Sunday, February 27, 2005

no, it actually wasn't that boring

top ten of 2004

1) what’s all this, then?

The inevitable (and regrettably tardy) year-end deluge, once again done in the plug-in format of Mike D’Angelo’s 1997 Top Ten, featuring everything from aggressive list-making, drive-by effluvia, a fair share of analysis, and some barely concealed egomania.

2) titles that came dangerously close to cracking the top ten, a.k.a. 11-20

In some kind of vague order: Wright's Shaun of the Dead; Raimi’s Spider-Man 2, which would’ve easily been my number 10 had I not taken a second gander at a certain zombie pic; von Trier’s Dogville also fell at the last hour; Zhang’s House of Flying Daggers; Kahn’s Red Lights; Glazer's Birth; McElwee’s Bright Leaves; Bird’s The Incredibles; Leigh’s Vera Drake; Im’s A Good Lawyer’s Wife; Greengrass’ The Bourne Supremacy; and, more for the concept than the (almost as excellent) execution, Belvaux’s The Trilogy.

So that’s 11 (or 13, more accurately). You take one off yourself, smart guy.

3) grim assertions on the state of cinema in the year kerry lost

Usually I mock this, essentially out of laziness, but this year it was impossible, if not outright deranged, to ignore the outside world. Every film, no matter how inconsequential, seemed to be viewed through a thick cloud of politics, as well as its numerous tangents; even Shark Tale felt like an apocalyptic ode to willful consumerist ignorance. In any other year, it would almost be enough to limit the themes to some great divide, namely the ever popular Passion o’ Christ/F9/11 squabble. But in the year of Kerry, the disproval of WMDs, and North Korea, that barely scraped the surface. Memory loss became what the [occupation/station in life]-from-hell was in the ‘90s, with Chris Marker evoked in Eternal Sunshine and Otto Preminger’s exquisitely uneasy Bunny Lake is Missing lending inspiration to The Forgotten -- both barely concealed allusions to September 11. I ♥ Huckabees gallantly tried to make some sense out of the cracks between everyone, going so far as to end with an eco-poet making some kind of connection with a proud SUV owner. Vengeance pics popped up again, inevitably, ranging from the grey areas of Kill Bill, Vol. 2 to Man on Fire, which evoked W.’s policy while drumming up Death Wish’s black-and-white repugnance. Not that the films had to be read by what they added to the conversation. It just happened that way.

Also: finally warming to DV, courtesy Collateral, Dogville and Sky Captain. Still, the old stuff was prevalent in Primer, Cowards Bend the Knee and Coffee and Cigarettes. One step forward but still miles behind. If only every budding auteur could get his hands on Chris Doyle.

4) number of list-members helmed by a person on the XX side of the gender continuum

Not a one. However, one was more of a three-person effort, only 2/3 of whom were male. No, that doesn’t count.

5) number of list-members whose language comes to us in a different language than english

Two. Three if you count no dialogue. I said the same thing last year, and thanks to very same director.

6) amount of money made by those on the list

As little that I can keep my credentials; as much that I can feebly claim I’m not entirely divorced from the mainstream. More alarming, surely, is how many awards my picks garnered, at least w/r/t acting. My vote for best actor inexplicably wound up the biggest snubbing of the year (at least insofar as he was a considered a shoe-in), but my actress nods are eerily familiar with what’s abrewin’ in the zeitgeist. (At least my Cate vote is awesomely out of the loop.) Did I just see the wrong movies?

7) titles embarrassingly missed (currently)

For various reasons (some legitimate): Sex is Comedy; Springtime in a Small Town; Blissfully Yours; DIG!; Son Frére; Birth; Not on the Lips; A Very Long Engagement; The Woodsman; Kinsey; Finding Neverland; The Merchant of Venice; Beyond the Sea; The Sea Inside; The Motorcylce Diaries; Mean Girls; The Phantom of the Opera; and The Big Bounce. Also, Charles Taylor chided me and everyone for being loathsome enough to neglect 13 Going on 30.

8) a long, long (long long long) series of odds-and-ends, inspired by the writer of pretty persuasion

Best leading performances: Paul Giamatti, Sideways; Kate Winslet, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (runners-up: Jean-Pierre Darroussin, Red Lights; Sol Kyung-gu, Oasis; Clint Eastwood, Million Dollar Baby; Gael Garcia Bernal, Bad Education; Julie Delpy, Before Sunset; Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake; Annette Bening, Being Julia; Hilary Swank, Million Dollar Baby; Catalina Sandino Moreno, Maria Full of Grace; Uma Thurman, Kill Bill, Vol. 2)

Best supporting performances: Mark Wahlberg, I ♥ Huckabees; Cate Blanchett, Coffee and Cigarettes (runners-up: David Carradine, Kill Bill, Vol. 2; J.K. Simmons, The Ladykillers; Phil Davis, Vera Drake; Aaron Ruell, Napoleon Dynamite; Jude Law, I ♥ Huckabees; Fenella Woolgar, Bright Young Things; Maggie Cheung, Hero; Daryl Hannah, Kill Bill, Vol. 2; Patricia Clarkson, Dogville; Kirsten Dunst, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)

Best performance by an actor I usually hate or am indifferent to: Hilary Duff, Million Dollar Baby (runner-up: Johnny Knoxville, A Dirty Shame)
Worst performance by an actor I usually love or really, really like: Fanny Ardant, Callas Forever (runner-up: Rhys Ifans, Danny Deckchair)
Worst movie partially saved by a terrific performance, preceded by the name of that thespian: Mary Louise Parker, The Best Thief in the World
Biggest surprise: The Manchurian Candidate (runner-up: Dawn of the Dead)
Most underrated: The Ladykillers; The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou; Ocean’s Twelve; Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow; Troy
Most overrated: Garden State; Ray; The Story of the Weeping Camel; Super Size Me; We Don’t Live Here Anymore; Closer; Rosenstrasse; Hotel Rwanda
Contrarian: Million Dollar Baby (runner-up: Anatomy of Hell)
I, uh, need to see it again: Secret Things (runner-up: Anchorman -- hey, it worked for Dodgeball)
Sincerely shocked it scored boatloads of Fs: A Dirty Shame
Best film marred by a dovetailing finale: Twentynine Palms (runner-up: Collateral)
Best viewed once craze dies down: Napoleon Dynamite
Best intentions: Hotel Rwanda (runner-up: Fahrenheit 9/11)
Worst intentions: Man on Fire (runner-up: Saw)
Relationships are evil, except when they’re not: Closer; We Don’t Live Here Anymore
Most potent but subtly enforced political comments: Troy; (runners-up: Spartan; I ♥ Huckabees; The Village)
Are they all like this?: Hijacking Conspiracy: 9/11, Fear & the Selling of American Empire (runner-up: The Hillside Strangler)
Tailor-made for DVD skipping: Coffee and Cigarettes
Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful: Hero, Christopher Doyle (Distant, Nuri Bilge Ceylan)
Death of indie cinema: Inescapable (runner-up: 200 American)
The best independent film story ever and few mysteriously give a shit: Primer
Source of year’s heftiest existential quagmire: Raise Your Voice (runner-up: Fat Albert)

9) another long, long (long long long) one: most memorable scenes and moments, both liberally defined, of the year, listed in no discernible order

  • The Echo Game (and to a slightly lesser degree, the bamboo forest), House of Flying Daggers
  • Listening to the Tapes, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  • The Bride/Elle Driver duel, Kill Bill, Vol. 2
  • “I know”, Before Sunset
  • Andrei Rublev as a precursor to porn, Distant
  • Darkness, Time of the Wolf
  • Phone calls, Red Lights
  • Red Leaves Tussle, Hero
  • Dawn Tindsley teaches you how to act like a zombie, Shaun of the Dead
  • “Yeah...I like other wines, too...”, Sideways
  • Wake-up scene, Spider-Man 2
  • Car chase, The Bourne Supremacy
  • Cape malfunctions, The Incredibles
  • A cat’s tail used to paint characters, Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring
  • The interrogation, Vera Drake
  • Dr. Legal (“otherwise known as Steve”) inspires a great po-mo doc sequence, Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
  • New England lunch, The Aviator
  • Suburbs dinner, I ♥ Huckabees
  • Toss-up between Cate & Cate and Molina & Coogan, Coffee and Cigarettes
  • Ending (and to a slightly lesser degree, the opening), Dawn of the Dead
  • The last ten minutes, Good Bye, Dragon Inn
  • ”I can’t believe how bored I am,” No Rest for the Brave
  • On the plane, Maria Full of Grace
  • Plane crash (and to a slightly lesser degree, crossing the line), The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
  • Boney M., Touching the Void
  • In a glass cage of pure emotion, Anchorman
  • “What, do you mean morally?”, Ocean’s Twelve
  • A ticket’s better than a feather, The Polar Express
  • Closing credits, Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

    10) the reverse of the forthcoming list, wherein i lament the ten most agonizing experiences at the movies (dire kiddie movies and DTV slasher biopics stricken to make it look meatier)

    01. Man on Fire (Tony Scott, USA)
    02. Garden State (Zach Braf, USA)
    02. Inescapable (Helen Lesnick, USA)
    03. Callas Forever (Franco Zeffirelli, Italy/France/Spain/UK/Romania)
    04. Shade (Damian Nieman, USA)
    05. A Hanging Offense (Guillaime Nicloux, France)
    06. The Best Thief in the World (Jacob Kornbluth, USA)
    07. Young Adam (David Mackenzie, UK)
    08. Shark Tale (Vicky Jensen, Bibi Bergeron and Rob Letterman, USA)
    09. Saw (James Wan, USA)
    10. The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, USA)

    11) one more pre-top-ten-list list, this one relaying the top nineteen older and not-quite-established films seen for the first time, followed immediately by twelve old war horses that lived up to their respective hypes

    01. The Crazies (1973, George A. Romero)
    02. The Naked Spur (1953, Anthony Mann)
    03. Martin (1978, George A. Romero)
    04. California Split (1974, Robert Altman)
    05. The Court Jester (1955, Melvin Frank & Norman Panama)
    06. Housekeeping (1987, Bill Forsyth)
    07. Days of Being Wild (1991, Wong Kar-Wai)
    08. The Mystery of Picasso (1955, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
    09. Where Eagles Dare (1968, Brian G. Hutton)
    10. Industrial Symphony, No. 1 (1990, David Lynch)
    11. Dishonored (1931, Josef von Sternberg)
    12. Shivers (1975, David Cronenberg)
    13. Deathdream (1972, Bob Clark)
    14. Le corbeau (1943, Henri-Georges Clouzot)
    15. Peter Ibbetson (1935, Henry Hathaway)
    16. Attack! (1956, Robert Aldrich)
    17. Pretty Maids All in a Row (1971, Roger Vadim)
    18. The Fire Within (1963, Louis Malle)
    19. Village of the Damned (1960, Wolf Rilla)

    and, as promised, part the second...
    The Man With the Movie Camera (1929, Dziga Vertov)
    A nous la liberté (1931, René Clair)
    Winchester ‘73 (1950, Anthony Mann)
    Shadows (1959, John Cassavetes)
    The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti)
    The Battle of Algiers (1965, Gillo Pontecorvo)
    Au hasard Balthazar (1966, Robert Bresson)
    Chelsea Girls (1966, Andy Warhol & Paul Morrissey)
    Young Girls of Rochefort (1967, Jacques Demy)
    Eddie Murphy Raw (1987, Robert Townsend)
    Bullet in the Head (1990, John Woo)
    Raise the Red Lantern (1992, Zhang Yimou)

    Lastly, Brakhage rules, as it turns out. 2001’s Love Song currently my fave, though 1971’s autopsy-doc The Act of Seeing With One’s Own Eye is too much of a wallop -- physically, yes, given that it made me want to vomit, but also mentally -- to ignore.

    12) the anal-retentive rules of eligibility

    It’s all about Manhattan: if it made it there, then it’s in. However, if it only played festivals, then it’s in anyway. Like I said, anal-retentive.

    13) and finally, and to your relief, the top ten, writ large and fancy

    10. Spartan (David Mamet, USA)
    09. Hero (Zhang Yimou, China)
    08. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, USA)
    07. Distant (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
    06. The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo, USA)
    05. Cowards Bend the Knee (Guy Maddin, Canada)
    04. Kill Bill, Vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, USA)
    03. I ♥ Huckabees (David O. Russell, USA)
    02. Primer (Shane Carruth, USA)
    01. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, USA)

    14) promises that i won’t lazily pull this shit again next year

    No promises. Look how long it took me to put it up this time, dude.