Monday, December 7, 2009

F for Epiphany

On Saturday, I had a rather unpleasant epiphany. I had driven on my motorbike for about fifteen minutes looking for somewhere to eat, and I settled for what I will generously say was a dive-y rice shop. Being ungenerous, it looked like the Hollywood set for a dirty Asian restaurant that a bunch of college students would be forced to eat at when they get lost somewhere, following the obnoxious kid's bad instructions: the kind of place where the prissy lead actress goes to the restroom and it is a smelly, diarrhea-stained hole in the ground.*

*N.B.: this place didn't have a bathroom.

It looked like it could have been a chicken coop when the day closed. A chicken coop, or a place where dogs fuck. Wooden tables, dirty; patio furniture, mud-caked; water cooler, rusty. And here I was, happily awaiting my chicken fried rice, with a fried egg on top.

And then, the epiphany:

WHY AM I EATING HERE? What game of salmonella Russian Roulette am I hoping to win here? What am I doing here: saving 15 cents? "Experiencing the culture"? Sticking it to the American Health Inspection system?

Well, then the food came. Undercooked fried egg on top. Unidentifiable black specks dotting the rice. Ice water with a hint of nuclear trace elements.

I finished the meal, but then raced home. Well, not raced home, exactly: that would imply that I was racing against someone, and technically speaking, my diarrhea and I were going to arrive home at the same time, so it wasn't much of a race.

And as I sat on the head with my head in my hands I believed that I would search out cleaner restaurants from now on, that every once in a while I would go to a place that was actually indoors (not just under a roof made of old billboard posters), that I would spend that extra dollar on food sometimes, that I would buy a Coke if my water tasted like Lake Michigan.

Since that day, I've eaten at relative dives a couple times, including at a spicy laab (lightly-cooked meat) restaurant that was actually just a stand with a burner and pots on the side of a road. The food was delicious, of course, but the germ-o-phobia crept up on me halfway threw my pork shoulder with rice, namely: YOU JUST BOUGHT PORK SHOULDER FROM A MAN WHO OPERATES UNDERNEATH A LAMPPOST! WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO YOUR INSIDES? DON'T EAT THAT!!

So, I'm upgrading a little bit. Gonna try these new-fangled "restaurant" type places and see how they sit with me. So far: same amount of stomach pain. The food is pretty good though--not that dive food isn't good, but this--it's a different kind of good. Like, clean-good. It's hard to explain.


As the end of the 2000s approaches, I wanted to at least try to make a list of the best or most note-worthy (different!) films of the decade, though unfortunately I've been pretty bad about watching notable movies of the Noughties, by which I mean I haven't watched anything foreign and I still haven't seen Batman Begins or half of the X-Men movies.

But I looked at a few lists that have been published together, and I made a list of the most common entries, dividing them up in a  rudimentary way, and setting off to watch a bunch of them in the next couple months or so to better "appraise the landscape," or whatever empty gesture you would like to call a decade-long survey.

In most cases--the cases in which I've seen the movie already--I won't be watching the whole thing. Nathaniel Dorsky said that he could identify whether a movie was any good or not within the first three cuts. I don't aim for that level of pretension--how can you know if a movie is any good before you even know the story?--but I think I can get a grip on whether a movie is worth anything in the first 30 minutes (and yes, I do use the quality of cuts, so judge away). For example, last night I began to watch "V for Vendetta"  and I was done with it in 20 minutes, but I watched on for an hour or so. For the record, there is no way that any movie with dialogue as intermittently awful (did they write V's dialogue through a random text generator?) nor with such a terrible Natalie Portman performance can be on a Best of Decade list.

Good photography though!

Anyway, here is what I came up with in a very short amount of time. I'll be adding occasionally. Cult films (I Heart Huckabees, Inland Empire, The New World, etc.) aren't on here. This is mostly about consensus, or Zeitgeist.

Also, before you jump on my nuts about this, "auteurs" is a joke. I was going to write "Others," but then I realized that "auteurs" works too, for many of the entries. So calm down, I know that the director of In Bruges isn't a damn auteur.

Additions are welcome:

Notable Movies, 2000-2009

In the Mood for Love
Syndromes and a Century
City of God
Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon
Yi Yi
Talk to her
4 months 3 weeks 2 days
The Lives of Others
Les Fils
Y Tu Mama Tambien
Pan’s Labyrinth
Amores Perros
The Best of Youth

Oscar Bait
The Pianist
George Washington
Being John Malkovich
Far from Heaven
Mystic River
Brokeback Mountain
Gangs of New York
The Hours
The Constant Gardener
Black Hawk Down
Letters from Iwo Jima
Almost Famous
A Beautiful Mind
Lord of the Rings
Hotel Rwanda

Man on Wire
Capturing the Friedmans
Fahrenheit 911 / Bowling for Columbine
The Fog of War

Finding Nemo
The Incredibles
Spirited Away

The 40 Year Old Virgin
V for Vendetta
The Dark Knight
The Bourne Trilogy
X-Men 1 and 2
Minority Report
Team America
Sin City
Grindhouse: Planet Terror

The Squid and the Whale
Grizzly Man
In Bruges
Royal Tenenbaums
Mulholland Drive
No Country for Old Men
There Will Be Blood
Children of Men
Lost in Translation
Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
O Brother Where Art Thou
Gosford Park
Kill Bill
Requiem for a Dream
A History of Violence
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
This Is England
Best in Show 

Movies I Will Not Be Watching Again
Gran Torino
Slumdog Millionaire
The Prestige
Moulin Rouge
Lord of the Rings
The Wrestler
Donnie Darko
Finding Neverland
The Departed
The Last King of Scotland
Billy Elliott
Little Miss Sunshine

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