At the turnover of every year I like to comb my must-see list (4000 titles and growing) and make a shorter goal list of movies to watch in the next year. The list is no big deal – usually I’m over-ambitious and I don’t make it to a quarter of them, forget to even check it after April. This year, though, I’ve got a Project. I’ve been reading lots of best-of-decade lists and culling titles I haven’t seen, planning to watch those in 2010. After all, if a movie makes a respected critic’s yearly top-20 list it’s worth considering, but if it makes his DECADE top-20 list I’ve just gotta see that. So here are the 155 movies I feel I’ve gotta watch in 2010 (that’s three a week, unrealistic as ever). Maybe I’ll cross ’em off this list as we go.

Decade list:

All About Lily Chou Chou
All The Real Girls
As I Was Moving Ahead I Saw Brief Glimpses of Beauty
Battle In Heaven
Beau travail
Best of Youth
Blissfully Yours
Bourne trilogy 1 2 3
Bus 174
Chuck & Buck
La Cienaga
Colossal Youth
Corpus Callosum
Darwin’s Nightmare
Death of Mr. Lazarescu
Divine Intervention
Domestic Violence
Esther Kahn
La face cachee de la lune
Failed States (henry hills)
Fat Girl
Fengming: A Chinese Memoir / West of the Tracks
Five Dedicated to Ozu
Frontier of Dawn
The GoodTimes Kid
Good Morning, Night
Half Moon (bahman ghobadi)
Headless Woman
House of Mirth
I’m Going Home
In Praise of Love
In the City of Sylvia
Innocence (lucile hadzihalilovic)
The Intruder
Jonestown: Life and Death of People’s Temple
Kings and Queen
Lady and the Duke
Late Marriage
Let Each One Go Where He May
Lilya 4-Ever
Mad Songs of Fernanda Hussein
Magic Mirror
Michelangelo Eye to Eye
Morvern Callar
Night and Day
The Other Half (ying liang)
Ou git votre sourire enfoui? / Sicilia
The Queen
Secret of the Grain
Silent Light
Sobibor, Oct. 14, 1943, 4pm
The Son (dardenne)
Songs from the Second Floor
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring
St. Ignatius Church Exposure: Lenten Light Conversions / Golden Gate Bridge Exposure: Poised for Parabolas (lynn marie kirby)
Star Spangled To Death
Syndromes and a Century
Tearoom (william e. jones)
This Is England
Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada
Three Times
The Tracey Fragments
El Valley Centro
Waltz With Bashir
What Time Is It There?
When the Levees Broke
The White Ribbon

Unseen movies by favorite filmmakers:

Illusions Travel By Streetcar
El Bruto
Criminal Life of Archibaldo del Cruz

Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Enigma of Kaspar Hauser

Guard from the Underground
Serpent’s Path

The Owl’s Legacy
The Last Bolshevik

La Vie est un roman
Love Unto Death

Le Pont du Nord
Va Savior

Rock-a-Bye Baby
It’$ Only Money

Jacquot de Nantes
La Pointe Courte
Lions Love

Unseen DVDs:

Adventure in Sahara
Scandal Sheet
Elena and Her Men
The River
Lucky Star
They Had to See Paris
Young America
Song o’ My Heart
Bad Girl
After Tomorrow
Four Devils
City Girl
Madame de…
Fanny & Alexander
The Navigator
Battling Butler
A King in New York
Sin of Harold Diddlebock

Brand new hotness

Mock Up on Mu
Mary and Max
It Felt Like a Kiss
Film Ist: A Girl and a Gun
Eccentricities of a Blonde Hair Girl
Guy Maddin’s new shorts

Old ones I’ve been excited to finally watch:

Battleship Potemkin
Queen Kelly
Make Way for Tomorrow
The Best Years of Our Lives
Brief Encounter
Johnny Guitar
The Naked Spur
The Apartment
McCabe and Mrs. Miller
The Wind Will Carry Us

…and to rewatch:

The Nun
Fire Walk With Me
The Crimson Kimono
Underworld USA
The Steel Helmet
Fixed Bayonets
Point Blank
Yi Yi

The reason I make lists of the top movies I’ve seen in a particular year rather than the top movies released worldwide in that year should be obvious – I don’t have access to most movies until a year or two after their release.

For example, in 2006 I watched 32 feature-length movies which the IMDB would count as original 2006 releases, but since then I’ve seen 35 more theatrically – that’s more than twice the number before even considering stuff I caught on video, which adds another 80.

So three years late, it seems right to make a best of 2006 list.

Pruning the ’05 titles from my original ’06 list and shuffling a couple others, this is how things would stand at the beginning of 2007:

1. Children of Men
2. A Scanner Darkly
3. A Prairie Home Companion
4. Slither
5. Borat!
6. The Fountain
7. Shortbus
8. Inside Man
9. The Hills Have Eyes remake
10. The Science of Sleep

Adding stuff I’ve seen since, and reassessing, I get:

1. Children of Men
2. Black Book
3. Bamako
4. Inland Empire
5. A Scanner Darkly
6. Brand Upon The Brain
7. The Host
8. Offside
9. The Screwfly Solution
10. Miami Vice
11. The War Tapes

A much better list! In the future I will be making best-of-year lists for every year at the end of every year!

I didn’t spend all of 2009 obsessively watching ’06 releases (although I considered it) so there are still plenty of unwatched acclaimed movies (Colossal Youth, Death of Mr. Lazarescu, Half Nelson, I Don’t Want to Sleep Alone), award-winners (Indigènes, Red Road, Flandres, The Queen, An Inconvenient Truth) less-acclaimed movies that I expect to like anyway (Tideland, Perfume, Nacho Libre, Rescue Dawn, The Last Winter) and others (The Decay of Fiction, Klimt, Three Times, Cafe Lumiere, The Boss of it All). But that’s more the subject of the next list…

I wasn’t going to do this because it seems all too obvious, both to myself and to anyone who’s talked to me about movies since these are the ones I mention way too often. But I do love lists, so in the spirit of the 2006 Redux list I’ll do it anyway so ten years from now I can look at this, cringe and say “I can’t believe I used to have such crappy taste.”

25th Hour
Black Book
Children of Men
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Heart of the World
The Incredibles
Mulholland Dr.
The New World
The Royal Tenenbaums
Shaun of the Dead / Hot Fuzz

This might be the final year for the retrospective-theatrical category. I hardly see anything at the High anymore and Emory has slashed their free film programs. I hope Film Love and the Plaza can take me through one more year… will suck if the only movies in theaters in 2010 are movies from 2010.

1. Do The Right Thing (1989, Spike Lee)
This is fast becoming one of my favorite movies. I was hanging out with good Emory folks, the projection was great (and loud as hell), the Fox was sold-out and reacting loudly to certain scenes (oh the laughter when Martin Lawrence was onscreen). This would’ve been number one even if Spike and cast members hadn’t also shown up for a Q&A.

2. Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini)
The touring restoration print (I wonder how long those will keep coming) at Landmark. Most beautiful movie ever.

3. The Age of Innocence (1993, Martin Scorsese)
A “great adaptation” chosen by Salman Rushdie. I never would’ve watched this near-perfect film, and in such clarity, if Emory hadn’t played it.

4. Bizarro Sat. Morn: Halloween Edition
This was good fun and good company at the Plaza. The Ultraman episode really brought it over the top.

5. Roger Beebe program
Film Love presents an independent (avant-garde? why not.) filmmaker with a good sense of humor who runs up to eight projectors at once. The kind of thing that can’t be replicated on video. I bought the DVD anyway, just in case.

6. Ceddo (1977, Ousmane Sembene)
Watched at Emory, preceded by an announcement that the film’s distributor just went out of business, making movies like this harder to watch on film in the future, and that Emory is cutting back on film screenings. A double-whammy. If you gotta go out, though, this was an eye-grabbing way to go.

7. Toy Story 3-D double-feature
A low-key empty late-night screening with Katy at Phipps

8. Wise Blood (1979, John Huston)
Weird-as-fuck Southern pro/anti-religion drama introduced by Salman Rushdie at Emory, a few months before the DVD release when nobody was talking about this movie. Rushdie picked it as an excellent film adaptation of a novel, so I read the book and appreciated it that much more. Rushdie himself, it turns out, had misremembered the movie. He hates it.

9. The Round-Up (1965, Miklos Jancso)
Chilly Hungarian paranoia film screened at Emory

10. Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack! (2001, Susuke Kaneko)
The Plaza gave us a rare opportunity to see a giant monster movie on 35mm with a cheering crowd.

Runners-up were Jeanne Dielman and Dracula, both at Emory. I’m sorry, but a 3-hour Belgian art film and a slow old-timey horror flick are no match for the computer-generated wrath of giant monsters.

I watched an awful lot of shorts this year, culminating in Shorts Month, during which I watched way too many. Loved the hell out of all these.

1. Agnès Varda: Du côté de la côte, L’ Opéra mouffe and Ulysse
Between her features, her shorts and her Beaches, Agnès basically won my whole year.

2. Dave Fleischer: Koko’s Earth Control, Snow White and Betty Boop’s Halloween Party
Much as I love the Looney Tunes, there must’ve been audience members in the 30’s sighing, thinking of these Fleischer cartoons and saying “they don’t make ’em like that anymore.”

3. Buster Keaton: The Playhouse, One Week, The High Sign

4. The Telltale Heart (1928 Charles Klein and 1953 Ted Parmelee)
It’s always fun to see different adaptations of the same work, but super-rare for them both to be this brilliant.

5. Osamu Tezuka: Broken Down Film and Jumping
6. L’Apparition (1986, Pascal Aubier)
7. Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (2005, Peter Tscherkassky)
8. Nostalgia (1971, Hollis Frampton)
9. The Man Who Planted Trees (1987, Frederic Back)
10. A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008, Nick Park)
11. The Strip Mall Trilogy (2001, Roger Beebe)
12. Chess Fever (1925, Vsevolod & Shpikovsky)
13. Motion Painting No. 1 (1947, Oskar Fischinger)
14. The Great Piggy Bank Robbery (1946, Robert Clampett)
15. PES: Western Spaghetti and Roof Sex

Runners-up: Vivian, The Perfect Human, Passionless Moments, Organism and The Mystery of the Leaping Fish

What a great movie year here at Casa Brandon. Generally good hit-to-miss ratio, skipping most of the crap (except of course during SHOCKtober). I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of the 42 titles on this here top-30 list.

1. Sunset Blvd. (1950, Billy Wilder)
2. Powell/Pressburger: I Know Where I’m Going! / A Matter of Life and Death
3. My Winnipeg (2007, Guy Maddin)
4. Agnès Varda: Le Bonheur / 101 Nights of Simon Cinema
5. Orlando (1992, Sally Potter)
6. Pontypool (2008, Bruce McDonald)
7. John Ford: Judge Priest / The Sun Shines Bright
8. Tribulation 99: Alien Anomalies Under America (1992, Craig Baldwin)
9. Black Cat, White Cat (1998, Emir Kusturica)
10. Rio Bravo (1959, Howard Hawks)
11. The Young One (1960, Luis Bunuel)
12. The Power of Nightmares (2004, Adam Curtis)
13. Frank Borzage: Seventh Heaven / Lazybones
14. The Naked City (1948, Jules Dassin)
15. The Color of Pomegranates (1970, Sergei Parajanov)
16. Werner Herzog: Fitzcarraldo / Burden of Dreams
17. Johnny To: Mad Detective / Exiled
18. Looney Tunes: Back in Action (2003, Joe Dante)
19. Jacques Demy: Donkey Skin / Lola
20. Black Dynamite (2009, Scott Sanders)
21. Time (2006, Kim Ki-duk)
22. Frank Tashlin: Hollywood or Bust / Susan Slept Here / Son of Paleface
23. Mon Oncle d’Amerique (1980, Alain Resnais)
24. Woman in the Dunes (1964, Hiroshi Teshigahara)
25. Raoul Ruiz: Comedy of Innocence / Zig-Zag
26. Joan the Maid (1994, Jacques Rivette)
27. Takashi Miike: Big Bang Love / Bird People in China
28. Nashville (1975, Robert Altman)
29. Claire Denis: Trouble Every Day / Friday Night
30. The Good, the Bad and the Weird (2008, Ji-woon Kim)

Some good runners-up: Magnificent Obsession, Dance of the Seven Veils, Suspiria and three by Oshima.

This year’s Edward Burns Memorial Award, given to the movie I saw this year which I have already mostly forgotten, goes to Finye (The Wind), which Katy says she remembers just fine.

The Alien Resurrection Award, given to a movie I liked which nobody else did, is proudly presented to Takeshi Kitano for Achilles and the Tortoise, indeed for his entire career-self-destruction trilogy. Back when I saw Kitano’s Fireworks in the late 90’s I’d been hearing about what a great artist he was and I started to agree, but then acclaim mysteriously intensified after his mediocre Zatoichi remake, then it died off completely when he made this daring, exciting trilogy.

1. The Beaches of Agnès (Agnès Varda)
2. Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson)
3. A Serious Man (Coen bros.)
4. Up (Pete Docter)
5. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
6. In the Loop (Armando Iannucci)
7. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch)
8. Che (Steven Soderbergh)
9. Tokyo Sonata (Kiyoshi Kurosawa)
10. Coraline (Henry Selick)

Each of the runners-up was great at something, but maybe not at everything:
Africa Paradise, Moon, District 9, Inglorious Basterds, Goodbye Solo and Antichrist

The Dark Knight Award, given to a movie which everyone else must have been tripping while they watched and raved because I can’t see what’s so great about it, is hereby presented to the Star Trek remake.

And the annual WTF Awards, given to movies I’d heard I was supposed like but I can’t see why, is presented to Jia Zhang-Ke for the double-whammy of Dong and Still Life.

Umberto Eco: “Why am I so interested in the subject? I can’t really say. I like lists for the same reason other people like football or pedophilia. People have their preferences.”

SPIEGEL: “Why do we waste so much time trying to complete things that can’t be realistically completed?”

Eco: “We have a limit, a very discouraging, humiliating limit: death. That’s why we like all the things that we assume have no limits and, therefore, no end. It’s a way of escaping thoughts about death. We like lists because we don’t want to die.”

This site/domain predates the movie blog. It was originally set up to hold my movie lists. Lists of movies I’ve seen and have yet to see. Movies I liked and need to see again. Saw in theaters or on video? Have on DVD? Available on DVD. Watched on Turner Classic. Read about in a magazine. How many movies seen, by year? By director? How many directors? How many movies? How many lists?

I do love the movies more than the lists, but it wasn’t seeming that way. I’d watch House of Mirth very late one night, not remember it the next day but check it off the list. Watch In a Lonely Place whilst looking for music on the internet, only glancing at the TV when it sounds like the scene has changed. With the movie blog around, I have to think about everything I’ve seen after watching it. Encourages thought and analysis. Exceptions still occur, as does terrible writing and half-assed entries, but overall it is working.

Lately the unfortunate combination of The Road (post-apocalyptic survival story) and Collapse (paranoid doc about how the world’s headed down The Road sooner than later) along with Vic Chesnutt’s death on Christmas, all got me thinking about death, that discouraging, humiliating limit. Like Umberto Eco, I like lists because I don’t want to die. So as The Year We Make Contact approaches and I ponder how many George Clooney movies, Hellraiser sequels, classics, romantic comedies, awful remakes and foreign dramas I have left to watch, I have kicked out more lists than ever:

Favorite New Movies in Theaters, 2009
Favorite Movies on Video, 2009
Fifteen Favorite Shorts of 2009
Top Ten Retrospective Screenings of 2009
Fave Movies of the Decade
Movie Lists 2006 Redux
Movies to Watch in 2010

I was gonna jazz these up with some fresh screenshots but all this writing is cutting into valuable moviewatching time…

First feature of Bigelow’s I’ve seen (and only the third she’s made) since Strange Days in the mid-90’s. As good/intense as they say. Plot is just a series of dangerous situations strung together, with minimal character/story crap getting in the way – and I say that as a compliment. Doughy-faced star Jeremy Renner (seen him before in two not-so-good movies), replacing a blown-up Guy Pearce, defuses bombs with his team Anthony Mackie (charismatic star of Spike Lee’s forgotten She Hate Me) and Brian Geraghty (hundredth-billed in Art School Confidential). David Morse shows up to talk (where’s he been since The Green Mile?) and Raifffienes plays a desert bounty hunter (pffft, “security contractor”) who catches a bullet to the neck during an ambush.

Geraghty, Mackie, Pearce:

Movie builds tension further by counting down the days (30-some) till the company is relieved – keeping in mind that movies historically love to kill army guys when their tour is almost up, or kill cops a few days away from retirement (see also: Exiled). Jeremy goes a little mad chasing after a boy who sells bootleg DVDs, thought dead so a revenge plan is set in motion, it goes wrong, then the boy shows up alive and well. Brian gets kidnapped and shot, but the three guys live. Renner can’t deal with home/family life (shades of The War Tapes), re-enlists in the final scene, with a chilling “365 days left in tour” title card.

J. Renner assesses the situation, find it unsatisfactory:

It’s unsurprising that cinematographer Barry Ackroyd works with Paul Greengrass, but curious that he also shot The Wind That Shakes The Barley.


Since we didn’t see this when it played theaters this summer, I skipped all the articles about it. Found one still lingering on Bright Lights, arguing that it “combines two cinematic subgenres that no one ever thought to put together before – the bomb disposal film, and another subgenre that has scarcely been recognized as such, the Steve McQueen military film.” Apparently I must see The Small Back Room, a Powell/Pressburger British/Nazi Hurt Locker.