Saturday, December 22, 2007

Movies for Music
Lovers: Part Two

Click here for part one

My top 50 continues with documentaries and re-releases. This year, I'm including DVDs as part of the latter, since so many theatrical revivals these days are loss leaders for home video—assuming screenings are even part of the promotional plan.

Jim Jarmusch's debut, Permanent Vacation, for instance, appears as an extra on the Criterion Collection edition of Stranger Than Paradise, but wasn't accompanied by a theatrical run. Charles Burnett's My Brother's Wedding, on the other hand, also appears as an extra (with Milestone's Killer of Sheep), but did play some limited dates after its celebrated predecessor made the rounds.

While I'm at it, I don't mention any of the more elaborate box-
ed sets simply because they weren't sent my way—and I can't afford them—and not because I doubt the hype. I'm sure Ford at Fox, Berlin Alexanderplatz, etc. deserve every accolade they've been accumulating, but I've limited my list to the titles to which I had access. And since this was an incredible year for the digital format, I still had a lot of first-rate material from which to choose.

Links are to my Amazon, Siffblog, and Stranger reviews.

Top Documentaries:
Lake of Fire (Tony Kaye)
2. 51 Birch Street (Doug Block)
3. Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten (Julien Temple)
4. No End in Sight (Charles Ferguson)
5. The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (Sophie Fiennes)
6. Scott Walker: 30 Century Man (Stephen Kijak)
7. Gypsy Caravan (Jasmine Dellal),
8. Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal)
9. SiCKO (Michael Moore)
10. Crazy Love (Dan Klores)

Runners-up: Tie: My Country, My Country
(Laura Poitras), The Devil Came on Horseback (An-
nie Sundberg & Ricki Stern) and Zoo (Robinson Devor)

Note: In a year of Knocked Up and Juno—two entertaining,
if unrealistic films about unplanned pregnancy—Kaye's epic, underpromoted abortion doc was a beacon of light in the darkness. If Law & Order and every other procedural on TV
can deal with the subject, why can't these seemingly hip rom-coms? Maybe because they're not so hip after all. (And recall
that I haven't seen Cristian Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days.) To quote A.O. Scott again, "My wish for 2008 is that Diab-
lo Cody
, who wrote Juno, and Judd Apatow, the writer-direc-
tor of Knocked Up and producer of Superbad, collaborate on a hilariously naughty comedy promoting proper condom use."

Top Re-releases:
Breathless - Criterion Collection (Jean-Luc Godard)
2. Stranger Than Paradise - Criterion Collection (Jim Jarmusch)
3. Radio On (Christopher Petit)

Radio On review from Resonance:
As the Modern Lovers once exclaimed, "I'm in love with

the radio on / it helps me from being alone late at night."
In "Roadrunner," Jonathan Richman had 1950s America
on his mind; in Radio On, critic-turned-filmmaker Chris-
topher Petit transfers the phenomenon to 1980s England,
exchanging exultation for something more enigmatic.

The result is Get Carter gone
post-punk: TV actor David
Beames plays a London DJ
trying to unravel the mys-
tery of his brother's demise.
Instead, he meets a succes-
sion of travelers who share his
feelings of loneliness and loss.

Shot by Wim Wenders reg-
ular Martin Schäfer (Kings of
the Road), Petit's first film is a monochromatic road mov-
ie that captures a time of Bowie in Berlin, Kraftwerk on

cassette, Wreckless Eric on the jukebox and Police-era
Sting as an Eddie Cochrane-obsessed gas station attendant.

Radio On makes for the ideal double bill with Border
Radio, the restless debut from fellow Wenders acolyte Al-
lison Anders. Like the Anders film, which was co-directed
by Kurt Voss and Dean Lent, the journey trumps the destin-
ation (Bristol in the case of the former, Mexico in the case of
the latter). Petit's project may be chillier, but the patina of
time only makes it seem cooler than ever. K.C. FENNESSY

4. Vengeance Is Mine - Criterion Collection (Shohei Imamura)
5. Mala Noche - Criterion Collection (Gus Van Sant)
6. My Brother's Wedding (Charles Burnett)
7. Pierrot le Fou (Jean-Luc Godard)
8. The Landlord (Hal Ashby)
9. Border Radio - Criterion Collection
(Allison Anders, Kurt Voss, and Dean Lent)
10. Let's Get Lost (Bruce Weber)

Runners-up: Cría Cuervos - Criterion Collection, The Cub-
an Masterworks Collection
, The Silence of the Lambs - Collec-
tor's Edition
, Malpertuis, The Chocolate War (Keith Gordon's directorial debut), and Cinema 16: European Short Films.

Cinema 16 review from Resonance:
Democracy rules in Cinema 16 as up-and-comers rub shoulders
with established filmmakers. Previous UK-only installments foc-
used on Britain and America. Now Warp Films widens their scope
to encompass an entire continent. Spread over two discs, this por-
table festival offers 16 shorts plus commentary. The earliest selec-
tions include Ridley Scott's ode to truancy "Boy and Bicycle" (1958)
and Jan Svankmajer's Lewis Carroll-inspired "Jabberwocky" (1971).

The rest are more recent, like Andrea Arnold's Oscar-winning
"Wasp" (2003), which packs all the emotional complexity of a feat-
ure into an economical 23 minutes. Cinema 16's combination of
big names and promising neophytes, like playwright-turned-dir-
ector Martin McDonagh (2004’s profane "Six Shooter”), serves as
an ideal introduction to today's art house—with nary a tightly-cor-
seted literary adaptation to spoil the fun. KATHLEEN C. FENNESSY

Top Events:
1. Béla Tarr restrospective (including Sátántangó)*
2. INLAND EMPIRE at the Cinerama (with David Lynch)*
3. Brand Upon the Brain! at the Cinerama (with Guy Maddin)*
4. Shohei Imamura restrospective*
5. Jacques Rivette restrospective (including Out 1: Spectre)*
6. Pedro Costa restrospective (including Colossal Youth)*
7. Kenji Mizoguchi restrospective*
8. Jacques Tati restrospective*
9. Tie: Noir City at Siff Cinema and Noir Series at SAM
10. Tie: 50 Years of Janus and 30 Years of Kino at SIFF Cinema

* All starred events sponsored and/or hosted by the Northwest Film Forum. Also, The Harmonic Resistance of Béla Tarr actually took place in late-2006...what can I say, it colored my entire 2007. All during this year's Pedro Costa retrospective, for instance, I kept thinking about Tarr, and the way these two filmmakers use the long take to transform the struggles of ordinary folk into visual poetry.

The Neverending Endnote: Before I go,
here are five films that
just missed my top 30: Atonement, Golden Door, Romance & Cigarettes, Running on Empty, and Starting Out in the Evening.

And 25 that tickled my fancy (in alphabetical order): 3:10
to Yuma, Alpha Dog, American Gangster, The Assassina-
tion of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (except
for that too-long epilogue), Avenue Montaigne, The Boss
of It All, Delirious, Diggers, First Snow, Joshua, Lights in
the Dusk
, The Lookout, The Namesake, Paris, Je T'aime,
Quiet City, Rocket Science, The Savages, Superbad, Ten Can-
, Waitress, The Wind That Shakes the Barley, The Witnesses,
The Year of the Dog
(mostly for Molly Shannon), You Kill Me,

and Bridge to Terabithia (my favorite family film of the year).

Also, I know I'm "supposed" to hate Fay Grim, Hal Hartley's
much maligned follow-up to Henry Fool, but I just couldn't
do it. And Wes Anderson's surprisingly divisive Darjeeling Limited? I kept my expectations low, and found myself pleas-
antly entertained—not enough to add it to my list, but still...

Image Credits: Tony Kaye (THINKFilm), Radio
On (Google Images), and Sátántangó (Filmkúltura).

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