Published at: Dec. 15, 2008, 5:51 p.m. CST by mrbeaks
I'm thinking of handing my four pages of Butt-Numb-a-Thon X notes over to a psychiatrist to see if he can determine the moments at which I a) accidentally got drunk, b) sobered up, c) intentionally got drunk again, d) sobered up, e) slipped into drunkenness a third time, f) lost the ability to feel romantic love, g) caught a cold, and h) slept through a great Sam Fuller movie. Alternatively, I'm thinking of burning my BNAT notes because they don't make any fucking sense.
I'm also thinking these scribbles signify awe. Despite the rumors of last-minute dropouts, BNAT X was a brilliantly programmed twenty-four hours. The official lineup:
VIVA VILLA! (1934)
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON (2008)
METROPOLIS (1984, Moroder Version)
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (2009)
I LOVE YOU, MAN (2009)
WHITE DOG (1982)
Granted, these are just the features. Interspersed throughout the day were chunks of footage from upcoming studio releases like CORALINE, UP, MONSTERS VS. ALIENS, PUSH, KNOWING, OBSERVE AND REPORT, WATCHMEN and TERMINATOR: SALVATION. And while this smorgasbord of tease only reinforced my abhorrence of the sneak peak format (plea for cessation coming later this week), these glorified highlight reels still complemented, and sometimes deepened, Harry's theme of revolution in a way that felt planned (particularly CORALINE and UP). It was a day of revolution and death, resistance and acceptance, Bad Nazis and Good Nazis, talking dogs and racist dogs.
And it all hinged on the vague promise of a furry Benicio Del Toro. As it would take several paragraphs to properly explain the joke, I'll just pass along my kudos to Tim League for ensuring that I will never be able to watch Steven Soderbergh's CHE without flashing on my pal Jeff Mahler hugging Teen Wolf. Your reward is in Diane Keaton's HEAVEN.
Cold medication is impairing my ability to reason at the moment, so rather than attempt a comprehensive film-by-film summary, I thought it would be fun (i.e. less mentally taxing) to hand out awards honoring the most exceptional movies, performances and moments of BNAT X. Beats printing out my notes in their addled, viciously inarticulate entirety.
Best Picture: THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON.
Exhibit A for why I should never read reviews prior to watching a massively anticipated epic from a world-class director.
There's so much to hate about the year-end rush to top-ten judgment, but there's nothing worse than the lack of reflection it engenders (now that many of us are Twittering our initial thoughts on the way out of the theater, I fear there's an increasing tendency to get locked into those first impressions). Had I written my review of BENJAMIN BUTTON twenty-four hours after my first viewing, it would've been a tepidly positive review that praised the transcendent stretches (e.g. Pitt-Swinton's Noel Coward-inspired intelude, the anatomy of an accident, the U-Boat attack, etc.) and slammed the Hurricane Katrina framing device. After a second viewing, I'm confident Fincher has designed one of the all-time great accounts of a life lived in full. The broad strokes conceal a Kubrickian degree of character and thematic detail.
Potential caveat: this could be the Drafthouse-furnished caviar and vodka talking.
Best Actor: Wallace Beery, VIVA VILLA!
I truly admire Benicio Del Toro's work in CHE, but Beery's rampage of fucking and killing in the mildly insensitive VIVA VILLA! epitomizes the life of a revolutionary to me. It may be a false portrait, but questionable Hecht is always preferable to over-intellectualized Soderbergh. No one's solid on how much of VIVA VILLA! was directed by Howard Hawks; the rowdy male camaraderie would suggest "a lot".
Best Actress: Kristy McNichol, WHITE DOG
A childhood crush renewed. She was nineteen and fresh off of LITTLE DARLINGS when she got caught up in Samuel Fuller's unconscionably shelved gem about a dog trained to attack black people. Unlike Fuller, WHITE DOG didn't kill her career, but the '82 flop combo of it and THE PIRATE MOVIE did end her as a "rising star". In all seriousness, this award should go to METROPOLIS' Brigitte Helm, but she didn't enrich my youth in dazzlingly tumescent ways.
Best Supporting Actor: Tom Atkins, MY BLOODY VALENTINE
The man's first slasher film performance in twenty years. It's like watching Larry Bird lace 'em up again and go for forty against Kobe Bryant's Lakers.
Best Supporting Actress: Betsy Rue, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D
She's got maybe four minutes of screen time. None of them are clothed. All of them are memorable. I shall spoil no further.
Best Director: Bryan Singer, VALKYRIE
For making an occasionally gripping movie out of Christopher McQuarrie's less-than-sterling screenplay. It's an impressive, economical return to form for Singer after the bloat of SUPERMAN RETURNS.
Best Footage: UP
Pete Docter's such a great storyteller, even his storyboards make me weep.
The UP presentation was undoubtedly the most significant of Butt-Numb-a-Thon: until now, all we knew was that it was the story of Carl Fredricksen (voice of Ed Asner), an old man who attempts to erase a lifetime of regret by traveling via house to a remote South American jungle. Now we have the backstory: the old man's love for adventure was stoked by his go-getter wife. The couple's childhood meet-cute in an abandoned house is followed by a heartbreaking montage which takes us through their entire life together (as piercingly bittersweet as anything in BENJAMIN BUTTON). It's weighty stuff (and it informs a surprising burst of violence early in the first act), but it's leavened by the antics of the plucky wilderness scout who inadvertently accompanies Carl to South America and the curious creatures they meet in the jungle. The dogs with leashes that give voice to their every flighty thought shame BOLT (fyi, "Squirrel!" is the new "Mine!").
Best Trailer: SECRET OF MAGIC ISLAND
An all-animal cast is forced to "act just like they were people". Takes its place alongside THE UNCANNY as an exemplary cinematic mistreatment of house pets. Words are insufficient.
Most Prescient Comment on the Modern Day Plight of Film Critics: Jonny Sykes (played by Stuart Erwin), VIVA VILLA!
"I'm a journalist: all brains, no dough!"
Best Act of Audience Cruelty: Starting the Heavily-Subtitled CHE at 8 AM.
Best Act of Jeff Mahler Cruelty: The TEEN WOLF Incident
I.E., Dragging the diminutive filmmaker onstage to get a basketball autographed by his hirsute hero before "accidentally" melting a print of his favorite film for the third year in a row.
Best Killing of a Nazi: Sgt. Major Tambul (played by Rex Ingram), SAHARA
The Sudanese Tambul finishes off an escaping German prisoner by drowning him in sand.
Best Future Fanboy Crush: Megan Boone, MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D
The white trash mistress of Kerr Smith's Axel Palmer was even more impressive during the post-film Q&A, where she cited GREMLINS and Joe Pesci in GOODFELLAS as things that scared her as a child. The line starts forming behind Messrs. Mahler and Knowles.
Best Thing to Say About I LOVE YOU, MAN: It's Very Funny, But Could Stand To Lose Ten Or Fifteen Minutes
Best Filmmaking Movement Off-Handedly Invented By McG: "The Belgian Third Wave"
I should also note that TERMINATOR: SALVATION continues to look like a very big, potentially entertaining film. I'm looking forward to it. But that "We shot our movie in Albuquerque to get that David Lean scope" comment... oh, hell. Keep on yakkin', McG!
And with that, I must travel.
As always, it was wonderful to hang with the Austin crew and meet a few readers. Though my body is none-too-pleased with me at the moment, I honestly can't wait to do this again next year.