Chico and Rita
The Unforgettably Forgotten Great and Good Films of 2010
By Blair Stewart
Editor's note: Here's an alternate Best of List from UK-Based DFD contributor Blair Stewart
Happy New Year and all that jazz folks, here's a rundown of 2010's finest slept-on films that unfortunately were wedged between the bluster of "Inception" and the perpetual infernal mechanized horsepoop contraption that is "Twilight: Eclipse". No "Shutter Island" or "Winter's Bone" to be seen here, but plenty of head-scratching and highfalutin cultural snobbery to be had. No "I Am Love" included either, the ending was an embarrassment.
"Machete" dir. by Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis
Starring Danny Trejo, Jessica Alba, Jeff Fahey and Jeff Fahey's sweet-ass mullet
I've despised 90% of Robert Rodriguez's efforts, and after the letdown of "Predators" (great concept dulled by tacky execution), would have happily skipped "Machete" for a long night of sweet F.A. despite Danny Trejo's leathery mug. Thankfully Rodriguez and his editor/co-director Maniquis have taken a highlight of 2007's "Grindhouse" experiment, the 2-minute fake trash trailer of which this film is born, and expanded it into a piss-taking scattershot lampoon of Rodriguez's own body of work. Sometime around a climax of Robert DeNiro channelling Foghorn Leghorn as a US Senator caught on the warpath of Lindsay Lohan in a nun's habit I fell in love with the tastelessness of "Machete", John Waters would have made a logical pick for story consultant if asked. The blowhards involved in the US-Mexico border controversy deserved this lovingly bloody satire, and with his part as DeNiro's greasy hatchet man, I now demand more Jeff Fahey roles in my American mainstream movies. Hell, Fahey in Mexican ones, too.
"Cane Toads: The Conquest" dir. by Mark Lewis
Featuring Cane Toads, Rural Australians
A sequel to the 1988 documentary "Cane Toads: An Unnatural History", the disastrous introduction of the American reptile to Northern Australia becomes a cautionary lesson in man's ecological blunders and decoration for the interviewed weirdos of Oz's hinterlands. As humorous, terrifying, frustrating and educational as losing one's virginity, "Cane Toads" was a Sundance festival hit that at best may yet see a limited release, otherwise Netflix beckons. The 3-D format was used effectively in raising my blood pressure as a solitary toad hopped into the foreground space amongst Queensland's beauty on the cusp of conquer. Then another toad arrived. Then another. And two more. And another one. And three more. And another......
Exit Through the Gift Shop dir. by Banksy
Featuring Banksy and Thierry Guetta
Joining "Catfish" as the other documentary this year to give me pause in questioning its truth, "Exit Through the Gift Shop" was a series of happy accidents (graffiti art fan Thierry Guetta with A.D.D. and O.C.D. records Banksy, the hyped zeitgeist of illegal street art, before gaining more financial success than his mentor, and despite the fact that his art sucks, only for Banksy to become a fine director of Guetta's footage, uh-huh) that resulted in a wildly entertaining film. Whatever the processes required, 2010 was a year in which the non-fiction material ("Collapse", "Restrepo", most of "I'm Still Here") exceeded the fictional work in my admiration. As additional viewing incentive Banksy is a caustic narrating genius and the eye-popping sight of an elephant spray painted burgundy simply must be seen.
"Enter the Void" dir. by Gaspar Noe
Starring Nathaniel Brown and Paz de la Huerta
The acting is mostly atrocious, the story a haberdashery of "The Tibetan Book of the Dead" and DMT-laced spliffs, and despite the immense audiovisual acumen of "I Stand Alone" and "Irreversible" notoriety Gaspar Noe isn't the brightest of filmmakers, just the flashiest. Yet "Enter the Void" was an overwhelming experience; a CGI-fireworks merging of Tokyo's electric hum, the free-floating camera crane movement of Kalatozov's "I Am Cuba" with trust-fund carnality that briefly overruled Mckee's screenplay formulas and mixed-marketing tie-in tentpole franchises. Perhaps Paz de la Huerta won over my better judgement, but I'm alright with that. It was a heady trip at the cinema in an otherwise stuffily unmemorable year.
"Chico and Rita" dir. by Javier Mariscal and Fernando Trueba
Featuring the music of Bebo Valdés, Tito Puente and Charlie Parker
Oh to be young, carefree and lustful in pre-Castro Havana around 1948. Rich Yankee dolts from the brownstone smokestacks are pouring into town for a weekend fling; Cuban superpowers of bebop and mambo are following them out. A roughly animated lark on the high times of Cuban beat in the way-back-when, "Chico and Rita" was predictable and saccharine but it had good tunes and hot sex going on, therefore making it the best date movie possible for anyone anywhere anytime. I have never found turquoise blue as fine a colour as I have while watching this.
"Trash Humpers" dir. by Harmony Korine
Starring Harmony Korine and Rachel Korine
Like a lost VHS tape that escaped from Gary Busey's private snuff collection "Trash Humpers" is off-limits for those of us with decency and good taste. Squalid freaks in old folks masks destroy property and, you know, hump trash, where the overwhelming mood of chaos in 78 minutes created a feeling of dread in me greater than all the cannibal extras in "The Road" could muster. Art gallery owners in Soho and Williamsburg wept.
"Four Lions" dir. by Christopher Morris
Starring Riz Ahmed, Kayvan Novak and Nigel Lindsay
A ballsy flogging of radical fundamentalist hive-thinking and the sorry state of the U.K. in general, "Four Lions" was blessed with superbly funny dialogue when I could understand whatever the hell the Jihadists were saying. A plotline about an incompetent sleeper-cell in the Yorkshires had too much baggage for major North American distributors, despite qualities including Riz Ahmed's excellent lead performance alongside Chris Morris gold-standard in British comedy direction. The idea of a modern farce's last reel concerning the gang's attempt to bomb the London Marathon would be depraved if not for the example set by "Dr. Strangelove" during the Cold War's depths. Some jackasses might be less inclined to publicly blow themselves up under the wilting onslaught of such well-conceived mockery.
"The Illusionist" dir. by Sylvain Chomet
Starring the animated ghost of Jacques Tati
Trading in Gallic whimsy for Gallic melancholy, Sylvain Chomet of "The Triplets of Belleville" adapts an unfinished Jacques Tati script into a hand-drawn torch song for Tati's cinema/vaudeville legacy and the worn cobblestones of Edinburgh. When I have kids I intend to screen this for them as I want them to get a head start on disappointment, heartache and quality foreign films.