Wednesday, December 14, 2005

2005: Ten Favorite Films

I saw all but one of these on the big screen, and half of them at the Toronto film festival. There were films that were released in the US this year that I didn't include here because they were on my list last year. So, here goes, in alphabetical order by filmmaker:

  • Funny Ha Ha (Andrew Bujalski, USA). A neo-realist slacker comedy that John Cassavetes might have loved.

  • A History Of Violence (David Cronenberg, Canada). Mythic-allegorical Rorschach film that was many things to many people. I was obsessed with it for a while.

  • The Child (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Belgium). I know some critics were a bit underwhelmed by the newest Dardenne but it held me vice-like in its consciously stripped-down form and its typically Bressonian concentration. Would make a great double bill with Pickpocket.

  • Caché (Michael Haneke, Austria/France). This art-thriller is a projection screen, a tabula rasa on which to write your own story of the story of this film.

  • Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien, Taiwan). After the willfully small scale of Café Lumière, Hou opens out into a rangy and formally labile three-part portmanteau film that spans a hundred years.

  • Me And You And Everyone We Know (Miranda July, USA). A visionary and courageous movie, consecrated to the ordinary, humbly celebratory of art-making, and uncynically at home in our postmodern times.

  • 2046 (Wong Kar-Wai, Hong Kong). Wong's coolest, most cerebral film. Which comes as a shock from a director known more for his sensuality than his chilliness. To me anyway, the only film on this list that demands to be seen at least twice before it begins to sink in.

  • The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-Liang, Taiwan). Tsai loves Jacques Tati, and so the humor in this film isn't surprising. What is surprising is the film's transgressive ending — however, it never feels like a lazy stunt or an attention-seeking ploy, but revelatory (though exactly what it reveals is up for grabs.)

  • The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania). The title pre-emptively "spoils" the ending, making the movie all about the journey, both nightmarish and hilarious, of one long and metaphorical night. The director's two chief models were Eric Rohmer and ER. The most unexpected great film of the year.

  • Last Days (Gus Van Sant, USA). Rounding out the trilogy begun with Gerry and Elephant, and consummating the remarkable reinvention of Gus Van Sant. For me, along with Todd Haynes, the most interesting American filmmaker currently working.

Three films hard on their heels: The Sun, Regular Lovers, and Broken Flowers.

Three films I haven't seen yet but wished I had before I made up this list: Saraband, Grizzly Man, The Squid & The Whale.

Some of your faves? Do share, if you like.


Blogger girish said...

See also: lists by Acquarello and Darren.

December 14, 2005 10:38 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain's latest screen capture quiz.
As for A King In New York, alas, I've never seen it.
But it should've been a colossal hint when Rob Davis said it was "right up his alley."

December 14, 2005 10:45 AM  
Blogger Ben said...

1. I've been jonesing to see Caché for so long. Then--to my abject horror--realized Haneke also directed Funny Games, one of my least favorite films ever. Suddenly this film makes me very nervous. Still hotly anticipated... but shakey.

2. Did you see Loook at Me/Comme une image? It's high up on my list.

December 14, 2005 1:00 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Yes, Ben. I did like Look At Me. And reading Liz Penn's archived review the other day reminded me of it.
Funny Games is a weird little anti-thriller, and IMHO, a bit hard to make full sense of unless you've seen a few Haneke films. (Which is too bad.)
Cache isn't like that--it's the closest he's come to making an "accessible" film.
But the funny thing is, the more you think about it, the less accessible it feels. It'll give you lotsa food for thought.

December 14, 2005 1:13 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

A fine list, Girish; you've given me a handy film-watching guide, as there are films here I've yet to see (such as Cache; like Ben, I've been jonesing to see it). I'll second you on A History of Violence. It's a truly compelling piece of filmmaking. Miranda July's debut feature film was also one of my faves; courageous, like you say, and also smart, funny, and with just the right tone. I'd add 2046, except I missed it during its very brief run in L.A., but it comes to DVD Dec. 27. I suspect it's going to surpass my expectations.

You know what's interesting? How films sometimes change their places on personal best-of lists. I really enjoyed Capote when I saw it, but as time went by, I became less committed to it. I don't think it's emotional content travels far, and perhaps that's why I feel differently about it now.

December 14, 2005 1:20 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Ah that's interesting to hear, Michael.
I haven't seen Capote yet; I'm waiting for the DVD.
In a week or so, when my grading is behind me, I'd like to venture out to the theaters and catch the few films that are still around that I want to see. For the rest, I'll be waiting patiently for DVD.
It's interesting that Soderbergh's Bubble is being released simultaneously in theaters and on DVD in late January: sign of a trend, I hope.

December 14, 2005 1:26 PM  
Anonymous davis said...

Tsai loves Tati? Of course. I can't believe I never thought of the similarities.

Great list, Girish. I missed Funny Ha Ha at SFIFF (or some festival) but Doug and now you have made me want to track it down.

December 14, 2005 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

You know, I thought I had done a pretty good job of catching most of this year's must-see films, but . . .

The Squid and the Whale is playing in Knoxville right now. I'll probably run out to see it tomorrow night just in case it only sticks around for a week. I'm also looking forward to catching Last Days, both of the Bujalski films, and both of the Herzog docs on DVD. I guess I also need to get a hold of Best of Youth and Tropical Malady.

December 14, 2005 3:15 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Rob, I just ordered Mutual Appreciation directly from Bujalski here.
Unlike Funny Ha Ha, it's in B&W, which I'm also excited about. I have a feeling it might suit his aesthetic nicely.

Darren, The Squid & The Whale has been held over for another week here in Buffalo, so I hope to catch it this weekend.
And I think there were three Herzog docs that came out this year on DVD. The third is called Wheel Of Time and is set in India. I've seen none of them yet.

December 14, 2005 3:59 PM  
Anonymous ratzkywatzky said...

Herzog was just in Seattle with White Diamond, Wheel of Time and Wild Blue Yonder (his "science-fiction" film starring Brad Dourif). White Diamond I think is the best of the three, although the rhythms of Wild Blue were seductive. At each screening, an audience member would try to challenge him on factual errors or omissions or outright fabrications, but he handily sidestepped them with his committment to an "ecstatic truth". Also, look for a documentary called Walking to Werner, directed by Linus Phillips, about his walk down the Pacific Coast to visit Herzog. Linus has lots of rights and permissions to get yet, and he keeps re-editing, but maybe someday it will make it out of the Northwest. When Linus is distraught, he looks like Klaus Kinski.

December 14, 2005 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

For a variety of reasons, my seeing films during their release has been shot to hell. Mostly I prefer seeing films in the comfort of my home, but also, I feel like a jerk spending seven or ten dollars on a bad film. My feelings about 2046 have been expressed. Also, one of the most satifying films that I saw in a theater was Land of the Dead. Of course things are a bit out of wack for me when I see DVDs of films that haven't gotten a U.S. release yet, like the Russian Night Moves. I'll catch up with some of the films mentioned though.

December 14, 2005 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

I have a feeling Me and You and Everyone We Know is going to be one of those films that pop up on everyone's list but my own--the further I get away from it, the less I think of it. At best, it's cute enough, with a sweet and sugary aftertaste, and at worst is a piece of thinks-it's-profound-but-isn't dreck, overly reliant on the two kids (the little one in particular), and ugly to look at. What I can't get over is the fact that July is supposed to be some kind of fantastic artist, and yet the film is formally unoriginal and uninteresting, the latest in a long line of American indies that looks and feels pretty much exactly the same as every other film in this mode. One of the things it does have going for it, however, is its focus on community, but that's not really enough for me.

December 14, 2005 5:27 PM  
Anonymous davis said...

I think Herzog's documentaries (and those about him) are more interesting as explorations of his obsession with arbitrary obstacles than the subjects themselves. I am not a man unless I can cross this chasm. If Errol Morris ever makes a movie I'll eat my shoe. If anyone is harmed in the making of my film I shall throw myself into a cactus. And he did, all of them.

He may not be pulling boats over mountains himself any more (see Burden of Dreams), but he's fascinated by people who are effectively doing the same thing, people who will not be men unless they cross those chasms (in balloons) or live with bears (and get eaten). Because.

(Matt, I'm with you on Me and You. Enough people with good taste think so highly of it that I'm willing to give it another chance, but I didn't get much out of the first viewing besides a few chuckles.)

December 14, 2005 5:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

What? Herzog has a fourth film? Amazing.
"At each screening, an audience member would try to challenge him on factual errors or omissions or outright fabrications, but he handily sidestepped them with his committment to an "ecstatic truth"."
Awesome! I love it.

Peter, a naive question: I've only seen Night Of The Living Dead in the series (I loved it, and have returned to it several times.) Do the films need to be seen in sequence? And do you have any favorites in the series?

Matt--I've felt this way before. When everyone seems to be love a film, and I ask myself: "What's the big deal?"
The fact is, for me, the July film is a big deal. Its formal qualities (or lack thereof) are not what interest me. As for her reputation as a fantastic artist, it didn't come out of nowhere. There's a reason for it.
I'm preparing a blog post about the film. I doubt if it will convince anyone who didn't care for it though.
As for the kids, they are among the least interesting aspects of the film. And on the contrary, it reminds me of no other American indie (well, maybe it does, but only on the surface.)
Also, maybe I respond it because of my Hindu roots--of all the films on my list, to me it's the most spiritual.
More soon.

December 14, 2005 5:44 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

I look forward to it, Girish.

Though I'm thinking I should also maybe take a leaf out of Dave Kehr's book: "I don't mean to beat up on this sweet, inconsequential little film--it just seems to be the Sundance title that got stuck in my mind this year. I'll never bring it up again. I promise."

December 14, 2005 5:48 PM  
Anonymous Matt said...

"Its formal qualities (or lack thereof) are not what interest me."

Needless to say, I take issue with this, but I'll wait for your post before I rant and rave about why. ;)

December 14, 2005 5:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Matt, I'm sure the post won't change anyone's mind.
But I think I'd like to do one anyway.
Ultimately, after the dust has died down on all the explication and intellectual effort, what we feel about films we love is an emotion, strong and not-at-all-completely-explainable.
I just know that the movie really resonated with me.

December 14, 2005 6:01 PM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Out of curiosity, how did the Civeyrac film fare in your list? I know Doug C. seemed high on it from TIFF before going into hibernation. :)

December 14, 2005 6:08 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Matt--what I meant was that the film is shot in a classical, conventional, "uncreative" way (making it formally unexciting.)
Just thinking off the top of my head here.
Not sure if this is an apt comparison, but the strength of Hawks' cinema appears to lie less in its formal qualities than in other aspects like reccurring themes, storylines, characters, ultimately a certain Hawksian vision of life.

Similarly, I think the substance of July's film lies in her sensibility and vision which animate the film.
Also, this vision (which is not secret, it's apparent to all who see the film) that strikes me as profound might well likely strike someone else as plain corny!

December 14, 2005 6:10 PM  
Blogger girish said...

You know, I still like the Civeyrac film quite a bit.
But because it was consciously small-scale, it evaporated faster than some of the others did.
I'd still like to see it again sometime.
Acquarello, did you see it? I can't seem to remember now. What did you think?

December 14, 2005 6:16 PM  
Blogger MEM said...

Thanks for the list, finally got around to History of Violence tonight and, aside from William Hurt's performance, thought that the structure and delivery of tension/release seemed so natural as to be nearly transparent.

I somehow have Mysterious Skin on my 2005 list: is this just benevolent surprise over the remarkable maturation of Araki and Gordon-Levitt's completely unexpected excellence...or what?

December 14, 2005 6:19 PM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

No I hadn't seen the Civeyrac, I headed home that day so I could come back later in the week for Three Times, The Sun, and Caché (NYFF juggled the placement of Views from the Avant-Garde this year and hoaked up my schedule). I was particularly bummed about having to miss that and Paradise Now.

December 14, 2005 6:21 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Is it just my perception, or is most everyone doing this at least a week earlier this year? Any theories why? Are people afraid of being seen as copycats, or are they just seeing all the films earlier? I'm probably going to be stubborn and not post any year-end lists on my blog until I'm sure not to see any more films.

December 14, 2005 7:51 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Brian, I live in a much smaller town than you do (fewer film choices). And I'm not sure there are many films I'll be seeing in the next couple of weeks.
And frankly, I was taking Acquarello and Darren's lead, since we haunt each other's blogs anyway. :-)
If Acquarello and Darren had waited an extra week or two, I'd probably have done the same. :-)

December 14, 2005 8:03 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

Good points, and I'm sorry if my question sounded somewhat accusatory; I don't think there's necessarily anything wrong with lists this early, although I did feel a slight disappointment that Senses of Cinema's call for year-end wrap-ups stipulated a deadline before the release of the New World. Oh well, that won't stop me from voting for it next year if it deserves it.

December 14, 2005 9:46 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh not at all, Brian.
"The New World"? Is that the Eugene Green film? And is it being distributed here?

December 14, 2005 9:58 PM  
Blogger girish said...

MEM--Mysterious Skin is on my to-see list.

December 14, 2005 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Peter Nellhaus said...

While the Dead sequels have references to the first film, they are designed to be appreciated individually. Dawn is very audacious and funny, but Land actually twisted the genre further by creating smart and heroic zombies. At least I thought they were smart and heroic. The reason why you may want to see the films in order is to see how Romero reworks the story and genre.

December 14, 2005 10:55 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks, Peter!

December 14, 2005 11:03 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Brian, I had planned to post mine during the first week of January, but the deadline for inclusion in Senses of Cinema's year-end feature is later this week. I'm pretty sure that's why Acquarello posted his so early, too.

December 14, 2005 11:42 PM  
Anonymous Darren said...

Oops. Just noticed Brian's second comment about Senses of Cinema. Sorry.

Girish, The New World is the new Malick film. Ed Gonzalez and the other reviewer at Slant both named it the best film of the year.

December 14, 2005 11:45 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Thanks Darren!
Alas, what a foreign movie snob I've become.
I can't even recognize homegrown product any more.

December 14, 2005 11:51 PM  
Anonymous Ingersoll Rand said...

It's true. Me, You and Everyone We Know was the worst-looking film/video/hi-def/digi-beta thingamabob I saw all year. An ugly movie. Whatever she shot it on, she shouldn't have. And don't get me started on the twee score. Miranda July is just another garden variety corprophiliac. Except someone gave her a grant. Because she does funny voices. Over pictures. And she thinks you'll like her if she uses kids. Because kids are cute. When a 30ish white women talks about poop and pooping it's not very funny but when a little kid with an afro and a dubbed voice says it is you bet it is. And that's what she wants. For you to think she's cute. That explains the music. That horrible score she kept piling on top of every shot. The cute score and the cute kids and no one will notice how creepy she is. Creepy is not good unless you're Lynch. Creepy doesn't get you on the cover of RES where you can do your best Weimar Republic pose. Maybe Miranda July and Andrew Bujalski can be introduced and then they can go back to his place and he can show her his Harvard Diploma and then he can squat over her mouth. Funny Ha Ha. Bujalski has a way with natural dialogue. Maybe that's because nothing that anyone says in the movie are his words. I saw Funny Ha Ha and anyone whose ever attended an acting class can tell you that every scene was improvised and improvised without any imagination. Um, You Know, Well, It's Like. That's how people actually talk. Right. And that's how bad actors talk when they don't know what else to say. But Cassavetes would've loved it. I mean, Ray Carney says John Cassavetes would've loved it. Tell someone that you want them to watch a movie and then tell them that the director of the movie went to Cal State Northridge and then show them Funny Ha Ha. See what happens. Pedigree counts for a lot. It tends to make people endow an object with magical powers. But I'm not going to let it get me down. One of the best movies I saw this year was Blame It On The Night, 1984, Directed by Gene Taft, and starring like, um, you know, well, he's like kind of underrated, Nick Mancuso. Here's the side of the music industry they don't want to tell you about. What it's like to be on tour with your kid. Powerful tunes by Tom Scott and how can anyone forget the cameo by Original VJ Mark Goodman, who does in two minutes what Alec Baldwin had to strain for over the course of ten minutes in Glengarry Glen Ross; Goodman is a force of nature. Let's see Bujalski write a line as good as "Sheryl says she gets wet every time she sees you," and some of Tony Lombardo's quick-cutting would put Aronofsky/Rabinowitz to shame. A stone-cold classic.

December 15, 2005 12:34 AM  
Anonymous davis said...

Mr. Rand,

I have a screenplay I wrote for Mark Goodman. He would play a hit man who is good at what he does (hits) but is a little slow. Not retarded. Just slow. Also he would be hip. A hipster doofus hit man. The thing is, the movie starts at the end and ends at the start and in the middle is the rising-action slash falling-action stuff, except with the denoument swapped with the meet cute — did I mention there is a girl? There is a girl. She too is hip, but also cute. And not an assassin. Well, not yet. That comes later, in the complication, which I put up front as a grabber. Now if any of you pricks move I blow away every last motherfucking one of you. See? It grabs you.

Anway, the whole thing would bring Goodman back into the public eye, from whence he came, ashes to ashes, twinkle to twinkle, and all that, only it depends on the movie being a huge hit, which I'm pretty sure it will be because of the psychic rhyme that "hit" has with "hit man". Sure. Fire. Hit.

Problem is, I didn't go to Harvard. They wouldn't have me. I was too into kick boxing. But that's another story.

My question is, can you tell from the Taft film whether Goodman would be any good at improvisation? I mean acting-style improvisation? With imagination, like they teach in the classes? The good ones? (The learning annex didn't say anything about imagination.) I can't afford a Tony Lombardo who could fix it in post. It's gotta be done in one take or two tops.

Reason for question: my dialogue is shite, so anything that the VJ could bring to the table would be money in the bank.

PS: I thought Funny Ha Ha was a documentary. I keep doing that.

December 15, 2005 6:22 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Matt and I have been e-mailing..

December 15, 2005 8:07 AM  
Anonymous acquarello said...

Damn, I've missed Rob's blog posts! :)

December 15, 2005 9:11 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Tell me about it.

December 15, 2005 9:14 AM  
Blogger phil said...

"When a 30ish white women talks about poop and pooping it's not very funny"

knocking one of rand's legs out from under him...

December 15, 2005 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

With the exception of one film (which I'll get to in a moment), it's a pretty damn solid list. I am a bit surprised that you published before the Mallick film was released -- I have a good feeling it stands a chance at making my list. (I'm seeing it in a few hours.)

No matter how I try, no matter how hard I pretend I'm in the shoes of a grad (or post-grad) student, I just don't see anything even remotely interesting about Funny Ha Ha. Any time Cassavetes' name is mentioned in the same sentence as this film, I want to start hurling furniture. How and where did this trend begin? What about this film is even remotely Cassavetian?

Naturalistic, unscripted dialog can be a wonderful thing if your characters are a) interesting or b) have something to say. Bujalski and his post-slacker troupe offer neither. And while they may have captured the zeitgeist of what it means to be 20-something and whingy (there's that word again), it's going to take a bit more for the rest of us to give a damn.

I realize I'm sounding a bit Armond White-ish about this -- sort of like his attack on The Squid and The Whale -- and Girish I certainly don't mean to come down on you. I'd love to discuss the film further -- maybe there's a whole side to it I'm just not grabbing.

(Plus, I'm having a lousy day in the blogosphere -- seems that everywhere I turn I'm reading something that aggravates and annoys me.)

December 15, 2005 11:51 AM  
Anonymous dvd said...

Two comments on Buljaski:

1. The Cassavetes connection was strengthened by Ray Carney; I'm sure plenty of folks, myself included, might mave likened Funny Ha Ha and (especially) Mutual Appreciation to Cassavetes, but it wouldn't have been such a foregone conclusion without Carney's recommendation.

2. But, on that note, it should be mentioned that, like Faces, Bujalski's movies aren't improvised. Which may, in the opinions of some, make him a crappy writer in addition to a crappy director.

December 15, 2005 12:36 PM  
Anonymous dvd said...

And aside from mis-spelling Bujalski's name up there, I should say that I meant to reference Shadows, not Faces - due to the false postscript at the end of the film about its improsived nature.

December 15, 2005 12:38 PM  
Anonymous C.Mason said...

I disagree with you on Funny Ha Ha, easily one of my favorite films of the last five years, but I'm right there with you on all the lazy Cassavetes comparisons. Yeah, the movie has naturalistic performances and a loose, improvisatory feel, but those qualities don't inherently make it like Mr. Rowland's work.

It all started, I think, with BU Professor/ Cassavetes nut Ray Carney, who was one of the earliest champions of Bujalski's work. And as much as the Buj has complained about the analogy in interviews, I think he - at least in part - brought it on himself. See the picture here (#17) for an example:

And according to most festival program books and reviews, his stuff is also like "early Mike Leigh" another favorite of Carney's. Lazy lazy lazy.

December 15, 2005 12:51 PM  
Anonymous C.Mason said...

Ah, slow posting renders my comment obsolete. Nice job, dvd, of pretty much covering all the bases.

I think you'll like Mutual Appreciation, Girish. A number of my friends enjoy it a lot more than Funny Ha Ha, but any comparison between the two seems to be just splitting hairs. I've only seen the screener, and have heard it plays much better on the big screen. (I can see how its oddball rhythm - the plot really only kicks in in the last 20 minutes - would work better with an audience.)

With that in mind, Filmbrain (and other NYers interested in checking out Bujalski's work), Mutual Appreciation will be screening at 9 at Anthology on Saturday night. I'd be interested to hear your take on this one. (A good friend of mine really doesn't care for Funny Ha Ha at all, but absolutely loves this one. Which I find odd, but still...) The Buj and cast members will be there, and so will I.

December 15, 2005 1:03 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Filmbrain--don't think twice about telling me (us) exactly what you think; I'm glad you did.
I think it's pretty damn good that you and I feel common ground on 9 of the 10 films. (And that's a lot of common ground, no?) That counts for something.

As for the lazy Cassavetes comparison, I'll be the first to own up. I was cribbing it direct from (who else?) Ray Carney.

David & Chris--Thanks for your clarifications. Yes, I can't wait to see Mutual Appreciation. Because I live in Buffalo, it's highly unlikely that I'll be able to see it on the big screen anytime soon, so I don't plan to wait to do that. I'll be watching the DVD.

December 15, 2005 1:50 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Okay, here's an observation:
We cinephiles are not exactly renowned for our weak and dithering opinions.
It has been my experience that if there's a film I hate that someone else loves, or vice versa, in the vast majority of cases, there is no amount of debate, dialogue, explication, or formal analysis that actually results in one of the people convincing the other that the film in question is great (or crappy).

So my philosophy is slowly settling into:
love and let love, and equally, hate and let hate.

Read, watch, listen, and never stop learning.
But as for debate over a film that two people feel passionately and opposingly over, the empirical evidence in my own experience suggests that it hardly ever changes minds. Alas.

December 15, 2005 2:56 PM  
Anonymous C.Mason said...

Amen. I'm glad people don't agree on these things. Then how else would we waste our spare time?

December 15, 2005 4:24 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

This blog flies faster than I can read... sorry for commenting late. Great cinephile conversation there.

Grand List Girish! Our only discordance would be Cronenberg and Van Sant maybe. It's good to see so much consensus around though.

How long will Doug Cummings be hibernating? I miss FilmJourney.

Me And You: I'll wait for your entry Girish before going all out. Will you publish your side of the email exchange with Matt? Very interesting by the way. I agree with you it IS a big deal.
I'd just say Miranda is a great cinematic screenwriter (unlike most american screenwriters today) and her artistic auteurism should be observed on a microscopic scale. It looks conventional formally but it's very precise in unexpected details, especially the mise-en-scène. Or maybe I'm biased too.

Thanks for the comments on Herzog Davis. ;)

December 15, 2005 5:12 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Harry--Sometimes you feel protective about a film you love the way you might about a friend you love, especially when that friend is under attack. :-)
Not sure yet if I'll blog about the film or post the e-mail but perhaps...

Harry, I really liked your terrific list.

"Thanks for the comments on Herzog, Davis. ;)"
I'm sure he won't mind if you called him Rob. :-)

December 15, 2005 6:18 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Thanks Girish.
The comma I forgot could lead to believe in teh existence of a certain "Herzog Davis". Sorry about that.

December 15, 2005 8:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

You're welcome, Harry.
I only wish I could fluently brandish French the way you do English.

December 15, 2005 8:37 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Girish --

Regarding your earlier comment about cinephiles and convincing one another:

In theory, I agree with you. However, while such conversations might not yield a change in opinion, occasionally a persuasive enough argument can be put forth that causes one to re-evaluate their position. Then on re-watching the film, something previously not picked up on is suddenly revealed. I love when that happens.

Regarding Funny Ha Ha, I've not heard or read anything compelling about it. Most of the people I know who like it identified with it on a personal level, but have little to say about the technique, script, direction, acting, etc.

Also -- The New World is wonderful. Definitely now on my top ten.

December 15, 2005 10:41 PM  
Blogger girish said...

I agree with you, Filmbrain.
It's been several months since I saw Funny Ha Ha, and I think I'd need to see it again to cite specific examples of the kinds of things you mention. Which is why I'm not leaping to its defense right at this moment.
About the Malick: great to hear. I'm really excited.

December 15, 2005 10:59 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"Regarding Funny Ha Ha, I've not heard or read anything compelling about it."
Actually, I think a good number of critics (AO Scott, Dennis Lim, Amy Taubin, Scott Tobias, Carney, and more) have written about the film.

But frankly, Filmbrain, this sounds to me like an "agree to disagree" situation. I doubt if there are one or two key details that one might cite which will suddenly then "reveal" the film and change one's opinion about it. There appears to be something fundamental about the underlying sensibility of this film that has irritated viewers.
Some people (like me) are completely persuaded and won over by the film, and some aren't.

December 15, 2005 11:14 PM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Didn't watch many new films this year at all. Saw King Kong in San Francisco; that was good--big action film with a bit more substance than is typically there--that and A History of Violence are the only two films springing to mind that I saw in theater. There was also Wallace and Gromit and 40 Year Old Virgin, both funny (I give the edge to 40 Year Old Virgin), and The Aristocrats, which was okay but hasn't left many fond memories.

But all that's just to say this: when I was in San Francisco I picked up Agee on Film vol. 1 at your recommendation. Haven't yet started it, though, since I just got back this morning.

December 16, 2005 1:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

You picked a nice vacation spot, Tuwa. My sister used to live out there--and I took every vacation opportunity to visit.

Update over here:
I made a mad dash out of work and am now safely ensconced at home, car in garage.
Fantastic snowstorm in the forecast, just started doing its thing an hour back. Eight inches by sunset; all Buffalo schools were closed today.
All weekend long, I'll be climbing that grading mountain. And if I work real hard, I'll have it all done by Monday. That's the goal.

December 16, 2005 1:19 PM  
Anonymous Filmbrain said...

Hey Girish -- sorry to use your pad as a message board, but just wanted to announce that TypePad has been fouled up since late last night, and none of us have access to perform any maintenance on our blogs. What's worse is that they put up archived versions of our blogs, which is why my weekly screen quiz has vanished. (On top of that, I was well into writing my review of The New World, which is now trapped away on some faulty drive.) Oh well.

Enjoy the snowy weekend, and good luck with the grading. A's to anybody who mentioned both Don Knotts and Karl Marx in their papers.

December 16, 2005 2:10 PM  
Blogger girish said...

"Hey Girish -- sorry to use your pad as a message board."
Au contraire, Filmbrain.
As you've noticed, I like to do that myself.

I should be grading but I'm over at Ben's, arguing about Woody and playing parlor games.

December 16, 2005 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

"just wanted to announce that TypePad has been fouled up since late last night, and none of us have access to perform any maintenance on our blogs."

Yeah, it's really messed up. With only back-up versions of our blogs and no access, I'm really worried that I lost my last post -- which took me a while to write (and, stupidly, I didn't copy and paste the text into a Word file, like I usually do). TypePad has had a lot of problems lately, after being seamless for a long time.

At any rate, Girish, I've never lived in a region where it snows, but there's something really cool about the image of a big snow storm, especially in December. As a native Californian, I have a tendency to romanticize the image of snow falling everywhere. I can imagine it looks amazing, even if it might be a pain to deal with (which I assume it might be).

Best of luck with the grading. I think I'm going to watch "The Beat that My Heart Skipped" this evening.

December 16, 2005 4:53 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Michael--Because I didn't see snow until I was an adult, I romanticize it as well.
It's great to be indoors when a snowstorm swirls outside, a cuppa hot tea between your fingers, sitting at the bay window, watching your own reality-movie.
I think you'll like The Beat That My Heart Skipped. I especially loved the way it used music.

December 16, 2005 5:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

TMFTML's best records of the year.

December 16, 2005 5:38 PM  
Blogger Ben said...

I realize you're probably talking about the way the actual piano is used, but isn't Alexandre Desplat the best?

December 16, 2005 6:07 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Oh yeah he's amazing.
Actually I was referring to all the music in the film, the variously (violently?) opposing genres, instead of careening apart, are instead brought together and made continuous.
And I love the stuff in his headphones.

December 16, 2005 6:11 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Great read:
post+comments on Brokeback Mountain at Dave Kehr's blog.

December 16, 2005 6:28 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Leo McGarry: RIP.

December 16, 2005 6:44 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

I concur on Desplat. And I'm really looking forward to the film, even more so after reading what you've said about the music.

Very sad news about John Spencer. What a great actor.

December 16, 2005 7:00 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

"I only wish I could fluently brandish French the way you do English."
I'll teach you french if you correct my english grammar.

I agree with Filmbrain: A film argument is not about swinging opinions, but about questioning a film and opening as much different angles/insights as possible.
A little contradiction always helps to reassess assumptions, or comfort your grasp of the material by understanding why some people might react differently. So I say controversy is healthy, as far as it remains constructive of course.

December 17, 2005 8:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

[grudgingly] Yeah, you're right, guys. :-)

December 17, 2005 11:29 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Okay, Harry. Dialogue and conversation is good (we always knew that, of course).
Over at Matt's in the comments.

December 18, 2005 12:18 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

It's my goal to one day have sixty-nine comments.

I have quite a week in review for you this week, Girish, by the way. :)

December 18, 2005 1:54 AM  
Blogger Tuwa said...

Sometimes I get 69 comments a quarter. That's pretty nice.

Interesting & provocative discussion on missionaries and skeptics, though I haven't figured out which I'd be and from there how to parlay it into better writing about music.

December 18, 2005 2:39 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Matt--No matter how famous a filmmaker you become, you are not allowed to stop doing your "week in review".
It is a Sunday ritual for me to print off the articles you link to and read them the rest of the week.
You are, no question, our indispensable pioneering missionary. :-)

Tuwa is jet-lagged. :-)

December 18, 2005 7:39 AM  
Anonymous Matt said...

If only you could see my face right now, Girish: I am not a missionary!


Though I do think I might have accidentally coined some terms that are going to get some use around the blogosphere, which is nice.

December 18, 2005 7:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Lisa Rosman on Pauline Kael.

December 18, 2005 12:55 PM  
Blogger phil said...

oh my god, girish, John Spencer died?! i can't believe it. how upsetting... :(

December 18, 2005 2:50 PM  
Blogger HarryTuttle said...

Was my previous post just an embarassing truism? Thanks for the link to Matt's (inspiring) blog, I should have read it before posting.

Ok, we can agree to disagree if you like, you're the boss! ;)

December 18, 2005 9:27 PM  
Blogger girish said...

We don't have to agree to disagree.
I agree with you about the utility of re-examining our positions!

December 18, 2005 9:37 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Alas Phil; 'tis true.

December 18, 2005 9:42 PM  
Blogger Richard Gibson said...

It's a great list. I posted the Time Out London list on my blog. Actually on reflection I thought it was a slighty disappointing year. For me I think '2046' was my favourite.

January 05, 2006 5:14 PM  

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