A “new movie” is defined herein as any of the following:
– a movie released in 2010 (e.g. Black Swan)
– a non-2010 movie I saw in theaters in 2010 (e.g. The White Ribbon)
– a non-2010 movie I saw on video in 2010 which I couldn’t reasonably have seen sooner (e.g. The Headless Woman)

1. 35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis)
The only movie I saw twice in theaters this year, so I am sure about this.

2. Wild Grass (Alain Resnais)
Perhaps if I understood it, I’d enjoy it less. Finally Resnais’s wild sense of mystery has returned.

3. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
One of everybody’s favorite movies of last year is now one of my favorite movies of this year.

4. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
Maybe only my second-favorite Weerasethakul movie I watched this year, but they’d sure be close. It’s the one on this list which I still think about most often.

5. The Social Network (David Fincher)
Everyone else’s favorite movie of the year is at least my favorite one in the English language.

6. Broken Embraces (Pedro Almodovar)
7. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (Edgar Wright)
8. Mother (Bong Joon-ho)
9. Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich)
10. A Single Man (Tom Ford)
11. The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (Terry Gilliam)
12. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky)

Honorable mentions: Revanche, The Headless Woman, the weirdly awesome It Felt Like a Kiss, music doc It Might Get Loud, Miike’s Yatterman, and Shutter Island.

Best pre-2000 movies I watched on video (and at Emory) this year. As usual, there are lots.

1. City Girl (1930, FW Murnau)
2. Robin and Marian (1976, Richard Lester)
3. The Cranes are Flying (1957, Mikheil Kalatozishvili)
4. Lucky Star (1929, Frank Borzage)
5. The Band Wagon (1953, Vincente Minnelli)

Two silents in the top five – a first.

6. La Vie est un roman (1983, Alain Resnais)
7. The Blood (1989, Pedro Costa)
8. I Walked With a Zombie (1943, Jacques Tourneur)
9. Stagecoach (1939, John Ford)
10. The Last Movie (1971, Dennis Hopper)

Only two of the top ten were watched with Katy. She liked them both, though, and I imagine she’d love the silents and Robin and Marian.

11. Small Change (1976, Francois Truffaut)
12. The Ceremony (1995, Claude Chabrol)
13. Underworld U.S.A. (1961, Samuel Fuller)
14. Branded to Kill (1967, Seijun Suzuki)
15. Force of Evil (1948, Abraham Polonsky)

I’d seen two of these before, but no matter.

16. Johnny Guitar (1954, Nicholas Ray)
17. Jean Renoir’s Elena And Her Men (1956) and Petit Theatre (1970)
18. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955, Luis Bunuel)
19. My Darling Clementine (1946, John Ford)
20. Aparajito (1957, Satyajit Ray)

Runners-up: The Saragossa Manuscript (I can’t tell if I would’ve liked this more or less had I not just read the novel), the first three Thin Man movies, Royal Wedding (advantage: Fred Astaire’s dancing, disadvantage: Jane Powell’s singing) and The White Sheik.

Last November I held the “month of 121 shorts” and burned myself out, so I didn’t feel like watching many in 2010. Thirty made the list last year including runners-up, but I barely watched that many in total this year. Anyway, here are twelve that I loved.

1. 11’09″01 (2002)
Specifically, the two entries with children in them, by Samira Makhmalbaf and Idrissa Ouedraogo. They’re the only two that dared to treat the subject with lightness or humor, and their bravery paid off.

2. Day & Night (2010, Teddy Newton)
Remember that thing before Toy Story 3 with the visual concept that I loved but have trouble explaining? That one.

3. Cry For Bobo (2001, David Cairns)
Best clown movie ever.

4. Guy Maddin’s Night Mayor and Send Me To The ‘Lectric Chair and The Little White Cloud That Cried

5. Narcissus (1983, Norman McLaren)

6. Gauguin and Van Gogh (Alain Resnais)

7. Letter to Uncle Boonmee (2009, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

8. Talking Heads (1980, Krzysztof Kieslowski)

Runners-up: Spike Jonze’s robot thing I’m Here, Lindsay Anderson’s diary Is That All There Is (if that counts as a short – I’m starting to reconsider) and, though I’d seen it before, Bert Haanstra’s awesome Zoo.

Every year SHOCKtober comes around, and many horror movies are viewed, but they never get to participate in the year-end lists because most are so very bad. This year I thought I’d give the genre its own little party with a ten-best list. They can’t hold their own against Stagecoach or The Social Network, but each was very satisfying in its own way.

1. Collapse (2009, Chris Smith)
The single movie I thought about the most this year. Unfortunately, the vegetable garden I started in preparation for the Global Economic Collapse is not going very well. I can’t find the parsley anymore, the tomatillos died, and I’m not sure how long we could live off parsley and tomatillos anyhow.

2. City of the Living Dead (1980, Lucio Fulci)
3. Kwaidan (1965, Masaki Kobayashi)

4. Trick ‘r Treat (2007, Michael Dougherty)
5. Hatchet (2006, Adam Green)
Horror movies can get such positive reviews among horror-movie fanatics then turn out to be utter crap to non-fanatics. I’m somewhat of a fanatic myself, but I found the much-loved Midnight Meat Train so disappointing that I’ve tried to avoid recent horror altogether ever since. Luckily I changed my mind long enough to watch these two gems.

6. Splice (2009, Vincenzo Natali)
7. Bucket of Blood (1959, Roger Corman)

8. The Haunted World of El Superbeasto (2009, Rob Zombie)
One of the few movies that makes me hope for sequels.

9. [Rec] (2007, Jaume Balagueró & Paco Plaza)
Despite my affinity for horror, sometimes I’m the last person to see the popular ones.

10. Body Snatchers (1993, Abel Ferrara)
Yes, the 90’s remake with the people who scream funny.

Runners-up: The Box (it was horror, right?), A Tale of Two Sisters (not the remake) and Larry Cohen’s Q: The Winged Serpent.

At the start of the year I read an awful lot of critics’ best-of-decade lists and built my own list of must-see titles from those lists, collecting eighty of them here. But after watching thirty (more specifically, after watching Godard’s In Praise of Love) I rebelled against the list and watched no more. These are the ones I loved – so, not my faves of the decade (those are here) but my previously-unseen faves of other people’s faves of the decade. Whatever, right?

1. Inland Empire (2006, David Lynch)
Already broke a rule, since I watched this in theaters when it came out. But have you really “seen” Inland Empire until you’ve seen it twice? Who cares – I studied it closely this time, watched all the bonus material, and thought it was tops.

2. Colossal Youth (2006, Pedro Costa)
The only movie on the list (of the year?) to which I devoted more time than Inland Empire – because I figured to appreciate what critics were calling Costa’s masterpiece, I should first watch all his previous films. Can’t say I enjoyed them all, but I appreciated Colossal Youth much more for having seen them in order.

3. Va Savoir (2001, Jacques Rivette)
I limit myself to a couple Rivette films per year so he won’t take up my entire year-end list. If I only watched one this year, it’s because I wrongly assumed I’d also be able to see his latest, Around a Small Mountain, which played festivals in late 2009.

4. Syndromes and a Century (2006, Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
So fascinated was I by A.W.’s films this year, I can now spell his name without having to look up how.

5. Three Times (2005, Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Had to try watching this super-slow mood piece a few times, but it finally paid off. Completely transcendent – wish I could see it on the big screen.

6. Fat Girl (2001, Catherine Breillat)
Always assumed I’d dislike Breillat, and especially this movie, so maybe it gains extra points from being such a surprise favorite.

7. The Tracey Fragments (2007, Bruce McDonald)
McDonald’s second straight appearance on year-end lists. To think that in ’08 I’d never heard of him. Can’t wait to check out his early rock & roll road movies.

8. The Intruder (2004, Claire Denis)
It’s boring to say that I need to watch this again, since I’d love to watch all these movies again, and since the shuffled chronology and dreamlike narrative causes everyone to declare that they need to watch this again, but truly I need to watch this again. Denis is my favorite discovery of the year, even though I’d already discovered her.

9. Birth (2004, Jonathan Glazer)
Currently my favorite Nicole Kidman ghost story. She has starred in a few movies that question reality in interesting ways.

10. Frontier of Dawn (2008, Philippe Garrel)
One more ghost story to round things off. Colossal Youth is definitely one, and for all I know, Inland Empire, The Intruder and Syndromes would count too. Tracey Fragments has a haunting death, but I wouldn’t call it a ghost story.

Honorable mentions from the decade-viewing project: Kings and Queen (esp. the first half), The Bourne Trilogy (esp. part three), and Miike’s underrated Izo.

Need to catch up with these sometime.

Twelve that appeared on bunches of year-end lists:
The Ghost Writer
I Am Love
Another Year
Winter’s Bone
A Prophet
Certified Copy
Meek’s Cutoff
Exit Through the Gift Shop
Rabbit Hole
The Fighter

Twelve that just look awesome to me
L’Enfer de Henri-Georges Clouzot
The Illusionist
True Grit
And Everything Is Going Fine
A Screaming Man
Norwegian Wood
13 Assassins
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
The Trip
The Tempest

Reverse Shot just posted their top ten, and number one is something called Alamar. I was tempted to add it until I saw the phrase “ascetic rigor” – not falling for that one again.

The plan this year was to watch all the movies listed here (final tally: 53/155), then after I cancelled that plan I instead planned to watch all the movies listed here (a miserable 9/90). I think the plan for 2011 will be not to follow any specific list. Because I have plenty of lists (see also: here and here and here) and they all seem like good ones to follow, but not for an entire year. Theme months are fun though – December was Westerns month and before that came SHOCKtober – so maybe we’ll do more of those.

From other long-term viewing quests: seen 54% of available Criterion DVDs (up 2% from last year – catching up!), 55% of movies on the “They Shoot Pictures” list (somehow down from last year – did my math wrong somewhere), and 46% of Jonathan Rosenbaum’s 1000 favorite films.

Popular filmmakers: I ended up watching six movies by Pedro Costa (only because the seventh is unavailable) this year, and three each by Claude Chabrol, Samuel Fuller, Fritz Lang, Takashi Miike, Frank Borzage and John Ford.

I watched only ten features which IMDB would count as 2010 releases, and added (so far) a hundred more to my must-see list. At least I’ll never run out of movies.

At one point I was trying to watch tons of movies from 1977, the year I was born, but I didn’t manage to watch a single one of those this year – until yesterday with Close Encounters. Seems alright to fall behind on the 1977-movies goal, since they’re not making any more of them.

2010: Katy liked it, too.

Our second Barbara Stanwyck Christmas movie, and an improvement on Christmas in Connecticut. Moves along like a typical Hollywood holiday romance, but with some interesting twists from writer Preston Sturges (a few months before his directorial debut), which I’m surprised weren’t softened by rewrites. Even if the original script has actually been tamed down, you’ve still got romantic lead Barbara Stanwyck headed to prison at the end of the picture. It’s the morally upright ending, and I suppose the production code insists that she can’t get away with crime just because she’s in love.

Stanwyck is a thief, who steals because she wasn’t loved enough as a child and Fred MacMurray is the prosecuting attorney who schemes to delay her trial until after the holidays so the jury’s Christmastime sympathy doesn’t interfere with his case. But that leaves the sad, pretty girl in jail for Christmas, so Fred pays her bail for the week, but ends up with the girl in his apartment since the dirty-minded bailsman assumed that was Fred’s intent. And since she’s got no place to go, he takes her along home, getting in trouble with a rural farmer (John Wray) and getting frowned at by Stanwyck’s chilly mother (Georgia Caine, later a Sturges regular) at stops along the way. Inevitably they fall in love, then back at the trial she sees that he’s sneakily trying to get her acquitted so she pleads guilty, insisting that she serve her penance rather than turn them both into crooks.

Leisen is the filmmaker who frustrated Billy Wilder (Midnight) and Preston Sturges (Easy Living) into directing their own scripts. I still don’t have any problem with him. Maybe Sturges wanted a lighter touch or a snappier pace. Surely he could’ve done more with the comic cow-milking scene than Leisen did, but it’s a solid movie. Aha, from Wikipedia:

Director Mitchell Leisen, a rare director to come out of costume design and art direction, is reported to have shortened Sturges’ script considerably, both before and during shooting, something which generally annoyed Sturges. Leisen’s alterations to the script changed the focus of the film from MacMurray’s character to Stanwyck’s. Sturges summarized the film by saying “Love reformed her and corrupted him.”

Film Forum calls it a screwball comedy, but I don’t think you can just slap that term onto anything with Sturges’s name on it. In his 50’s, wholesome-looking MacMurray starred in three live-action Disney films, beloved to Katy but which I never watched. Must see him in The Egg and I with Claudette Colbert and There’s Always Tomorrow with Stanwyck sometime.

At Fred’s house: Sterling Holloway, a Disney voice actor, most notably as Winnie the Pooh. Not sure if that’s his voice singing the solemn “End of a Perfect Day” while Stanwyck plays piano, but it’s the most surprising moment in the movie:

MacMurray with the vaguely recognizable Beulah Bondi at left – mother in Track of the Cat, the wife’s tutor in Baron of Arizona, Stewart’s mom in It’s a Wonderful Life – and Elizabeth Patterson standing up – an aunt-type who also played aunts in Love Me Tonight, Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife, The Cat and the Canary and Hail the Conquering Hero.

Such a joy, and such a well-executed feel-good multi-lingual message movie that I’m surprised it didn’t win an oscar. Guess it’s tough to beat a redemptive picture about African slum violence.

Based vaguely on a true story: on a Christmas eve during WWI, officers from the German, French and Scottish trenches meet up in dead-man’s land and negotiate a temporary truce, talking, drinking and celebrating together. The bummer ending (first poor Dany Boon is shot by a vengeful Scot, then when word gets out about the truce, their superiors are embarrassed and punish everyone involved) can’t completely spoil the mood.

I should know who Lucas Belvaux and Daniel Brühl are, but really only recognized priest-turned-medic Gary Lewis (of Gangs of New York and Yes) and Inglorious Basterds star Diane Kruger. Playing her opera-singing husband was Benno Fürmann, who has an awesome face. I hope to see it again in Speed Racer, Jerichow and Carion’s follow-up, Farewell.