This is your last Dorkfest XVIII-related post of the day. The name “Dorkfest” was bestowed upon this Grierson-Leitch tradition by A.J. Daulerio, who, back when we published our lists on The Black Table, greatly enjoyed giving the pale Mattoon boys appropriate wedgies for obsessive, nerdy pretension. After reading the 2003 version, in which he pored through 5,738 words only to learn that Grierson had chosen a so-obscure-it-was-almost-invisible film called Stone Reader as the best film of the year, he couldn’t take it anymore. So Daulerio wrote up his own list and emailed it to us, of entirely imaginary films, satirizing the snooty-cinema-assbag parlance that invaded our prose (and every critic’s, really). This morning, to our delight, we woke up to a new version, after a four-year hiatus. So, without any further buildup:
A.J. DAULERIO’S TOP FIVE FILMS OF 2009
5. "Streaky." I was unfamiliar with the amazing story of America’s first window washer, Harry Pinkerspry, and his quest to give Chicago’s tallest buildings “a sparkling mirror for the sun to smile into each day,” but I left the theater with a greater appreciation of his unlikely craft. Yes, like most artists driven by some unrelenting force from deep within, Pinkerspry’s obsession is what killed him, but it’s still an uplifting tale. The raw footage of him leaping off his 10-story high scaffold after he spent four hours unsuccessfully trying to clean a penny-sized splotch of pigeon feces off the east side of the Chicago Board of Trade was unsettling to watch, but first-time director Linus Bloomfield does a masterful job of making his gruesome end both cathartic and heroic. Plus, Bloomfield’s decision to use The Replacements “Hootenanny” throughout the film as if they were the house band to Harry’s quirky life was truly inspired.
4. "Scratch That Washboard Like It Was Your Bad Girl’s Fanny." Just like Charlie “Three Tooth” Watson, the enigmatic South Dakota jug band impresario who’s considered by many music historians as the “godfather” of men who utilized crude clothes-washing tools as musical instruments, I, too, was “haunted by the backyard boogie birthed from the devil’s womb.” This is the only film on my list this year I’ve seen twice, if only for the soundtrack (tragically overlooked for a Grammy nod this year) which is downright infectious. If you watch this movie and don’t find yourself humming the melody to “Swampy Stomp Shoe Shine Lady” for the next two days, you should probably head to the ER right away because you don’t have a pulse, my friend. Bliggity-blop-pow-wow-sha-boom-bah! Trust me.
3. "Ape-fisted Men With Bulging Red Wallets." I know, I know — all of Monty Jungers films take place either on Wall Street or a cranberry bog. But what happens when Jungers is struck by divine inspiration and splices those settings together? Fucking cinematic wizardry, that’s what happens. Packed with absolute tour-de-force performances by newcomer Tyler Saint Himmons and the ageless Percy Ivens as dastardly banker Strato Hemple, we’re hurled into the not-so-distant future of sharply dressed men fighting in knee-deep brackish water for the last batch of cranberries on earth. One does it for power; the other for the boundless love of a woman stricken with a deadly urinary tract infection. Not to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn’t seen it, but make sure your socks are stapled to your ankles before the climactic jiu-jitsu fight on top of Pike’s Peak, because they may very well get knocked the hell off.
2. "Don’t Call Me Beatrice The Whorebag Anymore." If there’s one thing you can say about Trudy Gainesworth is that she’s not afraid to get her hands dirty when she acts. Or, in this case, her crotch. Gainesworth delivers a lovely portrayal of the sassy prostitute, Beatrice, which will hopefully rejuvenate her stalled career. (Remember: “Blue Mountain Hideaway” came out nearly 12 years ago. Feel old?) Director Vito Dang’s hyper-aggressive directorial style is perfect for this film, as it enhances Gainesworth’s nuance and shows off his skillful technique when it comes to filming live birds. How did he make those parakeets so convincing on roller skates?
1. "Too Much Pride, Two Little Shoes." Like most filmgoers, I was skeptical that the screenwriting duo of Fin Maquinis and Blanche Higby could make Hector Valvedez’s two-line poem, “Zapatinos,” into a full-length feature film worthy of any acclaim. But they did, and I found myself riveted throughout the entire 294 minutes. From the film’s opening, haunting close-ups of little Maria’s diminutive, three-inch feet, to her epic slog through the tranquil Sierra Morena mountainside for those “perfect slippers with the mouse faces,” director Harry Palermo (“Tiempo, Tiempo, Tiempo, Hatchet”) treats Valvedez’s metaphor for post-industrial Spain with the tenderness it’s long deserved. Palermo’s attention to detail was startling, especially when he spent two years constructing a miniature camera that could be hidden inside Maria’s toe ring to give the audience the disorienting experience of what it’s like to be the tiniest toe on the tiniest foot in Spain circa 1932: breathtaking, but grim.
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