Saturday, January 30, 2010

More on THE BOOK OF ELI (and even AVATAR)


Killing to protect the Bible is hardly a new idea. Or a Biblical one.

It's THE ROAD with a comic book sensibility and confused religious intentions. Seems to me Eli preserved a Bible, but abandoned the gospel.


Here's a dissenting voice, and worthy of note - Craig Detweiler, who directs the Reel Spirituality Institute for the Brehm Center at Fuller Theological Seminary, and who wrote a study guide for the film. He calls the film "stylish and smart." My conviction is that the movie is in fact pretty dumb. Simply at the level of plot holes, it doesn't hang together. More problematic is its enthusiastic acceptance of unrepentant violence (using apparently God-given supernatural martial arts gifts) in the service of its religious mission, particularly in a time of jihad and "Mine eyes have seen the glory" military intervention. (WWJS - What Would Jewett Say?) But Detweiler's a smart man - wish the link to his study guide wasn't broken, I'd love to know whether he engages these questions there. Maybe we can have a chat about it someday.

*

And that someday came, thanks to Facebook. Craig's post: "appreciate your push back, Ron. i definitely take the film as a more Old Testament style story. it is about pre or post civilization. how you build something out of the ashes. / I was intrigued by the scene where he tried to stay above the fray. He didn't pick a fight in the bar either. He wanted to stay on the path but the intense reality/survival test kept dragging him into the mire. / I can see how a jihadist might have the same rationale. "I am just defending the word of God."

My reply: "I think the whole question engaged / distracted me so much because I tackled the same sort of questions in a post-apocalyptic play I wrote called REMNANT, which tries to imagine what the gospel might look like in that savage sort of world, and what role it might play as some sort of civilization tried to rebuild itself in the rubble. In my play, it came down to a laying down of arms, the need to intentionally put oneself at risk, as the necessary precursor to any sort of resurrection, either spiritually or culturally. So the taking up of arms, however reluctantly, in defence of God's truth, just struck me as an easy way out of the dilemma - but an easy way into all kinds of thematic dissonance and problematic conclusions."


Turns out David Denby is with me on this one.
Among the more bizarre responses to AVATAR, James Cameron's blue-green bliss-out, is the complaint, from several conservatives, that the movie fails to devote itself to a Christian narrative. Ross Douthat, in the Times, deplored its celebration of "pantheism" and the absence of redemption. Jonah Goldberg, of National Review, longed for "a movie in which the good guys accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts." . . .

The search for redemption is over. THE BOOK OF ELI has arrived. . . .

THE BOOK OF ELI is not as lethally boring as THE ROAD, but it has the same dour skies and a color range that runs from cinnamon to liver. We seem to have been cursed with a new kind of film: the brown-and-white movie. . . .
Eli carries the Word by means of the sword. He slices up many people. In this religio-exploitation picture, Washington maintains a solemn kind of cool, while Oldman, smirking and roaring, keeps the show alive: camping, he at least seems to know that he's in an impossibly daft movie. . . .

The lesson is: We've been bad, very bad, and we had it coming. And now we're being punished by watching a brown-and-white movie. . . . THE BOOK OF ELI combines the maximum in hollow piety with remorseless violence. It's a true American commercial product, overflowing with barbarous acts and improving bromides."

New Yorker, January 28, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A&F 100: Spiritually Significant Films (2004-2006)

Another edition of the Arts & Faith list of 100 spiritually significant films is gearing up. We're in the nominating phase until January 30, voting will take place until the middle of February, and we'll announce the new hundred right around the time of the Academy Awards. Much fun! I put the first one together back in 2004 - as well as being a lot of fun, I saw it as a way to find films to write about in my Soul Food Movies book. A&F webmaster Alan Thomas engineered the next two, and now that the conversation board is under the aegis of IMAGE journal, some of their staff are playing midwife on this one. I like the fact that the approach and methodology keep adjusting, just as the A&F membership keeps shifting and evolving, ensuring that each of the lists has a different character.

The various versions have yielded an intriguing mix of films, ranging from high art by the masters of spiritual cinema - Tarkovsky, Bresson, Rossellini, Bergman, the Dardenne brothers - to straight up pop movies with explicit or implicit spiritual/Christian resonance - The Matrix, Signs, Groundhog Day - as well as plenty of world cinema and indie film in between. There are selections that baffle me, and omissions that rankle me, but hey - that's the fun of a list. Qualms and quibbles apart, it makes a darn fine departure point for a grand tour of Soul Food film.

Here's a list of the 145 titles which have made the list at least once.


13 Conversations About One Thing (2001, USA, Sprecher) 2004, 2005, 2006
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968, USA, Kubrick) 2004, 2005
The Addiction (1995, USA, Ferrara) 2004, 2005, 2006
After Life ("Wandafuru raifu" 1998, Japan, Koreeda) 2006
Amadeus (1984, USA, Forman) 2004, 2005
American Beauty (1999, USA, Mendes) 2004
Andrei Rublev (1969, USSR, Tarkovsky) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Apostle (1997, USA, Duvall) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Apu Trilogy ("Pather Panchali / Aparajito / Apur Sansar" 1955/1956/1959, India, Ray) 2005, 2006
l'Argent ("Money" 1983, France, Bresson) 2006
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966, France/Sweden, Bresson) 2004, 2005, 2006
Autumn Afternoon ("Sanma no aji" 1962, Japan, Ozu) 2005
Babette's Feast ("Babettes gaestebud" 1987, Denmark, Axel) 2004, 2005, 2006
Bad Lieutenant (1992, USA, Ferrara) 2004
Becket (1964, UK/USA, Glenville) 2005, 2006
The Believer (2001, USA, Bean) 2005
The Bicycle Thief ("Ladri di biciclette" 1948, Italy, De Sica) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Big Kahuna (1999, USA, Swanbeck) 2004, 2005, 2006
Black Robe (1991, Canada/Australia, Beresford) 2006
Blade Runner (1982, USA, Scott) 2004
Breaking The Waves (1996, Denmark/etc, von Trier) 2004, 2005, 2006
Changing Lanes (2002, USA, Michell) 2004
Chariots of Fire (1981, UK, Hudson) 2004, 2005, 2006
Close-Up ("Nema-ye Nazkid, 1990, Iran, Kiarostami) 2004, 2005, 2006
Code Unknown ("Code inconnu" 2000, France/Germany/Romania, Michael Haneke) 2004
Cries & Whispers ("Viskningar och rop" 1972, Sweden, Bergman) 2005, 2006
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989, USA, Allen) 2004, 2006
Day of Wrath ("Vredens Dag" 1943, Denmark, Dreyer) 2004, 2005, 2006
Days of Heaven (1978, USA, Malick) 2004
Dead Man Walking (1995, USA, Robbins) 2004, 2005, 2006


Decalogue ("Dekalog" 1989, Poland, Kieslowski) 2004, 2005, 2006
Dersu Uzala (1975, USSR/Japan, Kurosawa) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Diary of a Country Priest ("Journal d'un cure de campagne" 1950, France, Bresson) 2004, 2005, 2006
Dogma (1999, USA, Smith) 2004
Dogville (2003, Denmark/Sweden/USA/UK/etc, von Trier) 2004, 2005, 2006
La Dolce Vita ("The Sweet Life" 1960, Italy/France, Fellini) 2004
The Elephant Man (1980, USA, Lynch) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, USA, Gondry) 2004, 2005
Europa 51 ("The Greatest Love" 1952, Italy, Rossellini) 2005
Faust (1926, Germany, Murnau) 2005, 2006
Fearless (1993, USA, Weir) 2004, 2006
Fiddler On The Roof (1971, USA, Jewison) 2006
Fight Club (1999, USA, Fincher) 2004
The Flowers of St Francis ("Francesco, giullare di Dio" 1950, Italy, Rossellini) 2005, 2006
The Gospel According to St. Matthew ("Il Vangelo Secondo Matteo" 1966, Italy, Pasolini) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Gospel of John (2003, Canada/UK, Philip Saville) 2005, 2006
Grand Canyon (1991, USA, Kasdan) 2004
The Green Ray ("Le rayon vert" AKA "Summer" 1986, France, Rohmer) 2006
Groundhog Day (1993, USA, Ramis) 2004,
Hell House (2001, USA, Ratliff) 2004, 2006
Henry V (1989, UK, Branagh) 2004
The Hiding Place (1975, USA, Collier) 2005, 2006
Hotel Rwanda (2004, USA/UK/Italy/South Africa, George) 2005, 2006
Ikiru (1952, Japan, Kurosawa) 2004, 2005, 2006
In America (2002, Ireland/UK, Sheridan) 2005
It's A Wonderful Life (1946, USA, Capra) 2004, 2005, 2006
Jean de Florette / Manon of the Spring ("Manon des sources" 1986, France/Switzerland/Italy, Berri) 2004, 2005, 2006
Jesus Of Montreal (1989, Canada, Arcand) 2004, 2005, 2006
Jesus Of Nazareth (1977, UK/Italy, Zeffirelli) 2004, 2005, 2006
Koyaanisqatsi ("Life Out Of Balance" 1982, USA, Reggio) 2006


The Last Days of Disco (1998, USA, Stillman) 2004
The Last Temptation of Christ (1988, USA, Scorsese) 2004, 2005, 2006
Late Spring ("Banshun" 1949, Japan, Ozu) 2005
Life Is Beautiful ("La Vita e bella" 1997, Italy, Benigni) 2004, 2005
The Life Of Brian (199, UK, Jones) 2004
Lilies Of The Field (1963, USA, Nelson) 2005, 2006
The Lord Of The Rings (2001/2002/2003, New Zealand / USA, Jackson) 2004, 2005
Luther (2003, Germany, Till) 2005, 2006
Magnolia (1999, USA, Anderson) 2004, 2005, 2006
A Man Escaped ("Un condamne a mort s'est echappe" 1956, France, Bresson) 2004, 2005, 2006
A Man For All Seasons (1966, UK, Zinnemann) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Man Without A Past ("Mies vailla menneisyytta" 2002, Finland, Kaurismaki) 2004
The Matrix (1999, Australia/USA, Wachowski) 2004
Millions (2004, UK, Boyle) 2005, 2006
The Miracle Maker (2000, UK/USSR, Hayes & Sokolov) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Mirror ("Zerkalo" 1974, Russia, Tarkovsky) 2004, 2005, 2006
Les Miserables (1998, UK/Germany/USA, August) 2005, 2006
The Mission (1986, UK, Joffe) 2004, 2005, 2006
Molokai: The Story of Father Damien (AKA "Father Damien", "Molokai: The Forbidden Island" 1999, Belgium/Netherlands/Australia, Cox) 2006
A Moment of Innocence ("Nun va Goldoon" 1996, Iran, Makhmalbaf) 2006
Most ("The Bridge" 2003, USA / Czech Republic, Garabedian) 2006
My Night At Maud's ("Ma nuit chez maud" 1969, France, Rohmer) 2004, 2005, 2006
Nazarin (1958, Mexico, Bunuel) 2005, 2006
The Night Of The Hunter (1955, USA, Charles Laughton) 2004, 2005, 2006
Nostalgia ("Nostalghia" 1983, Italy/France/Soviet Union, Tarkovsky) 2005
Not Of This World ("Fuori dal mondo" 1999, Italy, Piccioni) 2004, 2005, 2006
On The Waterfront (1954, USA, Kazan) 2004
Open City ("Roma, Citta Aperta" 1946, Italy, Rossellini) 2004, 2005, 2006
Ordet ("The Word" 1955, Denmark, Dreyer) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Passion Of Joan of Arc ("Le Passion de Jeanne d'Arc" 1928, France, Dreyer) 2004, 2005, 2006


The Passion of the Christ (2004, USA, Gibson) 2004, 2005, 2006
Peter and Paul (1981, USA, Day) 2004, 2005, 2006
Pickpocket (1959, France, Bresson) 2005
Places In The Heart (1984, USA, Benton) 2006
Ponette (1996, France, Doillon) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Prince Of Egypt (1998, USA, Chapman / Hickner / Wells) 2004
La Promesse ("The Promise" 1996, Belgium, Dardenne) 2004, 2005, 2006
Punch-Drunk Love (2002, USA, Anderson) 2004
Rashomon (1950, Japan, Kurosawa) 2005
Romero (1989, USA, Duigan) 2005, 2006
Rosetta (1999, Belgium, Dardenne) 2005, 2006
The Sacrifice ("Offret" 1986, Sweden, Tarkovsky) 2004, 2005, 2006
Sansho The Bailiff ("Sansho Dayu" 1954, Japan, Mizoguchi) 2004, 2005, 2006
Schindler's List (1993, USA, Spielberg) 2004, 2005, 2006
Secrets and Lies (1996, UK/France, Leigh) 2004, 2006
The Seventh Seal ("Det sjunde inseglet" 1956, Sweden, Bergman) 2004, 2005, 2006
Shadowlands (1993, UK, Attenborough) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Shawshank Redemption (1994, USA, Darabont) 2004, 2005
Signs (2002, USA, Shyamalan) 2004
The Silence ("Tystnaden" 1963, Sweden, Bergman) 2005
The Sixth Sense (1999, USA, Shyamalan) 2004
Solaris (1972, USSR, Tarkovsky) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Son ("Le fils" 2002, Belgium, Dardenne) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Song of Bernadette (1943, USA, King) 2006
Songs From The Second Floor ("Sanger fran andra vaningen" 2000, Sweden/Norway/Denmark, Andersson) 2004
Stalker ("Сталке" 1979, USSR/Germany, Tarkovsky) 2004, 2005, 2006
Star Wars (1977, USA, Lucas) 2004
Stevie (2002, USA, James) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Straight Story (1999, USA, Lynch) 2004, 2005, 2006
Stromboli (1949, Italy, Rossellini) 2006


Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans (1927, USA, Murnau) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Sweet Hereafter (1997, Canada, Egoyan) 2004, 2006
A Taste Of Cherry (1997, Iran/France, Kiarostami) 2005, 2006
Tender Mercies (1983, USA, Beresford) 2004, 2005, 2006
Three Colours: Blue ("Trois couleurs: Bleu" 1993, Poland/France/Switzerland/UK, Kieslowski) 2004, 2005, 2006
To End All Wars (2002, USA, Cunningham) 2005, 2006
To Kill A Mockingbird (1962, USA, Mulligan) 2005, 2006
Tokyo Story ("Tokyo monogatari" 1953, Japan, Ozu) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Trial of Joan of Arc ("Proces de Jeanne d'Arc" 1962, France, Bresson) 2005, 2006
The Trip To Bountiful (1985, USA, Masterson) 2005
The Truman Show (1998, USA, Weir) 2004
Ugetsu (1953, Japan, Mizoguchi) 2005
Unforgiven (1992, USA, Eastwood) 2004, 2005
Vanya On 42nd Street (1994, USA, Malle / Gregory) 2004
Virgin Spring ("Jungfraukallan" 1959, Sweden, Bergman) 2005
Waking Life (2001, USA, Linklater) 2004, 2006
The Werckmeister Harmonies ("Werckmeister harmoniak" 2000, Hungary/etc, Tarr / Hranitzky) 2004, 2005, 2006
Wild Strawberries (1957, Sweden, Bergman) 2004, 2005, 2006
The Wind Will Carry Us ("Bad ma ra khahad bord," 1999, Iran/France, Kiarostami) 2004, 2005, 2006
Wings Of Desire ("Der Himmel uber Berlin" 1987, Germany/France, Wenders) 2004, 2005, 2006
Winter Light ("Nattgardvasterna" 1961, Sweden, Bergman) 2005, 2006
Wit (2001, USA, Nichols) 2005, 2006
Witness (1984, USA, Weir) 2004
The Year Of Living Dangerously (1982, Australia, Weir) 2004, 2006
Yi-Yi ("A One and A Two" 2000, Taiwan/Japan, Yang) 2004, 2005, 2006

(I just realized, my three favourite films are all on here: Tender Mercies, Dogville and Magnolia. I've got 40 left to see. Lots of good watching ahead...)

Rossellini's WAR TRILOGY on Criterion

I just ordered me some movies! Since seeing glimpses of PAISAN in Martin Scorsese's documentary MY VOYAGE TO ITALY (available at Videomatica), I've been eager to see the entire film. Rossellini is the most neglected of the great auteur directors whose work revolves around spiritual themes, so it's marvellous to see some of his most pivotal films coming into circulation in this Criterion three-disk set. Wonder if there's any chance Criterion will come out with Rossellini's VOYAGE TO ITALY, STROMBOLI, and EUROPA '51?

Before we get to the email announcing the new set, I do want to mention Mike Hertenstein's new essay commemorating the release, posted today at Filmwell. The guy knows his Rossellini...



Dear Criterion collectors,

This is a momentous occasion. We have been working on our five hundredth release for either ten or twenty-five years, depending on how you look at it. It’s ten years if you count only the time since we set out to produce a definitive edition of Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy, but this release also comes almost exactly twenty-five years after the release of the earliest Criterion Collection laserdiscs. The company was born with a mission—to present important classic and contemporary films in the best possible editions—and more than a quarter century later, we’re still doing our best. Over time, we have forged a reputation for quality that can be difficult to live up to, and no project has been more challenging than this one, but we could not be prouder to mark our twenty-fifth birthday by offering you spine number 500, Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy, for your collection.

Here’s what the New York Times has to say:

In the immediate aftermath of World War II, Roberto Rossellini made three films that helped to lay the foundations of modern cinema: Rome Open City (1945), Paisan (1946), and Germany Year Zero (1948). It’s almost impossible to underestimate the importance of these movies, both for the impact that their startling realism had on the audiences and filmmakers of the time and for the influence they continue to exert on directors.

Andrea Arnold’s current Fish Tank is only the latest example of work that continues to draw on Rossellini’s open, observational approach, which mixed location filming with studio sets, professional actors with amateurs asked to play variations on themselves, and screenplays that were not set in stone, Hollywood-style, but roughed out in advance and improvised on the spot. Whenever we see a film by François Truffaut (The 400 Blows was directly inspired by Germany Year Zero ), John Cassavetes, or Mike Leigh, we are in some sense experiencing Rossellini’s vision, his determination to cast aside refinements of form and style and penetrate to the heart of his human material, captured on the fly with all of its rawness and complexity intact.

Yet for decades now it’s been impossible to see Rossellini’s War Trilogy, as the films have come to be called, in any kind of decent condition. All we’ve had are ugly dupes, made from damaged, dirty prints many generations removed from the original negatives, and, in the case of Germany Year Zero, with the actors dubbed into a language not their own.

Which is why I’m feeling particularly grateful to the Criterion Collection for its newest release. The three-disc Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy uses photochemical and digital techniques to reclaim these masterworks, removing speckles and scratches (more than 265,000 individual fixes were hand-applied to Paisan alone) and vastly improving definition and contrast. Germany Year Zero has been refitted with its original German-language dialogue (though the disc includes the opening of the Italian-dubbed version as well, with its different introduction), and the soundtracks of all three films have been scrubbed of pops and hisses.

Wisely, there has been no attempt to make these films look pristine. Many flaws are still apparent (as they probably were in the original release prints), and the graininess of the image has been maintained. This is all very much in the spirit of Rossellini, who felt that technical perfection was a minor virtue compared to the warmth and spontaneity that could be captured once technique was thrown away.


The edition also features introductions to the films by Rossellini; documentaries; interviews with scholars, critics, and filmmakers; visual essays; and rare footage of Rossellini in candid discussions about his craft. We hope you’ll enjoy what Tom Carson of GQ called “the most thrilling DVD release I expect to write up in 2010.”

Sincerely,
The Criterion Collection

Here's a rundown of what's included in Criterion #500, along with the movies...

DISC FEATURES
SPECIAL EDITION THREE-DISC SET:

New, restored high-definition digital transfers

Video introductions by Roberto Rossellini to all three films, from 1963

New video interviews with Rossellini scholar Adriano Aprà, film critic and Rossellini friend Father Virgilio Fantuzzi, and filmmakers Paolo and Vittorio Taviani

Audio commentary on Rome Open City by film scholar Peter Bondanella

Once Upon a Time . . . “Rome Open City,” a 2006 documentary on the making of this historic film, featuring rare archival material and footage of Anna Magnani, Federico Fellini, Ingrid Bergman, and many others

Rossellini and the City, a new visual essay by film scholar Mark Shiel on Rossellini’s use of the urban landscape in the War Trilogy

Excerpts from rarely seen videotaped discussions Rossellini had in 1970 with faculty and students at Rice University about his craft

Into the Future, a new visual essay about the War Trilogy by film scholar Tag Gallagher

Roberto Rossellini, a 2001 documentary by Carlo Lizzani, assistant director on Germany Year Zero, tracing Rossellini’s career through archival footage and interviews with family members and collaborators, with tributes by filmmakers François Truffaut and Martin Scorsese

Letters from the Front: Carlo Lizzani on “Germany Year Zero,” a podium discussion with Lizzani from the 1987 Tutto Rossellini conference

Italian credits and prologue for Germany Year Zero

Roberto and Roswitha, a new illustrated essay by film scholar Thomas Meder on Rossellini’s relationship with his mistress Roswitha Schmidt

New and improved English subtitle translations

PLUS: A booklet featuring essays by James Quandt, Irene Bignardi, Colin MacCabe, and Jonathan Rosenbaum

(Already available at Videomatica)

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Watching for... JACK GOES BOATING (2010, Phillip Seymour Hoffman)


"Jack Goes Boating is Phillip Seymour Hoffman's directorial debut adapted to the screen by Bob Glaudini from his play. It's a foray into the ordinary- every-day-people- find- true-love genre personified by the Oscar classic, Marty. Hoffman and his superb cast do a wonderful job with it by conveying the obsessive craziness that even "little" people are capable of when they're in love."
Larry Gross, MCN, reporting on Sundance 2010

Thursday, January 21, 2010

NOW PLAYING: Dreyer, Dreyer and more Dreyer! And more...

Surfeit of tasty Soul Food in cinemas just now, and some other just plain fine films. (Not that it isn't all food for the soul, one way or another, but you know what I mean...)


But we'll start with Lars von Trier's ANTICHRIST, which may or may not be either or both. (Friday through Monday at the VanCity) I'm truly not recommending it: DOGVILLE is one of my three favourite films, but this one is way across the line into... I don't know. There are brilliant passages, there are laughably awful passages. I could hardly enter into the film, so troubled was I about the state of mind of the artist. This is von Trier's first film after a serious clinical depression, and all I could think was, "You poor, poor man," and I don't mean to be condescending. What torment and confusion are reflected here. It's a mess. It's unforgettable - for better and worse. Soul Food? Yes, but it's gone rancid, I think: completely concerned with spiritual things, but... What's really fascinating is the double bill pairing of this film and Dreyer's masterful DAY OF WRATH, a Soul Food essential - now that's programming! From the theatre's website: "The most important influence on Lars Von Trier's films is his fellow Dane Carl Dreyer, one of the great, tragically neglected figures in world cinema history. Antichrist speaks directly to Day of Wrath, the two films explore the hostility and suspicion between the sexes, the threat of female sexuality, men's desire to contain and control it and the evil that results."

Wrath

So that means we've got something of a Dreyer Fest shaping up! Pacific Theatre's presentation of Reid Farrington's PASSION PROJECT opens next Wednesday (Jan 27), an extraordinarily dense and concise exploration in live performance of Dreyer's silent film masterpiece THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC. Which will itself be screened the night after we open, one performance only (Jan 28) at Christ Church Cathedral with the premiere of a live score composed by Stefan Smulovitz. Both Joan projects are part of the PuSh Festival, which launched last night.


I've been waiting since VIFF for another chance to see Michael Haneke's newest, THE WHITE RIBBON. Opens Jan 22 at Tinseltown. Mysterious acts of violence in a small German town just before the outbreak of the first world war. Reprisals? Threats? The inception of darker things yet to come? Dark, troubling, elusive - but apparently more accessible that Haneke's strangest pieces (Time of the Wolf), and less horrifying than his most controversial (Funny Games, Benny's Video), it looks like a Must See. Soul Food? Well, the church is a very strong presence in this village, from what I understand - whether its role is positive or negative is uncertain (and may well remain uncertain even once one has viewed the film, if I know Haneke...)

CREATION opens Friday at Tinseltown, a toney Darwin biopic that looks to be a tract for neither side of the creation/evolution fracas. Looking at the trailer, can't help thinking of that William Wilberforce movie from a few years back, AMAZING GRACE - at least in the trailer, there's a similar look and feel. Name actors, accents, costumes, all that.

THE BLIND SIDE is showing all over the place. Thought it would be unbearably Hallmark, but I liked it plenty, mostly due to Sandra Bullock's precise, energized portrait of a no-nonsense Southern woman of means whose Christian faith and compassion just won't let her drive by that big homeless kid walking the streets in the rain. You can hate her privilege, you can decide to see the film as the worst kind of self-congratulatory white liberalism (check out The Village Voice), but honestly... I guess I want to know if Melissa Anderson has any homeless kids living in her spare room? The story happened, and it's worth telling. And Sandra Bullock is definitely worth watching.

Eli

BOOK OF ELI is from the same producers as BLIND SIDE, and I'm guessing there's some sort of Christian something-or-other going on at Alcon. No doubt they're shooting for the church market - study guides, that sort of thing - and I'm guessing Christians were the screenwriters on both projects. ELI is way more problematic for me than BLIND SIDE, even though I happen to be a fan of post-apocalyptic fiction (growing up under air raid sirens has much to do with that, I think): the violent action movie genre and the gospel are, for me, a very problematic combination. But if you're up for a crazed mix of THE ROAD, ROAD WARRIOR, GHOST DOG, ZATOICHI and CHILDREN OF MEN (with a book instead of a baby), this one's for you.

And there's a curious clutter of other quasi Soul Food flicks around this coming week as well. Quite strange. Believe it or not, there are viewers who find the strangest Christ-figure of all in Jeff Daniels' "Dude" in THE BIG LEBOWSKI - midnight Friday at The Rio. Thursday next week (Jan 28, VanCity) another of the stranger Jesuses on celluloid, the original THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL - which I'm not sure is all it's cracked up to be, but registers pretty high on the goofy fun meter. THE FIFTH ELEMENT (Wed 27, VanCity) is Soul Food of a sort, but on the cinematic nutrition chart, it's no more than eye candy - but at least it's not as stupid as another of Luc Besson's pretty flicks that wants to be spiritual, ANGEL-A. All available at Videomatica.


And then there's the usual back end of the pre-Oscar movie parade that starts each November and marches on through early February. I get a bit of a TENDER MERCIES vibe from the CRAZY HEART trailer, and while I won't set my sights quite that high - the Robert Duvall film is my lifetime favourite - I won't miss it. AN EDUCATION is a coming-of-age film set with great particularity in England on the verge of the Beatles - and hey, there's even a C.S. Lewis plot detail! THE FANTASTIC MR FOX has become my favourite Wes Anderson film, and that's saying something. I found INVICTUS extraordinarily inspiring: there are aspects of the film that don't entirely work for me, but the portrayal of Nelson Mandela fueled me coming into 2010 - I'm thinking of having a bracelet made, "WWND."

You can still catch ME AND ORSON WELLES once daily at the Denman (2:30) - really fun "making of the Mercury Theatre's Julius Caesar" backstage pic, terrific acting (especially Elia Kazan's granddaughter). And PRECIOUS is still at Tinseltown - it's #6 on the MCN Critics' Tally, so I'd love to catch it before it's gone. Also on that list and still viewable in Vancouver: AVATAR, THE ROAD, SINGLE MAN, UP IN THE AIR, even WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE (maybe my favourite of 2009).

And then there's THE LOVELY BONES, a life-after-death story, tarted up with snazzy heaven visuals by Peter "Rings" Jackson - new this week.

DAY OF WRATH


DAY OF WRATH (“Vredens dag” 1943, Denmark, Dreyer)
Day of Wrath, for pity take
My sins away from Satan’s grasp
And bear my soul to Heaven at last.


Made in Denmark during World War Two, this film – set four centuries earlier – is heavy with the weight of German occupation, as women are tortured and cajoled into denouncing others as witches. But the ready identification of these stern, detached church authority figures with the Nazis and their collaborators, if understandable, is simplistic. For a modern audience shaped by decades of feminism and further erosion of the belief in authority or of supernatural evil, with tolerance the dogma of the day and torture one of the few remaining morally repugnant acts – and with six more decades of deplorable denunciations in Maoist China, Stasi East Germany and McCarthy’s “witch-hunting” America – the tendency to oversimplify is as strong or perhaps stronger.

Dreyer is made of sterner stuff than we. He is rigorously dedicated to making art, never propaganda, to exploring the complexities of humanity rather than trading in stereotypes. Whatever preconceptions we carry into the film about witch trials and puritanical Christianity (Lutheran, actually, in this instance), about the purity of love and romance in the face of repression, whatever we are prone to believe about innocence and guilt, our ready judgments are continually subverted as the film progresses. We begin in the middle of the action – however deliberately rendered, however much the violence and horror are kept always off-screen – as a soft-figured, white haired old woman gives herbs to another woman as a mob gathers, chanting about burning at the stake. Her gentleness and our repugnance at the mob cause us to brush aside the fact that she begins the film talking casually about the power of evil. Endless commentators refer to her as an innocent, even asserting that she denies (or confesses) that she is a witch. In fact she does neither: it is the power of our expectations and our insistence on resolution that cause us to mis-remember these incidents one way or the other. Just as those forces lead, inevitably, to the burning not only of this old woman but, no doubt, to so many others. Ah.

As we move into the main action of the film, our inclination to let our personal sympathies warp our perception continues to detract from our ability to see what actually occurs. We are told explicitly that the beautiful young wife of the much older pastor is the daughter of a witch, and the language and imagery Dreyer employs clearly indicate that she herself has inherited the same proclivities and even powers. Yet viewers often brush this aside completely: we dislike the mother-in-law who perceives this in her (for good reason) and therefore discount it, seeing Anne only as the lovely victim of her culture’s primitive misconceptions, and the consequences of her curses as entirely psychosomatic. How then to explain the moment when she finally speaks her wishes toward her husband and he, far away, reels from the power of death that passes through him? The dour mother-in-law speaks hatred, and we condemn her as heartless, a hypocrite: the free-spirited daughter-in-law not only speaks her hatred but wills murder, and we excuse her as a victim of repressive religion. Recoiling from the austerity of this way of life – that girl must be dying of boredom, somebody at least get the poor thing an iPod, I’m thinking – we inevitably celebrate her release into nature’s wildness and reciprocal love with a man her own age, brushing aside that this is a brazen act not only of betrayal but one which is tinged with something like incest. It is a trap the director seems to lay for us quite intentionally: the claustrophobic formal geometries and harsh chiaroscuro of the interiors (where all the religious folk are) make us crave the glorious wildness of the forests and stream where the love affair takes place. But eventually Dreyer shows us far darker images of nature, in the oppressive mist that reduces the lovers to dark silhouettes as their affair is eclipsed, or the raging storm that accompanies death (has a film ever rendered weather more threatening, without crossing into melodrama? The contrast between the measured, incessant ticking of the clock and the wild wind is extraordinary).

Dreyer’s rigour in creating a world and a mindset so palpably not of our time – indeed, it seems not of this planet – is testimony to his greatness. The degree to which we indulge our compulsion to project our own world and times onto the film rather than consider what he so painstakingly renders is the degree to which we fall short of the complexity and maturity of his vision – a vision so rigorous it makes BABETTE’S FEAST appear sentimental. There is above all a relentless honesty to the director’s gaze: he challenges us to look on the terrifying mix of pitiable humanity and self-serving evil that coexist in the human heart, and to our shame we flinch and look away, seeing only what it serves us to see – thereby implicating ourselves in the very evils we see (or don’t see) on the screen in front of us.

THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC, ORDET, GERTRUD


The glorious Criterion edition is available at Videomatica

THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL


THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL (1951, USA, Robert Wise, screenplay Edmund H. North, story Harry Bates)
It is no concern of ours how you run your own planet. But if you threaten to extend your violence, this earth of yours will be reduced to a burned out cinder. Your choice is simple. Join us and live in peace, or pursue your present course and face obliteration. The decision rests with you. Gort baringa.

Fans of early science fiction consider this a tautly paced, intelligent film that distinguishes itself from others of the genre by subtle wit, a preference for characterization over sensationalism, and a laudable anti-war message with religious overtones. Viewed half a century later and miles from the nearest drive-in, it's hard to imagine that any movie not made by Andrei Tarkovsky could move this slow: thirty minutes worth of Twilight Zone concept is stretched out to a leisurely hour and a half, with dialogue (and ideas) only a cut or two above PLAN 9 FROM OUTER SPACE (for which it seems to have provided inspiration). The "give up your weapons of mass destruction or we'll destroy you en masse" argument may have sounded progressive just after World War II, but it's hard to take seriously as a peace manifesto today: Mark Janovich's Rational Fear: American horror in the 1950s convincingly makes the case that the story is thoroughly pro-military – it's just a matter of whose army's got the bigger guns and claims the higher ideals.

As for the film's noted Christological symbolism (other-worldly emissary walks among ordinary humans disguised as "Mr Carpenter:" his gospel of peace disregarded, he is killed but comes back to life, ascending to the heavens with a warning of fiery judgment), it's as contrived and thin as the film's politics. Still, your mileage may vary: this early Cold War peace parable, however muddled, ranks #162 on the IMDb popularity poll. In any case, ultra-cool theremin soundtrack by Bernard Hermann redeems much. And it must be said, the film does offer practical wisdom which may well save your life: when confronted by a silver-clad (if slow-moving) robot bent on destruction, you need only remember these words to avoid certain death: "Klaatu barada nikto."

IRON GIANT

(Available at Videomatica)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Werner Herzog Reads Curious George

Watching for... THE LAST STATION (2009, Michael Hoffman)


"Christopher Plummer, at the crest of a long career, gives an impassioned portrait of the artist as an old man - Leo Tolstoy in his eighties, imposing, stentorian, and almost alarmingly active. Helen Mirren is Sofya, Tolstoy’s wife of forty-eight years. The movie is raised to the level of greatness by its two acting demons, who go at each other full tilt and produce scenes of Shakespearean affection, chagrin, and rage. . . .
"Shall Tolstoy leave the vastly profitable copyrights of his worldly masterpieces to his wife and their children? Or shall he bequeath them to the 'Russion paople,' to be administered by an organization that propogates his late-in-life obsessions - a cultish neo-Christian, neo-socialist religion that runs communes, advocates passive resistance to violence, and renounces sexuality. It's not hard to guess which side the movie chooses in the philosophical dispute between asceticism and sensuality. Hoffman doesn't parody Tolstoy's religious and pedagogical beliefs which, after all, exerted a major influence on Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., yet the movie implicitly suggests that exalted, self-denying spirituality, however noble, is less powerful as a guide to living than everyday love."
David Denby, The New Yorker, December 14 2009

Vancouver opening: Friday, January 29 at Festival Cinemas

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Watching for... VALHALLA RISING


Mark Olsen on the Toronto International Film Festival
Film Comment, November-December 2009
"Nicolas Winding Refn's VALHALLA RISING stood out, coming hard on the heels of his psychotronic prison picture BRONSON. Refn builds stylistically on some of the tactics he explored in his earlier film, with bold expressionistic colors, vividly stylized sound design, and an unblinking attitude toward on-screen brutality. In VALHALLA, frequent Refn collaborator Mads Mikkelsen - something of a Danish De Niro to Refn's Scandinavian Scorses - plays a Viking warrior tho makes his way to the New World as an involuntary member of an expedition of religious pilgrims. Spicy and meditative, the film was described by the director as science fiction without the science, and the description holds, as VALHALLA RISING is somehow both brutal and beautiful in its hypnotically relentless push foreward. Ref'ns film spurred no small amount of critical back-and-forth; some were left scratching their heads and others found a certain brutish transcendence."

Olaf Moller on the Venice Film Festival
Film Comment, November-December 2009
"Just as unclassifiable (as BETWEEN TWO WORLDS) was Nicolas Winding Refn's trancy-experimental VALHALLA RISING - think Rammstein meets Tarkovsky. A Viking passion play set during the chaotic transition from Norse paganism to Christianity, it starts out as a full-frontal, no-holds-barred gorefest; silent bare-knuckle gladiator One Eye wins one fight after another, until he escapes his captors and falls in with a band of Christian Vikings. They embark on a crusade to liberate Jerusalem but, after months at sea, end up in America. By remaining a true Viking to the end, One Eye becomes a Christian martyr wih no name, his journey of self-realization culminatning in one final moment of absolute clarity."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Watching for... HADEWIJCH (Bruno Dumont)


"Bruno Dumont's HADEWIJCH was turned down by Cannes and Venice. Drawing inspiration from the life and writings of the 13th-century Flemish mystic, it tells of a young novice whose self-mortifications and excessive devotion to God lead to her expulsion from the convent and bring her under the sway of a charismatic Muslim. Dumont's capacity to provoke and divide certainly hasn't deserted him here, although HADEWIJCH feels quite different in several respects to his prvious films. Dumont tends to be regarded by his detractors as a crude shock-merchant, a dour primitivist who delights in rubbing vieweres' noses in humanity's bestial nature - a perspective that overlooks both his conceptual sophistication, and his delicacy and compassion, all well to the fore here. Although HADEWIJCH left without a prize, I suspect - particularly after a second viewing - that of all the films I saw in San Sebastian, this could be the one most likely to deepen and grow in stature over the years." (Kieron Corless, reporting on the San Sebastian Film Festival, Sight & Sound, December 2009)

The film played the Toronto International Film Festival and according to Indiewire was picked up for distribution by IFC. . . .

"In the film, Dumont undertakes a topical exploration of the psychology of religious extremism and martyrdom. Expelled from a convent for her overzealous faith, teenage Céline (Julie Sokolowski) reluctantly returns to a life of comfort and privilege as the daughter of a French government minister. Back in Paris and farther from God, she makes a new friend, an Arab boy who introduces her to the cités, housing projects full of Arab and African immigrants, an alien world but one where faith exerts a familiar sway." (Brian Brooks, Indiewire)

Dumont's films include L'HUMANITE ("Humanity" 1999) and LA VIE DE JESUS ("The Life of Jesus" 1997) - which isn't what you would think...

Critical Consensus: The Films Of 2009 (MCN)

Probably the last update of the Movie City News year-end tally, compiling 200 critics' "Best Of 2009" lists, posted Jan 13 2010. The number in brackets indicates the number of points received for each film: boldfaced titles are personal favourite. (Vancouver audiences note: Police, Adjective runs Jan 29 to Feb 4 at Pacific Cinematheque. And I made a note that White Ribbon would be playing this weekend, but can't find any trace of it. Anybody?)

1 . Hurt Locker ( 1033.5 )
2 . Up in the Air ( 652 )
3 . Inglourious Basterds ( 630 )
4 . A Serious Man ( 576.5 )
5 . Up ( 570.5 )
6 . Fantastic Mr. Fox ( 398 )
7 . Precious ( 352.5 )
8 . An Education ( 267 )
9 . District 9 ( 249.5 )
10 . Avatar ( 247.5 )

11 . (500) Days of Summer ( 229.5 )
12 . In the Loop ( 213.5 )
13 . Summer Hours ( 208.5 )
14 . Where the Wild Things Are ( 201 )
15 . Star Trek (2009) ( 189 )
16 . The White Ribbon ( 178.5 )
17 . Bright Star ( 165 )
18 . 35 Shots of Rum ( 140 )
19 . A Single Man ( 137.5 )
20 . The Cove ( 127.5 )

21 . Coraline ( 121 )
22 . Bad Lieutenant (Herzog) ( 111.5 )
23 . Two Lovers ( 110 )
24 . The Messenger ( 107 )
25 . The Headless Woman ( 105 )
26 . Still Walking ( 99.5 )
27 . Beaches of Agnes ( 94 )
28 . Antichrist ( 93.5 )
29 . The Road ( 92 )
30 . Anvil! ( 89 )

31 . Public Enemies ( 85 )
32 . The Hangover ( 68 )
33 . Moon ( 67.5 )
34 . Broken Embraces ( 64 )
35 . Crazy Heart ( 62 )
36 . Hunger ( 60.5 )
37 . Adventureland ( 58.5 )
38 . The Limits of Control ( 54 )
39 . Drag Me to Hell ( 52.5 )
40 . Funny People ( 51.5 )

41 . Goodbye Solo ( 50.5 )
42 . Invictus ( 49 )
43 . Gommorah ( 48.5 )
44 . Police, Adjective ( 48 )
45 . Duplicity ( 47 )
45 . Sugar ( 47 )
46 . The Informant! ( 44 )
48 . Red Cliff ( 43 )
49 . Nine ( 41 )
50 . You, the Living ( 39 )

51 . Baader Meinhof Complex ( 36 )
51 . Me & Orson Welles ( 36 )
51 . Tokyo Sonata ( 36 )
54 . Food, Inc. ( 35 )
55 . The Class ( 34 )
55 . Tulpan ( 34 )
57 . Princess and the Frog ( 33 )
57 . Revanche ( 33 )
57 . The Sun ( 33 )
60 . The Maid ( 32.5 )

Monday, January 11, 2010

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney, 1937)


"What did you think of Snowwhite and the vii Dwarfs? . . . Leaving out the tiresome question of whether it is suitable for children (which I don't know and don't care) I thought it almost inconceivably good and bad - I mean, I didn't know one human being could be so good and bad. The worst thing of all was the faces of the dwarfs. Dwarfs ought to be ugly of course, but not in that way. And the dwarfs' jazz party was pretty bad. I suppose it never occurred to the poor boob that you could give them any other kind of music. But all the terrifying bits were good, and the animals really most moving: and the use of shadows (of dwarfs and vultures) was real genius. What might not have come of it if this man had been educated - or even brought up in a decent society?"

Letter to A.K. Hamilton Jenkin, Jan 11th 1939
from "The Collected Letters of C.S. Lewis, Volume II"

PS That 1937 poster, above, went for $65,725 at auction in November 2007
(DVD available at Videomatica)

Friday, January 08, 2010

Jan 8-10: Missions Fest Film Festival

Oh my gosh! I can't believe I fell asleep at the switch on this one. Though I'm sure I'm not the only person taken by surprise with Missions Fest arriving so early this year. Not that I wasn't warned, but... I'm so thrilled that the Fest is adding film to its roster of events, and so proud - and jealous! - of Debra Sears that she's curating the Film Festival. Here's a quick rundown: visit the Fest Fest's website for all the details. But first, a word from the 2010 Film Festival Director...


Welcome to the very first film festival at Missions Fest Vancouver! As a co-founder of Reel Light (a Metro Vancouver area professional fellowship for Christians who work in media and entertainment), I have been pleased to serve as 2010 Film Festival Director. Together with committee members Greg Meeres, Wesley Lowe and Marnie Wooding, a program of 11 mission-themed film screening events and 3 film seminars have been created. In most cases, filmmakers are present to represent their film and talk about their work. We even have the privilege of hosting the Vancouver premiere of two films. We hope you enjoy the sights and sounds of God’s world and people brought to you in film. Debra Sears.

9pm, Friday, January 8, 2010 and
1 pm, Sunday, January 10, 2010
THE GRANDFATHERS
Premiere. END OF THE SPEAR director helms doc on Jesse Saint.

11:00am, Saturday, January 9, 2010
UGANDA RISING
Kevin Spacey narrates this celebrated Vancouver-produced doc, directed by Pete McCormack - who wrote and directed Gina Chiarelli's SEE GRACE FLY. Cinematographer Tim Hardy in attendance.

12:45pm, Saturday, January 9, 2010
RWANDA: HOPE RISES

2:00pm, Saturday, January 9, 2010
MISSIONS DILEMMA (Episode 5)
Story Editor Marnie Wooding in attendance

2:45pm, Saturday, January 9, 2010
THE YALI STORY

3:15pm, Saturday, January 9, 2010
Mission Agency Promotional Videos

4:30pm, Saturday, January 9, 2010
MARIE’S STORY

5:30pm, Saturday, January 9, 2010
THE ORIGINAL PROMISE

10:00am, Sunday, January 10, 2010
MONTANA DE LUZ
Producers Matthew Leahy, Elisa Stone, Bruce Marchfelder & Jody Thompson in attendance
Music by Peter LaGrand

2:45pm, Sunday, January 10, 2010
AS WE FORGIVE
Mia Farrow narrates

Thursday, January 07, 2010

DO NOT MISS THIS! Passion Of Joan Of Arc with live score / Passion Project


Three weeks until THE PASSION PROJECT opens at Pacific Theatre (Wed Jan 27), and I want to make sure nobody misses an amazing PuSH Festival event the next night (Thu Jan 28) - a complete screening of Dreyer's silent film masterpiece THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC accompanied by the premiere of a brand new score for the film, commissioned by the PuSH Festival and performed live under the direction of composer Stefan Smulovitz.

Your best bet? Get tickets for THE PASSION PROJECT at Pacific Theatre, either the 7pm or 9pm showing of the opening night performance, and make sure to be in the theatre between shows for a 7:45 artist talk with Reid Farrington (who created PP) and composer Stefan Smulovitz - two cutting edge contemporary artists who are intimately familiar with the Dreyer film, having interpreted it through their own artistic expressions. ALSO get tickets for the screening of the film itself at Christ Church Cathedral the following evening - one night only! Alternately, book your tickets for the screening first, then follow it up with THE PASSION PROJECT on Friday 29 or Saturday 30. Either way, this is a truly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to immerse yourself in what may be the great silent film of all time, almost certainly the hallmark of spiritual cinema in the silent era.


“Men are sometimes hanged for telling the truth.” – Joan of Arc

THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC
by Carl Theodor Dreyer
with original live performance score by Stefan Smulovitz

Screening: January 28, 8pm, Christ Church Cathedral
Artist talk: January 27, 7:45pm, Pacific Theatre with Stefan Smulovitz and Reid Farrington of The Passion Project

Composer | Stefan Smulovitz
Text | Colin Browne
Voice | Viviane Houle
Trumpet | JP Carter, John Korsrud
Trombone | Jeremy Berkman
Violin | Rebecca Whitling, Cam Wilson
Viola | Reg Quiring
Cello | Peggy lee
Percussion | Daniel Tones
Pipe Organ | Michael Murray
Conductor | Giorgio Magnanensi

With the haunting face of actress Maria Falconetti playing the doomed Joan of Arc as inspiration, Vancouver-based composer Stefan Smulovitz has written a luminous score to accompany Carl Dreyer’s 1928 silent film, The Passion of Joan of Arc. Performed by the Eye of Newt Ensemble, this PuSh Festival commissioned piece for ten musicians includes text by Colin Browne and combines the stunning voice of Viviane Houle with the city’s top instrumentalists and Christ Church Cathedral’s legendary pipe organ, in a sublime tribute to one of film’s most enduring performances.

A cinematic pièce de résistance, The Passion of Joan of Arc details the uncompromised devotion and tragic end of France’s most famous martyr. Shot almost entirely in close-ups, this intensely intimate film cuts to the heart of faith, human choice and truth.

“The light enters in the name of the voice.” – Joan of Arc

An active composer, improviser, violist and laptop artist, Smulovitz’s eclectic creative undertakings run the gamut from film and installation, to theatre and dance. Widely known for the legendary Silent Summer Nights extravaganzas, Smulovitz and his Eye of Newt Ensemble have collaborated with the PuSh Festival on a number of projects that include The General, Dreams, Beauty and The Beast, and Go West.

PREMIERE
Commissioned by the PuSh Festival with the assistance of the British Columbia Arts Council

Tickets $25
Tickets Tonight ticketstonight.ca 604.684.2787
Additional service charges apply to phone orders

IMDb: Top Rated Films of the 2000s

The Internet Movie Database has just put up its "Top Rated Films of the 2000s" list, based on the ratings for individual films compiled over the years by its registered users. Not nearly as commercial a list as you might expect, though obviously it's a tally of popular, big audience films rather than smaller pictures which may belong on a "Best of the Decade" list - compare this list of critic favourites, for instance, bearing in mind that it doesn't yet include the films of 2009.

Also bear in mind, with IMDb ratings, films often rate higher in the months immediately after they're released, when the people posting ratings are the people who rushed to see the film in the theatre, and are most likely to be fans. Over time, more people see the films whose tastes don't necessarily run that direction, who gave it a miss ("maybe when it's on dvd") when it first hit the theatres - plenty of whom will experience the Big Letdown Syndrome ("what was all the hype?"), and rate the film lower than it may deserve, just as the initial fans may have rated it higher in their fresh enthusiasm. So expect the totals for 2009 films to settle over time.

Still, an interesting snapshot that reminds us of a lot of terrific films. And an interesting "heads up" about Nefes: Vatan sagolsun ("The Breath") - first I've heard of a Turkish war film that's obviously evoking a strong response.

IMDb: Top Rated "2000s" Titles

1. Dark Knight, The (2008)
2. Lord of Rings: The Return of the King (2003)
3. City of God ("Cidade de Deus" 2002)
4. Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of Ring (2001)
5. Avatar (2009)
6. Memento (2000)
7. Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
8. WALL·E (2008)
9. Amelie ("Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain" 2001)
10. Lives of Others, The ("Das Leben der Anderen" 2006)

11. Spirited Away ("Sen to Chihiro no kamikakushi" 2001)
12. Pianist, The (2002)
13. Departed, The (2006)
14. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
15. Requiem for a Dream (2000)
16. Up (2009)
17. Inglourious Basterds (2009)
18. Pan's Labyrinth ("El laberinto del fauno" 2006)
19. Downfall ("Der Untergang" 2004)
20. Prestige, The (2006)

21. Gran Torino (2008)
22. Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
23. Sin City (2005)
24. District 9 (2009)
25. Hotel Rwanda (2004)
26. Oldboy (2003)
27. Batman Begins (2005)
28. Gladiator (2000)
29. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
30. No Country for Old Men (2007)

31. Breath, The ("Nefes: Vatan sagolsun" 2009)
32. Up in the Air (2009/I)
33. Wrestler, The (2008)
34. There Will Be Blood (2007)
35. Donnie Darko (2001)
36. Into the Wild (2007)
37. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003)
38. Snatch (2000)
39. Million Dollar Baby (2004)
40. Star Trek (2009)

41. Bourne Ultimatum, The (2007)
42. Amores perros (2000)
43. Departures ("Okuribito" 2008)
44. Finding Nemo (2003)
45. Ratatouille (2007)
46. V for Vendetta (2005)
47. Diving Bell and the Butterfly, The ("Le scaphandre et le papillon" 2007)
48. Do Your Thing ("Dil Chahta Hai" 2001)
49. Twilight Samurai, The ("Tasogare Seibei" 2002)
50. Incredibles, The (2004)

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Bazin & The Holy Moment



from Waking Life (2001, Richard Linklater)

thanks, Rob

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Pacific Cinematheque: Best of the Decade

Wow. Amazing film series at Pacific Cinematheque, already in progress. Judging from the many films here that are among my all-time favourites - Pan's Labyrinth, Far From Heaven, I'm Not There, Silent Light, History of Violence, Songs From The Second Floor - I'm most eager to see the rest. Check the Cinematheque website for details.