Tuesday, February 23, 2010

100 Best of the Decade: 60 - 79

60. Taste of Tea (2004) Katsuhiro Ishii [Japan]
Screened: MSPIFF (Okay, so I saw it on DVD before MSPIFF, but whatever.)

61. No Country for Old Men (2007) Joel Coen/Ethan Coen [USA]
No Country for Old Men is an elegant powerhouse that cultivates a trio of iconic southwestern male personas through quintessential storytelling. The three—a cowboy, a psycho, and a sheriff—lead each other, in that order, on a classic film noir chase where the personalities ricochet as much as the flying bullets. Llewelyn Moss is a sharp-tongued but honest everyman living on the fringes. Anton Chigurh is the incarnate of the grim reaper in a pageboy haircut and polyester pants. Our moral center, Ed Tom Bell, is a world-weary lawman whose disappointment in human nature fills a hole that was once probably filled with youthful optimism. Joel and Ethan Coen create a fountain of character through tightly controlled scripting and visual ingenuity from the simplest of tropes. Although No Country is tinged with the sardonic humor that is classic Coens, the snarky superficial caricatures that usually pepper their films are cast aside for more understated nuances. The Coen’s literary prowess balloons under the auspices of Cormac McCarthy, as the directors are able to nurture subtlety and craft from the pages of a stripped-down novel like few others. The result is a taught thriller conscious of a world filled with brutality and misery. In the end, Llewelyn and Chigurh were merely coin tosses in the life of Tommy Lee Jones’ Ed. The escapade has reaffirmed his powerlessness despite his best intentions. His only hope for personal absolution is a compromise, poetically summed up by his brother: “All the time you spend tryin’ to get back what’s been took from ya’, mores goin’ out the door. After while, you just have to try and get a tourniquet on it.” Ed’s tourniquet is retirement. No Country for Old Men ends with Ed caught between vulnerability and death—the purgatory of an examined life near its end—a moving soliloquy to a nihilistic ride.
Screened: Mulitplex...twice

62. Die Bad (2000) Ryu Seung-wan [South Korea]
Admittedly, I need to give Die Bad another watch, but when I saw it nine years ago at the Walker I was blown away by its gritty, unrelenting, testosterone driven finesse and brutality. Action films love to boast 'high octane' but the fights in Die Bad are the real deal. Highly athletic and incredibly choreographed, the mano y mano will knock the wind out of you.
Screened: Walker Art Center (Unfortunately, Die Bad is a little hard to come by these days. Not available in the US and the Korean DVD is out of print.)

63. Cremaster 3 (2002) Matthew Barney [USA]
I would actually like to put the entire Cremaster cycle in this list, but most of them were made in the previous decade except for this one: the centerpiece of the five, but the last to be made. Cryptic, ellusive and unbelievable beautiful, Cremaster 3 is caged in a surreal interpretation of the creation of the Chrysler Building in New York City. Forget goat men and the Guggenheim, the heart and soul of this amazing film is not on the truncated why-even-bother DVD. Let's just be glad that most films don't fall under the category of high art, or they would be impossible to see. The Walker hosted the entire cycle in 2005 and it was pretty incredible. All I have to say is: please show them again!
Screened: Walker Art Center

64. Marie Antoinette (2006) Sofia Coppola [USA]
Screened: Multiplex

65. Waltz With Bashir (2008) Ari Folman [Israel]
Screened: Lagoon Theater

66. Mad Detective (2007) Johnny To [Hong Kong]
Screened: DVD

67. 24 City (2008) Jia Zhang Ke [China]
Screened: Walker Art Center

68. 12:08 East of Bucharest (2006) Corneliu Porumboiu [Romania]
Screened: MSPIFF

69. Hunger (2008) Steve McQueen [UK]
Screened: Walker Art Center

70. The Triplets of Belleville (2003) Sylvain Chomet [France]
This decade was one that brought animation out of the 'cartoon' ghetto. With the familiarity of such directors as Hayao Miyazaki on the rise and entries like Triplets and Waltz With Bashir after it, animation is finally earning some serious respect.
Screened: Lagoon

71. Oldboy (2003) Park Chan-wook [South Korea]
Screened: DVD

72. Spirited Away (2001) Hayao Miyazaki [Japan]
Screened: Wow. I really can't remember if I saw this first on DVD or in the theater or even which theater...

73. Man on Wire (2008) James Marsh [UK]
Screened: Uptown Theater

74. Blissfully Yours (2002) Apichatpong Weerasethakul [Thailand]
Screened: MCAD (Walker Without Walls)

75. The Five Obstructions (2003) Jorgen Leth/Lars Von Trier [Denmark]
Screened: MSPIFF

76. Mister Lonely (2007) Harmony Korine [USA]
Screened: DVD

77. Darwin’s Nightmare (2004) Hubert Sauper [Austria]
Screened: Walker Art Center

78. Shaolin Soccer (2001) Stephen Chow [Hong Kong]
I love this film with all my heart.
Screened: DVD (over and over and over again)

79. Bug (2006) William Friedkin [USA]
Screened: Multiplex


Sandy Nawrot said...

Wasn't Triplets of Bellville on that last list? I feel good that I saw three of these movies! I loved Spirited Away...we still watch it all the time, even now. I preferred No Country for Old Men in book form better than the movie, ever so slightly.

Kathie Smith said...

Totally busted me on Triplets. I was tinkering. Changed that. Books are always better, eh?