears to have found the secret to immortality. I was so pleasantly surprised by the depth of this movie as its plot definitely follows a familiar horror movie structure in a familiar story about the pursuit of eternal life, but it also has at its heart the story of the love of a girl for her grandfather. I really liked this one. Plus it has Ron Perlman who is one of my favorite character actors.

The Red Violin (1998) I pulled this one out on Friday and it was a little like visiting an old friend. This passionate story about the life of a violin is another film that I would have never categorized as befitting to the Halloween movie challenge, but when I began to think about how I remembered the movie, it seemed like there was some darkness to the story, so I thought I would watch it again. One might even call The Red Violin a ghost story. Anyway, I'm probably reaching here, but hell I have to reach 31 somehow.

Tally: 10 horror movies in 13 days, 7 new to me.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

October Horror Movie Challenge

As many of you already know, I'm not a fan of the horror genre. I think this is solely due to the fact that I acquired my total movie addiction in the 1990s, and except for the duration of a high school, football-playing boyfriend who drug me to every horror movie playing, I avoided them. Wouldn't you after enduring The Lawnmower Man, Sleepwalkers, and The Hand that Rocks the Cradle with someone who thought they were good?

What I hadn't really considered was that many of the themes that bring me out to the theaters are horrific. Just considering some of my favorite films that I've seen this year: Eastern Promises, The Brave One, Sunshine, Sex and Death 101, Four Minutes, The Devil Came on Horseback, Red Road, Zodiac, Perfume... I haven't seen these movies called "horror movies" but an argument could be made for most of them. These are dark movies, and while it is often a dark or edgy sexuality component that makes a movie a must see for me, the edge bleeds into other areas so considering all of this time I'm spending in my pillow nest, this seems like a perfect opportunity to take part in the Halloween Horror Movie Challenge that my good friend, takes part in each year.

From his website, "The objective: watch 31 horror movies over the 31 days of October. The catch was that 16 of those viewings had to be new."

In a normal year, there is no way I could attempt this. I take in a couple of movies in the theater a week and another 1-2 at home, but any more then this and I can't get my normal chores done and the cats like to eat the the kitchen needs to stay clean so will still feed me. Plus, I already put my life on hold for the month of SIFF every year and really, I don't like horror that much, I didn't think. Well, I'm already not getting my chores done so what the hell. I need to keep my leg elevated when home somehow, may as well watch horror movies.

As expected, I'm behind. Due to my immobility I've been limited to what is at hand, as in my own movie library and what is on cable. So don't laugh too hard over the crap I've been watching... cable is to blame! Beware the total absence of fear on FearNet!

red=new to me

Death Proof (2007) Well, its Tarantino and has chicks kicking ass. You know I totally bought this the second it was available. And I totally dig it. Zoe Bell kicks so much ass. I love her. I might watch it again soon, plus when it isn't part of Grindhouse, the strip tease is intact and it is a hot strip tease. The video release also includes a really oddly creepy, toe licking scene. Check it out.

Halloween (1978) I won't spend any time on this one. Its a classic. You've all seen it, as had I, but it was on cable and I enjoy it.

Long Distance (2005) This sucked, but started out promising. Nicole dials a wrong number and is harassed by this caller since. It appears that he is calling her from the residences of the women he is killing and is moving closer with every call. I really liked Nicole (Monica Keena) and was really into the first half of the movie despite being a predictable, horror flick. Unfortunately, the end was a major let down when it goes from a traditional genre movie to ridiculous.

Stigmata (1999) I dig religious horror. I don't think there is anything quite as creepy as Catholicism. I think it might go back to my private school baptist upbringing, but despite being an atheist, there is something deeply troubling about the world of belief. In Stigmata, Paticia Arquette violently displays all of christ's wounds. You know, the stigmata, crown of thorns, and so on. A priest (Gabriel Byrne) comes to investigate and to save her life. Interesting movie, not particularly chilling or scary, but kinda cool at times for a movie watched on cable.

Calvaire (2004) Finally, an actual horror movie from FearNet On Demand. A singer is traveling to his next performance when he breaks down deep in the woods in Belgium. This is not the place to have car trouble. He is kidnapped and prevented from leaving in a small town where the locals fuck the livestock and seem to spend much of their time looking for lost pets. Truly fucked up movie and horrifying. Apparently, hicks are scary everywhere, even in Belgium.

The Invitation (2003) I'm going to save you from this movie by giving everything away. Lance Handricksen is a writer who invites all of his friends over for a dinner party where he poisons them. But like in any good made for television movie (Lifetime maybe?), somehow all of the dead guests are alive at the end and have learned deep life lessons from the experience.

I went to scarecrow last night so I might see a decent horror flick or two during this challenge. I will not suffer another movie like Invitation! So I rented 4 titles last night that I'm 100% certain will be better than these.


Thursday, June 07, 2007

SIFF 2007, day 8

Tell No One - France, Thriller

In Tell No One, Dr Alexandre Beck's (François Cluzet) wife was murdered as he lay unconscious, unable to save her. Eight years later, two bodies are discovered on Dr. Beck's property and the authorities begin to ask questions about his wife's death, since things just don't add up. Then some photos of Alex's wife appear showing her badly beaten. While Beck is getting all of this attention from authorities, he starts receiving anonymous messages that suggest that his wife may be alive. Tell No One is a wonderfully gripping thriller for the majority of the film and I was completely drawn in and enjoying the mystery as it unfolded. It also made some rather progressive choices. There is a small band of thugish assassin-types, with a very thin and incredible striking woman with a talent for retrieving information from the unwilling or uncooperative. I thought she was incredibly cool and couldn't believe the torture that she was inflicting upon the film's hero. But apparently, American audiences aren't quite ready for gender equality as there were some angry shouts of "Kill the bitch" during that scene, which I found quite distressing.

Unfortunately, while I had a great time for three-quarters of Tell No One the ending was so unnecessarily complex that is was nearly comical. This is very sad, because otherwise this would be an awesome movie, but the big reveal was completely over the top. But it was still a perfectly enjoyable thriller that just gets a bit silly with plot twists at the last.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

SIFF 2007, day 7 (5/31)

I've made it to the end of week 1 of the film festival and this is a record year. We have already been out to 10 full length feature films and there were only 2 films that I wouldn't recommend. One of those I cannot blog about and the other was merely a very average documentary. While Monter Camp wasn't terrible it was very mediocre.

But there are already two stand out films and both are documentaries: King of Kong and The Devil Came on Horseback.

Also of note is that I have lost 1.4 kg/ 3 lbs in one week since the festival started. At work, we have had the fitness challenge going since the beginning of the year with Hieu tracking our progress. I'm not allowed to play, since according to Hieu, I am already at my ideal BMI (which I told him is meaningless for many reasons, but he wants to run the contest based on BMI, so whatever) so I'm stepping on the lab scale once a month with everyone else as a "control". My weight has stayed firmly at 59 kg (metric is more scientific, I hear), but it only took a week of daily movie-going for it to change for the first time this year. Who knew that film festivals could be a valid weight-loss plan? I've suspected weight-loss as a result of too much movie going in years past, but had no data to prove it.

Additionally, I'm keeping track of how much time I spend in line. The most shocking bit of data is that I've spent nearly 5 hours standing in line in the last week. That is probably right, since I've had to wait approximately 30 min in line for each screening. Pass holders aren't even getting in much faster this year as they are needing to get to the venue early too, since even the pass holder lines are long this year. Seems to be a big year for SIFF.

I'm sure I'll add a few more hours to the line total this weekend.

A Friend of Mine- Germany, Comedy

The more I think about this understated, German comedy, the more I dig it. Karl (Daniel Brühl) is a successful, award winning, mathematician. The only problem is, work is his whole life. After being recognized for his mathematic innovation with an award, he goes home. Karl waits for his train, alone and silent with his award in hand. At work, Karl is assigned a project that involves taking a minimum wage driving job. There he meets Hans (Jürgen Vogel) who is Karl's opposite. Hans loves life, no matter what he is doing. He enjoys driving the cars, often new sports cars, very fast and quickly befriends the quiet Karl. For the time that Karl is posing as a driver, Hans gets him in to all sorts of mischief.

A Friend of Mine is very somber for a comedythe I attributed to it being German, but I thought it also added to the quirky charm. I was very charmed by this comedy. I adored Hans. He was so goofy and fun and I seem to always enjoy Daniel Brüel's roles (good thing, since he has several films in this year's festival) so it shouldn't be a surprise that I enjoyed this movie. And I wasn't the only one. We overheard plenty of gushing by fellow festival attendees. While A Friend of MIne is a very conventional, feel-good comic movie, it does have some nice subtext on friendship.

Friday, June 01, 2007

SIFF 2007, day 3

King of Kong- USA, Documentary

This was way more fun to watch than you'd expect from a documentary. Somehow, a movie about Donkey Kong, you know the 1980s classic arcade game, managed to make a movie about an epic struggle between good and evil. The good guy, Steve Wiebe of Redmond, WA decides to attempt to beat the legendary high score set by Billy Mitchell back in 1982. No one had come even close to that score since, until Steve submitted his video. The battle begins when the authenticity of the tape is questioned, then the questions of whether Steve's Donkey Kong arcade game was somehow tampered with, and his struggles continue, but by the half-way point, you really want Steve to be the Donkey Kong victor. He just comes across as a really awesome guy who wants to play fair with the record holder.

And this is where the movie gets really fun. Billy Mitchell, the original holder of the record Donkey Kong high score is the perfect movie villain. He wears black and has dark, shoulder length hair that is perfectly feathered. He is the ultimate in corny 1980s evil, talking trash about his rivals, boasting about his own greatness and going on and on at about his hot sauce. Billy is one of those guys that knows he is the coolest and probably was... back in 1982! But today, inspires giggles.

But King of Kong doesn't laugh at these characters of their situation, but documents the feud, investigating claims of authenticity, favoritism, corruption, etc. This movie takes the subject of Donkey Kong seriously and thus, it is a blast to watch the events unfold, but also informative. Great movie!

SIFF 2007, day 4

The Devil Came on Horseback- USA, Documentary

Another excellent documentary. Every morning I listen to the news on NPR, but while I think I am relatively well informed on what is going on in the world, I know that my knowledge doesn't have any real depth. I know of the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, but I knew little about the animosities and politics that fuel it. So I took in a documentary on the subject.

The Devil Came on Horseback is a call to action to the world to aid the people in Darfur to stop the killing from Brian Steidle. He is an American, ex-marine who was in the region as a monitor, but his job that kept him in Darfur for 6 months only involved the recording of instances of violence in the region and he was not permitted to interfere or try to stop the murders, only photograph and write reports on the aftermath of the attacks on villiages by the Janjaweed or the devils on horseback. After 6 months of recording these attacks daily, he came back to the US with all of his photos and first hand accounts to try to do something to stop it and thus he and his sister, director Annie Sundberg, have made this documentary. This is an amazing accomplishment.

First of all, it is an incredible and often heart-breaking account of what is going on in Sudan currently through video footage, accounts from reports, some interviews with the displaced villagers, in addition to Brian's observations and his vast collection of photographs. The film also gives the historical perspective for why these events are taking place. This is the first documentary of this kind that I have left with a very complete picture of what is occuring in Sudan, why the Janjaweed are killing people, and the economic and political forces that combine to allow the genocide to continue. This was a very well made film that worked on both emotional and intellectual levels.

And the subject matter is powerful and unfortunately still relevant.

http://www.thedevilcameonhorseback.com

SIFF 2007, day 5

This Is England- UK, Drama

At SIFF 2004, we went to a screening of Dead Man's Shoes directed by Shane Meadows which was a well made and very memorable thriller starring Paddy Considine. As I had such fond recollections of that film, I was quick to agree to see another film by Shane Meadows.

Shortly after getting into a fight at school, Shaun meets a group of friendly skin heads who adopt him, shave his head, and teach him how to dress. While Shaun's mother is a little distressed that her child is spending his time out of school with a bunch of adult punks, she does nothing to interfere since they have helped him stay out of fights and they do take care of him. But the group becomes less friendly when Combo returns after doing his time. Soon Shaun is indoctrinated into racism and violence.

This Is England didn't cover as much new territory as I had hoped. I know a bit about skin head culture and England's skin heads are nearly identical to those in the US. They wear the working class uniform of jeans, braces, doc martens and the all important hair-cut. I guess learning that Ben Sherman's shirts were part of the uniform was a new piece of information and I hadn't realized how much this movement was fueled by unemployment during the years that Thatcher and the war in the Falklands. But that wasn't really the point of the film, it was more about how the vulnerable and very young Shaun was brainwashed into holding values opposed to his prior beliefs.

The story, while feeling genuine, didn't really pull me in, but I was fascinated with the depiction of England. The England that this film was set in was decidedly less glamourous than how I think of England. The people looked poor and they lived in projects. So the setting seemed very genuine to what I know of working class England under Margaret Thatcher. It is just a shame that I wasn't as sucked into the plot as I was some of the individual characters and their setting.

Monday, May 28, 2007

SIFF 2007, day 2

Red Road- United Kingdom, Thriller

I learned at this screening that Red Road is the first of a trilogy of Advance Party films. This is a project in which films from different filmmakers will follow characters originated by Scherfig and Jensen. It sounds like a great project just to see how different filmmakers re-imagine these same characters in two more films. But anyway... onto the first of the trilogy, Red Road.

Red Road is a debut feature from director, Andrea Arnold. It is set in Scotland and follows Jackie (Kate Dickie). Jackie spends her days watching the CCTV monitors, watching for signs of trouble or illegal activity. I had to look up the use of CCTV in the UK to determine how widespread it really is, because I was wondering whether Jackie's job was a bit of paranoid, big brother science fiction, but it turns out that it is estimated that there are around 4,000,000 CCTV cameras all over the UK and that people, like Jackie, watch for suspicious activity 24 hours a day. That is a little creepy to say the least, but I digress. Jackie gets caught up in the activities of some of the people she watches, even going out of her way to bump into them on the street from time to time. Otherwise her life is fairly empty. Her relationship with her family appears strained, her husband is dead, and she meets a coworker for a scheduled, non-romantic sexual interlude.

This is until she spots Clyde (Tony Curran) on a monitor one day and is suprised that he has been released from prison. She becomes obsessed with his movements, watching him closely at work and then stalking him. At this point, the Red Road becomes very mysterious and tense since we are only given clues as to why Jackie is so interested in Clyde. And the tension only builds as she gets closer to him. Is he violent? Does he know who Jackie is?

The conclusion of the film is satisfying and a really unusual, dark and overtly sexual pathway for a character to take to find emotional healing. Damn good film.

Monster Camp- USA, Documentary

Monster Camp is a locally produced documentary about live-action role playing games. Specifically, the movie documented the live games of a group of LARPers in western Washington (NERO). My attraction to the movie was a curiosity about the draw of role playing games in general and because the documentary looked amusing.

As it turns out, this documentary was neither amusing enough or informative enough to recommend. All I got out of the experience was that boffing people dressed in silly costumes while claiming to be an undead lizard looked like fun, but not too much fun to watch really. Probably something I'd prefer to do without trying to throw packets of bird seed and chanting spells, but that's just me.

The director, Cullen Hoback, was in attendance and has the fun of being asked why he would make a documentary about a bunch of immature assholes. I have much the same question although I suspect the problem wasn't the subject matter or the LARPers, but the inability of the filmmaker to get his point across in any compelling or even entertaining fashion.

Monkey Warfare- Canada, Comedy

Dan (Don McKellar) and Linda (Tracy Wright) are roommates who pay the rent by sorting though other people's garbage for treasures to sell on ebay. In this way, they scrape by making enough to survive while in keeping with their counter-culture values, i.e. without working for the man and keeping a low profile to hopefully keep their past quiet. They also make enough to pay for their monthly pot habit, supplied by the young and idealistic Susan (Nadia Litz), whom eventually turns to Dan to help keep her in working bicycles and to give her history lessons in the ways to challenging the authorities.

While Monkey Warfare was not a riotously funny comedy, it was a highly enjoyable film and might even be a little inspirational for those who also want to fight the SUV drivers of today and have values far to the left of the mainstream. At the festival screening, we were even privy to the clip after the credits that was censored in Canada. The clip involved a how to on the making of a molotov cocktail, although I personally wouldn't follow their recipe. The results were less then impressive. Amusing regardless... and the music was pretty cool too. Enjoyable flick.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

SIFF 2007, day 1

The Aerial- Argentina, SciFi

I have a history of seeing memorable silent films at the northwest film forum, so it shouldn't be a surprise that the first movie attended at SIFF 2007 would be a silent film at the northwest film forum. As with all of the other silent films, I was charmed. There is something inherently appealing in silent films that modern movies don't contain. There is a special aesthetic appeal of old black+white film and a simplicity to the story telling necessitated by the pause in action cut with the titles. Guy Maddin is known for making very quirky, modern silent films and The Aerial is another, modern silent film, although there is sound in the film, it is the story that keeps the characters silent.

The setting is a place where Mr. TV is in control and the people have lost their voices. There is one woman, The Voice, who has a voice, but otherwise, all inhabitants of the city communicate through reading lips and the view is given subtitles for all of the dialog which is beautifully framed with actions and mise un scene punctuating the words. Mr. TV is no longer happy with just keeping the city silent for his own gain, but now threatens to take even more from them. Just as suggested in the character names, The Aerial is a satire very relevant for today with themes of fascism and using very familiar symbols borrowed from Nazi Germany.

The Eyes of Edward James, Canada, horror, short

This 15 minute short film played before Them as part of the Midnight Adrenalin series. This is a pretty cool short film where the film captures what Edward James would have seen on the night of his wife's murder during a regression therapy session. The therapist controls where Edward is the in story, so it is revealed early on that a murder is at the end of the story, but the details are only slowly revealed as Edward describes coming home from work, having dinner with his wife and then, moving through the house in search of the source of a strange noise. The result is a rather tense 15 minutes as the details accumulate and I became less convinced that I knew what exactly Edward experienced in the attic or even what the purpose of the therapy session was. Did these events that Edward is describing happen or is it a recurring nightmare? This was a tense and intriguing short that I wouldn't mind seeing again. Maybe it will turn up on-line someday.

Them- France, horror

Clementine and Lucas are French expatriates living in Bucharest, Romania. One night they wake to mysterious noises. They receive some strange phone calls and their car is stolen. Then they believe someone is in the house and they attempt to barricade themselves into the bedroom. Them progresses into a chilling cat and mouse game miles away from help.

At the end, Them claims to be inspired by actual events. I have not been able to find much evidence other than what is at the movie's official web site, but the events that transpose are at least plausible. And a bit unnerving. This was a very jumpy and scary movie that I enjoyed. Them has planned distribution in Europe, but no news of a US release, but if you enjoy a good suspenseful horror flick without the graphic violence or even much in the way of blood, this is a good one. And due to the genre, there is little dialog, so very few subtitles to remember to pay attention to.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Now in theaters...

I've been meaning to post about some excellent movies, but between work, gym visits, and running off to see and yet, more movies, I haven't had the time to sit and write. But before these leave the theaters, I wanted to say something.



The Lookout

"Whoever has the money has the power"

Joseph Gorden-Levitt is hot and his last few staring roles have insured that I'll be paying attention anytime I see that he is involved in a project. From Mysterious Skin where he portrayed a young, emotionally scared hustler to Brick which he remained grounded in a high school film noir where he uttered dialog like "The ape blows or I clam" while sounding totally believable as a high school student involved in a murder plot. So it didn't take much to get my interest in seeing The Lookout besides knowing that Joseph Gorden-Levitt is in the lead. Often I wait for reviews to come out or at least see who is directing (Scott Frank), but there was no need. I would be buying a ticket for this flick.

Chris Pratt (Gorden-Levitt) was the high school star athlete until a car accident that killed two of his best friends and left him with permanently disabled. He once was expected to do great things, but now just being able to make a meal for himself seems unlikely. He has trouble with his memory, he gets angry easily, and he has to carry a note pad with him to remember just the simplest of things. He is living with Lewis (Jeff Daniels), a blind man, as he re-learns basic life skills and pays the bills working as a night janitor at a bank.

So it doesn't occur to him to question his new found luck in life of suddenly finding himself with friends and a girl after a brief encounter with Gary Spargo (Matthew Goode) in a local bar. He doesn't consider that he is being played. Until he finds himself as a lookout for a robbery.

The Lookout has unfairly been compared to Memento, another film with a memory impaired protagonist, but the films have little else in common. Unlike Memento, The Lookout is much less interested in the crime being committed and much more interested in Chris Pratt. This is a film about a young man who had everything going for him who becomes disabled and thus, written off by society. That is really what makes this film worth the time and energy to see. It really hit me how few images we have in popular culture of disabled people and their lives which I believe adds the problem of lack of understanding about folks with disabilities. I found that while I really cannot consider myself disabled, I did identify with Chris Pratt and his need to carry a notebook to remember.

Another movie in theaters right now that I was able to see thanks to a SIFF preview screening a couple of weeks ago is First Snow with Guy Pearce. Guy Pearce is insuring that he will never be confused with Brad Pitt, despite the chisel-led cheekbones, his body building tendencies and lovely six-pack. After The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert (still one of my all time faves), he has dieted away the muscular physique and played roles that make is very hard to find the sexy in Guy Pearce. But it can be done, it is just a bit more difficult under all of the cowboy grime of The Proposition and the greasy smarminess of Jimmy Starks in his new film First Snow, but I can't be fooled.

Okay, back to First Snow. This is a thriller from first time director Mark Fergus, who is noteworthy for being credited as a writer for the excellent, Children of Men. This is an impressive debut and an unusual film. Jimmy Starks (Pearce) is a salesman and when broken down in the middle of nowhere, he has his fortune read. During this reading, he is told that he is safe until the first snow. Believing that he knows a swindle when he sees one, he doesn't take much heed, until parts of his reading come to fruition. Then the troubling events start to escalate; he receives creepy and slightly unsettling phone calls, a target appears in him mailbox, an old friend is released from prison who has very real reasons for a serious grudge. And news of an early winter makes it seem as if Jimmy really may not live through the first snow. This is a gripping film that does seem to ask whether fate can be changed or even with warning, whether all paths lead down the same road for Jimmy Starks.

The whole reason I had to sit down to write about the must see movies in theaters right now is Grindhouse, the newest project by my two favorite filmmakers, Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez. Shocking that I didn't get out to see it until Saturday afternoon, but this release date snuck up on me and thus, I missed the Thursday midnight premiere. Can't let this happen again! If for some reason, you are reading this and haven't yet seen Grindhouse, get to a theater! And if there for some reason is any hesitation about seeing this movie, read on.



Tarantino and Rodriguez have teamed up before, but unlike From Dusk Til Dawn, they each have created their own feature and packed them together as a grindhouse double feature complete with fake previews for coming attractions, damaged film and even a few missing reels to make the experience feel all the more authentic, if you can manage to over look the multiplex setting, that is.

And this is the best of their collaborations to date. Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror is a zombie splatter picture that is a lot of fun to watch. The cast is fun and sexy at every turn with Rose McGowan as the stripper, Cherry, Freddy Rodriguez, Michael Biehn, Naveen Andrews, and Marley Shelton as Dr. Dakota Block who keeps her syringes strapped to her thigh. There are also appearances by Michael Parks, Bruce Willis and Quentin.

As with the majority of Rodriguez's work, Planet Terror is loud, flashy, has plenty of style and great action sequences. Robert Rodriguez is great at making guns very sexy. This is a fun movie that is reminiscent of 70s horror with a dash of Russ Meyer. And the coming attraction trailer that proceeds it for Machete is great... and according to info at IMDB.com, Machete is in production. Coolness. I really dig Danny Trejo.

Tarantino's Death Proof is just as authentic to the genre, but is more skillfully crafted and executed. I will not talk about the plot, for fear of spoilers since they have been careful with the trailers and stills give no hint to what Death Proof is and where it is headed. And I like it that way. I never saw it coming and it was a fantastic and surprise and thus the whole second feature was a nail-biting ride.

But I will give one thing away, Zoe Bell. While I don't share Quentin's foot fetish, I do apparently share his taste in ladies. Wow are the women of Death Proof HAWT. Really. They are not super thin starlets, but seem much more like real women and best of all, they are smart, talk with some great Tarantino dialog and they can take care of themselves. These are women who are not only worthy of lustful feelings, but are equally worthy of admiration. They live in a world full of bad men and misogyny, but they aren't afraid of it and crush the perpetrators when they can.

Death Proof kicks ass.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

First movie post of 2007

I'm still seeing movies, it just doesn't seem like it because I fail to write about them these days. I blame 2006 movies for this lapse. It is very difficult to convince myself to sit down and write about movies when I haven't been excited about anything I've seen. This last year was such a disappointment that I often skipped going out to the theater for weeks at a time. I have been getting out to at least one movie a week for years... until last year.

And last summer, when I did muster up the ambition to leave my cozy apartment, I was often totally unimpressed by the movie. Unfortunately, in general 2006 was a very unsatisfying year at the movies. But despite this, apparently this wasn't reflected in ticket sales.

But I'm happy to report an upturn in the movie trends. The late 2006/early 2007 films have been very good. In fact, most of the movies I've seen in the last month have been excellent. Among those were Volver, Children of Men, Blood Diamond, Perfume, Pan's Labyrinth, Letters from Iwo Jima,and Inland Empire. These are films that I can actually bring myself to make the time to write about. I probably won't talk about all of them, but a few are definitely worth some attention.

First, Children of Men. I saw a preview late summer for this film and have been counting the days ever since. How could I not? Alfonso Cuaron. Clive Owen. Chiwetel Ejiofor. Julianne Moore. Not only were the names behind the film fantastic, but it is a near future dystopia. I was so seeing this film the day it opened and did.

And it was everything that I hoped it would be. The tone was dark, pessimistic, chaotic. The glimpse of the future was horrifyingly plausible. Children of Men depicts a future where all the nations of the world have collapsed, leaving Britain as the last country and they are blocking immigration. Thus the backdrop for this story about the attempts to get the only pregnant woman in the world safely to the Human Project is a world filled with war, violence, danger and chaos. And to cast Clive Owen as a kind of everyman of this future was brilliant. Now I admit that plot has problems. Thinking back on the story, I have some big questions about this future vision of earth, but none of the plot problems bothered me while watching it. Perhaps because Children of Men was delivered as an action packed thriller, I didn't worry about the specifics of the implausibility of a future without children and just went with it. And I'm glad that I did, because it was a wonderfully thrilling movie that is among my favorites of the year.

Perfume: a story of a murderer is also worthy of mention. This is very daring and unusual. I have a hard time comparing it to anything else, simply because it tells the story of a man who's entire existence is dominated by his sense of smell. Can you imaging being constantly aware of every scent, being able to distinguish between the smell of all things and most importantly, being compelled to follow your nose when making every decision? Scent is only something I am only casually aware of. I notice when someone is wearing too much perfume, I respond to food scents, and recoil from the smells of the city that rise in the summer, but otherwise, this is a very neglected sense. So I cannot help a bit of surprise over Tykwer's success with creating a parable around a character with an unusually advanced sense of smell.

Perfume is an intoxicating film full of amazing moments, excellent performances, and a totally captivating story. But there is one weakness, it is very difficult, if not impossible to identify with the protagonist, Jean-Baptist Grenouille. This was a problem for me, because while I was constantly intrigued with the film, it was difficult to really connect with it. So watching Perfume was a rather cold and intellectual movie-going experience that rarely struck any emotional chords. This was in sharp contrast with both Pan's Labyrinth and Letters from Iwo Jima

Pan's Labyrinth in some ways is similar to Perfume as both very highly imaginative, innovative, and dark, but in Guillermo del Toro's film, I did feel emotionally connected to Ofelia's adventures into a mysterious world of faeries, dangerous tests and a faun.

At beginning of Pan's Labyrinth, Ofelia is journeying with her very pregnant mother and a heavy stack of books of fairy-tales to meet her step father, a Captain Vidal during a time of much strife and a fascist regime. Ofelia is confronted with an exciting dark fairy-tale world upon her arrival, when she is promised with being a princess of this world by a faun if only she can complete three tasks. These are dangerous tasks that don't appear all that dangerous this alternative world isn't much more sinister than the one in which she has found herself. Ofelia's unborn brother is threatening her mother's life, there are rebellious factions on the rise and her step father is absolutely terrifying. This fantastic fairy-tale for adults is frightening, but also delightfully fantastic and strange.

Letters From Iwo Jima... I'm still digesting this film. I am amazed that Clint Eastwood is behind this film and that it works so wonderfully. Letters was filmed in sepia-tones and the dialog in entirely in Japanese. Assuming Clint is not fluent in Japanese, I am amazed at the powerful punch delivered by this film. The acting was excellent and I believe that it gives a rather authentic glimpse into those last days in Iwo Jima for the Japanese men.

And it is devastating. I never go to war movies because I find I am not interested in war intellectually and the stories are often way too masculine for my taste. However, I went to this film because of the Japanese cast, the opportunity to listen to spoken Japanese, a fascination with Japanese culture and an appreciation for most of Clint Eastwood's recent films. I walked out of the theater tearful and since have been considering the validity of war. I guess that is the purpose of many films of this genre, to personalize war and ask, what is worth the cost of human life? Letters From Iwo Jima gives a fresh perspective on a war with a long film history by letting us see this battle from the perspective of the losing side, the Japanese soldiers. The film also examines nationalism, cultural identity, and honor but most importantly, it tells small heartbreaking stories of the Japanese soldiers. This is an incredible film. Now I'm looking forward to trying to see Flags of Our Fathers since I skipped it last year.
My favorites that I saw last year...

Shortbus
Linda, Linda, Linda
When the Levees Broke
United 93
Brick
The Descent
Three Times
Volver
Children of Men
The Prestige
Casino Royale