1. Synecdoche, New York; Charlie Kaufman
I first saw this when I took a three hour trip south from Arlington to Austin with three friends. Charlie Kaufman was there for a Q&A after the film ended. It was a miraculous film, huge in its scope, while also being incredibly confounding. I knew I needed to see it again, and so, when it came out to buy, I immediately bought it on Bluray. Watching the film I realized just how much Kaufman was saying about people, about life, about dying, etc. Some people have said that the film is a mess, but I think this chaos is intended to add to the state of Caden Coutard’s mind. Truly a fantastic film.
2. Yi Yi; Edward Yang
Rarely have I been able to see such a film that is so in love with each and every one of its characters, a film that takes the time and dedication to show us the subtle nuances of life, a film in which, by the end, you feel you’ve really learned something about your own family, and your own life. Sure, it’s long as hell, and, just when you feel it must be wrapping u, you learn that you’re less than half-way through, but sitting through that, and being able to think about it afterward, has caused me intense longing to see it again. I love this movie.
3. Lost in Translation; Sophia Coppola
When I first saw this about five years ago, I thought it was humorous, although I did end up missing more than half of it due to ridiculous circumstances. I did, though, about a year later, rent the film again, because I had remembered it to be sweet, and I wanted to watch it in its entirety. I was not disappointed. Sweet was the least of it. It is such a film of love, a film of truthful relationships, that you realize just how sterile most relationships in films are. The chemistry between Murray and Johannson is so strong, and Murray’s own comic timing is just as great as it always has been, and is, in fact, maybe even a little better here. Everything about this film is just riddled with perfection, and I am so fortunate to say that, after having seen it as many times as I have, it still continues to enthrall me.
4. Syndromes and a Century; Apichatpong Weerasethakul
I first saw this toward the end of last year, and, while I felt I had seen something great, I was left really kind of lost. What was it about? What did the two halves mean? How is this film about the meeting of Weerasethakul’s parents, when the two the film shows hardly are ever on screen together, except in two scenes? Thankfully, after much research and discussion, I was able to come up with answers to most of those questions; those questions which I cannot answer only add to my fascinating about the film. Weerasethakul, a great filmmaker, had a sure image in his mind when he made the film. The tone itself, a relaxed feel which makes you feel rather fantastic the whole time, is to die for. The film brings up interesting ideas that are brought up in almost all of Weerasethakul’s films, but here they just seem to work a little bit better than they did in Tropical Malady or Blissfully Yours. See this film, if you haven’t already.
5. Waking Life; Richard Linklater
This film really hit me in the stomach when I saw it about four years ago. I had become quite interesting in Linklater, and I was eagerly anticipating A Scanner Darkly in theaters. I decided, then, that I ought to see his other animated film, which had been so highly recommended by Roger Ebert, and so I picked it up. What a delight! The color, those drawings, the fascinating ideas raised to such heights because of the way in which the film was made! What a glorious film! I will admit that, for a while, I wasn’t fully sure what the film was doing, but, when I arrived at the end, , a few tears began to stream down my cheeks for one of the most beautiful and dazzling closing shots I’ve ever seen (right next to Babel ). What Linklater has done is give us a truly inspiring and hopeful film about man, one that I would wish to be the only film I would watch on my deathbed. There is almost nothing like it.
6. Punch-Drunk Love; Paul Thomas Anderson
I don’t know about you all, but not often enough do I see a film that delights me so much that my face is in a perpetual smile the entire time. This was the film to do it, though (also, Chungking Express is in this category). When I first saw it, I wasn’t at all sure what to think; I liked it, of course, but it was so weird. The crazy intense music, the color schemes, the plot itself, the romanticism – everything was just handled in such a hyper-realistic way. On subsequent viewings, I have come to realize just how much of an effect this all has on me. I wish I could make a film that left someone as pleased as I am every time I watch Punch-Drunk Love.
7. In the Mood for Love; Wong Kar-wai
The story of a relationship never-to-be is the backdrop for Wong Kar-wai’s gorgeous and perfectly acted film. The layers of depth he achieves in his characters here is unlike anything else I’ve seen from him – this film, like Lost in Translation, shows the how two people can meet and then become so in love, without ever consummating their love for each other. It is a sad day when these two fine people, both of whom are being cheated on by their spouses, cannot be in love together because of the higher standards they set for themselves. This sad story, though, is told in such elegance and grace, with a vibrating score and a gorgeous color palette, that it becomes almost a mouthful. A great film about love, to be sure.
8. What Time is it There?; Tsai Ming-liang
This film has really grown on me lately. It’s not that I didn’t like it when I first saw it; on the contrary, it was the second-best Tsai film I had seen (Goodbye, Dragon Inn being the best). As time has passed, though, my opinion has shifted. Whereas Goodbye, Dragon Inn perfectly captures its idea of anger at Taiwanese people, What Time is it There? is just so much fun, all while being so terribly sad. The personal connection to Tsai and Lee Kang-sheng just bleeds through the screen in a heartbreaking scene in which Hsaio Kang sits with his father’s ashes in a car, and when, at the end of it all, the old man turns up again, pulling a suitcase in from a pond with his umbrella, giving the camera that look which embodies everything: life, love, joy, sadness. It is a beautiful film.
9. A Serious Man; Joel & Ethan Coen
This must be the funniest film on my top ten. Seeing it in the theater last year, I wasn’t entirely sure what I would make of it after it ended. Boy, was I surprised; it not only ended up being a very good, very metaphorical (still funny), film, but it ended up being the best film of last year, period. The issues that Larry Gopnik must face are, yes, terrible, but they’re handled in such a loving way by the Coens, even while he dangles at the end of God’s strings, fearfully awaiting the end, never sure of what the next issue that awaits him will be. The smartness of the film is in the way we are able to know that things never will be well, that the impending doom throughout the movie for Gopnik will be faced by his son if he keeps this act up. Truly remarkable.
10. Virgin Stripped Bare by her Bachelors; Hong Sang-soo
I didn’t get it. Not after it was over. It was the second Hong film I saw, and I liked Woman on the Beach more. This one, though, is much more cunning than it lets its audience know, at least on first viewing. Its notions of memories, how the mind plays with itself, how one can think one thing happened, somehow completely forgetting that, well, he’s completely wrong entirely, are all incredibly well done. It is a fascinating portrait of the landscape of the human mind, with absolutely astounding performances by all the actors (though I’ve never seen a bad performance in a Hong film). It is not often that one can see a film this smart – reason being because films this smart don’t usually play at the local mulitplex, and they’re not well-announced when it comes to DVD releases (if they even release films like this on DVD as often as they should). It is a true gem of filmmaking that should be seen by all.
Movies Which Could Have Made My List:
The Dark Knight; Christopher Nolan
Adaptation., Spike Jonze
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; Michel Gondry
Goodbye, Dragon Inn; Tsai Ming-liang
Mysterious Object at Noon; Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Tropical Malady; Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Woman on the Beach; Hong Sang-soo
Tape; Richard Linklater
Before Sunset; Richard Linklater
There Will Be Blood; Paul Thomas Anderson
Irreversible; Gaspar Noe
The White Ribbon; Michael Haneke
The Royal Tenenbaums; Wes Anderson
Lust, Caution; Ang Lee
Michael Clayton; Tony Gilroy
Spirited Away, Hayao Miyazaki
No Country for Old Men; Joel & Ethan Coen
Babel; Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu
Children of Men; Alfonso Cuaron
Y Tu Mama Tambien; Alfonso Cuaron
Mulholland Drive; David Lynch
24 City; Jia Zhangke
Elephant; Gus Van Sant
My Winnipeg; Guy Maddin
Heart of the World; Guy Maddin
Ratatouille; Brad Bird, Jan Pinkava
Wall-E; Andrew Stanton
Good Night, and Good Luck; George Clooney