Slant's Best of the Decade

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Postby Sabin » Fri Feb 12, 2010 5:59 pm

The only film in their top twenty that I've yet to see is 35 Shots of Rum which I have downloaded.

I've only seen 69/100 total.

I like this list. There are more than a few films I'm just not on board for but these are all works of passion.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby rain Bard » Fri Feb 12, 2010 4:52 pm

Hey, my guesses were pretty good! 16/20! Almost guessed Munich but backed away at the last minute. George Washington snuck up on me (probably because I don't think it's all that myself), as did Beau Travail (which I figured was a 1999 film). Should've gotten The Royal Tennenbaums, though. It's better than My Winnipeg & Synechdoche NY (though not Esther Kahn or The Flight of the Red Balloon) in my book anyway.

Add three more from the top 20 (Two Lovers, Miami Vice, and --ulp-- Beau Travail) I haven't seen, and I total out at 81 1/2 out of 100.

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Postby Sabin » Fri Feb 12, 2010 1:24 pm

...and the rest.


20. Miami Vice. A freestyle meditation on identity and self-perception, Miami Vice finds a perfect union of form and content via ravishingly rendered digital cinema, flattening the world into an expressionistic vista of interconnected tides and currents of bodies in space, subtextually loaded with ultra-gritty genre juice to spare. Michael Mann's recurring themes of freedom and the nature of will reach the metaphysical realm as the film scrutinizes the performance art inherent in undercover life, the metaphorical meaning we assign to our lives made literal. It's pulp and opera, an off-the-cuff balancing act, a liquid cinema statement from the moment Mann sends his everyman surrogate across the ocean he's for so long merely gazed upon. Like Moby's awesomely cued "One of These Mornings," it's a forever-remembered bliss. RH


19. 35 Shots of Rum. A delicately handcrafted photo collage of a movie, Claire Denis's 35 Shots of Rum illustrates the complex clumsiness of adult filial relationships as a series of wordless, urban gestures; train car lights coruscate and rice cooker lids clank so subtly they appear like impressionistic memories of objects in motion. Denis infuses her soon-to-be-empty-nest plotline with bittersweet rumination about the emotional burden of senescence, but the perpetually wind-whipped and rain-swept visual rhythms lull us into a rare sense of genuine rather than putative coziness. It's a film that exudes intimate warmth in spite of its seemingly laconic detachment, and an homage to Yasujir? Ozu less in his debt than indelibly haunted by his domestic sensitivity. JJL


18. The Royal Tenenbaums. Wes Anderson's directorial idiosyncrasies often lead to charges of aloofness, claims strikingly rebutted by his third film, a saga of familial dysfunction that courses with deep, abiding humanism. Anderson's eccentric formalized style reaches an apex with his tale of the genius Tenenbaum clan, fracturing under the strain of past and present indiscretions perpetrated by Gene Hackman's estranged paterfamilias. With a drollness perfectly pitched between comedy and sorrow, The Royal Tenenbaums is a masterwork of both aesthetic and thematic symmetry, finding grace and beauty in both abnormality and togetherness. NS


17. Munich. "Don't fuck with the Jews!" blusters a Mossad agent—played by the future James Bond, no less—in Munich, the finest installment of Steven Spielberg's barely recognized 9/11 trilogy, and a political thriller that crushingly reveals the price of state-exacted vengeance. Derision was obtusely heaped on the scene of Eric Bana's Avner, home from years of liquidating enemies of his homeland, haunted in the midst of procreative sex by the 1972 Olympic massacre of Israeli athletes; the film's link between life and death, heritage and bloodshed, is inescapable and tragically resonant through Spielberg's act of cinematic conscience and Tony Kushner's piercing dialogue. BW


16. Two Lovers. Few recent films have inspired such outpourings of critical warmth as Two Lovers—and with good reason. James Grey's incisive, emotionally complex drama is a movie to be lived inside. Taking place in a slightly antique Brighton Beach that's as much Grey's creation as authentic outer borough neighborhood, Lovers stars Joaquin Phoenix as a crisis-stricken thirtysomething caught between a retreat into the womb of his familial Jewish community and a reentry into a world beyond. The two poles are embodied by the two women of the title (neighborhood Jew and Manhattan-leaning goy), and in dramatizing Phoenix's romantic vacillations, the film gives us a deeply personal view of the fevered yearnings and fractured identity of a not-yet-middle-aged misfit. AS


15. L'Enfant. A devastating assay of the demise of feeling in contemporary society, L'Enfant's title refers not to its newborn bartered for cash, but to Bruno (Jeremie Renier), the infant's soft-brained crook father for whom a newly purchased hat trumps fatherhood. With their fixed, Bruno-centric gaze approximating Bruno's inability to countenance other characters' motivations, the Dardennes lend deep consideration to a man-child bereft of religious or humanist sentiment, and consequently existing without living. That his late grab at moral choice may be less the birth of conscience than cow-prodding by others' emotional swells is a forgivably cynical conclusion after visiting the brothers' land of the spiritually blind. RS


14. Spirited Away. More than Pixar, Hayao Miyazaki kept animation alive and noble in the new millennium. In this highly personal and bracingly strange animé fable, the Japanese master turns Lewis Carroll's Wonderland into an enchanted, liminal bathhouse where the young heroine encounters gloriously bizarre creatures, has her courage tested, and discovers the spiritual dimension of the elements all around her. Endlessly imaginative yet breathtakingly serene in its beauties, it's a heartfelt, impressionistic fantasy that blends the vibrant pleasures of cartoons with the deeper meanings of an inquiry into identity, communication, and illumination. FC


13. George Washington. The only short story the author ever wrote, Toni Morrison's Recitatif was a deliberate attempt to remove racial codes from the story of two women for whom race is crucial. David Gordon Green's George Washington acknowledges the burden that race bears on the impoverished lives of a ragtag team of children in small-town North Carolina, yet he emphatically refuses to see them as anything except the kids that they are. Girls talk about the foolishness of boys while doing their hair, a boy with an undeveloped skull role-plays as a superhero directing traffic. Green's lush 35mm CinemaScope suggests the aesthetic beauty of Terrence Malick, but Green owes a more fundamental debt to Charles Burnett's Killer of Sheep, another poetic rumination of life on the fringes. PS


12. Pulse. In Kiyoshi Kurosawa's peerless Luddite creepfest, the Internet is not only the preferred highway for the film's lost souls, but also a vehicle for a generation's growing disconnect with the past, each other, and reality. Envisioning a cyberspace-purgatory in which phantoms travel via infested floppy disks, chatrooms, and web images, Kurosawa erects a modern horror classic not on facile shocks but on unsettling mood, the most delicately sustained mise-en-scène of dread since the glory days of Jacques Tourneur, and the ultimate fear of humanity trailing into the abyss, keyboard and screen-cam and all. FC


11. Beau Travail. The French Foreign Legion soldiers in Claire Denis's update to Herman Melville's Billy Budd walk a tightrope between animal instinct and "unit cohesion," a fascinating push-and-pull that Denis exploits for erotic tension between an officious sergeant and a hot-headed (and, well, hot) troop who faces the jealous wrath of his higher-up. At times, Beau Travail plays like an experimental film version of the sweaty workout sequences in Madonna's "Express Yourself" music video: The Legion soldiers circle each other in a balletic rhythm that suggests either lovers getting ready to fuck or a hunter preparing to attack his pray. Denis sympathizes greatly with the daily turmoil of military life, and she likens the troops' flux of emotions (like war itself) to a kind of dance. PS

10. The Son. The most keenly observed of Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's "naturalistic," handheld fictions, the psychological credibility of The Son lies in the brusque, stony façade of Olivier Gourmet's performance. As a vocational-center carpenter who encounters the paroled boy guilty of strangling his son five years earlier, then with ominously opaque motives takes the unknowing teen on as an apprentice, Gourmet's overalls-and-truss stolidity is never contradicted by his awkwardly paternal mentoring of the juvenile, and when he wheezingly performs a half-dozen daily sit-ups in his kitchen, it seems a touching correlative to the conditioning of his soul's capacity to forgive. BW


9. Femme Fatale. Cahiers du Cinema declared Carlito's Way the movie of the 1990s, and we still say Brian De Palma had the comeback of the 2000s with this, his most masterful burlesque on the dualities that have always delighted him: the difference between right and wrong, the games between cat and mouse, the shape of a woman's left breast compared to that of her right. For almost the entirety of Femme Fatale's running time, it threatens to collapse into exactly the sort of all-purpose excoriation critics accused Body Double of embodying. The movie's denouement represents the most surprising and heartening twist of events in De Palma's extraordinarily hard-earned career, one that proves yet another duality. You can't truly understand optimism until you've reckoned with pessimism. EH


8. Bad Education. The best shot in Milk, of a stark-naked James Franco swimming in a pool, was taken from Bad Education, which was in itself an allusion to the paintings of David Hockney, whose pop-art riffs on gay love can be read in nearly everything Gus Van Sant and Pedro Almodóvar have done (call it a new genre: meta gay). But Almodóvar's pastiche isn't nearly as delicate as Van Sant's, shattering as it does the romanticized erotica of Hockney's images and exposing it for the farce that it is. You could say that Bad Education, the story of two Catholic school boys' burgeoning affection for each other and the crippling power that a pedophilic priest holds over their future lives, is the director's most cynical film. But ugly though the subject matter may be, like Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, Almodovar's narrative—full of cinematic references, jumping from past to present, from one flabbergasting stylistic turn to the next without a moment's hesitation—is also alive with feeling. In the end, the antidote to misery is the director's own love for the movies. PS


7. Werckmeister Harmonies. Far from being a mere stylistic flourish, Béla Tarr's marathon takes, achieved through an intricate choreography of camera movements, serve to immerse the viewer in his dreary rural landscapes, while opening up fresh ways of looking at the world. In his 2000 masterpiece, that landscape consists of—and that vision is trained upon—a universe poised on the brink of collapse. As a tiny circus sets up business in a town square, hordes of thuggish visitors gather outside, awaiting orders to unleash a ghastly destruction. The plot (violent revolution followed by equally violent repression) is otherworldly allegory, but in Tarr's absorptive sensitivity to the visual and aural textures of his setting, the fantastic becomes the actual, turning the film's final horrors into the stuff of a nightmare reality. AS


6. Crimson Gold. The chasm between social classes is the subject of Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's intensely unnerving parable. Opening with a botched robbery that ends in cold-blooded murder, we jump back to the chain of events that build to this moment. Almost playing out like a Middle-Eastern variation on Taxi Driver, a pizza deliveryman and war veteran skulks through the war-torn streets of Tehran, including a young people's party where the police make arrests whenever anyone steps outside. Refused admittance, the quixotic hero hands out pizza to the cops. The discomfort of a life in full-on survival mode leads to an understanding that discontent and want is the best clay from which to mold a villain. JK


5. In the Mood for Love. Wong Kar Wai's trademark obsession with surfaces speaks not only to fetishistic pleasures, but to possibilities, chances, and fate, the opportunities that lie just beyond the self-imposed veils of the world. Rarely have the arts witnessed as ravishing an unconsummated romance as in his In the Mood for Love, an elegiac dance of the bruised and broken souls in which mutual heartbreak is but a minor crutch in the face of worldly indifference. Physical and social frameworks shape and guide the paths of the wounded protagonists—the betrayed opposites of an adulterous relationship—and so too does the film's effortless visual devices channel pent-up emotional longing with scintillating restraint, a mounting ecstasy that suggests the desires of the spirit freed from the shackles of the flesh. RH


4. The New World. Terrance Malick's retelling of Pocahontas and John Smith's 1607 romance is a nation's creation myth, wrought with tender lyricism and a palpable sense of heartache over the inevitable tragedy of individual, communal, and spiritual birth. A patient, poetic rumination on the tense relationship between ruin and renewal, Malick's film radiates distressed ambivalence about its historical turning point while simultaneously concentrating its gaze on the larger collisions of man and nature, modernity, and primitivism. Its portrait of one couple's doomed cross-cultural union ultimately functions as a microcosm of life's endless cycle of devastation and regeneration. NS


3. Yi Yi. A tapestry of expansive human interaction as rich as a Robert Altman panorama, Edward Yang's wondrous ensemble drama offers a portrait of societal mores, family rituals, and spiritual bonds that's both rigorously analytical and so intimate that you feel you could reach into the screen and touch the characters. Following the ebb and flow of a large, troubled Taipei clan with the structural fluidity and emotional insight of a master, Yang creates a canvas that glows as a profound snapshot of changing times and, in its portrayal of a young boy's discovery of the photographic camera, an eloquent plea for humanist cinema. FC


2. Inland Empire. You wake up damp, clinging to your crushed pillow, your knuckles perspiring, your nostrils flaring. The music in your headphones feels like it's playing double-time. Your blood has congealed. You've just had the most terrifying nightmare of your life. The last sound you heard before waking up continues to ring, drowning out your clearing consciousness. You sink beneath the covers and tell your lover everything you can recall, to exorcise the memory, to dissipate its spell. Everyone you know is in the bed with you. You tell them the whole dream, lingering over each detail so they'll know the terror from which you just barely escaped. They all laugh uproariously. Your nightmare is the funniest story they've ever heard. They continue to laugh until the rabbits arrive. EH


1. Mulholland Drive. David Lynch's meta noir Mulholland Drive literalizes the theory of surrealism as perpetual dream state. Told as it is using a highly symbolic, ravishingly engorged language of dreams, this bloody valentine to Los Angeles naturally leaves one feeling groggy, confused, looking forward and back, hankering to pass again through its serpentine, slithery hall of mirrors until all its secrets have been unpacked. Its genius is not just the scorching eroticism of Lynch's sensualist bag of tricks, but how every rabbit he pulls out of his hat bitingly reflects the simultaneous beauty and ugliness of Los Angeles, compassionately illuminating the intoxicating pull the City of Angels has on the aspiring starlet, regardless of her hair color: Welcome to Tinseltown, where women are so desperate for success that they slowly become unrecognizable to each other and themselves. Whether Mulholland Drive anticipated the YouTube Age we live in (and which Inland Empire's digital punk poetics perfectly embody) is up for debate, but there's no doubt that this movie-movie will continue to haunt us long after Lynch has moved on to shooting pictures using the tools of whatever new film medium awaits us—tools that he will no doubt have helped to revolutionize. EG
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Sabin » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:17 pm

Although the narrative ellipses are still pleasurable, I find Syndromes and a Century to be something of a bore.
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby Big Magilla » Thu Feb 11, 2010 11:39 am

Sonic Youth wrote:
Sabin wrote:Oh, Christ. Get ready.

(For the record, they are absolutely correct about [Fill in the blank].)

Please, no. I'm begging everybody.

Nothing new is ever contributed to the discussion. Nothing is ever resolved. Nothing good comes of it, and if I had a nickel every time it comes up, etc etc. Talk about "Syndromes and a Symphony" instead?

I agree, though I am awfully tempted to finish "they are absolutely correct about..." with the word "nothing" since no one can be absolutely correct about anything related to art.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. It has ever been thus. Ignore the rankings. Take the mini-reviews as recommendations to see films you haven't or don't, but don't start analyzing the analysis. If you want to agree or disagree with a particular entry, go to Slant's site and do it there.
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Postby Sonic Youth » Thu Feb 11, 2010 7:26 am

Sabin wrote:Oh, Christ. Get ready.

(For the record, they are absolutely correct about [Fill in the blank].)

Please, no. I'm begging everybody.

Nothing new is ever contributed to the discussion. Nothing is ever resolved. Nothing good comes of it, and if I had a nickel every time it comes up, etc etc. Talk about "Syndromes and a Symphony" instead?
"What the hell?"
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Postby OscarGuy » Thu Feb 11, 2010 7:24 am

How about looking at it this way. Of films I haven't seen, what faith do I have in these being good films if the general sanctity and viability of the list suggests that War of the Worlds is a better film than say Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? That a group would prioritize one clearly radiant film so low in comparison to one that I feel is entirely undeserving of ranking on this kind of list? That suggests to me that perhaps the other films that rank higher than Eternal Sunshine aren't necessarily good either.

How much stock would you put into a list that had Crash as one of the 20 greatest films of the decade? Does that mean the rest of the films on the list aren't good? Not necessarily, but if you think about it, can you really trust someone to guide you towards films you haven't seen if they think Crash a great film? I don't know about you, but I don't know if I'd put my trust in such a person's opinions even if other films on the list were deserved.

But we all do have varying degrees of love for films that others despite. I don't think Nine's an utter disgrace and happen to love Evita and I dislike most Coen Bros. efforts and think A.I. is unecessarily Spielbergian. You guys have consistently derided my opinion on these films, but I'm not permitted to reject others' opinions for favoring the same films? That seems like a huge double standard to me.

So, while I can appreciate the purpose of such a list and can even cheer higher placements of films like There Will Be Blood compared to No Country for Old Men, it does not mean I have to respect the selection of every film on it. So, I don't reject the list, but the placements on it are suspect. My main purpose was not necessarily in rejecting the quality of films on the list I haven't seen, but questioning the motives and purpose of such a list that goes out of its way to pick questionable films for higher placement.
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Postby Sabin » Thu Feb 11, 2010 5:06 am

Oh, Christ. Get ready.

(For the record, they are absolutely correct about [Fill in the blank].)


40. Inglourious Basterds. For Quentin Tarantino, flesh and celluloid are perpetually mingled. A multilayered study of (spoken, visual, cinematic) language posing as an exuberant paean to wartime adventure movies, his self-declared masterpiece turns WWII into a volatile arena in which truculent heroes and suave villains try on role-playing masks as they wrestle for control of the screen. All of QT's staples—dialogue, violence, overflow of love for filmmaking—here feel larger, fuller, deeper. Pulling all of the film's coruscating simulacra and direct emotion into a sublime, literally incendiary image, Tarantino exalts the medium's transformative force by simultaneously looking back at its past and ahead into its future. FC


39. Dogville. The allegorical urgency of Dogville is recondite enough that the film might not even be about specifically American opportunism; we can just as easily read post-colonial arrogance into the appropriation of Bertolt Brecht's belligerent bare stage or the casting of yesterday's celebrities (Lauren Bacall, James Caan) as immature, bull-horned elders. This is Lars Von Trier's feverish paean to what society, theater, and film are capable of if gestated in nocuous, misanthropic wombs, and Nicole Kidman's aptly dubbed Grace is both our transubstantiated surrogate and our failed saviorette; she's the goddess we yearn to martyr in the name of art and reckless progress, even as her destruction leaves us as useless and lonesome as broken porcelain dolls and abandoned mineshafts. JJL


38. Twentynine Palms. This minimalist horror film from French auteur Bruno Dumont pares all aspects of narrative storytelling back, reducing plot, character, action, and image to the bare essential as a pair of bickering lovers venture out into the California desert on a photojournalism assignment, using the opportunity to screw and fight their way through a remote landscape. There is an unaccountable feeling of dread in the images, perhaps suggested by a threateningly arid soundscape, and one has the feeling that predators are lurking just beyond the edge of the frame waiting to pounce. The climax is as harrowing as I Spit on Your Grave, only told through the eye of an art-house provocateur. JK


37. There Will Be Blood. A fiery cauldron of internal and external calamities, Paul Thomas Anderson's loose adaptation of Upton Sinclair's Oil! is one long, slow prelude to an explosion of grotesque madness. With more than a nod to Kubrick's The Shining, There Will Be Blood pivots around Daniel Day-Lewis's ferocious turn-of-the-century oil man, whose ambition, greed, and heartlessness make him a literal (to his son) and figurative (to the capitalist nation) daddy dearest. Clashes of religion and business, sanity and lunacy erupt like geysers, with Anderson's formal dexterity and Jonny Greenwood's otherworldly score lending malevolent majesty to this slow-burn portrait of individualism's simultaneously creative and destructive power. NS


36. What Time Is It There?. Keeping its two low-key, generally closemouthed protagonists in the foreground amid excerpts from The 400 Blows and a large, cockroach-eating fish, Tsai Ming-liang's What Time Is It There? takes the measure of human life with a serene, globe-embracing vision. Tsai mainstay Lee Kang-sheng is a Taipei street salesman of watches who briefly meets Shen Shiang-chyi's young Paris-bound woman; as the film parallel-tracks their daily lives (his late-night peeing rituals and coping with his father's death, her alienation in a strange city and cemetery proposition from Jean-Pierre Léaud), there is no conventional drama, just the quotidian connections of food, seduction, clock-adjusting, and bad plumbing. BW


35. Mysterious Skin. Swapping his usual gasoline rainbow of queer bacchanalia for a sultry, slowly simmering study of sublimated victimization, Gregg Araki nails both the surrealism and the subsequent aura of poison surrounding events of child abuse with Mysterious Skin. Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Brady Corbet—as the recklessly promiscuous, now-grown molestee and the nebbish sci-fi fan attempting to piece together one fatefully damaging night—excel at implying their hazily unholy union until the film's anti-climax batters through the repressive floodgates, but it's Araki's strangely gentle imagery and eloquent comparison between the ineffability of pedophilia and extra-terrestrials that provide the movie's poetry. A shower of earthbound Froot Loops has never seemed so beautifully alien. JJL


34. Syndromes and a Century. Shot for shot, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's exquisite objet d'art offers more aesthetic liftoff than a dozen of the decade's more celebrated art-house offerings. Composed of two sections, each taking place in a different hospital (one a rural building from some decades back, the other a contemporary urban complex), the Thai director links past and present through a rhyming structure that recasts earlier scenes from a slightly altered perspective. If the film invites us to luxuriate in the sun-drenched greenery of the opening section, then it also asks us to contemplate the imposingly sleek modernity on display in the second, aided by ambient drones and mysterious, abstract imagery (flashes of colored jerseys moving past the camera, smoke getting sucked through a tube) and filtered through Apichatpong's surrealist sense of play. AS


33. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. The lengths to which we go to deny death its due are given fascinating portraiture in Cristi Puiu's wrenching medical crisis ride-along odyssey, which eschews staid TV drama heroics in depicting a Romanian EMT's frantic night-ferrying of a rapidly expiring, unsympathetic senior to a succession of overrun, dilapidated hospitals. Stoically accepting her chance-designated role as final advocate for the diminutive, semi-conscious Lazarescu on a calamitous evening of other, greater tragedy, Puiu's unassuming angel shames a system beneath the effort while providing a galvanizing moral center for an epic otherwise fiercely devoted to depicting a night of utter chaos. RS


32. Platform. If China's relentless globalization embodies much of where our world is heading, then director Jia Zhangke, whose films best embody the contradictions and displacements of that project, deserves to be counted among the world's essential filmmakers. In his 2000 masterpiece, Jia matches an epic framework (a turbulent decade in the life of a small-town musical collective) with an anti-epic aesthetic (long, fixed takes, elliptical narrative) that (de-)dramatizes both the cultural developments and the personal strivings of the Chinese '80s and those whose lives were defined by its changes. In later films Jia would move toward more contemporary settings, adopting digital technology and employing docu-fiction hybrids, but Platform remains his most fully realized consideration of his nation's recent history. AS


31. Rachel Getting Married. As a director, Jonathan Demme has always been more concerned with caressing and expanding surfaces than with penetrating them, but never before has he had the busily psychographic landscape of a family event around which to structure his mindful, cinematographic frottage. The script of Rachel Getting Married occasionally seems to push in all the wrong places (dramatic reveals of deceased siblings and impromptu buns in the oven disturb the quivering, pre-marriage vibe a bit too typically), but Demme is never afraid to push back, whether by lingering a few seconds too long on a rack-focused floral arrangement, mimicking the familial Novocain that is marathon rehearsal dinner toasts, or (in one of the decade's most inspired inter-universal bleeds across film and music) triumphantly pronouncing obscure Neil Young lyrics as wedding vows. JJL

30. Millennium Actress. Satoshi Kon's sophomore effort is still his most incisively oneiric and plaintively archetypical leap forward; the sexually repressive, prepubescent brain-teaser larvae of Perfect Blue seem to morph into neon butterflies of critical and media theory alongside Northrup Frye and André Bazin with Millennium Actress. The film's mind-melting premise is deceptively simple (a documentarian interviews the title celebrity regarding her personal history and screen career), but Kon's perpetual time-warping and lysergic art direction give us the impression of having traveled through a worm hole into a parallel universe that fails to distinguish between film and reality. It's the stuff Eisenstein's dreams were made of. JJL


29. Gerry. It was a political decade for Gus Van Sant, but while he clearly cares about his work, his enigmatic choices are often more infuriating than anything else. Milk, Elephant, and Last Days all cashed in on the notoriety of their subjects, but in each case it felt like Van Sant had nothing new to say. Like its two protagonists, Gerry was doomed from the start—a small-budget improvisation starring Matt Damon and Casey Affleck (also writing collaborators) as hikers looking for "the thing" somewhere in Death Valley. This simple allegory refuses easy answers, but it's never less than transfixing to watch. As in Mala Noche, Van Sant's camera sinuously follows his characters from beginning to end, hyper-self-conscious of the way in which his carefully composed shots become increasingly fraught with tension as the journey goes awry. Most Van Sant movies are not without their gay undertones, but Gerry provocatively conflates the sexual with the spiritual; the infamous "wrestling" scene near the end can be read as both a failed romance and one man's struggle over his weaker self. PS


28. The Best of Youth. From a summer day in Roma in 1966 to a winter night in Norway in 2003, Best of Youth chronicles some 40 years in the lives of the Carati family and their friends. If not as visually intoxicating as Emir Kusturica's Underground or Bertolucci's 1900 (director Marco Tullio Giordana conceived the film as a miniseries for Italian television but the idea was deemed too "bourgeois" by the powers-that-be), this epic elegy to family and country is no less seductive as a towering work of narrative fiction, generously giving itself to the people of Italy in the same way that Gabriel Garcia Marquez's One Hundred Years of Solitude and Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children give themselves to the people of Colombia and India, respectively. EG


27. Son Frère. The primacy of blood bonds would be a difficult theme for Son Frère to support if not for Patrice Chéreau's cliché-free presentation of such ties as, among other things, inequitable shackles that force on disparate personalities shared responsibilities by their lack of an easy opt-out. Two adult brothers, one gay and one less than accepting, are reacquainted by the latter's degenerative blood disease and commence suffering together (not least through their father's insensitivity) while others with rip cords yank them and the inescapability of familial obligation during crisis is likened to the fading brother's inability to escape his skin through breathtaking sequences of physical vulnerability. RS


26. Ghost World. In much the same way Wall Street captured the greed-is-good value system of the 1980s, Ghost World captures the deadpan confusion of the aughts—with teenager Enid Coleslaw (Thora Birch) as an articulate mouthpiece for contemporary frustrations that reach beyond the disaffected. There's also a poignant death of a friendship when she realizes her best friend (Scarlett Johannson) views entering the mainstream as a way of growing up. The film exists as a tough but loving badge-of-honor film for outsiders, spitting on strip-mall suburban culture. Also, it's a career high point for Steve Buscemi as Enid's grouchy, borderline misanthropic middle-aged love interest. JK


25. The Company. Robert Altman recognized an element of dance in almost every genre he tackled throughout his stellar career, so it was perhaps inevitable that he would take his gorgeously skulking camera into the halls of a ballet school. The Company is worth a thousand movements, and it allowed this great filmmaker to vicariously discuss the way he made movies. Malcolm McDowell's crusty Alberto Antonelli is Altman's doppelganger, both embolden and weathered by the beautiful, prickly creative ambitions of his dancers at the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago. Injury is a recurring metaphor, and the way characters respond to pain beautifully reflects their unique personalities. Altman's organic, matter-of-fact observations complement the Neve Campbell character's refusal to let her professional disappointment bleed into her personal life. In short: If the show can't go on, then love can. EG


24. Tropical Malady. If you want to be precise about it, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's inscrutably gorgeous piece of jungle fever is a bifurcated, horny phantasmagoria stemming from within the animal urges of two young male lovers, as formally liberated as their surprisingly lick-happy interpersonal interactions. But there's no reason to put too fine a point on a movie with this much poetry to offer. In keeping with the profile of a knowing sensualist who still insists you call him Joe, Tropical Malady is a mysterious object that contains, at its core, an emotional bull's eye. If there's a cure for this, I don't want it. EH


23. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence. Not since Empire of the Sun has Spielberg been so bleak in his outlook, and not since E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial has he been so nakedly emotional about the loneliness of childhood. But unlike his usual movies about an imaginative boy gazing out at the world with wonder, the child in A.I. Artificial Intelligence (played by Hayley Joel Osment) is a simulacrum, almost a cipher—causing all sorts of nightmarish questions about what it means to be single-minded in the quest for love, and how much parents project on their children. The seemingly happy ending, which leaps 4,000 years into a future where only computers remain, was about a false reconciliation based on faith. The climax is so boldly transgressive that virtually no one at the time of the film's release knew what to do with it. Time will reveal this to be one of Spielberg's landmark masterpieces. JK


22. Fat Girl. Fat Girl supplies a startling portrait of the prickly crawlspace between innocence and sexual awakening, with Catherine Breillat's notions of perseverance feeling at once sensible and unnerving. Key here is how Breillat cannily forces the audience to look at the world through her titular character's observant, judgmental, humane point of view, intelligently and with a sly mix of humor, engaging with and teasing the spectator's morals. It's brilliance lies in its deceptive simplicity—its dawdling sketch of virtue on the brink of collapse. It remains Breillat's boldest provocation for how it uses sex for perverse philosophical titillation, a disturbing and funny portrait of a girl struggling to redirect her desires and essay her sexual experience completely on her own terms. EG


21. Spider. No pun intended, but David Cronenberg dangles sanity by a masterful thread in his career-shifting Spider. Gone are the icky body horrors, but just as squeamish is his frightening eye for psychologically charged framing, his titular protagonist's fractured psyche the result of repressed traumas now threatened by a downward spiral of self-realizations. Tragic beyond recovery, his is truly a beautiful mind, intensely captured by Ralph Fiennes and carefully charted by tracking shots as scary as anything in Kubrick's The Shining. It may be the greatest film ever made about mental disease—a work of genuine humanitarian worth. RH
"If you are marching with white nationalists, you are by definition not a very nice person. If Malala Yousafzai had taken part in that rally, you'd have to say 'Okay, I guess Malala sucks now.'" ~ John Oliver

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Postby rain Bard » Thu Feb 11, 2010 2:38 am

I've seen 64 1/2 of the now 80 films mentioned so far. The ones I haven't gotten to include: Intimacy, Gabrielle, Boarding Gate, Zodiac, The Pledge, Tarnation, Marie Antoinette, Wolf Creek, War of the Worlds, Aqua Teen Hunger Force, La Commune, Battle In Heaven, Twenty-Nine Palms, Gerry, Part 2 of The Best of Youth, and Son Friere.

The others are a mixed bag for me (what's a clear mediocrity like House OF Flying Daggers doing there, even on a lower rung?), but generally positive and interesting enough for me that I feel like prioritizing the remaining 15 (and a half? not sure I'm all that interested in finishing The Best Of Youth) and whatever of the top twenty I haven't seen.

Speaking of, might as well try guessing the top 20: the New World, INLAND EMPIRE, Yi Yi, 35 Shots of Rum, Bad Education, Crimson Gold, In the Mood For Love, L'Enfant, Mulholland Dr., Pulse, Two Lovers, Miami Vice, Werckmeister Hamonies, Spirited Away, Esther Kahn, Synechdoche, NY, the Flight of the Red Balloon, The Son,, Femme Fatale, My Winnipeg

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Postby Zahveed » Thu Feb 11, 2010 12:54 am

Humorously, the discussion is on War of the Worlds - but Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters placed higher.

Adult Swim > Steven Spielberg + Tom Cruise + Invading Aliens
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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:21 pm

OscarGuy wrote:I'm tired of constantly being berated for having an opinion on matters simply because I don't have the breadth of movie watching experience of most posters on this board. That somehow because I haven't seen more movies than everyone else that I'm somehow an idiot know-nothing who can't possibly appreciate film simply because I don't have comparable experience.

Look, no one is berating anyone for not having seen Film X, Y, or Z.

BUT...when someone dismisses an entire list as worthless based on one film's placement, well, I have to ask about one's familiarity with the list as a whole. And I guess I'd just want to respectfully ask...do you really think this list is worth ignoring, or might it provide suggestions for interesting films you'd want to seek out? It's done the latter for me -- a number of films on the list I'm embarrassed to not have seen.

I guess it just seems like you're very quick to put down other people's tastes, when you could actually check out the films they're praising and then come to a conclusion about whether or not their opinions are valid.

In other words, I have NO problem with your objection to the inclusion of War of the Worlds -- I wasn't crazy about that film myself. But to say that, because of this alone, the list is worth ignoring, well...I think such statements should come, if at all, from someone a little more well-versed. (With apologies if that makes me sound like a complete jerk, that's not in any way my intention.)




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Postby Big Magilla » Wed Feb 10, 2010 10:11 pm

To each his own. I've seen 30 of the 60 films listed thus far. I have no desire to see any of the remaining 30.

My take:

****
The Wind Will Carry Us
A History of Violence
No Country for Old Men
Children of Men
The Hurt Locker
Zodiac
Gosford Park
WALL-E

***1/2
The Virgin Suicides
Before Sunset
Requiem for a Dream
House of Flying Daggers
Intimacy
Big Fish
Julia
Last Days
The House of Mirth
The Pledge
Grizzly Man

***
War of the Worlds
Far From Heaven
Late Marriage
A Serious Man

**1/2
Happy-Go-Lucky
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Wendy and Lucy

**
Birth

*1/2
Marie-Antoinette

*
Mission to Mars

ZERO STARS
Dancer in the Dark




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Postby Okri » Wed Feb 10, 2010 8:45 pm

I've seen War of the Worlds

It might make my top sixty of 2005, but certainly not of the decade.

What's more interesting is to see where the website differed from the specific opinion posted (Crash got a three star review, though Ed Gonzales trashes it all the time. Birth was given one and a half stars, called one of the year's worst films, but makes their top 100).

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Postby OscarGuy » Wed Feb 10, 2010 5:27 pm

I disagree. I am entitled to my opinion just as everyone else on this board is. Instead of trying to devalue my opinion on the matter, perhaps you should share your own. Do you agree or disagree with its placement on the list. If you have seen those films, then you should be able to have an opinion. Do you choose not to because you wouldn't want to be associated with me did you agree with my assessment? Or is there some other motive for not sharing.

But, I guess it's more fun for you to try and take a dig at me in order to ignore/devalue my opinion.

If you don't want to read what I post, don't. I'm tired of constantly being berated for having an opinion on matters simply because I don't have the breadth of movie watching experience of most posters on this board. That somehow because I haven't seen more movies than everyone else that I'm somehow an idiot know-nothing who can't possibly appreciate film simply because I don't have comparable experience.




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Postby The Original BJ » Wed Feb 10, 2010 4:31 pm

Well, the point is that you're remarkably dismissive of a list with which you are not all that familiar.


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