Daily Archives: September 18, 2022

A Few (Further) Demurrals About Films that Didn’t Make It Onto My (2013) Ten Best List

Originally posted on December 15, 2013. — J.R.

One of the most debilitating facets of contemporary media discourse, at least in the U.S., is the unspoken assumption that serious discussion about such topics as torture, mass murder, and slavery can only enter the mainstream public sphere once it becomes tied to the sale of a current movie, regardless of how inane or or superficial or inadequate its treatment of that subject might be. If our discussion of American slavery can essentially be licensed by Django Unchained, which appeared to be the case last year, then I suppose 12 Years a Slave could be regarded as a partial corrective, even after one factors in the restrictive aspect of focusing on the relatively exceptional case of a non-slave forced to become a slave for many years. For me, the treatment of slavery as something relevant to both the present and more than just the U.S., in Pedro Costa’s sublime Sweet Exorcist (his half-hour episode in Centro Historico), is a more valid corrective and carries much greater force, not least because it has some access to poetry –- which, I would insist, is a crucial source of knowledge -– and  beauty, and not merely to exploitation-movie assaults.… Read more »

Four Reasons Not to Trust Ten-Best Lists [Chicago Reader blog post, 2006]

Film Four Reasons Not to Trust Ten-Best Lists

Posted By on 12.18.06 at 09:40 PM

One of the most cherished fantasies in the world of movies is that around this time every year we critics are all dying to think about the best films of the past 12 months — as if listmaking represented some particular populist need for consensus rather than the industry’s desire to resell goods that have already been sold to us again and again (or, in this neck of the woods, to presell goods that haven’t arrived yet).

I’ll admit that one list engenders another, and that once the game starts in earnest, every critic wants to be part of the discussion. But consider some of the drawbacks:

(1) Piles of movies getting released at the end of this year in such a manner that critics (and some audience members) don’t even have time to take them in, much less think about them. (Maybe that’s exactly what the studios want–snap judgment is another practice that serves the industry more than the audience.)

(2) Contortions by critics outside New York and Los Angeles who don’t want to come across as rubes and so vote for movies that most of their readers can’t see yet.

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Ten & Twenty Best Lists, 1995-1999

This is third in an ongoing series of five lists of lists. –J.R.

Chicago Reader, 1995:
Latcho Drom (Tony Gatlif)
Crumb (Terry Zwigoff)
A Great Day in Harlem (Jean Bach) + When It Rains (Charles Burnett)
Lamerica (Gianni Amelio)
Good Men, Good Women (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
Safe (Todd Haynes)
Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (Jean-Luc Godard)
Exotica (Atom Egoyan)
Hyenas (Djibril Diop Mambety)
Up Down Fragile (Jacques Rivette)

Chicago Reader, 1996:
Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch)
The Asthenic Syndrome (Mira Kuratova)
The Decalogue (Krzysztof Kieslowski)
Nightjohn (Charles Burnett)
The Neon Bible (Terence Davies)
Regularly or Irregularly (Abbas Kiarostami) + From the Jounals of Jean Seberg (Mark Rappaport)
Thieves (André Téchiné) + My Favorite Season (André Téchiné)
The White Balloon (Jafar Panahi) + Goodbye South, Goodbye (Hou Hsaio-hsien)
Blush (Li Shaohong) + Red Hollywood (Thom Anderson & Noël Burch)
Flirt (Hal Hartley) + Deseret (James Benning)
Sling Blade (Billy Bob Thornton) + Joan the Maid (Jacques Rivette)
Secrets & Lies (Mike Leigh) + Basquiat (Julian Schnabel)
Get on the Bus (Spike Lee) + Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai)
Mars Attacks! (Tim Burton) + The Cable Guy (Ben Stiller)
When Pigs Fly (Sara Driver) + Desolation Angels (Tim McCann)
Stealing Beauty (Bernardo Bertolucci) + My Life and Times With Antonin Artaud (Gérard Mordillat)
Ectasy (Mariano Barroso) + Vive l’Amour (Tsai Ming-liang)
Cyclo (Tran Anh Hung) + Breaking the Waves (Lars von Trier)
2 X 50 Years of French Cinema (Anne-Marie Mièville & Jean-Luc Godard) + The Crucible (Nicholas Hytner)
A Family Thing (Richard Pearce) + Nelly and Monsieur Arnaud (Claude Sautet)
Yang and Yin: Gender in Chinese Cinema (Stanley Kwan) + Red Lotus Society (Stan Lai)
Foxfire (Annette Haywood-Carter) + Bottle Rocket (Wes Anderson) + Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)

Chicago Reader, 1997:
A Brighter Summer Day (Edward Yang)
The House Is Black (Forugh Farrokhzad)
Irma Vep (Olivier Assayas)
The Ceremony (Claude Chabrol)
4 Little Girls (Spike Lee) + Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (Errol Morris)
La promesse (Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne)
In the Company of Men (Neil LaBute)
The Sweet Hereafter (Atom Egoyan)
As Good As It Gets (James L.… Read more »