Troy Duffy, director of a ‘cool’, albeit awful, movie.
‘Coolness’ is hard to define, as it should be. I suspect it’s difficult because coolness is an X factor. It’s the swagger generated by the totality of a bunch of compartmentalized variants or something. It’s also because coolness is not a science, it’s a feeling. However, like most things, although it can’t be defined, it can be explained. And, contrary to popular belief, explaining it is fun. It doesn’t ‘kill it’ as so many pseudo-smart, sanctimonious anti-thought peddlers would have you believe.
Coolness in art comes from the same place it does in people. Confidence, fluidity, and angular punctuation shape coolness. It’s why Bob Dylan is cool and Neil Diamond isn’t. You can just tell. That’s the feeling. But the explanation is in their art. Bob Dylan’s music, sonically, is constructed in a way that doesn’t seem to care that much about whether people will accept it (his most popular song is a six minute regurgitation of the same riff over and over, lead by pointed yet abstract lyrics—its accessibility is in its zesty originality, its coolness). That’s confidence. Neil Diamond clearly tries too hard, and it shows in his broad, watered down, bombastic, wannabe deep, shallow pop.
Movies work exactly the same way. There are many movies that are cool and many many more that strive to be. Casablanca is a classic, but it’s not cool. Neither is Lawrence of Arabia, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, or The African Queen for that matter. On the other hand, Blade Runner is a classic simply because it’s cool. I mean, just compare the names—The African Queen certainly sounds boring, whereas Blade Runner obviously sounds like a thing that would excite a group of eighth graders.
What I’ve done here is put together a list of the top ten movies that are popular solely based on their respective cool factor. As is the case with Blade Runner, some of these titles are even considered classics just because of how ‘cool’ they are. Each movie listed was ranked based on the ratio between its coolness and its suckiness. (Although they all suck terribly.) It took me a while, but I have indeed actually ranked them, not just thrown them together in random order.
10. The Dark Knight (2008) | Dir. Christopher Nolan
The Dark Knight really should be number one, but since I already covered it in depth in my A Delicious Batman Smoothie essay, I wanted to just move on to other titles. For all practical purposes though, you could really switch number 10 with number 1 for a more accurate ranking.
9. Blue Valentine (2010) | Dir. Derek Cianfrance
Blue Valentine follows a litany of mindless, sexually explicit ‘experiential films’ like 9 Songs, and I’m assuming Last Tango in Paris, though I’ve never seen it. It’s one of those movies that’s heralded for having ‘daring’ performances. But really, who gives a fuck if Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams lived together to prep for their roles as part of some method acting jack-off fantasy. They’re both good actors, but watching them argue, be moody, and fuck, is boring as shit. Truly great and difficult performances are found in real movies with real characters that have to do things real humans do, rather than just emote off each other over the course of some meaningless ‘erotic’ journey.
It is kinda worth it to see Michelle Williams’ butt though—and I guess, for girls, to see Gosling all naked and shit.
8. Snatch (2000) | Dir. Guy Ritchie
Oy, bullocks, poppet, I’ve got de iron, de rinnggaa, meh meh meh. With a simple freeze frame and title card, this movie informed an entire decade of style-over-content. So, thanks for that.
7. Trainspotting (1996) | Dir. Danny Boyle
People seem to think drugs are cool. That’s why they keep making drug movies and why they keep making them in a very kinetic and ‘gritty’ way. But it’s all flash and style. If Goodfellas wasn’t so goddamn cool you wouldn’t have Blow, an uncool (but touted as cool) movie. Blow isn’t cool because it’s not that cool. Goodfellas is cool because it’s an amazing movie. The coolness of its execution—found in the jagged camera movements and angular editing, punctuated by a super cool sound track—is organic to the story. And what could be cooler than that?
Trainspotting is just a stylistic, meandering mess that people like because of god knows why. Maybe it’s the Britishness. People like that shit. Or the heroin.
6. No Country For Old Men (2007) | Dir. Joel & Ethan Coen
Movie for movie, the Coen Brothers are basically the best filmmakers of all time. But somewhere around the turn of the century, they fell off pretty hard. It started with Intolerable Cruelty, followed through with The Ladykillers, and culminated with A Serious Man. Nobody really cared about any of those, but the one you’ve all gotten behind is No Country—perhaps the most vapid movie of all time.
The inciting incident is a character making an absolutely retarded and illogical decision. ‘Because I have arbitrary honor, I’m going to risk my life just to bring a guy water that I don’t even know, for no reason’. What results is a cat-and-mouse thriller that actually has some very effective parts in the middle, which is to be expected from the guys who made Blood Simple. But ultimately, a cat-and-mouse chase only works if you have one clear villain. Woody Harrelson’s character is needlessly shoehorned in, then eliminated, making his portion of the story completely unnecessary.
The movie’s unraveling ultimately lies mostly on the dreadfully boring and directionless Tommy Lee Jones character. Any energy the movie had is sucked away into the black hole of this god awful character.
I will say though that the movie’s existence is worth it for the submitted picture of Roderick Jaynes at the Oscars when his Best Editor nomination came up.
5. Inception (2010) | Dir. Christopher Nolan
See the South Park episode Insheeption. Season 14, Episode 10.
4. Brick (2005) | Dir. Rian Johnson
If not for Looper, Rian Johnson would be high in the running for worst director all time. It’s not just that Brick is a dumb idea, it’s that it’s a dumb idea executed pretentiously. Most ‘deliberate’ movies are pretentious because their deliberateness is bankrupt. Signs, the best movie ever made, is deliberate, but it’s deliberate in a way that builds information and serves the story. It’s deliberateness is organic, and makes sense, which is genius. Movies like Brick, which have far less to say, are deliberate solely for style. They simply insist we look at all the pretty shots, and think we’ll get entranced by the world or some crap. Well, some people do—I guess it’s like movie drugs or something. If you’re this type of person, watch Wendy and Lucy. It’s the best (by which I mean worst) deliberate movie of all time.
Brick is about wanting it to be cool that a bunch of teens talk like a movie from the 40’s. Looper is about that too—but since they’re adults, and it’s in the future, it’s actually fun to watch.
For further good, deliberate viewing (good meaning actually good this time) go watch all of Errol Morris’s documentaries. They’re some of the best ever made. Namely, The Thin Blue Line, The Fog of War, Mr. Death, the show First Person, and Gates of Heaven.
3. Donnie Darko (2001) | Dir. Richard Kelly
I guess I like that Noah Wyle and Seth Rogen are in it. Seth Rogen is in it for about the exact right amount of time that Seth Rogen should be in any movie. As a Freaks and Geeks and Undeclared alumni, I fucking love the guy with all my heart, but enough is enough.
Donnie Darko might even get a pass if Richard Kelly’s movies got better. It would then at least have been an interesting beginning. Instead, Southland Tales and The Box serve only to expose the utter ineptitude of it. It’s a movie that’s constantly reaching—for instance, those bubble goop time trail things—but never finding anything, and is instead a stylistic exercise in style for the sake of style. Not just visually, but in content as well. Its coolness status makes sense because eighth graders think style is smart. (Are you noticing a pattern here?)
2. The Boondock Saints (1999) | Dir. Troy Duffy
The Boondock Saints is unequivocally the worst directed movie of all time. Often times, the shots don’t even make sense, and the camera movements are literally sloppy. It’s a movie made by a dickhead, and it shows. A movie made by a guy who thinks he’s tough, but isn’t. And oh boy does that show. If you’re looking for proof, there’s a documentary chronicling the whole thing—it’s called Overnight, and it’s really good.
This movie is so popular that it spawned a sequel, some 10 years later, despite the horrible reputation of the director. I’d love to watch the sequel as a joke, but the first one was such a dreadful experience that I just can’t bring myself to. It was one of those ‘gritty indies’ in the wake of Pulp Fiction that was all street and sanctimonious. It was a big promise and a lot to live up to and like its’ contemporaries, I’m thinking Go and blah blah blah but while those movies just suck Boondock Saints is joke bad. The characters are cartoonishly silly, the drama is melo and overwrought and the general point of view reeks of wannabe toughness.
The fact that anyone thinks it’s cool is beyond me, so I almost can’t explain it. I guess eighth graders just really like guns.
1. Amelie (2001) | Dir. Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Perhaps I’m soured because I once asked a girl I loved what her favorite movie was, and she said Amelie. Or maybe it’s because every fucking girl in high school liked Amelie. But really, Amelie is so fucking annoying it’s hard to even talk about. It’s hard to even look at. In fact, besides a super hot annoying girl, I couldn’t even tell you what it’s about. Something about France or something?
If you’re questioning whether or not Amelie is considered cool, you’re raising a fair point—if you’re a male, that is. But just go ask a girl, preferably a brunette, between the ages of 13 and 65. They adore it.