Saturday, January 28, 2012

Top 10 films of the decade (30s edition)

If you pulled my arm (let go, John!) this would be my top 10 list for the 30s:

1. The Grand Illusion
2. Duck Soup
3. City Lights
4. Port of Shadows
5. My Man Godfrey
6. The Rules of the Game
7. The Lady Vanishes
8. The Thin Man
9. Stagecoach
10. Ninotchka
(11. Make Way For Tomorrow)

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Kaurismäki on Ozu

I'm not against documentaries...

To be fair, I do love music documentaries, like NO DIRECTION HOME, HEART OF GOLD, and THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN. I own all three and several more on Bob Dylan and John Lennon. Anyone else stoked for Scorsese's George Harrison documentary LIVING IN THE MATERIAL WORLD? When is that gonna be on DVD or Netflix?

I also dig documentaries about people I'm interested in (STANLEY KUBRICK: A LIFE IN PICTURES–it's the tops) and political documentaries (THE CORPORATION, INSIDE JOB, etc.). So I'm not advocating against them, even if I seldom watch them. The only thing I don't like is personal documentaries like BROTHER BORN AGAIN that seem unnecessary or should not be publicized. They annoy me.

P.S. To Jerzy, funny post as usual. "Denouncing intelligence as an obstacle to faith was particularly heinous, that it happened more than once was terrible." The fervent atheist in me was seething at these moments as well, but that's a conversation for a whole other time and place.

Brother Vampyr

It's probably needless to say, but I'll remind that VAMPYR was personally my favorite film of the few I saw from 1932. That doesn't mean that it's the best, or in John's case, that it's even any good. It was just the biggest surprise to me. I love HORSE FEATHERS and could easily have it at the top, and I love I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG and even had it at the top the first time I made the list. But then before submitting my final (well, final for the moment) list I thought about which film jumped out at me the most and it was invariably and undeniably VAMPYR. I was fully expecting to be bored by VAMPYR and for it to be a chore. But then I ended up being really impressed by everything I saw and become quite enamored with it. A lot of this is personal preference. I tend to be really fascinated by surrealism (hence my Bunuel, Cocteau, and Lynch love), but especially surrealism/dadaism emerging along with modernism Post-WWI because there was just nothing else like it at the time–it reacted to something and it actually stood for something (it's not the same today–thanks a lot, postmodernism). VAMPYR isn't aligned with surrealism theoretically, but it felt like surreal filmmaking to me, and that's something I really appreciate as a document of a time and place. John may be happy that we're out of the 30s (even if only said in jest), but I love seeing the experimentation of the time as well as the growth. To me, it's awesome to see someone work their way around a camera, to discover its limits and perhaps to test those limits. That's what Dreyer's film felt like to me–like someone trying to, as Rosenbaum says, speak a new cinematic language. Griffith did it 15 years earlier and similar visionaries have been doing it throughout cinema history. I don't mean to say that VAMPYR is a landmark like BOAN, but that it's a great example of surreal experimentation with film. That it paved the way for someone so awesome as David Lynch is only a bonus! :)

Anyway, that's my deal with VAMPYR. I have the same deal with L'AGE D'OR and THE BLOOD OF A POET. I love surrealism, but I don't expect others to. Like John, emphasis on the "I" here.

Chris already beat me to everything I wanted to say back to Ben about BROTHER BORN AGAIN, and he said it very well. I take the same stance, and I'm sticking to it.

Jason, your post is great because you do a tremendous job articulating why the film meant something to you. You were able to connect to it in a way I could not, and that's all that matters. You said on Facebook that you were clearly judging films from a different set of criteria than the rest of us, but have proved that you are judging them from the very same place as us all–we are all looking for that connection to what we see, whether it's personal, emotional, intellectual, aesthetic, political, etc. You found the connection–that's key.

However, you do bring up a point that illuminates one reason why I dislike documentaries like this though, and it's this: "Brother Born Again is probably as close to telling the truth of the situation as a film could." I agree completely, which makes me question what there is to discuss about it. When it comes to film, it's hard to criticize something that's true, so all we are left to criticize is the way it is made. BROTHER BORN AGAIN is human and true and that's great for Julia and everyone involved in it. But just beacuse something is true doesn't mean it's good filmmaking. To me, this documentary ultimately amounts to a human interest segment on 60 MINUTES or something. Those stories are true too, but that doesn't mean they are interesting or examples of good filmmaking to me.

I'm not trying to criticize you for liking the film (I'm glad you do), but I'm just trying to express how I judge BROTHER BORN AGAIN as a film that has to stand alongside something else from 2001 like MULHOLLAND DRIVE or IN THE BEDROOM. I usually don't like documentaries because it doesn't make sense to me to judge them on the same basis as fiction films. I mean, who evaluates non-fiction books the same as fiction ones? If you do compare them, you compare how well they are written. I can only evaluate how well BROTHER BORN AGAIN presents its case cinematically because that's what I'm interested in.

Anyway, it's interesting to see the dividing line emerge over those who like documentaries and those who do not. I'm opposed to judging them against fiction films, but that's just me. I'm really glad that you and Ben and others are fans of something I'm resistant to because it forces me to confront my negative feelings and think more about them.

Nice pick, nice response to it, and hey, it even got a nice little back and forth going, which is what we were hoping for with the group viewing in the first place.

P.S. I'm so stoked that you've seen LATE SPRING and GOOD MORNING! Aren't they amazing? Ozu is my new hero; I'm absolutely smitten.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

the gauzy cottony look reminded me of snow

John, I think that sickness has made you delirious. Tomorrow you're gonna wake up and realize that VAMPYR is a great, literary masterpiece.

I guess I didn't find the use of text to be all that egregious. I was too impressed by everything else to even feel as if it were distracting, and that's the difference between our impressions.

"BUT! It's precisely the "how" that I'm calling into question here. Specifically "how" Dreyer uses text in the film. This relates to the entire "how" of the visual structure of the film. I think that it breaks the flow, neatens things up, and renders the whole ridiculous. I think that Dreyer fails in his "how" by trying to tidy things up."

You see, I completely disagree. I don't think that Dreyer's complete "how" (wow, my bad for introducing this phrase, it's already lost anything it ever had) is made ridiculous by his use of text. I guess I don't even understand why it's such a problem.

Actually, I don't think it's the sickness getting to you. I think you made a mistake and actually watched this instead of Carl Dreyer's masterwork:

Dreyer's got a sore one

Rapid response to John's VAMPYR rump kicking, which was a great read:

How is VAMPYR pure trash because of its narrative failings while being technically innovative and masterful? By that logic, BIRTH OF A NATION is a piece of shit. Sure, it's technically and visually a landmark, but it's subject matter kills it completely (I had to bring up BOAN again; we need another dead horse 'round here). If you can't admit that VAMPYR is great merely for its "how" instead of its "what" then you need to call BIRTH OF A NATION a piece of trashy, low-brow garbage passed off as one of the greatest films ever made right now! :)

"There are some fantastic images and some interesting camera motion.

So what?"


I actually think that what I've seen of BOAN is great because it's so technically incredible. Had the same reaction to VAMPYR. Am I just some hardcore auteurist? I guess so.

But seriously, I can appreciate a film for being purely a technical marvel. I just said as much about some of Max Ophüls' films. I loved VAMPYR for its dreamy atmosphere, crazy visuals, and inventive camera work. I expected to be bored by it actually, and instead thought it was awesome.

All right, so I'm getting all defensive here. But I have to be; it's my number one pick for 1932! Brandon, where are you? Help me out, buddy. At least we got Jonathan Rosenbaum on our side:

In all honesty, it's nice to interact on anything 30s at all. Even if you hated something I dug, John, it's still great to talk about it. Thanks for sending that smack my way.

And I fully expect you to shit on L'AGE D'OR and smack me around once again. I can't wait to read it!

Brandon Born Again

Let the puns fly forth!

So, the Oscar nominations are in, and they are predictably gutless. I'm slightly surprised by the Malick and TREE OF LIFE nominations, but not at all surprised by many of their other awful picks. At this point, I think the Oscars may have even less credibility than the Golden Globes. But, let's be honest, both have been a disgrace since their inception so nothing is really new. Why do I even bother to care anymore?

Adrienne and John seem to have beaten me to everything I could possibly say about BROTHER BORN AGAIN. Like Adrienne, I don't want to be too harsh on it because it is clearly an amateur documentary using cheap cameras without much knowledge of filmmaking. I very slightly respect the documentarian for grabbing a camera and going to work despite her obvious deficiencies because it's more than I've ever done (and I wanted to be a filmmaker as a teen). But like John, I cannot give her any respect beyond this because documenting such a personal issue seems to be pointless, narcissistic, and phony. There's no real insight into anything here and no real awareness that an audience might have to watch what you are documenting. It all seems like a bad home movie/pointless reality tv show where the filmmaker assumes that merely pointing a camera at someone and having them talk is interesting or worthwhile. But none of it is. And none of it needs to be documented. This is a personal issue that should be dealt with...personally, not through the filter of spectacle. Though it appears to have been made in the mid-to-late 90s, it looks exactly like the narcissistic, tell-all, public grandstanding that has dominated our culture since the emergence of reality tv and social networking. It fits right in. Like John, it had all the elements I dislike about documentaries and for the same reasons as him. However, this film clearly gives documentaries a bad reputation and is probably not the best example you'd want to use if trying to legitimize their right to exist. It's pretty awful, but how were any of us to know? You win some and you lose some.

Let's be real, Brandon, my lists aren't even close to being as impressive as yours, but they also aren't intended to be. It's just fun to give yourself a reason to watch a bunch of great movies, am I right? Like you said with your 60s project, it's the experience of the films themselves that matter, not the quota or the ranking–that's just the extra stuff at the end. With that all being said, you are the list king so wear your crown proudly!

Here comes the biggest most vicious debate of the year: snow is more beautiful in color? Perhaps you're right. There are some absolutely jaw-droppingly gorgeous shots of snow-covered land in LOLA MONTES (and in MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO among others). I also thought while watching it that some of the images might be the most beautiful things ever filmed in color. No doubt about it. However, I stand by the beauty of snow falling in black-and-white. It might just be me recalling the snow falling at the end of IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE which in hand is triggering emotions of Christmas, childhood, warmth, and safety, but to me there is nothing like seeing big, globular flakes falling against a dark, colorless background. The contrast is just too perfect.

"SHADOWS is one of the greatest debuts in film history announcing the start of DIY filmmaking. Anyone who enjoys genres like mumblecore can thank this film for it. I think I just threw up in my mouth." I almost did a spit-take with my coffee while reading that.

I think THE DEFIANT ONES might still hold up. The surprisingly great partnership between Poitier and Curtis makes it all work I'd say, but maybe I'm crazy.

I think whatever LA RONDE lacks in narrative or insight, it makes up for with technical mastery. You have to be a genius filmmaker/auteur to make that work, and I think you'd agree that Ophüls fits the bill. But, I'd prefer something like THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... to LA RONDE as well.

I'd have to watch L'AVVENTURA again before I'd be certain if it really drags or not, but when I saw it as a teen I definitely thought as much. I'm not a fan of lollygagging either. I can see how you'd find Antonioni to be guilty of this at times. Brevity is not his strong point. But he really likes to be reflective, to create strong atmosphere, and to continuously re-orient his characters through methodical staging. This can try the patience unless you are really hooked onto what he's trying to do. I think I reached the point where I was hooked while watching RED DESERT and BLOW-UP again. I felt like he had me and that made me love his work even more. I was David Hemmings watching an invisible tennis match and I got caught up in the game.

More Ozu is in order for me as well. 15 or so of his films are on Hulu+. I'm struggling between wanting to marathon them all because I'm addicted or saving them because I want to make them last longer. I wish one of his films were on NWI so I could make it my pick whenever it's my turn. A little Ozu should be experienced by all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Film roundup Part 2

I'll post on Brother Born Again soon, I just wanted to get out another film roundup while I could.

Thanks, Ben, for your nice words. I appreciate them very much. I hope that my lists can be helpful for you and anyone else who is interested in checking out some 30s films. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on some of them, and I hope I don't steer you wrong. I dig the new look to the site, and am excited about you starting your own project into the classics. Should be awesome. Good luck with it!

So, I was thinking that I should avoid roundup posts like this, but I watch too many films in a short period of time, so all my posts have to be like this if I want to talk about anything:

Odd Man Out (Reed, 1947) - I forgot to include this in my last roundup. Is there anything more beautiful than snow shot in black-and-white? I really can’t imagine so. The last 30 minutes or so with James Mason wandering through the snowy streets of Belfast are dazzling. A film partly about what one man’s body can signify and how compassion for others can be obfuscated by politics and fear. Much of the film is Mason’s character being passed around like a live grenade, and it’s always compelling to see how characters react to his wounded body once they found out he’s the wanted leader of an IRA-like group. Great moribund performance by Mason, and a dark, but essential ending reminiscent of Italian Neorealism.

There Was a Father (Ozu, 1942) and Good Morning (Ozu, 1959) - At this point, I just can’t stop watching Ozu films. Every time I sit down to watch something on Hulu I look at the list of various films I want to see or should see, and I only want to watch Ozu. He’s easily in my top five favorite directors now after only 6 films, and I can only imagine my adoration for him growing the more I see. Anyway, I’ve been saying how much I love Ozu lately, but I’ve yet to really express why that is. I'm gonna use Roger Ebert to help me

I’m a big fan of Ebert’s Great Movies series, and I love reading his write-ups for films after I’ve seen them. Ebert’s a great Ozu admirer and has several of his films in said Great Movies series. In one of his reviews he called Ozu’s films “serene,” which I think is the best adjective one could use to describe his work. His films are serene, calm, assured, gentle, bittersweet, humorous, poetic, lovely, and human. In his write-up for Ozu’s An Autumn Afternoon, Ebert has a great little summary on what makes Ozu so unique, something I agree with completely:

“Ozu is one of the greatest artists to ever make a film. This was his last one. He never married. He lived for 60 years with his mother, and when she died, he was dead a few months later. Over and over again, in almost all of his films, he turned to the same central themes, of loneliness, of family, of dependence, of marriage, of parents and children. He holds these themes to the light and their prisms cast variations on each screenplay. His films are all made within the emotional space of his life, in which he finds not melodramatic joy or tragedy, but mono no aware, which is how the Japanese refer to the bittersweet transience of all things.

From time to time I return to Ozu feeling a need to be calmed and restored. He is a man with a profound understanding of human nature, about which he makes no dramatic statements. We are here, we hope to be happy, we want to do well, we are locked within our aloneness, life goes on. He embodies this vision in a cinematic style so distinctive that you can tell an Ozu film almost from a single shot. He films mostly indoors. His camera is at the eye level of a person seated on a tatami mat. The camera never moves. His shots often begin before anyone enters the frame, and end after the frame is empty again. There is foreground framing, from doors or walls or objects. There is meticulous attention to the things within the shot.”

Well said, sir. Ozu’s style is, of course, unmistakable. As Ebert points out, you see one low-angled long shot looking through a door frame and you instantly know it’s him. I love everything about his style, particularly his use of matching images, his notorious “pillow shots,” his completely static camera, and the way he captures his actors within walls or various parallel lines to create these beautiful frames for the eye to focus on. He has one of the most visually assured styles of any filmmaker in history. He knew exactly what he was doing and what he wanted every time he stepped behind a camera.

There Was a Father has the distinctive Ozu look and as a story is incredibly touching. It’s about the relationship between a father and son and how it has to be severed through time. As Ebert mentioned, Ozu’s films are marked by the Japanese philosophy of mono no aware. There is a bittersweetness in the film (like with all Ozu films) for the impermanence of human life and the fleeting time we get to spend together. The film is completely tender and moving without being sentimental at all. There is a calm acceptance for everything that changes, a gentle sadness for its passing, and a warm appreciation for its very existence. It is a film that is indeed serene and purely blissful.

Good Morning is a much more comedic affair. It’s actually pretty hilarious and endearing. Apparently, Aki Kaurismaki is a huge Ozu fan as well. I could sense the sort of offbeat warmth of Le Havre in this. It’s about a small Japanese community with one television among its close-knit denizens. Several of the children in the community sneak to their neighbor's house to watch sumo wrestling on the tv instead of doing their studies. This causes an uproar with the parents. A pair of siblings explain to their parents that if they got them a tv they wouldn’t need to sneak about. The parents won’t concede to getting a tv so the siblings take a vow of silence in protest. A wonderful comedy with some great themes about communication and the gap between adults and children. One of the siblings, Isamu, is particularly adorable and hilarious. Also, the film has the best fart jokes in any art-house film you’re likely to ever see; I kid you not. A must watch.

Lola Montes (Ophüls, 1955) - Ophüls’ constant pirouetting camera movements are a complete 180 from Ozu, but it’s amazing to see the marked contrast between the two and appreciate both. This is Ophüls last film and his only film in color. Obviously, it’s insanely beautiful. I’m sure I sound redundant ever time I mention Ophüls, but if you are a lover of cinematography, how could you not be blown away by his impeccable camera movements and lush compositions? While the camera seems less busy in this film, the use of color and the detailed set design take over and catch the eye immediately. It reminded me a lot of Visconti’s Senso or The Leopard or even Lean’s Doctor Zhivago; incredibly ornate and detailed sets with lush contrast of colors and a visual predilection for the breathtaking. Ophüls’ films aren’t gentle or reserved like Ozu's but flamboyant and hyperactive, yet both are simply astonishing.

The Quiet Man (Ford, 1952) - I need to stop watching directors who create such beautiful compositions because all I do is repeat myself. This is one of the very few great John Ford films that has alluded me over the years. I guess I’ve just been waiting for the right time to be blown away by that verdant Irish countryside. It doesn’t disappoint. I guess I can skip mentioning how amazing it is to look at because it’s John Ford so of course it’s amazing to look at. Love the story about a man looking for refuge in a small Irish village (the land of his ancestors), coming to terms with his past, falling in love, and getting acquainted with a whole new culture. Love John Wayne in it; it’s definitely one of his most sympathetic and likable characters. Love the often hilarious Victor MacLaglen and the beautiful and feisty Maureen O’hara. Ford essentially idealizes a pastoral, antiquated, and united Ireland, but who can blame him? Watching the film, I couldn’t help but want to do the same as John Wayne’s character and go live in some time-warped Ireland stuck in the 1800s. The ending is perhaps Fords greatest idealization of Ireland where a long, drunken fistfight takes place. It made me insanely proud to be Irish. It’s an awesome sequence, and it reminds of the great fistfight in She Wore a Yellow Ribbon that Brandon was mentioning recently. Great film.

The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski, 1991) - Re-watched it thanks to Chris. The last time I saw it was when I was 17 and rented it on VHS from a video store near me (I miss those days). I loved it when I saw it, but couldn’t remember it for the life of me. Seeing it again, it’s definitely a masterpiece along with The Decalogue and The Three Colors Trilogy. Kieslowski’s use of images as motifs, his constant ability to make us question what we are seeing, and his use of reflections and double images makes the film a profound and enigmatic meditation on existence and how we look at everything around us. It asks us to look at things every which way; it ties us to the heavens and the earth and makes us aware of the vicissitudes of chance and fate. It’s beautiful, strange, and the work of a master.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Film roundup

For any who are interested, I've updated my lists on the Golden Age Lists page with some honorable mentions that I didn't post before. I often get so excited to reach a solid 10 films for a list that I forget that I've seen others from the year and should give them some recognition. Anyway, thanks to John, I will now be able to add to those lists, as I consider none of them finished. They're just templates to augment as needed.

And I'll just say that when I post lists on my blog, I'm not assuming that they are finished; I'm just giving a preliminary ranking of what I've seen in case anyone is interested. Simply seeing 10 or 11 films and calling a list done seems kinda disrespectful to someone like Brandon who took a lot of time and effort to see 20 or more films for each year. So, all my lists are still works in progress and shall remain that way until I feel comfortable with any of them (if that ever happens). Even the 30s lists aren't finished. My goal in doing that project was to see at least 10 films from each year. I did that, but now it's time to slowly add to those totals.

I'm really excited for Brandon's 60s lists! They should be very impressive and fun to interact with. I've seen a decent amount of 60s films, not enough to make lists yet, but enough hopefully where I can offer some insight for him. I'm at least well versed in the Bergman, Kurosawa, Kubrick, Bunuel, Godard, Leone, and Antonioni films from the decade. They should all be a blast to revisit. Anyway, best wishes to Brandon on his new project! It's gonna be awesome!

I've been steadily watching films over the past few weeks (13 or 14 in the last 7 days...not bad). I plan on watching Jason's pick today or tomorrow so I can interact with y'all. But first I should mention a few of the films I've seen lately:

Hobson's Choice (Lean, 1954) - Perhaps David Lean's funniest film. It certainly has a wonderful sense of wit and charm to it. It's highly enjoyable, and it has what I'm now dubbing "the Lean touch." David Lean excelled at having great camera work, detailed set design, colorful characters, and garnering impressive work from his actors. This one has all those traits, with terrific comedic performances by the great Charles Laughton, as the drunken Hobson, and John Mills, as the soft-spoken but clueless Will Mossop, being the stand-outs. A great comedy about the changing of the guard.

Red Desert (Antonioni, 1964) - Breathtaking in HD. I've respected and admired Antonioni before, but now I straight up love him. His use of space is just remarkable to see. He's a master at framing, staging, and spacing; he knows exactly how to place his actors in space to evoke a theme, symbol, or character trait. He's a visual genius, for sure. This film is incredible for all of his mastery with the camera, but it's also plentiful thematically and characterfully (sure, that's a word). There doesn't need to be much of a narrative for us to understand what Monica Vitti's character is going through or what her relationship with Richard Harris' character means. Most if it all is developed silently or impressionistically. It's a beautiful film; one that is slow, methodical, enigmatic, but also intelligent and profound. I could say the same for nearly the rest of the Antonioni films I've seen, so I'm completely on board with him now.

And speaking of Antonioni, I re-watched Blow-up with Chris. It's still one of my favorites. I just love how much of an anti-mystery it is and how weird it is. Perhaps the same could be said for L'avventura or even Red Desert, which may be why people don't like his films. His style is very cinematic; it uses carefully constructed images and staging to tell stories and evoke themes or feelings, but it's light on traditional narrative. Some have called L'avventura almost an anti-film, which sounds kinda awful, pompous, and too postmodern. I don't think that that or any of his other works are anti-films (anti-mysteries perhaps, but I suppose that also sounds affected), they just use narrative differently than other films. Anyway, I'll be curious to read Brandon's thoughts on L'avventura, since I know he re-watched it recently. I put it in my "films I don't like but should" list a while back, which isn't really fair. I watched it when I was 16, and it's not that I didn't like it, I just didn't understand it at all. I'd like to re-watch it at some point; I think I'd have a much more favorable reaction now that I'm more familiar with Antonioni's work and appreciate his style.

Floating Weeds (Ozu, 1959) - My newfound love affair with the miraculous Ozu continues! Chris got me this for Christmas, and I'm very happy he did because I loved it and look forward to seeing it many more times. It's a beautiful story and looks stunning in color. It has been said that to see one Ozu film is to catch a glimpse of the totality of his work. I can't argue with this, as his gorgeous, assured style is the dominating force of every film I've seen by him. I love that his films can fit within an entire body of work as variations on a total aesthetic and thematic look and feel. To see one film of his and then another is to feel the safety, recognition, and assurance of something you know and love. I couldn't possibly rave about Ozu enough. My estimation of him has skyrocketed in the last month or so. I think this is the beginning of a beautiful film friendship.

The Defiant Ones
(Kramer, 1958)- Caught it on TCM on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Who knew Tony Curtis could play a certified Southern racist so well? He and Poitier actually make a great team. The film's real entertaining any time it's just the two of them, and probably could have worked even if it were just them. But, obviously, the mishaps they get into are important for pushing the story and racial themes forward, and introducing other characters is a great way to see the changes taking place in Curtis' character. A fun prison-break film with indispensable themes on race and a burgeoning friendship that ends up being really tender.

Le Plaisir (Ophüls, 1952) and La Ronde (Ophüls, 1950) - Watched both of these Max Ophüls films a few weeks ago, but forgot to mention them. Simply stunning camerawork on both, but of course that's his trademark. His style alone makes these masterworks and worth seeing. I probably loved Le Plaisir more because it has Jean Gabin in it, and I adored that middle story about the group of prostitutes going to Jean Gabin's daughter's first communion. But the whole film is entertaining, surprising, and perfect. La Ronde is equally as great, as another collection of bawdy tales about desire and pleasure. Again, Ophüls genius work with the camera in it is heaven for a film lover to behold.

Shadows (Cassavetes, 1959) - John and Brandon have done some nice raving about Cassavetes. As I'm sure I mentioned before, I've only seen Faces and A Woman Under the Influence, both of which I really liked, but also watched a while back. I hadn't seen Shadows (for shame), but I was at least aware of its historical and cultural impact on American film (Roger Ebert had it in his 10 most influential movies of the century list). Thanks to Hulu+, I finally got to see it. I don't know how any film fan could dislike it. It's basically the American equivalent to the French New Wave or Italian Neorealism. It's full of energy, life, great characters, impressionism, spontaneity. I loved it a lot. Interestingly, though we didn't watch it, for a class I took on Cold War American Culture, my professor did briefly discuss the film in relation to the Beats and Bebop jazz. It definitely has the same sort of outpouring of feeling and creativity as those two movements. Terrific film.

Also, I started watching Knock On Any Door last Saturday (thanks to John's heads-up), but fell asleep after 20 minutes and didn't record it. I was loving Bogie as the lawyer too. Dammit–I can't stay awake late afternoon. As Jason indicated, that's nap time.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Season 8

Chris and I have nearly identical taste in The Simpsons, so there's really no point in my posting this list. Oh well, gotta express my Simpsons love anyway.

  1. The Springfield Files
  2. A Milhouse Divided
  3. You Only Move Twice
  4. Bart After Dark
  5. El Viaje Misterioso de Nestro Jomer
  6. Mountain of Madness
  7. The Itchy & Scratchy & Poochie Show
  8. Homer’s Phobia
  9. Homer's Enemy
  10. The Homer They Fall
  11. Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment
  12. Treehouse of Horror VII
  13. The Secret War of Lisa Simpson
  14. The Twisted World of Marge Simpson
  15. Simpsoncalifragil.....
  16. Burns, Baby Burns
  17. Grad School Confidential
  18. My Sister, My Sitter
  19. Lisa’s Date With Density
  20. The Old Man and the Lisa
  21. The Canine Mutiny
  22. In Marge We Trust
  23. Hurricane Neddy
  24. The Simpson’s Spin-off Showcase
  25. Brother From Another Series

1930-1939: The Complete Lists

Here you go, John. A complete listing of all my 30s viewing so you don't have to go digging for them to add/revise the site. Some of the lists are the same as I posted, but others are altered, so this is the best reference to go by.

Let's see I've watched well over 100 30s films since I decided to do this project back in June (actually, my 30s watching steadily slowed over the past four months–realistically speaking, I watched nearly 100 30s films in 3 months). It was an incredible blast watching so many great films and getting acquainted with an era. At times, it seemed like it would take me years to do, but it was never a chore, always a privilege and an endless delight.

I'm definitely not done with the 30s, as I have many more films to see. I consider these lists templates to build off of for now, and hopefully references for anyone who is interested in seeing some films from the decade.

Thanks 1930s, you've been real good to me:


1. L’Age d’Or (Bunuel)
2. The Blood of a Poet (Cocteau)
3. Animal Crackers (Heerman)
4. Earth (Dovzhenko)
5. Monte Carlo (Lubitsch)
6. Under the Roofs of Paris (Clair)
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)
8. The Blue Angel (von Sternberg)
9. Hell’s Angels (Hughes)
10. Murder! (Hitchcock)


1. City Lights (Chaplin)
2. M. (Lang)
3. Le Million (Clair)
4. The Public Enemy (Wellman)
5. Frankenstein (Whale)
6. Monkey Business (McLeod)
7. A Nous la Liberte (Clair)
8. Little Caesar (LeRoy)
9. The Smiling Lieutenant (Lubitsch)
10. Smart Money (Green)


1. Vampyr (Dreyer)
2. Horse Feathers (McLeod)
3. I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Leroy)
4. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Renoir)
5. Scarface (Hawks, Rossen)
6. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch)
7. Freaks (Browning)
8. Love Me Tonight (Mamoulian)
9. Grand Hotel (Goulding)
10. Shanghai Express (von Sternberg)


1. Duck Soup (McCarey)
2. King Kong (Cooper, Schoedsack)
3. Footlight Parade (Bacon)
4. The Invisible Man (Whale)
5. Zero de conduite (Vigo)
6. 42nd Street (Bacon)
7. Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (Milestone)
8. Sons of the Desert (Seiter)
9. Dinner at Eight (Cukor)
10. The Private Life of Henry VIII (Korda)


1. The Thin Man (van Dyke)
2. L’Atalante (Vigo)
3. It Happened One Night (Capra)
4. The Scarlet Empress (von Sternberg)
5. Twentieth Century (Hawks)
6. The Black Cat (Ulmer)
7. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock)
8. The Gay Divorcee (Sandrich)
9. It’s a Gift (McLeod)
10. Manhattan Melodrama (van Dyke)


1. The 39 Steps (Hitchcock)
2. Bride of Frankenstein (Whale)
3. A Night at the Opera (Wood)
4. Ruggles of Red Gap (McCarey)
5. The Informer (Ford)
6. “G” Men (Keighley)
7. David Copperfield (Cukor)
8. Top Hat (Sandrich)
9. Captain Blood (Curtiz)
10. Mutiny on the Bounty (Lloyd)


1. My Man Godfrey (La Cava)
2. Dodsworth (Wyler)
3. After the Thin Man (van Dyke)
4. Modern Times (Chaplin)
5. The Lower Depths (Renoir)
6. The Petrified Forest (Mayo)
7. Fury (Lang)
8. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Capra)
9. Swing Time (Stevens)
10. Sabotage (Hitchcock)


1. The Grand Illusion (Renoir)
2. Make Way for Tomorrow (McCarey)
3. Stage Door (La Cava)
4. Pépé le Moko (Duvivier)
5. The Prisoner of Zenda (Cromwell)
6. Nothing Sacred (Wellman)
7. Way Out West (Horne)
8. The Life of Emile Zola (Dieterle)
9. The Awful Truth (McCarey)
10. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Lots of people)


1. Port of Shadows (Carné)
2. The Lady Vanishes (Hitchcock)
3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz)
4. La Bête humaine (Renoir)
5. Angels With Dirty Faces (Curtiz)
6. You Can’t Take it With You (Capra)
7. Hotel Du Nord (Carné)
8. Alexander Nevsky (Eisenstein)
9. Bringing Up Baby (Hawks)
10. Jezebel (Wyler)


1. The Rules of the Game (Renoir)
2. Stagecoach (Ford)
3. Ninotchka (Lubitsch)
4. The Roaring Twenties (Walsh)
5. Le Jour se leve (Carné)
6. Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks)
7. Young Mr. Lincoln (Ford)
8. The Wizard of Oz (Fleming)
9. Destry Rides Again (Marshall)
10. Gone with the Wind (Fleming)

And Just for fun–

Best Film of the Decade: The Grand Illusion.
Best Director(s): Renoir, Carné, Hitchcock, Chaplin, and McCarey.
Best Actor(s): James Cagney, William Powell, Jean Gabin.
Best Actress(es): Greta Garbo, Carole Lombard, Myrna Loy.

I did it!: 1930

(I'll re-post my entire revised 30s lists next with a few thoughts on the experience, but for now here's the final individual list post of the 30s):

1930, my final 30s list, has been a long time coming. The first film I watched for this project was THE BLUE ANGEL and the last was HELL’S ANGELS. 1930 served as a wonderful bookend to months of glorious and enlightening viewing. Here’s the list:

1. L’Age d’Or (Bunuel)
2. The Blood of a Poet (Cocteau)
3. Animal Crackers (Heerman)
4. Earth (Dovzhenko)
5. Monte Carlo (Lubitsch)
6. Under the Roofs of Paris (Clair)
7. All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)
8. The Blue Angel (von Sternberg)
9. Hell’s Angels (Hughes)
10. Murder! (Hitchcock)

L’AGE D’OR - The start of the decade brings us two of the most famous avant-garde films of the era. I, of course, have to go with my hero Bunuel here. The perennial provocateur gives us an essential guidebook for surrealism as well as his own insanity/inanity/foot fetishism. Crazy that he wouldn’t make another film of real note for another 20 years, which makes this even more a treasure.

THE BLOOD OF A POET - I guess whatever hipness I lost with Bob Hope over Cocteau is redeemed here by putting two surrealist films at the top of this list. Seriously though, I find this and Bunuel’s film to be such creative, strange, and innovative masterworks that it's hard to put anything this year over them. They are viewing experiences unlike any other, and I admire and respect the ambition of both men.

ANIMAL CRACKERS - “Pardon me while I have a strange interlude.” Part of me would love to put all Marx Bros. films at the top of my lists, but the rest of me knows I gotta spread the esteem around. This is one of their best and therefore funniest films however.

EARTH - A silent film masterpiece that could easily be at the top of this list. The ultimate predecessor to the visual poetry and natural holiness of Terrence Malick.

MONTE CARLO - Has one of my favorite one-liners in a film (if you see it, you’ll instantly know which one). Basically a standard variation on the “Monsieur Beaucaire” story but told as a musical-comedy à la LOVE ME TONIGHT. Still incredibly charming and entertaining. I think we have a very early example of that ineffable Lubitsch touch.

UNDER THE ROOFS OF PARIS - Another charming and entertaining musical-comedy from the sprightly Rene Clair. His early work is an unmitigated delight.

ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT - I’m a huge fan of the novel, and this is one of the few book adaptations (of those that I’ve read before seeing the film) that I am a huge fan of as well. Captures the horror of war in less graphic fashion than the novel but still hauntingly and poetically. A great visual achievement as well.

THE BLUE ANGEL - The one that started it all. And one that several of us actually watched together and wrote about together!

HELL’S ANGELS - One of Kubrick’s favorites. The story itself is perhaps a bit too melodramatic, but the legendary aerial battle sequences plus Jean Harlow completely make up for it. It’s an amazing visual spectacle, with one sequence hand-colored and several others with blue and red filters. The most expensive film of all time up to that point.

MURDER! - Mostly restrained (but remarkably assured) for Hitch, in terms of set pieces, locations, and visual flair, until the finale at the circus which is quite awesome. A standard mystery with a great director emerging. Herbert Marshall is also great as the jury member who just won’t quit.


I guess I gotta keep posting these so I can overload John with lists to update. Here are my favorite films of 1946:

1. The Big Sleep (Hawks)
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (Capra)
3. Notorious (Hitchcock)
4. A Matter of Life and Death (Powell, Pressburger)
5. Shoeshine (De Sica)
6. My Darling Clementine (Ford)
7. Great Expectations (Lean)
8. Best Years of Our Lives (Wyler)
9. Monsieur Beaucaire (Marshall) & Road to Utopia (Walker)
10. Beauty and the Beast (Cocteau)

HM: The Stranger (Welles)

THE BIG SLEEP - “She tried to sit on my lap while I was standing up.” One of my favorite films of all time. It has one of the funniest and sharpest non-comedy scripts perhaps ever written (Faulkner was a co-writer). It’s confusing, sweltering, atmospheric, tough as nails, and supremely entertaining. I could watch it countless times.

IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Do I even have to make an argument for it? Another of my all-time favorites. Watch it ever Christmas Eve, and it gets me every time.

NOTORIOUS - More quietly chilling than a lot of Hitchcock’s grander work. It builds heightened suspense with small gestures and limited space and is as elaborate a construction as any he ever managed. Terrifically entertaining as well. Love Carey Grant’s introduction at the party; you gotta be a superstar to make that reveal count.

A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (a.k.a. STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN in the U.S.) - Probably my favorite of Powell and Pressburger’s many gorgeous technicolor films. Their visual style could always be considered “otherworldly,” a trait that is utilized to perfection here to make this love story (literally about a matter between life and death, earth and “the beyond”) their most creative, lush, and sublime.

SHOESHINE - A horror story about children being caught up in a vicious world they have no business being in. I don’t know exactly why, but I find prison/POW films so utterly compelling, and the fact that it deals with imprisoned children makes it even more engrossing/horrifying. John, I know you don’t like “horse films” but this is an absolute gem of one. Perhaps the best children’s prison/horse film ever made haha. (Available on NWI)

MY DARLING CLEMENTINE - I love John Ford. I am in constant awe of his immaculate cinematic eye. He’s a director I could watch endlessly merely for the compositions alone. But he’s also a great storyteller, and all of his talents are on display with this film that many consider among his very best. Fonda and Mature make a great team, and Ford tackles the Earp/Holliday legend with surprising sweetness.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS - Hands down, the best Dickens adaptation ever made. The paradigm for how you turn a great novel into a great film. David Lean rules.

THE BEST YEARS OF OUR LIVES - Goes by so quickly despite its nearly three hour run time. All three stories are compelling and woven together seamlessly with great performances all around. Also, gotta give a shoutout for that incredible deep-focus cinematography; it looked gorgeous in HD.

MONSIEUR BEAUCAIRE - A horrendously overlooked Bob Hope film that is consistently hilarious and oftentimes brilliant in its comedic execution. Bob basically always played the same role, yet somehow this particular incarnation of his coward/wisecracker hits majestic heights for me.

ROAD TO UTOPIA - Using Bob Hope’s presence in this as well to justify a tie. The best of the ROAD TO... movies because at this point in the series everything had become so completely ridiculous and self-referential that the gags come flying fast and furious and nearly all are hysterical. Best moments: Bob Hope’s constant breaking of the fourth wall and his quip after Bing's singing loses a talent contest: ”Next time I bring Sinatra.” Pure gold, I tells ya.

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST - It’s probably not hip to pick two Bob Hope comedies over Cocteau’s gorgeous and highly revered film, but I gotta go with what I love more here. Haven’t seen this in a while, but I absolutely remember its ethereal visuals and beautifully ornate set design enough to know that I was quite impressed by it. It’s, of course, an art house classic, and one that I’d like to see again to know how terribly I’m underrating it or not.

It was hard to leave off THE STRANGER, which isn’t one of Welles’ best but is still awesome.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The big '85

Sweet 1985 list, Jason!

I wouldn't be born for another three years, but still know several of these, even if my 80s film knowledge is dismal at best.


Haven't seen MY LIFE AS A DOG.

Haven't heard of THE BREAKFAST CLUB....No, kidding, of course I've seen it.




If I had to do a list right now without thinking too hard, It'd look like this:

1. Come and See (Klimov)
2. The Purple Rose of Cairo (Allen)
3. Ran (Kurosawa)
4. Brazil (Gilliam)
5. After Hours (Scorsese)
6. Blood Simple (Coen Brothers)
7. Back to the Future (Zemickes)
8. My Beautiful Laundrette (Frears)
9. Pale Rider (Eastwood)
10. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Burton)

HM: The Breakfast Club, A Room With a View, The Goonies, Clue, The Care Bears Movie.

Got to see COME AND SEE for a class on "Cinema and War." It's one of the top 10 war films ever made.

Are there any fans of THE BLACK CAULDRON? It's one of the few hand-drawn animation Disney films I haven't seen.

What about EWOKS: THE BATTLE FOR ENDOR starring Wilford Brimley?


Lisa, I approve of your Woody Allen List wholeheartedly. "I have heard people say it's overrated or too much of a romcom or something. Fuck off." Amen. ANNIE HALL rules.

Chris, I do not approve of your list. No, only kidding. Of course, I approve! It's a great list. I like seeing you and Jason give LOVE AND DEATH a much deserved place at the top.

I can't find my top 10 Woody Allen post among my archives for the life of me (I also did not try very hard). Anyway, here's a repost and a revision:

1. Hannah and Her Sisters
2. Annie Hall
3. Manhattan
4. Love and Death
5. Crimes and Misdemeanors
6. Broadway Danny Rose
7. The Purple Rose of Cairo
8. Sleeper
9. Bananas & Take the Money and Run
10. Stardust Memories

HM: Interiors, Zelig, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, Shadows and Fog, Mighty Aphrodite, Manhattan Murder Mystery, The Curse of the Jade Scorpion, Match Point, Scoop.


Ben, great list. Obviously, there are several on there I haven’t seen (and a few I have never heard of apart from you), but the ones on there I have seen, I love, so no complaints from me.

I wish I had seen TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY before making my list. From what you and Brandon have written about it, it sounds like I will really dig it. I’m bound to see it at some point, and when I do perhaps it will crack the top 10, as Brandon thinks.

I never did watch BLACK DEATH. That’s my fault. I didn’t really want to watch it, and then Brandon said it was overrated, and that officially killed it. Perhaps I will come back to it someday.

Haven’t seen CIRCUMSTANCE, but I can get down with an Iranian film any day. They’ve had a tremendous film culture going on for a while now.

I said I’d probably never watch ANOTHER EARTH, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to see it. I do, but unless someone physically hands me a copy, I’ll probably never see it. I was at my friend’s house and we almost watched ANOTHER EARTH, but she wanted to see BEGINNERS that night instead. I was close!

David Schwimmer is directing films? Not only that, but films about rape? That’s absolutely crazy. I guess he’s really trying to shed his old image. Good for him. I’ll probably never see TRUST, again unless I’m physically handed it. Even then, I probably won’t because I’ve already reached my rape film quota for the next year or so.

“The Skin I Live In makes us question first impressions. It unravels our superficiality, our perceptions and, most of all, our desires. And it does all this while still managing to be a decent revenge film, too.” Well said.

As I’ve said before, I can’t evaluate documentaries the same as I do fiction films, which is why they are rarely if ever in my lists. I also don’t really care about documentaries (sorry), so that doesn’t help. However, your write up for BOMBAY BEACH is lovely, and it at least makes me interested.

THE TREE OF LIFE is pretty good, I guess. Loved your comments on it.

I can’t wait to see MELANCHOLIA again on my own. A film I didn’t like at first grew on me enough to make an honorable mention after only one flawed viewing. It’ll probably grow even more in esteem if I see it again. Nice pick. I’m glad you are there to carry the von Trier torch when I can’t.

Yeah, MEEK’S CUTOFF rules. I wonder if it falls so low for me because I saw it so long ago compared to the rest. I wouldn’t put it past myself. This is a great film though, and one I’m glad you are championing so highly.

Friday, January 13, 2012


Here's the list. I'm going by the release date in the country the film is from. This to me is the best system. Enjoy! I love all of these very much.

10. Meek’s Cutoff (Reichardt)

Kelly Reichardt's gorgeously composed Western about our confrontation with the unknown, the limits of human knowledge, and the myth of progress. It's methodical and purposefully restrained throughout so that when the ground does shake, we feel it with titanic force. Reichardt's intermingling of the ceaseless landscape with the enigma of her narrative themes is the work of a true artist. One of the years most joyous question marks.

9. Hugo (Scorsese)

Scorsese's love letter to motion pictures is, along with Le Havre, one of the least cynical fairy tales to come along in years. A warm-hearted and visually flawless tale about the importance of friendship and community, being comfortable with oneself, and overcoming tragedy. The great thing about Scorsese's film is that it asks us to cherish our cinematic past while reminding us why we fell in love with movies in the first place.

8. The Mill and The Cross (Majewski)

Lech Majewski's utterly unique inhabitation of Bruegel's The Way to Calvary works both as a piece of silent cinema and an ode to the power of artistic creation. Art can mean many things to us; it can challenge our perception of existence; it can move us; it can disturb and shake us; it can make us dream. Majewski's film is a celebration of the richness of art, the profundity of its symbolic value and the humanity it flows from. It's also one of the great visual experiences of the year.

7. The Skin I Live In (Almodóvar)

Pedro Almodóvar, the master of melodrama, returns with one of his wildest efforts yet. Wholly fucked up, deliriously entertaining, and stylistically exuberant–The Skin I Live In is an unabashedly ridiculous yet entirely genuine cinematic experience. A nightmare meditation on obsession, vengeance, sexuality, gender, identity, and endless transformation. If you give yourself over to Almodóvar's rhythms he will reward you handsomely, and send you for one hell of a loop.

6. The Kid with a Bike (Dardenne Brothers)

In a cinematic climate where it has become easy to stick someone's face in the dirt, it takes real guts to try and lift them up out of it. THE KID WITH A BIKE continues the Dardenne Brothers' insistence on the importance of empathy and redemption in the face of abuse and neglect. Like with 2003's THE SON, the Dardenne's weave a neo-realist tale of discarded youth only to offer an extended helping hand and little bit of magic to provide surprisingly–a way out. The Dardenne's aren't the cinema's only humanists, but the scope of their empathy always floors me.

5. Drive (Refn)

Nicholas Winding Refn's violent, highly stylized action masterstroke is a triumph of artistic vision. It's exciting, pulsating, rejuvenating cinema. It deconstructs the laconic anti-hero of old and turns him into fantasy obsessed, role-playing maniac. While it definitely recreates with the utmost attention to fetishism and style, it also has moments of the purest construction that make it more than empty spectacle. I've mentioned it plenty before, but the scene in the hallway with Irene (her chest heaving up and down in a longing, sexual rhythm) staring at Driver is a moment of beauty, humanity, and real desire. It's one of the moments in the film where the polish and gloss is removed and we see the heart beating steadily underneath.

4. Le Havre (Kaurismäki)

For all who pine for the sweetness, community, and magic of Classic cinema, this is your golden ticket into silver screen paradise. The kindest movie of the year as well as being one of the funniest, weirdest, and most consistently surprising. An earnest and rare gem of a movie that will make you happy beyond belief. And, of course, last but certainly not least, it has Little Bob. Enough said.

3. Take Shelter (Nichols)

Jeff Nichol's nightmarish, anxiety-drenched, but deeply human drama about one man's confrontation with his fear and the unknowability of reality is perfectly composed, nervewracking, and wonderfully moving. An atmospheric narrative wound so tightly we wait breathlessly for something awful to unravel. Shannon gives such a remarkable performance, and the scene in the cellar is easily one of the most harrowing in recent memory. A great film and the blossoming of a true talent in Nichols.

2. A Separation (Farhadi)

I made my review of it spoiler free, but it's best to go into this completely fresh. Don't read anything on it, just see it as soon as you can. Hopefully you will be as entranced by it as I was. A film so densely layered you'll want to see it again the second it's over. Let's talk more about it later.

1. The Tree of Life (Malick)

As beautiful as life itself. There's been a lot of joking about his film recently and my adoration for it, but I want to be entirely serious about both, if only for a paragraph.

The Tree of Life is ambitious, expansive, intellectually and spiritually rich, and one the most genuine celebrations of existence ever put on film. There are moments so beautiful in it that you will question how you ever for a second thought that life could be anything other than completely marvelous. Watching it a second time, it becomes much less abstract, much more lucid, and infinitely more human. You are no longer trying to figure it all out, but merely allowing yourself to be caught within its majestic sweep. The Sean Penn stuff may seem superfluous but it's completely essential for Malick to complete his evolution of life. He has given you its birth and its growth, now he wants to give you its redemption. Even if the finale is all a dream, it is still an expressed hope that there is a God who will someday take responsibility for life and save it. Sean Penn's character's world is filled with glass houses and buildings almost as if Malick is trying to let the light and vision of God in everywhere. He wants everyone and everything to be seen so that they are never forgotten. His ending is as miraculous as it is humane and bold.

Terrence Malick is modern cinema's Poet Laureate. This is his ode to everything that's ever existed and his prayer that someday it will all be saved. I rejoice and pray with him. Even if I can't believe in God, I believe in cinema. Malick rejuvenates that belief.

Honorable Mention: Melancholia (von Trier), The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (Fincher), The Ides of March (Clooney), Midnight in Paris (Allen), Attack the Block (Cornish), Moneyball (Miller), Source Code (Jones).

Overrated: We Need to Talk about Kevin, Beginners.

Still Need to See: Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Ceylan), Pina (Wenders), Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Alfredson), A Dangerous Method (Cronenberg), War Horse (Spielberg), Shame (McQueen), Carnage (Polanski).

Still Need to See but Probably Will Never Watch: Another Earth, Mysteries of Lisbon, Nostalgia For Light.

Perhaps Should See But Don’t Really Care: The Descendants, The Artist, J. Edgar, The Help.

#1 Reason John’s and/or my dating system makes the most sense: Yang’s A Brighter Summer Day. Released in 1991 in Taiwan. Released in 2011 in the U.S. Ed Gonzalez has it on his 1991 list and his 2011 list. Which is it?


Best Film: The Tree of Life
Best Director: Terrence Malick, The Tree of Life
Best Actor: Peyman Moadi, A Separation & Michael Shannon, Take Shelter
Best Actress: Leila Hatami, A Separation
Best Supporting Actor: Little Bob, Le Havre
Best Supporting Actress: Jessica Chastain, Take Shelter/The Tree of Life
Best Originial Screenplay: Jeff Nichols, Take Shelter
Best Adapted Screenplay: Hossein Amini & Nicholas Winding Refn, Drive
Best Score: Drive
Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life
Best Song: Whatever that song is that Little Bob and his band rock the house with.

Favorite Albums of 2011:

A$AP Rocky - LiveLoveA$AP
Bon Iver - Bon Iver
Fleet Foxes - Helplessness Blues
Girls - Father, Son, Holy Ghost
PJ Harvey - Let England Shake
Real Estate - Days
Summer People - Teamwork & Do It
Tom Waits - Bad as Me

2012 should be great/Woody Allen is always great

I came home last night fully expecting to get the jump on Brandon with a super exclusive Most Anticipated 2012 list. I even started to compile a list until Chris informed me that Brandon had already posted one. Much to my chagrin, not only had he posted one but he had every single film from my list on there and several more that I had forgotten. Second bested once again.

Paul Thomas Anderson's THE MASTER is my most anticipated film of 2012, as well. My favorite and I feel the best American director (not named Scorsese or Malick) returns after five years. His first film since the greatest film of the last decade. You better believe nothing is gonna top this in terms of excitement. I'm already prepared to call it a masterpiece and bully anyone who doesn't feel the same.

DJANGO UNCHAINED would be #2 for me as well. Tarantino's first full-on Spaghetti Western? I'm there in a heartbeat. LEO!!!

Of course, I'm excited for Malick's Untitled film, but we've heard absolutely nothing about a release date, so there's a good chance we won't see it in 2012. Rats!

The same with Refn's ONLY GOD FORGIVES. Hasn't even started production as far as I know (or at least the last time I spoke with Refn).

I'm stoked for THE DARK KNIGHT RISES if only because of my unabashed love for all things blowupy. Did you just see that football field? It totally just blew up. Sweet! Plus, Tom Hardy as Bane.

THE HOBBIT looks great. Apparently it's somehow related to THE LORD OF THE RINGS, whatever that is.

Haneke's AMOUR, Wong Kar-Wai's THE GRANDMASTERS, and Kiarostami's THE END are all highly anticipated by someone like me who doesn't like movies but enjoys reading.

LINCOLN has Daniel Day-Lewis, who I believe traveled back in time to the 1860s to prepare for the role. The guy who directed JURASSIC PARK 2: THE LOST WORLD is directing it. Should be awesome!

Derek Cianfrance's RYAN GOSLING MOVIE looks good.

THE WETTEST COUNTY has Shia LaBeouf in it. He was great in the MICHAEL BAY MAKES A BILLION DOLLARS trilogy and INDIANA JONES AND THE KILLING OF A FRANCHISE. Plus, Hardy, Hillcoat, and Cave seem like safe bets.

Hey, there's a Coen Brothers movie coming out!

Stoked for Robert Pattinson's COSMOPOLIS.

Also stoked for Wes Anderson's THE LIFE AQUATIC 2.


All jokes aside, I'm really excited for all of these movies. Hope 2012 is another great year. Already looks promising.

Jason, loved the Woody Allen list. Thanks for indulging me!

LOVE AND DEATH is my favorite of his early comedies. Nothing wrong with loving WHAT'S UP, TIGER LILY? so much; it rules. ZELIG, as we mentioned, is great. I'm glad you like SCOOP so much. I thought I was the only one. SLEEPER is funny and ridiculous and brilliant. A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S SEX COMEDY is worth seeing again; a great little return to his full-on comedic roots. MATCH POINT, HANNAH, and MANHATTAN I all love. MATCH POINT for essentially being CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS 2; MANHATTAN essentially for it's emotional depth and beautiful black-and-white photography. HANNAH AND HERS SISTERS is my favorite because of the side plot with Woody dealing with his hypochondria, and discovering the meaning of life through the Marx Brothers. MELINDA AND MELINDA is one of his worst films, no doubt about it.

Great list! Hope you can see ANNIE HALL sometime. Anytime you wanna talk Woody, I'm here.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trying to keep up...

Thanks Jason, Ben, and Chris for sticking with THE TREE OF LIFE through and through. We really have to band together in these uncertain and troubling times.

Actually, I'm glad there's a bit of controversy over the film. It's ambitious in every sense of the word. Anytime you go for something so grand there will invariably be people on one side calling it pretentious and people on the other calling it genuine. I certainly make no secret of the fact that I think that Malick is one of the most genuine filmmakers alive and that I wouldn't charge him with an ounce of pretension or intellectual preening. To me, he's still just a big kid who loves everything he sees and wants to share that love with everyone. He's basically just a Romantic poet with a movie camera. But, like I said, I'm glad there's a bit of dissent on him. Lisa and Adrienne, if you found TTOL to be more pretentious then sincere, then stick to that impression. It's completely valid even if I disagree entirely. The only thing that isn't valid is John's amnesia on the film. Apparently, he's the only one who needs to be CLOCKWORK ORANGE'd.

Adrienne, there are definite hints of Kubrick's 2001 in TTOL, and I felt the comparisons as well. I think Kubrick would have loved the camerawork in the film, but I also think that emotionally and thematically he and Malick are polar opposites. TTOL and 2001 couldn't be more different in terms of how they view life and what they have to say about it. Still, I can understand your criticism. I worship Kubrick. But I also worship Malick. So to me, Malick is no Kubrick and Kubrick is no Malick. Love 'em both (though Kubrick gets the edge).

Great list by the way! It was fun to read even if I haven't seen most of the films you mention. I did see DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK though. Completely disappointed by it as well. As John wisely said, we went into it thinking we'd get a full-blown horror flick and instead got an episode of Goosebumps.

Lisa, everything could've used the Gos instead.

Ben, I'm really glad you saw LE HAVRE, and that you liked it as well. My only beef with your comment on it is that there was absolutely no mention of Little Bob. A travesty! (Same goes for Brandon).

I'm gonna watch THE SKIN I LIVE IN today or tomorrow; don't you worry.

Jason, loved the 2011 post! Even if I've only seen 10 of the films you listed, still cool to read.

John loves JOYEUX NOEL if my memory serves me correctly. I've yet to see it.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, I loved your ZELIG post. I meant to write something back yesterday but I got sidetracked by separations and TTOL defending. I love ZELIG though it's been a while since I saw it last. All the reasons you give for it are really spot-on. The humor is subtle but oftentimes genius in its delivery. I think the film certainly stands out as one of his more creative efforts, but it's definitely not so anomalous once you start thinking about some of the other films he had made/would make at the time. By the time he made ZELIG, he had already made INTERIORS (his "Bergman film") and STARDUST MEMORIES (his "Fellini film"), both of which are quite distinctive within his oeuvre. Then THE PURPLE ROSE OF CAIRO would come two years later and and SHADOWS AND FOG eight years later, another two that stand out stylistically from the majority of his films. So I think ZELIG fits right in with Woody as a director who likes to mix it up from time to time. Still, in comparison to MANHATTAN and HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, it's quite different so I can imagine you were surprised by it. Reminds me that I need to watch it again.

I know I posted my top 10 Woody films a while back for you, but did you post one yourself? If not I'd love to see how you rank what you've seen by him. I love just about everything he's done, and also love nerding out over his work. In college, I met a girl and we talked about CRIMES AND MISDEMEANORS for like an hour. It was bliss.

Keep all the posts coming everyone! This is the most the club has been active since the summer.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012


What's up with all THE TREE OF LIFE bashing? I'm gonna put it at every slot on my 2011 top 10 list just to stick it to all of you haters :)

Of course, John was only kidding with his post. What he meant to say and what the real Malick fan would say is that you can't recall one single worthwhile moment because every single millisecond of it was so achingly beautiful, artistically genuine, and intellectually profound that picking out a certain moment and preferring it to another would be an unconscionable disservice to its perfection as a cinematic totality. Right, John?

Looks like I'm gonna have to CLOCKWORK ORANGE all of you with Malick's complete filmography until you are ready to admit that THE TREE OF LIFE is the greatest thing to happen to the universe since the Big Bang.

A Separation

What's between us? Asghar Farhadi contemplates the various boundaries that divide us in his intricately composed, quietly devastating, and thoroughly engrossing familial drama A SEPARATION. It's one of the best films of the year.

Nader and Simin are a secular, upper-middle class couple living with their daughter Termeh in Tehran. Simin wants to leave Iran to give Termeh a better life. Nader can't leave because he has his sick, elderly father to take care of. In an instantly gripping first post-credits shot, we find them both seated before us, as two supplicants, with Simin asking a judge for a divorce from Nader. The divergent directional pull between them has become too much; if Nader won't leave Iran, then Simin will take Termeh and leave without him. The judge denies Simin's request, claiming her dispute is trivial and doesn't warrant such a grave step as divorce. After this, the two characters are forced to remain together legally, but become physically separated when Simin decides to move out. From here, the complications set in.

I won't reveal anymore of the plot because I wouldn't want to cheat you out of the experience of being caught in its tidy little web and feeling its supersonic rhythms for the first time. All I will say is that you get sucked in immediately. Every sentence has meaning; every gesture ripples and resounds.

Farhadi complicates matters further and further as we go along. The first half of the film sets up all the pieces for us and the remainder of the film watches them all collide together creating a rich befuddlement of truth that recalls Hitchcock and Kurosawa. Farhadi's initial focus on simple images and commonplace interactions pays off handsomely in the end as we see all of the little details emerge and unravel like a great mystery. Except the revelations have been there all along, so the film is more in line with the anti-mystery of CACHÉ than the full-blown question mark of SHUTTER ISLAND. Still, don't let the Hanake comparison mislead you: this is a character driven drama first and foremost, not a meditation on the politics of looking. Our characters speak fast, speak often, and are rarely if ever outside of the frame. This is an entirely accessible film, but one that requires and rewards close attention (and fast reading for us English speakers). Farhadi's use of ellipses convolutes the truth enough that we start to question what we have seen and what we know, but we are always grounded in the reality of the situation. The film never lies to us; only the characters do.

I found the film's complications compelling. You are never entirely on one side of the debate nor do you want any of the characters to suffer or be punished. One of Farhadi's greatest achievements with the film is how well he complicates the issue with copious factors and how well he complicates his characters, making none of their decisions black-and-white but always true to the complexity of their humanity. John (and hell, hopefully all of you) would appreciate how well the film grounds its characters within the moral, religious, economical, and social codes that define much of human behavior. Certainly, as I started to write above, the characters are demarcated by various lines of identity and culture, lines that serve both as distinct character signifiers and bulwarks for dramatical separation. As the film constantly reminds us by separating its characters through glass barriers, they are so close yet so far away. And the divisions between them are transparent yet fully solidified.

Many reviews have touched on this being a political statement against the status quo in Iran. A SEPARATION's primary imbroglio could very well be a parable for the divisiveness and truculence of Iranian society. Simin tells Nader that his involvement in the issue is creating exactly the sort of turbulent environment they don’t want for Termeh. I don't know enough about Iranian society outside of the films I've seen from there and the stereotypical depictions you get from the media to comment on this with much insight or veracity. All I can say is that we need more films like this to come out of places like Iran and for as many Westerners to see them as possible. The humanistic characterizations of this film are the best way to counteract the bellicose and oppressive depiction you receive of this country from the media. Watching it, I couldn't help but feel incredibly frightened and sad to recall recent politicians calling for Iran to be our latest bombing target. Because I cared about these characters so much I couldn't help but feel worried about the faceless threat of war. I didn't want anyone to be hurt in the movie, and I don't want anyone to be hurt in real life. This should be required viewing for anyone who thinks war with this country is a serious option.

Perhaps, it's mostly the children I'm thinking of when I say all of this (where's Helen Lovejoy when you need her–won't someone please think of the children!!). The children in this film are fantastic and heartbreaking. Every actor in this is absolutely terrific (especially the fellow who plays Nader), but the two kids here deserve special mention for being such substantial forces on all of the proceedings. They are like quiet hands of judgment held sway over everything. As the film moves forward and the adults are continuously dividing, they remain encircled together, playing as children often can without boundaries. Their relationship is one of the only uplifting things about the film and their presence together its major indictment. As the profound reciprocal look they share signifies, and their constant panoptic gaze over the situation assuredly reminds–the children are watching us.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Brandon's list

I know, via Facebook, I had that dig on you for picking THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO at #1, but it was all in good fun. Truthfully, I respect you for going out on a limb and sticking unabashedly to a film you believe in regardless of what anyone else says. I may not like it as much as you, but I'm not you. So there's that. Keep on lovin' it.

Well, dude, you asked us to be critical of your list, but how can we? It's not like you presented it as an objective compilation of the best films of the year, but as your own personal favorites. You do a great job defending each pick and telling us why you like it so much. What's there to criticize? The only thing I can be critical of (purely subjectively mind you) is that I think you slightly overrate TGWTDT and completely underrate THE TREE OF LIFE (and BOONME, but that's on last years list for me). However, when you see my list with TGWTDT in the honorable mention slot and TTOL at the top, you can say absolutely the opposite about me. I really not surprised that TGWTDT is at the top of your list cause I know how much you love it. But I am surprised that TTOL fell so far.

Come on, man; It's all or nothing! When it comes to Malick, you are either with us or against us! Either put it at #1 or don't bother putting it on the list at all! :)

Just joking, of course. I'm sure there are crazed Malick fans out there that feel that way though. Surely, you can place it anywhere on your list, but you are a Malick fan, so I think it's kinda strange that you still feel as if this film (which, to me, is just a continuation of his other masterpieces) is disappointing enough that it can't even crack the top 10.

But, I already know that you are saying this about me as a Fincher fan too. Perhaps, we'll both come around some day and admit these two are masterpieces. I'm hoping that's the case.

The rest of your list is really solid. I'm dying to see TINKER TAILOR after finding it at the #3 spot. I'm still really eager to see THE SKIN I LIVE IN as well. I'm really pleased to see LE HAVRE crack the top 10, though I thought you couldn't read, so I guess it was primarily a visual delight for you. No, I knew you'd love it; it's for anyone who loves the spirit and friendship of old movies. You'd have to be a real hardened PoMo cynic to dismiss it, and that you are not. The other films on the list (that I've seen) I really like or love so I can't fault any of 'em.

All in all, impressive list man. It's got character, honesty, variety, and depth. Mine's gonna suck.

Monday, January 9, 2012


1. Meet Me in St. Louis (Minnelli)
2. Double Indemnity (Wilder)
3. Hail the Conquering Hero (Sturges)
4. The Children are Watching Us (De Sica)
5. To Have and Have Not (Hawks)
6. The Curse of the Cat People (Wise)
7. Laura (Preminger)
8. The Woman in the Window (Lang)
9. The Princess and the Pirate (Butler)
10.Lifeboat (Hitchcock)

MEET ME IN ST. LOUIS is pure magic, plain and simple. It pines for a time that may never have existed outside of the cinema, but still teaches us about the ties to our homes and families that can never be replaced. The most melancholy and ultimately transcendent of all musicals.
DOUBLE INDEMNITY is a perfect noir without a single second of wasted screentime. It’s final moments are surprisingly tender for shifting the tragedy to the failed friendship between Neff and Keyes. HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO is all about community, camaraderie, and wanting to do right by one’s mother. It’s also hilarious. THE CHILDREN ARE WATCHING US is absolutely heartbreaking. Cultural critics probably can have a field day with its treatment of the mother, but really this is all about the little boy and the life of loneliness and sadness he should never have to experience at such a young age. De Sica was a humanist first and foremost.
TO HAVE AND HAVE NOT has my hero Faulkner (who was dead broke and largely anonymous at the time) doing Hemingway and Hawks absolutely rivaling the romance and mystique of CASABLANCA and the communal space of his own ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS. It rules. THE CURSE OF THE CAT PEOPLE is still one of the weirdest horror films I’ve ever seen and is another great film like De Sica’s to reflect on childhood. LAURA, like THE BIG SLEEP and a host of other noirs, is convoluted but awesome and dripping with atmosphere and style. Gene Tierney! THE WOMAN IN THE WINDOW is another riveting and bleak noir from Fritz Lang and his classic triumvirate that would reappear in SCARLET STREET. Both films have among the best and darkest endings in all of film noir. THE PRINCESS AND THE PIRATE is Bob Hope being absolutely hilarious. The ending, for any fans of the ROAD TO... series with he and Crosby, is simply perfect and made me happy beyond belief. LIFEBOAT, more than anything, tells you how great a storyteller Hitchcock was and reminds you that he could film anything (in any amount of limited or expansive space) and make it fascinating.

2003 is next, but I probably won't get to it today as I'm all listed out for now.


Ben, absolutely pass THE STORY OF FILM around. Sounds awesome from what I could find online.

Adrienne, I'm probably more curious to see WAR HORSE now, knowing that someone in the club disliked it. Makes me want to find out if I would have a similar reaction or not. Your negative reaction to it is very intriguing. Great to have you in the club!

All right, I'm determined to get these lists up, even if I have nothing interesting to say about them. 1951 is another great year for movies. I never thought I'd react so joyously to Bresson and Ozu based on my viewings of their work in high school. I'm very pleasantly surprised to worship them now and think that these two films by them are complete miracles. Really, they are interchangeable in this list. I'm only giving Bresson the nod over Ozu for this year because LATE SPRING will already be top of 1949, while A MAN ESCAPED will have a tough time topping '56 over THE SEARCHERS (though I'm seriously tempted by it).

There’s only a few on here that I haven’t talked about already in some form. All splendid films:

1. Diary of a Country Priest (Bresson)
2. Early Summer (Ozu)
3. Ace in the Hole (Wilder)
4. Strangers on a Train (Hitchcock)
5. The Steel Helmet (Fuller)
6. The Thing From Another World (Nyby, Hawks)
7. The African Queen (Huston)
8. The River (Renoir)
9. The Tales of Hoffmann (Powell, Pressburger)
10. A Streetcar Named Desire (Kazan)

I love Hitch’s STRANGERS ON A TRAIN obviously for the incredible talent of the master himself, but also for Bruno Anthony being one of the best outright villains in any of his films. He’s a real monster and puts you completely on edge. THE STEEL HELMET proves that you don’t need a massive budget (or barely a budget even) to make your characters breathe, your images resonate, and your ideas profound. It’s gritty and smart guerrilla storytelling, but it also has the conscience of a Twilight Zone episode. THE AFRICAN QUEEN, THE RIVER, and THE TALES OF HOFFMANN are easily among the most beautiful technicolor films you’ll ever see. A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE nails Williams’ play and stands alone perfectly as a film.

Hey girl, wanna c me die 4 u?

Jason, glad you got to see DRIVE. I can understand feeling emotionally let down by the ending (it's probably better than not caring) because you do want some form of success for Driver, but I think you're right in saying that it's more in tune with his character to end that way. In my post on DRIVE (it's titled "The Good Shark" if anyone is having trouble finding it from September), I talked about how Driver is absolutely a killer (and not a killer with heart of gold), but a killer, like Dexter, with a code of conduct to live by–the code of cinema. I think Driver likes playing the role of the cool, composed male protagonist, and he just carries it out the way he thinks he's supposed to from what movies have taught him. The ending is either his way of living out an ultimate martyr film fantasy or protecting Irene from his vicious side (might be both). Either way, I like how Refn lets us know that Driver is doomed the moment he decides to go into the restaurant (Live by the sword, die by the sword) with the flash forward cuts to the stabbing and the shadows looming large instead of the images themselves. It's quite anticlimactic in it's displacement from the real event, which I think is Refn further telling us that this is the only way Driver's tale can end. Anyway, I liked the ending quite a bit.

I'm glad you mentioned the atmosphere of the film too because I think this is one of its real strengths. It feels incredible, and that's one thing that shouldn't be neglected when talking about the film. I think some people are afraid to admit the aesthetic feel a film can have tonally or sonically because it doesn't have anything to do with intellectualizing. It's the same way with literature. Everyone is looking to deconstruct a novel and refill it with theories on writing so much so that they can no longer express how literature feels, how words sound, and how purely beautiful writing can be. I think DRIVE mixes music and silence and image together to create a rich texture of sensuality, physical longing, and brutality. It puts you in the mood, let's say, the way Tarantino or Leone can or the way A SINGLE MAN and IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE do. You feel something, if only because of the way a piece of music matches to an image and seems to seep through its very fibers and then reach out and seep into yours.

I really gotta see DRIVE again. And I gotta get an awesome scorpion jacket so I can have a showdown with Ben at Margarita's. If DRIVE has taught me one thing, it's that you gotta live and die by the code of the movies.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


Sure, why not keep the lists coming?

It's been a while since I posted a new 30s list. This one's been a long time coming for me. The only list I have to finish after this is 1930, but I'm waiting to see one more before that's done. Here's 1934 for now, a strong year for comedies:

1. The Thin Man (van Dyke)
2. L’Atalante (Vigo)
3. It Happened One Night (Capra)
4. The Scarlet Empress (von Sternberg)
5. Twentieth Century (Hawks)
6. The Black Cat (Ulmer)
7. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Hitchcock)
8. The Gay Divorcee (Sandrich)
9. It’s a Gift (McLeod)
10. Manhattan Melodrama (van Dyke)

I don't have a lot to say about these films because I'm a little tired of writing today, but here's some quick, offhand sentences about each:

THE THIN MAN, the first in a truly great and consistently charming series, is the funniest and sharpest of the bunch and serves as a wonderful introduction to my favorite screen couple of all time–Nick and Nora Charles (if you include Asta, then make it my favorite triumvirate). Audiences and the studio alike knew how magical this pair was, which is why the series had such longevity and was so successful. Once you see the first, you won't even hesitate to want to watch the rest of the series, and you won't be disappointed (I think they are all worth seeing). The first probably has the best murder plot as well, but it's still only an excuse for Powell and Loy to spout one-liners and charm the hell out of us. There's really no point beating around it–it's one of the best and most consistently enjoyable comedies ever produced in Hollywood.

L'ATALANTE is absolutely beautiful. One of the great examples of French Poetic Realism–a movement, like this film, where you feel the images in your bones.

IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT is Capra's best behind IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. Very funny, and one of the first classic films I ever saw.

THE SCARLET EMPRESS is my favorite von Sternberg film. Dietrich is beautiful in it, but the real stars are VS's visual flair and the incredibly ornate sets. The detail is astonishing.

TWENTIETH CENTURY is Hawks being quite funny and sharp, and has Carole Lombard looking more beautiful than ever.

THE BLACK CAT is probably the most fucked up horror film of the 30s. It packs as many wild and taboo subjects in just over an hour of screentime that it can. Awesome skin grating sequence too.

THE MAN WHO KNEW TOO MUCH has the master starting to use his trademark set pieces with real skill and develop his storytelling ability to grander heights. I thought this was great, but I did watch a crappy print of it that really needed to be cleaned up. I kept screaming for Marty Scorsese's help while I was watching it.

THE GAY DIVORCEE is equally as charming as the other Astaire/Rogers films I've seen. Like the Berkeley musicals, it's probably all just an excuse to dance and sing, but it makes a fine spectacle nonetheless.

IT'S A GIFT is W.C. Fields and some great gags. What else is there to say?

MANHATTAN MELODRAMA is a film I think that Brandon likes quite a bit more than me, but I still really enjoyed it. I enjoy anything Powell and Loy (and Gable), though I was expecting a comedy (despite the title) based on the Thin Man movies. Instead it's more of a crime drama that you would expect to see Cagney pop up in. Still, nothing wrong with that.

I'm gonna try to post 1944 and 1951 lists as soon as possible.

2010 in 2012

I guess the DRIVE 2.0 debate died as soon as Ben used the whole "subjective perception" defense. Geesh, just as Brandon and I were getting our empty Bud Light bottles ready to crack over his skull. Of course, that's what it will always come down to–personal preference. However, it's still fun to debate until we reach that incontestable point. Ben, I knew you'd clarify your position on the film, but I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pounce on your "DRIVE is for people who don't like movies" line. It was just too audacious to ignore. I'm glad you clarified your point though; I can totally understand your frustration at the hype/accolades DRIVE receives over films you feel are more worthy. I think most of that frustration was at the heart of our DRIVE/COLD WEATHER debate anyway. But, I think I get a little frustrated when we talk less about films themselves and instead focus on the politics of criticism surrounding them.

IndieWire posted a great discussion with Jonathan Rosenbaum and Kent Jones on Godard recently, and Jones talks about how there has never been a real discussion of Godard's work because it has always been shrouded in external reactions. It's either blind polemics against anything he does or blinder encomiums for everything he does. He's hip to love and to hate and what fails between these two poles is always his films themselves, never fully addressed for what they are. This is incredibly irritating.

Obviously, I'd be great to be able to talk about films in a vacuum, but this is impossible because there is too much surrounding them that we are constantly aware of. The cultural politics of any artwork invariably get mixed up with the actual artwork itself. Still, I think it's important to remember when we are focusing less on movies themselves and more on the shit around them (something I oft have to remind myself of). I'd rather be told a movie I love sucks because it has no idea how to develop characters than told it sucks because it is popular, critically lauded, or its adherents are all "fanboys." Brandon, you wrote some great things about this, and I appreciate them. Especially, in relation to violent cinema. Much of the talk surrounding violence in film is about factors that have nothing to do with film.

Anyway, good to get this all out there. I'm glad you wrote something passionate against the film, Ben. It's more fun that way. I think 95% of my initial negative reaction to MELANCHOLIA was over external minutia, but once I started to strip that away I started to really like the film for what it was. So, I really can't blame you for reacting to DRIVE the way you do. We all do it.

Glad the 201o updates are coming in, so I can post my own. Actually, this is the first time I'm posting my list in numerical order, as the first list I made was so awful I didn't know how to rank it. John, will be more pleased with this list because it mostly adheres to his dating system; however, I didn't want to make him too happy so I kept ALAMAR on there. I thought about adding COPY, BOONME, and 13 ASSASSINS to my 2011 list but I felt weird mixing them into a list with the 2011 Cannes films, like THE TREE OF LIFE and LE HAVRE. So, they will go into my 2010 list and help it out substantially.

1. Another Year
2. Certified Copy
3. Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives
4. The Social Network
5. True Grit
6. 13 Assassins
7. Blue Valentine
8. Winter’s Bone
9. Alamar
10. 127 Hours

ANOTHER YEAR holds the top spot despite serious competition from COPY and BOONME. The top 3 could easily be interchangeable though. ANOTHER YEAR gets the edge basically for one extended sequence towards the end of the film that is so incredibly awkward and beautiful. Ben, I know you feel that COPY isn't as mind-blowing as others think, but I don't think it needs to be mind-blowing at all to be completely effective and provocative cinema. It rules. Same goes for the mesmerizing BOONME; it rules.

Can't wait to see the first 2011 list, which Brandon has got to be close to finishing. I need to see quite a few more before mine's done, but right now I have a thoroughly solid top 7. I've still got those other lists I have done to post as well. I'm drowning in my own nerdiness here.

Briefly, on a completely different note, Jason's latest post may seem tangential, but it is actually a very cleverly disguised review expressing his love for Paul W.S. Anderson's THE THREE MUSKETEERS. Well done, sir. Well done.