Thursday, December 24, 2009

More Top 10 from the Aughts - Horror and Documentaries

Merry Christmas!

Nick Hornby had it right when he gave us High Fidelity. Life is all about making little lists: Top Ten Films of the Aughts. Top Ten Directors of Importance from 1962. Top Five Most Rockin' Organ Solos of All Time. Top Three Things I Need to Do Today.

Life gives us little lists, and little lists give a sense of purpose -- a sort of identity, a sense of belonging, and a self-aware need for closure and disclosure. I've marveled at the aughts in trying to pick my favorite directors and films. It's a great, grand trip down memory lane. There were truly inspiring film moments, times when ideas lept in splendor from the screen.

There were also moments when the screen reared its ugly teeth and took a gut-wrenching bite at our sides.

Here are two more 00-09 lists, before I settle into my Best Films Groove. As has been mentioned previously in my choice of favorite directors, these memories and decisions are not easy to make. But, wow -- what a great load of fun. To be clear, these are my faves. Not necessarily the most important or the absolute best. And I've taken liberty at some of the categorical definitions in the lists (especially "horror".) But here at Filmsweep I'm aiming for my reaction in and of itself. The following films brought an outright visceral reaction to me over the past ten years, a decade I'd not trade for anything else:

Top 10 Horror Films From the Aughts

1. Audition (Takashi Miike, US release date 2000)
2. Inside (Alexandre Bustillo and Julien Maury, 2007)
3. [REC] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza, 2007)
4. Irréversible (Gaspar Noé, 2002)
5. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, 2009)
6. Haute tension (Alexandre Aja, 2003)
7. Ils (David Moreau and Xavier Palud, 2006)
8. Vacancy (Nimród Antal, 2007)
9. Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2007)
10. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)

With apologies to Turistas, The Strangers, Mum & Dad, P2, The Mist, Eden Lake, Martyrs, Sheitan, Calvaire, Frontière(s), Turistas, 28 Days Later, Wolf Creek and both The Ring and The Grudge, of which the originals are much better.

Ooh, and a special shout out to Jeepers Creepers, which, bad as it is, will always have a fond place in my heart... and A Tale of Two Sisters, which may be the best in the lot, but I have a hard time defining it as horror.

and -- well, not quite as much fun, but still a list --

Top 10 Docs of the Aughts

1. What Would Jesus Buy? (Rob VanAlkemade, 2007)
2. Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher (David Di Sabatino, 2005)
3. Bus 174 (José Padilha, 2002)
4. Stevie (steve James, 2002)
5. Sicko (Michael Moore, 2007)
6. 9/11 (James Hanlon and Rob Klug, 2002)
7. No end in Sight (Charles Ferguson, 2007)
8. Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (Stanley Nelson, 2006)
9. Man on Wire (James Marsh, 2008)              
10. The Bridge (Eric Steel, 2006)

Forgive me Hell House. You are a true love, and you're my # 11.

Forgive me The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. Forgive me Lake of Fire. Forgive me 911 Mysteries Part 1: Demolitions.

Forgive me Flow: For Love of Water, Walmart: The High Cost of a Low Price, The Fog of War, When The Levees Broke, Trouble the Water, Spellbound, The Class, The Road to Guantanamo, Wisconsin Death Trip, The Eyes of Tammy Faye, My Flesh and Blood, For The Bible Tells Me So, Why We Fight, The Busniess of Being Born, Born Into Brothels..... and Forgive me, Jesus Camp - much as I hate you.

I have yet to see Collapse, which I think I would enjoy, and 45365, which as an ex-resident I have a vested interest in.

The Top Ten Films of the Aughts will be posted here January 17.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Top Directors of the Aughts

A Group of Friends and I are putting a poll together to gauge the "Most Important Directors of the Aughts." I had an extremely hard time with the phrasing of this poll, so for the purposes here at Flmsweep, I've made two. (The second one was much easier, and more fun, than the first.)

For the record, it actually took a good bit of thought over a period of a month or so to finally get to some of these conclusions...

The Ten Most Important Directors of the Aughts

1. Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
2. Michael Haneke
3. Paul Thomas Anderson
4. Joel and Ethan Coen
5. Ki-Duk Kim
6. Lars von Trier
7. Michael Winterbottom
8. Lukas Moodysson
9. Michael Moore
10. Clint Eastwood

I am not satisfied with my last two picks here, but again, the word "important" really throws me off. I'd much have preferred to list Fatih Akin or Claire Denis or a load of other artists whose work I love a whole lot more, but at least I've listed them here, so it is said.

But OK. Here's where I had a whole lot more fun --

My Ten Most Favorite Directors of the Aughts

1. Gaspar Noé
2. Lars von Trier
3. Paul Thomas Anderson
4. Joel and Ethan Coen
5. Michel Gondry
6. Ki-Duk Kim
7. Guy Maddin
8. Fabrice Du Welz
9. Darren Aronofsky
10. Quentin Tarantino 

Similar lists? Somewhat. By the latter is so much more satisfying.

Oops. How could I forget? --

11. Michael Haneke
(Should probably be in the Top Three instead of here at 11, but oh well, at least he is mentioned.)

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Vredens dag. (1943) Carl Theodor Dreyer

An A&F Candidate for Top 100 2010

There are very few films that fill me with such righteous indignation as Day of Wrath. That the characters may be understood by the system they are bound in creates an even greater justification for my anger. It's a system that reeks of insulting and offensive religious intolerance. It's a system not outdated, but more subtle and still in place. It makes the marrow in my bones want to scream through this skin.

That it makes my blood boil makes it no less a filmic masterpiece. Like Nicholas Hytner's The Crucible, and many stories on the Salem trials, it centers on a religious community persuaded that there are witches in their midst. Witches that are in this case living in Demark, in 1623. Witches that are destined to be burned alive. In one of the awful and agonizing first acts in Day of Wrath, an elderly woman named Herlofs Marte is burned at the stake while the community boy's choir sings of her scalding flesh.

How groupthink prevails, and how the mystical trumps the natural, are where the story transcends our own. There are those who even today believe that the hunt for another's sin is a greater cause than stalking and defeating their own. Today it is illegal to burn or kill another for the sake of their sin, and we don't often see the cringe-inducing hardships faced in Dreyer's story. But it doesn't mean that pronouncements aren't made -- that pain and guilt aren't still inflicted, that people aren't hurt from authorities that lord over them, and that the point of the Gospel isn't missed.

Dave Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen's The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse is a help to those caught in the clasp of communal self-righteousness. It's a book which reminds us that Dreyer isn't stretching in this grizzled and seasoned script. Written and filmed over sixty-five years ago, Day of Wrath is a reminder that it's OK, and sometimes right, to be filled to the rim with seething anger. That when those in power can administer their brutal rule over those who have no way to oppose it, the very fabric of our humanity is in jeopardy.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Maid. Sebastián Silva (2009)

It matters how I treat people, no matter who or where they are. A family member, a fellow employee, a fellow waiting with me at the subway. Class and religion matter less, the older you decide to grow. The ability to cross borders is more than just a topic about land and its residents. Right here and right now, we have more potential for an all inclusive humanity than has been possible ever before. How we treat our fellow travelers matters. It's a blessing to be able to bless.

My thoughts race back to Lucy in The Maid. What is it that makes her so appealing, so attractive, so wonderful? It's that she reaches out and broadcasts love, that she sees through the walls put up by The Maid -- that she is willing to become vulnerable herself, in her attack on the crack in one's armor. One can't help to be a little mystified, a little mesmerized by her. In reaching out, she reaches in. She's a social Mother Teresa. The kind of friend I long for. The kind of friend I want to be.

Bonds of estrangement break when we remember that life is really about living. I think back to Dead Poet's Society, and the sermonizing about sucking the sap out of life. Lucy is after life's sap, and she invites others to join with her. If one chooses to be by her side in reveling in new found life, she makes them think it was their idea all along. This makes The Maid feel even better about her own growth.

We have the opportunity to be a blessing or a curse wherever we go. We can choose to bring heaven or hell to anyone's condition, at any moment on our journey. The inspiration of a character like Lucy transcends the idea that we're simply watching a movie. She works better on me than a Sunday sermon. She makes me want to be like Jesus.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

For Your Consideration - Cinema's Best of the Aughts

1. Dogville (Lars von trier)
2. Irréversible (Gaspar Noé)
3. Lilja 4-ever (Lukas moodysson)
4. Time of the Wolf (michael haneke)
5. In This World (michael winterbottom)
6. Tarnation (jonathan caouette)
7. Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson)
8. The Five Obstructions (Jørgen Leth & Lars von trier)
9. The Passion of the Christ (mel gibson)

But then I don't want to complete a Top 10, because at this point I feel like I'm losing a vital organ or lopping off one of my children's heads...

3-Iron (Ki-duk Kim)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)
Adam's Apples (Anders Thomas Jensen)
Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet)
A Very Long Engagement (jean-pierre jeunet)
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (Zacharias Kunuk)
The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand)
The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma)
Born Into Brothels (zana briski & ross kauffman)
Bus 174 (felipe Lacerda and José Padilha)
Code Unknown (michael haneke)
Crash (paul haggis)
The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan)
Day and Night (simon staho)
The Departed (Martin Scorsese)
Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly)
Dracula: Pages from a Virgin's Diary (guy maddin)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (michel gondry)
Garden State (zach braff)
Head-On (Fatih Akin)
House of Flying Daggers (yimou zhang)
House of Sand and Fog (Vadim Perelman)
In My Skin (marina de van)
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
The Isle (Ki-duk Kim )
I Stand Alone (Gaspar Noé) [edit: OUCH! 1999, oops]
Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino)
Kontroll (Nimród Antal)
La Moustache (Emmanuel Carrère)
Man on Wire (James Marsh)
Maria Full of Grace (joshua marston)
Mean Creek (jacob aaron estes)
Mysterious Skin (gregg araki)
No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen)
Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro)
[Rec] (Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza)
Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky)
The Return (Andrei Zvyagintsev)
The Son (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne)
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring (Ki-duk Kim)
Them (David Moreau and Xavier Palud)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson)
Thirteen (catherine hardwicke)
Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (theo angelopoulos)
Vinyan (Fabrice Du Welz)
Whale Rider (Niki Caro)

Films that I've added since I made this list Oct 8:
Adaptation (Spike Jonze)
The Class (Laurent Cantet)
The Edge of Heaven (Fatih Akin)
The Island (Pavel Lungin)
Lost in Translation (Sophia Coppola)
The Maid (Sebastián Silva)
The Science of Sleep (michel gondry)
Songs From the Second Floor (Roy Andersson)

I am certain the Top 10 will be labored over and will change.

A final decision on the Top 10 From the Aughts will be posted here January 17, 2010.