Top Ten Movies: 2006

Dans Paris

A lot of revisiting and rediscoveries. For instance, so much of Pan’s Labyrinth is obviously about the creatures that I had pretty darn close forgotten the gripping historical drama that eases in and out of the macabre fantasies. Really, it’s spellbinding in its transitions and dares to question the nature of reality. I mean, what else is history but a long told tale of sorts? And A Prairie Home Companion, a coronation to bookend an idiosyncratic career in an idiosyncratic way, becomes richer as it distances in years. Its misty-eyed farewell never turns to saccharine because like most of Atman’s oeuvre, there’s nothing like its perfect imperfection. I just still feel bad for the crowds that had herded in expecting the radio show. But what a surprise my number one is! Whatever happened to Dans Paris? It came and went with very little fuzz and got shelved to dust. Or who knows! It could be the greatest rave in France to this day. No matter the case, it’s quite the vibrant movie, uncompromising in its manner of vision. It can be as cold and angry as Godard, as playful as Truffaut, and as riveting as any French New Wave film uncovered from the ashes of time. One moment its morose, the next they’re singing, but it never once loses its luster. So at number one it happily pops up.

1. Dans Paris (Christophe Honoré)
2. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
3. A Prairie Home Companion (Robert Altman)
4. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck)
5. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
6. Inland Empire (David Lynch) and Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin)
7. Still Life (Jia Zhangke)
8. The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
9. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran)
10. Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa)

The Lives of Others has become one of those cases of a dignified, intelligent work cast amongst respectfully neglected foreign films whose directors never bloomed as renowned auteurs (i.e. Sundays and Cybele, The Official Story). But its reputation is something I’m glad to continue to somewhat hear about today, even if it’s not as commonly referenced to as when compared to a PT or Wes Anderson movie. Then there’s stuff like Syndromes and a Century, Still Life, and Inland Empire, films all about their director’s visions and inseparable from their creator’s cannons. What can I say? That’s just how cinephile’s memories tend to work (mine included). And without mentioning all of those wonderful movies that I painfully had to exclude – and trust me, there were a lot – I will say that Lady Chatterley and Colossal Youth are nearly three-hour long dramas that rightfully deserve that time to ruminate.

Next post, and at this rate once a month, will be the year 1981. All I can think of is throwing a chair through a window, Mr. William Hurt.

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Top Ten Movies: 1997

boogie-nights

The two at the top of my list for 1997 couldn’t be any more disparate. Boogie Nights is a three-hour race through the golden age of the porn industry. Picture the coke-induced drive at the end of Goodfellas with as many characters as there is depravity. Mother and Son is an hour long Russian piece on the meditation of death between, what else, a mother and her son. It sighs and whispers, with every subtle motion a rift on the screen. And while both exemplify the quality of great films, Boogie Nights has got the fumbled excitement of a child that proudly takes his or her erratic behavior on the chin. P.T. Anderson’s second feature can overwhelm itself in its own scope but its ambition is something to admire. It revels in the hedonistic binge of its content all the while taking a sobering look at the trappings of sterilizing insecurities. Sex isn’t sex but a business, with everybody soon finding out that you can’t even get away with that. Somehow, you end up leaving the movie with the solemnity of exiting an art house picture, getting at something much deeper than all the surface drama. So at number one no doubt it goes.

1. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson)
2. Mother and Son (Aleksandr Sokurov)
3. Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami)
4. L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)
5. The River (Tsai Ming-liang) and The Eel (Shohei Imamura)
6. Happy Together (Wong Kar-wai)
7. Funny Games (Michael Haneke)
8. Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino)
9. Lost Highway (David Lynch)
10. In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute)

The once polarizing Taste of Cherry is still the poster child of 90’s Iranian cinema, that decade initiating – and still blazing – movement that’s produced some of the most outstanding narratively experimental social dramas, peeling away layer after layer of film grammar. Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential has tested far better than a lot of its contemporary crime peers by displaying its makers’ unabashed passion for everything the movie stood for. And Jackie Brown, a mutual screenwriter’s class darling, is strictly built upon that principle alone for Tarantino and the 70’s blaxploitation boom.

As for the rest, just look at all the bleakness! You have Tsai Ming-liang’s crumbling family drama desperately attempting to salvage its self-inflicting wounds. You have Michael Haneke perversely playing with the medium in his cool malevolence. You have David Lynch snatching a Luis Buñuel trope of replacing the lead midway in his bristling grumble of a shadowed world. Then there’s Chad from In the Company of Men, who could quite possibly be the most terrifyingly evil character on the screen in the ever most eerily of gratifying ways. A nod to LaBute for that, I guess…

Those that got pretty darn close include Robert Altaman’s Jazz ’34, which I ended up liking more than Kansas City. And I like Kansas City! Paul Verhoeven’s sly and subversive Starship Troopers, dating brilliantly because it never took itself serious… or did it? Richard Kwietniowski’s Love and Death on Long Island, inspiring in its first half but a bit of a let down once Jason Priestly’s character arrives on screen. John Woo’s Face/Off, because like Verhoeven, bonkers is the way to go! And Nil by Mouth, Gary Oldman’s directorial debut that I haven’t watched in a very long, and I mean LONG time. For that matter, there’s also Grosse Pointe Blank, Gummo, The Ice Storm, and The Sweet Hereafter. Oh, and Titanic. Yeah… Titanic.