December 25, 2009 the finish line (pt. 4)


Finding Nemo 10. Hero (5)

In the Cut 9. Lost in Translation (n/a)

Rivers and Tides/Same River Twice 8. Finding Nemo (10)

All the Real Girls 7. All the Real Girls (7)

The Secret Lives of Dentists 6. Stevie (3)

Hero 5. Unknown Pleasures (n/a)

Kill Bill vol. 1 4. The Son (n/a)

Capturing the Friedmans/Stevie 3. Spider (2)

Spider 2. In the Cut (9)

Elephant 1. Elephant (1)

I’m good with not doing ties anymore, overestimated Hero a bit – particularly in light of Red Cliff’s tighter focus on philosophy and tactics - and underestimated the stickiness of Lost in Translation. I think I might just like John Woo more than Zhang Yimou; hate to say it but his opening ceremony for the last Summer Olympics have stained my appreciation for a lot of Zhang’s other work. I still do love Shanghai Triad, though. Jane Campion’s In the Cut increases in wisdom with a line drawn true to Lost in Translation, Elephant retains its slippery power as perhaps the only film in Van Sant’s “visionary” quartet that works the way it’s supposed to, while The Secret Lives of Dentists is still enjoyable and packed with superlative performances, but not better than these ten.

Jia Zhang Ke makes his debut on these lists with youth opus Unknown Pleasures, a precursor to pictures like Bright Future and contemporary of Millennium Mambo that see the Asian situation as one of listless lassitude as the events of history bear them senseless into the future. The Dardenne Bros’ examination of grace and forgiveness has proved a wonderful sop to the revenge-minded pictures of this decade, the last of their films to me that doesn't feel like a gimmick, and sensitive as well of the process of grieving necessary for evolved beings to experience on their way to enlightenment. Not to put too Buddhist a shine on it. Looking for Kill Bill? I’ve taken the liberty of lumping them together like Red Cliff – they’re really one film and should be taken as such. Look for the Kill Bill omnibus to appear in 2004. Talk about ripping up the rulebook, right?

Lots of great films this year as the decade picks up speed: we lose Rivers & Tides with great reluctance, but Capturing the Friedmans with less as the supplementary features have watered down the experience in my head in some ineffable way; yet Stevie stands tall as one of the most painful mea culpas captured on film to address the inability for altruism to salve our ills. Spider loses a slot to In the Cut, but Cronenberg apologists out there - of which I'm one - stay-tuned for a couple of corrections in the next couple of days... If I were doing a top twenty, this is the first year that there would be twenty strong choices for me.

Lots of room for debate in 2003.


Patrick said...

Spider was good, I think I forgot that film. My top film from 2003 was 28 Days Later, and also-rans Oldboy and Kill Bill I (II is better *g*).

I think when I first saw 28 Days Later, I wasn't too impressed – I liked it well enough for someone who's not at all into horror, but I find I can really watch that film again and again and again. As a matter of fact, maybe I will do just that tonight...

DJR said...

There are many from this year I haven't seen, but nevertheless:

1. Gerry
2. Lost in Translation (Kill Bill Vol. 1 if not counted with Vol. 2)
3. Millennium Actress
4. The Son
5. Big Fish
6. Millennium Mambo
7. Bright Future
8. 28 Days Later
9. The Good Thief
10. Avalon

HM: Soft for Digging, King of the Ants, Hulk, In the Cut, Phone Booth

Underrated: Jeepers Creepers 2

I'll have to revisit Hero someday, I remember feeling it lost any dramatic momentum it had by the halfway point, the fights had no weight, and the politics were sketchy; I much preferred House of Flying Daggers. Spider was masterfully executed, but the material itself struck me as rather silly, and I didn't know what to make of the deeply confused Elephant.

O'JohnLandis said...

What is a man profited, if he shall gain 25th Hour, and lose everything else?

Wow, these new lists really weren't made for me. Capturing the Friedmans goes; Hero drops (in the wrong year); Dangerous Mind goes; Spirited Away goes (also in the wrong year) and gets compared unfavorably to Mononoke of all things! Oh, and I'm all for Kill Bill being one movie, but wouldn't it have been released in 2003? BAH! This exercise was created to break my brain. I want my money back. Oh wait...

Alex Jackson said...

You know...

I don't think that Kill Bill should be treated as one movie, but if it were treated as one movie it should be a 2004 release, because it wasn't actually finished until Part 2 came out. I completely don't see your logic here John.

And I feel that it's perfectly logical to say that a film should be up for list consideration in the year that it premiered in North America. Outside the film festival circuit. It's no use looking at Spirited Away in reference to American films in 2001. If you see something that never gets distributed, then you can go back to that rigid "when did human beings first witness it".

Of course, if you have a rule you have to be consistent about it. Hero premiered in China in 2002, elsewhere in Asia and also in Europe in 2003, and in the United States in 2004. I don't feel anybody should put Hero on a 2003 list particularly since when Bill and Walter placed in on there the film had yet to have been distributed but had been kicking around on the bootleg circuit for a while.

That said this whole argument is making me feel autistic.

O'JohnLandis said...

Kill Bill was, at some point, one movie. It was then split in two. But if it had been released as one movie, it would have been released when Volume 1 was released. Am I missing something?

I can think of no reason why the release year in a retrospective like this should be anything other than the literal release year--Memento in 2000, Spirited Away in 2001, Hero in 2002--because it's the only way to guarantee that everyone is having the same conversation. If Hero can be on anyone's 2002 list, it has to be on everyone's 2002 list. For a site so attuned to paternalism and chauvinism, it seems to me like a fuckton of Chinese people saw Hero in 2002.

Fuckton? Cuntgaggle? Yeah, cuntgaggle.

Bill C said...

@O'John: With one exception, FFC has always gone by North American theatrical (or, with rare exception, direct-to-DVD) release dates. Festivals don't count--if they did, you'd be looking back on my lists deeply confused that you hadn't heard of half of those movies. Foreign release dates don't count because we live in North America, not Europe or Africa or on Mars. I'm not policing Walter's lists but I do know that he's following this basic logic.

I don't necessarily agree with Walt treating the KILL BILL volumes as one, but your solution is entirely hypothetical, which I'd categorize under the "festival rule." Frankly, with Tarantino cutting both parts right up until like a week before they opened, I'm doubtful that 2003 would've been the original release date of the complete film.

Anyway, we made an exception for HERO frankly out of anti-Miramax hubris. But @Alex, Walt and I both owned legit copies of the film on DVD at that point, not bootlegs, and the label was one of those Westernized Asian distribs.

Walter_Chaw said...

HA! Cuntgaggle.