Welcome to TG10s. This year, echoing another publication, we are posting our top 10s, and taking votes from you. Keep reading The Twin Geeks for lists from our regular writers, as well as some extra special selection of lists from some amazing guests.
J. Rick Castañeda is the writer and director of All Sorts, which is currently nominated for an award by the Seattle Film Critics Society. He also directed Cement Suitcase, which just made Collider’s list of 10 Great Wine Movies. Castañeda grew up in Granger, WA, and came back to his hometown to make both films.
Rather than try to compare apples and oranges, I decided to write up my list of top ten favorite platypuses. Platypi? Platypodes?
If you’ve seen my latest film All Sorts, about a folder filing competition that takes place in the strangest of offices, I think you’ll totally understand this concept of the platypus film. Platypus films are strange creatures, rarely scene in the box office, with the head of a duck, tail of a beaver, and body of a koala bear. Super adorable, and also a bit freakish.
In other words, these movies are all my favorite type of strange. The Indiana Jones movies are a few of my favorite movies, as is Life is Beautiful, but those films are definitely no platypodes.On the other hand, Clockwork Orange, 12 Monkeys, and Lost Highway are wonderfully strange films, but they’re a different flavor of strange. Maybe more tardigrade than platypus.
Here, without further sentences, is my list of top ten platypus films.
Written and directed by Monty Python’s Terry Gilliam, this is the best absurdist satire of bureaucracy there ever was. This film has it all – Robert De Niro as a repelling, renegade AC repairman who rebels against the system by fixing ducts without a permit. My favorite is the scene where Sam the protagonist plays tug-of-war with his desk against the guy in the next office. Every frame of this film is an absurdist, surreal masterpiece.
Being John Malkovich
I saw this film at Varsity Theatre on The Ave in Seattle. I didn’t know that movies could be made like that. Cameron Diaz with bad hair…the 7 ½ floor…Malkovich falling into his own portal…Charlie Sheen in a bald wig…Octavia Spencer as Woman in Elevator…this film is a labyrinth of wonders. Malkovich. Malkovich! MALKOVICH!
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Remember when Michel Gondry and Spike Jonze directed movies written by Charlie Kaufman and all the planets were in alignment? Don’t get me wrong, I like Her and Synecdoche, New York, but they’re just nothing compared to Eternal Sunshine, Adaptation, and Being John Malkovich. I’m glad Kaufman got the chance to direct his own films, but…should he? They’re so damn depressing! EternalSunshine is probably my favorite of all Kaufman films, about a special service you can get to erase an ex from your memory completely.
Joel: Is there any risk of brain damage?
Dr. Howard: Well, technically speaking, the operation is brain damage…
I Heart Huckabees
In this heyday of what Jesse Fox Mayshark refers to as “post-pop cinema,” before David O. Russell turned to more Oscar-oriented films, there came a story about existential detectives. It’s a perfect mix of high comedy (Dustin Hoffman explaining the one-ness of the universe with a bed sheet) and low comedy (Jason Schwartzman and Mark Wahlberg hitting each other with a giant rubber ball). Was this the first movie with an emoji in the title? This film is a brilliant answer to the question, “What happens when you stand in a meadow at dusk?”
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Like Michel Gondry, the Daniels got their start in music videos, and I’ve been following them ever since they made a short film called Interesting Ball. I liked their first feature, Swiss Army Man, but just like Gondry’s first feature Human Nature, it lacked momentum. I was happy to see that with Everything Everywhere All at Once, the Daniels found an incredible way to make existentialism exciting with a fanny pack fight scene.
If you like your platypus film in the form of one of the best romantic comedies of all time, perhaps you should see Amélie. Directed by Pierre Jeunet, Amélie is a French film about a lonely girl who devotes herself to secret complex schemes to bring happiness to others. But for me, it’s really a movie about stories within the story…small strange sequences with endearingly odd details. I happened to be traveling in France when this movie premiered, and seeing it there is one of my favorite movie memories.
The Hudsucker Proxy
You know, for kids! Fargo, The Big Lebowski, and True Grit are fine, I guess, but this is my favorite Coen Brothers movie. (Okay, after checking the list, it might be second to No Country for Old Men.) Tim Robbins and Paul Newman star in this bonefied screwball comedy about a young graduate from Muncie entering the workforce as a cog in the big corporate machine. The movie seems like a mix between Brazil and It’s a Wonderful Life. It got mixed reviews and bombed at the box office, which is proof that nobody on this blue-green marble really knows what in the hell they’re doing. Sam Raimi co-wrote the script? Whaaaaaaa?
One thing all these movies do is bend the rules, which is why on this list of playpus films I’m putting a television series that seems to have gotten lost in the filing cabinets of time.Stella began as a comedy troupe formed by three former members of MTV’s sketch comedy series The State. David Wain, Michael Showalter, and Michael Ian Black made these funny little videos to play during their live stage show, and it eventually evolved into a series on Comedy Central. I’m not such a big fan of the original Stella shorts that are on YouTube…some are incredibly original but a lot of them are crude or super crude. But the 10-episode Comedy Central season itself…is pure brilliance. Take for instance the episode “Meeting Girls” where in the span of a few days Michael and Michael meet girls, get married, have kids, and get divorced.
Making this list even bendier is Glenn Ganges, the comic from Kevin Huizenga starring Glenn in a series of existential stories about science, coffee, meaning, and memory. I had to put Glenn Ganges on this list because Huizenga’s graphic novels are the best things I’ve ever read, and I’ve never seen them mentioned outside the world of graphic novels. Try reading “28th St.” in Curses, a modern adaptation of an Italian folktale where Glenn has to find a feathered ogre at the local supermarket in order to break a curse.
In order to make Playtime, the production team had to build a small city, requiring hundreds of workers and its own power plant. The film went overbudget multiple times, forcing Jacques Tati to sell the rights to his other films. The movie was a huge flop, and left Tati in debt. After watching the film many times, I have to say it was worth it. It was all worth it.
The first time I saw Playtime, I was about 20 or 22, and it made no sense to me. It was extremely slow, and I probably stopped watching halfway through. Later in my 30s, I saw it in my friend’s Criterion collection, and was curious to watch it again. I watched it all the way through, and when it was over, I went back to the beginning and watched it again. I’m not sure if I had grown patience, or gotten better at reading films, or I was just in the right frame of mind, but I was able to see more of the subtleties I’d missed earlier. It’s a film with very little dialogue, a very loose plot, and if you try to understand it in terms of other films, you’re not going to like it very much. It’s more of a ballet than a film, or perhaps more of an intricate timepiece. When you think you’ve seen everything, watch Playtime.
If these films are your general flavor, I also suggest reaching for the best of the best, Nobel Prize winner and master storyteller Gabriel García Márquez. When I read “A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings” as a young man, I’d never seen anything like it. And that story still impacts me very deeply.
It’s tempting, in writing up a list like this, to make some sort of definitive statements at the end, but the platypus defies categorization. Scientists once thought that egg-laying mammals were impossible, but platypodes prove that “the impossible” might be possible after all. As we flip over a new calendar, that’s something we ought to remember.