The Movie Club

Trash Humpers and the Importance of WTF? Picks
Critic vs. critic.
Jan. 3 2011 3:56 PM

The Movie Club

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Still from Trash Humpers. Click image to expand.
Trash Humpers

Hello Movie Clubbers,

I guess it was inevitable that I would become the Trash Humpers Girl. I reiterate—only because it's become something of an issue online since my list was published—that it's a completely sincere choice.

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That said, of course part of the fun of choosing Harmony Korine's barely released, banned-by-Netflix, shot-on-VHS (!) provocation as my film of the year was knowing that it wouldn't be a common choice and hoping that it would start a conversation. Not very long ago, before I was professionally mandated to create year-end top-10 lists and was purely a reader of them, I lived for the whiplash-inducing WTF? choices of a Hoberman or a Nathan Lee, picks that would force me to re-evaluate a film that I hadn't previously considered world-beating. And Trash Humpers is a film that I adamantly believe deserves to be part of some kind of canon, even if it'll never appeal to even a fraction of the audience reeled in by many of the year's zeitgeist-defining consensus choices. At the very least, it's not a dismissible prank or a lark. It is, in its own way, both special effects epic and costume drama, hyper-niche porn and staged, simulated snuff film—but what blockbuster isn't? Within that trendy subgenre of quasi-documentaries, Trash Humpers offered a rare aesthetic sense of purpose (and when it comes to fiction films that engage in what Dana referred to as "cinematic chain-yanking," its most striking images are more uncannily dreamlike, or at least nightmarelike, than a lot of Inception). At the same time, it's not just a formal experiment—I find it truly satisfying emotionally and dramatically. Of all the 2010 films to stumble over the "really real" question, for me Trash Humpers most powerfully revealed that question's ultimate irrelevance. And it's funny!

Now on to the other commercial and artistic extreme: As Dan noted, I've been calling How Do You Know my No. 11. I had to file my list a few days before they screened it here; I don't know if the movie would have replaced anything on my top 10, but I think it's a really special film, and I'm frankly not surprised that the public seems totally uninterested in it. As commercial product, it just doesn't work. I reviewed most of the year's studio rom-coms, and, in its defiant tonal chaos, How Do You Know exposes the extent to which the genre has become completely, well, generic. It operates on an internal rhythm and logic that's fully its own. And that Paul Rudd performance is phenomenal—splitting the difference between Albert Brooks and Jack Lemmon, his authentically troubled sad-sack heartthrob is an important corrective to contemporary romance's parade of loveable schlubs and pretty vacant boys. It made me cry, and not in a way that made me hate myself for doing so (see: Eat, Pray, Love). Sony, here's my pull quote: "It's the most convincing Hollywood romance since the advent of bromance."

As for the rest of my top 10, I'll let Stephanie tackle Somewhere––a film I really fell for but have already defended at length. I would love to hear from the rest of you as to what would have made your top 11-20. Depending on the day, mine would likely include Carlos, And Everything Is Going Fine, Disco and Atomic War, Lourdes, Life During Wartime, and—for pure escapist pleasure—Jackass 3-D, Piranha 3-D, and Tron: Legacy. And, yeah, I'm being sincere about that, too.

Love and other drugs,
Karina

The former film editor of the LA Weekly, Karina Longworth has contributed to the Guardian, NPR, Vulture, and other publications. Her book Al Pacino: Anatomy of an Actor will be released by in May by Cahiers du Cinema, for whom she is currently working on another book, about Meryl Streep.