Ha..ppy new year! Man, 2010’s gonna rock (before it rolls off the shelf and shatters), if 2009 is any judge. This year’s coolest movies were about dangerous men and even more dangerous women — crazy motherfuckers, flipping their middle finger to bourgeoisie morality, God and American values, and fighting for the sake of adrenalin: defusing bombs, shooting flashers, framing gangsters, castrating spouses, scalping Nazis, all in the name of transgression’s cleansing power. In an age marred by chickenshit imitations, these films painted their face like an Apache and lived it up, hipping us all to the phoniness of knee-jerk American values.
America’s had to deal with its split personality all its life, and this year it seemed to have finally taken the FIGHT CLUB-footed steps towards bullet-to-the-brain reunification, for the first time since the party of 1999. The settings reflect a future that no one believes will be rosy, even if the CGI apocalypse of 2012 never comes to pass worldwide, in places it’s already happened: Baghdad, post-Katrina New Orleans, a Cali shopping mall, Eden, or a fictional version of earth where we won Vietnam thanks to a giant blue man who likes to show off his uncircumcised schlong. We can blame it on the war or Bush or global warming, but the real thing fucking with us in 2009 was the image, media, the simulacrum, the mirror. We recognized the enemy and it wasn’t us, it was the mirror itself. We weren’t really blue and made of CGI at all. We were bleached out and made of the dream stuff of Herzog and Lars Von Trier. Our screens reflect their reflections of us and we laugh!! We laugh because it’s true that it’s so not true. Once we admit we’re crazy, we win! All Don Quixote has to do is decide to let the windmill off with a friendly warning, and no one has to see him crash.
Our attention span itself is becoming a rare commodity. Images multiply and only the ones with the biggest advertising budgets make an impression. Tivo makes it harder all the time for car companies to hypnotize us, and pop culture splits into shards as each demographic gets its own shows and films, and every film ever made (practically) is readily available via Iphones, pods and newer gadgets inching as close as they can without directly tapping into the optic nerve. There are officially more music and shows available to you right at this nanosecond than you could possibly ever see in your lifetime, and more coming every Tuesday. The extended family no longer gathers round the TV to watch the same show and if they do, the kids don’t stop texting or surfing for more than a scene. And mom’s in the kitchen watching books on her wristwatch and dad’s alone in the den with the giant war onscreen, as happy as if he had no family at all, so long as he has their picture on the mantle.
Every picture sells a story and in 2009 some of the pictures stopped selling it and instead threw down their arms and hipped us to the falseness of their product: INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS couldn’t even be bothered to spell its name right and rather than deliver a war movie as the ads promised, deconstructed the WAG THE DOG-ish way images, rumors, words and movies win wars and influence others. Tarantino brought home the feeling of being occupied and a pretty woman, forced to contend with unwanted male attention, the way those holding the gun get to oppress with even the most civilized with full disclosure tactics as insidious as a rolexed pick-up line: “Doing what I do best, annoying you!” Good films are layered to be even better the second or third time (to make buying the DVD worthwhile), as narrative expectations are no longer exasperated, and so every word and movement can be enjoyed on its own terms. Every flicker of facial expression has meaning here, and the whole thing takes on the ageless luster of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, as the music and chapter titles no doubt partly intend.
Like Shoshana, Charlotte Gainsbourg in ANTICHRIST slaughters via the image, but in a much darker way, as a woman who goes crazy enough to realize there is no such thing as truth and thus rightly seeks to destroy cognitive psychology before it destroys us all — by castrating Willem Dafoe. Sex is exposed by Lars Von Trier as nothing but a coping mechanism for the devouring maternal void to not swallow its own tongue and disappear and if Dafoe can’t dig it, then screw him… literally… to the floor.
The badass and cougar-iffic Carlo Guigino scored big above all the blue and red and white WATCHMEN, though scrappy little Jackie Earle Haley was awesome, as was Jeffrey Dean Morgan as The Comedian! The whole rape scene seemed rather labored, but it did the job. It broke the seal on caped superhero etiquette for now and for all time. Yes, we’ve broken some seals this year, and closed others back up like a vile Indian giver, but hey, it will all be over soon enough, as Roland Emmerich’s dreams really do come true, and if you believe a man can fly, then go ahead and take yourself a leap… into the reigning chaos of 2010! How do you say in English, about the shoe being on the other foot, that you must wear it? Or diffuse it? Or make it into a movie until it disappears like the witch into a black puddle. “Oh what a world!” Chaos reigns and talking foxes, singing iguanas, and talking junkies shall inherit the New Scorched Earth.
(See my best of decade list here)