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More Bests and some Worsts

“Time” magazine’s Richard Corliss’s item “Do Film Critics Know Anything?” is the latest in whines from critics about how critics don’t know anything about what people really like (ie: movies with promotion budgets above $50 million opening in 5,000 theaters). One might well wonder if “Time” knows anything, having named Vladimir Putin their “Man of the Year” for restoring “stability,” presumably by removing such rowdy elements as the right to dissent and a free press. Be that as it may, I think every respectable film critic should at least know what he or she likes, doesn’t like and the reasons why and should be able to communicate that knowledge to a reader. As such we at the Phoenix have some of the knowingest critics around, and since we don’t have space in the paper to print their ten best (and some worst) lists here are some:

 

Michael Atkinson

1. Syndromes and a Century

Thailand’s great, mysterious, life-affirming, diptych-entranced, meta-meta-man Apichatpong Weerasethakul does it again, twice, or maybe more, while seeming to do nearly nothing at all. A dream had by us all, and just as maddening and gorgeous.

2. Once

Who knows how long the heart-kneaded buzz from this beloved greatest-musical-since-Demy may last, but in my seat it was an all-viscera epiphany, and it’s made moviegoing since a little bloodless.

3. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days

The greatest of the Romanians so far, Christian Mungiu’s patient knuckle-biter is at least 50% off-screen space and trauma; the mercilessly suspense birthday dinner scene alone is more concisely conceived and effective than any ten American films this year.

4. Half Moon

Northern Iran has supplanted the American West and the Australian Outback as the globe’s most expressive road-movie topos, and Bahman Ghobadi’s mythic Kurdish bus trip is simultaneously hilarious, magical-realist and tragic.

5. There Will Be Blood

Didn’t see it coming – P.T. Anderson sheds his pretentious snark-generation-ism for Upton Sinclair’s period saga of catapulting capitalism, scene for prickly, crazy scene the most fascinating new American film of the year.

6. Regular Lovers

May ‘68 awaited its definitive film portrait until the arrival of Philippe Garrel’s impressionistic personal meditation, which manifests the cataclysmic, liberating, and finally tragically disillusioned emotional thrust of *resistance*, coupled with the electric sense of being 19, sexually alive, responsibility-free, and ready to dope up and drop out, all of it seeping out of this neglected three-hour epic like fragrance from a valley of lilacs.

7. Killer of Sheep

Charles Burnett’s legended, much-hailed, rarely seen 1977 classic about being black and poor and spiritually unmoored in ‘70s L.A. finally saw theaters, a full 17 years after it’d been an early choice for national Film Registry canonization. It’s a ghost movie, returned to haunt us.

8. 12:08 East of Bucharest

Another Romanian, Corneliu Porumboiu’s deadpan comedy picks at the scab of the 1989 revolution, revolviong around what must be the eloquent and entertaining three-shot in recent cinema.

9. Los Muertos

Lisandro Alonso’s lovely, remarkably eloquent naturalist odyssey tracks an aging convict as he is released in rural Argentina, and heads upriver to find his daughter and grandson. Exposition is all but absent; the focus is on the moment, the soothing re-establishment of intimacy with nature, performed and captured in astonishing single takes.

10. Michael Clayton

Semi-hack screenwriter Tony Gilroy steps definitively into the men’s club with this ethical torture device, thought-through and written and acted with a startling concern for the sickening quotidian of power culture.

Runners-Up, in order: The Host, No Country for Old Men, Lars and the Real Girl, The Wind that Shakes the Barley, Brand Upon the Brain!, Czech Dream, 3:10 to Yuma, The Boss of It All, Zodiac, Lust, Caution, I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone, Into Great Silence, The Lives of Others, Tears of the Black Tiger, We Own the Night, Dans Paris, Broken English

Candidates for Bests and Runners-Up, Had They Been Released Theatrically Instead of Going to DVD, which Should Qualify Them for Full Consideration in Any Case, by This Point: Vibrator (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2003), Pitfall (Hiroshi Teshigahara, 1962), Five (Abbas Kiarostami, 2003), Green Chair (Park Cheol-su, 2005), The Way I Spent the End of the World (Catalin Miltescu, 2006), The Castle (Michael Haneke, 1997), Quiet Flows the Don (Sergei Gerasimov, 1957), Moscow Elegy (Alexander Sokurov, 1987), Black Test Car (Yasuo Masumura, 1962), The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (David Lee Fisher, 2005), Able Edwards (Graham Robertson, 2004), The Call of Cthulhu (Andrew Leman, 2005), Isolation (Billy O’Brien, 2005), Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969), Casshern (Kasuaki Kiriya, 2004), The District (Aron Gauder, 2004), I Am a S+M Writer (Ryuichi Hiroki, 2000)

 

 

 Tom Meek

Best

10. There Will Be Blood
 9. Sweeney Todd
 8. Zodiac
 7. Atonement
 6. 28 Weeks Later
 5. Assassination of Jessie James
 4. Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead
 3. Away From Her
 2. Diving Bell and the Butterfly
 1. No Country for Old Men

Worst

5. Good Luck Chuck
4. P2
3. Revolver
2. Blood and Chocolate
1. Kickin’ It Old School

 

 Chris Braiotta

Nearly mentioned: Ratatouille

If computer animation wasn't unavoidably ugly this could have made the cut somewhere.

10: Superbad

9: The Host

8: Woman is the Future of Man

7: Grbavica

6: Blame it on Fidel

5: Hotel Harabati

4: Wristcutters

3: King of Kong

Two way tie for 1st

Iron Island, and Monkey Warfare

 

Rob Nelson

1. Killer of Sheep
2. There Will Be Blood
3. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days
4. Bamako
5. Zodiac
6. Southland Tales
7. Paprika
8. Exterminating Angels
9. Beowulf (IMAX 3-D)
10. Away From Her

 

Peg Aloi

1. The Wind That Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach's most ambitious and stunning film to date)
2. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (A sensual, disturbing, epic story, based on the acclaimed German novel, in grand style by Tom Tykwer)
3. Atonement (First rate performances and jaw-dropping cinematography bring to life Ian McEwan's smoldering love story torn by the surreal horrors of war)
4. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel uses half-formed visionscapes of color and light to tell the story of Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby's stroke and loss of language)
5. Lady Chatterley (A French adaptation with refreshingly erotic love scenes and appropriately rustic sensibility)
6. La Vie en Rose (Marion Cotillard is astonishing as the hard-living singing sensation Edith Piaf)
7. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes' five-doored fantasy is huge, lush and eminently watchable: my favorite Dylan is the Richard Gere Dylan)
8. Glastonbury (Thirty years in the life of a constantly-changing music festival in the English countryside)
9. Factory Girl (Siena Miller is luminous as Edie Sedgwick in this cock-eyed biopic, but the real standout is Guy Pearce as the best Andy Warhol ever)
10. Hot Fuzz (Every corny cop movie ever made is referenced in Edgar Wright,  Simon Pegg, and Nick Frost's hilarious, brilliant action-horror flick)
Honorable Mentions: The Case of the Grinning Cat, After the Wedding, Lynch(one)

 

more to come…

 

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