The Mountain Goats make the best music. Let’s throw out that fan-wank conceit that any aficionado’s tastes should be too dense and layered to let any one artist rise to the top. You have a favorite parent, a favorite sibling, just like you have a favorite book or a favorite leg bone. So own it, and defend it with your life. In my case, my favorite musical group is basically one guy, John Darnielle, and he writes songs made of spit and lightning, punches and heartbreaks. The Mountain Goats are the best, and there’s no arguing this point with me. And you know what’s the best movie ever filmed? Henry Fool.
It seems like most people have never heard of Henry Fool. Or if they have, they only know it as Hal Hartley’s sell out movie. Don’t trust these people. They’re the ones in who substitute personality for DVD collections. They’re the ones who pay money to watch David Lynch predict the weather.
Henry Fool is a story about literature, perspective, family, merit, honesty, diarrhea, sex, integrity, redemption, and projectile vomiting. Hartley’s shot of a carved-sharp pencil finding its way to the blue line of a speckled notebook is all you ever need to know about beauty. Witless tax burdens call this Hartley’s sell out film because it’s the one where he finally learned to use his idiosyncrasies to tell a story about real people doing fake things instead of the other way around. His earlier stuff is funny. It hits you with rat-a-tat monotones and comes at humanity from a Dutch angle, but there’s the style over substance problem. In Henry Fool, the style has become the substance. His other movies engage your brain, but this one also gives your heart a reach-around.
Seriously, the thing can manipulate your insides. That rising organ beat as Henry runs for freedom does things to my pulse. This is the kind of crap church pretends to do. It’s downright medical!
It’s probably a good thing Thomas Jay Ryan doesn’t show his face on screen very much. As much as I love Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, seeing him pop up as Jim Carrey’s good-natured neighbor just makes me want to hit stop and pop in Henry Fool. He’s the greatest actor alive, and here’s why:
I know some of you won’t bother to watch Henry Fool. Some of you might, and you’ll end up hating it. Some of you have already seen it, and know for a fact right now as you’re reading this that Henry Fool is an overlong, pretentious piece of horrible. Goddamn you for that. Like the best Mountain Goats songs, Henry Fool takes you by the hand and kicks you in the nose, and you don’t understand life if you’re not asking for more.
Henry Fool isn’t just my favorite movie, it’s also the best. I’ve put equivocation aside and taken a stand.
So what’s your best movie?