15 December 2009

Best Movies of 2009/Best of 2000s

Once again, 'tis the season of the annual Indiewire film critics poll. In addition to the usual categories, this year's installment features a "Best of the Decade" list, for which critics were asked to rank the Top 10 films released in the United States from the beginning of 2000 through the end of 2009. My full ballot is here and below are my Top 10s for the year and the decade.

1. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, US)
Quentin Tarantino’s singular World War II drama reimagines the last good war and various cinematic depictions thereof, its glib surface belying a mature reckoning of violence, terror, vengeance, war, history, and the movies. The least that can be said of Inglourious Basterds is that it justifies what’s already one of the great closing lines in cinema history.

2. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina)
The loss of reality, as experienced by an upper-class Argentinean woman who may or may not have accidentally killed a young boy with her car. Lucrecia Martel’s promising career comes to full fruition with her third feature.

3. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch, US)
Jim Jarmusch’s best film since Dead Man and his most abstract ever.

4. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, France)
Surprisingly conventional, but no less rich or satisfying for it, the latest from the great French filmmaker Olivier Assayas counts the human cost of globalization.

5. In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, UK)
Some things are indisputable. One is that the British do satire a lot better than us Americans.

6. Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania)
Language keeps me locked and repeating.

7. Brüno (Larry Charles, US)
Less beloved by critics and audiences than Borat, Sacha Baron Cohen’s follow-up succeeded in being a truly offensive film to a large number of people. That’s not easy to accomplish anymore.

8. Up (Pete Docter, US)
While lacking the political heft and philosophical richness of WALL*E, the latest from Pixar is an all-too-rare example of artists at a major studio not only having creative freedom but using it. The five-minute black-and-white montage of the geriatric hero’s life with his wife is a mini-masterpiece.

9. Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan)
A grimly topical story of unemployment and its consequences.

10. Antichrist (Lars von Trier, Denmark)
Chaos reigns. (See "Falling From Grace" at Moving Image Source.)

Second 10 (in alphabetical order): 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis, France); Afterschool (Antonio Campos, US); Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson, US); The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, US); I’m Gonna Explode (Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico); Night and Day (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea); Public Enemies (Michael Mann, US); Star Trek (J.J. Abrams, US); The Sun (Aleksandr Sokurov, Russia); Two Lovers (James Gray, US)

And the best of the 2000s. The listed years are those of US theatrical release, in several cases different from the year of world premiere.

1. Café Lumière (Hou Hsaio-hsien, Japan/Taiwan, 2005)
2. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, US, 2001)
3. Dogville (Lars von Trier, Denmark, 2004)
4. Platform (Jia Zhang-ke, China, 2003)
5. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, US, 2007)
6. In Praise of Love (Jean-Luc Godard, France, 2002)
7. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, US, 2005)
8. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 2000)
9. Primer (Shane Carruth, US, 2004)
10. demonlover (Olivier Assayas, France, 2003)

03 December 2009

It's the Money! (part 2)

I don't particularly wish to add to the Tiger Woods commentary pileup, but I do want to comment briefly on some of the media reaction, the better to illuminate the ongoing education such incidents give us about the kind of society we're living in. Amid the by now de rigueur TV discussions of whether the media is giving "too much coverage" to the story, some talking heads have seized on Woods's ubiquitous presence as a pitchman for everyone from Nike to Buick as somehow justifying what might otherwise be considered unwarranted intrusions into his personal life. Apparently, endorsement deals, which I had previously conceived as merely a contractual relationship between an endorser and a corporation, also create an implied contract with the public. So the upshot, I guess, is that anyone who's ever seen a Tiger Woods commercial is entitled to some small sense of grievance regarding his recent "transgressions."

Now there's an obviously self-serving element to this, with members of the media, some of whom must surely be aware that 90% (I'm feeling generous today) of what they do has no social value whatsoever, eager to defend their role in fanning the flames of this story. But what's more interesting is the implied notion that the act of endorsing a product is some kind of sacred trust that transcends the right to privacy—and presumably other rights as well.