ScreenAnarchy Crew's Best of 2011: Twitchiest
Weird, wild, crazy, frenetic: there's no one definition for what we here at ScreenAnarchy would consider the "Twitchiest" film, but like the Supreme Court once (almost) said of pornography, "We know it when we see it."
The Raid (Indonesia)
Director: Gareth Huw Evans
by Todd Brown
Conflict of interest be damned--I'm credited as an executive producer on the film--I can't see this going to anything other than the Toronto International Film Festival Midnight Madness People's Choice Award winner.
The sophomore collaboration between star Iko Uwais and writer-director Gareth Huw Evans blew the roof off at TIFF and is about to do the same at Sundance before a spring release around the world. Die Hard and Hard Boiled have been frequently tossed out as comparison points by the press and it's not hard to see why, though Bruce Willis and Chow Yun-Fat have never delivered the kinds of hand-to-hand beat downs that Uwais favors.
Push me on the conflict of interest point and I'll happily name Adam Wingard's You're Next for this category instead. Believe the hype, it's absolutely as good as everybody says, the only question is whether it's too smart for general audiences. Ryland and I actually have an opening weekend box office bet going in that regard. I say it'll clear at least ten million. One thing's for certain, though: Sharni Vinson is going to be a bona fide star once people see her in this.
Ryland Aldrich's take:
I rue the moniker "Twitchiest," but if any film deserves that award, it has to be the film produced by ScreenAnarchy founder Todd Brown. But don't go thinking for even a second that there is any nepotism at hand. The Raid is, without a doubt, the most exciting martial arts movie I have seen in decades. Directed with a perfectionist's eye by Gareth Evans and featuring incredible fists-a-flying performances by Iko Uwais, Joe Taslim, Yayan Ruhian and more, The Raid keeps you ducking blows and shielding yourself from explosions for its entire runtime. But what's even rarer is that Evans has written a smart story to go along with all the head kicks. The plot moves. It isn't over complicated but it never feels too meager either. Put together a solid story and some of the most incredible action you've ever seen on screen, and that, folks, will make you twitch with joy.
Runner Up: Ti West The Innkeepers. I know this might get me kicked off the island, but I've never been the biggest fan of horror films. What West does so well in his film is make you feel just a little safe. Like the restraints in a roller coaster, you know you aren't going to go flying out of the car. This allows you sit back, enjoy the ride, and tingle with delight as the chills work their way up your spine.
The Skin I Live In (Spain)
Director: Pedro Almodovar
by Ben Umstead
So as our dear Charles Webb was putting together this whole series which you now read fully realized (or nearly so) before you, he asked of Team ScreenAnarchy for input on the categories. One suggestion I made was "Twitchiest." And lo and behold here it is. Twitchiest: that particularly weird and inventive film that is bound to be a cult classic--and preferably in another language than English. Or that's how I take it. There were far too many films to pick from in 2011 that would qualify here: Trollhuner, The Last Circus, Milozrorze: A Love Story, and Beyond the Black Rainbow just to name a few. In the days building up to this actual writing, my mind kept taking an extreme left turn, each and every time bumping up against The Skin I Live In. It's a choice that still surprises me as I initially had little interest in it, but I can't think of any other film I saw last year that had all the Twitchiest elements intact and in such fine, full-on major league form. Not in English (but in Espanol)? Check. A wildly transgressive and genre-bending narrative? Check, check. Almodovar pulls off that rare feat: a movie folks think is "uptown art house" but is also--deceptively so--downtown crack house.
The Last Circus (Spain)
Director: Alex de la Iglesia
by Josh Hurtado
If ever a film was a perfect fit for ScreenAnarchy, it is Alex de la Iglesia's The Last Circus. Every obsession, every fear, every mania, and every passion that makes genre film great is in full-tilt overdrive on the screen. There are clowns, there are guns, there are machetes, there is disfigurement, there is love, and there is hate. This film, in addition to being de la Iglesia's finest, is also the finest of the year and works on many levels. I explored some of these in my review of the Blu-ray disc a couple of months ago, and here is how I summed it up:
It is easy to appreciate The Last Circus as "brilliant, bizarre, dazzling, and utterly demented", as the New York Times Jeanette Catsoulis did, however, in doing so, you shortchange the film for its true brilliance. It is all of those things, but it is so in service to a greater story. The Last Circus is a film that is so firmly rooted in the Spanish identity, that I still find it incredible that it is Alex de la Iglesia's best received film on these shores. He tackles many of the themes in The Last Circus in his earlier works. The theme of disfigurement and beauty is central in his debut film, Accion Mutante; the references to clowns are evident in both The Perfect Crime and Dying of Laughter; the paranoiac tendencies of his characters in The Last Circus mirror those of the characters in Common Wealth; the focus on performers who are part their prime, like his clowns, is central to the story of 800 Bullets and so on.Josh's THE LAST CIRCUS Blu-ray Review Sean Smithson's take: Holy shit.
Alex de la Iglesia is completely insane--this is a fact. What other director than this auteur can get away with a film as eccentric and difficult to define as this? Imagine Fellini's La Strada reading Katherinne Dunn's cult novel Geek Love, while Sam Peckinpah's The Getaway arm wrestles Rosellini's Roma Open City, as Woody Allen's Love And Death and William Lustig's Maniac mix up absinthe in the corner for Mario Bava... and you might be in the park.
Clowns. Love triangles, Disfigurement. Machine guns. Mr. de la Iglesia takes what would be a hodgepodge-y, unbelievable mess in someone else's directorial hands, and weaves an intricate, baroque, disturbing, and most of all thrilling piece of filmmaking that enters straight away into the realm of "Modern Classic". This is one I will be seeing again and again. Top shelf stuff here, and my own personal Twitchiest of the Year.
Kill List (UK)
Director: Ben Wheatley
by Joshua Chaplinsky
Because the less you know going in, the better. Ben Wheatley, director of the kitchen sink crime drama, Down Terrace, gives us another original take on tried and true tropes. Only this time he expands his pallet to include multiple genres. This is truly an unexpected journey, one that goes from point A to point B to point "Where the fuck am I?" It's the cinematic equivalent of taking the family dog on a long drive and leaving him on the side of the road. The audience is the dog, and we don't know why we are here or what we did to deserve this, but in the end it doesn't matter just as long as we survive.
Invasion of Alien Bikini (South Korea)
Director: Oh Young Doo
by James Marsh
More than anything, ScreenAnarchy exists to expose and bring attention to the little films around the world that nobody would normally get to see. We champion the underdogs and in 2011 there was no dog more... um... "under" than Korean director Oh Young Doo's batshit insane alien invasion flick. I stumbled across the film at a small independent festival in Hong Kong back in June, drawn--if I'm completely honest--by the quirky title and promise of mild titillation. What I found was movie with real heart, personality, the strength to entertain and shock, that had cost less than $5000 to produce but had more energy and originality than films costing 10,000 times more. Its protagonist is a self-styled crime fighter, walking the night defending the streets against evil, who sports a yellow mac and a fake moustache to hide his identity. When he saves a damsel in distress and takes her home for a game of Jenga, he soon discovers she is an alien looking to be inseminated to save her dying race.
While it may not be a perfect film, it shows an incredible sense of technique, spirit and ambition that raises it well above its budgetary trappings and when the strings do show, knows how to embrace them good naturedly to its advantage. It's the little film that could, and is my Twitchiest of 2011.
Milocrorze: A Love Story (Japan)
Director: Ishibashi Yoshimasa
by Kurt Halfyard
Featuring some of the worst advice on how to sort out your love life, offered by one of the best bit of insane Japanese character comedy (as well as the most magnificent use of speed ramping that I've ever seen) Milocrorze is far from a perfect film, but it is one of countless delights and wonderfully absurd performances - Yamada Takayuki offering three of them by himself! Milocrorze is a bright and colourful confection that works from moment to moment, and has as much creative energy on display as any Katsuhito Ishii film; an accomplishment in itself. I would hardly call for restraint on Yoshimasa's part, but the only failing of this film is its inability to add up to anything beyond a fun time at the movies. While there is certainly nothing wrong with entertainment as an end point, I believe the director could make a Taste of Tea classic in the future.
3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy (Hong Kong)
Director: Christopher Sun
by Ard Vijn
What does Twitchiest mean to me? The word "Twitch" actually means "to watch rare birds", and indeed our site is dedicated to uncover films which might pass most people by if they only look at the mainstream. This means independent films, or genre related, or exploitation, or from the other side of the world. We never shy away from erotic content or extreme violence either although we're not blindly going for what's most extreme out there.
With this in mind, I don't think any film in 2011 was Twitchier than 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy.
We hosted the teaser and anticipation ran wild, but it fully took off once we posted the uncensored trailer. When one of the actresses allegedly lost her mobile phone with some personal content on it, all of South Asia hit the internet hoping that nude pictures would show up. And they ended up at our site, where you actually could see her naked.
Also, the film was censored upon release in several countries, again typical of several films we've given love at this here site. Normally people surf the web, but during most of the year ScreenAnarchy could surf on the traffic generated by this single film. For combined content and the exposure it gave us to the outside world, I declare 3D Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstasy to be the Twitchiest film of 2011.Wrecked (US)
Director Michael Greenspan
by Charles Webb
If I'm being completely honest, I hadn't even thought of Michael Greenspan's amnesia thriller until I went poring through the ScreenAnarchy archives recently. But then I remembered, "Oh yeah, that movie was really, really very good." Starring Adrien Brody as a nameless protagonist, pinned inside of a car in the middle of the Pacific Northwestern wilderness, it's a slow-burn series of reveals as Brody's character--the only person you'll see for most of the movie's trim running time--attempts to assemble his memories of who he was and how he got there, and most importantly, how he's going to survive his predicament without food, water, or the ability to move. Greenspan allows successive waves of panic, resignation, and despair wash over his film and Brody is a wonderful partner for the director in bringing the character's predicament to life.
Definitely not one of the claustrophobics in the audience, Wrecked is one of the best hidden gems of the last year and certainly one of those terrific, unsung genre entries that it's always nice to uncover and share with an unsuspecting fellow viewer.