This year's double-round of list-making - best of the year, best of the decade - is already well underway (see "Let the Wild Listings Start!" and "Lists: Best of the Decade, Part 2," updated through yesterday), but it's not until the December issue of Artforum appears on the first day of the last month that the opening shot of the season feels well and truly fired.
No matter how many contributors offer lists of the best films of each year in print, it's practically a tradition by now that only John Waters and Chrissie Iles brave online exposure. #1 on Waters's top ten: Ulrich Seidl's Import Export: "The most sorrowful movie of the year is also the best. The miserable lives of Ukrainian immigrants in Vienna make this agonizing but brilliantly directed opus the cinematic equivalent of slitting your wrists. A new genre? Depression porn? Hey, I got off." Chrissie Iles: "If YouTube is our collective online cinema, then the best film of the year was posted there: Veteran performance artist John Kelly's video rendition of 'Blue' (excerpted from Paved Paradise Redux, his drag tribute to Joni Mitchell) turns conventions of sexual identity inside out and moved Mitchell herself to tears." And you can watch it right there on that page.
To the New Yorker. For Richard Brody, In Praise of Love (2001) is "one of the most unusual, tremulous, and understated of love stories, as well as the story of love itself; a depiction of history in the present tense, as well as a virtual thesis on the filming of history; a work of art, as well as the story of the work at the origin of art; Godard's third first film, thus something of a rebirth of cinema." And it tops his "Best of the Decade" list. And he's remembered four more that should be in there, too. Update, 12/2: "Mr Brody's magnificently wayward and opinionated list, with its towering highbrow gestures and baffling lowbrow swoops, simply kicks the asses of all the other lists," argues the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw. "The Brody list may be exasperating. But that is better than dullness and consensus."
Frankly, my own favorite read of the day so far has been Dan Callahan's "A Perspective on Aughts Culture" at the House Next Door. It's not a list, but it's not not a list, either. "The years 2002 - 2006 were a truly miserable time to live in Manhattan, and the movies that were made in those years are tainted for me; I have only to see a film listed on television that was made in 2002 or 2003 to feel a queasy kind of depression and overall 'what's the use?' vibe that clings to them like barnacles."
But then, further in: "2007 was the year where a kind of footing was regained, a tension was released. I'm not sure how some of the films released that year will age, but Paul Thomas Anderson's There Will Be Blood, the Coen Brothers' No Country for Old Men, David Fincher's Zodiac, Sean Penn's Into the Wild and [James] Gray's We Own the Night all had an ambition that felt bracing after the dead, constricted movie years that had come before them. As a bonus, two still-active members of the French New Wave put out succulent valedictory works, Eric Rohmer's The Romance of Astrea and Celadon and Jacques Rivette's The Duchess of Langeais; this was a kind of bounty that was heartening to experience after so much depressive time-serving."
I'd switch a few of those titles out for others, but I do have to agree that 2007 was an extraordinary year that's left 2008 and 2009 looking pretty damn anemic. Many of us thought so at the time as well; if I recall correctly, it's the only year for which I bothered to take a shot at a top ten of my own - and that was before seeing a solid handful of films I knew would be on that list if I had. Whatever the tectonic shifts in deep cinephilia throughout the 00s, 2007 saw the release of an impressive number of simply very good films watched and discussed by audiences of considerable size. Let's not forget Todd Haynes's I'm Not There and the film that to my mind is Tim Burton's best, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I'm intrigued by Dan Callahan's phrase, "a tension was released." Notice that at the very center of the "truly miserable time" that preceded the outburst of 2007 would be the US presidential election of 2004. I can't help but wonder how many of the films he and I have named here were conceived more or less immediately in its wake.
But back to the listings. The "five core AV Club film writers" have picked their "best film performances of the 00s." Their #1: Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood.
IFC.com launches the "Naughts Project" with R Emmet Sweeney's assessment of "Matt Damon, Actor of the 00s."
Nick Davis is starting "a year-by-year digest of my most definitive in-theater experiences" in the 00s.
Updates: "Every day for the next month, indieWIRE will be republishing profiles and interviews from the past ten years (in their original, retro format) with some of the people that have defined independent cinema in the first decade of this century." The series is called "Decade" and the first entry is Anthony Kaufman's interview with Darren Aronofsky. The year was 2000 and the film at hand was Requiem for a Dream.
"Nobody in the film business has had as good a decade as the folks at Pixar Animation Studios," argues IFC's Matt Singer.
Updates, 12/2: The AV Club lists the "best bad movies of the 00s" and their "favorite film scenes of the 00s."
The Film Talk on the "10 Most Underrated Films of the Decade."
What's nifty about the Financial Times' annotated list of the best books of the year is that the choices are made by the resident experts in their respective fields. Scroll way down for Nigel Andrews's picks: five film books.
Here's one keyed to neither the year nor the decade: Beyond the Canon: 100 Films Deserving of Greater Attention. And here's a list of the participants with links to their individual ballots.
Updates, 12/3: The AV Club writes up the "best films of the 00s," all 50 of them. Their #1: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.
Josef Braun looks back on the "decade in debuts."
At AICN: "Mr Beaks Presents His Top 100 Films Of The Decade! Part One Of Four Thrilling Installments!"
The Film Talk's Gareth Higgins lists his "81 Films of the Decade."
"To quote Martin Scorsese, 'Cinema is a matter of what's in the frame and what's out.' David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson have turned Scorsese's maxim into a career." That's part of what makes them, for Matt Zoller Seitz, the "Critics of the 00s." Also at IFC: Has 2009 been the "Year of Apolitical Cinema?" asks Anthony Kaufman.
Updates, 12/5: "This is sport, but I like it, so here’s my decade-best list, the Top 50, in order because it's not fun any other way," writes Michael Atkinson. His #1: Peter Watkins's La Commune (Paris, 1871).
The New Yorker's David Denby gets a few more words off his chest regarding Inglourious Basterds and then: "In no particular order, here's what I admired most in 2009." Ten titles and nine honorable mentions. Richard Brody's list, though - it goes to 11 - is in a particular order. His #1: Fantastic Mr Fox.
Michelle Orange at IFC on Nicole Kidman, "Actress of the 00s."
Phil Nugent's "Class of '99" at Nerve is "a 'report card' feature about the directors who helped make 1999 the most exciting movie year of my adult life, and what they've done with themselves in the ten years since. Part of what I wrote had to be chopped for space reasons, and in the name of egotism, the wide-ranging nature of the subject at hand, and the possibility of hurting Kevin Smith's feelings, I'm tacking it on here."
So the Gotham Awards happened last night and Peter Knegt live-blogged the evening for indieWIRE, where he also posts a list of the winners. The Hurt Locker, winning Best Feature and Best Ensemble Performance, gets a minor boost as we head into the relentless awards season. Peter Knegt's also got video of the "best part of last night's show," Meryl Streep presenting the Tribute Award to Stanley Tucci.
Lane Brown reports on the evening for Vulture: "Unlike previous years, when half-drunk presenters halfheartedly stumbled through their speeches, the half-drunk presenters this year confidently stumbled through their speeches."
The International Documentary Association announced a first round of winners of its IDA Documentary Awards last night (Best Documentary and Best Short Documentary are yet to be named) and for AJ Schack, "the headline is that Oscar snubbed [Anvil! The Story of Anvil] will walk off with at least one award but Oscar frontrunner The Cove has been shut out."
"500 Days of Summer, Amreeka, Precious: Based on the Novel 'Push' by Sapphire, Sin Nombre and The Last Station took the Spirit Award nominations for best feature," reports Dave McNary for Variety. "The Last Station and Precious scored the most nominations with five each while The Messenger took four."
Kristopher Tapley at In Contention on the 37th Annual Annie Nominations: "Coraline and Up both received nominations in eight categories. The Princess and the Frog showed up in five while Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs showed up in four."
Updates, 12/3: "The European Film Academy, EFA Productions, and the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) have announced that the 2009 Prix FIPRESCI goes to 83-year-old Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda for Tatarak (Sweet Rush)," reports Pedro Bunuel for the Alternative Film Guide.
"The National Board of Review - arguably the first major Oscar precursor of the season - will be handing out its 2009 awards this afternoon, with Jason Reitman's Up in the Air leading," reports Peter Knegt, who's got the full list of winners at indieWIRE. "For the past two years, the winner of the NBR's best picture award has gone on to win the top Academy Award." Kristopher Tapley at In Contention: "Of course, it is worth noting that major titles like The Lovely Bones and Nine were not only absent from the list of the group's top 10 films of the year, but they weren't visible anywhere, in any category."
Updates, 12/5: "Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil led the winners of International Documentary Association's 2009 IDA Documentary Awards," reports Peter Knegt, who's got the full list of winners at indieWIRE. "IDA's Career Achievement Award was presented by composer Philip Glass to his long time friend and collaborator, Errol Morris." AJ Schnack live-tweeted the evening.
"The other expanded Oscar category." Kristin Thompson on the animated features.
Updates, 12/6: IndieWIRE's Peter Knegt reports on the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association's (WAFCA) nominations: Eight for Up in the Air, seven each for Precious and The Hurt Locker. Winner announced tomorrow.
"Science fiction thriller Moon has been named best British independent film and its director, Duncan Jones, has won an award for best debut." The BBC has all the winners of this year's British Independent Film Awards.
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