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The Big List o’ Lists

johnny-guitar-os-web

To begin with some actual news, James H. Billington, the Librarian of Congress, announced this morning the latest 25 films to be added to the National Film Registry, bringing the total number of titles on the list to the nice round figure of 500. The NFR isn’t meant to be a “best” list, but rather a reckoning of films that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically” significant, and more broadly symbolic of the many different kinds of American cinema that merit preservation (full disclosure: I’m a member of the committee, the National Film Preservation Board, that advises the Librarian on the selection). To that end, the annual lists have increasingly moved beyond the borders of Hollywood narrative filmmaking to include avant-garde, independent, documentary and sponsored work; this year, there’s even a student film (Mitchell Block’s 1973 “No Lies”).

The new additions, in alphabetical order:

1) The Asphalt Jungle (1950)
2) Deliverance (1972)
3) Disneyland Dream (1956)
4) A Face in the Crowd (1957)
5) Flower Drum Song (1961)
6) Foolish Wives (1922)
7) Free Radicals (1979)
8) Hallelujah (1929)
9) In Cold Blood (1967)
10) The Invisible Man (1933)
11) Johnny Guitar (1954)
12) The Killers (1946)
13) The March (1964)
14) No Lies (1973)
15) On the Bowery (1957)
16) One Week (1920)
17) The Pawnbroker (1965)
18) The Perils of Pauline (1914)
19) Sergeant York (1941)
20) The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
21) So’s Your Old Man (1926)
22) George Stevens WW2 Footage (1943-46)
23) The Terminator (1984)
24) Water and Power (1989)
25) White Fawn’s Devotion (1910)

For more information on the individual titles, go to the NFPB site, located here. The smiley in shades next to “Hallelujah” seems to represent the unsolicited opinion of WordPress, the excellent and otherwise unassuming program that underlies this blog; in any case, I can’t figure out where it came from or how to get rid of it.

In less consequential news, the DVD columnist of the New York Times has choked up a list of “ten notable DVDs” issued this year. It can be found, along with the usual vain attempts at self-justification, here.

And finally, just to prove that I still have one foot in the 21st century, here’s my alphabetical list of the best movies I saw in the last twelve months, which I hope will soon be overwhelmed by contributions from the readers of this space:

A Christmas Tale/Arnaud Desplechin
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button/David Fincher
Diary of the Dead/George A. Romero
The Fall/Tarsem
Gran Torino/Clint Eastwood
Sparrow/Johnnie To
Still Life/Jia Zhang-Ke
Tropic Thunder/Ben Stiller
Wall-E/Andrew Stanton
Wendy and Lucy/Kelly Reichardt

382 comments to The Big List o’ Lists

  • Dusty

    The smiley face is a conversion of “8” and “)” into an emoticon. You can turn off emoticons in Settings/Writing/Formatting. You can also put a space in between the characters or put a bracket or a period after the numbers rather than a parenthesis.

  • Tony Larder

    Well, I really must finish watching DIARY OF THE DEAD sometime, based on your recommendation. Robin Wood also liked it. The first thirty minutes didn’t work well for me. The bad Canadian actors and the shaky cam. I gave up on CLOVERFIELD for the same reason. I really didn’t like BENJAMIN BUTTON following Fincher’s ZODIAC which is one of my favorite recent films. And I don’t “get” the excitement over TROPIC THUNDER. The fake trailers weren’t nearly as interesting as those in GRINHOUSE and once the film gets into the jungle I was completely bored. It sounds cliched, but I felt trapped in an overlong SNL skit that wasn’t getting any better.

  • Scott

    I love that “Johnny Guitar” poster!

    Yeah, in general, I felt there wasn’t much new stuff to get excited about in 2008. Though I’m still in the process of hopefully unearthing a few hidden gems. Anyhow, can I do my best-of list Oscar style?

    BEST PICTURE: “A Christmas Tale”; “The Duchess of Langeais”; “Flight of the Red Balloon”; “Still Life”; “WALL-E” (Huh? “The Class”; “The Dark Knight; “Slumdog Millionaire”)

    BEST DIRECTOR: Arnaud Desplechin, “A Christmas Tale”; Wong Kar-Wai, “Ashes of Time Redux” & “My Blueberry Nights”; Hou Hsiao-Hsien, “Flight of the Red Balloon”; Gus van Sant, “Milk” & “Paranoid Park”; Jia Zhangke, “Still Life” (Huh? Danny Boyle, “Slumdog Millionaire”; Christopher Nolan, “The Dark Knight”)

    BEST ACTOR: Benicio Del Toro, “Che”; Guillaume Depardieu, “The Duchess of Langeais”; Michael Fassbender, “Hunger”; Sean Penn, “Milk”; Mickey Rourke, “The Wrestler” (Huh? Clint Eastwood, “Gran Torino”; Richard Jenkins, “The Visitor”; Brad Pitt, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”)

    BEST ACTRESS: Asia Argento, “The Last Mistress”; Juliette Binoche, “Flight of the Red Balloon”; Sally Hawkins, “Happy-Go-Lucky”; Lei Hao, “Summer Palace”; Lina Leandersson, “Let the Right One In”; (Huh? Angelina Jolie, “Changeling”; Meryl Streep, “Doubt”; Kristin Scott Thomas, “I’ve Loved You So Long”)

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Robert Downey Jr., “Tropic Thunder”; Simon Iteanu, “Flight of the Red Balloon”; Eddie Marsan, “Happy-Go-Lucky”; Brad Pitt, “Burn After Reading”; Jeffrey Wright, “Cadillac Records” (Huh? Heath Ledger, “The Dark Knight” — sorry.)

    BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Rosemarie DeWitt, “Rachel Getting Married”; Karina Fernandez, “Happy-Go-Lucky”; Lucy, “Wendy and Lucy”; Samantha Morton, “Synecdoche, New York”; Natalie Portman, “My Blueberry Nights” (Huh? Penelope Cruz, “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”; Viola Davis, “Doubt”; Marisa Tomei, “The Wrestler”)

    Happy New Year!

  • Alex Hicks

    Here are a few films selected from my pool of new, 2008 favorites on the grounds that no one else seems likely to bring any of them up but some just might enjoy one of more them as very much as I did.

    Kimberley Peirce’s “Stop-Lose”
    David Mamet’s “Redbelt”
    Gavin O’Connor’s “Pride and Glory”

  • The smiley is because an “8” followed by a “)” is a signal to your software that you want to insert a smiley-with-shades emoticon. Insert a period after the 8 and it should go away, I’m guessing.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Pedantic question:

    Is 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days excluded because of its LA release last year, or just not one of your ten favorites?

  • I still don’t get everyone’s love for Benjamin Button, but then I still don’t get the love given to Forrest Gump. Otherwise, I like the list. Still haven’t caught up with Gran Torino, but am highly anticipating it next week. By the way, love the Johnny Guitar poster image AND so thrilled it is on the list. Highly underpraised film indeed.

  • top six:
    my name is albert ayler
    che
    hunger
    hancock
    benjamin button
    cloverfield

    acting: jeffrey wright and beyonce knowles, cadillac records

  • Johan Andreasson

    The smiley next to HALLELUJAH made me remember how much I liked the film the only time I saw it, more than 20 years ago. I´m sure it´s dated in many ways, but it took some courage for King Vidor to make it in 1929, and he did it with great feeling. So I agree with WordPress here!

  • David Boxwell

    Just to be succinct, my favorite #1 performances this year:

    Male: Benoit Magimel, “A Girl Cut in Two” (Chabrol)

    Female: Rosemarie DeWitt, “Rachel Getting Married” (Demme)

  • James L. Neibaur

    Glad to see Buster Keaton’s starring debut ONE WEEK listed. It is a brilliant two-reeler. I would like to see Arbuckle’s MOONSHINE considered for preservation, but I suppose we would first have to find a decent print of it (the most readily available one, on the Kino DVD, is from 16mm source material — the image offers the only existing 35mm fragments).

    I haven’t seen all the films I need to see in order to compile a Ten Best list, but I enjoy reading the lists of others as they always contain films with which I am unfamiliar and will later seek out.

    So far I am the only one in the universe who was underwhelmed by Wall-E.

  • Thanks, Dusty. Valuable information, though now I’m reluctant to change it.

  • Carlye

    Dave–

    I won’t burden you with my own list of films – for 2008 or any other year. I get the impression that you are “listed out,” so to speak. But had to say that I am impressed with the breadth of the latest Libarary of Congress list. (Are you still involved, btw?) “Flower Drum Song.” Wow! It may have taken more than 40 years, but that fine film is finally getting its due. (If my recollection is correct, it was showcased at a recent Toronto Film Festival and also at the San Francisco International Film Festival, among others.) For what it’s worth, it’s the only Rodgers and Hammerstein film that I find not just tolerable, but quite wonderful.

  • Dave –

    Glad to see that “Wendy and Lucy” made your list, I see great (though quiet) things in the future for Kelly Reichardt. Your list reminds me that I need to get to “Still Life” and “Sparrow.” I’m a little surprised to see “A Christmas Tale” on a best-of list, but you’re far from the only one so I must have missed something there.

    Would like to beat the drum for a few really sharp films that I thought didn’t get the attention they deserved this year:
    – “Towelhead”
    – “Boy A”
    – “Savage Grace”

  • nicolas saada

    Glad to see that IN COLD BLOOD made it at last ! What an incredible film, sustained by Quincy Jones ominous score. It’s also a forerunner of ZODIAC in many ways.

  • jwarthen

    Was thinking about Keaton’s ONE WEEK earlier today, before discovering the LoC list. Watched it for a second time with two elementary-school-aged relatives last month, and the gags and technical stunts I thought I had imagined– hell, they’re all in there. The tickled kids’ dad observed, “You could show this to anyone, anywhere in the world, and they’d have to laugh…”

  • Ben

    Sam, thank you so much for alerting me the existence of MY NAME IS ALBERT AYLER the movie. I love that record of the same name and Ayler’s version of Summertime is still one of the most hauntingly beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. I can’t wait to see it locally. Thanks again!

    Oh, I just saw BENJAMIN BUTTON last night and I really liked it. Fincher has grown up.

  • Randy Byers

    James, count me as another who was underwhelmed by WALL-E. The gendering of the robots destroyed my suspension of disbelief from the get-go, and the portrayal of obesity as the result of lack of will undermined it further.

    On the other hand, THE FALL is my absolute favorite of the year. Nothing else came close. Reading about Wallace Reid shortly after I saw it the first time, I wondered if he was the basis for the story.

    Come to think of it, both WALL-E and THE FALL are homages to silent film, in very different ways.

  • James L. Neibaur

    I think we’re in a very small club, Randy, in regard to Wall-E. I had the same problem last year with JUNO. I have not seen THE FALL yet but it is naturally something I am looking forward to screening soon. The Wallace Reid comparsion is an interesting one.

    jwarthen — I have shown ONE WEEK to students on several occasions, and it always goes over well.

    Upon closer inspection, I am surprised at the LoC list’s inclusion of SO’S YOUR OLD MAN, a W.C. Fields silent. It is ok, but because Fields was better with dialog, the talkie remake YOU’RE TELLING ME is far superior. Perhaps they wanted to include a Fields silent. Does that mean next year they pick out a Keaton talkie?

    BENJAMIN BUTTON looks ridiculous to me, but since it is garnering a lot of acclaim, I should probably see it before foolishly judging it ahead of time.

  • Hi Dave,

    Here’s a series of links related to the Critics’ Roundtable I hosted on Clint Eastwood:

    http://filmlinc.wordpress.com/2008/12/30/do-you-feel-lucky-punks-then-download-this-critical-roundtable-podcast-on-clint-eastwood-2/

    And here are three video essays by Kevin Lee made from the conversation:

    Part 1: Changeling
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfQjiNgigQQ

    Part 2: Gran Torino (Don’t watch the last 40 seconds if you don’t want the ending spoiled.)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xFXrN2b76E

    Part 3: Shots in the Dark: The Eastwood Look
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AjOMQUTB9Qs

    -Evan

  • Alex Hicks

    Although a lot of artistic as well technical skill has gone into Wall-e and its thematic ambition is impressive for such an expensive venture, it visual and narrative invention is a lot less than that of revious Pixar production invention like “Monsters, Inc.,” “Finding Nemo” and “Ratatouille.” Perhaps, accumulated guilty Pixar pleasures wrapped in such high Green Seriousness, were bound to attract loud acclaim, and I’m too much the aesthete to join in, but for social seriousness I’ll take “Wendy and Lucy,” or “Stop-Lose.”

  • Michael Dempsey

    I’m pleased tdo see David Boxwell’s citation of Benoit Magimel for Claude Chabrol’s “A Girl Cut In Two,” in which this actor wonderfully embodies a byzantinely demented, rich, pampered, but lethal brat. This role is Magimel’s perfect mirror image for his study of a conscientious striver abruptly bowled over by l’amour fou in Chabrol’s “The Bridesmaid.”

    There’s another fine performance from “A Girl” (which played for a week in L.A. at the Nuart) to cite: Ludivine Sagnier’s touching development of her character, Gabrielle, who at first seems like just another airheaded TV weathergirl, into a tragic embodiment of the film’s mordant study of sex and passion and how their mutation into love, especially when this occurs unexpectedly, can inspire multiple levels of treachery.

    Also, let’s not overlook Stephen Rea’s mesmerizing, virtually unprecedented acting in Stuart Gordon’s gruesomely gruesome and gruesomely funny “Stuck” (another one-weeker at the Nuart), which details a form of commonplace evil to which virtually anyone might succumb on a perfect storm bad day.

    Rea’s work is a genuine tour de force of misfortune and mania, especially for all that he is able to wring out of himself while his character lies smashed up and entrapped within a car’s wrecked windshield, left to die, leaking blood from all over, reduced to beast-like groans, yet obstinately determined to survive.

    And, finally, another salute to the lively intricacies of “Diary Of The Dead” and its sharp dissection of Total Media World.

  • Kenji Fujishima

    “Flight of the Red Balloon”? Anyone? “Still Life” comes very close, but no other movie I saw in the past year—certainly not the annoyingly show-offy “A Christmas Tale,” whose massive acclaim I just don’t get—moved me as profoundly as Hou Hsiao-hsien’s latest.

  • Kenji Fujishima

    Oops, I noticed one commenter did mention “Flight of the Red Balloon.” Still love it pretty much above everything else I caught this year.

  • Carl Baugher

    I also agree with the Romero inclusion. “Diary of the Dead” was way better than the apparent written consensus implies.

  • Brian

    My top ten…

    THE WRESTLER (Darren Aronofsky)
    SHOTGUN STORIES (Jeff Nichols)
    RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (Jonathan Demme)
    LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (Tomas Alfredson)
    MILK (Gus Van Sant)
    BURN AFTER READING (The Coen Bros.)
    MY BLUEBERRY NIGHTS (Wong Kar-wai)
    TRANSSIBERIAN (Brad Anderson)
    WALL-E (Andrew Stanton)
    HAPPY GO LUCKY (Mike Leigh)

  • Jaime

    Missed a lot, but very little I’ve seen in the last 12 months has compared to WALL-E and a two-part episode of THE OFFICE from 2007: “Travelling Salesmen” and “The Return,” both of which were directed by a guy named Greg Daniels. All three (two?) “films” are magnificent. I liked THE DARK KNIGHT and BURN AFTER READING, and have to disclose I’ve been getting most of my kicks this year from various novels by Philip K. Dick and Alan Moore, rather than movies.

  • JJ

    Personal Faves of 2008: (of what I saw–missed a lot)

    Wall-E

    Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 (which I saw in the Brattle in Harvard Square with an audience that had mostly been at, or played in, the actual game in ’68–THAT was an experience)

    W.

    Iron Man

    Wendy And Lucy

    Indiana Jones and The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull (it’s Spielberg and Lucas’ Hatari, or Donovan’s Reef, okay?)

  • Junko Yasutani

    Gran Torino/Clint Eastwood
    Milk/Gus Van Sant
    Lola Montes restored version/Max Ophuls
    Tokyo sonata/Kurosawa Kiyoshi
    A Christmas Tale/Arnuad Desplechin
    Sparrow/Johnnie To
    Still Life/Jia Zhng-ke
    Flight of the Red Balloon/Hou Hsiao-Hsien
    La Fille coupée en deux/Claude Chabrol
    Der Baader Meinhof Komplex/Uli Edel

  • jbryant

    I think folks who dislike popular films are never in quite as small a minority as they think they are. I’ve seen many mixed to negative responses to Wall-E, and I wouldn’t be surprised at this point if the Juno haters outnumbered the Juno lovers. Extreme popularity is almost always followed by a degree of backlash, especially among those whose primary motivation for seeing the film is to “see what all the fuss is about.”

    That said, I was primarily pro on Wall-E, because it has some truly beautiful passages. I wasn’t completely sold on the second half — perhaps the concept was stronger than the execution. And I didn’t think it cleared the bar set by the sublime Ratatouille. But still.

    I’ve missed a lot, too, and still have much to catch up on, but here’s a few I liked well enough to consider potentially Top Ten-worthy:

    Cadillac Records
    Gran Torino
    Changeling
    The Bank Job
    Be Kind Rewind
    Burn After Reading
    Pineapple Express
    Forgetting Sarah Marshall
    Cloverfield (David Bordwell made a strong defense for the virtues of this one)

    Obviously, most or all of those played the multiplexes. I’ve seen almost no foreign language or true indie films this year. The cost of a movie night for two usually involves a level of compromise. I try to catch up on DVD, but it takes a while.

  • michaelgsmith

    Ashes of Time Redux
    A Christmas Tale
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Gran Torino
    Let the Right One In
    Tokyo Sonata
    The Wrestler
    Hellboy II: The Golden Army
    Timecrimes
    Milk

  • Tony

    “Oh, I just saw BENJAMIN BUTTON last night and I really liked it. Fincher has grown up.”

    Zodiac was much more mature.

  • Glad to see Tropic Thunder, Diary of the Dead and A Christmas Tale on your list, Dave. Still can’t bring myself to generating any enthusiasm for Wall.E or for that matter any Pixar–maybe my favorite recent animated film was Brad Bird’s The Iron Giant.

  • Kudos to Michael for mentioning Stuart Gordon’s Stuck, by the way–darker and funnier than that Batman flick.

    And Filipino digital cinema’s as vigorous as ever, but I only managed to catch a fraction of it–most particularly Rico Ilarde’s gem of a horror film Altar and John Torres lovely autobiographical collage essay-film Years when I was a child outside

  • Kent Jones

    Is there really going to be a contest over the relative levels of maturity in ZODIAC and BENJAMIN BUTTON? They both seemed pretty mature to me.

  • James L. Neibaur

    jbryant — interesting regarding responses to popular mainstream films, as I do find that happening quite frequently. I saw JUNO opening weekend and hated it. I was surprised that it became so embraced. WALL-E I watched on Blu-ray fairly recently, and expected to like it. I did not wonder what all the fuss was about until after I had seen it. Anthropomorphism of toys seems to me to be pretty standard child’s play and I don’t see that the film offered anything terribly substantial. Oh well, more people liked it than disliked it so that makes it my problem.

    I do share your enthusiasm for Pineapple Express.

    I am intrigued by Shotgun Stories showing up on many lists. It is a film I haven’t heard of at all. Can anyone elaborate? Thanks

  • Stephen Cone

    I’ve got some work to do before I can post any kind of favorites list. I don’t even think WENDY AND LUCY hits Chicago ’til late January, or something. ’til then…

  • Ben

    I never saw ZODIAC so I really can’t tell how it compares to BB. I was mainly comparing BB to SEVEN and FIGHT CLUB. I must confess I rarely watch TV and DVD at home so the only time I will be able to catch ZODIAC or any recent first run films that I missed is at a revival house. Due to this fact, I am developing a huge gap in my film going experience compare to most people on here. The few films I managed to see in the theatre that I liked a lot are below:

    FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON
    SPARROW
    HAPPY GO LUCKY
    THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON
    KUNG FU PANDA

    Most over-rated film of the year = WALL-E

  • John M

    To Kenji Fujishima, I gotta ask: why, exactly, do you find A CHRISTMAS TALE “show-offy”? What does that mean, exactly? Show-offy like Welles and Ophuls? Like Godard? When does adventurousness or expressiveness become “show-offy”? I’m genuinely interested in your answer.

    SHOTGUN STORIES is a low-budget southern family-clan-warfare tale by Jeff Nichols. It’s carefully done, but a little barebones for my tastes. I recently saw PRIME CUT on DVD, with Gene Hackman and Lee Marvin, and was reminded of SHOTGUN STORIES. It has the same kind of ultra-lean structure that flourished in the ’70s: no subplots, just a dour set-up and long, bloody payoff (Melville’s a master at this stuff, maybe the father of it?). I’m not sure it’s great, but it’s definitely worth checking out.

    A film ABSOLUTELY worth seeing is Ronald Bronstein’s FROWNLAND. An unflinching portrait of marginality, it was self-distributed, but hopefully will show up on DVD soon. A truly fine independent debut, and charmingly retrograde. (It could’ve been made twenty years ago.) Search it out.

    And I second Chris B’s shout-out for SAVAGE GRACE. Very smart direction by Tom Kalin. It definitely deserves the Golden Globe for “Movie Most Uncanny In Its Depiction of Mother-Son Fucking.”

    Top ten, in no particular order:

    A Christmas Tale
    The Class
    The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
    Flight of the Red Balloon
    Wall*E
    Hunger
    Synecdoche, NY
    Momma’s Man
    Frownland
    Silent Light

    Runners Up:

    Tropic Thunder
    A Girl Cut in Two
    Rachel Getting Married
    Snow Angels
    Paranoid Park
    Happy-Go-Lucky

  • John M

    And, because I’m obsessive…

    Movies That Didn’t Connect, But Positively Demand a Second Viewing:

    Still Life
    Wendy and Lucy

    Really Good and/or Great Films, Yet to Be Released, Seen at New York Film Festival, All Must-Sees:

    24 City
    The Headless Woman
    Night and Day
    Summer Hours
    Tokyo Sonata
    Tony Manero
    Tulpan

    Not Bad Movies That Should’ve Been Better And/Or What’s the Big Goddamn Whoop:

    Ashes of Time Redux
    The Dark Knight
    Let the Right One In
    Che
    Pineapple Express
    The Last Mistress
    Changeling
    Forgetting Sarah Marshall
    This is England

    Movie I Actively Loathed:

    Vicky Cristina Barcelona

  • John M

    For the completists out there…

    Haven’t Seen / Should See:

    Funny Games
    Gran Torino
    Slumdog Millionaire
    The Duchess of Langeais
    Redbelt
    My Blueberry Nights
    In the City of Sylvia
    The Pleasure of Being Robbed
    The Foot Fist Way
    Woman on the Beach

    Movie I Will Not See, These Comments and David Bordwell Notwithstanding:

    Cloverfield

    Theatrical Experience That Blew Me A-freakin’-way:

    Ordet

    Happy holidays to all y’all.

  • John M

    And wouldn’t ya know it, I forgot to mention BALLAST, on of the year’s best. Delicate and beautiful–support American independent film, people! We’re dyin’ over here!

  • Brad Stevens

    2008 Top Ten
    1- LE VOYAGE DU BALLON ROUGE (Hou)
    2- CHELSEA ON THE ROCKS (Ferrara)
    3- GARDENS IN AUTUMN (Iosseliani)
    4- LA QUESTION HUMAINE (Klotz)
    5- THE ROMANCE OF ASTREA AND CELADON (Rohmer)
    6- MOTHER OF TEARS (Argento)
    7- I DON’T WANT TO SLEEP ALONE (Tsai)
    8- GLUE (Dos Santos)
    9- DIARY OF THE DEAD (Romero)
    10- SOUTHLAND TALES (Kelly)

    Retrospective Discoveries (in random order)
    A DANDY IN ASPIC (Mann)
    DECISION AT SUNDOWN (Boetticher)
    BELOVED INFIDEL (King)
    SEVEN SINNERS (Garnett)
    VAN GOGH (Pialat)
    PLUNDER OF THE SUN (Farrow)
    MAHANAGAR (Ray)
    THE MUNEKATA SISTERS (Ozu)
    NICE DREAMS (Chong)
    EL COCHECITO (Ferreri)
    WORLD ON A WIRE (Fassbinder)
    3 AM (Graver)
    THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS (Middleton)
    VIOLETTE NOZIERE (Chabrol)
    M (Losey)

  • Kenji Fujishima

    To John M: I just felt that, most of the time, Desplechin’s pastiche of cinematic styles and especially his heavy reliance on cutesy irony more often than not drew more attention to his own “look at me” ingenuity rather than to the characters and the situations that I was supposed to be feeling something for. Welles and Ophuls may have experimented with technique quite often in their films, but usually one can see the point of their experimentation in context of the story they’re telling and the characters they’re exploring; to me, things like the puppet-show opening, the pointless “Vertigo” reference in the middle, the fourth-wall-breaking moments and the everything-but-the-kitchen-sink musical soundtrack in the Desplechin film struck me as mostly directorial self-indulgence that fatally obscured the film’s emotional content. (I’ve heard the Godard comparisons too, and point taken, I guess, although I find Godard’s uses of such postmodern devices generally more fascinating—and certainly more critical in nature—than Desplechin’s fanciness in dressing up yet another dysfunctional-family melodrama.)

    But then, perhaps you should take my opinion with a massive grain of salt: this is the only Desplechin film I’ve seen, so maybe I just haven’t yet gotten in tune with his sensibility through his previous works.

  • Kent Jones

    Ben, do you live in New York? We’re showing the director’s cut of ZODIAC on Saturday at the Walter Reade.

  • Re: The “Button” contra “Zodiac” musings—I don’t think machoority enters into it at all. For what it’s worth.

    I, too, rated “Shotgun Stories” pretty highly, but it’s got its strong detractors. I feel bad I didn’t find room on my top 21 for the Chabrol; such are my powers of organizization. In any case, here they is:

    1) Ne Touchez pas La Hache (a.k.a. The Duchess of Langeais) (Jacques Rivette)
    2) Une Vielle Maitresse (a.k.a. The Last Mistress) (Catherine Breillat)
    3) Razzle Dazzle/The Lost World (Ken Jacobs)
    4) The Romance of Astree and Celadon (Eric Rohmer)
    5) Synechdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman)
    6) A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
    7) Flight of fhe Red Balloon (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
    8) Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)
    9) The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky)
    10) Che (Steven Soderbergh)
    11) Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant)
    12) Boarding Gate (Olivier Assayas)
    13) Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen)
    14) Diary of the Dead (George A. Romero)
    15) Shotgun Stories (Jeff Nichols)
    16 )Wall-E (Andrew Stanton)
    17) Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme)
    18) Mad Detective (Johnny To and Ka Fa Wai)
    19) Encounters at the End of the World (Werner Herzog)
    20) Shine A Light (Martin Scorsese)
    21) J’Entends plus la guitare (Philippe Garrel, made 1991, got first theatrical U.S. release 2008)

    Glad to see Dave spreading some love for the Romero and the Eastwood!

  • Hey, I made the “8” do that thing too! Awesome!

  • Randy Byers

    jbryant, I agree that popular films always have a large contingent of haters too. Anything that gets that much attention will draw a backlash, or will draw the attention of people not in tune with it.

    I don’t see enough first run films to really do a Top 10 list, but BE KIND REWIND is one I’d like to see again even though I didn’t just love it. Likewise for BURN AFTER READING. Both of those could well grow on me over time. Then again, THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP remains enigmatic to me even after further viewing.

  • nicolas saada

    Nor order: (Che is released in 2009 here)

    The darjeeling limited
    the changeling
    L’heure d’été
    Un conte de noel
    Le silence de lorna
    wall-e
    Sparrow
    Cloverfield
    Four nights with anna
    Entre les murs/the wire season 4

  • nicolas saada

    I haven’t seen the following films yet
    Be kind rewind
    burn after reading
    les promesses de l’aube
    Shine a light
    shotgun stories
    profils paysans
    la zona
    the wrestler
    encounters at the the end of the world