Monday, December 7, 2009

My 100 Favorite Films of 1999-2008

Everyone is making lists of their favorite films of the 00s, and I've been feeling left out. I do enjoy a good list, but not when it feels premature; and the vagaries of international distribution make it impossible for all but a few ardent festival-hoppers to know yet what has happened in 2009. Even my list of 2008 favorites is just stabilizing.

A solution finally occurred to me: exclude 2009 from my decade list, and include 1999, which was shafted in the last round of decade-end list making.

My 100 favorite films of 1999-2008, in very, very approximate order of preference.

1. Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, USA, 2007)
2. Esther Kahn (Arnaud Desplechin, France, 2000)
3. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania, 2005)
4. Night and Day (Hong Sang-Soo, South Korea, 2008)
5. Vera Drake (Mike Leigh, UK, 2004)
6. The Child (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium/France, 2005)
7. Fat Girl (Catherine Breillat, France, 2001)
8. M/Other (Nobuhiro Suwa, Japan, 1999)
9. The Tracey Fragments (Bruce McDonald, Canada, 2007)
10. Raja (Jacques Doillon, France/Morocco, 2003)
11. Late Marriage (Dover Kosashvili, Israel/France, 2001)
12. The Sopranos: "Made in America" (David Chase, USA, 2007)
13. The House of Mirth (Terence Davies, UK/USA, 2000)
14. La face cachée de la lune (Robert Lepage, Canada, 2003)
15. The Son (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium, 2002)
16. Far from Heaven (Todd Haynes, USA, 2002)
17. The Forsaken Land (Vimukthi Jayasundara, Sri Lanka/France, 2005)
18. Ana and the Others (Celina Murga, Argentina, 2003)
19. Primer (Shane Carruth, USA, 2004)
20. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh, UK, 1999)
21. Bled Number One (Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche, Algeria/France, 2006)
22. La Puce (Emmanuelle Bercot, France, 1999)
23. Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke, China, 2006)
24. Ballast (Lance Hammer, USA, 2008)
25. Sangre (Amat Escalante, Mexico, 2005)
26. The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan, 2005)
27. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico, 2007)
28. A Week Alone (Celina Murga, Argentina, 2008)
29. All Around Us (Ryosuke Hashiguchi, Japan, 2008)
30. Une Vieille Maîtresse (Catherine Breillat, France, 2007)
31. Japon (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico, 2002)
32. Waking Life (Richard Linklater, USA, 2001)
33. Bully (Larry Clark, USA, 2001)
34. Vibrator (Ryuichi Hiroki, Japan, 2003)
35. Crashing (Gary Walkow, USA, 2007)
36. Tout est pardonné (Mia Hansen-Løve, France, 2007)
37. Darling (Johan Kling, Sweden, 2007)
38. Triple Agent (Eric Rohmer, France, 2004)
39. Chopper (Andrew Dominic, Australia, 2000)
40. Zero Day (Ben Coccio, USA, 2003)
41. Happiness (Hur Jin-ho, South Korea, 2007)
42. Lady Chatterley (Pascale Ferran, France/Belgium, 2006)
43. Woman on the Beach (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2006)
44. Haut les coeurs! (Solveig Anspach, France, 1999)
45. The Garden of Earthly Delights (Lech Majewski, UK/Italy/Poland, 2004)
46. Or (Mon Tresor) (Keren Yedaya, Israel, 2004)
47. Toutes ces belles promesses (Jean-Paul Civeyrac, France, 2003)
48. Ken Park (Larry Clark and Ed Lachman, USA, 2002)
49. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, Iran, 2002)
50. Jealousy Is My Middle Name (Park Chan-ok, South Korea, 2002)
51. Shara (Naomi Kawase, Japan, 2003)
52. Return of the Idiot (Saša Gedeon, Czech Republic, 1999)
53. The World (Jia Zhang-ke, China, 2004)
54. Roberto Succo (Cedric Kahn, France, 2000)
55. Be My Star (Valeska Grisebach, Germany, 2001)
56. Avant que j'oublie (Jacques Nolot, France, 2007)
57. The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, USA, 2007)
58. Stella (Sylvia Verheyde, France, 2008)
59. Grain in Ear (Zhang Lu, China/South Korea, 2005)
60. Nights and Weekends (Joe Swanberg and Greta Gerwig, USA, 2008)
61. Mid-August Lunch (Gianni Di Gregorio, Italy, 2008)
62. Turning Gate (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2002)
63. Wolfsbergen (Nanouk Leopold, Netherlands, 2007)
64. Jesus, You Know (Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 2003)
65. Paris: XY (Zeka Laplaine, France, 2001)
66. The Believer (Henry Bean, USA, 2001)
67. All or Nothing (Mike Leigh, UK, 2002)
68. Crimson Gold (Jafar Panahi, Iran, 2003)
69. No Rest for the Brave (Alain Guiraudie, France, 2003)
70. Forty Shades of Blue (Ira Sachs, USA, 2005)
71. C.R.A.Z.Y. (Jean-Marc Vallée, Canada, 2005)
72. Rain Dogs (Ho Yuhang, Malaysia, 2006)
73. Catastrophe (David Mamet, Ireland, 2000)
74. The Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-Soo, South Korea, 2000)
75. Johanna (Kornel Mundruczó, Hungary, 2005)
76. A Tale of Cinema (Hong Sang-soo, South Korea, 2005)
77. Brick (Rian Johnson, USA, 2005)
78. Beat (Gary Walkow, USA, 2000)
79. Head-On (Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey, 2004)
80. One More Day (Babak Payami, Iran, 1999)
81. The Sopranos (pilot) (David Chase, USA, 1999)
82. Boogie (Radu Muntean, Romania, 2008)
83. Hannah Takes the Stairs (Joe Swanberg, USA, 2007)
84. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, USA, 2001)
85. The Fluffer (Richard Glatzer and Wash West, USA, 2001)
86. The Paper Will Be Blue (Radu Muntean, Romania, 2006)
87. The Banishment (Andrei Zyvagintsev, Russia, 2007)
88. Platform (Jia Zhang Ke, China, 2000)
89. Dog Days (Ulrich Seidl, Austria, 2001)
90. Harmful Insect (Akihiko Shiota, Japan, 2001)
91. The Days Between (Maria Speth, Germany, 2001)
92. Idle Running (Janez Burger, Slovenia, 1999)
93. Four Nights with Anna (Jerzy Skolimowski, Poland, 2008)
94. The Return (Andrei Zvyagintsev, Russia, 2003)
95. Cinema, Aspirin and Vultures (Marcelo Gomes, Brazil, 2005)
96. Qui a tué Bambi? (Gilles Marchand, France, 2003)
97. The Tuner (Kira Muratova, Russia, 2004)
98. Mutum (Sandra Kogut, Brazil, 2007)
99. The Embalmer (Matteo Garrone, Italy, 2002)
100. Palindromes (Todd Solondz, USA, 2004)

The decade shows its strength in long lists like this. The 00s had a great bench: talent showed up in more places than ever before, and in as great quantity as in any period of cinema history.


Andy said...

You and I appear to be in agreement about which are the best "Romanian New Wave" films. Definitely glad to see some love for The Paper Will Be Blue.

Anonymous said...

But why not make a list of the best films made since 1995, so we could see how cinema is behaving since it turned out 100 years old. I rather think that 1995-2009 is one of the best, most-interesting, less widely distributed periods in movies.
Miguel Marías

Sean Howe said...

Interesting (though, I'm sure, just a weird coincidence) that four of your top five titles are the names of the lead character.

Dan Sallitt said...

Sean - that title format has implications about what kind of movie we're going to see, so maybe it's not a coincidence. This old blog entry doesn't address the issue exactly, but it's at least relevant to it.

Miguel - I definitely think this has been a great period for cinema. After I published this post, I did some checking and realized that the 00s would not field a particularly strong ten-favorite or 50-favorite list for me, but would become competitive with the best decades at the 100-favorite level, and would clearly have the strongest 200-favorite list of any decade.

Andy - I believe that all the Romanian films I've listed are co-written by Razvan Radulescu. Something to think about....

Blake L. said...

I didn't comment on your enticing list because mainly it showed me I'm far out of the loop now and not getting to films in anything like the comprehensive way I used to. The fact you can still do it impresses me. That goes for anyone else too.

But I was intrigued to see "this old blog entry" re women's names as titles and found it very interesting to read. And I will confirm what you said in the replies, that if I made a list MARGIE would definitely be in the top ten (so probably would MARNIE and of course, as with you, GERTRUD would rule at the top).

The remark you made--something like "vale of tears" view of world resonates a little more over "victory through action" or whatever it was--is something I feel the same way about. But the active/passive duality usually ascribed to men and women in cinema is something I agree with less. In my piece "Saloon Girls and Ranchers' Daughters: The Woman in the Western" I argued for finding vividly created and interesting women in the genre who take their share of the center not by shooting their way into it, as Stanwyck, Crawford and Dietrich are more likely to do in the relatively few Westerns feminists embrace, but also wanted to make a wider point about movies generally. That "action" is not always external, and that a woman may drive a narrative not literally but from within herself. GERTRUD would be a good example--the best example. The ones I cited in the piece may have made my argument a little easy--L'AVVENTURA, STORY OF ADELE H. and LES RENDEZ-VOUS D'ANNA--because even though the heroines don't engage in any male type actions, all three are journey films; yet they do prove my point, which is that women can remain female in every way and yet drive a film as a male character does. Conversely, male heroes can become interesting when a movie effectively allows them to do nothing--the virtually all-male DESERT OF THE TARTARS especially shows this and is in fact, at least for me, the apotheosis of the male adventure film.

Well, sorry for the digression, but this subject just happens to interest me a lot. I hope you'll take it up again sometime.

One question--how does the preference for movies with women's names explain the presence of MICHAEL CLAYTON at the top of your list? More seriously, beyond the title, I'm just honestly mystified by your great admiration for this movie, which also made your 50 best of all time list. I'm not asking you to explain it all over again, because I read a blog entry you wrote about it, but I still don't get it. I walked out of this thinking "well, one more movie..."

Dan Sallitt said...

Blake - nothing explains how Michael Clayton got to the top of my list! I'm still surprised that an American Oscar-bait movie could mean so much to me at this point in cinema history. Anyway, combining that Clayton blog entry with its lengthy comments section, I've practically written a monograph on the film, so I won't elaborate further.

If there is traditionally a men-as-active/women-as-passive association running through our culture, it's also true that that association is quite often permuted or reversed or otherwise problematized, even by people who don't reject it. One can think of many reasons for this, starting with the need to accommodate the practical fact that men and women are a great deal alike, and ending with the mission of all good art to make at least some deviation from convention. Still, the association can often be detected in the underpinnings of the very works that seem to reject it.

Blake L. said...

Did you write a followup on MICHAEL CLAYTON--that might have been the one I read before because I don't remember this. I just read it and your opening remarks kind of address what was bewildering me a little about this. I don't remember all the comments--mostly my people who were also enthused about the movie, and since I'm not interested enough in the film to see it again I kind of skipped through them, but noticed someone mentioned Pakula, who I also thought of, though you see his films as very different. But I thought of him even more when I saw how you rated this because I know how much you like him and found myself wondering if you have a taste for paranoid political thrillers (happened to catch up with the fairly ordinary, if capably done PELICAN BRIEF last year). Anyway, if I'd read this first one I wouldn't have asked bout it, but still curious about what thing. I notice on your yearly lists that Gilroy's followup early this year (I forget the title and didn't see it) got nothing at all from you. Do you feel he went off the tracks in the wrong direction? Could CLAYTON turn out to be a one-shot for you? Seems like if he's all you say, he should have been ready for another masterpiece. Probably a one-line answer would satisfy my curiosity on the subject.

By the way, we all like Oscar-type films from time to time. I loved HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY, for example. And also UNFORGIVEN (though that one might have been lucky in timing to become an Oscar movie). But your main complaint about movies you don't like is often simply that they are conventional. That was my reaction to CLAYTON, rather than active dislike, as was probably evident in my first query about it. But it's obvious you feel very differently about that in this case.

Blake L. said...

A further thought on male/female, and this is independent of the question of titles. I actually think many (maybe most) of my favorite films might actually not be male-centered or female-centered but balanced, or couple- centered. A couple of titles by different directors--LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN, VERTIGO, FLOATING CLOUDS, THE QUIET MAN...
Note one of these actually has the word "man" in it and another has the word "woman." But these can't be described as male or female films in the sense some films are because one is equally invested in both the male and female characters in each, and the films are about these relationships. They all maybe do lean more toward the "vale of tears" view, though not entirely...

Blake L. said...

Also have to say that even if I had seen all 100 films on your list I can't imagine that YI YI would not be on my own list.

High on the list, I am guessing...

I really didn't think any modernist could make the kinds of films Edward Yang made until I saw them. Hopefully there are at least a few others like him still out there.

Dan Sallitt said...

Blake - I usually don't enjoy paranoid political thrillers, actually. All the President's Men and Michael Clayton, in different ways, manage to focus on emotions other than paranoia.

Gilroy's follow-up Duplicity just wasn't my kind of project: the sense of play hed the effect of making it impossible to find the characters. I still look forward to Gilroy's future work.

I liked Yi Yi and am very interested in seeing it again, but for some reason it hasn't been revived much, if at all, since its theatrical run.

Jake said...

Dan, I've been waiting so long to hear how you felt about Duplicity! I'm a fan -- it made me think of Rivette.