We Heart Huckabees!

The Everything Movie lands on all four of our film critics' top 10 lists

The Fox Searchlight™ fanfare fades and our Movie of the Year kicks off with its environmental activist hero's interior cri de coeur:

Motherfucking cocksucker, motherfucking shit-fucker, what am I doing? What am I doing? I don't know what I'm doing. I'm doing the best that I can. I know that's all I can ask of myself. Is that good enough? Is my work doing any good? Is anybody paying attention? Is it hopeless to try and change things? The African guy is a sign, right? Because if he isn't, then nothing in this world makes any sense to me--I'm fucked. Maybe I should quit. Don't quit. Maybe I should just fucking quit. Don't fucking quit. I don't know what the fuck I'm supposed to fucking do anymore. Fucker! Fuck! Shit!

Fifty-seven seconds into I Huckabees, and we want to stand up and cheer. Indeed, after a monologue as vividly evocative as that one, it hardly seems necessary--or much fun, frankly--to sit and tally up the reasons why an I don't know what the fuck I'm supposed to do anymore? movie (not to be confused with What the #$*! Do We Know!?) would have resonated (and repulsed) in 2004. So let's just say again that it's our motherfucking Movie of the Year, ranking high on all four of our film critics' Top 10 lists (and at the tippy-top of two of 'em).

No doubt at least a few of you must be wondering what the fuck this Huckabees is all about. Directed by David O. Russell in somewhat the same loopy spirit as his Flirting with Disaster, I Huckabees is a metaphysical farce that follows earnest young Albert (Jason Schwartzman) in his quest to discover the meaning of life with the help of a married pair of "existential detectives" (Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman). Founder and leader of Open Spaces, a group dedicated to curbing suburban sprawl, Albert finds himself being preyed upon by a pretty-boy ad man (Jude Law) from Huckabees, the "everything store," whose executives seize on the notion of co-opting Open Spaces as a way to court the progressive consumer. Sucker punches are thrown, crass insults are traded, silly FX are presented for our viewing pleasure, a firefighter named Corn (Mark Wahlberg) enters the picture (with a big rubber ball that he uses to achieve a dizzy state of "pure being"), the Huckabees model (Naomi Watts) begins to dress like an "Amish bag lady," two people have sex in the mud.

A quick glance at the comments section of the Internet Movie Database will tell you that lots of Americans (51 percent or so?) positively hate Huckabees. At press time, the movie was playing at just one Minnesota theater (the Riverview), with no Oscar push forthcoming from Searchlight. (However much it may have failed to seek timely kudos, the distributor does deserve credit for bankrolling and releasing such a weird, subversive film in the first place.) In other words, what we have here is a bona fide cult movie, the sort that in another era might have run at a single neighborhood theater for two or three years straight, but which these days chiefly compels its far-flung fans to e-mail info on how to download the bootleg--shot off the cineplex screen with a jury-rigged camcorder and accompanied by a live audience laugh track.

Whatever its lowbrow appeal, Huckabees is at heart a movie about the search for community in deeply divisive times--so it naturally plays best in a big theater like the Riverview, with lots of folks chuckling along. Like a number of the other 28 movies on our four Top 10s (see below), but more endearingly than any of them, it lets us know that we who don't know what the fuck we're supposed to do anymore are not alone. Plus it's entertaining as hell. And as Mr. Corn with the big rubber ball would tell us, that's important, too.

--Rob Nelson


The Everything Cinema

The message of 2004 seemed to be Act local!--so let me mention that it was without a doubt the strongest year for Minnesota movies in the decade since I started this beat.

Among the highlights: Documentarian Emily Goldberg delivered Venus of Mars, whose flared colors and propulsive editing rhythms were acutely synched to the story of love, art, and gender in loud, glam flux. Civil rights lawyers Jeanne-Marie Almonor and John Shulman brought their urgent case to the big screen with Justice, a drama whose spirited system-bucking extended to skipping the festival circuit in favor of coming straight to the people at the Riverview and the Edina. (It's airing on the Black STARZ! network three times Tuesday.)

And there was more! Producer Daniel Bergin commemorated the state's rich African American history in North Star: Minnesota's Black Pioneers (airing Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on TPT-17). Prior Lake native Mara Pelece explored the effects of globalization on national identity in her film Between Latvias. Doc-maker Matt Ehling (Urban Warrior) continued his vital investigation of civil liberties with Security and the Constitution. Chuck Olsen took a playful surf through the world of online web logs in Blogumentary, whose all-access style of first-person nonfiction could have given it an alternate title: Open-Source Me. Michael Wilson made the most hotly anticipated Minnesota indie ever with Michael Moore Hates America, a movie you didn't need to hate Moore (or John Kerry) to admire. And in Wellstone!, Laurie Stern, Lu Lippold, and Dan Luke not only did right by the late senator's legacy, but presented their long-awaited work at the perfect time to give us a boost in the pre-election home stretch.

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