= Certified Copy
There is nothing more difficult than making a sentimental movie for smart people and both of these films qualify. Part of me wanted Certified Copy to sit there pure and unthreatened at #1, out of deference to an enthralling intellectual striptease as audacious as any provocateur could muster and to a film that is generally unlike any other I’ve seen. But at the end of the day Poetry director Lee Chang-dong is my guy — he’s doing something I want to do, something I’ll keep trying to do.
You can watch Poetry on Fandor. Try it with a One Week Pass:
Get a Fandor Free Pass
3 Historias Extraordinarias
I saw this at Cinequest ’09, where it had only one screening due to its length. The opening bit is the clencher — sewer-grade digital imagery married to fastidious voiceover that upstages the prosaic action. This spazzy anti-epic immediately overwhelms one with charming ambition. Someday I hope to have this film playing in the background at every party I throw.
4 Mysteries of Lisbon
Thematically if not narratively involving; dizzying despite its grueling pace; structured as if by tides; visually lapidary with pristine digital images and camera work that uninhibitedly stretches its legs in nearly every scene (where a long-range static shot of a bounding carriage can be as bold as a swirling interior shot of an elaborate mural in an empty room). This is a film I truly don’t give a shit about except in as much as it hits the screen in a certain way.
5 Fright Night
The cast is so committed here that I almost wish they’d passed a hat. An unspeakably tense 360-degree pan in a vehicle barreling down the highway before a vampire inevitably starts harassing people through the roof and about the radiator — that scene and a few others vouch for the enduring viability of the horror-sex-comedy 25 years after we compulsively made out to the original Fright Night on VHS in basement rec rooms with girls we’d only known for a couple of hours. What.
6 Gnomeo and Juliet
I’m not sure if the Elton John songs are the gimmick or the glue but they keep the gnomes hopping, dancing, racing and washing. The voice cast goes whole-hog with the Fakespeare, Emily Blunt and Jason Statham most memorably. There’s a divorce montage that is almost unwatchably brutal despite being rendered through silhouette and implication. (By the way, someone greenlighted a project in which garden gnomes do a sidelong adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. The resulting film is the one I’m talking about now.) The titular lovers quip-fighting over a flower in a greenhouse is the best meet-cute in years. Quotable, this one is.
It’s not “stagy.” It’s not a metaphor. I’m a parent in the 21st century and this is what it’s like. No one knows how to do anything but it feels right to tell others how to do things anyway. Best scene in any movie: John C Reilly holding the bottle of scotch out of Jodie Foster’s reach while she jumps to reach it like an impotent chihuahua. The brief male bonding here is so perversely affecting that I shouted “Throw them out the window!” Meaning the women. I was mad at the women, I guess. I can’t remember why.
8 Bad Teacher
Fuck Bridesmaids. Cameron Diaz should win farms and mayorships and have butterflies and forests named after her for this performance. While watching Miranda July’s The Future, I was just thinking about how amazing Bad Teacher was. By which I mean loneliness is aggressive and if you’re not being aggressive back then you’re going to die alone. Sorry, Miranda, but mating anxiety has no balls after it’s passed through the sieve-lens of Charlie Kaufman. I don’t know of anything more frightening than an aging Cameron Diaz, and Cameron Diaz doesn’t either. No, you won’t cry over this one, you’ll probably throw the DVD across the room in revulsion. Good. Then go get a boob job and a man.
9 Love Exposure
Did I already use the phrase “spazzy anti-epic”? Damn. Himizu was my favorite film at Toronto this year. Am I answering the question?
10 First half of Melancholia
Melancholia is vapid slapstick — sillier than Hangover 2 — for about an hour. God bless that hour. Udo Kier, Stellan Skarsgard, Charlotte Rampling, John Hurt and Kiefer Sutherland doing schtick like background players on The Simpsons come to life — clever stuff but refreshingly lowbrow. More!
*Caveat: I deeply regret not having seen Margaret, A Separation or Tuesday After Christmas before assembling this list.