Random film musings


The Party (Edwards, 1968)

“Birdie num nums”

This is a bumpy journey through Hollywood satire, in an outdated car, with a coughing engine, and holes rusted through the floor. We cringe while banking every corner, and hold our breath as it sputters and wheezes up every steep incline. But, she was a real cherry at one time, smooth as silk and a paint job as pristine as a calm, cloudless sky. And we think about who the first owners of this car were. Did they proudly display it in their driveway for their neighbors to jealously grin and gather around? “She’s a real beaut!”

There are a hundred stories written in every pock mark in the hood and squeal of the steering column. Stories from a time of loose tongues and blind eyes. Where a laugh was just a laugh, and pure no matter the context. I laugh, and you laugh, and we hope the car never sputters to a coughing halt.

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Let’s clear up the confusion right away. Overall, I watched approximately 210 films this year. This is the list of the 20 best films of those. It’s not the 20 best films of 2010, but the 20 best films I saw in 2010. Each film will be accompanied with a “pocket” review. I hope you enjoy.

*Note: Rewatches of films from previous years do not count.

20. Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972)

This quiet, moody film is at times brutally heart breaking, and always stoic and contemplative in the typical Tarkovsky fashion. Among the unforgiving setting of space the main character is forced to struggle with his ideas of what constitutes life, love, and faith.

19. The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (Fassbinder, 1972)

A heartbreaking portrayal of desperate human dependency, and self loathing. The empty possessiveness of Petra is both frightening and fascinating, all while Fassbinder masterfully shoots the entire film in one room.

18. Pierrot Le Fou (Godard, 1965)

This is a whimsical, colorful, pointed smirk at media (film and television specifically but not limited too) and how it skews our perception of love, crime, beauty, and death. The film has an aired free-form which complements the splashes of color and music.

17. A Serious Man (Coen, 2009)

The Coen brother’s darkly humorous look at a crisis of faith never hits a sour note. Michael Stuhlbarg is perfect as the man pushed to the limits of his perception of ethics. The film is provocative in its charming fumblings, and rather poignant in its loose look at a clash of cultures and understandings.

16. The Fearless Vampire Killers (Polanski, 1967)

A light hearted bit of slapstick that calls to mind the greats of The Marx Brothers and The Three Stooges. Lost among the comedic fun is how beautiful nearly every frame of the film is.

15. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Herzog, 2009)

In Bad Lieutenant Werner Herzog creates a completely irreverent and gleefully over-the-top drama, that toys with the cliché world of crime dramas. The strangest aspect of the film is the allegorical relationship the film has with the events of the Katrina disaster.

14. The Shanghai Gesture (Von Sternberg, 1941)

Von Sternberg is always interesting in his ability to fill every frame with as much garishness as possible. Every scene in The Shanghai Gesture is almost too much to digest, and it perfectly complements the sexy story of deception.

13. Playtime (Tati, 1967)

Jacques Tati literally built a cold world without expression for his characters to comically move through, as he subtly and not so subtly details man’s struggle to cling to his soul among the flat monochrome surroundings of progression.

12. The White Ribbon (Haneke, 2009)

At times this beautifully shot film is horrific as it casts forth a wicked mystery that questions an entire village’s moral ground during the first murmurs of World War I.

11. Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989)

Sometimes you’re the only one in on the joke, and sometimes the joke is on you. Sometimes we’d give or do just about anything just to hold on to the status quo or to merely catch a glimpse of the greener side of the hill.

10. Claire’s Knee (Rohmer, 1970)

The main character of Jerome is a knight in shining armor who never notices how ill-fitting his armor is. Rohmer delicately pieces together a portrait of the desperation and misperceptions of seduction.

9. Nosferatu The Vampyre (Herzog, 1979)

This, along with Suspiria, is the most beautiful horror film ever made. Herzog manages to take what has always been a brooding, menacing, story, and turns it into a romantic, almost sad, sympathetic view.

8. Maelstrom (Villeneuve, 2000)

This film is so playfully bizarre, with a hint of morbid darkness. Water is the theme, specifically the ocean, and its ability to wash away memory and mistakes in this spinning world of strange coincidence and enraptured grace.

7. Lola (Fassbinder, 1981)

A colorful, and comical allegory of post-war Germany. Every character seems to dance onto the screen, whether it be to a sad ballad or a triumphant victory song they all sway the same, like delusions brought on by the mild sedation of willed optimism.

6. Bright Star (Campion, 2009)

Romance is not dead, and the proof lies in Jane Campion’s visually beautiful portrayal of star crossed lovers and their charming fumblings with strange new emotions.

5. On The Silver Globe (Zulawski, 1988)

I’m going to kind of cheat with this one and use a “pocket” review I wrote previously for this film.

There is an incredible beauty to this film that I can’t define. It is fractured and fragmented, with amazing bursts of wild creation and life, and dark caverns of ugly human nature. Zulawski explores the absurdity of our human instincts, and the cold opportunistic refuge found in worship. It is a blunt look at the current state of life on earth, god without love, war without reason, life as a jangled mix of pain and anger, with a vain, desperate attempt to make sense of how significant or insignificant we are.

4. Love is Colder Than Death (Fassbinder, 1969)

In his film debut R.W. Fassbinder dove in with a brave ferocity. He embraces all his inspirations with almost a naïve zeal which adds to the infectious energy of this New Wave-esque crime drama.

3. La Collectionneuse (Rohmer, 1967)

Here is a glimpse into the games our idle minds will instinctively play. The main character of Adrien finds the unexamined life not worth living, though he staunchly denies this, and refuses to believe his games are anything but the bored flutterings of an idle man.

2. In The Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)

In The Mood for Love is a relentlessly bittersweet film that snakes through the tantalizing dynamic between two characters who are so far away from the emotions they so long to embrace.

1. Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)

I’m cheating on this one too.

This film is so unflinchingly beautiful as the multicolored, tumbling snowball of faith, science, art, and mortality. It is constantly fascinating how faith can mold and shape an artistic expression, particularly when the artist is clearly wrestling with said faith. This is precisely what makes Tarkovsky so great. Stalker, is the quiet brooding doubt we all feel in some form or another, that pinhole of wonder that occasionally invades our thoughts of a loving relationship. It’s that spark of a question that strikes us in our times of loathing. Stalker is the embodiment of these doubts, played out by the artist, the scientist, and the man of faith. All three must stare down their fears and find cold proof of their very being.

Honorable Mentions

A Woman is A Woman (Godard, 1961)

Ivan’s Childhood (Tarkovsky, 1962)

Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010)

Spirit of The Beehive (Erice, 1973)

Girly (Francis, 1970)

The Five Worst Films

The Prowler (Zito, 1981)

World’s Greatest Dad (Goldthwait, 2009)

Home Movie (Denham, 2008)

The House by The Cemetery (Fulci, 1981)

Cashback (Ellis, 2006)

Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010)

You sang like a carnival mermaid to the curious onlookers with their noses pressed against the glass. How their fingers would shrink, and ball so tightly with every delicate whimper your frayed voice served. Their breath, heavy and lustful, fogged the glass, leaving you in a haloed dream of wandering innocence, with noses full of perfumed memories, prickly skin, and a clean unsoiled world, where every possibility wears ribbons in its hair.

Their vision was blurred to the dark rings around your eyes and the way they spun so freely to every passionate desire others confessed. They are all so unaware of the tip-toeing feet you listen for on opposite walls. “Who’s listening, and what should I do to excite them?” You think. And still your voice whimpers. Every crack becomes a cavern, sinking deeper and deeper into a well of muddy perfection. Let’s swim in those waters.

Maelstrom (Villeneuve, 2000)

…tasted like the dust of dead bricks. And the ocean recalls the way you slowly spun like a jewelery box ballerina, blind and unsteady, when it whispered your name in a frothy dulcet tone. It wanted you, it wanted to pucker your skin in its cold salt water. It wanted to dance with you, as if you were a decorative piece of trash bobbing on its waves. But you wouldn’t love it. You were more enamored with the red rivers that twisted through the whites of your eyes. You wished to rub them from your smiles, and maybe the slow drumming of guilt thumping in your stomach would heave its way out too. And oh, a fairytale ending, a gentle cinematic grace, as light as snow flakes on eye lashes, will find you. He’ll carry you, his arms are steady, and just as you’ve measured the cleft of his chiseled chin with your curious finger, you remember you’re….

Nosferatu The Vampyre (Herzog, 1979)

I watched you, like a floating specter in the soured memory of my youth, faded, and make-believe.

I was found in the lonely black of your eyes. You lifted me from the inevitable decay of age, and held me close to your still chest.

Let me wash you in the waters of forever. The thought that your sun-soaked skin might warm the howling cold that whistles through my old and hollow bones is delight.

Your pawing attempts at beauty flake like dead skin, settling like dust on my rigid, atrophied body. I am blank now.

You won’t leave me. You are the flowers sprung from the cracks and fissures of dead cities. You are the eternal wound of love.

My breath is warm and fragrant. Let it drape over the cold dead of your sorrow. Let it be life from your lips.

Girly (Francis, 1970)

What wonderfully twisted tales she weaves like lock twisted curls wrapped so tightly around her finger. That sharp grin like a razor through skin, and her blistering giggle like the songs of finger nails on wooden floors. What was that I heard in the night? The pitter-patter of wandering feet? It’s her mischievous eye peering through peek holes, and it widens with blood thumping curiosity. Her hand quivering with excited pulses. Oh, what unknowns have you tumbled into now Girly? So precious a friend who breaths heavy on your neck. You dare not share him. All others will face the poisonous pluck of your viscous venom. spelling them dizzy, and dazed, blurred and toothless, while you dance with them, giggling, giggling.

Le Notti Bianche (Visconti, 1957)

You’re like a lazy waltz, or a careless shoe thrown from a fancied lover. Never with feeling are your actions. They are cold clumsy thumpings on the floor. So many have lost themselves in your naive smiles, and gaped mouth laughs at their meek forms of chivalry, doing anything they can to contain the impassioned beast you charm. You mock us all, telling us we are not the worthy one, and I am the fool that bares a slight resemblance to the shadowy memory of the one who was.

Where is this chiseled lover your jaw stays so clenched for? He promised you all the fairytale drama to make your legs weaken. He’ll kiss the dimple on your chin and allow you the intimacy of his skin as he reaches for the light above your head. Is he just a rippled fantasy in dulled shallow waters? I would love to watch him melt you, even if it leaves me face down in the muck with only a muddy-eyed glimpse of you walking away.

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