Nobody is reading. Why would I add my little list to the sea of meaningless chatter? Because it’s fun to do this every year. I have a fantasy that someone out there will read this blog/post and decide to watch one of these movies. If that happens once the exercise will have been a success. If you do watch a movie for having seen it on my list, then comment and I’ll dedicate my list to you next year (some people will not qualify for this… you know who you are).
I’m doing a top ten. The criteria are simple. It has to be a movie that I thought was 5 stars. That shrinks the list to around thirty films. The process after that point involves a desert island fantasy to rank them. I think the understanding should be that the other twenty films that I haven’t listed here are in actuality 10a, 10b, 10c, etc…
While my love for cinema dates back to being a little boy, it is during the aughts that I pushed my passion to the cinephile level. I went from a 22 year-old art school graduate with a degree in comic books whose favorite film was “The Professional” (Besson), into film school and deeper into the cinematic library. With the invention of netflix I was able to delve deeper and develop my taste to the point that I would seek out a screening of a 450 minute, black-and-white, Hungarian film. It doesn’t feel like a huge leap, but more like a natural progression. For me the aughts were a fertile time where I looked down a lot of paths and found some wonderful films that I will watch time and again. I hope that the next decade is even more fruitful.
You will notice the lack of documentaries on this list. It is not a bias against them so much as it is a comment on how few of them I seek out. I don’t know why. Perhaps that should be my New Year’s Resolution; see more documentaries.
10. 28 Days Later - A masterpiece of modern horror that reinvented the zombie genre and used dv as an artistic choice, Garland and Boyle’s film holds me at attention whenever it comes on tv. The rewatch-ability factor of this movie is right up there with Cool Hand Luke for me (which is good).
9. Monster’s Ball (Marc Forster) – After seeing this movie in the cultural wasteland of Savannah, I immediately told all of my coworkers to go and see it. I never do that. I was so moved by this story that I forget that Puff Daddy is in it.
8. No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers) – Saw this again on cable the other day and I had forgotten how damn good it is. Who knew sliding a case full of money down a ventilation shaft was so cinematic. The Coen Brothers are ultra-badass.
7. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis) – This movie made me start seeking out Claire Denis’ movies again. I had sworn off her after seeing, and no liking, Trouble Every Day. Seeing this one, even in the terrible anti-fat-guy seats at Film Forum, was an emotional experience. The ‘Night Shift’ scene was moving like few scenes. I put it up there with the final scene in Tender Mercies and the wall punching scene in Raging Bull. I can’t get it out of my head.
6. Ballast (Lance Hammer) - I talked about this film when I was doing reviews, but it’s worth writing again that Hammer’s debut film is exactly the kind of film that I want to make. Regional, intimate and universal.
5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry) – Charlie Kaufman is the voice of my generation (though he is decidedly older than me) and this movie changed Jim Carey from Fire Marshal Bill to an actual actor in my mind. That is award worthy all by itself.
4. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu) – Romania is churning out brilliant films every year now and this is my favorite. Tension without the usual tricks, beautiful cinematography and realism at it’s best.
3. In the Mood For Love (Wong Kar-wai) – No movie has developed and sustained a sense of mood and melancholy the way this one did for me. It made my walk to the store heavy with the need for meaning.
2. Revanche (Gotz Spielmann) – Speaking of movies I would like to make, Revanche hit me like a few of these films, out of the blue. I see a lot of movies based on reviews and that will give me a sense of what to expect, but Revanche moved at a pace that was exactly what I like. From the opening image I was blown away.
1. There Will Be Blood (P. T. Anderson) – Moving up my list of favorite film makers (I put him just below Kubrick and Kieslowski), Anderson makes huge movies with heavy doses of music that work perfectly for me. I tend to go towards a smaller story with as little music as possible, but There Will Be Blood with its opening image accompanied by swelling score broke through the bias and made me realize that it isn’t music that is the enemy, it’s poor choices.
One caveat: This list was made without having seen the following movies that MIGHT be able to force their way onto the list. Colossal Youth (Costa), Ne Touchez Pas le Hache (Rivette), Talk to Her (Almodovar), The World (Zhang Ke), Liverpool (Alonso), Man Push Cart (Bahrani), Syndromes and a Century (Weerasethakul), Songs from the Second Floor (Andersson), Regular Lovers (Garrel), Flight of the Red Balloon (Hsiao-hsien), In the Loop (Iannucci), Beau Travail (Denis), Best of Youth (Giordana), Birdsong (Serra), Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel), Time Out (Cantet)… and probably thousands more. I would like to rewatch Cache (Haneke) too.