Wednesday, November 11, 2009

My 100+ Favorite Films of the Aughts: 100-91 [Fanboy Edition]

image sizes largely determined by how much i like them.

100.) ZODIAC (dir. David Fincher)

p.s. for those of you keeping score at home, you can find #s 115-101 over at me blog

they are:
101.) INGLORIOUS BASTERDS - Quentin Tarantino
102.) FISH TANK - Andrea Arnold
103.) THE OTHERS - Alejandro Amenabar
104.) MONSOON WEDDING - Mira Nair
106.) CLOVERFIELD - Matt Reeves
107.) THE AURA - Fabian Bielinsky
108.) CRIMSON GOLD - Jafar Panahi
109.) ADAPTATION - Spike Jonze
110.) LAST LIFE IN THE UNIVERSE - Pen-Ek Ratanaruang
111.) SPARROW - Johnnie To
112.) RUSSIAN ARK - Aleksandr Sokurov
113.) REQUIEM FOR A DREAM - Darren Aronofsky
114.) SUNSHINE - Danny Boyle
115.) GOODBYE, DRAGON INN - Tsai Ming-Liang Taiwanese

david fincher’s painstaking procedural deconstructs the genre by way of providing its apotheosis. the exhaustive and detail-obsessed chronicle of the hugely personal and ultimately inconclusive hunt for san francisco’s most infamous serial killer wrings great drama from the stuff of footnotes… fincher approached the material with the understanding that minutia can contain multitudes, and only by so intensely focusing on the small stuff was he able to expose the bigger picture. fincher knew full well that this story was never going to reveal dramatically satisfying answers, and thus he wisely decided to see the investigation (which in fully consuming the lives of a detective and a local cartoonist, made victims of them both) as an epic testament to the need for order, resolution, and purpose. among the greatest of zodiac’s many ironies is that despite being a film in which fincher made sure that every key on every typewriter was historically accurate, each belabored and unnoticed inclusion is in service of the most broad and timelessly fundamental of human conditions. zodiac will be one of the films the aughts are best remembered for.

99.) WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE / ANTICHRIST (dir. Spike Jonze / Lars Von Trier)

so… this is more of a purposeful coupling than an arbitrary tie. both films are deceptively loaded, which is to say that any sentence attempting to describe what either is “about” should be implicitly followed with a silent “…amongst other things.” but given that these films saw an almost simultaneous release, it wasn’t hard to be receptive to potential similarities… to me, both films were “about” that moment in which one has to confront the implicit discord of their life’s narrative (a sentiment which could potentially be considered the micro to zodiac’s macro). for Max, the transition from childhood to adolescence means that he can no longer be the architect of his own spaces - the time of forts and of dominion over the world of his mind’s eye is being slowly subsumed by a world in which the sun’s explosion is inevitable - a system in which he is more son than sun and wherein sometimes there is no respite from sadness. to cope, he disappears down the rabbit hole of his own imagination and enters a realm in which every facet of his psyche is given a massive and oddly adorable physical presence. there he learns that he can’t be all things to all people, and that even though he can no longer control everything, what he still has… what he realizes to appreciate (as is epitomized in that incredible final shot, which perfectly bounces off the frenetic opening scene) in a way that for him would have been previously impossible… it’s good enough.

in Antichrist, that same epiphany doesn’t go over so hot. i’ve already considered antichrist as lars von trier’s most self-reflexive film… a missive of self-defense in whic he mocks his critics and fortifies the gender dynamics and spirituality of his entire oeuvre… but for the purposes of this here list, it’s a film about control. the toddler son of a psychiatrist (another incredible performance by willem dafoe) and a vaginally-minded phd student (a brutal Charlotte Gainsborough) plummets to his death while his parents achieve orgasm in the adjacent room. the psychiatrist husband responds by trying to dominate his wife’s grief via esoteric and increasingly sadistic mental exercises, while the wife simply can’t function in a world where such inexplicable loss is possible… a loss she reconciles into a worldview that gets more demented as it gets more contrived… CHAOS REIGNS in both films, but unlike in WTWTA, for antichrist’s couple, love isn’t all you need - you also need a pair of scissors.


the affleck’s can act, and fuck anyone who says otherwise. but don’t literally, cause you’d be pioneering a lot of new VD strains before lunch (i.e. there are a lot of people who say otherwise). anyhoo, little casey knocks it out of the park as the coward robert ford in andrew dominik’s wistfully gorgeous recapitulation of the jesse james mythos it’s a pretty film (but never in a self-serving fashion), but not a clean one… filled with pitch-perfect supporting performances and period atmosphere, dominik’s patiently winding telling earns every note, and resolves itself into a poignant look at myth-making and the inherent sadness of celebrity.

97.) A CHRISTMAS TALE (dir. Arnaud Desplechin)

yeah… i like this more than Kings and Queen… oops. another manic, mad-capped holiday movie about a family drawn together by holidays and cancer, the difference with desplechin is that his clan of characters and their clan of neuroses would rather adopt the audience than subjugate them. this ain’t The Family Stone.

96.) THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (dir. Sylvain Chomet)

i just want to have sylvain chomet’s often wordless and always intoxicating constantly playing on a loop against one of the walls of my apartment. and on the faces of boring people. and at the dmv. not like i’m ever really at the dmv, but if you saw this is at the dmv or some other government-run house of pain… it would feel as if you slipped into an episode of 12 Oz. Mouse or something. which would actually be awful. but the animation… the fully rounded imagination on display here, it’s the kind of stuff you get about once a decade. and that fucking song…

95.) REVANCHE (dir. Goetz Speilmann)

see my my thoughts here.

94.) MOTHER (dir. Bong Joon-Ho)

annnddd you can find my quick take on this one here. they’ll be more time for mr. bong joon-ho later.

93.) 2046 (dir. Wong Kar-Wai)

one of the most beautiful movies ever made, and not just because faye wong is in it. or zhang ziyi. even though those two could have made Paul Blart: Mall Cop look as if it were shot by christopher doyle. the quasi-sequel to In the Mood for Love is… kind of a mess, but it’s the kind of mess that only wong kar-wai could make, and when it works it works.

92.) LET THE RIGHT ONE IN (dir. Tomas Alfredson)

how is this not the best vampire film of the decade? and the answer isn’t Twilight, the answer is New Moon. i keed i keed… i need to see this again (and would have already if not for the fucked first pressing of the blu-ray), but this vampire story by way of the brothers grimm is, well, another coming-of-age story with a cynical twist (the closing scenes are both gruesomely, adorably satisfying and also deeply damning). fear the remake.

91.) RACHEL GETTING MARRIED (dir. Jonathan Demme)

this movie should have been so, so bad. jonathan demme’s best movie since Silence of the Lambs, this is usually the sort of tripe that repulses me… the tensions at work so contrived and obvious, the grandstanding actors, the belabored multiculturalism… it shouldn’t work, and i’m still not sure why it does. the casting helps… anne hathaway is the moody maelstrom at the center of everything that keeps the gears turning, but rosemarie dewitt as the eponymous rachel, tunde adebimpe as rachel’s assuredly understated fiance, bill irwin as the broken family’s hysterical patriarch… the contrasts make the put-upon pieces feel real, and the faux-verite approach (which i usually loathe) slathers the action in an unsure anxiety, involving even the viewer in the eventual wedding while exposing the degree to which families are defined by effort. it’s another movie about the shit that all movies about suburban, middle / upper class families seem to about, except this one takes place in stamford, connecticut, and has the cool confidence to feel just true enough.

Cross-posted from The Ecstatic Truth.

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