1. John Cameron Mitchell’s midnight premiere of his sensitively X-rated Shortbus not only roused the Palais’s audience to a 15-minute standing ovation (a legendary feat); it brought out some of the deepest tears I have shed in my short life. Warning: The MPAA (which we now finally understand, due to Kirby Dick’s revolutionary exposé This Film Is Not Yet Rated) won’t know where to start with this sucker. It’s much more than the graphic sex; it’s the graphic honesty.
2. William Friedkin’s schizo-thriller Bug built to such a creepy and intense climax that dozens of viewers were screaming at the top of their lungs, freaking me out almost as much as Lynne Collins and Ashley Judd’s performances. Friedkin graciously accepted the comparison that someone made to the last 30 minutes of his 1971 classic The Exorcist. Yep, it’s that fucked up.
3. Fans of the transcendental cinema movement from South America (La Ciénaga, La Niña Santa, Los Muertos) have another reason to live with Paz Encina’s heavenly Hamaca Paraguaya. The film watches a couple as they softly pass the days, waiting for their son to come home from a war. Dozens walked out; the rest of us enjoyed quite the quiet masterpiece.
4. Nobody — even those of you who skipped his subversively brilliant remake of The Bad News Bears — should miss Richard Linklater’s brave adaptation of Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. It tackles the current circle of corporate consumption, from hiring illegal immigrants to unsafe working conditions to the processing of feces in your most favorite hamburgers (which ultimately get served to you by the apathetic future of America). This movie is required viewing for every single teenager as well as all y’all who think you know how bad things really are.
5. Donnie Darko writer-director Richard Kelly’s second film, Southland Tales, was the biggest disappointment of the festival (if not the decade!). This 2 hour and 40 minute disaster does almost everything wrong: Its pathetic politics are high school–coffee shop theories; its convoluted story lines are utterly irrelevant; and lastly (and most surprisingly), the characters come off as hollow, one-note ideas that either get one interesting sequence (Justin Timberlake singing a Killers cover) or many useless scenes (featuring Janeane Garofalo, Miranda Richardson, and Wallace Shawn, to name a few). Ironically including many ex–Saturday Night Live stars, this extravaganza comes off as an out-of-breath bad TV show. Ouch. (Jesse Hawthorne Ficks)