Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Best of the Decade

Just as they did ten years ago, James Quandt and TIFF Cinematheque (née Cinematheque Ontario) have conducted a worldwide poll of film curators, archivists, historians and programmers for best ("most important") films of the decade (scroll down for the compiled list). It's a heady and wonderful list that militates unashamedly and polemically for film as art. There are 54 films on the list, and four of the top 5 are Asian. Here's the top 10:

1. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
2. Platform (Jia Zhang-ke, China)
3. Still Life (Jia Zhang-ke, China)
4. Beau Travail (Claire Denis, France)
5. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, Hong Kong, China)
6. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand)
7. The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu, Romania); and Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, Hungary).
8. Éloge de l'amour (Jean-Luc Godard, France)
9. 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu)
10. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico)

One of the purposes of such a list is to stimulate conversation and debate. So, let me make a few comments about it; I invite you to do the same.

-- Just 5 of the 54 are women-made films: Beau Travail and L'Intrus (Claire Denis); The Gleaners and I (Agnes Varda); The Headless Woman (Lucretia Martel); and Longing (Valeska Grisebach). Missing women filmmakers include Chantal Akerman, Catherine Breillat, and Jennifer Reeves (among many others).

-- The list privileges narrative, feature-length films. Avant-garde/experimental cinema is almost wholly absent (save Ken Jacobs, and Apichatpong, whose work straddles narrative and avant-garde modes). Thus, for instance: no James Benning, Peter Tscherkassky, Nathaniel Dorsky, Michael Robinson, or (again) Jennifer Reeves. Also: no short films except Guy Maddin's The Heart of the World.

-- The decade was marked by an explosion of the documentary form, which had a profound influence on fiction filmmaking and even made great incursions into the mainstream. But documentaries (except the Varda) go missing on the list.

-- By explicitly advancing the cause of art cinema, a poll such as this automatically marginalizes the aesthetic merits of commercial cinema. So, from Hollwyood to Bollywood, popular cinema barely registers here.

-- A personal aside: My own cinephilia peaked during this time. I attended TIFF throughout the decade, and caught most of the films on the list at the festival. There's exactly one film here that I didn't care for at the time: Roy Andersson's Songs from the Second Floor (2000). Time to give it a second look.

-- I wonder: are all filmmakers represented here by their most worthy work of this decade? There are two Tsai Ming-Liang films on this list but not What Time is it There? (2001), which, to my mind, is a key film in his oeuvre, a kind of summation of his themes and a compendium of his style. I have no quarrel whatsoever with Pedro Costa's Colossal Youth or In Vanda's Room (astounding films, both!) but I miss the inclusion of his Straub/Huillet documentary, Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? Finally, I wonder: is Lucretia Martel's The Headless Woman her best film--better than The Holy Girl or La Cienaga?

Let me conclude by adding a handful of personal choices that are not on the list: La Captive (Chantal Akerman, France), RR (James Benning, USA), Remembrance of Things to Come (Chris Marker, France), Man Without a Past (Aki Kaurismaki, Finland), and Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (Peter Tscherkassky, Austria).

I'd love to hear your reactions to the Cinematheque list--and your ideas for "best films of the decade" that don't appear on it.


Anonymous Richard Brody said...

Many great films; but also many that seem like art in lieu of others that don't, but are.

November 25, 2009 6:53 PM  
Anonymous Richard Brody said...

Also: does the absence of American independent films (other than the one by Ken Jacobs) suggest that they're not being distributed or seen internationally, or that they're just not appreciated?

November 25, 2009 7:02 PM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

As I'm sure I'll argue elsewhere, I think _Esther Kahn_ is the film of the decade; or, easily, at the very least, the Desplechin of the decade. And I, too, G, would put _Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie?_ on my own top ten, probably, ahead of the other Costa films; the other one that I'd put near it is _Vanda_.

I don't know: these kinds of projects are always bound to disappoint as they rarely reflect a single vision, or taste. Put otherwise, it's a safe festival-circuit-friendly list. Having said that, I dig plenty of these pictures.

Finally: I know it'll spike traffic and everything, but doesn't anybody else feel it's way too early to do this kind of ranking? What if we just went back and re-did our 90s takes? I think that'd prove more fruitful. I mean, that post you put up a while ago, G, was a lot of fun--and my list is probably changed yet more since _then_!

November 25, 2009 7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

many : Waking life , There will be blood ,... just to name a few for now

November 25, 2009 7:54 PM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Hi Girish. You've offered some interesting thoughts here, and the caveats are important -- the list does privilege narrative art films over avant-garde and more commercial work, and I think, from one perspective, that might be okay if the original list-makers either had that as their intent or explicitly wanted a list of narrative films. Of course, in any given poll it's possible that there are votes for avant-garde films, commercial cinema, films made by women, films made in the U.S., and so on, but for various reasons they just might not receive enough votes (though, personally, I can't say what the reasons are for this particular list). Either way, I agree with many of the points you raise and also think it's important to raise them.

Another thought -- for me, both The Holy Girl and La Cienaga are greater achievements (and therefore more "important") than The Headless Woman, and so I'm a bit mystified by its inclusion over the others (though I think, by itself, it's a fine film). And I think it's very interesting to find Godard's In Praise of Love in the top ten -- a personal favorite of mine, and I'd say one of the better films of his later career.

November 25, 2009 7:58 PM  
Blogger Just Another Film Buff said...

Thanks for the article Girish. You've introduced to me to so many new filmmakers and films.

As for the list, I think it is good that it exists, even if it seems reactionary. Otherwise, we would only end up with the redundant lists flooding the net.

November 25, 2009 9:02 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

As a friend pointed out to me, it's downright bizarre that there are multiple 00s Hou films, but Flight of the Red Balloon is nowhere in sight.

November 25, 2009 9:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

there is also another question:how does this list compares to their 90's list ? , and which decade is richer cinematically speaking ?

November 26, 2009 12:33 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...
by the way , this their 90's list !

November 26, 2009 12:35 AM  
Anonymous Dotty said...

As with all lists conducted with consensus in mind, the selection is safe and critic-friendly. I really prefer reading the individual lists (which I hope they put up online). The idiosyncrasies of personal and unpopular choices are far more interesting than this sort of unadventurous critical cache. Not that the films on the list are terrible mind you, just that they come across as repetitive (arising from consensus). I'd be particularly attentive to lists by Brenez, Hasumi, Huber, Jones, Marias, Martin, and Moller.

Personally, in spite of it being extremely unpopular in the critical blogosphere, I would put Lee's Brokeback Mountain in any such list, first and foremost as a deeply personal choice, alongside Eastwood (too mainstream?), Miike (too paracinematic?), and more Miyazaki (in my mind, the greatest filmmaker working today). Plus anything, anything from Africa.

November 26, 2009 1:06 AM  
Blogger David said...

What's the point of a list like this? If it's a corrective to a blockbuster-populist list, is it even going to reach the same audience? These are all very great films, well acknowledged as such, and for the most part, already canonized in numerous Village Voice/Indiewire film critic polls. They're also incredibly easy to like and respect for anyone still harping on "film as an art," as Richard indicates: for the most part, they foreground elliptical structures, immersive sound and visual design, contemplative rhythms, against, in almost all cases, abstracted genre stories–romances, adventures, family reunions, noirs, melodramas, fairy tales–all told in a base-simple storylines as portraiture.

We wouldn't need a "best of the 60s" list to tell us that Breathless, Playtime, and 2001: A Space Odyssey were important to film experts, and that they merit re-viewing (though contemporary reviewers evidently thought otherwise). But it could be useful to emphasize that Hatari, The Ladies Man, and The Art of Vision can all be discussed just as fruitfully and respectfully.

Basically, this seems for the most part like a list of ideal IFC distribution titles (what would have been New Yorker or Wellspring titles in other decades). I wonder if most of the people here couldn't have anticipated at least half these titles.

Thanks, Girish, for pointing towards absences. On the experimental end, were Dorsky, Klahr, Benning, Beavers–and most of all, Brakhage, who completed some of his very best films this decade–etc. overlooked because the "film experts" really didn't think those films belonged alongside Talk to Her and Pan's Labyrinth, or because they didn't see them? Where's Ferrara? Sokurov? Hansen-Love? Spielberg? Where's Rivette–and am I the only one who thinks he's made his best works this decade this side of the 70s? I am surprised Alonso didn't make the cut. And on the Hollywood end, there seems no room for marvels like Femme Fatale, Red Eye, The Polar Express, or Superbad–not that film experts who saw these films liked them, but that that's all the more reason to make some claims for these sorts of films in 2009, when this list indicates Preston Sturges' influence is just about dead. How was the poll conducted? I'm not sure any of the above titles would have made my, or anyone's, top 10, but letting people nominate more films makes for much more interesting results.

I wonder if individual lists (Quandt's especially) would have been much more interesting for letting in eccentricities that have gotten streamlined by the consensus opinion. Brakhage made enough films this decade that everyone could have chosen one without it making the final list.

But making such a list before 2009 has even reached December also seems a bit eager: no room for 36 vues, Wild Grass, Inglourious Basterds, or Face–which plays like Tsai's summary work for me–or perhaps there was.

But I do think The Headless Woman is Martel's best work–am curious why people think otherwise.

November 26, 2009 1:42 AM  
Anonymous Jonathan M said...

Apichatpong has been popping up on a number of these kinds of lists, which is good to see and well deserved.

Silent Light's presence is both to be expected (given the critical buzz) irritated by. To this day I think that Silent Light was nothing more than a work of 'arthouse genre' film-making : Popular (and admittedly effective) art house techniques cobbled together to create the illusion of profundity. Terrible film.

Having said that, the list is a good deal less absurd that the 90s one. I like Kiarostami just fine but his work didn't dominate the decade that successfully.

November 26, 2009 4:25 AM  
Anonymous Conall said...

I appreciate the appearance of Syndromes at the top, but overall, not a terribly compelling list. On the one hand I have specific gripes about which films by particular filmmakers were chosen - as Michael already noted, the absence of Hou's only great film of the decade, Red Balloon, is particularly shocking given the presence of those other three. I also think Tsai's best are What Time Is It There and Wayward Cloud, not the two that were chosen. Le Silence de Lorna is at least as deserving as the Dardenne films that do appear. And where are Grandrieux, Breillat, Ferrara, Larry Clark, Michael Mann...?

More damning, though, is the predictability of the thing, its clinging allegiance to the art cinema status quo. There ought to be films on this list that I've never heard of, films that I loathe, films that I am not normally expected to regard as 'great'. There is none of this. No doubt it is in the nature of these polled lists that the unorthodox choices get filtered out, but in the end it makes for less interesting reading.

November 26, 2009 6:29 AM  
Blogger Matthew Flanagan said...

Ryland said: "...doesn't anybody else feel it's way too early to do this kind of ranking? What if we just went back and re-did our 90s takes? I think that'd prove more fruitful. I mean, that post you put up a while ago, G, was a lot of fun--and my list is probably changed yet more since _then_!"

Couldn't agree more. Have any of us who don't jet around the festival circuit year after year actually seen more than a fraction of the films that we'd like to?

Perhaps I'll put off even thinking about a list until I'm able to catch up with more Klahr or Now Showing or Oxhide I + II or Wiseman's The Garden or Crude Oil or whatever. That should seal it for another decade or more!

November 26, 2009 6:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least two people have felt it is too early to conduct such a poll. I not only agree, but wonder where is the hurry? Not only most of the voters cannot have seen all the films made in 2009, which has not even ended yet. But it is more serious: the decade will not end until December 31, 2010, more than a year from now, and it did start on January 1, 2001, not in 2000. Maths are maths, calendars are calendars, and we were not born with 1 year of age.
Then, I'm really not that interested in the consensus opinion or the average preferences of many of my colleagues or former colleagues: when (and if) I get to see the individual lists, I'll read with interest some, others I will not even glance at, and from a few I may be prompted to watch, seek out or view again some films I might have missed, overlooked or undervalued. These that interest me will be hopefully free of "Silent Light" and such things, of which kind, mercifully, I do not find too many in the poll final results, which seems healthy. But I find many films missing.
Miguel Marías

November 26, 2009 7:26 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Well, maybe it does serve a purpose to have the list now, if only to compare with what the list will look like in ten years time...
And I don't see why we should rage against it: it's nothing more than a launchpad, flaws and all (many of them accurately pointed out by Girish), and it's only if we take it as a definitive statement on the decade, which none of us are forced to (or do, judging from the comments) that it becomes "reactionary".
But agreed, I hope that the individual lists will be made available...

November 26, 2009 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Dotty said...

Conall said: "There ought to be films on this list that I've never heard of, films that I loathe, films that I am not normally expected to regard as 'great'. There is none of this. No doubt it is in the nature of these polled lists that the unorthodox choices get filtered out, but in the end it makes for less interesting reading."

Very well-put. That is why access to the individual lists is so important. They contain what is essentially missing in this kind of list for the sake of rigor. It is such a passionless list. Then again, perhaps we need such a thing to incite some passionate responses.

If I dare say, the list is just as staid and boring as a blockbuster-populist round-up.

November 26, 2009 8:16 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Regarding the neglect of documentaries, the absence of any Rithy Panh film, be it the immensely important S21, LA MACHINE DE MORT KHMÈRE ROUGE (2003) or my favorite LES ARTISTES DU THÉÂTRE BRÛLÉ (2005), not to mention Wang Bing’s TIE XI QU: WEST OF TRACKS (2003), just shows how these lists mostly throw the baby out with the bath water...

November 26, 2009 12:11 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Compare & Contrast: The TIFF CINEMATHEQUE Lists

Directors on the 90's list but not the 00's list:

Erice (Dream of Light)
Kaurismaki (Drifting Clouds)
Kitano (Hana-bi / Sonatine)
M. Makhmalbaf (A Moment of Innocence)
Scorsese (Goodfellas)
de Oliveira (Abraham's Valley)
Jarmusch (Dead Man)
Egoyan (The Sweet Hereafter / Exotica)
Eastwood (Unforgiven)
Kore-eda (Maborosi)
Leigh (Naked)
Dumont (La vie de Jesus)
Coen bros. (Fargo)
Tarantino (Pulp Fiction)
Rivette (La Belle Noiseuse)
Pialat (Van Gogh)
Kieslowski (Three Colors: Red)
Marker (The Last Bolshevik)
Moretti (Dear Diary)
Zwigoff (Crumb)
Straub & Huillet (Sicilia)

Directors on the 00's list but not the 90's list:

Apichatpong (Syndromes and a Century / Tropical Malady / Blissfully Yours)
Jia (Platform / Still Life / The World)
Denis (Beau travail / L'Intrus)
Puiu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu)
Mungiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days)
Reygadas (Silent Light)
Dardenne bros. (Le fils / L'Enfant)
Costa (Colossal Youth / In Vanda's Room)
Varda (The Gleaners and I)
Andersson (Songs from the Second Floor)
Haneke (Cache)
Cronenberg (A History of Violence)
Lynch (Mulholland Dr.)
Desplechin (Rois et reine)
Van Sant (Elephant / Gerry)
Almodovar (Talk to Her)
del Toro (Pan's Labyrinth)
Maddin (The Heart of the World / My Winnipeg)
Jacobs (Star Spangled to Death)
Martel (The Headless Woman)
Bergman (Saraband)
Miyazaki (Spirited Away)
Ceylan (Distant)
Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums)
Kunuk (Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner)
Grisebach (Longing)
Lee (Secret Sunshine)
Monteiro (Vai e Vem)

Directors in BOTH the 90's and 00's Lists:

Wong (In the Mood for Love / Chungking Express)
Tarr (Werckmeister Harmonies / Satantango)
Godard (Eloge de l'amour / Histoire(s) du cinema ; Nouvelle Vague)
Sokurov (Russian Ark ; Alexandra / Mother and Son)
Malick (The New World / The Thin Red Line)
Hou (Three Times ; Cafe Lumiere ; Millennium Mambo / Flowers of Shanghai ; The Puppetmaster ; Goodbye South Goodbye)
Kiarostami (The Wind Will Carry Us / And Life Goes On... ; Through the Olive Trees ; Close-Up ; Taste of Cherry)
Yang (Yi Yi / A Brighter Summer Day)
Tsai (I Don't Want to Sleep Alone ; Goodbye Dragon Inn / Vive l'amour)
Haynes (I'm Not There ; Far from Heaven / Safe)
von Trier (Dogville / Breaking the Waves)
Assayas (demonlover / L'eau froid)

Clearly, HOU emerges as the greatest director of the past 20 years.

November 26, 2009 12:19 PM  
Blogger Ryland Walker Knight said...

Yea, Hou or Malick, depending on how you look at it. :)

November 26, 2009 12:21 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Actually, these lists are nobody's babies, just everybody's putrid bath water!

November 26, 2009 12:29 PM  
Anonymous Nathaniel Drake Carlson said...

The total absence of Oliveira is ridiculous, with not even the expected gesture toward I'm Going Home. I can't comprehend that neglect at all as I would put anything from his 00's work against anything on that list. Still, it may be traced to the fact that his aesthetic has become so refined(and here I don't just mean shorn running times)that it is possible it's been mostly misperceived as a disinterested one. However, that assumption of motive is hard to accept given the generally astute nature of the people being polled.

Far as I'm concerned the Hou selections are right on as I have yet to see the great accomplishment of Red Balloon, especially in contrast to those other pictures. Both Silent Light and Headless Woman are insanely overrated. I am certainly one of those who would argue for Martel's earlier work as far superior to this most recent film (its veneration seems attributable to me more as some kind of late blooming recognition of the artist's quality rather than in any sense an earned acknowledgment for the film itself--it's thematically regressive and even aethetically very basic and obvious and overstated so I don't get the love).

And yeah, other absences abound; specifically, Spielberg, Mann, stuff like ivansxtc or Jose Padilha's Elite Squad but absences will always abound I guess.

November 26, 2009 3:35 PM  
Anonymous msic said...

Some may not see the value of Red Balloon as compared to other Hou films. That's a matter of taste. And while it's necessary to chide the makers of this list for excluding avant-garde film, which, taken as a "movement" (yes, highly problematic...), has had its best single decade since the 1970s, crushing any and all protestations of a-g's "death".

But yes. AFRICA. I know not everyone is as convinced of Sissako's mastery as I am. Fine.

But a compilation of the 30+ greatest achievements of world cinema that doesn't include Moolaade? Exsqueeze me?

November 26, 2009 6:43 PM  
Anonymous msic said...

(Oh, sorry, the other half of my dependent clause: excluding the avant-garde is regrettable, but very predictable.)

November 26, 2009 6:45 PM  
Anonymous Dotty said...

Ryland Walker Knight said: "Yea, Hou or Malick, depending on how you look at it. :)"

Or Karmakar, Verhoeven, Ouedraogo, Kurosawa, Hui, Marker, and so on and so forth.

I agree. The exclusion of Moolaade is appalling. But critics never do take to swan songs for the most part.

November 26, 2009 8:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about Alonso Lisandro's "Los Muertos," Llina's "Histrorias Extraordinarias," and Coens' "No Country..."?

Lists like this are always incomplete but, like debating the existence of God, the thoughts and arguments they provoke are far more interesting and useful than any conclusions they could provide.

November 27, 2009 12:14 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

By the way, FILM COMMENT (which is compiling its own poll on the same decade) has ruled BEAU TRAVAIL as '90s (it premiered Venice '99) and hence ineligible. One less woman's film !!

(Spooky: my word verification is 'canom', just as this canon-talk starts up!!)

November 27, 2009 12:42 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Following Adrian's tip, I then proclaim "the best of the decade" to be all from 1999! Take Frederick Wiseman's BELFAST, MAINE, Jean-Marie Straub and Danièle Huillet's SICILIA! and Nobuhiro Suwa's M/OTHER, for starters...

November 27, 2009 1:28 AM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

Also THE WIND WILL CARRY US, another ambiguous entry in such lists !! Tonight I'm gonna party (with André) like it's 1999 !!

November 27, 2009 5:57 AM  
Blogger Sachin said...

Some other candidates for inclusion: José Luis Guerín's In the City of Sylvia, Brillante Mendoza's Foster Child and Slingshot, Jeffrey Jeturian's The Bet Collector, Francisco Vargas's El Violin and Alfonso Cuarón's Children of Men.

November 27, 2009 9:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pointless and infuriating. It's like those polls conducted by newspaper chains that tell us that Ulysses, In Search of Lost Time, and War and Peace are the greatest novels ever written. You don't say! I never would have thought! And what does a newspaper article telling me this really tell me? Zip.

For those lamenting the absence of Spielberg, you can take solace in the knowledge that for the American Film Institute's centenary of cinema poll on the best American films ever, he was the only American director to place five films in the top 100.

As several people have commented, the TIFF poll is supposedly some sort of corrective to Hollywood-centered polls, and then commits crimes of its own. In addition to all those mentioned, what really gets me is the complete lack of context of such exercises, the lumping together of all sorts of different films from different times and places under the single, completely meaningless category "best." And it's clear that this single word "best," for this demographic (because all these things are ever about is defining and asserting one's taste as a consumer, not about film as a cultural or heaven forbid social product), can be summed up by another simple and simplistic concept, "style." Or an excess of style: Wong Kar-wai places in the top ten; Oliveira is nowhere to be seen. Pul-eeze.

November 27, 2009 9:59 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Thank you, all, for sharing your thoughts!

A couple of remarks:

-- The TIFF Cinematheque survey is not a critics' poll but instead a poll of curators, archivists, historians and programmers (save the few, like Kent Jones, who switch-hit as critics). I wonder: how might this have inflected the findings? To hazard a guess: the list errs strongly away from popular cinema (and in this broad category we can safely include, for example, English-language independent cinema) in favor of films that might need their chances of access and preservation boosted in the years and decades to come.

-- In the essay accompanying the 1990's poll, Quandt wrote that the individual ballots were strikingly varied. He mentioned specifically that at least two voters (Nicole Brenez, and Dave Barber of the Manitoba Cinematheque) passionately advocated for groups of lesser-known films, not a single one of which ended up appearing in the 60 or so films that made up the final poll list--an instance, as David put it earlier, of unusual choices that are streamlined out by consensus opinion.

-- Yes, I would also love to be able to see the individual ballots! I'll drop the Cinematheque a line requesting them to put them online. The cost to them would be minimal, I suspect.

-- Jonathan, thanks for posting the link to Adrian's interview--another in a great and ongoing series! It deserves a post all its own.

November 27, 2009 11:12 AM  
Blogger Joe said...

The rundown of directors that appear on the 90s list vs the 00s list doesn't consider the fact that many of the 00 directors (Martel, Ceylan, Weerasethakul) didn't make feature films until this decade (I know shorts are eligible, but only 1 made the '00 list) and several of the 90s directors (Pialat, Kieslowski) made their final films within those 10 years.

As for Martel, I find it strange that there's a separation between those who love The Headless Woman and those who prefer her first two films. All three are such incredible works that I find trouble picking a favorite.

November 28, 2009 5:34 AM  
Anonymous d.a. said...

The key word is "important" - this list is full of films that wear their importance on their sleeves. I didn't think I'd ever hear myself saying this when it came to film lists like this but - here goes - this seems like a pretty pretentious, self-congratulatory assortment to me, and, despite the inclusion of the entire world, ends up convincing me that that world is, at least when it comes to its film community, a narrow, airless place. Gerry? Elephant? The World, Still Life, AND Platform? Was The New World really that great? Don't get me wrong, I like a lot of the films on the list too, but why then, looking at them all together like this, do I wish there were fewer "important" films and a few more like Miami Vice?

November 28, 2009 7:14 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Joe, David, Michael, and others -- I didn't mean to sound skeptical of The Headless Woman (I haven't seen it yet!), just a little puzzled and curious about the slightly mixed reaction to it on the Internet.

November 28, 2009 7:27 AM  
Blogger ADRIAN said...

Delightful to find the list from Cinematheque global, with most cinematic regions represented. However, I would love it if Independencia (raya martin) and works of Lav Diaz (Evolution of a Filipino Family, etc) would be included, but it seems that this voting method reflects that most of Lav Diaz's works are still suffering from distribution limitations. Hmmm... This decade is surely one of the most exciting decade in Philippine cinema, or more importantly this past few months!

Hollywood, where art thou?


November 28, 2009 2:30 PM  
Anonymous Tom said...

Why isn't there a single James Gray film?

November 29, 2009 6:45 AM  
Anonymous Adam N said...

The absence of any films by Lisandro Alonso was surprising; even if it's too soon for Liverpool to have entered the collective curatorial consciousness (if you will), La Libertad's influence across the entire decade is considerable.
But I'm inclined to focus on the good here: audiences in Toronto are going to get to see some excellent films, many of which have not screened in the city in some time (and even then, only once or twice). And I would agree with the anonymous commenter who suggested that the arguments inspired by this kind of list are more productive than the list itself. In the days since it was published, I've had a number of discussions with friends and colleagues about individual titles, the function of consensus and the politics of inclusion/exclusion.
Still: I am disappointed at the lack of Anchorman.

November 29, 2009 9:30 AM  
Blogger girish said...

Yes, I agree with Adam: to reiterate my own remarks from the post above, I think the most valuable and productive purpose of a list such as this is to spark conversation and debate!

November 29, 2009 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Surely there are more interesting debates and conversations to be had than "Why isn't X on the list?" "What is Y doing there?" I can't say I've seen much more than that in the comments above.

November 29, 2009 1:25 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Anonymous, care to bring up some interesting points yourself? You know you're welcome to.

November 29, 2009 1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish, I'm sorry, but I'm of the view that a list such as this affords no interesting topic of discussion.

November 29, 2009 2:16 PM  
Blogger girish said...

Anon, I disagree with you. Such a list isn't merely a casual inventory of movies, a trivial exercise: it's a public and visible move in the political/cultural wars around exactly what cinema is worth taking seriously and why. For anyone seriously interested in cinema, this is an important subject.

November 29, 2009 2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Girish, certainly the question of what is remembered and what is forgotten is important. But all this poll does is tell us what some people have remembered and forgotten (or never knew about or cared about in the first place). Not a lot of conclusions can be drawn from it, though, beginning with the fact that we don't know what they've forgotten and what they never knew about in the first place. We don't even know who the individuals were or what their individual choices were - what is this, the Nobel? And, in my opinion, it hasn't generated any more than quibbling over individual inclusions and exclusions as far as discussion goes.

So now we know that all these sophisticated curators and historians (!), as a group, don't think documentary or avant-garde films matter, don't think that women are making interesting films, and don't think that interesting films are being made outside of Western Europe and Southeast Asia (ah, the herd mentality lives in every social group). Just like the Academy loves films about disabled people who overcome great odds to succeed - they hand out Oscars to these films like candy. Every group has its orthodoxies.

What might interesting is if some of the people polled, and some who weren't, instead of waiting to be polled by Tiff and Film Comment, got together and crafted, through discussion and mutual education and compromise, a list of films that reflected the best film art of the past ten years which included a variety of formats and styles - short films, documentary films, commercial films, etc. - and got someone other than Tiff to program them. A kind of critical co-op. Maybe Fipresci could do this with its members or something, I don't know. 'Jury' members could rotate every couple or three years. Heck, they could award prizes - DVD box sets donated by Criterion or something, just a token gesture. The Best of International Cinema. In which documentarists, women, short-film and avant-garde filmmakers, and filmmakers in South America and elsewhere would be included, not excluded.

November 29, 2009 4:16 PM  
Blogger steevee said...

I know one person who voted in this poll, and oddly, his list was the kind of thing Anonymous is calling for. It was about half avant-garde shorts and half mainstream English-language films. The funny thing is, I don't think a single film he voted for made the final top 54. As with the SIGHT & SOUND poll, I suspect the consensus is blander than individual ballots.

November 29, 2009 9:41 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

Tiff Cinematheque's Best of the Decade Poll: Year by Year

(Info taken from

1999 (2)

Beau travail
The Wind Will Carry Us

2000 (8)

In the Mood for Love
Werckmeister Harmonies
The Gleaners and I
In Vanda's Room
Songs from the Second Floor
Yi Yi
The Heart of the World

2001 (6)

Eloge de l'amour
Mulholland Dr.
Millennium Mambo
Spirited Away
The Royal Tenenbaums
Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner

2002 (8)

Russian Ark
Blissfully Yours
Le fils
Talk to Her
Far From Heaven

2003 (6)

Cafe Lumiere
Goodbye, Dragon Inn
Vai e Vem

2004 (5)

Tropical Malady
Rois et reine
Star Spangled to Death
The World

2005 (6)

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
The New World
A History of Violence
Three Times

2006 (6)

Syndromes and a Century
Still Life
Colossal Youth
Pan's Labyrinth
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone

2007 (6)

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Silent Light
My Winnipeg
I'm Not There
Secret Sunshine

2008 (1)

The Headless Woman

2009 (0)


Thank you JOE for pointing out the oversights I made in the Comparative List posted earlier.

November 30, 2009 1:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It strikes me, since the voters are supposed to be curators and historians, how fashion-sensitive they seem to have become. Or have they all been replaced in ten years by very different sort of persons? I see some patterns emerge which I find disquieting. Last decade, the winners were Erice (1st place) & Kiarostami (several movies on top), now vanished (and they should not, at least Kiarostami, who made several great features). No trace of Straub, Wang Bing, Ruiz, Marker, Akerman, Brisseau, Grandrieux, Guerín, Eugène Green, Raya Martin, Lav Diaz, Comolli, Rodrigues, Dwoskin, though I may have skipped one of them. Did I see any Garrel, Eastwood, Rivette, James Gray, Ioseliani, Aparna Sen, Robert Duvall, Bellocchio, Bonitzer, Kitano, Hong Sang-soo, Piavoli, Vincent Gallo, Jonas Mekas, Im Kwon-taek, Suwa, Kawase, Resnais, Oliveira, Pascale Ferran, Gitai, Patrick Tam, Carax, Wiseman, Woody Allen, Kaurismäki, Doillon, Rohmer, Vecchiali, Ferrara, Yoshida, Beauvois, Chabrol, Olmi, Nasrallah, Klotz, Mike O'Hara, Peries? And please do forget the dead, the casualties of the decade, of course (from Cherd Songsri, Pollet, Sembène, Monteiro, Sissako, Biette to Jordà, Van der Keuken, Morais, John Flynn), which seem to count no more. That really worries me, because film archive curators should remember, have long term vision and value films with an historical perspective.
Miguel Marías

December 01, 2009 10:52 AM  
Blogger steevee said...

Miguel--It would be impossible for all of your list of directors to make a list of 10 films selected by 60 people. If the list extended to a top 100, I'm sure many of them would show up.

Kiarostami did show up --THE WIND WILL CARRY US, made in 1999, is on the list. Also, Carax hasn't made a feature film in the past 10 years.

December 01, 2009 12:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cecile fontaine
david gatten
phil solomon
ben russell
ben rivers
julie murray
jennifer reeves
rose lowder
sandra gibson/luis recoder
vincent grenier
kyle canterbury
fred worden
luther price
martha colburn

December 01, 2009 4:04 PM  
Blogger Ira Miller said...

I am compelled to comment, not to destruct the idea of making lists, but to examine the idea of the list itself. We first begin with an arbitrary number of slots, (likely a number who's multiple is one of human digits)then the films are randomly pulled from memory and placed within those slots. Then they are reordered. No matter who makes the list (even me) the list itself will be found wanting.

So... where can we go from here?

I challenge anyone, to make me a mixtape of films. The number is unimportant. The films themselves are no longer quantified with arbitrary and knowingly fallable numbers. What is most important is the order in which they are placed, with each film segueing into the next. This is a chance to say something MORE about your list buy subjectifying the random placement of things. This is a chance to say something about yourself in addition to mere identification with singular objective works. I want a meta-narrative. I want a myth.

December 01, 2009 4:34 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

The cinematheque has just sent me a list of the individual participants, but not of their individual contributions, which is a shame. One thing is clear from the list though, from which countries the contributors are:

China, Singapore, Sweden, Finland, Norway, Mexico, Italy, Belgium, Portugal: 1
Netherlands, Austria, Germany: 2
Japan: 3
UK, France: 4
Canada: 7
USA: 27

A few belonged to two countries so I counted them in whatever country had the least entries (or else China and Portugal would have had none!).
So whatever made it to the art/festival circuit in North America had de facto better chances than anything that didn't, simply due to the huge demographic bias of the list (and yes, many of the USA people polled probably did travel to a fair amount of festivals outside the US, but still...)
And a few words from Quandt make the omission of individual lists all the more regrettable:
"Two specialists offered all Asian lists. Another went the radical route of proffering an all Old Masters list, “feeling with some confidence that the Jias and Reygadases and Tsais and Apichatpongs of the world will find themselves comfortably positioned in the final balance” (which proved to be true). Many attached thoughtful, passionate commentaries on specific films, the decade, or the state of cinema. (Look for some of these on our website.)"

December 01, 2009 4:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

maybe it would just be better (more profound?) to talk about the movies itself and forget about the directors for a while.
or maybe it would be better to make poetry. paideuma like pound said (nec spe nec metu).
i live in fortaleza, very far away from any cinemateque, but at the same time i have seen lots of films that have been mentioned here. apichatpong isn't worth two cents here, except for me and 10 friends. everything is relative in this kind of list.
but just to put more relativity and banality: people talk about absence of inumerous filmmakers. i ask: what about rogerio sganzerla? ozualdo candeias? brazilian filmmakers from previous decades that have been ignored from the canon and i can say for myself that they have made master-pieces comparable to whatever.
ricardo pretti

December 02, 2009 12:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steevee - Neither Carax nor Erice made features, but film archive curators should not mind the length. Many shorts are better than many features. And to go two years before the decade in search of a Kiarostami, with "Shirin", "Ten", "Five", "10 on Ten", "ABC Africa" to pick...
In the end, where the majority came from explains most. (I was unaware there were so many film archives in the U.S.).
Miguel Marías

December 02, 2009 5:11 AM  
Blogger steevee said...

I don't think ABC AFRICA, FIVE or Carax's short come anywhere near being among the 10 best films of the decade. I'll grant you that TEN should be in the place of THE WIND WILL CARRY US. I haven't seen SHIRIN or TEN ON 10.

The problem with the list of omissions you proposed is that, for the most part, it's a list of directors who have made pretty good films. But decade-defining masterpieces? Has Chabrol, to pick one example, made a major film since LA CEREMONIE?

December 02, 2009 12:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Steevee, one can think like you or not, and I'm not claiming ANY film is a "decade-defining masterpiece", but I certainly find those films I mentioned much better than about two fifths of the Ontario list, which includes for me quite a cupful (about a tenth) of rubbish or pretentious banality. As for Chabrol, I think (but of course, you may not agree) that several of his later films are much better than "La Céremonie", in particular "La Fleur du Mal" and "Bellamy".
Miguel Marías

December 03, 2009 5:24 AM  
Anonymous jmac said...

My impression of this list is that it is international but not personal. It represents the cultural institutions not the cinematic frontiers. And the omissions are a bit scandalous, i.e.
I did not see LEONARD COHEN: I'M YOUR MAN on this list! :)

December 03, 2009 11:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I found myself desperately scanning the list for anything by Bong Joon-Ho, especially "Memories of Murder."

December 03, 2009 11:56 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes , i particularly surprised not to see Peter Watkins "La Commune " , "Waking Life" ,"Morven callar" , no Grandrieux ,no Wang Bing , no Nathaniel Dorsky , .......
in conclusion :the Ontario list is not as insightful nor adventurous as they may think it to be

December 03, 2009 1:06 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

I second Miguel Marías take on the “cupful (about a tenth) of rubbish or pretentious banality”. I'm just unsure and curious of what films would he fill his cup with. It would be a lot more telling to do a list on the overrated of the decade, kind of emperor's new clothes approach.

December 04, 2009 3:06 PM  
Anonymous adrian said...

Prediction: that the Canada list will instantly cause an reactive backlash in the SIGHT AND SOUND list (forthcoming) against (alas) Apichatpong and Jia ! And towards mainstream/independent American films and other stuff.

December 05, 2009 12:05 AM  
Blogger edo choi said...

To my mind, the shift you're predicting, Adrian, will at least benefit some American filmmakers I would have loved to see on this list. Specifically, my personal cause celebre Michael Mann (for any of the films he's made this decade, except perhaps COLLATERAL), but also perhaps Fincher (for ZODIAC, or BB), Eastwood (for CHANGELING or MILLION DOLLAR BABY or LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA), and Gray (for TWO LOVERS or WE OWN THE NIGHT).

The inclusion of Todd Haynes boggles my mind, especially for I'M NOT THERE, which for all its post-structuralist flash, struck me as a fairly routine biopic in the last analysis. Still has an uplifting climax! I am also sort of 'meh' about GERRY.

December 05, 2009 10:28 AM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

I like so many films on that list, and yet it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. There are only a handful of films here that I don't think belong, and yet whole list seems completely wrongheaded -- voted and compiled, it seems, as if the whole decade didn't happen. Mann, Gray, Ferrara, Jarmusch, Eastwood, Esther Kahn and Zodiac are understandable omissions considering the sort of people who voted here (the exclusion of Grandrieux, West of the Tracks, recent Kiarostami, de Oliveira, Guerin, Resnais, Rohmer, Hong, James Lee, Lav Diaz, Sembene, Green and Rivette is much stranger) but they're also indicative ones. They make the whole thing seem oddly irrelevant. I think the first comment here, Richard Brody's one-sentence pronouncement, sums it up pretty well.

There is something defeatist about this list, as if certain types of cinema no longer matter and it's no longer necessary to watch, say, Hollywood films. That, of course, isn't true at all, but I'm sure there are many people out there who find such an idea comforting.

December 05, 2009 6:56 PM  
Blogger Ignatiy Vishnevetsky said...

And, to the list of omissions, let's add Johnnie To. If there are any three directors whose work best exemplifies cinema as it currently stands, the cinema of the 21st century, it's Denis, Mann and To (though Jia can be argued a spot, and Godard, as representative of "cinema-at-present," is a given, since he always positions himself at the end of whatever cinema exists). That only one of them has any films on this list (and that her highest placed one is from the 1990s) is a real shame.

December 05, 2009 7:11 PM  
Blogger Brian said...

My favorites not on this list are Before Sunset, There Will Be Blood, and In the City of Sylvia.

That said I do think this list is great and there are far too many people complaining about it, who frankly come off as a little petty. It seems like some think this list was the result of a hive-mind, or a round table discussion on what films best represent each facet of film culture this decade.

Some of the people complaining are naming more omissions than they themselves could include on their own ballots had they participated in the poll. Could all the complainers even agree with each other on what the specific movies missing from this poll are? (or even what the best Oliveira of the past 10 years is?)

It's not like everyone who sees this poll is going to be intimately familiar with nearly all these films. If some fledgling film buff was looking to move beyond Pan's Labyrinth and Let the Right One In to see what World Cinema has to offer, this list would be damn good place to start.

December 06, 2009 8:34 PM  
Anonymous ar said...

Joe Swanberg!

December 07, 2009 12:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To answer André Dias, although, I'm afraid, to infuriate almost everybody else, I should say that of the 54 films I find rubbish or pretentious banality (or both) "Silent Light", "Dogville", "Royal Tenenbaums", "Far from Heaven", "Pan's Labyrinth" and even, after re-watching them, I think "I'm Not There", "Elephant" and "Talk to Her" are at best mediocre and overblown... I find other Almodóvar films quite good, and several other Van Sant (such as "Gerry") as well, but not these.
Miguel Marías

December 07, 2009 6:26 AM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Miguel, thank you! I've felt so alone on Pan's Labyrinth...
The greatest omission for me that hasn't been mentioned yet would be the two feature films John Gianvito made this decade, who stand as sort of twin pillars of what ethics can mean in cinema. Even his short made in honor of Alexis Tiosesco was excellent.

December 07, 2009 6:42 AM  
Anonymous arsaib said...

If I may, I'm pleased regarding the inclusion of a film from the current German movement: Valeska Grisebach’s Longing. While I would have preferred, say, Christian Petzold's Ghosts or Maria Speth's Madonnas or Maren Ade's The Forest for the Trees, I think it's a step in the right direction.

December 08, 2009 1:32 PM  
Blogger Mathieu said...

Wow, didn`t realize we were already in poll season for the decade`s finest, thanks for posting this.

Not to get all ''conspiracy theorist'' on the proceedings, but seriously, doesn't it seem like these contributors, being cinematheque curators, are deliberately excluding Hollywood films? There is no doubt that this decade was the worst on record for American cinema in general, but not one Hollywood film in the top ten seems farfetched to me.

Also, though it may seem a small point to some, I think it's wrong to take such liberties with the years of a film's release for these polls. ''Beau Travaille'' by Claire Denis is a 90s film (1999), not of this decade. Once the floodgates are opened, where does it end? Could I start putting late 90s masterpieces on my last like Time Regained, Eyes Wide Shut, and The Insider? It seems like cheating to me.

December 09, 2009 4:41 PM  
Anonymous Simon said...

I think the explanation for including those 2 films from the 90s in the 00s list is that they were released after the 90s poll was conducted. I can understand their wishing to give the films their "chance", but I don't think this is an excuse for bending the rules. Problematic situations like this one could be avoided by waiting until the year and decade has actually ended. I know people (including me) are anxious to see lists like these, but rushing things only causes more anxiety in the end.

December 09, 2009 10:02 PM  
Blogger ADRIAN said...

I think someone metioned John Giavitto's name here, i think its nathan. Anyway, i highly admire PROFIT MOTIVE and THE WHISPERING WIND, i watched it several times when out university here in the philippines paid tribute to Alexis tioseco. It is a non-narrative ( i thick a rhetorical art form) piece of cinema, something that i rarely see amidst our intense devotion to narrative films (which, to me, certainly dominated the list).

As to LAV DIAZ's films, i wonder why they aren't there at all...

December 10, 2009 11:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

chris lynn
robert robertson
stan brakhage
jonas mekas
hong sang soo
claire denis
so yong kim
just to name a few

December 10, 2009 5:02 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

I would like to add some hopefully infuriating nominations (against the stench of unanimity) to Miguel Marías way too mild for my taste exclusion list ;) I find these directors’ work (for some, just their most recent) terribly overrated (by order of appearence): Claire Denis, Wong Kar-wai, Béla Tarr, Cristian Mungiu, Carlos Reygadas, Alexander Sokurov, Terrence Malick, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Michael Haneke, Arnaud Desplechin, Guy Maddin, Lars von Trier, Todd Haynes.

December 10, 2009 9:06 PM  
Blogger Michael said...

Note to Anonymous, in re: comment of 12/1.

Abderrahmane Sissako is not dead.

In a shit year, one thing for which we can be thankful!

December 13, 2009 4:41 AM  
Blogger Ehsan Khoshbakht said...

Raymond Durgnat's enlightening piece on Vincente Minnelli's "Bells are ringing":

December 14, 2009 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Michael, I read that Sissako had died precisely in the course of the yet present year. If he's alive, and in good health, I'll be happier for him and as filmgoer. I hope your source is better than imdb's not mentioning a date of death, because its not-American and not-standard information is so full of holes...
André, one thing is overrated (usually not the filmmaker's fault)and quite another being a fraud (for which he or she would be rather guilty). And I have not seen "White Material" but "35 Rhums" seems to me rather UNDER-rated when not deliberately misunderstood.
Miguel Marías

December 15, 2009 5:55 AM  
Blogger Maya said...

"The stench of unanimity": I love it. Too true.

December 15, 2009 1:39 PM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, personally I find it hard to use your apparently sound distinction between “overrated” and “fraud”. That would be to emphasize too much on the director’s intentions. Films are overall and mysteriously “consistent”, they “hold up”, so to say... or they don’t! And this happens, it seems, regardless of authorship. We should perhaps start with the belief that directors are always doing the best they can. Of course, most of the time when films by these “stylized” directors don’t hold up it’s precisely because they’ve started forcing their own cinematic gestures, as if suddenly trying to imitate themselves (overrating themselves... Tarr tracking-shooting himsef ;).
I can only use the word “fraud” when dealing with films and directors who are explicitly manipulating the spectator in order to dwell on abjection (Von Trier, Haneke, Siedl, Campos, McQueen, etc.).

December 15, 2009 4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If anyone can post the personal decade list of James Quandt from the last issue of Artforum(not on the on-line issue) ,we would all certainly be grateful !

December 15, 2009 10:22 PM  
Blogger Miguel Marías said...

But André, I think the distinction is operative. For me, a fraud is a filmmaker who makes films purposefully in order to be overrated, supposedly "dealing" with important "current headlines social issues" and with a "style" striking enough to call attention to itself (usually, a mixture of glossy photographic effects and chronologically altered structure, only to disguise how little original and how commonplace are the stories they tell, which would be obvious if told orderly). Which happens not so seldom nowadays. From Iñarritu and Reygadas, Amenábar and León de Aranoa, Von Trier to Dumont, Rosales to... well, I can find a lot of frauds, more than anytime before I can remember. Others indulge in a bit of the same, but only sometimes - Almodóvar, Haneke, Van Sant, Ozon, Malick, Tarr, Scorsese, Coppola, Campion, the Dardennes, Noé, the Coens - and these I don't consider as frauds, imposters, fakes or counterfeiters. They are only understandably tempted to profit as well from the attention the others are usually paid. And no one is "guilty" (but rather happy, if perhaps surprised) of being overrated: the frauds do never think they are "overrated", you only have to read their interviews to see how glad they are of having met themselves and how great they believe they are.
Miguel Marías

December 17, 2009 3:51 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I just trod on a typical example of this: Bruno Dumont on Mysticism, in unspokencinema.blogspot
Miguel Marías

December 17, 2009 10:58 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, I’ve found your psychological analysis of both some director’s propensity for fraud and others mere fall into temptation absolutely delicious! And a director I’ve recently interviewed actually mentioned, ironically I suppose, that critics could indeed operate as the director’s psychoanalysts. But I, for one, would like to pass on such a particularly dirty job... Nevertheless, perhaps the abjection I’ve mentioned before, since it’s indeed a cynical duplication of purpose, might after all not be so far away from the vicious cinematic processes you accuse fraud filmmakers of. Again, delicious!

December 18, 2009 12:12 AM  
Anonymous nestori said...

Some people always seem to accuse Trier and Reygadas of being pretentious, or fraud or whatever. But they are merely self-conscious filmmakers in a (post-)postmodern age. To particular type of self-conscious artist it's almost impossible in this day and age to be "sincere" and "pure", in that way that was possible a few decades ago, without seeming naive. Maybe directors like James Cameron and Michael Bay are innocent in their cinematic fantasies, and then there's these poets like Kiarostami that seemingly can do the trick. (And I don't think Trier/Reygadas/Haneke are much more manipulative than Hitchcock or Spielberg.)

You cannot expect someone like David Foster Wallace to write a Steinbeck novel. But there's sincerety and honesty amidst of all that self-conscious postmodern wankery if you are open to it.

I find Reygadas' Japón to be very beautiful, even though it has self-conscious references to almost every Tarkovsky film and a provocative (to some) sex scene (I think those are the reasons that some people hate the film, thinking it's pretentious), while Silent Light seems to have "fooled" most of the art house crowd with it's "simple purity".

And there's a lot more self-irony in Dogville and Antichrist than people seem to realize.

And Miguel: "fraud is a filmmaker who makes films purposefully in order to be overrated, supposedly 'dealing' with important 'current headlines social issues' and with a 'style' striking enough to call attention to itself (usually, a mixture of glossy photographic effects and chronologically altered structure, only to disguise how little original and how commonplace are the stories they tell, which would be obvious if told orderly" -- I find only one filmmaker in your list that this description fits to: Iñárritu (21 grams).

December 18, 2009 1:20 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, I was taking a shower and I've noticed what I take to be a little flaw on your "fraud theory". It seems you take directors, at least those who have some talent, to be naturally original and - only eventually - to fall into the temptation of those clichés effects. Unoriginally, I take the process to be quite the opposite; every director is forced to tremendous effort to oppose clichés lying there already awaiting...

nestori, there's no self-irony in the world that could turn ANTICHRIST into a good film! Actually, that's already one of various awful things of that damned picture, not worth the stock it was printed on.

December 18, 2009 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Adrian said...

I agree with you, Miguel, that some of Dumont's pronouncements can be silly and pretentious, but his new film (have you see it yet?) is, in fact, very good ! And a lot richer than what he says about it - which is true of many filmmakers, of course.

December 18, 2009 8:55 PM  
Blogger Craig said...

Robin Wood has passed away. He was one of the most remarkable and influential film critics of the last fifty years. He will be greatly missed.

December 19, 2009 12:23 AM  
Anonymous Simon said...

James Quandt himself says that "most egregious in his absence from the finalists is Korean director Hong Sang-soo". He also recognizes the unfortunate absence of films from Africa (he names MOOLAADE, BAMAKO and WAITING FOR HAPPINESS as masterpeices) as well as the under-representation of avant-garde and documentary films.

(Taken from the recently published TIFF Cinematheque Programme Guide for the Winter 2010 Season. Text also on the Cinematheque's website)

December 19, 2009 4:49 AM  
Blogger Noel Vera said...

No Lav Diaz. No Raya Martin. No John Torres. No Mario O'Hara (he only did two, but one I value very highly). No Brillante Mendoza, tho I appreciate his and Diaz's mention on this comment page. Big big blind spot.

December 19, 2009 7:14 AM  
Anonymous Geoff Andrew said...

As one of the 'sophisticated' (your use of sarcasm, not mine!) programmers who contributed to this poll, I must confess I am surprised by the vitriolic discussion this poll has aroused. Also, of course when the polls are collated, the oddities on individual lists are going to lose out to the more widely popular (or as many of you say, blander) titles. But I imagine that most of the contributors proffered lists that were quite varied, mixing North American titles with Asian, European or whatever. Shorts, documentaries, animation and experimental fare would probably have suffered both because one inevitably thinks first of features, and because these sorts of titles would also inevitably be among the 'oddities' in individual lists. And do remember: ten is a very small number to be asked to nominate.

I cannot speak for the other contributors, of course, but since many of you seem curious about individual lists, I here append what I sent to the poll - primarily because I think it may illustrate how any list probably comprises both 'obvious, bland' titles and a few that are a little less 'obvious' or 'bland'. And some of mine were not feature-length.

In no order

Top 10:
The Wind Will Carry Us – Abbas Kiarostami
La Morte Rouge – Víctor Erice
10 – Abbas Kiarostami
Saraband – Ingmar Bergman
Triple Agent – Eric Rohmer
The White Ribbon – Michael Haneke
The New World – Terrence Malick
Million Dollar Baby – Clint Eastwood
Retour en Normandie – Nicolas Philibert
Yi-Yi (A One and a Two) - Edward Yang

Runners-up (10)
The Company – Robert Altman
The House of Mirth – Terence Davies
My Winnipeg – Guy Maddin
Beau Travail – Claire Denis
Talk to Her (Hable con ella) – Pedro Almodóvar
Sehnsucht (Longing) – Valeska Grisebach
Climates – Nuri Bilge Ceylan
Le Fils – Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
The Death of Mr Lazarescu – Cristi Puiu
Routes – Alex Reuben

December 19, 2009 2:10 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Thank you, Mr. Andrew!
Now it's just a question of getting the other 60 or so to contribute theirs... :-)

December 20, 2009 6:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Geoff, I think your list is OK (there's only one I haven't seen, about two I would certainly not have included), as probably most individual lists are, I don't pretend mine would be better (or only to myself, of course; I still agree with myself most of the time). The problem comes when these individual, subjective, partial lists are aggregated and presented as representative of what???
Nestori, what I mean bears no relationship with "innocence" or "pure". Neither Godard nor Straub, Kiarostami or Pedro Costa, to name a few are "innocent" or "pure", and Spielberg is not at all what I'd oppose to Von Trier, Reygadas or Iñárritu. No filmmaker of interest could escape being called "manipulative". Simply,
some do good tricks, other do bad ones. And some cheat, while others do not. Each of us will pick his lot.
André, no doubt clichés are lying all around. But some opt for certain clichés which are more rewarding than others. True originals are few, and are copied soon enough to cease seeming so original. Trying at any cost to avoid clichés would probably lead into another cliché (there are lots of critic-traps, and many fall for them).
Miguel Marías

December 21, 2009 10:34 AM  
Blogger André Dias said...

Miguel, a comprehensive list of critic-traps would be much useful for youngsters like me trying to avoid being caught. Perhaps you feel able to share it with us. Your views on the Bressonic plague were so enlightening :)

December 21, 2009 6:16 PM  
Blogger rabelais said...

I seem to be completely alone in missing Andre Wajda's Katyn, the best film of the decade that noone seems to have seen , the last great flowering of the Polish film school, and a definitive putting-to-rights of a terrible wrong. It renewed my sense of film's capacity to have the last word. Anyone else ?

January 16, 2010 12:53 PM  
Anonymous sami said...

After a few weeks processing TIFF's list and Film Comment's rundown, I'm a little surprised at the Japanese films which have been singled out, specifically PULSE and Koreeda's work are on FC's list. They are decent films but it's surprising that they got mentioned above ALL ABOUT LILY CHOU CHOU, which I think is one of the best Japanese films of an otherwise mediocre decade for Japanese film.

January 18, 2010 1:20 PM  
Anonymous Nick Chronopoulos said...

Girish, great post! - and you have catalyzed some very interesting discussion here.

I'm not sure whether you surmised that there is an absence of Hollywood-Bollywood/populist flicks as a positive or negative feature of the list. We can agree to agree if you meant it as a positive, because a list like this - fiftyish films culled from a huge number over the past ten years - could cover a wide range of legitimate thematic directions and it would be appropriate to cut out of consideration whole areas of theme or origin or cultural import. You could aim to compose a more comprehensive list, but you do so at the peril of losing a thread running through the selections. The title of this curation, 'The Best of the Decade: An Alternative View', suggests that major sources would not have been consulted. Ostensibly, the intent is to present a list of films usually confined to arthouse/indie/fest-circuit theatre venues, and this is something to be applauded given what Cinematheque in our neighbourhood.

I like that some people are posting their own top-10-of-the-decade lists here lately, and I intend to at the end of my haunting of Jackman Hall over the next month - there is a fair few on the list I haven't seen. I have some knee-jerk reaction for now-

A top 50 of the aughts without 'City of God'? I've been convinced on multiple viewings that this was a groundbreaking film, it pulled no punches. von Trier's 'Dancer in the Dark' and 'Dogville' are ones to consider if the list is meant to cover off the transcendent films of the decade. 'Synecdoche, New York' was an astonishing accomplishment, imo, and while I mention that one, I might throw 'Eternal Sunshine ftsm' into a list of the top 50ish of the last 10 years.

January 22, 2010 4:42 PM  
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January 29, 2010 7:33 PM  
Anonymous Snaporaz said...

Hello & congrats with your wonderful blog. I've just added this post of yours to my blog

My top ten:
01. Les glaneurs et la glaneuse + Deux ans après (Agnès Varda, 2000 + 2002)
02. Le fabuleux destin d'Amélie Poulain (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
03. Hundstage (Ulrich Seidl, 2001)
04. Spring, summer, fall, winter ... and spring (Ki-Duk Kim, 2003)
05. Luz silenciosa (Carlos Reygadas, 2005)
06. La stanza del figlio (Nanni Moretti, 2001)
07. Tricks (Andrzej Jakimowski, 2007)
08. The blessing bell (Hiroyuki Tanaka aka Sabu, 2002)
09. Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chan-Wook Park, 2005)
10. Grizzly man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

February 01, 2010 7:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Brian said "Some of the people complaining are naming more omissions than they themselves could include on their own ballots had they participated in the poll."

I agree with Brian. It's just a collection of lists. No more no less. If one sees a pattern or trend or even omission, all the better and isn't that the purpose of lists like that - of course in the context of where the contributors are from, in this case mostly curators and archivists? Just enjoy it.

On a personal note, I deeply believe the one great film by Hou Hsiao-Hsien in the decade is FLIGHT OF THE RED BALLOON, it's his least ambitious but it's also his freest and forward looking film, it's compact and simple and complex at the same time. His other films are great too but BALLOON is the summit of what he's trying to do over the decade and also the beginning of the future. Good stuff!


March 03, 2010 3:03 PM  

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