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Tacita Dean + More Lists 2010

"At 11 minutes long, Tacita Dean's film Prisoner Pair (showing at the Common Guild gallery in Glasgow [through February 5]) is a svelte précis of certain tendencies in the English artist's haunting and haunted oeuvre," writes Brian Dillon in the Guardian. "Other contemporary artists have produced film or video updates of the traditional nature morte — Sam Taylor-Wood's Still Life of 2001 offers an accelerated view of a decaying bowl of fruit, for example. And Dean has made films before that look intently at objects and surfaces; her Darmstädter Werkblock of 2007 documents the walls and carpets around a permanent installation by Joseph Beuys. Prisoner Pair is not so much a consciously painterly move (for one thing, the film is shot from several different vantages) as an exploration of the metaphoric potential of its subject. At times the mottled pears resemble ageing, maybe dead, flesh, looking as if they're entombed or in suspended animation.... From other angles they look like planets — quite specifically, the mysterious milky world in Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 film Solaris — that now and then erupt with small puffs of fermentation. Still, in spite of the meanings and references that might attach to these tender, ghostly twins, it is mostly the light you notice as it agitates the fruit inside with its flickering or burnishes the glass with a golden glow."

One more snip: "Her continued use of 16mm film, instead of the high-definition video that is everywhere now among artists who work with the moving image, is essential to the way her works are made and shown: the whirring, hot projector is often a semi-sculptural presence in the gallery. This too leaves her open to accusations of aesthetic nostalgia, but after nearly two decades of making films Dean is presumably past caring; the rhythms of shooting, processing, laborious sound design and film editing (done by Dean herself on an old Steenbeck at her Berlin studio) are part of an artistic practice that has a relentless coherence." More from Mark Godfrey in the April 2009 issue of frieze.

Let's have our segue into 2011's first roundup of best-of-2010 lists, then, be a collection of clips Dennis Cooper's posted in remembrance of "some of the amazing people who got lost."

Independencia has posted individual lists from its contributors and then thrown them all in a pot to come up with a collective "TOP 10/10" and it's a three-way tie: Werner Herzog's Bad Lieutenant, Jean-Luc Godard's Film Socialisme and, naturally, Raya Martin's Independencia.

"Some years from now I imagine that, if you compare a film like Inception to a film like Unstoppable, the latter will yield up much richer insights into our young century, our spectacular condition," suggests Zach Campbell. "[T]he treasures among the recent films I've seen in 2010 seem a bit old hat, in the sense that they're mainly art films from Europe and Asia, generally directed by established male directors, which primarily wowed (or caused controversy) on the festival circuit before finding commercial distribution... if at all. Still, even among these strong films by Haneke, Denis, et al., there were two especially that stood out and unsettled me, surprised me in the best ways." And they are Film Socialisme and Lav Diaz's Butterflies Have No Memories. The two standouts among the older films he saw this year: Hiroshi Shimizu's Ornamental Hairpin (1941) and Billy Wilder's The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970).

"I believe I'm the only critic in America to place Todd Solondz's [Life During Wartime] at #1, so allow me a brief defense," blogs Anthony Kaufman. "The movie has stayed with me more than any other. As I have written in the past, Life During Wartime may be the most thorough, penetrating and profound accounting of post-9/11 America and the nation's utter and dysfunctional lack of compassion. Every frame suffuses a sense of melancholy and regret. And still lingering with me are the ghostly faces of Paul Reubens, Ciarán Hinds and Charlotte Rampling; the darkly sardonic line 'Nothing will get inside you ever'; and that mysterious culminating shot, full of sadness and the yearning of a young boy who wants his father back, no matter his crimes."

Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2010: Sean Axmaker at the Parallax View (also gathering 2010 top tens from contributors), DVD Savant Glenn Erickson and the DVD Talk team.

Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit rides to the top of Bill Gibron's list at PopMatters and Mike Wilmington's at Movie City News, where Kim Voynar lists her top docs (#1: Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop) and where, too, you can check the latest revisions to the Top Tens chart.

Nick Davis looks back on his "25 favorite viewing experiences in 2010 of non-first-run films." Michael Hawley: "2010 Favorite Bay Area Repertory/Revival Screenings." Kevin Jagernauth's #1 at the Playlist: Danny Boyle's 127 Hours.

"And the Nominees Should Be..." New York Times critics AO Scott, Manohla Dargis and Stephen Holden fill out their ballots. Also in this Oscar package: Dargis on Christian Bale in The Fighter, Scott on Natalie Portman in Black Swan, Larry Rohter's profile of Javier Bardem (Biutiful), Constance Rosenblum's of Annette Bening (The Kids Are All Right), Holden on The King's Speech, Karen Durbin on "some of the smaller films from the year that deserve attention" (Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished, David Michôd's Animal Kingdom, Jacques Audiard's A Prophet, Andrea Arnold's Fish Tank and Mark Romanek's Never Let Me Go), brief excerpts from screenplays (Aaron Sorkin's The Social Network, Joel and Ethan Coen's True Grit, David Lindsay-Abaire's Rabbit Hole and David Seidler's The King's Speech) and Terrence Rafferty looks back on the night the Academy presented its honorary Oscar to an absent Jean-Luc Godard: "[T]he ceremony seems to have been a little uncomfortable: a Hollywood love fest for an artist who doesn't want to be loved by Hollywood and whose feelings about America and its movies have always been wildly ambivalent."

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Heh. I see with Zach Campbell, and the link to his piece here, the auteurist reappraisal of Tony Scott continues apace. I don’t know exactly why him and why now or how this new look at Scott as an artist has caught on with some part of the critical community, but I can see that it is something that will need to be delved into some more here in this new year, perhaps after Unstoppable is available on dvd. It’s good to see some writers like Anthony Kaufman taking stands for films other than the generally favored few. While I haven’t yet seen Life During Wartime, I am always more than a little suspicious of the influence of “groupthink” when it comes to determining what should be considered notable. When talk of art becomes so conformist one has to suspect there is much being missed.
I’m curious to see “Unstoppable,” though I’m not yet interested to buy stock in “recent Scott” like so many seem to be doing. I prefer his earlier films, much in the same way with Mann.

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