Sunday, November 29, 2009

Another Two Top Films of the Decade Listing

It is that time of year I guess and Wise Kwai makes mention of two Top Films List of this decade that have come out. One by Time Out New York and one by TIFF Cinematheque. Now recall that of the films from the 1930's I had seen 37 out of 40 films listed. So how did I fare for this decade? Let's just say this proves what I already knew - I am so not with it. Of the 50 films lasted by TONY I have seen 13 of them:

Femme Fatale
Gosford Park
In the Mood for Love
Mulholland Drive
40-Year-Old Virgin
Royal Tenenbaums
Miami Vice
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Before Sunset
Old Boy
Inglorious Basterds

and of those I really disliked Miami Vice and Inglorious Basterds. And 40-Year-Old Virgin? Funny as hell but still.

Now the TIFF list is about as pretentious as reading Proust while walking in the rain. Of their 50 or so films, I have seen only 8. The people who picked these films must really be fun to have a beer with.

Still Life
In the Mood for Love
4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days
Mulholland Drive
I Don't Want to Sleep Alone
Millennium Mambo
Royal Tenenbaums

I guess I am surprised not to see any Johnny To on this. I thought he had become a critic's darling in the West. Obviously, everyone would have a zillion differences with either of these lists but for me any list that doesn't include The Taste of Tea is moot and null.


YTSL said...

I think I've seen about an equal amount of films on both lists. And sorry, am not impressed by what's on the list based on what I've seen.

Also, surprise, surprise: Asian -- including Japanese -- cinema looks to have been given quite short shrift. Also, it seems like the critics are Johnny Come Latelys with regards to Asian cinema -- in that, among other things, many of the films listed hardly seem to be the directors' best.

E.g., Wong Kar Wai -- IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE is good but surely his best work came much earlier? Ditto with such as Hou Hsiao Hsien, Park Chan Wook and Lee Chang Dong. (I realize that in many cases, their better works were made in earlier decades but still...)

Brian said...

Thinking about it some more, perhaps their choices were limited to foreign films released in the US or Canada in which case the bent towards art like makes some sense I guess though not much. Obviously no one can see everything that comes out everywhere but still it seems likely that these people must go to film festivals and such and see a much wider range than their selections would indicate. I am especially thinking of Oldboy which got a US release and a good critical response but there must be loads of better Korean films that came out in this decade than that if I gave it much thought - but I think I am in the minority in thinking its extreme contrivances did not serve it well. I thought you would be happy to see Yi Yi - isn't that one of your favorite films?

Glenn, kenixfan said...

11 for me from TONY and not all of those are things I enjoyed; I HEART HUCKABEES? An ambitious failure at best. I am heartened to see The New World on both lists -- a film I tremendously regret not seeing on a big massive theater screen.

Michael Wells said...

Well, everyone has their tastes... arguing about these lists as if there's a "right" and "wrong" answer is an interesting time-passer, I guess, but I'm not sure there's ultimately much point.

Case in point, YT... I think "In the Mood" is Wong's best film and it would probably be my pick for favorite film of the decade, so I was pleased to see it on a number of lists. It's long been obvious that a lot of critic types feel that way, so I'm not sure why they shouldn't put it on their lists.

Hm, and I'm not sure what's "pretentious" about the TIFF list... "pretension" would seem to indicate that the authors don't really hold these opinions and are dissembling for some reason. I seriously doubt it, and I'm not sure how one would prove such a thing anyway. Is there a quota for how many genre or mainstream movies a critic is supposed to love? I'm much more interested to see a list of off-the-beaten track art films than yet another list telling me that "The Lord of the Rings" and "The Dark Knight" and, say, "Crouching Tiger" are among the decade's best. The former has, at the very least, the practical value of reminding me of movies I maybe should check out but have slipped my mind because they get so little press.

But again, it often comes down to a matter of taste... I think we already know I'm a little more art-cinema-oriented than yourself or Y. :) Not that I wouldn't like to see "Running on Karma" or "Ju-On" or a Bong Joon-ho on one of these lists. Or Jonathan Demme's "Manchurian Candidate" remake, for that matter - best Hollywood "pop" film I saw this decade. Vive la difference, I say.

eliza bennet said...

Neither list really apply to me but I completely agree that it is a matter of taste.

Also it is interesting that there aren't any Indian films out there. (now that I have started watching them, there are some especially good ones and most are worthy at least cinematography wise)

And even though Chunking Express is (still) my all time fave, I think that In The Mood For Love is the best WKW film I have seen.

YTSL said...

Hi Michael --

I'm curious now: is IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE the first -- and/or maybe also only one -- of Wong Kar Wai's Hong Kong movies that you saw on a big screen?

I ask this because now that I have the luxury of seeing so many Asian films (past and present) on a big screen, I have to say that I really do believe that viewing conditions (and order) may have a significant impact on people's views and ratings of films they see.

Also, to your query re "Is there a quota for how many genre or mainstream movies a critic is supposed to love?" Of course there isn't -- but surely you do notice a tendency on the part of many "serious" critics to be dismissive towards films that genre or mainstream movies -- or thought to be such using Western standards? And that is what I think Brian had in mind with his comments about "pretension" and such.

Brian said...

Pretntious to me because their choices are so limited to arty films with nary a commercial film in sight. That is absurd. Nothing that is made for the mass public is worthy? Horribly elitist and yes pretentious in my mind and though I don't know who picked these films, I would bet in fact that they were more out to impress their peers than anything. Why would we assume they are being objective and truthful?

Michael Wells said...

"I would bet in fact that they were more out to impress their peers than anything."

All of them? Most of them? On what evidence? I'm sure that happens in individual cases, but to assume all of them are faking it because you don't like their choices seems to me to be taking Occam's Razor and flushing it down the drain.

"Why would we assume they are being objective and truthful?"

Objective, schmobjective. None of us are being objective, and as I was just observing, there's no reason we should be, even if we could. As for truthful, why wouldn't you assume that? Do you also assume that critics who pick "Lord of the Rings" don't really love it, but just want to run with the popular crowd?

There are obviously lots of people (probably most moviegoers, and a fair number of critics) whose tastes run entirely towards mass-entertainment cinema and have little use for anything that deviates from its very specific norms. I'm not sure why it's so implausible that there would be, conversely, a relative few people whose tastes are so jaded that they've become largely bored with it... especially if those people are film festival programmers and the like, who probably see more movies from a wider range of styles than all but the most rabid amateur cineaste. I would more or less disagree with those people, but I see no reason to doubt their sincerity.

"is IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE the first -- and/or maybe also only one -- of Wong Kar Wai's Hong Kong movies that you saw on a big screen?"

Nyet. Had seen all his movies by that point, and, if I recall correctly, "Chungking Express," "Fallen Angels" and "Happy Together" on the big screen, the latter two more than once. Although I'd say your general observation is quite true.

Brian said...

Clearly I don't know and am only surmising based on knowing people with taste like this and a sense of being Gatekeepers of culture. For all I know its one guy who put that list together and that is his taste but if its a group of people I find it odd that their taste is so confined, similar and in a way so limited. And to call it the Best 50 films of the decade feels nearly fraudulent when it is so limted - but its not exactly important. I am not condeming them I just find it peculiar.

But when are you going to get a Blog going? You are one of the best writers around and we get so little of it these days

Michael Wells said...

I'm playing a bit of devil's advocate here anyway - the TONY list is more my speed with its wider mix of brow levels. (Check out the comment thread over there, by the way - isn't it nice that over here we can disagree civilly with each other's tastes and ideas and actually learn something from each other?)

And for the record, just because I want to say it, I loooves me some Apichatpong Weerasethakul - I'd put SYNDROMES AND A CENTURY and TROPICAL MALADY on my decade list, no question, probably pretty near the top. Not a taste I can expect everyone to share, though - I couldn't really blame anyone for finding them boring.

Wow, thanks for the compliments on my bloviations. Careful, you don't want to see me with a swelled head; I'm quite unpleasant that way. Honestly I had a blog VERY briefly a few years back, but I never felt like I quite figured out the point of it, and it petered out. Contrary to your opinion, I think the 'net is stuffed with more good writing on subjects I care about than I know what to do with as a reader. I'm not sure I have much that's unique to contribute.

Besides, I'm a very lazy and undisciplined writer and couldn't keep it up. And if I ever get my ass in gear I really should concentrate on my fiction writing. In fact, what am I doing on here instead of doing that?

I did enjoy writing little blurbies for your old site, though. That was fun.