Friday, January 27, 2006


Darwin's Nightmare

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Moonshine Mountain extends congratulations to From Here To Obscurity proprietor Hayden Childs, who will be writing the 33 1/3 series book on Richard Thompson's Shoot Out the Lights! The Austin book-writin' mafia continues to spread its evil influence.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World

Friday, January 13, 2006


Tristan and Isolde

The Untold Story of Emmett Till

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Match Point

The Matador

Best of 2005

It’s true, Moonshine Mountain has been a sad, pathetic place in ought-five, a musty repository of links to my reviews and little else of interest. But we’ve got big plans for ought-six! Big, big plans! By which I mean no real plans. But before we get to that, it’s time to wrap up the year in flim. Herewith, my top 10 movies of 2005:

1. The Squid and the Whale If the only Kicking and Screaming you’ve seen is a soccer comedy starring Will Ferrell, you probably haven’t been waiting for a new Noah Baumbach movie as long as I have. Baumbach’s 1995 film of that title (tragically unavailable on DVD) is a true rarity: a Gen-X ensemble piece with genuine wit, sharp characterization and an accurate snapshot of the times. (The follow-up, Mr. Jealousy, was what one of the Squid characters would term “minor Baumbach,” but still a hoot.) Those qualities are alive and well in Squid, a sardonic and very funny comedy based on Baumbach’s Brooklyn childhood. Jeff Daniels gives a career- best performance as the paterfamilias, a deluded intellectual intent on passing his worst qualities down to his son. Baumbach’s parents must be very proud of him, if they haven’t hunted him down and killed him.

2. Me and You and Everyone We Know I skipped the theatrical run of Miranda July’s debut feature, mainly because it looked like one of those whimsical, quirky indies. Well, it is one of those whimsical, quirky indies, but this one has the strength of its convictions. I believe this is what it looks like inside Miranda July’s head, and she’s managed to translate it to the screen flawlessly. It’s an unconventional love story to say the least, full of oddball tangents and damn peculiar notions about sex and fate and poop. But I’ll say no more about that.

3. Grizzly Man Werner Herzog’s documentary tells the strange but true story of Timothy Treadwell, the dipshit who loved grizzly bears so much, they ate him. You don’t get to see the eating, just Werner’s reaction as he listens to it on headphones, and if you catch up with this on DVD you apparently don’t get the clip of Treadwell on the Letterman show. You do get another fascinating Herzog tale of a loon in the wilderness, and this one is for real.

4. The Aristocrats In one way, this really isn’t much of a movie at all. It’s just a bunch of comedians on crappy-looking video telling their own variations on the world’s dirtiest joke. In another way, it’s a thoroughly original documentary, a rare dissection of humor in which the patient doesn’t die on the table. It’s also crap-your-pants funny. So bring extra pants.

5. Batman Begins I’ve covered this one here on the Moonshine Mountain already. Suffice it to say, this movie was crack for my inner Batgeek.

6. Walk The Line The opening sequence, creeping up on the Folsom prison with the building sound of inmates pounding and stomping their feet in a rockabilly rhythm, rivals the biplane attack in Kong as this year’s movie moment I could have watched forever. And while the movie as a whole couldn’t entirely avoid biopic-itis (“You cain’t walk no line!”), it was a smart decision to focus heavily on the early Sun days. Riding around the south with Jerry Lee and Elvis, now that’s good times. And Reese Witherspoon can rescue me from a downward spiral any old time.

7. Stay I would say this movie was underrated, but somebody would have had to notice it existed for that to be the case. As far as I can tell, Stay was screened once for me and three other people and then immediately shredded into guitar picks. It’s one of those “reality-bending thrillers” that usually drive me nuts, with the shifting identities and the people who may or may not really be there or who may have been dead the whole time, yada yada yada. But director Marc Forster comes closer to capturing the logic and texture of a nightmare than anything outside the works of David Lynch. There are time-loops and Escher-like staircases and recurring visual patterns everywhere you look. In every aspect, from the sets and locations to the background extras to Ewan McGregor's peculiar wardrobe, the film is a completely disorienting experience.

8. Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room The perfect movie for those times when you feel like spending a couple hours shaking your fists in righteous anger. Even if you don’t grasp every detail of the Enron scandal, the arrogant, greedy personalities of the traders caught on tape come through with crystal clarity. Watching the brash Enron execs squirm as they're grilled by members of Congress constitutes one of the most satisfying moviegoing experiences of the year.

9. El Crimen Ferpecto This Spanish import is a hyperactive black comedy that almost seems fated to be remade into a much worse Hollywood movie. A suave hedonist who sells ladies fashions in a large department store finds his fiefdom undermined by a rival. Treachery, murder and blackmail ensue. In a funny way.

10. Munich I’m still not sure about this one. It’s making the list, but it’s on probation. I admired a lot of it, I think it takes a sane approach to the issues and I was often swept up in it…but not always. Some judicious pruning would make me feel better about including it, but I don’t reckon Spielberg is going to trim the notorious “terrorgasm” scene on my account or reconsider the bogus Hitchcockery of the little girl running into the building that’s about to blow up. So it’s here, but I can’t quite fully embrace it – which is fitting because…

Although the overall quality of movies was higher this year than most, there weren’t all that many I felt passionate about. 2005 had a decent average, lots of clean singles, a few doubles but not many home runs. If I did this list a week ago or a week from now, any of the bottom three could easily be replaced by any of these hyar Honorable Mentions:

Broken Flowers, Capote, Jarhead, Last Days, Mirror Mask, My Summer of Love, Occupation: Dreamland, Sin City, War of the Worlds and the last hour of King Kong.

Acclaimed by Some, Unseen by Me:

Brokeback Mountain, Good Night and Good Luck, Junebug, Kings and Queen, 2046

Acclaimed by Some, Who Are Sadly Mistaken:

Crash, A History of Violence, Match Point

Unavailable to Me Until 2006:

3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada, The New World, Cache

Hillbilly Horror Lives!

High Tension, The Devil’s Rejects, Wolf Creek

The 10 Worst, and I Should Know

All of these but the last were assigned to me by Star-Telegram overlords, so I’ll just quote myself from those reviews:

1. A Sound of Thunder “Every once in a while, a movie comes along to make you regret that Mystery Science Theater 3000 is no longer around.”

2. Ellie ParkerEllie originated as a 16-minute short that premiered at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival. Sight unseen, I can attest that the Sundance version is far superior, if only because it's nearly 80 minutes shorter than the interminable feature-length version.”

3. My Date With Drew “Brian Herzlinger is a cheerful dullard seeking his fortune in Hollywood without much success. During one bout of unemployment, he wins $1,100 on a game show thanks to his extensive knowledge of the life and career of Drew Barrymore. As Herzlinger has had a crush on the actress since he was 10 years old, he decides to use the prize money as the budget for a documentary film chronicling his attempt to get a date with Barrymore...If this sounds creepy and depressing, that's because it is.”

4. G “In the dubious tradition of O, the troubled teen version of Othello, comes G, a hip-hop take on The Great Gatsby. Let the madness stop before H: The Gangsta Huckleberry Finn goes into production.”

5. The Pacifier “The kind of movie that makes diaper duty look like an appealing alternative.”

6. Yours, Mine and Ours “Yet another creatively bankrupt remake…a bland, numbingly obvious mix of slapstick and sentimentality.”

7. The Fog “The Union of Fog Machine Operators can be proud of its contributions to this yawner, but everyone else involved would be well-advised to leave it off their resumes.”

8. Undead “Populated entirely with obnoxious cartoonish types who run around screaming at each other until they're ripped apart or transformed into zombies.”

9. Son of the Mask “If he keeps working hard and honing his craft, Jamie Kennedy may one day achieve his goal of becoming a second-rate Jim Carrey. On the evidence of Son of the Mask, that day has not yet arrived.”

10. The Dukes of Hazzard Yes, it was my idea to see this. As America’s most beloved cinematic hickstorian, I felt it was my duty. (In my defense, I waited for the DVD.) When you aim this low and still miss the target, you have made a crappy movie indeed. At least the DVD came with that dirty, dirty Jessica Simpson video for “These Boots Are Made for Walking.”