Monday, January 17, 2011

Ten Best Films in 2010

For the second time since the creation of this blog, A Wasted Life presents its annual list of the "Ten Best Films" of the last year. Of the 67 films reviewed in 2010 on A Wasted Life, the films ranged from truly bad crap to real treasures—the treasures being both treasures of quality and true treasures of crap. But like last year, the choice here is also not necessarily based on the quality of the film, but rather how it affected the viewer. Did it leave A Wasted Life open-mouthed in shock? Was it fun to watch? Did it truly entertain? (Not even Spielberg films manage to do that all the timein fact, nowadays his films often annoy more than anything else.) All were new discoveries: films seen for the first time, some with no prior knowledge of what was to unreel. The order is arbitrary and based purely on the decidedly personal taste of A Wasted Life—so if you don't agree the selection, tuff nuts.
The finer points of the selection criteria are explained in the intro to the Best of 2009 list. Essentially, however, aside from the criteria stated above, two other decisive points are that the films chosen do not necessarily have to have been made in 2010, they simply watched have to have been watched by A Wasted Life for the first time in 2010, and, furthermore, none of the 12 "Short Film(s) of the Month" come into consideration.
Thus, due to the latter point, neither Alma (Spain, 2009) nor The Pearce Sisters (Great Britain, 2008) made it to the list, though both short films are truly breathtaking.
Two full-length films, Witchfinder General / The Conqueror Worm (Great Britain, 1968 / trailer) and The Reflecting Skin (Great Britain, 1990 / trailer) were disqualified because they were not a newly discovered films, but favorite films re-watched and finally reviewed. (So, though not included on the list below, they nonetheless receive high recommendations as films to watch. The Reflecting Skin is particularly a film that will truly burn itself onto your brain, scarring you forever...)

The final list of ten has been pared down from a total of 13 new discoveries watched the last year that A Wasted Life felt as being truly worthwhile, even if most probably cannot seriously be described as "good" in mainstream, traditional senses. (Fuck mainstream, traditional senses.) In fact, some can only be described as truly bad—but they sure left an impression and are well worth watching a couple of more times.

The two films that didn't make the cut? The eurotrash gore fest Les mémés cannibales / Rabid Grannies (Belgium, 1988), and the poverty row debut film of Daddy Brady Robert Reed, Bloodlust! (USA, 1961). One and all, they are films that truly left our jaws on the floor for a variety of different reasons, but they were just shy of that extra special kick needed to make the final cut.

Those that did make the final cut follow below in no particular order, other than for the final film. The titles are all linked to the original reviews presented on A Wasted Life. Read and enjoy – or better: go watch them all yourself.

So here they are, A Wasted Life's Best Films of 2010:

The debut feature-length film of Sylvain Chomet, this wonderful and truly odd animated masterpiece is a visual and surrealistic joy. Virtually no dialog, but for that a lot of great musical interludes. If the film doesn't scare the bejeebers out of your little kids, they might actually enjoy it as much as you will.

The Mutations (Great Britain, 1973)

Also known as The Freakmaker. Is The Mutations a good film? No fucking way. It is a cheap and sordid English exploitation film, a shocker that panders to the lowest denominators of trash and has absolutely no socially redeeming factors to it. Unpleasant to watch, it disturbs and sickens but never scares. What a jaw-dropping experience it is—so grimy that even when seen on TV one can physically feel the filth of the sleazy grindhouses where it originally must have played. Featuring Donald "I-Say-Yes-To-Everything" Pleasance, the pulchritudinous Julie Ege and the muscular cult eurotrash regular Brad Harris, The Mutations pretty much cost director Jack Cardiff his directorial career: while the talented man continued to get jobs as a cinematographer up until he died, never again was he given a film to direct. See this film to find out why.

Evil Aliens (UK, 2005)

More trash extraordinaire! A hilariously gory low budget English film featuring hot babes and aliens that kill and slaughter just for the fun of it, the buckets of blood fly in this fast-paced, tasteless and hilarious film. If you can get past the extremely disgusting early scene of the aliens tearing apart the ass of a stoner with a twirling razorblade dildo, then you know this film is just up your… alley. From Jake West, the director who also brought you Doghouse (2009 / trailer), so you know how low and cheap the jokes are going to be—but, damn, the film is funny! Could have used a bit more breast, though.

Coraline (USA, 2009)

A technical marvel and wonderful horror film for kids and adults alike. Not for the faint-hearted or impressionable, but from frame one to the end, Coraline is a treat for the eyes. Like Les triplettes de Belleville / The Triplets of Belleville (France, 2003), if Coraline doesn't scare the bejeebers out of your little kids, they might actually enjoy it as much as you will.

Lady Frankenstein (Italy, 1970)

The perfect example of eurotrash, it has everything you could possibly want in a Gothic horror film, euro or Yankee: a production that alternates between looking cheap-shit and extra-fine; a name star (Joseph Cotton) slumming it that disappears ten minutes into the picture; gratuitous but forever appreciated nudity; sleazy sex and graphic violence; ugly men and purty womin; a totally insane plot and more. At 95 minutes, it flies and never bores—a perfect film for the whole family. In the public domain in the US, you can catch the whole film for free at the Internet Archive—or embedded here, just below.

Slugs: The Movie (Spain, 1988)

OK, first off, this list was begun before
Juan Piquer Simón, the director of this movie, died, and this film was on it from the very beginning. So this is not a sympathy vote. Slugs: The Movie is simply, truly, completely true eurotrash finery. It pretends, as so many eurotrash films do, to be an American horror film—but it fools nobody. The plot has more holes than all the porn stars of LA combined and the acting is almost as bad as the dubbing, but the gore is copious and the film hilarious. It is also one of the first horror films around that posits the fact that virginal girls are just as likely to die as sluts, and that assholes have as much of a chance to survive as good guys do of dying. Meat-eating slugs go on a rampage in small-town USA and despite the ever-increasing bloody dead, capitalism will not be stopped! If this film doesn't tickle your eurotrash bone, then you don't have one. A masterpiece of Z-horror, enjoyable from the start to end.

Botched (USA, 2007)

A fun and bloody film that never takes itself too seriously, Botched proves that Stephan Dorff can actually make a good movie on occasion. High camp, copious blood and great dialogue peppered with some capable direction—the first five minutes alone are a proof of true directorial talent—make for a film that flies by quickly and that never leaves the viewer feeling bored or insulted. God only knows why this fine piece of genre splatter flew under the radar to total obscurity, for it really deserves much greater popularity than it has gotten to date. One day, it will surely be rediscovered as a lost gem—be the first on your block to do so!

Here's a film for fans of enjoyable mental mindfucks. Get past the first five minutes and you're in for a wild and wacky ride that defies description, not to mention any and all expectations you might have or develop while viewing the film. Like Botched above, this Korean film initially met with great resonance at genre film festivals around the globe only to disappear under the bottom shelf after being picked up for release. Is Byeong-gu truly wacko, or is earth really endangered by aliens out to destroy the green planet? Save the Green Planet! will either leave you a total fan or a total hater, but it is highly unlikely you'll go away indifferent. This flick has everything from slapstick to Fellini references to torture porn to social satire and criticism, tying itself up into one weirded-out bow by the film's surprisingly downbeat ending.

A truly Shakespearean Shaw Brothers film from the Golden Age of Hong Kong costume dramas, this Wuxia film is as tacky and trashy as the best of them. A bit low on the violence, its convoluted tale is nonetheless enjoyable, enhanced by some of the best set design and lighting of the genre and featuring a splendid color scheme of green and red that is a true visual treat. Had Maria Bava been a filmmaker in Hong Kong, this is probably what his films would have looked liked. All that and a magical killer spider that sounds like an elephant—what more could you possibly want? OK, maybe it doesn't hold a candle to later Hong Kong versions of Romeo & Juliet like The Bride with White Hair (Hong Kong, 1993 / trailer), but that is aside the point—Web of Death is older, an early classic, and therefore should be treasured for what it is: vintage Shaw Brothers sock-em, chop-em idiocy.

Mary and Max (Australia, 2009)

This wonderful claymation film narrates the tale of the life-long friendship between a frumpy Australian girl growing up in the suburbs and her pen pal, a decidedly socially inept New York Jew with Asperger's Syndrome. Though we hate to list films in order of preference here at A Wasted Life, it would do the film injustice not to proclaim Mary and Max as the "Best Film of the Last Year". Made in 2009, it received such limited theatrical release outside of Australia that it can almost be called a direct-to-DVD release. Luckily, here in Berlin it actually played a week in O.m.U ("original language with subtitles"), and as a result of the director's previous four short films—one of which, Cousin, was the Short Film of the Month for May 2009—we beelined for the cinema to see it. And aren't we happy we did! A technical joy, a visual pleasure, and a non-stop laugh—despite many topics and events that are anything but funny. A beautiful film that deserves far greater recognition than it has been given.

And finally, an extra film to end A Wasted Life's list of Ten Best Films of 2010: as an added attraction, here is the best film watched by but never reviewed on A Wasted Life.

The Other Final (Netherlands, 2003)

As many of you know (and many probably don't), in July, Spain won the 2010 World Cup when (we are happy to say) they defeated the Netherlands 1-0 in the final match. (About the only thing that would have made us happier would have been if Uruguay had beaten Germany for third place, but that wasn't to be.) But though the Dutch didn't win first place, at least they were there this time around—rather unlike 2002, when they didn't even make it to the Cup. One fine fellow of the Land of Orange, Johan Kramer, took the opportunity to make this truly great but unknown Dutch film, a wonderful film that truly captures the love of the sport. The Dutch play a nasty game—not only can spit well (1990), they have some truly amazing Kung Fu kicks (2010)—but at least they grow some good weed and when they aren't playing the game, they also seem to have an understanding of the spirit of the game. The Other Final takes the two lowest rated FIFA teams of 2002 and puts them together for a match, "the Other Final." One of the greatest sports films ever.

No comments: