Monday, December 28, 2009

The Decade's Best: #31-#40

This next grouping of ten shows me something about my own tastes, underlining how gripped I always am by films that worry the relationship between an individual, whether exceptional or unexceptional, and some personal or social collectivity to which they ostensibly belong. Maybe because that kind of drama can inhere inside any shot (who to frame, and who to leave out?), and keeps playing out at every expanding level of the film, I feel like I have an unusual lot to think about when a film engages that quandary in an inspired or unusual way. #40, #39, and #38 are all about collective endeavors, but the concert, the classroom, and the quest also proffer revealing lenses for perceiving the specific agents working at the heart of the action. After that, the bonds become even more elliptical: an unbelievable assertion and the scary desire to accept it, despite the distemper of a surrounding family; a resolute but quickly overwhelmed girl involved in a corrupt traffic; a marooned group, possibly standing in for the whole globe; the elliptical relations inside a hotel that is also a home; the dual but not simply opposed pull of one individual into a criminal life and an artistic calling; an individual who disperses into multiple avatars in different eras; and a pair of boisterous chums who are barely ready to examine their own bond, much less to realize there's a whole nation surrounding them, and it's more than a backdrop for their exuberant jaunts, though the film is gracious enough to welcome us into that exuberance.

And now, we will test my individuality against your collective will! How are you feeling about this group? The responses on all the earlier days have been a real kick to receive and to answer.



Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

Well now I'm confused. Birth at #37 and yet it ranks at #32 on your 100 Favourite Films list? I was expecting top ten from that movie! Or, at least, top 20. Hmmm. I just don't know what to think!

12:52 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

<3 Birth. And also <3 that still of Anne Heche; she's so good and underrated in this already underrated/misunderstood film. And in some scenes she looks practically alien.

12:56 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

@Glenn: Nick's Best and Favourite distinction has always been somewhat confusing to me, but I think that's what's operating here; if I recall correctly, Birth barely made tenth slot on his original list of his #2-#10 ties.

@Nick: Love, love, love #37-#39. I watched To Be and To Have three years back, and I couldn't stop grinning after it. If I don't love the rest, it's because I haven't watched them, but even the buzz and promotional materials for all of those never felt iffy to me.

1:03 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

The Favorites are based totally on huge personal attachment and categorically exclude all the films that are already All-Time Bests, just to allow me to talk about different movies. Through that feature, I get to fess up to some of the huge subjective bias that's often lurking underneath features like Top 10s or All-Time Bests without calling attention to itself. So, I do think Birth is objectively good enough to be one of the 40 best movies I saw this decade; and at the same time, it's one of my favorite movies from any decade to watch again and again and again and to think about all the time, which I couldn't quite say about, you know, Time of the Wolf. I know it's arcane, but whatever, it's my sickness.

@Brook: Isn't Heche great in that movie? I love her in the scene where Kidman first comes over to their apartment to tell them what's been happening to her.

@Colin: Does the last part mean you have good premonitions even about the films you haven't already seen? Glad to know you're a fan of To Be and To Have.

1:27 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Colin Low said...

Nick, I understand that part. What I don't understand is why you let a Favourites list cede "dibs!" to a Bests list (other than that you came up with the latter first, or that you get to squeeze more "non-objectively" great films into your two lists with this arrangement). I guess I don't see much of a point in championing a list of Best Films, when you are less obsessive with some of them than with some of your Favourites, and I'd still love to see how the rankings shake out if you "allowed" some of your Bests to step into the Faves.

And yes, I meant that this set of ten yields the most number of films I am most enthusiastic about catching up with. =)

1:45 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

Anne Heche is great in Birth; the word 'Kubrickian' has been thrown about in regards to this film, but there's just something about how plain... nasty and cold she is in her last scenes with the kid that complicate this movie in fascinating, and necessary, ways.

2:23 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Colin: You're right on both counts: I had the "Top List" first, and it means more movies. Also, a list of the "Best" is what more people seem to ask for, and when students especially ask for a list of movies to see that will help them expand their vistas of what film can do, I'd rather have them peruse the "Top List" than necessarily make sure to catch The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom, even though I do think there's a lot of quality represented on the Favorites list, too. But if you eventually want a synthesis, I suspect that my congenitally listmaking arm can be twisted.

@Brook: Totally. She is just so fierce with that little kid. I love when she stops him from leaving, and that you don't see this coming when she's tremulously telling the gift-wrapper in the first sequence to "make it pretty."

2:43 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger tim r said...

Time I got back into this party! A great grouping -- five of them were on mine, and the Audiard would totally have got in too if I hadn't seen A Prophet in time. Two others I need another go at. Maria Full of Grace I remember finding more solidly impressive than transcendent. Has it faded for you at all since that initial A? Time of the Wolf, sadly, is in the Palindromes/Clean category of pictures I plain didn't get from an auteur I otherwise respect (or love, in Assayas's case). To my mind, the theory that it's less tricksy than Haneke's other movies, and therefore in some way truer (which I'm not at all ascribing to you, but have heard elsewhere) is both logically facile and wrong, anyway: there was just as much high-handed narrative obfuscation going on, only camouflaged better by the sepulchral underlighting; and none of the characters was given any real room to breathe (though I appreciate this is part of his somewhat diabolical masterplan). So I experienced easily my most adverse reaction to it of any of his '00 movies, to include the slick but irksome Funny Games US. Any pointers, if I have another go? I continually wonder if/how I missed the boat there.

Hear, hear on Kidman, Heche, Savides and Desplat, and all they bring to Birth. How long must we wait for another Jonathan Glazer movie?

5:01 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Glenn said...

Oh, okay. I guess I see it.

When i've been organising my decade list I've been taking it from a "defining" aspect. As in, movies that made the decade for me. So while I may have thought This is England was my #1 of that year, I have to rank Grindhouse above it on the decade list because I've not only watched it far more times, but I feel as if it means more to be on a personal level. Closer to my heart in a way, despite thinking This is England is the better film and a better candidate for "best".

7:03 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Middento said...

Hee, and here I find two that are in my own top ten! As always, I'm fascinated by this list. Bravo. (Admittedly, I'm surprised at "Million Dollar Baby," which I loved at the time but made me angry the more I thought about it. Still, I'm fascinated.)

9:00 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Paul Outlaw said...

Only #32 for INT? ;-)

9:12 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Bill C said...

I somehow missed your MARIA review the first time around, so I was sort of shocked by its inclusion. I confess I remember it as groan-inducing (e.g., the airport sign that reads "It's what's inside that counts") above all else, and that director really rubbed me the wrong way on the press circuit by saying things like "I make films about..." when this was his first--and so far only--feature.

On the other hand: Viva BIRTH!

11:42 AM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger JKlorfein said...

In regards to "Birth," it seems like the prickly David Thomson agrees with you:

8:56 PM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Tim said...

This is the most I've seen out of any of your sets of ten so far (nine, missing To Be and To Have), and probably the most I've disagreed with you, in a very gentlemanly sense that you love things that I merely like. But I think it's also with this entry that the list is starting to get really excitingly idiosyncratic - I mean, it already was, but now we're hitting the point where your relative rankings are becoming absolutely fascinating.

Anyway, you and the other Tim have encouraged me to take another look at The Beat That My Heart Skipped and I've known for a while that I need to revisit Birth; while I agree with him that Maria is a bit on the well-made-but-pedestrian side, although I think Catalina Sandino Moreno is absolutely hypnotic in the role.

(I promised myself that I wouldn't comment if I didn't have something substantial and original to say, but I was feeling left out. Won't happen again.)

11:40 PM, December 28, 2009  
Blogger Glenn said...

My biggest qualm with Maria Full of Grace is the scene where the police just let her go at the airport when they fully suspect she has drugs inside her. It's always confused me.

12:56 AM, December 29, 2009  

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