Thursday, January 14, 2010

Heather's Half-Hearted List of the Decade

Alright, it's Heather: the generally invisible partner in this blog. Weakened under massive bullying from Michael, the actual blogging fellow, I have decided to throw in my own two cents regarding The Greatest Films of the Past Decade. Now, disclaimers are boring, and give perhaps an unpleasant flavour to what is to follow them, but I feel I need to say that I have not seen enough films to make some sort of definitive statement on the topic. The following is simply a list of films that I would be able to say I love. And it's really only two cents worth:

10. Oh yeh, I put them in order.. Starting off light (love-wise), since I really only could think of eight films off of the top of my head, I decided to throw in Glass: A Portrait of Philip in Twelve Parts. I haven't seen Shine, or anything else by Scott Hicks, but this was pretty good. Best film I've seen recently, maybe since I haven't really been watching a lot. One thing I liked about this film was how false and staged it was, despite its At Home feel. Not being sarcastic; I liked that. In the age of 'reality' tv, this is something worth looking at, for me. Images like Philip's current wife vacuuming up broken glass seemed like hopelessly corny (and empty?) metaphors or puns or something. But maybe they were just honest coincidences. The things I remember most from the film are a shot of Chuck Close in his wheelchair in a doorway, with a walk light carefully visible in the highly composed but "hand held documentary rugged messy" shot, and also how jealous I was of Philip Glass and his success and his Qi Kong. Something personal which I need to work on.

9. Sorry that the documentaries got shunted to the end of the pile, but next: When the Levees Broke (Spike Lee). I can't put this any higher on the list, because it isn't really the filmmaking that's so moving, but of course the content. I guess there's an argument lying inside that statement as to what filmmaking really is, and I seem to be making the assumption that form is what's important. Which is the opposite of what I often claim. Hmm. Nevertheless, this film is an endlessly important and heart-rending documentation of Hurricane Katrina, and therefore its human and political impacts. This is the power of "George Bush doesn't care about black people" presented in a respectful, articulate filmic format. It broke my heart so many times.

8. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai) Yes, Michael, when I couldn't make ten, I started pilfering your list. Such a beautiful and elegant film, though. Form at its finest. The dresses, of course, the mise en scène on the whole, the music, the pace, the sweetness, the performances. Really lovely. Yep.

7. Inland Empire (David Lynch) I've written about this film before, on this very blog. It f---ed me up. In that good way. I had such a visceral reaction: my body was stiff from intense tension for hours later. David Lynch is the King of making people uncomfortable. And usually I whine about things like that - screwdrivers in guts, lengthy descriptions of holes in reproductive organs, etc. I am anything but a fan of gore. But here it is used to such effect that I almost embrace it. I'm such a wimp that I still haven't psyched myself up for a second go, knowing this time around what I'm in store for. But from a filmmaker who is soooo male voyeur, this film really surprised me with its thoughtful representation of women and their ... struggles? in society. And on such a broad spectrum. It's like he finally stepped back and hit himself with a feminist reading of his entire previous body of work (which I do like, but come on ... misogyny abounds). It disturbed me how deeply I connected to such a dark, dirty film. But the presence it made in my life makes it a very important work for me personally. (I'm not a maniac.)

6. Brand Upon the Brain! (Guy Maddin) I think I saw this roughly around the same time as Inland Empire, and so now I'm not sure if I am relating the two solely because of that connection, but they definitely both deal with sexuality and gender in disturbing, great ways. Maddin's film is a lot more fun, and funny, yet still quite dark. The style is elegant to no end, the humour is smart and just plain funny, and I like this movie! (I told you Michael's analyses were gonna be better...)

5. Uzak {Distant} (Nuri Bilge Ceylan) This movie gets a vehement Frig Yeh from me. I have never seen another film that made me agree with every second of its pacing. It's a wonderful representation of family and awkward connections. Somehow, Ceylan manages to make a masterwork out of every single shot, even though it takes place mainly in the same apartment. Although I loved the plainness of the script and its dawdling pace, watching Ceylan's other films (none of which I liked) (haven't seen them all - I know Michael will correct me there if I don't) does make me question whether the simplicity of this film was effective because it was excellent, or because it's all he can do. I guess either way it's effective, and I can say I loved it wholeheartedly. [A Turkish girl I met complained that this film makes Istanbul look depressing and dirty, but I couldn't agree less. The shots that are outside of the apartment and in the city (or dans le paysage) are just overwhelmingly beautiful.]

4. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson) For years, when someone asked me to name my favourite film, this was the first thing to pop out of my mouth, and I won't turn my back on it now. Of course Wes Anderson equals production design, and this film is just gorgeous to see. I love the scene where Gene Hackman drags Luke Wilson into the closet that's full of vintage board games. Beautiful! I have seen it so many times I can perhaps never watch it again. I more likely will. 'Why do I connect with it so strongly?' I have asked myself. Two answers: Dysfunctional Family and Nostalgia. Both run rampant in this film, and in my own life. I think those are two themes that are just about universally interesting in our times. Maybe not. Also, it's hilarious. (Remember when Gene Hackman tries to reach out his hand to Ben Stiller who slaps it childishly away as he walks by?) All-star performances. This movie will be a classic, at least for me.

3. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes) I don't think I've seen another film by this fellow, but, man, it was great. I was mesmerized during the first two viewings. It's just so friggin engaging. You're with him (Haynes) every step of the way. It's beautiful, and thought-provoking, with spot-on performances and excellent music (of course), poetic, etc = basically all the things that great films should be. It's entertaining and interesting for a single viewing, and can't be easily exhausted on subsequent turns. Great stuff.

2. Bamboozled (Spike Lee) I don't know that Spike can ever top this one, but if he can, I am at the front of the line. This film serves as an entry point to a much needed dialogue on race in cinematic history, and how that relates to our society on the whole. These are topics I have always been drawn to, so this film certainly caught my attention. I think its success, and the success of Lee in general, lies in the fact that he explores ideas rather than presenting them. He does not tell us what we are supposed to think, but rather sets up a space where we can do that for ourselves. (Lee himself complains that artists are too often expected to have answers. He jokes that a general criticism of Do the Right Thing was that he did not produce within it an answer to racism.) I think this is his best example of that thoughtfulness, although, of course, Do the Right Thing rocks. But Do the Right Thing has more emotional strength (I think) whereas Bamboozled does a friggin excellent job of combining those emotions (which can never be discounted, or separated) with sobre discussion. I prefer that sort of bridging of intellect and emotion. I can't overstate how much I love this movie. I may just watch it tonight.

1. Number One! I've also only had the opportunity to see this one once, but Les Amants Réguliers took my breath away. (I like it so much I don't even care how cheesy that sounds!) It's my first entry into the world of Philippe Garrel, and I'm anxious for more. Anxious! In my journal, after watching this film, I (disconnectedly) started thinking about what things are important to remember. Maybe my mind went in that direction because of the way that Garrel deals with history, and connects historical periods in such a personal way. Re-enactments of the French Revolution sitting beside the events of May '68 don't feel heavy-handed in this film, but very simple and fitting. Garrel doesn't glorify anyone or anything, he observes and then he passes it on. I might say this is the best film I've ever seen, but before I do, I need to see it again. Another good point about this film: who doesn't love love? Look at that image: this relationship is as awesome and difficult as any I've ever experienced.


  1. This list gets a vehement Frig Yeh from me. But I have to say I'm surprised at the lack of Persepolis.

  2. Satrapi gets all my love. That was an unfortunate oversight. You were also right to mention that I neglected Adoration (Egoyan) and Happy-Go-Lucky (Leigh), although putting Happy-Go-Lucky on this list would sort of be like giving Scorsese his Oscar for The Departed. Albeit, Happy-Go-Lucky was far from sucking, Departed-style, it was also far from Leigh's best.

  3. I would say that Happy-Go-Lucky holds its own alongside Naked, Secrets & Lies, and Topsy-Turvy (just to name my own three favorites). Enraha!

  4. Those four are also my favourites, but no, I don't think Happy-Go-Lucky would be number one.

  5. But that still makes it his best movie this decade (although I do really like All or Nothing and Vera Drake).

  6. P.S., speaking of Mike Leigh, I read on Glen ("I ruv you? What the f--- is that?!") Matthews' blog that he's in a movie with the driving instructor from Happy-Go-Lucky.

    Now I'm only three degrees of separation away from Leigh. And check this out: I know Glen, and he's worked with Eddie Marsan, who was in "Sherlock Holmes" with Jude Law, who was in "The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus" with Christopher Plummer, who was in "Ararat" by Atom Egoyan, who directed "Where the Truth Lies" with... Kevin Bacon. Not six degrees, but getting closer.

  7. You were in a theatre with Egoyan. Not enough? I saw that same blog entry. Actually I thought I sent you a link to it, but guess I forgot.