December 23, 2009 the finish line (pt. 2)

A format clarification: first column is the published list from the end of the year in question, second column is the list I would make (did make) were I to make one today, with what I've seen since, and with the person that I've become. In most cases I'd say that films no longer on the top ten are still films that I like but that don't carry the same resonance as they did at the time. Still - we're not revising the lists on the muthasite as they still reflect a certain sensibility: a snapshot of the critic at the time with that experience and those tastes - and that reflection is not without some value.

How delightful!

Ghost World 10. Cure (n/a)
Blackhawk Down 9. The Princess and the Warrior (n/a)
Va Savoir 8. The Man Who Wasn’t There (6)
Brother 7. Ghost World (10)
The Man Who Wasn’t There 6. The Devil’s Backbone (n/a)
Fellowship of the Ring 5. Audition (n/a)
Memento 4. The Pledge (n/a)
The Royal Tenenbaums 3. Memento (4)
Mulholland Drive 2. The Royal Tenenbaums (3)
In the Bedroom 1. Mulholland Drive

I underestimated the sad/sticky Ghost World, overestimated Blackhawk Down (though really just by a little - I'd like to watch it again now post-Hurt Locker) and haven’t thought about Va Savoir in eight years though I do think of it fondly now that I see it on the old list. I wonder how much of this list’s additions are a result of the post-9/11 malaise that’s impossible to dismiss now in 2009 - there's certainly a thread now that connects the last to the first. I wasn’t ready to let Beat Takeshi be on the decline at that moment, still high from Hana bi I guess, but I’m ready now – and the last two films of Jackson’s trilogy (not to mention the abominable The Lovely Bones) have made the first Lord of the Rings picture seem less, not more.

I still admire In the Bedroom as a superb melodrama with sterling performances, but again, haven’t given it a thought since it was first fresh in my head. As my first top ten for FilmFreakCentral, I like to think of the choice of number 1 there as something almost sweet in my ability still to be moved, simply, by a movie intent to move. If I'm honest with myself, I'd say that I sort of mourn that ability. I adore Tom Twykver’s lovely The Princess and the Warrior: uncompromised and beautiful I can think of no other love story that has a sequence in which a mental patient eats a light bulb. And Sean Penn’s devastating film about dark obsession deserves its strong placement (and he serious consideration as a better director than actor), slotted just ahead of Takashi Miike’s gender role freak-out and Del Toro’s most personal film until Pan’s Labyrinth. I don’t know where I was on those back in 2001 but there are more ripples from these films in my personal disturbance than the others pushed off the list.

More interesting to me is that in nine years, Mulholland Drive has only gotten better upon reflection and revisit; that the Salingeresque qualities of The Royal Tenenbaums have gained traction in the intervening years (not least for the loss of my dad and the progress of my own fatherhood, I'm guessing); and that Memento seems increasingly prescient as not just the premiere showcase for the eternally underestimated Guy Pearce but the nascent stirrings of someone who posterity may show as in the top five of the most important directors of this young millennium. What a great, ugly, essentially evil movie about self-determination and the wages of chaos -

but it seems you could say that about at least three-quarters of this list.


Patrick said...

My favorite from 2001 was "Spirited Away", and I also noted that since I got it on DVD, I have not rewatched Fellowship of the Ring as often as I would have expected right out of the cinema; indeed, I last watched it five years ago and I don't miss it.

Jefferson Robbins said...

LOTR got a marathon viewing session at my house after I collected all three extended DVDs. That was overdose enough, and like a man who's eaten too much acid, I wasn't tempted to go back. The returns definitely diminish.

I'm befuddled by what top 10 lists Mulholland Drive ISN'T on. AP's two chief critics and Ann Hornaday at the Washington Post make room in their best of the decade for Wonder Boys and Sideways, but not Lynch's dream-as/of-cinema. Shocking.

Anonymous said...

spirited away was on ffc's 2002 list.

Patrick said...

So contrary to expectations, it seems Germany is a year earlier, then? Spirited Away in 2001, Memento in 2000... although I admit I went with imdb / rottentomatoes / metacritic dates when looking for films of the years.

I can't get into Wes Anderson films, nor Lynch, so I would have neither Tenenbaums nor Mulholland on my list (though Lost Highway was the last Lynch I saw)

Anonymous said...

I would disagree with your removal of In the Bedroom from the Top 10 list, if not for the unfortunate bandaid-removing scene from the end of the film - it should have ended on an empty, ambiguous note, the kind of which Cronenberg ended his starting A History of Violence and the permanently-underrated Eastern Promises.

Bill C said...

Me and Walt were originally gonna do this together but my navel became so damn alluring I couldn't look away.

2001 would've probably been my easiest year to revise. I'm ecstatic that THE PLEDGE made Walt's redux list--I'm well and truly haunted by that flick and wish it got more love. Tom Noonan said in a recent A.V. Club interview that they ran out of money before they could shoot key scenes, but I think a certain elliptical quality works mightily in the movie's favour.

GHOST WORLD would still probably be my #1, but I dunno. I caught a bit of it on TV the other day and found it gave me the heebie-jeebies, like someone was showing me footage of me drunk or something. At any rate, it faces stiff competition from MULHOLLAND and TENENBAUMS, the latter of which is impossibly tragic now that I've lost my father. Doesn't help that my dad, in an offhand way, resembled Gene Hackman. Only he wasn't an asshole.

If we're calling AUDITION '01 then, yeah, that'd be on there. I undervalued it in a typically moronic review.

A.I. would still be on my list, as would THE AMERICAN ASTRONAUT. I don't dislike IN THE BEDROOM, but I feel like it's been trumped, as one of our many anonymii suggested, by stuff like A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. DONNIE DARKO would be near the bottom of my 10, if on there at all. Richard Kelly has said enough times that it's not about what I thought it was about that I can't get his voice out of my head. Also, while the Director's Cut is stupid, it has an unfortunately deleterious effect on the theatrical version.

Finally, THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE, FAT GIRL, and MONSTERS, INC. for the win. What they were doing in my runners-up I'll never know. I can honestly say I was a different guy back then. Sadly, I still haven't seen THE CIRCLE.

Bill C said...

Oh yeah, and MEMENTO stays put.