The Epilogue (and, “The Ten Rest of the Prestigious Best.”)
It’s been two and a half months, and yet it only seems like we’ve just started. But, everything must wind down, eventually. That’s the way of things – but, I think it’s all been worth something, and certainly a great experience. We’ve just charted ten whole years of cinema – something that doesn’t sound big, after the fact, but man. And, as mentioned in our respective introductions, for every film on our list, there are at least three others that could take their place – and, here they are. As with the big ten, they’re not ranked in terms of scale, and could be interchanged willfully, depending on the day of the week, or the weather.
11. Primer – Shane Carruth
Shane Carruth’s film, made for $7000, marks him as an intriguing new voice in the sci-fi genre – a brilliantly low-key meditation on time-travel, within a framing that becomes so gradually non-linear that even the audience feels as if they’ve come unhinged in time, somewhere along the road; all compounded by Carruth’s use of digital photography, which contrasts the inherent verisimilitude it brings to the film with its mind-bending subject matter, creating something else entirely. As a fellow Texan, I give him a pump of the fist.
12. Once – John Carney
A low-key musical filmed on the streets of Dublin, John Karney of The Frames gives us a meeting of the minds framed on all sides through song – what initially begins as simple flirtation becomes something infinitely warmer and more soulful, and even truthful.
13. Wendy & Lucy – Kelly Reichardt
A stunningly under-played un-dramatization of poverty whose potency is increased ten-fold in the current climate, told in a lean fashion by Kelly Reichardt, without even the most minimal extravagance. Only Wendy and her dog, together and apart, again and again.
14. Goodbye Solo – Ramin Bahrani
The third film from Ramin Bahrani may be his very best, so far – continuing his exploration of the working classes, the immigrant in America, and the temporary, fleeting relationships that spark up between people, and their evolution. He charts the two of them through subtly long takes, and the natural quietude of their conversations, and their eyes – Red’s old and sad, Solo’s constantly alight. And, while the title of the film is never spoken, it informs every word.
15. Wall-E – Andrew Stanton
Pixar’s environmental fable first takes us back to cinema’s silent beginnings, and then into a future of brilliant light. Never one for convolution, WALL-E‘s strength is in its simplicity – in the love story through masterful pantomime and exaggeration, in the dazzling use of color and sound in a simultaneously foreboding and foretelling future, and – near the end of the film – in the redemption of the whole human race spawned from the heart of a Chaplin-esque robot and his unending devotion to EVE.
16. A Scanner Darkly – Richard Linklater
Richard Linklater gives us one of the only adaptations of Philip K. Dick to not veer unrecognizably from the source text, utilizing a more pared-down version of the same kind of expressionistic rotoscoping that that made Waking Life so interesting – a strange, surreal trip of disassociation and misidentification, through a shifting kaleidoscope of colors and the constant paranoia that comes from Substance D. But, don’t disregard it completely.
17. The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford – Andrew Dominick
Well, Glenn sums this one up far better than I could have – and so, I will paraphrase him. This is a constantly and intensely lyrical deconstruction of American-Western iconography, from within the relationship between the ostensibly larger-than-life Jesse James and his number one fan. Dominick frames this story within forests, mountain rages and great, dirty faces. By the end, the film has become a tone-poem on that same thought illuminated on so clearly by Aaron Eckhart in my number ten, that of living long enough to see yourself become the villain.
18. Black Snake Moan – Craig Brewer
A eye-opening poster posed the main attraction for the film, but within its lurid trappings, Brewer’s keenly humanistic story of soulful resurrection takes advantage of doing the unexpected with its choice of actors – Christina Ricci, Justin Timberlake, and a Samuel L. Jackson who doesn’t once spout a catch-phrase the entire film. It remains completely earnest about these characters, and their plight, the entire way through, never trivializing their respective journeys, whether it be bluesy Lazarus’ and his coming to terms with his divorce, or Ray and her gradual awareness of her own sense of grace.
19. Kill Bill: The Whole Bloody Affair – Quentin Tarantino
Lately, Quentin Tarantino’s fallen into a real slouch, with the violence in his films becoming meaningless, and trivial – with Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds, he’s given himself over to schlock and excess completely. More power to him, I suppose. But, at least he managed to eke out these two before he went – a giant homage and pastiche to all those things he considers so holy, from kung-fu films and comic books to Seijun Sezuki’s Tokyo Drifter, with a great deal of respect and visual panache, informed through bright colors and bloody faces, and exaggeratedly violent bullet ballets.
20. Moon – Duncan Jones
David Bowie’s son gives us a film that works on us as slowly and methodically as the movement of the main character out on the surface of the moon, itself. Sam Rockwell gives one of the great performances of the year, playing against himself and the anti-HAL. Jones makes no qualms about veering off in a direction we hadn’t expected – what appeared at first to be a cryptic drawing-room mystery in space becomes a film about the question of identity, within a giant moon base that feels familiar-yet-underused.
It has been my pleasure, and a real privilege, to do this thing with Glenn – a classier act you will not find, out there on the web. Couldn’t have done it by my lonesome. And, if any of you hated our selections – well, it was all his idea. His “rest of” can be found here.