Written by Dr. Royce Clemens
The Geeks of Doom’s reviewer extraordinaire, Dr. Royce Clemens, gives us the lowdown with his views on the best this movie season has had to offer so far.
Best Film: HOT FUZZ
In a year and an age where looking cool and making money was tantamount, ONE MAN was still stoked to be at the movies. That man’s name was Edgar Wright and his film was Hot Fuzz. The man behind Shaun of the Dead and the Don’t trailer in Grindhouse gave us the tongue-in-cheek story of London Super-Bobby Nicolas Angel, who is such an awesome police officer that he makes everyone else in the department look bad and is IMMEDIATELY transferred to the sleepy village of Sanford, where the murder rate is extremely low, but the Lethal Accident rate is uncommonly high.
I’d be willing to wager, were one ever to meet Mr. Wright, one could sense his love of film radiating from him much like an aura. He too has the habit of referencing his favorite movies, but instead of incorporating them into narrative
(Tarantino) or grinding the film to a halt in a shallow attempt to show us all the stuff he’s seen, (Roth) Wright imbues the characters with his film’s manic energy until it looks like kids playing POINT BREAK in the backyard. The fun is completely contagious.
When one goes to the movies long enough, one becomes convinced that it’s all about the green for everyone. That they don’t care about the art or their own reputations just as long as we follow suit into the theatres like good little sheep. It’s so refreshing to see a movie by someone who still believes!
Best Male Performance:
Samuel L. Jackson – BLACK SNAKE MOAN
In the second best (and most atypical) film of the year, Samuel L. Jackson stars as Lazarus, a Memphis bluesman turned farmer whose wife has left him for his brother. One day he sees a half-naked and beaten white woman on the side of the road (Christina Ricci). He takes her in and nurses her to health
only to find that she’s a nymphomaniac. Lazarus takes the step of chaining her to the radiator in his tiny shack to get her out of her psychosexual proclivities cold turkey, claiming attempts of “curing her of her wickedness.”
Now what has been set up in the trailers as a button-pushing exploitation picture, preying on race, sexuality, and religion actually comes about as a story of salvation and redemption, as two fundamentally fucked up people fix each other in unconventional ways. In a way, they actually BECOME the kind of people we hear about in blues songs, with Ricci as the woman doing wrong all over town and Jackson as the solemn done-wrong singer himself. And Jackson proves in Black Snake Moan that he is the equal to Jack Nicholson inasmuch as he can make paycheck movies playing himself, and then make the little out of the way flicks with an actual character, where he can knock us all on our asses with his slow burns, astonishing range, and powerful moving depth.
And his version of STACK-O-LEE is pretty fuckin’ cool?
Best Female Performance:
Ashley Judd – BUG
Almost the polar opposite to the same story of Black Snake Moan, William Friedkin‘s Bug is about two people clinging to each other, doing unbelievable psychic and physical damage and needing it all the way. Where BSM was about healing, abandon all hope, ye who enter Bug.
Ashley Judd plays waitress Agnes, whose last thread of hope is nothing but a distant memory. She is in complete freefall, plummeting into the hell that is Michael Shannon‘s Peter, a Gulf War vet with severe mental problems. Because Peter is so nice to her and so sure of himself in a world so uncertain, Agnes follows him into madness. And Judd plays her as a thinly veiled jumble of loneliness and desperation.
Remember about fifteen years ago when RUBY IN PARADISE came out and we were all buzzing about the lil’est Judd? She finally made due.
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo – 28 WEEKS LATER?
Ummm? I thought sequels were supposed to suck. Instead of rehashing the same damn story yet a second time, Juan Carlos Fresnadillo‘s sequel to Danny Boyle‘s 28 Days Later raises the stakes in scale, scope, character development, political relevance, and plain ol’ visceral scares.
I was concerned when the digital video that was the cornerstone of the groundbreaking first film was replaced by official Fox backing and Panavision. My fears were baseless as the Spanish Fresnadillo retained the immediacy and actually built upon it, broadening the iris with a clear sense of intimate kinetics and transparent geography in the bigger scenes. Even the fact that it is film as opposed to video works to its advantage. The conceit behind 28 Weeks Later is that everything is supposed to be back to normal, only to be found that it isn’t. The expense film brings to it conveys the sensation of a Fixer-Upper Utopia gone terribly, horribly wrong.
I’ll let ol’ Juan Carlos make Hot Spanish love to my sister all he wants. Let it never be said that I didn’t do anything nice for her.
Best Dialogue Exchange:
Chris Cooper and Ryan Phillippe in BREACH
“My Uncle was a Deacon.”
Now it’s time to join the Varsity.”
Rather than chuck a shout-out to an entire screenplay, why not look at a single two-line exchange from a movie that tells a story in and of itself? For this one, I’m looking at Billy Ray‘s tense true-story spy thriller Breach.
Chris Cooper plays FBI Agent/National Traitor Robert Hanssen and Ryan Phillippe plays Eric O’Neill, a wet behind the ears agent sent in to snoop and look for evidence of Hanssen’s flawed patriotism. One thing Hanssen prides himself on is his devout Catholicism and asks the spiritual status of O’Neill. O’Neill replies and what follows sets the dynamic for the entire film. Cooper’s sneer and judgmental tone tells Phillippe how it is and THEN some: “I am completely? And wholly? beyond reproach.”
Best Action Sequence:
I, for one, did not whine and moan about how Quentin Tarantino‘s Death Proof half of the Grindhouse double feature was “talky” or “boring.” Show some respect for the craft, will you please? The only way one can win a game of chess is to see the whole board.
We have our villain? Check.
We have our group of vulnerable-yet-tough-as-nails women? Check.
THEN LET THE FUCKING GAMES BEGIN!
The long dialogue portions got inside the heads of the characters and made things more tense when the EPIC fucking car chase came around. It was during this that I found the fundamental difference between Death Proof and the film that preceded it – Robert Rodriguez‘ Planet Terror. Rodriguez made a movie about how cheesy Grindhouse movies were back in the day, like he was somehow above them. It was campy and cute, but got old real quick. Tarantino made a Grindhouse movie, plain and simple, and what made those movies golden was that the filmmakers thought the movies they were making were genius.
And the best part of the chase?
Look, ma! NO FUCKING COMPUTERS!
Best movie NO ONE liked but me:
It’s a giant crocodile eating people.
You can tell me that it’s exploitative and cheesy and predictable, but I? I just don’t care!. I do not give a solitary Tinker’s Damn.
It’s a giant crocodile? eating people!
You? you want more?
JESUS you fuckers are pushy?
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