Friday, January 15, 2010

The Best of 2009, the Best of the Decade

The in my opinion film of the decade 

It's with perverse pride that I look upon Sight & Sound's Ten Best Films of 2009 and note that none of my own choices (scroll down) made it there--and that two of the titles I might have conceivably chosen (Peter Doctor's Up and Quentin Tarantino's Inglourious Basterds) I didn't even like.

Jonathan Romney's essay pretty much sums it up: I do have orphans I champion, I do have an agenda I'm pushing with my list--directors and films that I think deserve more attention, hence their inclusion, plus movies I'd rather not waste my time with, like the two aforementioned titles (hence their non-inclusion).

Even agree with Romney's conclusion, that the real value of such exercises isn't the plain-vanilla combined list composed out of statistics (as Samuel Langhorne Clemens (aka Mark Twain) put it: 'There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.'), but the list of esoteric titles
behind that combined list.

Glad to see, then, Bong Joon-ho's Mother mentioned, and that Tony Rayn's list includes Yang ik-june's Breathless and Joko Anwar's Forbidden Door. Appreciate those who preferred Hayao Miyazaki's Ponyo over the Pixar, and Tomas Alfredson's Let the Right One In over that
Twilight movie (though another strong contender in the bloodsucking sweepstakes, I submit, is Thirst, easily the first Park Chan-wook film I ever liked). And kudos to Adrian Martin for picking Filipino filmmaker Sherad Anthony Sanchez's Imburnal.

My Sight & Sound top five films of 2009 then (with links to articles where ever applicable):

Melancholia (Lav Diaz, Philippines)

Karaoke (Chris Chong Chan Fui)

It's with even more perverse pride that I note that none of my picks for best of the decade made Film Comment's Top 100 list either--a more difficult achievement, I suspect, because of the number of participants polled, number of films seen, the scope involved.

mean to be so perverse. Was asked to give my ten best of the decade, looked back at what I saw, tried to remember which ones had the greatest impact, and wrote accordingly. No, I did not reject one or another because it was too well-known; I usually rejected them because I either 1) thought there was something better, or 2) ran out of slots.


That said, I like to think that if you saw the films in my list you'd gain some kind of insight into some kind of sensibility, at least the one I've carried with me this past ten years--a little grim, perhaps, a little skewed, a little concerned about everything that's happened and may happen still.

I should have included a comedy, shouldn't I? Something lighthearted or at least comparatively lighter-hearted, like Terry Gilliam's The Brothers Grimm, or Guillermo del Toro's Hellboy movies or (and I was strongly tempted to include this) Joe Dante's Looney Tunes: Back in Action. But "that's how the crumbling cookie," as an old Filipino-English joke used to go.

So (with accompanying links):

Best Films of the Decade:

Demons (
Pangarap ng Puso, Mario O'Hara, 2000)

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)

Edmond (Stuart Gordon, 2005)

Election / Triad Election (Johnnie To, 2005/2006)

Pulse (Kurosawa Kiyoshi, 2001)

A Short Film About the Indio Nacional (
Maicling pelicula nang ysang Indio Nacional, Raya Martin, 2006)

The Sky Crawlers
(Mamoru Oshii, 2008)

Todo Todo Teros
(John Torres, 2006)

We Own the Night (James Gray, 2007)

West Side Avenue (
Batang West Side, Lav Diaz, 2001)

Best filmmakers of the decade:

Lav Diaz

Mamoru Oshii

Kurosawa Kiyoshi

Michael Mann

Stuart Gordon

George Romero

Apichatpong Weerasethakul

Film of the Decade:
Demons (Pangarap ng Puso, Mario O'Hara, 2000)

10 Filipino Films That Deserve to be Known Better

Altar (Rico Ilarde, 2007)

Biyaheng Langit (
Paradise Express, Tikoy Aguiluz, 2000)

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros (
Ang Pagdadalaga ni Maximo Oliveros, Auraeus Solito, 2005)

Heremias, Book One: The Legend of the Lizard Princess (
Unang aklat: ang alamat ng prinsesang bayawak, Lav Diaz, 2006)

Kagadanan sa banwaan ning mga Engkanto (
Death in the Land of Encantos, Lav Diaz, 2007)

North Diversion Road (
Sa North Diversion Road, Dennis Marasigan, 2005)

Taon noong ako'y anak sa labas (Years When I Was a Child Outside, John Torres, 2008)

The Teacher (Manoro, Brillante Mendoza, 2006)

Third World Hero (Bayaning Third World, Mike De Leon, 2000)

La Vida Rosa (The Life of Rosa, Chito Rono, 2001)



TG Staff said...

Oh, which reminds me, I saw Maximo Oliveros for the first time recently and man that was a great one; I was really enamored with the initial parts of the film especially since it was fun watching the family function and Maxi go about his/her everyday business (the beauty pageant in particular was a lot of fun and I love the pause Maxi gives when asked "what is love?").

Maxi in particular was REALLY cute; I think the last time I ever liked a particular character that much was Makoto from Mamoru Hosoda's The Girl Who Leapt Through Time remake.

Overall though, it was a very good one; Maxi's character was in an interesting position in that he/she had to navigating the conflicting realities of his/her family and the cop he/she had a crush on; Solito's direction is very welcomed since the world created in the movie was completely believable.

(I can vaguely sense some sources... Brocka is probably in there [the constant emphasis on religious imagery in the frame]... Gus Van Sant, probably)

That said, Solito's Eraserheads video was also really great; that was actually my first exposure to his work and I always distinctly remember being terribly fond of that particular music video because it told a good story through the visuals.

That said, was it just me or did the final frames of that movie look like it was borrowed from Carol Reeds' film adaptation of The Third Man?

Here's the scene, by the way:

(which I'm pretty sure you remember, but I'm posting it for the benefit of anyone who might so happen to be reading along... Victor even gets a cigarette out just like Martins)

It's staged almost EXACTLY the same way, which I found really interesting.

That said, I also have a "movies list"...

But it's not really a "top movies list"...

Just 10 movies I remember seeing made in the last 10 years, enough to actually talk about them:

Interestingly, some of my favorite movies that I've seen haven't really been made in the last 10 years...

I've been playing a lot of catch-up over the last 2 years (which is around the time where I started turning my attention more towards movies).

Jaime said...

Hi Noel -- I enjoy your contributions on Dave Kehr's blog.

Filipino cinema is critically underrepresented here in the US. Invisible, you might say. If there are any critics in the US writing about Filipino cinema, I'm not aware of them. It's ridiculous!

So I'm glad to have your list of the Best of 2009, and the decade, because I plan to include all of the titles you mentioned in the directory I'm creating on my blog, UNEXAMINED ESSENTIALS. As I hoped to articulate in my introduction, one of the goals of my directory is to champion films that were either ignored by, or viewed as failures from the perspective of, US market domination - but that are very much worth seeing, regardless. (It is not a directory of masterpieces - lot's of people are trying to do that, and it's another "essentializing" mechanism I'm glad to avoid.)

My directory mixes the disreputable with underreported great films - a move that's bound to irritate some, and perhaps it's only temporary...(I'm contemplating a redemption of Andrew Sarris's 40-year-old ranking system to assist in sorting out directors who've been at work since after 1968).

As I proceed further away from the 2000s decade, is there a list, or lists, of great Filipino films of the 20th century?


Noel Vera said...

The oughties had their share of good bad and great films, I thought. Yes, my all-time greatest list (don't I have a link here somewhere?) doesn't have a film from the last ten years.

And yes, that's a The Third Man homage. I don't think it quite fits in there, but the emotional tone, of quiet regret, is appropriate.

You saw Insiang, right?

Noel Vera said...

Jaime: here's the last list I made:

Twelve greatest Filipino films

Adrian Mendizabal said...

The film comment poll was a bit sad, no filipino films at all. Unrepresented as jaime said. Great great list by the way!

Noel Vera said...

Just remembered, Dave Kehr did a fine appreciation of Lino Brocka's Ina, Kapatid, Anak and Tatlo Dalawa, Isa in the New York Times. Mark Holcomb did a good article on Gerry de Leon for Senses of Cinema, and Elliot Stein has written about Brocka's Macho Dancer and Bona among others in The Village Voice.

That said, the more written on the subject the better, and anything you add is more than welcome, Jaime.

And thanks, Adrian!

Quentin Tarantado said...

@ Dominic= Yes, Dominic, Aureaus definitely put in a Third Man homage. I asked him. Also, Noel, you put in Maximo Oliveros, how about his newer stuff like Pisay or Boy? Aureaus wanted me to send Pisay to you but the courier won't send DVD's unless there's an affidavit it isn't pirated. So it's with me, still unsent.



thank you for contiuing to champion NORTH DIVERSION ROAD. more power!

Noel Vera said...

Joel, I keep getting DVDs by courier all the time. Can't you send it wrapped like a book or something, try another courier?

Dennis, thanks, and fight the power--regulate Hollywood!

TG Staff said...

Oh fffffffffffff--

My Filipino teacher at UC Berkeley is apparently a friend of Solito's and we might get to Skype with him during the semester since she's considering showing Maximo Oliveros.

I sure hope it goes through.

Also, I haven't seen Insiang yet since it still hasn't shipped from the site; have seen Tinimbang, however, and that one was really good.

(may talk about it later... gotta spend my free day from school watching movies, which I haven't been able to do over the last few days given the flurry of gaming that I've been doing)

Noel Vera said...

I'd like to hear your opinion of either film, and of any Filipino film you've seen or are going to see Post em here if you like.

TG Staff said...

Originally haphazard animu forum posts:

Manila by Night

I've already blocked out all the comments, yet I can't resist un-hiding them whenever I look at some picture.

But, yes, I'm done with that place.

That said, I just got done with Ishmael Bernal's Manila by Night, which is essentially about drugs, prostitution and infidelity (where a man has 1 or 2 women... or even another man on the side)... all of which are used to survive in Metro Manila... implying that the promise brought by by the capital, the big city where your life will supposedly get better if you move there, may just be one big lie.

Interestingly, there was a blind character in the thing and I was very impressed with her depiction given that it's the type of characterization that you don't normally see being portrayed by a character who is blind (it's usually like serene people who are wise because of their blindness... in here, a tangent I can draw with the character in Bernal's movie would be with one of the street smart prostitutes you would see in Shohei Imamura's films... but blind; very interesting stuff).

It was a very interesting movie (with really unpredictable pacing), but I'm beginning to become dismayed at how poorly preserved old Filipino movies are; what the hell were the people handling this stuff doing?


n the two hours I managed to put Demon's Souls down, I ended up watching Lino Brocka's Tinimbang ka Ngunit Kulang (which has a clunky English name if I were to interpret it based on what I understood of the movie: I weighed your life and and it was malnourished... or: "Your life was weighed even though it was malnourished"... something like that).

Overall, the movie reminded me of how despicable the human race is.

Yeah, I said it.

So, it's about a Leper who has a relationship with a mentally-handicapped lady and how the entire town forsakes the relationship because it is publicly acknowledged to be "immoral" (ironic, considering how the town openly acknowledges a leading public figure's exuberant infidelities (infidelities of which is forbidden by the religion that everyone in the town follows so stringently); the hypocrisy is RIDICULOUS).

(also, the movie is not initially about all that, but that's what the movie eventually works towards... Brocka did a really good job of tying all the seemingly abrupt exposition together)

People are so horrible; seriously... Brocka somehow managed to be real about it, yet at the same time make that realness so damn scathing.

Excellent movie... it's not too far of a stretch to call it one of the best I've seen, really.

Oh, and that last sequence where the Leper has to threaten a doctor at knife-point was really intense: the Leper dude didn't have any choice given that the doctor didn't believe that the Leper's wife (the mentally-challenged lady) was going through labor.


Yeah, whatever I could put together in quick forum posts.

Brad Ryan said...

I also really hope for Mike De Leon's Bayaning Third World to get the attention it deserves. As a biopic about our great national hero, Jose Rizal, I find the film mesmerizing and stunning given its very limited budget.

Noel Vera said...

Hope you can find Mario O'Hara's Sisa, with Aya Medel in the role that Anita Linda used to play.

Let me put it this way: Bayaning Third World is what someone with wit and brilliance might produce.

Sisa is what some demented genius out to destroy the country (or redeem it) might come up with.