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Pete Timmermann | Films

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no2 Yes, I loved Jackass: Number Two. But on top of that, it's a better, funnier, ballsier, scarier, and generally more solid film than the first one was, or God forbid the show. I'm so glad that bad taste has leaked into the mainstream.

 

 

threetimes
Three Times

1. Three Times (IFC Films, NR)

When the race for Oscar nominations comes around every year, magazines like Entertainment Weekly always pick who will get nominated for what, and the issue of when the films in question were released always comes up. It is generally acknowledged that films released in the fourth quarter are much more likely to get nominated than films from the first or second quarters, the reason being that the first and second quarter movies are no longer fresh in the nominators' memories. This is the opposite for me. I saw Hou Hsiao-hsien's brilliant Three Times for the first time in May of 2005 at the Cannes Film Festival, and had it come out in general release in the later part of 2005, it would have been lucky to make the bottom part of my top ten list that year. I didn't see the film a second time until it came out on DVD in late September, 16 months after the only other time I saw it, but in this time, it marinated in my memory and a resonance emerged that I wouldn't have been able to identify if the film had had less time to stretch out. The best films demand time to dwell on them and can withstand repeated viewings (I watched the DVD like it was crack cocaine when it first came out), and Three Times is the best film of the year.

2. Brick (Focus Features, R)

Tied with Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (see below) for having one of the best lines of the year (Joseph Gordon Levitt's protagonist Brendan to a group of four thugs: "I've got all five senses and I slept last night, so that puts me six up on the lot of you"), Brick is the most compulsively watchable and quotable film of the year, and stands to achieve Donnie Darko or The Big Lebowski status on college campuses in the coming years. It is hard to imagine how a classically-styled film noir set in a high school and starring the kid from 3rd Rock From the Sun got greenlit in the first place, but since it did, it stands as the ultimate proof that things that sound awful and hackneyed on paper often wind up being wildly innovative and intelligent.

3. This Film Is Not Yet Rated (IFC Films, NR)

Although This Film Is Not Yet Rated is far from director Kirby Dick's best work and could potentially be the start of an increasingly unwelcome Michael Moore-style in his filmmaking, This Film Is Not Yet Rated deserved to make as much of a fuss in the film industry as An Inconvenient Truth did in the rest of the world, except that no one bothered to see it. It's a shame, too; it's been a long time since someone with such an established track record (and not just Dick; IFC funded this film) has made a film this ballsy.

4. Tristram Shandy: A Cock & Bull Story (Picturehouse, R)

Okay, so, the second best line of the year: (Steve Coogan, in a moment of meta, speaking mockumentary-style regarding The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, the nearly 250-year-old novel upon which the film is based): "It was post-modern before there was anything modern to be post about." Sure, the film borrows liberally from Spike Jonze's Adaptation, but hey, if you're going to steal, steal from the best.

5. United 93 (Universal Pictures, R)

Originally, I had absolutely no desire to see this film and only did because it was showing at a time I didn't have anything else to see at Cannes. Turns out, I was completely knocked on my ass. It's hard to imagine a more thrilling, reverent, patriotic film than Paul Greengrass' fictional retelling of what happened before United Flight 93 went down on September 11.

6. The Departed (Warner Bros., R)

Like United 93, I did not particularly want to see this film, as I'm not much of a Scorsese fan (I only really like Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, and The King of Comedy, but not Goodfellas or Mean Streets or any of those), and I didn't much care for Infernal Affairs, the Hong Kong action film upon which The Departed is based, but as it turns out, I was wrong again. By a wide margin the best and most elegant Hollywood studio film to come out in 2006.

7. Wordplay (IFC Films, NR)

I'm sure that if I told you that some of the final scenes in Wordplay, a documentary about crossword puzzles and Will Shortz, the New York Times crossword puzzle editor, in which some seriously nerdy fellas compete in a crossword-solving competition, are as tense and riveting as some of the action sequences in United 93 or The Departed, you'd think I was retarded. And, well, they aren't, but they sure are close. Aside from that, Shortz is a funny and self-deprecating interview, and it turns out he has some fans of serious power, comedic and otherwise (Bill Clinton, Jon Stewart).

8. Jackass: Number Two (Paramount Pictures, R)

I guiltily watched and enjoyed the first Jackass movie and the Jackass shows on MTV before allowing myself to admit that I liked them (I don't know why this was so hard for me, seeing as how I'm a lifelong devotee of John Waters), and now that I'm out of the Jackass closet, I might as well go the full nine. Yes, I loved Jackass: Number Two. But on top of that, it's a better, funnier, ballsier, scarier, and generally more solid film than the first one was, or God forbid the show. I'm so glad that bad taste has leaked into the mainstream.

9. Half Nelson (ThinkFilm, R)

Sporting both the best performance by a male this year (Ryan Gosling) and the best last line in a film since 2003's The Station Agent (which, unlike the lines from Brick and Tristram Shandy, I feel obligated to not tell you, on account of where it comes in the film and what it signifies), Half Nelson overcomes its poopy high concept roots (inspirational inner city teacher is addicted to crack and is found out by a precocious student) quite handily. In fact, it is the runner-up only to Brick regarding how awful it sounds in theory and how wonderful it is in practice. If this doesn't make Ryan Gosling the go-to guy for great roles for young men, and if it doesn't score him an Oscar nomination, something is seriously wrong with our system (which we already know; his turn in 2001's The Believer should have given him both of those things).

10. Mutual Appreciation (Goodbye Cruel Releasing, R)

And now for the most obscure film on the list, at least to St. Louisans, as it only received three screenings on the big screen in town (at the Webster Film Series back in May) and is not yet available on DVD (not by normal means, anyway; you used to be able to obtain the film directly from director Andrew Bujalski at mutualappreciation.com, although it seems like you can't anymore). Bujalski's first film since his brilliant breakthrough Funny Ha Ha, he once again proves that no one is better than him about capturing the feeling of being a relatively aimless post-college drifter, or at making scripted dialogue feel unscripted. | Pete Timmermann

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