Nines for '09

My nine best times at the cinema this year, in a very rough order...

Up, Pete Docter   
Oh, how great.  Somewhere on a large list of the world's best films.

Star Trek, J.J. Abrams
Technicolor glee from start to finish.

Inglourious Basterds, Quentin Tarantino
a great collection of one-act plays
below: my favorite scene of the year.

District 9, Neill Blomkamp
below: the onscreen character I cared the most about in 2009.

Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore
in which Michael Moore stays out of the way (mostly), and synthesizes
all of his past work into his best film.

Antichrist, Lars Von Trier
still wake up in cold sweats because of this undeniable movie.

Up In The Air, Jason Reitman
pure class.
Juno must have been mere practice.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Werner Herzog
in the 70s and 80s, a movie like this would come out every two weeks.
now they get put into top ten lists.
I love Nic Cage again, momentarily.  great final scene. 
The Fourth Kind, Olatunde Osunsanmi
a preposterous film, but believe it or not I went into this thinking it was
all for real.  and therefore had the freakiest time I've ever had in a movie.
and if that doesn't discredit me completely, my "secret no. 10" will...

The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Chris Weitz
I shut Twilight off before it was over, but this had an odd aunthenticity
that spoke to the gloomy small-town teen in me.  Go ahead, kick me in the
cyber-junk and call me a sissy.

Nine that might have made it had I seen them:

A Serious Man
The Hurt Locker
Paranormal Activity
The Hangover
Fantastic Mr. Fox 
(500) Days of Summer
Julie and Julia
The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Nine complete wastes of 180 hours:

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Angels and Demons
Harry Potter and the Whatever It Was This Time
X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian
G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra
Terminator Salvation


Films 2000-09

Films 20001) INLAND EMPIRE, David Lynch, '06
First Seen: Cinema du Parc, Montréal

Robert Altman said the following in 1975, during the filming of Nashville:
"A great film has never been made.  By that I mean in terms of potential.  I don't think we've found a format for movies yet.  I don't believe film should be limited to photographing people talking.  Or walking from a car into a building.  It can be much more abstract, impressionistic, less linear.  Music changes form all the time.  I think if you just establish a mood with a film, it might have more impact than anything we've done, just a mood... I don't think it will go recognized at first.  Like any other achievement.  One of the drawbacks of film is that it is linear."

It could be argued that this wasn't accomplished until 2006, with the release of this film.  There has been nonlinear, poetic cinema in existence since before Altman, but it wasn't until INLAND EMPIRE that a film did everything I've ever wanted a film to do.  If I made a top ten list of my favorite images ever committed to film, they'd all be from INLAND EMPIRE.

2) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Peter Jackson, '01
        First seen: Empire Bayers Lake, Halifax

Within the first ten minutes of this film I was marvelling at the interplay of Ians Holm and MacKellen, and by the end of the second hour, was more thrilled than I'd been by anything since Raiders of the Lost Ark.  To me, the following pieces of the Lord of the Rings cycle spun a little off the rails, but The Fellowship of the Ring remains touching, unparalleled, and perfect from beginning to end.

3) The Royal Tenenbaums, Wes Anderson, '01
First Seen: Parklane 8, Halifax

 It's not the intricately devised universe that makes this film last- Wes Anderson's "New York of the Imagination" becomes window dressing after you've combed every frame for his Salinger-meets-Glen Baxter detail.  It's the universal truths about family and life in general that continue to leap out of this film when you least expect them.
4) The White Diamond, Werner Herzog, '04
First seen: on home video

Herzog cracked the bourgeoisie this decade with Grizzly Man, but this astonishing, haphazard account of a mad inventor flying his self-made dirigible over the Guyanese rainforest is something else, and something more.  Even what you don't see sticks with you:  he films a local sacred place in a cave at the base of a waterfall, that no human has ever seen before.  And after he gets the footage back... well, he changes his mind about showing anyone.

5) Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner, Zacharias Kunuk, '01
First seen: home video (lamentably)

6) There Will Be Blood, P.T. Anderson, '07
First seen: Parklane 8, Halifax

7) 9 Songs, Michael Winterbottom, '04
First seen: The Carlton, Toronto

Talk about your pure cinema: this film consists of two things- sex (or, rather, intimacy) and rock n'roll.  A couple of the only things left that assure people they're alive after the toll of the past ten years.

8) Last Days, Gus Van Sant, '05

First seen: Cumberland 4, Toronto

Not just an apropos epitaph for Kurt Cobain (finally), but the crowning piece of a 'Death Trilogy' (with Gerry and Elephant) that Gus Van Sant had the nuts to release alongside his equally excellent mainstream material (the underrated Finding Forrester; Milk).  This film scares me, with its pouring of cereal, mumbling around the house, and its suicide. Evoking Trainspotting's credo of "Choose Life", Blake (Van Sant's Kurt avatar) clearly hasn't, acting like an old man in, well, his last days.  Only this guy's twenty-seven.  All in all is all we are.

9) Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl, Gore Verbinski, '03
First Seen: Empire, New Minas, Nova Scotia

The most inspired franchise film of the decade.

10) Elizabethtown, Cameron Crowe, '05
First Seen: Owen Sound, Ontario

If that last one wasn't a dealbreaker, this one should be.  But I saw it at the right time, in the right place, and it pretty much rebooted my life.  The least well-regarded film of a filmmaker I dislike, but to my mind it still outdoes Vanilla Sky (the worst film of the decade) and even Almost Famous, a sentimental, inauthentic crock that was outdone on every level by the unvarnished and honest 24-Hour Party People.
11) Sex and Lucia, Julio Medem, '01
First seen: home video

I honestly don't even remember the Sex part of this (but boy did I have a hard time finding a PG image), or even the Lucia.  But surprisingly, this was the best film about writing made this decade.

12) Wonder Boys, Curtis Hanson, '00
First seen: Parklane 8, Halifax

Here's the second-best writing film of the decade.  Yet it contains the number one cinematic moment of my last ten years (pictured)...

...when Tobey MacGuire, high on something-or-other, laughs out loud at Rip Torn's bloated writer character and his address to a full four-hundred-capactiy auditorium.

13) Before Sunset, Richard Linklater, '04
First seen: Bedford, Nova Scotia

It took me a full decade to realize what pedestrian dinks these two characters were in Before Sunset.  And that realization is kind of important to me.  Yet as horrifying as spending even two hours with Julie Delpy's character would be to me, and as terrifying as being Ethan Hawke's character would be, I still felt a compassion and identification with them as they verbally reconciled their early thirties.  And I wonder what realizations I'll have about this film before they make a third one.  This also had the best final scene of a movie made this decade.

14) We Don't Live Here Anymore, John Curran, '04
First seen: home video

My pick for an exemplary film made in America for grown men and women in the aughts.  And, the second-best final scene of the decade.  Definitely the best final line.

15) Mulholland Drive, David Lynch, '01
First seen: Parklane 8, Halifax

Three Naomi Watts pictures in a row here.  But she wins the prize for this one, and that impossibly astonishing audition scene.

16) I ♥ Huckabees, David O. Russell, '04
First seen: home video

Asks pretty much the same question Mulholland Drive does: "How am I not myself?".  And goes about as far in answering it.  A film with unanswered questions is a film for this list.

17) The Libertine, Laurence Dunmore, '04
First seen: home video

This film finally convinced me that Johnny Depp was more than an expert mimic with a free-floating soul and eyes to show it off with.  An underrated film that got the shaft from its studio.

"Any experiment of interest in life will be carried out at your own expense.  Mark it well."

18) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry, '04
First seen: home video

19) The Squid and the Whale, Noah Baumbach, '05
First seen: home video?

About as much fun as you can have in two hours with a bunch of total assholes.

20) X-Men, Bryan Singer, '00
First seen: Amherst, Nova Scotia

The moment comic book movies began to get it right.

And 10 more Nearly-Was and Almost Rans:
Waking Life, Richard Linklater, '01
Ghost World, Terry Zwigoff, '01
AI: Artificial Intelligence, Steven Speilberg, '01
The Ballad of Jack and Rose, Rebecca Miller, '05
Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee, '05
Borat, Larry Charles, '06
Casino Royale, Martin Campbell, '06

Antichrist, Lars Von Trier, '09
Up, Pete Docter, '09
Star Trek, J.J. Abrams, '09

Sountrack of Favorites That Will Last Beyond 2000-2009

1) Bodies and Minds, Great Lake Swimmers ('05)

2) Funeral, Arcade Fire ('04)

3) Our Endless Numbered Days, Iron and Wine ('04)

4) Philadelphia, Museum Pieces ('06)

5) Is This It, The Strokes ('01)

) Ten New Songs, Leonard Cohen ('01)


7) I'm Wide Awake, It's Morning, Bright Eyes ('05)

8) Master And Everyone, Bonnie "Prince" Billy ('03)

9) Ease Down The Road, Bonnie "Prince" Billy ('01)

10) You Forgot It In People, Broken Social Scene ('02)

11) Set Yourself On Fire, Stars ('04)

12) Heartbreaker, Ryan Adams ('00)

13) Stadium Arcadium, Red Hot Chili Peppers ('06)

14) For Emma, Forever Ago, Bon Iver ('08)

15) Secret House Against The World, Buck 65 ('05)

16) Woke Myself Up, Julie Doiron ('07)

17) Illinois, Sufjan Stevens ('05)

18) Want One, Rufus Wainwright ('03)

19) Kid A, Radiohead ('00)

20) Accelerate, R.E.M. ('08)