The end of the year is just around the corner, which means it’s time for the annual flurry of best and worst movie lists. I haven’t seen nearly enough movies released this year to make a list like that. Thankfully, I’ve established a year end wrap-up list of my own– the TDYLFie awards. It’s a list comprised of the best in movies (that I’ve seen this year only). This is more of a list about my own experience watching movies this year than it is about anything that was released in this year. Without further delay, here is the awards program for the 4th Annual TDYLFies.
Best Fight Scene Featuring a TNT-Filled Shark
I recently saw the 1966 Batman, the companion film to the campy 1960s TV show, in preparation for an upcoming podcast. I’ll have more about the podcast later. But for now, just know that the first 15 minutes of the film features Batman getting attacked by an obviously fake foam rubber shark. He punches and kicks it before finally releasing its grip using “shark repellent bat spray.” Then it falls into the ocean and explodes because it had been stuffed with TNT by the Penguin, the Joker, Cat Woman, and the Riddler. So… yeah. That’s a thing.
The “Why the Hell Did I Wait So Long to Watch This?” Award
I’ve had a well-documented relationship with the films of David Lynch. Namely, I’ve wanted to like them more, but always found myself scratching my head. Eraserhead is the film that changed all of that. I’ve had the Lady in the Radiator’s song, “In Heaven”, stuck in my head for six months since I saw Eraserhead. It’s a deliciously Freudian look into Lynch’s skull- his fears of adulthood, intimacy, and fatherhood, all spun into one of the most bizarrely horrifying films I’ve seen. It was tremendous, and it completely changed the game for me with Lynch.
The “Why the Hell Did I Wait So Long to Watch This?” Award (Foreign Edition)
I Am Cuba (1964)
There aren’t many films as beautifully shot as Mikhail Kalatozov’s I am Cuba, a tremendously engaging snapshot of the island on the cusp of revolution. There are multiple segments that are as iconic as film can be, and it’s a film that inspired countless filmmakers in the future. The visuals and influence make it a must-see for any cinephile.
Best Ranacan. Sa da Tay, my Damies!
Pootie Tang (2001)
There’s not a single film that I enjoyed more this year- that made me laugh more- than the Louis C.K. written and directed Pootie Tang. It was a perfect send-up of pop culture infatuation, blaxploitation films, and kung-fu films, all wrapped up in surrealism and peppered with an all-star cast of comedians. I can’t even think about the film without laughing at Pootie’s exploits. Cole me down on the panny sty, my damies.
Best Lesser-Known, Low-Budget, or International Horror Film
You’re Next (2013)
I’m cheating a bit here because You’re Next was anything but lesser-known. The creepy animal mask viral marketing was some of the coolest around all year, and it got a wide release in late August. Not many horror films get a wide release like You’re Next got. But it was certainly low budget when it was made and it took several years on the festival circuit before it got the major release. And wow, am I ever glad. Rising horror director Adam Wingard spackled together a strong female lead and some spectacularly eerie killers in a home invasion flick that was fun, iconic, and gory. For good measure, it was unmistakably filmed in Columbia, Missouri, just 90 minutes from me (and where most of my family went to college). It also features the best use of a blender I’ve ever seen in a movie, and you’ll never forget this song after you see it.
Best Viewing Experience
Classic Comedians on the Big Screen with my Nephew
In July, Cinema St. Louis put on the St. Louis International Children’s Film Festival. Their first showing was a night full of classic comedy shorts: Buster Keaton’s One Week, Charlie Chaplin’s A Dog’s Life, and Laurel and Hardy’s Big Business. In just a few hours, I had given my young nephew his introduction to the titans of early comedy. Hearing his belly laughs at the spinning house sequence in One Week is the best thing I’ve ever witnessed in a theater, especially given that Keaton on the big screen was my own white whale. I’d wanted to see a Keaton film on the big screen for a very long time and this was my first chance. The whole evening was anything an uncle could ask for.
Best Film I FINALLY Saw
The Apu Trilogy
I can’t possibly say enough good things about Satyajit Ray’s Apu trilogy. The three films had been on my radar for seven years, ever since I first started watching foreign and art house films, but they were extremely hard to find. I finally got my hands on them and they earned their reputation and then some. Ray out-neo-realismed the Italian neo-realists and created a gut-wrenching, brilliant, and eventually heart-warming saga tracing the trials and tribulations of an Indian boy on his journey to manhood. As far as I’m concerned, it’s a must-see if you can find it at all.
Best New (to me) Director
As of this time last year, I had seen Take Shelter but had no clue who had made it. Then this May, I saw Mud, recognized the style, and made it a point to learn all I could about Jeff Nichols. As part of the process, I also watched Shotgun Stories, his debut film. The entire process felt a lot like the first time I figured out who P.T. Anderson is, or the first time I watched a Wes Anderson film, or when I really started digging into the Coens. Nichols has that strong of a style, and it’s uniquely American- and unique to his native Arkansas. He’s refreshingly honest about the south, creating characters as real as the nose on your face. It’s only been seven months since Mud was in theaters but I’m already jonesing for another Nichols film. Consider him officially on my radar.
Best Movie-Related Reason to Get Drunk on a Monday Afternoon
The World’s End
To celebrate the conclusion of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy, I opted to emulate the film. I rounded up my best friends from when I lived in Madison, Wisconsin and we all made the trek. Once there, we fell out of bed on a Monday in August and hit up 12 of our old haunts, our very own edition of the Golden Mile pub crawl. Unlike the film, we all made it to the end. Nobody became a blank or smashy smashy egg man. The best part was watching The World’s End at the end of that week and finding multiple eerie similarities to our own crawl, including the use of a tape deck; the (super awesome sober) driver showing up late; and several previously dingy, grimy bars that had become Starbucked.
As for the film itself, I’ve really come to love it for what it says about maturity, growing older, and the donkey punch of adulthood. Basically, it inspires you to tell the Big Lamps of the world to fuck off. And for that, I am grateful.
Best Documentary Where Someone’s Failed Dreams Leads Them to Southeast Missouri
Hoop Dreams (1994)
First and foremost, I saw Hoop Dreams this year and it’s the best sports documentary ever made. It’s one of the best sports films ever made and if not for my intense love of baseball, I probably wouldn’t hesitate to put it at the top. Go see it if you haven’t already. Having said all of that, one of my lasting images of the film will always be a scene towards the conclusion of the documentary. Arthur Agee’s dreams end when he has to go to southeast Missouri if he wants to continue playing basketball. If you’ve ever been to southeast Missouri, then you understand how hilariously fitting it is that someone’s dreams would die there.