093. Gozu (Directed by Takashi Miike, 2003): You might be shocked when I tell you right now that for those of you curious as to when and how high Mulholland Drive will be, you can stop waiting; it's not on my list. It's just one of those movies I didn't get. Yeah, yeah, I've read all the reviews, all the championing, the it's a dream but it's not arguments. I was into it, I was all for it, then it lost me sometime around the part where the tiny people run under the door. So, it's going to seem even more hypocritical when I praise Gozu for many of the flaws I fault Mulholland Drive for. Because, as near as I can tell, Gozu makes no sense. There's a lead character who senselessly, violently (and nice and phonily, for all you animal wussies out there, like myself who can't stand to see animals hurt onscreen) kills a poodle to open the film, because it's a Yakuza attack dog that is trained to kill Japanese gangsters. There's a guy who just kind of disappears, only to reappear in the last, and let me stress it again, the last you'd expect him to turn up. There's the guy above, with the facepaint, that I don't believe is ever explained. And there's my favourite scene, where a character who was just interacting with another character is informed that the person he was talking to has been dead for years. He registers shock on his face, the musical cues tell you that something is about to happen, the characters look offscreen, and...a door opens, to reveal a guy taking a shit. He looks at the characters. He screams. They scream. And I'm pretty sure he never turns up in the film again. As a devoted plot guy, this is something I should detest. I get annoyed by Mulholland Drive for not being easily explainable. I don't know why. I don't need my films wrapped up tight with a neat little bow, but, for some reason, that's what I want out of Mulholland Drive. Why don't I want that out of Gozu? I couldn't honestly tell you. Maybe it's the ABSOLUTELY INSANE ending. *[SPOILER ALERT] Where the missing character from earlier, finally turns up, inside the womb of a woman, who she then gives birth to, sending him sliding across the floor with a Looney Tunes-worthy "POP!"*[/SPOILER ALERT] There's something so raucous and rigidly defiant about Gozu. It's the kind of film that you can't explain why you love it, only know that you do.
092. Shaun of the Dead (Directed by Edgar Wright, 2004): It was a toss-up between this and Hot Fuzz. Maybe I should've included them both. I went with this one, because I feel it has a bit more going for it in the rewatch category. I mean Hot Fuzz is maybe the most I ever laughed in the theater, but upon the second and third times, it's still funny, but it's diminishing returns in the laugh department. But, something about Shaun of the Dead makes it funnier each and every time. There's something so genuinely enjoyable about watching two buddies take on zombies: picking through the record collection and assaulting the zombies with only "bad" records, or bashing their heads in in perfect time to Queen's 'Don't Stop Me Now'. The Zombie genre is a subcategory of horror films that I never really got into, but the more stuff I see, the I realize just how faithful Shaun of the Dead truly is. Whereas Hot Fuzz plays like a send-up of the action movies Nick Frost's character claims to love, Shaun of the Dead plays like a love letter to the Zombie flick genre. Maybe that's why there's more to enjoy each and every time it's on.
091. Elf (Directed by Jon Favreau, 2003): Elf? Really? Yes, Elf! Why? Because it did something I thought was completely impossible: make a genuinely enjoyable, funny and moving Christmas movie without making it too "mature" (By, "mature", I basically mean scatological or sexual humor. I don't know why that's called "Mature". It's like when 'Family Guy' plays on TV and it says "The following program contains mature humor." That sounds to me like 'Frasier'. In my head, right now, I'm picturing Peter Griffin making jokes about politics and art and wine. It's...kind of funny.), too tear-jerking, too condescending. Instead, you get this Will Ferrell performance that, while it could never be considered a tour-de-force acting performance, could not have been pulled off by anyone else. There's simply no other living actor who could have pulled off the performance that Ferrell did. It's this astonishing exhibition of honesty, and sincerity, and goodness, with just enough weirdness to make it entertaining. Think about it. Ben Stiller? Probably not innocent enough. Steve Carrell? Not goofy enough. Vince Vaughn? Too knowing. Daniel Day-Lewis? Too intense. Javier Bardem? Too ethnic. Seriously, though, it's the kind of performance that gets overlooked, but there really is no other actor that could pull this off. But, it took a semi-serious film like Stranger Than Fiction before people said: "Hey, Ferrell's not bad." But, he's been more than not bad for years. I realistically think that one day he'll get an Academy Award nomination, probably sometime in the future when somebody stuntcasts him, after his box office power has faded, like Will Smith's recent run of becoming a semi-serious actor. And when that day comes, people will mistakenly point to Stranger Than Fiction as an atypical role where Ferrell was allowed to play against type and show off. But, that's wrong. THIS is the film. It's just this wonderfully balanced role. Watch his face as he sets off on his trek to find his father. Or the look of genuine joy when he discovers NYC. Or the look when he falls for Zooey Deschanel? (And, frankly, who wouldn't!). Also, the angry little person!