July 15, 2011

Half-Way, Holmes: The Top 13 Honorable Mentions List

A couple of weeks ago I posted a list of the top 10 films that I watched for the first time this year, and this week's list is made up of 13 Honorable Mentions that obviously didn't make the "Best" list, but are films that I think are still worth mentioning. I posted this in a rush and didn't get a chance to proof-read it, so I apologize for any grammatical errors and whatnot. Be sure to check back next week for the dreaded WORST list.

#1 THE LOVELESS - Made for peanuts, co-directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring a baby-faced Willem Dafoe in his debut role, this is a period film set in the 1950's about a gang of greasy bikers who set up shop in a small rural town and raise hell. THE LOVELESS is like a combination a longer version of Kenneth Anger's SCORPIO RISING with dialogue and what would happen if David Lynch directed a remake of THE WILD ONE. Not a lot of substance to speak of here, but it's right up my alley when it comes to style.

#2 THE AMERICAN - Had some reliable sources not strongly recommended this, I probably wouldn't have even bothered with it. I could honestly care less about George Clooney and I was under the impression that this was just some generic action/thriller in the vein of the BOURNE films, and boy was I wrong. THE AMERICAN isn't so much about the shootouts and the explosions as it is about building tension and creating a mood. The film takes place in Italy, where George Clooney's character - a weapons designer (and butterfly enthusiast!) - is hired to construct a custom gun for a client in the midst of apparently being hunted down by someone who wants him dead. THE AMERICAN is a quiet, atmospheric, and beautifully-shot film, which isn't what I would have ever expected from it. This would have been more than an honorable mention if I didn't see the ending coming from a mile away.

#3 FAIR GAME - I watched this when I went through a phase this year where I tried to watch as many new DVD releases as possible on a weekly basis, regardless of the genre. I went into a lot of movies cold, and while a lot of the films turned out to be exactly what I expected, FAIR GAME was one of the films that turned out to be so much more. This is a solid political thriller based on the circumstances surrounding former real-life CIA officer Valerie Plame's sudden dismissal from the organization and how her ties to the organization were unfairly revealed to the public because of her marriage to an outspoken diplomat who questioned Bush's "War on Terror". Nothing much more to say about this one other than it's a really well-done and entertaining movie, with good performances from Naomi Watts and Sean Penn.

#4 PERFORMANCE - Check out my review HERE.

#5 DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS - Having watched the Spanish horror film VAMPYRES before this, I went into DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS expecting something similar - an atmospheric and bloody entry into the lesbian vampire sub-genre with the pacing issues that a lot of Gothic Euro-horror movies seem to suffer from. Well, it delivered in terms of the atmosphere, but it also provided me with a surprisingly intriguing group of characters, as well as an interesting approach to the vampire genre. In the end, this was and still is one of the best unconventional vampire movies I have ever seen. Check out my review HERE.

#6 CAT PEOPLE - I'm not sure what anticipated going into this other than it being an erotic horror film, but I certainly wasn't expecting such an atmospheric and gorgeous piece of cinema. CAT PEOPLE has a very European vibe throughout despite the movie taking place in New Orleans, and the fact that Ferdinando Scarfiotti served as the art director for this may have played a huge factor in such an impressive style. Scarfiotti also worked with director Paul Schrader on AMERICAN GIGOLO, and his knack for using vibrant colors in both lighting and set design to create a certain mood were evident in that film as well. Perhaps more mesmerizing than the style of the film itself is actress Nastassja Kinski in one of her sexiest roles. I absolutely love the synth score as well. Check out my review HERE.

#7 BURIED - While it looked promising to begin with, and the thought of Ryan Reynolds being buried alive seemed appealing to me, this was still a big surprise. I want to high-five director Rodrigo Cortés for making a film that consists ONLY of Ryan Reynolds in a casket underground for 90+ minutes interesting and pacing it as well as he did. The story constantly moves and Cortés uses certain camera tricks and cleverly incorporates lighting to keep the film visually interesting.

#8 MEGAN IS MISSING - Say what you will about the acting and the quality of the film, but this movie blindsided me and hit me like a semi-truck in a way that not a lot of films have ever done before. The last twenty or so minutes are amongst the hardest-to-watch moments in film I've ever experienced, and when it was all said and done I was bothered by it for days. The movie is flawed on a technical level in many ways, but this is one of the instances where I can overlook that because of the effect it had on me and because of director Michael Goi's intentions and the research he put into the project. Months later, it's still one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. Check out my review HERE.

#9 FOUR LIONS - A satirical British comedy that focuses on a group of Muslim would-be suicide bombers as they prepare to sacrifice themselves in the name of Allah. Director Christopher Morris took a risk by making a film about such a touchy and seemingly taboo subject - and a comedy no less - but upon watching the film, you quickly realize that it's approached in an intelligent way that never compromises the comedy aspect. The suicide bombing aspect isn't glorified and it's far from glamorized, but at the same time the religious beliefs of the Muslim characters in the film is treated with respect and never downplayed. If you take a step back and look at it in a certain way, the conventions of a heist movie involving a group of bumbling characters are present. I could go on about the film, but I'll just say that it's one of the funniest movies I saw this year and I grew attached to the characters despite what their intentions were. Performances were great all around, but actor Kayvan Novak shined, and Preeya Kalidas is a stunning actress who I'll be on the lookout for.

#10 THE LIMEY - In my opinion, one of director Steven Soderbergh's most memorable films thanks to some unorthodox editing and a great performance from Terence Stamp as a pissed-off Brit who travels to Hollywood with hopes that he can put the pieces of the puzzle together in regards to the mysterious death of his daughter. THE LIMEY partly focuses on the awkwardness of Stamp's character adapting to not only life outside of prison after spending a considerably long stint behind bars, but the culture shock that he gets when settling in Los Angeles. There's a great supporting cast here as well, with Peter Fonda, Barry Newman from VANISHING POINT, Luis Guzman, Joe Dallesandro, and Nicky Katt, but it's ultimately Stamp who knocks it out of the park. Soderbergh includes footage from one of Stamp's older films, POOR COW, as flashback scenes, which is a nice touch.

#11 ELECTRA GLIDE IN BLUE - Robert Blake plays a highway patrolman who compensates for his short stature with an impenetrable, by-the-book dedication to his job. He seizes the opportunity to ride along with a homicide detective as he conducts a murder investigation, which becomes an eye-opening experience in the sense that a career as a detective - an aspiration of his - isn't all it's cracked up to be. This is a fairly stylish piece of 70's Americana cinema with a somewhat intriguing story and a wonderful ending. Check out my review HERE.

#12 THE DISAPPEARANCE OF ALICE CREED - A well-crafted kidnapping film full of twists and turns. What makes this one stand out to me is that it relentlessly throws curveballs at you all the way to the end, resulting in an unpredictable outcome; not to mention the fact that it's very well-done for starring only three people and taking place inside of a house for the duration of its running time. Plus, Gemma Arterton gets naked a whole bunch.

#13 HIGH LANE - A backwoods horror movie from France, in which a group of hikers gradually fall prey to someone - or something - lurking in the mountains of Croatia. While pretty standard in terms of being a horror movie, HIGH LANE benefits from great character development. The gorgeous Fanny Valette quickly became one of my new favorite Final Girls of all-time after seeing this. Not a groundbreaking film by any means, but I dug it quite a bit.


  1. Some great films here Aaron, love The American, The Limey and Performance in particular. I'd never heard of Megan is missing, sounds interesting.

  2. Very nice list! Great to see THE LIMEY on there. Still haven't seen FAIR GAME yet but it's in my Netflix queue and thanks to you encouraging praise has just bumped it up the list.

  3. I've been eyeballing High Lane for a little while now, so I'm glad to hear it's solid. I remember seeing it listed on Netflix and thinking, "Wow, I bet that sucks, let me add it!" I was quite surprised to learn it was a French film and not some direct to DVD shit fest, though that would be fine too!

    Great list and there are a handful of films I need to get to here, with Megan is Missing being one of them after reading that review you wrote not too long ago.

  4. Thanks for the comments, guys! Sorry it took so long to respond.

    JD: I hope you enjoy FAIR GAME. Normally not the type of movie I seek out but I dug it quite a bit.

    Matt: Keep your expectations very low with HIGH LANE. Something about it clicked with me, probably because I'm a but more biased towards French films and French horror in particular. At the end of the day, it's still your average backwoods horror WRONG TURN rip-off.

  5. Glad to hear you liked The American. I've been flip flopping over whether I want to see it or not. Now, it's on the queue!
    PS- EVERYONE should see The Limey

  6. AMERICAN was a big surprise. I highly recommend it!