Von's lists, and other goofy trinkets.

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)

I just want to let the small number of loyal readers know that I haven’t abandoned the life of my blog. Von is currently busy working on a number of other projects and has not had the time to keep up with regular posts. I promise there will be more to come, and starting at the end of September there will be a month dedicated to horror films for you horror movie fans out there. In the meantime I hope you enjoy some older posts, and here are some pictures of my favorite femme fatales.

Entry 1

Entry 2

Exotica (Egoyan, 1994)

Mia Kirshner’s sad and broken pantomime to the hopeless lyrics of Leonard Cohen, make for one of the more subtly tragic scenes in recent film history.

The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger, 1948)

The Red Shoes is the most visually impressive use of dance and music in film history. The blending of fantasy and reality during the ballet scenes is gorgeous.

There is a second part to this ballet scene on youtube as well, but for whatever reason I could not post it. I encourage you to watch it. In fact, get the movie and watch the whole thing.

Entry 1

Badlands (Malick, 1973)

George Tipton’s score adds a light whimsy to this film, that is very light and dreamy in itself. The score is also complimented by splashy tunes of the era of the film’s setting, such as Love is Strange, heard in this clip.

If the score is familiar it is because it was later paid homage too by Hans Zimmer in Tony Scott’s film True Romance.

The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 2000)

Air’s score adds to the otherworldly aura. As if the film is taking place in a suburb on a far off planet not unlike our own, but utterly absurd.

Few things go as well together as music and cinema. Music can elevate a scene, or simply give it a splash of accent. Thus I present my favorite uses of music in film.

This originally was intended to be one of my typical 10 favorite lists, but I decided not to narrow any of my choices down, and present them all. Once a week I will present three or four of my favorites.

I will do my best to find the scenes in particular, but in some cases I will only be presenting the songs themselves.


Mulholland Dr. (Lynch, 2001)

I often think of Mulholland Drive as a film in two parts, and this particular scene as the emotional climax of the first half.

Dead Ringers (Cronenberg, 1988)

In what I think is Cronenberg’s most subtle film, Howard Shore’s score compliments the soft, morbid undertones of the relationship between the main characters.

It  is Oscar night, and though I have very little interest in the winners and losers, I do still enjoy the spectacle and the speculation. In anticipating the ceremony, I began thinking about some of my favorite films, and how many of them really never had a chance to be recognized by a group such as The Academy. Whether it be a film that shunned the status quo, flew under the radar, or simply offended the sensibilities of The Academy, these are 11 films, that I’ve seen, that I think best fit this description , films that the Academy more than likely balked at the idea of awarding a trophy too in a major category. Now, mind you, it could have been much bigger than 11, but these are the 11 films I like the most.

I won’t pretend to be some sort of expert on the subject. In simpler terms, I am making a list of some of my favorite films that I feel never got their just due, for whatever reasons I may or may not feel like speculating.

Now, some of these films were in fact nominated for an Oscar or two, and even won in some “lesser” categories. But the nominations and wins were more for names attached to the films or for technical achievements that were difficult to ignore, Barry Lyndon, being the best example.

Enjoy the list.

Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)

Surrealistic perfection in every way. I found it was put best by a friend of mine, when he said “Stalker is more of a feeling than a film”. Perhaps it was overlooked because it came from the Communist Soviet Union, I’m not sure I can gauge the Cold War bitterness, or care too.

The Marriage of Maria Braun (Fassbinder, 1979)

This entry more or less represents all three films in Fassbinder’s BRD Trilogy, Veronika Voss and Lola, being the others. All three films are his artistic comments on post-war Germany through feminine eyes.

Last Year at Marienbad (Resnais, 1961)

I admit that I had difficulty digesting this film upon first watching it. I was obviously taken with its visual grandeur, but the narrative escaped me. It wasn’t until time had passed, and I found myself replaying the film in my mind, did I get the feeling of a presence that accompanied my every thought of it. It was almost as if I had seen a theater of ghosts play out the emotional heights from their lives.

Barry Lyndon (Kubrick, 1975)

Yes, this film was nominated for several Oscars, and won 4 of them, including best cinematography, but its nominations for Best Picture, and Director were unpopular choices for many critics, that widely panned the film.

I’m not sure why it is so unpopular either. Every frame is a meticulous work of art, and every character has an unmistakable sadness that accented the visuals. Maybe because the main character was *gulp* unlikable.

After Hours (Scorsese, 1985)

This isn’t a very popular film among many Scorsese aficionados, but I’m not a Scorsese aficionado, so it is my favorite of his films. It is quite a departure from every film of his that came before and after, a film with next to no plot that simply follows an average guy down the rabbit hole into the underbelly of society. I think it is Scorsese’s most daring, and humorous film.

Wings of Desire (Wenders, 1987)

A sweeping metaphorical look at the frailty of life on both sides of the Berlin Wall. Wenders never fails at capturing tasteful sentiment, and poignancy.

Persona (Bergman, 1966)

Other than the obvious, I’m still not sure of all the ideas Bergman was working with for this film, and perhaps he was never sure either. But, like so many of his films, Persona provides the viewer with unique perspectives on human identity, sexuality, jealousy, and longing, and then lets our perception take care of the rest.

Inland Empire (Lynch, 2006)

It’s amazing how David Lynch managed to make a film, in Inland Empire, more divisive than anything he had done before, which speaks to the uncompromising nature of the film. Empire is a 3 hour nightmare, in the greatest sense of the definition.

Dead Ringers (Cronenberg, 1988)

My favorite Cronenberg film, partly because it seems to separate itself from the bleak, nihilistic nature of many of his other films, and focuses on a very human relationship of two brothers, that in a morbid way, was heartbreakingly real.

On The Silver Globe (Zulawski, 1977)

Even if Andrzej Zulawski had been able to complete this film in the vision he had intended, I have very little doubt it would have been dismissed. But, despite it never being completed in the original vision intended, it is still a fascinating film that more than transcends the sci-fi genre.

The Silence (Bergman, 1963)

Bergman covers a great deal of ground with such a stark film. The suggested taboo relationship between sisters told through the eyes of a child, naively dealing with his own Oedipus complex.

It’s the subtle nature of the film that makes me love it so much. Bergman delicately treats every character in the film like wounded birds.

It’s the holiday season, so I got to thinking. Now is the time of year many people decide to introduce their partners to the family. It’s generally an awkward show of judgment, and we keep our fingers crossed that she or he will pass the test, and would be widely accepted by the family.

This is more or less a counter to my first list, in that these are the fictional women that I view as ideal,  not only for a relationship, but to blend with the raucous cast of characters that is my family over the holidays

Please forgive my creative license in determining how this interaction would go.

Thank you to mrsemmapeel for helping me put this list together.

10. Dolly Read as Kelly Mac Namara in Beyond The Valley of The Dolls (Meyer, 1970)

Early on in our relationship, Kelly would be shy, and somewhat timid. She prefers staying in at night for a movie, or just strumming on her guitar quietly. However when I bring her to meet my family on Christmas she lets her hair down a bit more, and it doesn’t take long for her to sneak off with some of my younger cousins for some refer smoking. A few glasses of wine on top of that, and she is inappropriately rubbing up against one my uncles and asking me if there is a hot tub around.

Her bubbly sense of humor, and wild streak endear her to my family, and within a few months I become second fiddle at all get-togethers.

9. Jessica Harper as Suzy Bannion in Suspiria (Argento, 1977)

Suzy and I love each other very much, but she is reluctant to meet the family. I finally convince her that Christmas will be a perfect time. However, upon her arrival, a series of bizarre, unexplainable, yet beautiful murders occur.

My family thinks it’s a riot, and slap me on the back with laughter, wondering aloud why Christmas couldn’t be like this every year. We never really liked uncle Billy anyway.

8. Bibi Andersson as Sara in Wild Strawberries (Bergman, 1957)

Yes, I’m finally going to do it. I’ve met the girl of my dreams. She’s wild, adventurous, mischievous, and wise beyond her years, and she has inspired me to do what I said I’d never do, and that’s propose on Christmas. But first, she will go through the gauntlet of meeting the family.

Sara lights up the room immediately, and charms everyone, in particular the older gentlemen. She seems to remind them of someone from their past.

I drift into the background and watch as she plays the maestro. I thumb the ring in my pocket, and decide it will stay there for another day.

7. Jeanne Crain as Ruth Berent in Leave Her to Heaven (Stahl, 1945)

Ruth and I have a nice relationship, some might even say a little boring. We go out on the weekends, stay in during the week, and she insists on sleeping in separate beds.

Christmas comes and I invite her to meet the family, and Ruth thinks it would be a wonderful idea to invite her sister Ellen along. Having never met Ellen, but hearing much about her, I thought it would be perfect.

Ruth wins over the family quite easily, her beauty and charm wins points the moment she enters a room. However she generally sits with grandma and talks knitting and gardening.

Ellen on the other hand keeps pulling the ear of anyone who will listen,  whining about how Ruth stole me from her, and how Ruth has always wanted to be her. Then there was the “accidental” suffocation of my cousin Vince’s girlfriend. Needless to say we won’t be inviting Ellen again next year. What a downer.

6. Jean Seberg as Patricia Franchini in Breathless (Godard, 1960)

The only woman who appeared on the first list as well. The reason I think Patricia is ideal, is because I feel like I can change her, that her problems stem more from the people and situations she unwittingly finds herself surrounded by. If I could just get her away from the bad elements of her life, everything will be right. This effort works, and Patricia and I live happily together.

However, her past catches up to her on Christmas, when her former lover Michel shows up uninvited. He blows in like a whirlwind, eats all the cheese log, drinks a bottle of wine, teaches us how to curse in French, and vomits. The family loves him.

At first Patricia is mortified, but after he drunkenly professes his love for her, they run off together.I suppose we can never be too much distance between us and our pasts.

Years later, I am still heartbroken, and at the first hint of the holiday season members of my family proclaim it to be the best Christmas ever.

5. Kathleen Byron as Susan in The Small Black Room (Powell and Pressburger, 1949)

At first Susan’s introduction to the family doesn’t go well, what with her lecturing everyone about their drinking habits, and it doesn’t take long for people to pull me aside and tell me how I can do better.

Sensing this growing unrest, Susan decides to start dancing. We’re all struck by the sound of her tapping feet on my mother’s laminate floor. Despite the snickers and confused shuffling she continues to dance herself into a sweat, before a slow trickle of rhythm begins to invade the feet of the dumbstruck onlookers.

We dance ourselves silly, into the dark early morning hours. Susan dances her way into acceptance. It’s a Christmas miracle.

4. Moira Shearer as Victoria Page in The Red Shoes (Powell and Pressburger, 1948)

Victoria meets my family, just months removed from giving up the first love of her life, dancing. She gave it up for me, and though I must look the other way when I notice a tinge of sorrow in the creases of her smile, we manage to maintain a level of happiness.

She is well liked, and the night moves smoothly. But as it wears on, and we start culling bleary eyed memories of Christmas past someone mentions my old flame Susan, and how she danced her way into everyone’s hearts. Upon hearing this Victoria crumples to the floor in despair. I try to console her, but it is of no use. She runs tear streaked from the house and back into the arms of her first love.

I go to see her dance often.

3. Irene Jacob as Veronique in The Double Life of Veronique (Kieslowski, 1991)

The family is immediately taken by Veronique’s quiet mystery, and beauty. She doesn’t hesitate to immerse herself in the family either, freely partaking in the annual shenanigans, but doesn’t partake in any loud sing-along.

At one point one of my aunts nudges Veronique and proclaims that she should sing for us. Veronique insists that she does not sing. To which my aunt responds “Well that’s impossible, I saw you sing in Poland just last year.” Veronique explains to her that she has only been to Poland once, and it was not to sing.

She then feels a cold emptiness in her, and asks me to take her home.

2. Marlene Dietrich as Catherine II in The Scarlet Empress (Sternberg, 1934)

My mother doesn’t appreciate Catherine riding her horse right into the house, but who cares what the old stick-in-the-mud thinks? This is Christmas, and Catherine is the Christmas girlfriend a wide majority of the family had hoped and prayed would deliver them from misery, for years.

Before Catherine came along we had to spend Christmas listening to cousin Pete complain about The Salvation Army always wanting for needy people who don’t exist, and every year he’d give out wooden soldiers to everyone.

I still have a hard time getting over the fact that Catherine briefly dated Pete, which puts a strain on our relationship.

1. Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont in Rear Window (Hitchcock, 1954)

At first it doesn’t go well for Lisa. The family is unenchanted and bored with her predictable flair and beauty. Many roll their eyes at her efforts to win them over, and many openly wish I were still dating Catherine.

But a dull Christmas is sparked with excitement when a neighbor’s domestic dispute could clearly be seen through the adjacent window. Several of us watch with heated curiosity as the man and wife red their faces in anger. This is when Lisa sees her chance.

She creeps into the house, steps between the man and wife, and waves to us from the other side. Her eyes shine, and smile is bright, as she waves, and I feel my heart thump in my chest for her.

We all have to chip in to bail her out of jail, and relations with our neighbors are never the same, but there is a charm to such a brazen act the family finds irresistable.

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