Monday, January 11, 2010

Curio: Best Films of 2005

Jotted on a piece of paper I've had in my files for a while (since winter of 2006, I'd suppose).

  1. 2046
  2. Brokeback Mountain
  3. Crash (?)
  4. Sin City
  5. The Squid and the Whale
  6. King Kong (??)
  7. Broken Flowers
  8. Skeleton Key
  9. Aristocrats
  10. Match Point
The backlash against Crash has changed my mind about it, and I have no idea what I was thinking about King Kong. Probably just being contrary. I'm glad to see Skeleton Key, but I clearly remember seeing both that and Red Eye on the same night, and think I like Red Eye better.

Friday, January 8, 2010

STL #93: Films of the Decade.

Top 25 movies of the decade: The first ten are ranked; the rest are roughly ranked but with the combinations there's some obvious slippage. All told I mention 35 movies: 22 date from 2000-2004, 13 from the second half of the decade. The top four years are 2001 (6), 2000, 2003, and 2009. The number from 2009 is probably due to recency inflation, and only Rachel Getting Married is a top 25 film overall. So was the first part of the decade better, am I seeing fewer movies, or does the retrospective nature of such a list privilege the earlier material? Another option is that I wrote more regularly about movies in 2003-4, and perhaps those movies have an advantage.

  1. In the Mood for Love (2000). The most beautiful movie I ever saw, in depth and on surface.
  2. Kill Bill (2003-4). Part 1 reviewed previously in STL #16.
  3. Lost In Translation (2003). Reviewed in STL #14
  4. Royal Tenenbaums (2001). I would like, sooner or later, to take on Anderson's work. This to me is not only the best of the decade but better than Rushmore. At face value, it seems to be an ambitiosly art-directed adaptation of Salinger's Glass family, but every time I watch it I get a little bit more out of it.
  5. Almost Famous (2000). Pure charm.
  6. WALL-E (2008). Completely unexpected--I simply had not liked the big animated movies of the preceding 10 years. In retrospect, Ratatouille's solidity was the beginning of a now 3 movie streak for Pixar.
  7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Reviewed (poorly) in STL #38.
  8. Etre et Avoir (2002) In STL #35 , my top 10 films of 2003, I said of this and Spellbound "some of the best movies of the last 10 years have been documentaries, because real life has a way of bucking against cliche and histrionics. Note the vivid personalities in these movies are achieved without actors."
  9. Children of Men (2006). Has the gravity and composition comparable to any canonical classic. I would like to see this again.
  10. The Wrestler (2008). Just like I lauded Lost In Translation's use of music, the music here is heartbreaking for its faded glitzy fragility: "Round and Round" in the bar, and the final entrance to "Sweet Child O' Mine" as a valediction/elegy.

Volver (2006)/Talk to Her (2002). Two Almodovars linger like dreams.
Amelie (2001): Its cuteness, which draws you to it at first, might be a liability.
Team America World Police (2004)/Borat (2006). They bring the funny, and they question the whole notion of taste. Team America might want to be in the top 10, but I couldn't quite get it there. Borat is fine with the lower 20's.
Momento (2000)/JCVD (2008): Two action-movies with fascinating formal features. Both cause us to question what we're seeing: Momento through the structure, JCVD by enlisting our own capacity for illusion.
Rachel Getting Married (2009)/Monsoon Wedding (2001). Both have great ensembles. Both are smart enough to let the intricacies of the occasion generate the action.

Up (2009)/ Waking Life (2001): Up gets it for the first 10 minutes, while Waking Life unfolds over the length of the movie, and even beyond a bit.
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)/Goodbye Dragon Inn (2003). Two Asian movies with "Dragon" in the title. One is beautiful and orchestrated and rapid, the other beautiful in its glacial slowness.
Ocean's 11 (2001): In terms of attitude alone it makes the list.
A Christmas Tale (2008) The last of these that I watched so I'm a little wary of it. Seems like it might want to gravitate up the list in time.


Honorable Mention: Lord of the Rings and Napoleon Dynamite. In there different ways, both are two "big" to be ignored. Certainly impressive in their own ways, but neither are standing up for themselves and making a pitch in the way that the listed movies are.

Sundry lists:

Top 5 comedies
Team America
Borat! Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006)
Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
The Aristocrats
Zach and Miri Make a Porno

Action/Thriller
Kill Bill
Children of Men
Memento
Torque
Borne Identity

Documentaries
1.Etre et Avoir
2. Waltz with Bashir
3. Man on a Wire
4. Anvil:The Story of Anvil
5. Spellbound

Animated
1. WALL E
2. The Fantastic Mr. Fox
3. Up
4. Triplets of Bellevue
5. Spirited Away
6. Waking Life
7. Millennium Actress?
8. Waltz with Bashir
9. Chicken Run
10. Kill Bill

Romance
1. In the Mood for Love (2000)***
2. Eternal Sunshine
3. WALL-E
4. Almost Famous
5. Before Sunset

Top 5 Performances of the Decade
1. Bill Murray in Lost in Translation
2. Heath Ledger in Dark Knight and Broke Back
3. Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler
4. Anne Hathaway in Rachel and Brokeback
5. Sasha Baron-Cohen in Borat

STL #92: The Year in Reading, 2009

Alas, another extended gap. Again I resolved to post more in the new year... we'll see. If I adapt the adage of "The Good is the enemy of the Great" to "the Horrible is the enemy of the Not Horrible," I may be able to make good on the resolution. I think you'll see what I mean with the following Year in Reading, 2009 edition. This list is presented chronologically by roughly when I started the reading.

Shakespeare's Comedies and Romances.* The first thing I started is actually the last thing I finished. I hoped to tackle all 36 Shakespeare plays as my big reading for the year, but faltered and finished only the comedies by summer. December I read the late comedies/"romances." My favorites: Measure for Measure, The Winter's Tale. This year I started with the histories and plan on moving on the the tragedies.

The Rest Is Noise, Alex Ross. I was surprised to see this on the list for this year, because I thought I read it two years ago. Even so, most informative and the kind of book I would like to write (on a different topic of course).

Batman and Robin #1-3 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely/Popeye dailies. It was a frustrating year for me and serial comics. I dropped most of the series I had been following.The Batman GM/FQ Batman was mixed-up at its core--by design, since it's the story of a Dick Grayson Batman and a new bratty Robin. But of course Quitely's art is time-consuming, so I dropped it after his three-issue story. Popeye's appeal is evident. The tightly controlled cartooning, the verbal exuberance. Unfortunately, it does wear on.

David Copperfield. Ah, Dickens. I take some big thick 19th century novel with me every plane trip I take. If I don't take another plane trip, will I ever read Nicholas Nickleby? It really makes you wonder.

Parker novels by Stark (not Spencer by Parker). The most entertaining discovery of the year. I read four of the later ones and fully enjoyed the entwining of characterization and heist-planning.

Runaways/Twilight. I couldn't not mention that I read the complete Twilight series. I found out a painless way to do it--read 100 pages, skip 300, and read to the end. You get to skip the awkward telegraphing and repetition that way. Far far better is the complete Brian K. Vaughan Runaways. I'd started on it years before, but picked up recent installments at the library. This triggered a one-day binge on volumes 1-5

Master of Reality/Music From the Big Pink. Apparently, I'm the type of guy who reads books inspired by classic albums. I never wanted to be that guy, but there you go.

Weekend Novelist by Robert Ray. I haven't read that many how-to-write books. This one is okay.

American Born Chinese/Maus. Two not dissimilar books about cultural identity. ABC is much fresher at this point, using three stories and three modes=autobio, outlandish stereotypes with a sitcom, and a magic realist fable that eventually encompasses all three.

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow. Nothing like the occasional YA near-future sci-fi thriller. It introduces its audience to some privacy tactics for computer monitoring. A kind of Edward Abbey manual of resistence for the surveillance age.

*I originally intended a history of my "big reading" project to be the topic of this STL, but along the way I got sidetracked. I do at least want to record the list:

1995 Ulysses
1996 Swann's Way
1997 Poetry of William Carlos Williams
1998 In Search of Lost Time
1999 Don Quixote

2000 The Divine Comedy
2001 The Cantos
2002 Middlemarch
2003 Bleak House
2004 Paradise Lost
2005 The Recognitions
2006 The Odyssey
2007 "A"
2008 Anna Karenina
2009 Shakespeare's Comedies and Romances

On 1 Jan 2010, I began rereading King John to kick off the completion of Shakespeare's dramas. Assuming I finish all of Shakespeare's plays in 2010 (and I might as well through in the longer poems since I've read the sonnets), I will have read 14 works (not counting Swann's Way for both '96 an '98 counting the collected Shakespeare as one), including 7 novels, 6 works of poetry, and 1 impressive body of drama.

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