Tuesday, December 29, 2009

YMD and Friends Film Bonanza Part 23 and Final

Well, this is finally the last one. A big thank you to everyone for contributing, I didn't expect to get more than like ten of these and getting 23 was an unbelievably great Christmas present. I honestly could not have been happier to be inserting what seemed like a billion "< em >" tags into text files. Also, 23 has long been my favorite number and, on the eve of my 24th birthday, this seems just about right.

But enough with the corny shit (at least until I get to talking about the movies themselves). I saved mine for last because, well, if I'm in charge I'm going to give myself the sweetest spot to hit in. After much personal strife, here are my ten favorite films of the decade. Like everything on this blog, they were decided by science:

10. Russian Ark (Russkiy kovcheg) dir. Aleksandr Sokurov (2002)
Obviously the most notable thing about Russian Ark is the fact that it consists of a single, uncut, hour and a half long Steadicam shot. It's almost worth seeing for that alone, for the discipline and grace obviously on display as cinematographer Tilman Büttner weaves through the Russian Hermtage museum and the increasingly complex set pieces that Sokurov sets in it. But the reason this is a great film and not just a sweet gimmick is Sokurov's approach to history, which is presented here not as a narrative but as a series of images floating in an out of frame and consciousness. It's one of the most effectively dreamlike films of the decade.

9. The Hurt Locker dir. Kathryn Bigelow (2009)
This movie is as much about action movies as it is about war, and Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal analyze the archetype of the Action Hero as I would imagine only people who love a good action movie can. It is of utmost importance, of course, that the action scenes themselves are suspenseful as hell, and boy are they. Bigelow's sense of space in the bomb scenes is awesome.

8. Spirited Away (Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi) dir. Hayao Miyazaki (2002)
With all due respect to Pixar, who made three movies this decade that would've had a very good shot at my top twenty-five, my favorite animated film of the 00s is Hayao Miyazaki's Spirited Away. This film isn't quite as dark as Guillermo del Toro's awesome Pan's Labyrinth but, much like del Toro. Miyazaki refuses to ignore the darkness, danger, and sadness that sometimes comes with a chlid's imagination, wonder, and awe. It doesn't hurt that his animation is almost overflowing with details and ideas.

7. Audition dir. Takashi Miike (2001)
It's easily my favorite horror movie of the decade. While I'm not in the camp that thinks restraint and slow pacing are always virtues, Miike's unusual restraint here allows for a slow burn of eeriness, two well developed characters, and an interesting exploration of gender roles. And then it happens, and the rest of this movie is just virtuoso horror filmmaking. The boos are terrfying, the violence is shocking, and the confusion that mounts when you realize you have no clue what is and isn't really happening is nothing less than elegant.

6. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile) dir. Cristian Mungiu (2008)
The dinner scene in Cristian Mungiu's thriller is this decade's most brilliant scene that I could not wait to end. It's a fairly common situation: young people are sitting at a dinner table with older family and friends and the older folks aren't really relating to the young folks (or vice versa) and don't quite grasp what it's like to be in their situation. Of course, this general idea is brilliantly magnified here because the young folks have an immediate, possibly life-or-death situation to attend to. It's so tense that, other than the scene being over, I wanted nothing more than to reach into the screen and grab the bottle of booze.

5. American Psycho dir. Mary Harron (2000)
Christian Bale gives one of the best ever performances of someone pretending to be a real person. His line readings and gestures throughout are terrifying and hilarious (sometimes at the same time, sometimes not at all). Patrick trying to feed the cat to the ATM is one of the funnier moments of the decade, really. I've honestly never read Bret Easton Ellis' novel so whether this is a faithful adaptation or not is irrelevant to me. But I do know that the Mary Harron's satire is sharp (I'll skip the easy simile this time) and the world she creates is unsettling in a way that I can't help but be fascinated by.

4. Wet Hot American Summer dir. David Wain (2001)
I guess WHAS has enough stock elements of 80s camp movies to count as parody, but it cares much more about absurdism and surprise than it does about making fun of things that don't really need making fun of to begin with. The changes in tone (the sudden tenderness of the Michael Ian Black/Bradley Cooper love scene, David Hyde Pierce's "I said NO!", the famous trip into town) are the tone of the movie and the jokes, performances, foley effects, man, everything in this movie works so unbelievably well for me. At times, I feel completely comfortable calling this the best comedy ever.

3. My Winnipeg dir. Guy Maddin (2008)
Guy Maddin's approach to history is even more explicitly dreamlike than Sokurov's is in Russian Ark, but Maddin's film is a much more personal one. He narrates it himself as Guy Maddin (though Darcy Fehr silently plays Guy Maddin as well) and concerns himself mostly with the history of Winnipeg as it is inextricably linked with his own history. The closest thing to a traditional plot has Maddin, his mother, and actors playing his siblings moving into his childhood home for an experiment. Of course, his mother is actually an actress playing his mother as well. And both she and a Darcy Fehr appear on a fictional TV show within the reenactment. The rest of the movie (that's only a small part) features factual and fictional events in the history of Winnipeg, including a very touching bit about the Winnipeg Jets and an actually true bit about a fake Nazi invasion of the city. It's all supremely fascinating (I should not that when I saw this at the IFC Center last year something like 8 out of 16 people walked out at some point). It's also probably the only movie ever with a title card that reads "Dance of the Hairless Boners".

2. United 93 dir. Paul Greengrass (2007)
Paul Greengrass has made four great movies this decade and of the four (this one, Bloody Sunday and the second and third Bourne movies), United 93 is probably least interested in actively getting inside the heads of its characters. Greengrass moves from plot point to plot point (we are already familiar with the plot) and just kind of has everything happen. In a way, Greengrass is, especially in this film, our great humanist, putting the characters' actions out there and leaving it to the viewer and the viewer's shared bond with the people in the film to figure it all out. The movie is hard to watch, but it's often less sensational and more direct than the media coverage of the event it's based on.

1. Rachel Getting Married dir. Jonathan Demme (2008)
The wedding reception towards the end of Rachel Getting Married is one of the great party scenes ever in the movies, largely because it manages to get across that the characters are going through some shit while still making it seem like a really awesome party. Rachel moved me more than any other movie this decade, and I find it harder than any of these other movies to write about. Its melodramatic, grandstanding fights are as affecting as its subtle moments of heartbreak (the scene in which Debra Winger's character leaves the party, I cry). Its characters are fully realized - by the wonderful actors, by Jenny Lumet's screenplay, by Demme's camera with its margins filled with people and decoration. I've seen readings of Rachel's joyful multiculturalism as satire, and I couldn't disagree more. That Kym and Rachel's extended family can't solve all of their problems isn't a criticism of the type of family they have anymore than it is a criticism of family itself, it just means that they have serious problems. The combination of resentment, humor, guilt, bitterness, and love in this movie kills me in the best way possible; grasping out towards the infinity of emotions not to transcend them, but to try to deal with them as much as that's possible.. I love this one.

Again, thanks to everyone for doing this, so so happy, hugs and kisses, etc. Let's all promise that ten years from today, we'll meet again, and see what movies have blossomed into. Let's say 9, that way we can be here by 9:30.


MB said...

why don't we say 9:30, and then make it your beeswax to be here by 9:30?

Maciej said...

Thanks, Molls.