Saturday, December 26, 2009

The Decade's Best: #51-#60



Happy Boxing Day to all my people in the Commonwealth! We were a no-gift household this Christmas, but the presents just keep on coming on Nick's Flick Picks, where the next batch of the decade's best includes a whopping four documentaries. Love them now, non-fiction enthusiasts, because I've just noticed that there are none in the bracket to be posted tomorrow. And for those of you keeping up with the world-tour aspect of this list, one of the entries comprises a 'round-the-world journey of its own, though it hardly inspires its viewers to duplicate the experience. In fact, give or take the odd English estate and one bucolic hamlet in upstate New York, this group is pretty replete with places you might be loath to venture, geographically, sexually, and psychologically. But hang in there as best you can. The films more than repay your willingness to follow along.

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11 Comments:

Blogger Brook Brooks said...

I suppose I should give Palindromes another look, but I found it far too arch and impenetrable on a first (and second) viewing.

Two of my favourites of the decade pop up here as well! Monster, easily the best 'biopic' of the decade, so much that I forget it is a biopic; it's not at all content to rush through events, ticking them off one by one. I'd argue that the film and Theron's central performance were far too quickly cast aside by critics.

And you've summed up exactlywhat I love about Gosford Park; I especially love Eileen Atkins' performance. Sad to see it forgotten amongst the other (also great) turns.

12:30 AM, December 26, 2009  
Blogger Tim said...

It continues to humiliate me how many of these I haven't seen. On the other hand, you're giving me one hell of a list of documentaries that I need to hunt down.

But yes, YES, on You Can Count On Me. The film that made me fall head over heels for both of those actors.

12:58 AM, December 26, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

I guess I owe Robert Altman another shot at Gosford Park, though it'll be tough making myself sit through such a terribly boring, derivative, and irrelevant (A pre-War examination of the British class system? What possible bearing does that have on modern audiences?) movie.

What is it exactly that I'm not "getting" about it, besides the admittedly great performances?

1:23 AM, December 26, 2009  
Blogger Bill C said...

I'm pretty diametrically opposed with you on 51-53, which is interesting that they clustered together like that.

My problem with HORSES is actually nailed by your cap: I think it's debatable whether Madi is sentimentalized (I mean, you yourself described him as "cute," after all), but he is dehumanized and deified in a way I found really unpleasant. He has no voice, no reactions, no sexuality--no personality; it's been a while since I've seen the film, but I remember every shot of him just dripping with condescension.

3:37 PM, December 26, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Brook: Palindromes is certainly the title for which I expected to catch some flak; I know I'm in the minority on that one, but there are a lot of Monster-averse people out there, too, so I'm glad to have the backup there. Love Atkins in GP, but love Watson, Scott Thomas, Mirren, and Rutherford more.

@Tim: Me, too, re: Linney and Ruffalo.

@Robert and @Bill: Wow, an anti-Gosford contingent! Again, an enjoyable surprise. I concede that there's a slight patina of Seen It Before, but for one, I never get tired of all the shifting, deep-space compositions with all those actors at all those different planes in the frame. The film feels much more visually ambitious and alive in its extension of depth of field than something like Short Cuts does... and it's part of why I'm cranky about the recent revival of 3-D, since the exploitation of dimensionality often seems so much less interesting than what you get in a movie like this.

Though, can you imagine, Gosford Park in IMAX 3-D? I would sprint to that.

@Bill: Very interesting. I didn't feel that way about Ghobadi's treatment of Madi, though I'll take the hit that my own description of the film and character must sound condescending in the same way. I do remember a kind of appealing stoicism to the character, and I didn't find the film infantilizing of him or his subjectivity. My description of him as "cute" and my amazement that this doesn't become a stain on the film is roughly equivalent to marveling at how Malick builds a whole movie around an chiseled, spacy, azure-eyed philosopher-hunk, a figure that would sink the credibility of many a war film, and yet The Thin Red Line doesn't feel remotely slanted or asinine. Can you tell I just re-watched TRL last night as my Xmas present to myself?

What I remember most clearly, though, about A Time for Drunken Horses is the finale, where the straightforward logic of that odd title suddenly came home to roost, in ways I should have seen coming but totally didn't.

Do you have a review posted somewhere, of this one or Gosford or Monster? I love reading your pieces, though would be just as happy to hear more thoughts in this space...

10:08 PM, December 26, 2009  
Blogger Bill C said...

Re-reading my response--boy, did I come off as sour. Sorry about that, Nick, wasn't intentional.

To answer your question, I do have a HORSES cap that was written in 2000 and is pretty embarrassingly green. I also reviewed MONSTER, but not as in-depth as I would've liked; it came in a 2-pack with the AILEEN... sequel, which heavily coloured my perception of MONSTER, watching them as a double-bill.

Never did tackle GOSFORD. (If it's any consolation, I may actually prefer it to SHORT CUTS.) I should clarify that I don't hate any of the three, just that they wouldn't occur to me in composing a Top 100. And honestly, that's why I come here.

10:50 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Bill C said...

And now--blast!--I wanna watch THE THIN RED LINE.

10:53 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Bill: Hey, films I don't like make me sour all the time, not that I even felt that way about your response. I think I read that Monster/Aileen piece at the time - at Film Freak, right? Where Monster got a half-star, or one? I should go look to double-check. Anyway, I didn't mean to counter by putting you on the spot. You're just one of those critics I learn the most from in moments of disagreement.

11:52 AM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Bill C said...

Actually, that was one of those rare instances where Walter Chaw and I both reviewed something. He gave MONSTER **.5 and I gave it **. That's actually higher than I remembered either of us going!

12:25 PM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Bill C said...

You're too kind, by the way.

12:25 PM, December 27, 2009  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

I just added Dark Days right the top of my Quickflix (our version of Netflix) queue. I'd never even heard of it before!

I don't like Palindromes, but I don't particularly have much against it other than merely not liking it. But I don't care about that when you have Up the Yangtze on there as well as Monster, which I am a big defender of.

12:10 AM, December 28, 2009  

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