Sunday, April 29, 2007

Get me to the Church On Time

Well, I dont know if it's because of Grindhouse or just coincidence, but lots of people posting about chase scenes lately. I think Piper at Lazy Eye Theater started it, posting a fine list, from the Blues Brothers, Raising Arizona, Road Warrior and more, with video. Then I saw Moviezzz' response, posting the chase from Bullitt. It's very exciting. And it happens that Grindhouse put me in the mood to watch some car chase movies - I watched Gone in 60 Seconds this weekend, there are more in the queue... The Gone in 60 Seconds Chase is a monster, after all - 40 minutes of it - one thing after another, and a stream of wreckage in the wake... But better than that, it's put together like a silent comedy, almost. A series of obstacles, situations, settings, each set up and paid off for the cars, with pieces circling back around to each other, and the added fun of the radio reporter's interviews on the street ("he hit a boat?"). I was going to comment at Piper's or ZZZ's place, but I was poking around YouTube, and found this - the chase scene from Harold Lloyd's For Heaven's Sake. Plot? Harold meets the daughter of a preacher, falls in love, turns into a better person, and then has to cross town for his wedding, along with a pack of bums from the mission, who have been into the hooch. So - a trolley, bus and dog wagon later, and a great many shenanigans on the way, they make it....

Lloyd, really, was the master of the chase scene - the race against time. This one is superb. And there are probably better - Girl Shy and Speedy, in particular, are absolute aces. But this will do:

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Weekend Again With Music

Another week come and gone with no real content here. But at least there's music and YouTube!

1. Neko Case - Lion's Jaws
2. Neil Young - Alabama
3. Eric B & Rakim - Follow the Leader *** (might be better than that - not positive; that's the generation of rap I liked the most - though more Public Enemy, BDP, Run-DMC, up to NWA and De La Soul, which is more or less when I stopped listening. Not that anyone cares. Just reflecting...)
4. My Bloody Valentine - I Only Said **** - I'm not quite an actual fan of MBV, but here and there, their songs sound utterly wonderful, that swirling distortion, sighed vocals, and real melodies under it all.... some of those songs are perfectly addictive.
5. Distillers - Coral Fang - harmless neo pseudo punk. I had more hopes for this record, but it isn't bad I guess.
6. Elastica - Annie - ... given the degree to which the Distillers come off like a duller version of Elastica - who have tunes for those songs...
7. Big Star - I'm in Love with a Girl *** - the stars, I remind you, have to do largely with how often I want to hear the song - and a lot of my iPod listening gets done on trains and city streets - so... that tends to repress acoustic type songs. Which is why such a superb piece of work gets only 3 stars. Great song, great record, great band - but everyone knows that by now, I would hope.
8. Jay Farrar - Vitamins **** - I know I've shared my love of Jay Farrar before. This one particularly soars. "Really not mad at anyone you're just mad at the world."
9. Spirit - Nature's Way - another record I've commented on before (12 Dreams of Dr Sardonicus) - I should rank more of the songs on it, but it's all good...
10. Built to Spill - I Would Hurt a Fly (Live) - **** - for the studio version anyway, which I think might be better, surprisingly. That Built to Spill live record is pretty damned good - but Perfect From Now on is a masterpiece, one of the best of the 90s.

There's quite a lot of options in this week's bunch - lots of good stuff in there. Let's celebrate the fashions of the 70s and one of the most underrated records of all time - Randy California and the boys, live in 1978....

Update! that's the wrong video! I thought I posted this one - that was from the 80s; this is 1978. both have their merits, though.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Good Reading

While I continue to procrastinate and loaf, I can point to a couple useful things going on in the blogosphere.... Shakespeare Blogathon is underway... enjoy it now! three weeks til the next one, Culture Snob's Misunderstood Blogathon....

... the same day the Cannes Film Festival begins - IndieWire has the films....

Or - if you need a name for your blog - Adam Ross has 700 of them ready for action!

Meanwhile - at the House Next Door (always chock full of material, like a link to this astonishingly stupid response to the Virginia Tech shooting), a review of Claire Denis' Jacques Rivette documentary. I stupidly skipped this back in January, in the midst of my Rivetteathon... stupidly or exhaustedly, hard to say now. Still....

And finally, if you need a fix of theory every couple weeks - go to the source: David Bordwell writes about film as art. What kind of art? Ah, there's the question...

Oh gods. I'm going to be updating this post all night. I just have to note: Monkey Fluids is back in action - been back for a couple weeks, but you can count the posts around here... anyway, I should be ashamed of promoting such things, but anyone who recognizes the source of my nom de blog can probably guess my opinion on antique juvenalia and line drawings... Even when put to unnatural uses!

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I have to get in here at least once a week. Strange week. Right now, it is sunny and warm. A week ago? That was not the case. The weather and its results - power outages, traveling issues - kept me out of here,a nd kept me from caring for a while... Not to mention the Bad News, which was far too easy to opine about, but really - what do I have to say about something like that? Sometims it's better to keep quiet.

But that was last week. This is now. And, just to get things going, the most basic and simple of posts: the Friday Random Ten. On Sunday, you say, reproachfully, but I say - yep...

1. Patti Smith - Redondo Beach
2. Frank Zappa - Peaches en Regalia
3. Pere Ubu - Goodbye
4. Fire Theft - Summertime
5. Robert Wyatt - Cuckoo Madame
6. Faust - It's a bit of a Pain
7. Love - Doggone
8. Dangerdoom - ATHF (scourge of Boston!)
9. Velvet Underground - Some kinda Love *****
10. Jacques Brel - Les Bigotes

Video? How about some cruddily shot and recorded Krautrock? Still pretty cool stuff.

Friday, April 13, 2007

A Friday Musical Interlude

Without much ado, let's dive into our weekly ritual, while Jonathon Papelbon does his thing...

1. Fleetwod Mac - Teenage Darling (Live at the Boston Teaparty)
2. Flaming Lips - Stand in Line
3. Beatles - In My Life **** - no, I don't have a good reason for this to be 4 instead of 5 stars.
4. Bill Frisell - Live to Tell ***** - from one of the best records of the 90s...
5. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Dead Man in My Bed - I don't quite know why there's no stars on this. Who knows. Nice week or so for Nick Cave music - picked up the Grinderman record today, the new live CD/DVD a couple days ago... good to have
6. Modest Mouse - March into the Sea - so is there some kind of prejudice toward newer material in the iTunes/iPod randomizer? had that conversation today - is there anything to it, or just our imagination? I suppose I've got some data here, if I want to speculate....
7. Johnny Cash - Guess Things Happen that Way
8. Sheryl Crow - Solitaire - kind of dull, really - I think I'd prefer the Carpenters proper...
9. Wipers - My Vengeance - one of the great semi-lost bands of the 80s, this one. Very cool.
10. Sly & the Family Stone - Everybody is a Star - true enough, huh?

And to honor all that new Nick Cave: here's a live clip of the Grinderman group doing The Weeping Song....

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

A Month o' Movies

Going back through movies, as I said I was going to do yesterday:

Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima - seen as a double bill. I think they work better as a double feature. I've commented on Letters before - I liked it more than I let on, even then (hard to compete with Rivette), and seeing it again solidifies what I liked about it: the lack of heroism; the truth of Paul's comments on my later mention of the film - "people waiting to die". Oddly, despite the lame reception it got, and the fact that it disappeared in about 2 weeks - I think Flags might have been the better film. It isn't perfect - I'm not too impressed by the jumping around in time, the flashbacks, and flashbacks in flashbacks, and portentious framing devices - all of this serves a bit too much to sentimentalize the story. I will say - the way it jumps in and out of the battle, shows it in snatches, back and forth in time - breaks up the romanticization of the fighting. It breaks up the sense of adventure you usually get from war films, though not as effectively as Letters does telling its story straight, and just setting most of the film in a bunch of tunnels with a bunch of men waiting to die. (Both seem to me to be strategies for getting around Truffaut's rule about the impossibility of making an anti-war war film.) Still - there are cliches and melodrama aplenty in Flags of OUr Fathers, though no more so than in Letters From Iwo Jima. And it does avoid romanticizing the war; it does manage to convey the sense of betrayal the soldiers feel; it does it without quite betraying the folks back home. It's almost there. Together with Letters From Iwo Jima, the two form something very close to a truly great film. And yeah - Clint got robbed at the Oscars. There's no way The Departed can hold up as well as either of these films will.

Into Great Silence **** - shot over 6 months or so in the Chartreuse monastary, the Carthusan order, one of the most ascetic in the world - vows of silence, monks spend most of their time alone. This film shows them, patiently and beautifully, repetitively, patiently. This is rather more like Honor de Cavalerria or Colossal Youth than it seems - partly because of some of the abstract, beautiful imagery, partly because of the use of duration, partly because of the refusal of anything like plot. It is more motivated than they are, since it is about monks, who live like this - in a kind of ecstatic present that turns time into a kind of indefinite present. It is very long - 3 hours - but very effective. The aesthetics of religion, religions as aesthetics - when the monks do talk (they have one day a week where they walk outside the monastary, and are allowed to talk to one another), thet mostly discuss symbolism, the significance of things like hand washing and other rituals - this film, the way it looks, the monks' actions, reduces it all to signs, symbols, images, the pure aesthetics of contemplation. I am inclined to think this is true - that religion is aesthetics: it's philosophy and ethics and morality and everything else made into aesthetics - made significant, that is, wrapped up in fictions, signs and so on.

Bamako **** - the world bank on trial in a courtyard in a town in Mali. There are speeches and testimony, the occasional song (including a striking performance toward the end by an old griot), posed against the everyday comings and goings of the townspeople. There is a woman who goes out at night to sing - a ocuple corrupt policemen, a missing gun, a sick man, hungry children, all circulating through the film, creating more a sense of the life of the town than of a story. There is also, in the middle of this, a very funny African western parody, ostensibly on TV - starring Danny Glover and Elia Suleiman: Death in Timbuktu.

Mafioso **** - 1962 Italian film, given a re-release, starring Alberto Sordi as a Sicilian who's made it big in Milan, who goes home with his wife and kids for the first vacation in years. The first half is mostly a comedy about the clash of cultures, north and south - amusing enough, but nothing new.... Into this, though, comes a hint of menace - for our hero used to be a picciotto in the mafia. He pays his respects, and we get the idea that he got his start in life from the mafia - and now they are going to collect. I have read that the distributors are urging critics not to give away the ending - this is rather pointless, as by now most of us will have seen this basic plot a few hundred times, and will not miss it as it pops up here. Still.... an amusing, smart film, with a real sting in the tail, and a great lead performance by Sordi.

Colour Me Kubrick ** - Remember - 2 stars is still a good film! This is about Alan Conway, a con man who played Kubrick to hustle drinks, sometimes sex, and small sums of cash. The film is mostly a chance for Malkowich to camp it up, in shabby clothes, but just - at full speed. He is magnificent - it's that kind of film - there's no other reason for it to exist, but Malcovich's performance is more than enough.

July Rhapsody ***1/2 - Ann Hui film, a fine melodrama about a schoolteacher (played by Jacky Cheung, who I have not seen on screen in a while - it was a treat to see him again, he's very underrated) who confronts his wife's affair with his teacher 20 years ago, while dealing with a pretty girl chasing him. The wife is played by Anita Mui, in her last film - this gives it a particular poignancy, as it is largely about a dying man that Mui attends to. Knowing it is her last film twists the knife a bit. She and Cheung are outstanding.

The Wind That Shakes the Barley ***1/2 - The Irish rebellion of the 1920s, starting with a Black and Tans atrocity that radicalizes a pair of brothers, continuing through the campaigns against the English, to the establishment of the Free State. Then dramatizing the subsequent debates over the treaty, and showing the aftermath, as Irish turned on each other.... nicely done, handsome and respectful, though perhaps, at times, a bit too neat in its allegorizing. But a strong fine film nonetheless.

Brothers Quay Retrospective - 2 collections of short films: stop motion animation and puppetry, in strange, surreal worlds... several amazing pieces: Street of Crocodiles, their masterpiece; Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies; The Comb; a couple videos for His Name is Alive; and another masterpiece - In Abstentia, mostly shots of a woman writing - or trying to write, pencils breaking, sharpening, breaking, all of it set to a Stockhausen score featuring a horrifying mix of voices and synthezisers and electric drones and howls. Very disturbing and beautiful...

Tears of the Black Tiger **** - wonderful, campy strange melodramatic cops and robbers Thai western love story - film.... Starts brilliantly, with strange cutting patterns, very stylized sets - painted backdrops, animated clouds - the camp and glowing clors are on full display - gangsters dressed as cowboys, riding around to Morricone music, etc. It eventually settles down some, though it remains moving and strange and funny and entertaining to the end.

Indigenes *** - French war film about Algerian soldiers serving in Europe with the Free French. They fight well, but are treated badly - the film is about the racism against them as much as the war. As a war film, it's fairly conservative, with conventionally shot battles, and climatic last stands - but it's rather interesting in its treatment of the men. Especially in the characterization of the sergeant - a man of mixed Arab/French blood, who passes for European - he is complicated and strange. He is quickly established as a bastard, and remains a bastard in many ways - but reveals another side. He never indulges his men - he bullies and demeans them - but behind their backs, he pushes for their rights, their promotions (that don't come), he defends them and pleads for them, but never when they can hear.

Emperor Jones *** - Paul Robeson stars in the Eugene O'Neill play, directed by Dudley Murphy, a fascinating figure in early cinema. Not very good, but made watchable by Robeson, who is a towering presence. Murphy is competent enough. The main problems are due to the play - which is an odd mix of dignity and racism - and censorship: things like, forcing the lead actress to black up (so she wouldn't look like a white woman); the removal of all depiction of black on white violence; and in the original release, removal of the many instances of the word "nigger" - though this print reinstated most of them. The results are very strange - you can see why Robeson would want to perform in the part - it's a juicy one, he rises and falls in high style... but it's also unmistakeably racist and strangely condescending.

Lives of Others ***1/2 - suspenseful melodrama about secret policemen and compromised artists in East Germany in the 80s, maybe a bit forced in its conversions, maybe the symbolism - the way the main part ends with Gorbachev's ascent to power - is a bit too neat, but affecting nonetheless. A solid film, though I would not say it is better than Pan's Labyrinth, by any standards.

Monday, April 09, 2007

An Actual Movie Review!

I am aware that I have not actually written anything about an actual film here since - February? pretty much. It is time, I suppose to address this - eventually with a roundup post, but right now, let's start with the most recent film I've seen, Grindhouse. With stars - 1-5, weighted down, so that **= a perfectly decent film, *** being unreservedly good...

Grindhouse: **** - or, if you prefer: Planet Terror ***/Death Proof **** - it's odd that the reviews of this I've read almost all end up pitting the two films against each other. Maybe it's just the accident of what I've read - but: TalkingMoviezzz loves the Rodriguez and hates the QT - Walter Chaw dismisses the RR and loves the Tarantino - and Ryland Walker Knight loathes Planet Terror and adores Death Proof. Only Stephanie Zacharek at Salon praises both. Me? Annoying as he is (and his fans can be worse), I can't help loving Tarantino's film - Rodriguez on the other hand has always struck me as a bit of a hack, and definitely less than meets the eye. So I went in with those expectations - and found myself, instead, completely enjoying Planet Terror. It strikes me as a big budget version of films like Killer Klowns from Outer Space (which I was, of course, inspired to rewatch, after seeing Grindhouse) - an affectionate parody, that stays pretty close to the style and structure of the films it is parodying. That is - the story, the situation, is really pastiche - the characters, dialogue, details (like the tiny motorcycle the hero rides in Planet Terror) provide the parody. It's a hoot - goes down easy, fun and funny... but that's it.

But Death Proof... not when I was watching it, so much: it starts slow, it wanders and drags, and has way too much of Tarantino's signature pop culture blather, and most of that feels like filler... when Kurt Russell turns up, the thing starts to come alive, building to a rather shocking halfway point... Then starts over. 4 more women, sitting around talking - talk talk talk talk talk. Eventually, they head off to test drive a '70 dodge challenger with a white paint job - more talk first! but once they're in the car... The film goes off like a shot. And keeps going off, through the last third (or whatever it is) of the film - a long and really fucking great car chase, with stunts to make Jacky Chan or Buster Keaton proud. And the thing is, it keeps going off after it's done - it sticks in your head. The visceral thrill of it, the imagery of it - but also the artistry of it, the structure, its relationship to the films it refers to. It's got the mix of abrupt nihilism and moralism of an old fashioned exploitation picture, with charismatic villains and annoying, rather unpleasant "good guys" - it's got sudden swerves of tone and style, it's got freeze frames... It's also got a decidedly dualistic structure: split into a first half and second half, that reflect one another; then the second half is split into halves - the talking half/the driving half; then the car chase is split in two (black chaes white, white chases black) - right down to the 2 freeze frame endings.... (All of that, of course, as the second half of a double film.) Tarantino has always loved the patterns he can make out of stories, sometimes more than the stories themselves - this one maybe indulges in the patterns to the point where the stories dissolve - along with a lot of the humanity his films usually smuggle in through the back door.... The talking scenes don't do much - they occupy space in the film - they count off the number of reels you have to cover to get to the car chases.... But that, really, is true to the point of the exercise - the strange, slightly absurd scenes that pace the action in these kinds of films.... It is a strange film, and a pretty wonderful one, when you think about it.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Good Friday for Music

Why, it's Friday again! and miraculously, here comes a Friday random music post on, miracle of miracles, a Friday! Hooray! Without any further ado (though this blog needs a bit more ado - needs posts now and again - I've been cleverly disguising my lack of content with big flashy lists and baseball pontification), here it is:

1. Swell Maps - Gunboats
2. Mars Volta - B. Part II - from Scab Dates - wait - can this count? That's just 1 part of a long song - that's not a real....
2. Pere Ubu - Lisbon - we seem to be working our way backwards through their ouvre. Next week, maybe we'll get sad.txt or something....
3. Sonic Youth - Pink Steam - certainly seem to be working a certain vein of music today.
4. Lampshade - Good Day Sunshine - off one of those Mojo compilations. Which don't seem to add much ot the originals - this being a passable cover, but blanded out. Just listen tot he Beatles!
5. Scott Walker - On Your Own Again - nothing bland about Scott Walker.
6. Swell Maps - International Rescue - never try to understand it - so why are 2 songs from the swell maps coming up? have they ever come up before? anyway, no complaints, after all.
7. Byrds - Drug Store Truck Driving Man - any Clarence White appearance is a treat...
8. Neil Young - Welfare Mothers (live - Weld)
9. The Fall - Rowche Rumble - hey! how did I forget to give this any stars? Anyway - back to the jagged guitar music, and welcome to it!
10. Sleater Kinney - The Size of Our Love

So video? I can't say I expected to find anything, but I'm glad I did - here are the Swell Maps, with Midget Submarines:

Monday, April 02, 2007

Lists By Decades

And finally - from the beginning of time! something like that. I will only have to cheat the pre 1920s, I think. I hope to update this every now and again - if I ever get really enthusiastic, I might start breaking down decades into years. (Steve Carlson has done so, back to 1953 - an inspiring project... it's certainly one of the things driving me to this process...) Anyway - into the breach! Just top 10 per decade for now, though that's a pretty narrow selection for some of these.)

1. Inland Empire - USA - David Lynch
2. Yi Yi - Taiwan - Edward Yang
3. Kings and Queen - France - Arnaud Desplechins
4. 2046 - China - Wong Kar-wei
5. Death of Mr. Lazarescu - Romania - Christi Puiu
6. Mulholland Drive - USA - David Lynch
7. Colossal Youth - Portugal - Pedro Costa
8. L'Intrus - France - Claire Denis
9. Goodbye Dragon Inn - Taiwan - Tsai Ming-liang
10. Los Angeles Plays Itself - USA - Thom Anderson

1. Rushmore - USA - Wes Anderson
2. Breaking the Waves - Denmark/UK - Lars Van Trier
3. Goodbye, South, Goodbye - Taiwan - Hou Hsiao Hsien
4. Satantango - Hungary - Bela Tarr
5. Fallen Angels - Hong Kong - Wong Kar-wei
6. Flowers of Shanghai - Taiwan - Hou Hsiao Hsien
7. Beijing Bastards - PRC - Zhang Yuan
8. Through the Olive Trees - Iran - Abbas Kiarostami
9. Happy Together - Hong Kong - Wong Kar-wei
10. White - France/Poland - Krysztof Kieslowski

1. City of Sadness - Taiwan - Hou Hsiao Hsien
2. Blue Velvet - USA - David Lynch
3. Fitzcarraldo - Germany - Werner Herzog
4. The Elephant Man - USA - David Lynch
5. Do the Right Thing - USA - Spike Lee
6. Peking Opera Blues - Hong Kong - Tsui Hark
7. Brazil - UK/USA - Terry Gilliam
8. Blind Chance - Poland - Krysztof Kieslowski
9. Full Metal Jacket - USA - Stanley Kubrick
10. Raiders of the Lost Ark - USA - Steven Spielberg
[The Big Red One should be on here - except I think the restored version is probably more deserving than the original release. I certainly was more impressed - I don't know how much was the improvement in the film and how much was just seeing it in a theater vs. on video.]

1.McCabe and Mrs Miller - USA - Robert Altman
2. Aguirre Wrath of God - Germany - Werner Herzog
3. A Woman Under the Influence - USA - John Cassavetes
4. Nashville - USA - Altman
5. Celine and Julie Go Boating - France - Jacques Rivette
6. Mystery of Kasper Hauser (Every Man for Himself and God Against All) - Germany - Werner Herzog
7. Killer of Sheep - USA - Charles Burnett [which is supposed to be getting a release sometime in 2007! it could make that list too.]
8. Killing of a Chinese Bookie - USA - John Cassavetes
9. The Long Goodbye - USA - Altman
10. Camera Buff - Poland - Krysztof Kieslowski

1960s: [An almost impossibly deep decade for this kind of list. I am, of course, a huge fan of French and Japanese new wave films - Godard and Imamura, particularly are among my very favorite filmmakers, and they were banging 'em out back in the day, at a sustained level of brilliance...]
1. Vivre Sa Vie - France - Jean Luc Godard
2. The Pornographers - Japan - Shohei Imamura
3. Gospel According to Matthew - Italy - Pier Paolo Pasolini
4. High and Low - Japan - Akira Kurosawa
5. Playtime - France - Jacques Tati
6. Pierrot Le Fou - France - JLG
7. The Sun's Burial - Japan - Nagisa Oshima
8. Insect Woman - Japan - Imamura
9. Alphaville - France - Godard again
10. Pigs and Battleships - Japan - Imamura again

1950s: [Same story here: a world wide renaissance in filmmaking after WWII, it seems.]
1. Early Summer - Japan - Yasujiro Ozu
2. Vertigo - USA - Alfred Hitchcock
3. Seven Samurai - Japan - Akira Kurosawa
4. Ugetsu Monogatari - JApan - Kenji Mizoguchi
5. Touch of Evil - USA - Orson Welles
6. Pather Panchali - India - Satyajit Ray
7. Tokyo Story - Japan - Ozu
8. Rear Window - USA - Hitchcock
9. The Searchers - USA - John Ford
10. Late Chrysanthemums - Japan Mikio Naruse

1. It's a Wonderful Life - USA - Frank Capra
2. The Maltese Falcon - USA - John Huston
3. Late Spring - Japan - Yasujiro Ozu
4. His Girl Friday - USA - Howard Hawks
5. Ivan the Terrible - USSR - Sergei Eisenstein
6. The Big Sleep - USA - Howard Hawks
7. Fort Apache - USA - John Ford
8. Citizen Kane - USA - Orson Welles
9. Germany Year Zero - Italy - Roberto Rosselini
10. Stray Dog - Japan - Akira Kurosawa

1930s: [Another fairly miraculous decade for films - probably the best of the bunch, to be honest]
1. M - Germany - Fritz Lang
2. Rules of the Game - France - Jean Renoir
3. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington - USA - Frank Capra
4. Duck Soup - USA - Leo McCarey
5. I Was Born But... - Japan - Yasujiro Ozu
6. Bride of Frankenstein - USA - James Whale
7. Frankenstein - USA - James Whale
8. Osaka Elegy - Japan - Kenji Mizoguchi
9. Love Me Tonight - USA - Reuben Mamoulian
10. A Night at the Opera - USA - Sam Wood

1. The General - USA - Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman
2. Nosferatu - Germany - FW Murnau
3.The Gold Rush - USA - Charles Chaplin
4. Our Hospitality - USA - Buster Keaton and John G Blystone
5. Man With the Movie Camera - USSR - Dziga Vertov
6. Earth - USSR - Aleksander Dovzhenko
7. Battleship Potemkin - USSR - Sergei Eisenstein
8. Sherlock Jr. - USA - Buster Keaton
9. October - USSR - Eisenstein
10. Greed - USA - Erich Von Stroheim

Pre-1920s: [this is definitely a mixed bag - shorts, features, what have you... probably biased toward features more than it should be.]
1. Birth of a Nation - USA - DW Griffith
2. Les Vampires - Louis Feuillade
3. Broken Blossoms - USA - Griffith
4. The Tramp - USA - Charlie Chaplin
5. Intolerance - USA - Griffith
6. Regeneration - USA - Raoul Walsh
7. True Heart Susie - USA - Griffith
8. South - UK - Frank Jurley [this is the footage shot on the Shackleton expedition]
9. Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - Germany - Robert Weine
10. The Champion - USA - Chaplin

And that is that.

2000s by Year

This I did last year - this year's version I did without looking back at that. Might be some interesting changes. Anyway - these are retrospective top 10s for each year of this decade:

2006: [I do want to make sure this matches the post I just put up.]
1. Inland Empire - US - David Lynch
2. Colossal Youth - Portugal - Pedro Costa
3. The Woman on the Beach - South Korea - Hong Sang-soo
4. The Science of Sleep - France - Michel Gondry
5. United 93 - US - Paul Greengrass
6. Children of Men - UK - Alfonso Cauron
7. Honor de Cavelaria - Spain - Albert Serra
8. The Wind that Shakes the Barley - UK - Ken Loach
9. A Scanner Darkly - US - Richard Linklater
10. Belle Toujours - Portugal/France - Manoel de Oliveira

1. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu - Romania - Christi Puiu
2. The Squid and the Whale - USA - Noah Baumbach
3. Regular Lovers - France - Philippe Garrel
4. Three Times - Taiwan - Hou Hsiao Hsien
5. Grizzly Man - US - Werner Herzog
6. L'Enfant - Belgium - Luc & Jean Pierre Dardennes
7. Cache - France/Austria - Michael Haneke
8. The President's Last Bang - South Korea - Im Sang-soo
9. Mutual Appreciation - US - Andrew Bujalski
10. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - South Korea - Park Chan-ho
[And as we go to press, I am a day away from seeing Into Great Silence, Philip Groning's documentary about the Chartreuse monastary - I have not completely thought it through - but it is an extraordinary film: one that might turn up on this list if I waited a few days to post it.]

1. Kings and Queen - France - Arnaud Desplechins
2. 2046 - China - Wong Kar-wei
3. L'Intrus - France - Claire Denis
4. The House of Flying Daggers - China - Zhang Yimou
5. The World - China - Jia Jiang-ke
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - US - Michel Gondry
7. Nobody Knows - Japan - Kore-eda Hirokazu
8. Innocence - France - Lucille Hadzihalilovic
9. The Holy Girl - Argentina - Lucrecia Martel
10. Clean - France - Olivier Assayas

1. Goodbye Dragon Inn Taiwan - Tsai Ming-liang
2. Los Angeles Plays Itself - USA - Thom Anderson
3. Memories of Murder - South Korea - Bong Joon-ho
4. Dracula, Pages from a Virgin's Diary - Canada - Guy Maddin
5. Elephant - USA - Gus Van Sant
6. Doppelganger - Japan - Kiyoshi Kurosawa
7. Cafe Lumiere - Taiwan - Hou Hsiao Hsien
8. Gerry - USA - Gus Van Sant
9. Blind Shaft - China - Li Yang
10. Crimson Gold - Iran - Jafar Panahi

1. The Son - Belgium - Luc & Jean Pierre Dardennes
2. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance - South Korea - Park Chan wook
3. Man Without a Past - Finland - Aki Kaurismaki
4. The Pianist - USA - Roman Polanski
5. Unknown Pleasures - China - Jia Jiang Ke
6. Springtime in a Small Town - China - Tian Zhuang Zhuang
7. Millenium Mambo - Taiwan - Hou Hsiao Hsien
8. Devils on the Doorstep - China - Jiang Wen
9. Talk to Her - Spain - Almodovar
10. Dolls - Japan - Takeshi Kitano

1. Mulholland Drive - USA - David Lynch
2. Ichi the Killer - Japan - Takashi Miike
3. Donnie Darko - USA - Richard Kelly
4. Va Savoir - France - Jacques Rivette
5. The Royal Tenenbaums - USA - Wes Anderson
6. Distance - Japan - Hirokazu Kore-eda
7. Pistol Opera - Japan - Seijun Suzuki
8. Waking Life - USA - Richard Linklater
9. Khandahar - Iran - Mohsen Makhmalbaf
10. Pulse - Japan - Kiyoshi Kurosawa

1. Yi Yi - Taiwan - Edward Yang
2. Platform - China - Jia Jiang Ke
3. Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors - South Korea - Hong Sang-soo
4. O Brother Where Art Thou - USA - Joel and Ethan Coen
5. Songs from the Second Floor - Sweden - Roy Andersson
6. The Circle - Iran - Jafar Panahi
7. Eureka - Japan - Shinji Aoyama
8. The Gleaners and I - France - Agnes Varda
9. In the Mood for Love - China - Wong Kar-wei
10. George Washington - USA - David Gordon Green

That's that, until next year.

Past the Quarterpost, We Turn back the clock...

It takes a while for the best films of a year to shake out - for everything you need to see to turn up, at least a strong sample. Even now, this is probably sketchy - it will be the middle or end of this year before I get a reliable read on last year. (There are a few films out there - Jia Jiang-ke's, say - that I fully expect to crack this list when I actually get to see them.) That is one of the reasons this is just the first of three posts: it's a good time to look back at 2005 and before, as well. I have been wanting to post some lists - starting, as here, with the best of the year - adding to this, top tens for each year of the 00s (for now) (I did that last year), and then by decade. I used to be more of a list keeper, obsessing over the order, things like that. These days, it's more relaxed. Kind of a snapshot of what kinds of films I'm valuing right now. I think it would be neat to post these things about once a year. Watch what changes, etc.

This list, then, is for 2006: films made or internationally debuted in 2006 - it does not matter where I saw them or when. Only that they are listed as 2006 in the record books... I'll go 25 deep, because - it's the last time I'll make that big a list for the year... it's in order, but probably only reliable (even as a record of what I liked) through the first 10-15.

1. Inland Empire - US - David Lynch
2. Colossal Youth - Portugal - Pedro Costa
3. The Woman on the Beach - South Korea - Hong Sang-soo
4. The Science of Sleep - France - Michel Gondry
5. United 93 - US - Paul Greengrass
6. Children of Men - UK - Alfonso Cauron
7. Honor de Cavelaria - Spain - Albert Serra
8. The Wind that Shakes the Barley - UK - Ken Loach
9. A Scanner Darkly - US - Richard Linklater
10. Belle Toujours - Portugal/France - Manoel de Oliveira
11. Lights in the Dusk - Finland - Aki Kaurismaki
12. The Host - South Korea - Bong Joon-ho
13. Old Joy - US - Kelly Reichardt
14. Climates - Turkey - Nuri Blige Ceylan
15. Volver - Spain - Pedro Almodovar
16. The Scream of the Ants - Iran - Mohsen Makhmalbaf
17. Pan's Labyrinth - Mexico - Guillermo Del Toro
18. Lives of Others - Florian Donnersmarck
19. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Khazakhstan - US/UK - Larry Charles
20. Half Nelson - US - Ryan Fleck
21. Prairie Home Companion - US - Robert Altman
22.Little Miss Sunshine - US - Jonathon Dayton and Valerie Feris
23. Fast Food Nation - US - Richard Linklater
24. Bubble - US - Steven Soderburgh
25. Talledega Nights - US - Adam McKay