13 December 2009

00 Movies

Gawker is totally right -- "The choice of our favorite movie of the decade is one of the most important we as individuals can make." (And here I was thinking it was my choice of underwear that defined me -- but that's so '90s!)

Everybody's making lists of the best of everything from 2000-2009 right now. I like reading such things when they're the personal preferences of individuals -- Richard Brody's film list is the most idiosyncratic I've encountered, filled with films I haven't seen and in many cases have never heard of, and of the ones I have seen, they aren't really films I'd put toward the top of my own best-of-the-decade list, were I even able to come up with such a list. And yet I loved reading Brody's list because his explanations worked together to create a sense of how he thinks about his encounters with art.

Similarly, John Patterson's passionate essay on Terrence Malick's The New World as the single best film of the decade is a joy to read because of Patterson's ability to share his deep engagement with Malick's creation. It helps that I'm sympathetic to Patterson's view -- I would certainly include The New World among my favorite ten or even five movies of the decade, though I don't think I could choose just one as "the best".

The committee lists are less interesting to me (even when they are ones I am surprised to find myself frequently agreeing with), because I use them primarily to remind myself of films I wanted to see but forget to get around to sticking on the Netflix queue. By melding various aesthetics in a quest for objectivity that ends up being more procrustean than coherent, the editors produce lists that feel, to me at least, almost random.

Whereas looking at the individual ballots is fascinating -- at Time Out London, for instance, I love that the dance editor put Man on Wire as #1. And when I looked at the ballots for the Time Out New York reviewers, I realized why I had liked the overall list more than any other committee list I've seen: though I preferred the individual lists to the combined one, none of the lists made me say, "Egads! I will never trust a review you write!" The film section at TONY is one I read closely because they have managed to put together a group of writers who do not have exactly the same tastes (how dull that would be!) but who share an approach to analyzing and evaluating movies -- an approach that often fits well with my own tastes. They also show a talent for writing very short reviews that are usually richer than many reviews twice their length.

As for me, I would need to go back and take a closer look at what came out between 2000 and this year before I could really make such a list. I'd also need to take another look at at least a few films (The Fall, Grizzly Man, Mysterious Skin, There Will Be Blood, 3-Iron, others) before I could sort out anything resembling a list I was happy with, but I know I would be inclined to include Across the Universe, Children of Men, Code Unknown, The Edge of Heaven, I'm Not There, Memories of Murder, Miami Vice, Mulholland Drive, The New World, No Country for Old Men, Nobody Knows, Public Enemies, Reprise, Spirited Away, Synecdoche, NY, The White Diamond, Yi Yi, Zodiac...

Oh, lists are such fun -- especially when I should be writing a final exam and/or doing housework!

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