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David Poland

By David Poland

Top 20 Of Top 10s

Thought you might want to discuss how things are going so far… another 86 lists to be added

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69 Responses to “Top 20 Of Top 10s”

  1. jeffmcm says:

    I definitely makes me want to rent both The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and Three Times since I missed their miniscule theatrical releases.

  2. mutinyco says:

    You should juxtapose the individual list count up top to the actual critics groups scoreboard.

  3. leocharney says:

    Surprising that United 93 has done so well — I don’t recall the reviews being that strong at the time, but maybe that’s my own false memory –am I the only one (it feels like it these days) who felt like the last third was basically Airport?

    Also surprising that Volver doesn’t rank higher and that a movie from 1969 gets to pop up on top ten lists in 2006. Let’s throw Citizen Kane in too while we’re at it!

  4. jeffmcm says:

    Airport has a happy ending.
    I agree that Army of Shadows doesn’t really belong.

  5. EDouglas says:

    Wow, only one of the movies in my Top 10 is in the overall Top 10 and only 2 in the Top 20. (If I didn’t include any docs than Children of Men and United 93 would have been in my Top 10 though.) I like the fact that I don’t have too many populist chioces except maybe my #1, and others are esoteric even compared to the snobbier critics. Can’t believe that more people haven’t seen The Hidden Blade, but I’m just as surprised by how well Death of Mr. Lazarescu (also from Tartan) is doing cause it barely screened even in New York… must have been helped by the DVD release. (I can highly recommend Lazarescu even if it didn’t make my top 10)

  6. EDouglas says:

    Hey, who compiled this list of Oscar eligible films?
    Wondered why Bubble wasn’t on there. I thought it might be due to the day/date thing, but One Last Thing… had a similar release. (For that matters, where’s The Architect?)

  7. Jonj says:

    I really liked “United 93.” I’m glad it wasn’t forgotten since it was released in the first half of ’06. But you have to wonder if the lack of stars will kill any Oscar-nomination potential.

  8. I’ll be curious to see ho wit shakes down when Engin puts up his chart of, like, 600 lists.

  9. Melquiades says:

    A few days ago, Dave was saying Babel would have an uphill climb to reach 21 Grams’ “250 points from 40 of 250 critics.” With this last batch, Babel is now up to 260 points from 43 of 164 critics. So I guess the Babel-lovers were waiting to put out their lists.
    I, too, am surprised at how low Volver is (not that #13 is slumming it, exactly). It’s my favorite film of the year, though the two Children movies (of Men and Little) are still on my to-see list.

  10. Crow T Robot says:

    Much like “Million Dollar Baby” was in 2004, “United 93” is undeniably the emotional experience of the movie year. What the film lacks in Clint’s Oscar-friendly pedigree it makes up for in cultural relevance and great respect to the actual events. And as Jonj pointed out, to see it up front on the big critics list in light of its April release date is pretty spectacular.
    I’m trying to think of that last time the undisputed quality of a film cut through the political awards season bullshit and carried it to a Best Picture win… IE: when an “unsexy” movie won simply because it was so fucking bold.
    Platoon? The Deer Hunter? Midnight Cowboy?

  11. Jonj says:

    It’s clear Leo might split his way right out of any Academy Awards nomination. But I wonder if “Flags” is still flying at a respectable No. 17 (how, I don’t know), will it siphon off some “Letters” votes in the best pic category?

  12. leocharney says:

    I think Flags is in there because some critics listed the two movies together.

  13. Bob Violence says:

    Hey, who compiled this list of Oscar eligible films?

    The Academy. My guess is that Bubble was disqualified due to the

    Re: Army of Shadows — yeah, it’s weird, but if it doesn’t belong then neither do L’Enfant or Three Times.

  14. tyler666 says:

    I hate critics are so shortsighted…
    They are voting u93 cause it feels “important”. But it’s a mediocre movie. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad film but in a few years, nobody would remember it ( speaking of movies, not of politics)
    The same is appliable to Little miss Sunshine, correct film but nothing more, not a single memorable thing about the movie,
    And the same goes for Borat. A funny joke that nobody would remember in a couple of years.
    The only films from the top 20 that would be remembered in a few years are Babel and Children of men. Volver and Pan’s too, but in a more “culty” light. Oh, and the Departed, but not as good movie but as the mediocre movie that wins Marty his oscar.
    Haven’t seen any of Clint’s movies or Dreamgirls so i can’t talk about them ( Clint is the new Woody among critics, and i don’t mean that in a good way).
    Clint is the man, he could do no wrong because he’s Clint and everybody’s love Clint, myself included, but as a director he’s not that good. He’s ok, great on ocassions as in Unforgiven, but that’s all. But critics are old and cranky and love the old school way of Clint. Same as Woody.
    By the way David, you’re becoming old and cranky lately, talking about your darling “Dreamgirls”. If dreamgirls doesn`t win the oscar you`re going to have a hard time 😉
    2006. A year to forget.
    2007. Bring me some Fincher, some Coppola, some Jonze, some good movies…please

  15. jeffmcm says:

    Army of Shadows doesn’t fit because it was made in 1969. L’Enfant and Three Times have a stronger claim as ‘new’ films.

  16. David Poland says:

    I am always interested in Engin’s chart also, Kris. But the volume, to me, nears absurdity. “If you have a website you have a vote” is too many votes for my taste. We don’t even take everyone on the indieWIRE and LA Weekly list.
    I hope Engin is well. He is missed.

  17. towalk says:

    “Bring me some Coppola” in 2007?
    So soon after Marie Antoinette? Spare us all.

  18. Melquiades says:

    I believe he means Francis Ford.

  19. Bob Violence says:

    Army of Shadows doesn’t fit because it was made in 1969. L’Enfant and Three Times have a stronger claim as ‘new’ films.

    Plenty of critics don’t see “newness” as a prerequisite for top 10 consideration. A few (like Jonathan Rosenbaum) even go so far as to include reissues (which Army of Shadows isn’t, since it was previously undistributed). I may be taking this too seriously, but I don’t think something like Army of Shadows should be automatically excluded from a critic’s top 10 unless they’re more interested in playing the awards guessing game (or even the influence-the-awards game) than in providing an genuine appraisal of the U.S. theatrical scene — a scene where older films have a place just like non-U.S. ones. If they want to play the game, that’s fine, but there’s room for the others.

  20. Blackcloud says:

    This is the most notice some of these movies will ever get.

  21. Tyler, we’ve discussed United 93 many times before. We’re not getting into again. You don’t like it. A lot do. Enough.
    It’s good to see movies like The Death of Mr Lazerescu and other foreign films get so much notice. They can put it on the DVD box and hopefully attract some more people.

  22. tyler666 says:

    Yeah i mean Francis! I haven

  23. Ian says:

    A Happy New Year to everyone – especially for David with many thanks for continuing to make this site an essential daily visit. A Happy New Year to his friends, too – both of them!

  24. EDouglas says:

    “A Happy New Year to his friends, too – both of them!”
    Did I miss David’s resolution to get a second friend in ’06? 🙂
    Just kidding, man.. hope everyone here has a great New Year!

  25. David Poland says:

    My resolution last year was to shed some of them… 2007 will be about building new things.
    Thanks and HNY to y’all.

  26. Hallick says:

    “The same is appliable to Little miss Sunshine, correct film but nothing more, not a single memorable thing about the movie”
    I’ve been surprised by how many times I can watch it and not get sick of it (lots of Christmas DVD viewings with various friends and relatives). Little Miss Sunshine also has the cast of characters I love the most from 2006. And even before I saw it a gazillion more times, I remembered plenty from the first viewing (Steve Carell’s devastated expression in the opening titles, Paul Dano’s entire performance, Alan Arkin’s sex advice scene, the underrated music from Devotchka, Sufjan Stevens and Mychael Danna). I think its one of the best “little” movies ever made.

  27. milestogo says:

    Take the rolling start car scene from Karate Kid. Add the Silent Bob character from every insipid Kevin Smith movie. Add the car falling apart running joke from Lethal Weapon 2, and move the dead grandparent from National Lampoon’s Vacation from the top of the car to the trunk.
    Then, to add distinction, allow a seven year old girl to dance in such a way to make Jesus from Big Lebowski miss a league championship game. One scene would be passable, but Arkin also talks about “the good stuff”. Hard to believe it was co-directed by a woman. If the married co-directors have a daughter, we have our next Aileen Wuornos.
    Steve Carell was good, though. So good, I would bet he wrote or improvised his lines.

  28. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Little Miss Sunshine is basically Cliche Road Movie meets The Full Monty with Nietzchee as window dressing. It’s not even remotely as inpsired or original as a lot of folks like to make it out to be. Still, I laughed my ass off. It ain’t Preston Sturgess, but at least it’s not The Fountain – ugh.
    As for United 93, it can’t be stressed enough how badly all these sentimental wiffs are overrating this clunker. But I guess if the philistines can gang up behind a piece of garbage like Crash, they can do it for a movie-of-the-week as well.
    That Pan’s Labyrinth notched 4 on this list just goes to show that the voter pool is clearly contaminated. Del Toro is like porn for the fanboy sychophants.
    Does Dreamgirls coming in the bottom half of the list say that there’s a shred of white man musicalaphobia amongst this crew?

  29. jeffmcm says:

    So much hate for so many movies in a single post.

  30. Josh Massey says:

    “Airport has a happy ending.”
    HELLO! Can we get a spoiler alert?!?!?!?!?
    (Just kidding).

  31. Hallick says:

    “Take the rolling start car scene from Karate Kid. Add the Silent Bob character from every insipid Kevin Smith movie. Add the car falling apart running joke from Lethal Weapon 2, and move the dead grandparent from National Lampoon’s Vacation from the top of the car to the trunk.”
    You and I and the universe at large could break any and every movie down to a list of ingredients. That doesn’t have much to do with the results.

  32. anghus says:

    I with Carpetmuncher on a lot of these points.
    I think Del Toro represents everything wrong with fanboy adoration: the movies suck, yet still they clamor for more.
    Don’t fault Little Miss Sunshine for being just entertaining. I think the two biggest problems we have in show business are 1. Excessive expectations and 2. the ‘everything has to be a massive success or a burning failure’ mentality.
    I wish more movies were just entertaining and worth the 2 hours i spend watching them. I can’t say that about 90% of what i watched this year. There are so few films that really seem to be capable of eliciting any kind of reaction. I’ll take more films like Little Miss Sunshine any day of the week.
    United 93, to me, is an interesting film that is so emotionally detached from it’s source material, and does the least amount of coverage possible on the events, the filmmakers throwing their hands up as if to say ‘we know it’s to soon, so we’re not going to take a stand or do anything other than show the base facts’
    That, to me, is a massive sin for a filmmaker.
    Much like Elephant, i have little interest in seeing a subject matter of great interest reduced to its most base facts, shot verite, and somehow have it interpreted as art by people who are easily manipulated by the simple tragedy of a story that they are too afraid to delve deeper into.
    United 93 is like an Andy Warhol painting of Elvis. It’s a fair representation, but it really doesn’t go any further than the surfaces, and therefore deserves little award consideration. The love this film has received this year baffles me.
    And lastly, as i’ve said before: i hate musicals. I wouldn’t call it a phobia. I’m not afraid of them, i just think they’re silly. In my head, they all play out like The State’s Porcupine Racetrack.

  33. It baffles me to read that people can’t fathom how people thought United 93 was a good movie. I don’t care if you didn’t like it, but yet again I suppose, it’s people thinking that their opinion is valid while everyone who disagrees is wrong.

  34. anghus says:

    the only thing that baffled me was the award consideration. i didn’t say it was terrible, just cowardly filmmaking and shallow.
    Technically, it’s proficient, but Best Picture isnt just about technical merits, unless you count 2003’s wins for Peter Jackson and Return of the King.

  35. Ian says:

    Kackson and King won because that picture won hearts and minds. It is probably the Best Picture more beloved by general audiences and critics than any other in living memory. To imply it won because of its SFX is both tiresome and wrong-headed, an insult to its makers and audience.

  36. Josh Massey says:

    “It is probably the Best Picture more beloved by general audiences and critics than any other in living memory.”
    If by “general audiences and critics” you mean comic book conventioneers, you may be right.

  37. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Return of the King won “hearts and minds”?
    This ain’t Vietnam, this is a cartoon movie we’re talking about, and it was bloated, and repetetive, and for kids, and it won an Oscar for the same reason that garbage like Braveheart won it – mass adoration of a juvenile filmmaker matched with weak competition.
    The biggest insult is that because the Academy’s become infected by fanboy obsequiousness we get more garbage like King Kong.
    On United 93, the film is a nice barometer that brings the cinema dilletantes out into the open. The more this film’s so-called greatness is trumpeted, the more the trumpeters show they can’t hold a tune.

  38. Ian says:

    Josh and Carpet, you are of course entitled to your opinions. Just out of interest, would you be so good as to share your opinions on the human race? An outside opinion is always welcome.

  39. The Carpetmuncher says:

    Don’t get mad now, son. We don’t want anyone catching feelings over that “hearts and minds” baloney. It takes years and years to learn how to throw around tired cliches without putting your foot in your mouth. Hopefully we’ll all soon realize that comparing a cartoon movie to a war that tore the world apart just exposes the vapidity of today’s youth.
    Just because you don’t have the coolest toys in town this year is no reason to break your old ones. The hope is, you grow from this experience. The less you talk, the more you think, the better off the whole human race shall be.

  40. jeffmcm says:

    I would comment, but it’s cleat that nobody here is interested in discussion, just in the echo chamber of their own opinions. Suffice to say that Del Toro is a very good (if not yet great) filmmaker and U93’s triumph was that it _did_ put its opinions and attitudes right out in clear view for people to miss.

  41. anghus says:

    “Del Toro is a very good filmmaker”
    Get off the fanboy crack pipe.
    I haven’t seen Pan’s Labrynth yet, so my opinion could change on Del Toro, but let’s get real here.
    Blade 2
    Please, tell me what’s very good about any of these movies?
    The Devil’s Backbone is the only film he’s made that is worth even half a damn. And the rest is disposable garbage.
    But please, taking Pan’s Labrynth out of the equation, explain to me what about Del Toro is ‘very good’?
    I’m not trying to be a dick. I realize these words could read as ‘angry film asshole’, but im really just curious.
    What about Del Toro is good? Because for the life of me, i can’t see it. His movies don’t perform particularly well at the box office, so what’s with all the hype on this guy?

  42. jeffmcm says:

    Hellboy is indeed kind of lame. But Blade 2 is a lot of fun and Mimic is nicely creepy. And you apparently have never heard of Cronos.
    It’s not really easy to explain: Del Toro’s strengths as a director seem self-evident to me. Sure, he’s a genre director, but he approaches his movies with literacy and integrity. He pays attention to character but also to new and fluid visuals, and he has a sense of gore that you can only get from a reconstructed Roman Catholic.
    Perhaps he’s just not your cup of tea?

  43. Ian says:

    Congratulations, Carpetmuncher, on achieving the hubristic high-wire act of being both arrogantly patronizing and glibly fatuous in the same breath. Such a neolithic weltanschauung as yours is as rare as a case of gout these days, and about as welcome. As a purgative, I cheerily recommend a tuber of not inconsequential circumference for roughage, inserted anally.

  44. Hallick says:

    “United 93, to me, is an interesting film that is so emotionally detached from it’s source material, and does the least amount of coverage possible on the events, the filmmakers throwing their hands up as if to say ‘we know it’s to soon, so we’re not going to take a stand or do anything other than show the base facts'”
    What kind of stand do you wish the filmmakers had taken with the material? I’m honesty curious.
    And where do you think it’s emotionally detached? I’m not sure how they’d demonstrate emotional attachment by the way they make a movie.

  45. Joe Leydon says:

    Jeff: I would like to go back to something you said about Army of Shadows. You object to its being included on a Ten Best list because, technically speaking, it’s a ’69 movie. (Even though, as Bob Violence pointed out, it wasn’t released in the US until this past year.) Are you saying that when a critic compiles a Top 10 list, he/she should focus on the year of production, not the year of release? Like, if I want to hail South Korea’s The Host, I must include it on a list for 2006 (when it opened in S. Korea and several other places), not 2007 (when it’s due to be released in the US)? I’m not trying to be bitchy here, just asking for an opinion. Because, frankly, I can think of at least two movies I want to put on my 2006 list (including, yes, The Host) that opened this past year in their native countries, but have not yet opened in the US (outside of film festivals).

  46. jeffmcm says:

    Do you want a really anal-retentive answer? I would say that most critics need to have two lists: a ‘master list’ that would change over time based on when a movie was actually made/released, so that if you were making a top ten for 1969, you could put Army of Shadows on it; and a ‘public list’ that would have a less strict set of rules, depending on who’s reading the list, if it’s for a newspaper or website or whatever, where you probably want to put whatever was released in your area, so your readers can actually compare lists. So The Host could go on your master list for 2006, but your public list for 2007 because that’s when your readers will also be able to see it.
    All that said, I would say that Army of Shadows, being so old, should be considered a repertory film, like how if I saw Citizen Kane for the first time this year, it wouldn’t belong on any top ten list either.

  47. Joe Leydon says:

    But here’s the thing: If you are writing for the Web, you are writing for the world. Seriously. Now I am not so egotistical as to think that people around the globe read my website and blog. But, hey, they can. So if I saw a great Canadian film (in Canada) and a terrific S. Korean film (in Denver) during 2006…. well, why not?
    And to get even trickier: What about an HBO-produced doc that was presented as a film in festivals outside of the US?

  48. jeffmcm says:

    Well, if you’re writing for the world, you should go by the world’s rules and put The Host on this year’s list, since people in South Korea saw it this year, and so on.
    And you should probably feel free to include the doc – remember, it’s not TV, it’s HBO.

  49. anghus says:

    “What kind of stand do you wish the filmmakers had taken with the material? I’m honesty curious.
    And where do you think it’s emotionally detached? I’m not sure how they’d demonstrate emotional attachment by the way they make a movie.”
    i think my frustration with films like United 93, WTC, and Elephant is that it doesn’t feel like i’m watching a filmmaker do anything other than recount events with a fly on the wall approach.
    With something like 9/11 or Columbine, these are events that evoke a natural reaction regardless of what is on the screen, and the filmmakers want to milk that sense of tragedy without doing anything but playing out events. People shout ‘too soon’ in regards to movies like this, mostly regarding issues of sensitivity. But for me, it’s ‘too soon’ because there hasn’t been enough time between the films and the events to give anyone a real perspective on the issue. These films are little more than artsy docudramas that push the microscope in far too close.
    These films are pap. Any filmmaker worth his DGA card could get an emotional reaction out of this kind of source material. These films aren’t art. They are melodramatic pieces of entertainment, using the emotional weight of tragedies to do most of the work for them.
    I won’t call these films bad (well, Elephant was), but i’m hard pressed to hand out awards and kudos to films that recount events like a really well put together movie of the week.
    One day, decades down the line, filmmakers will have enough perspective to tell a relevant story regarding 9/11. United 93 and WTC aren’t them. They are spineless films made for commercial consumption.
    WTC always seems to stick in my head because i think about films like Platoon. There was a film with some distance from the events that allowed Stone to really show you the horror of the events and the moral ambiguity of some of the characters. And that, is interesting.
    then again, Apocalypse Now was made in the seventies, just a few years after the end of the Vietnam war, though we had been there for over a decade before we pulled out. Or maybe Coppola was just more fearless for putting it out there when we were still in the aftermath of Vietnam and the end of the Nixon era.
    Either way, WTC and United 93 are not bold, daring, or award worthy.
    They feel more like propaganda than art.

  50. jeffmcm says:

    Anghus, you’re contradicting yourself. First you say they’re emotionally detached, then you say they’re melodramatic and meant for easy mass consumption. I agree with you on World Trade Center – while it has its virtues, it’s a mostly hollow piece of work – but I strongly disagree with you on Elephant and U93.
    I believe that the strengths of both films are that Van Sant and Greengrass resist narrative or dramatic clutter in favor of presenting the unvarnished moment. You are right that anyone could get an emotional reaction by just presenting these events; but what happens in both of those movies is much more ambitious than ‘I show you kids get shot, you cry now’. This will sound unbearably artsy, but both films are existential documents that go beyond the events they depict into a realm of universal empathy and understanding.

  51. anghus says:

    i think a movie can be melodramatic and be emotionally detatched. The lack of emotion comes from the filmmakers who stand back with that ‘unvarnished’ presentation and never engage the material, rather they let it play out as it happened, making it less of a movie and more of a snapshot. If you’re just going to make a movie ‘as is’without actually engaging the material… sounds like what Van Sant did with Psycho. A shot for shot remake…
    Elephant, to me, is a horrible movie because the topic of school shootings deserves something more. I mean, Elephant should have been called “People walking down halls and then get shot”.
    Do you really think it’s more ambitious to just sit back and let moments play out as they happen without any sort of guiding voice to the material? That baffles me. Anyone can do that. It’s the laziest choice of all: making no choice. And since it’s with such controversial material, it feels as if the material was just too hot to handle or that the filmmakers were creatively limp.
    I go back to my Andy Warhol analogy. Some people like Andy Warhol. Some think he was a genius. He was ahead of his time, no doubt. The 15 minutes of fame quote was a prophecy that comes true every day now with the advent of reality tv. But the guy would paint a soup can, or stack a bunch of detergent boxes up and people would go apeshit.
    Presenting things as they are might be entertaining for some films. However, to me, not making is a choice is not a creatively strong choice. Inaction shouldn’t be heraleded as avant garde.

  52. jeffmcm says:

    “Do you really think it’s more ambitious to just sit back and let moments play out as they happen without any sort of guiding voice to the material? That baffles me. Anyone can do that.”
    Yes I do think that – it’s a very risky and bold move, and indeed, anyone can do that. But not anyone can do it and have it be riveting and artful at the same time. And there is a ‘guiding voice’ to the material in both films, it’s just very, very subtly expressed, masked in plain view.
    I don’t think that we’re going to convince each other, though. Warhol _was_ a genius, but if you wanted to look at one of his soup can paintings expecting it to be a landscape, you’re in the wrong place.

  53. anghus says:

    In regards to Warhol:
    I don’t look at a can of soup expecting a landscape.
    But at the same time, there are people who pay 50,000 dollars for a dollar bill signed by warhol and matted as ‘art’.
    I appreciate what Warhol did, and have no problem admitting the guy was fucking brilliant, but let’s face it: he wasn’t Monet, Van Gogh, or Picasso.
    Your argument kind of falls apart the more i think about it. Not making a choice is something you hear half wit filmmakers say at Film Festivals, it’s hardly the merit for an award winning film.
    I’ll stick with my earlier quote:
    Inaction isn’t something that deserves that much credit.
    im enjoying this debate, though.

  54. jeffmcm says:

    I never said that Van Sant and Greengrass ‘weren’t making a choice’. They did make a choice, and that choice was to slip off the constraints of standard plot/characterization/melodrama in favor of distance/detachment/perspective (there is no reason to think of either movie as melodramatic). They lose something in the process, but they also gain something, and I think the gain far outbalances the loss.

  55. jeffmcm says:

    It does remind me of that Simpsons quote about jazz:
    “You have to listen to the notes she’s _not_ playing.”
    “I can do that at home.”

  56. anghus says:

    their choice was not making a choice.
    ‘slipping off the constraints of standard plot/characterization/melodrama in favor of distance/DETACHMENT/perspective’
    the key word there is detachment. taking a passive stance on subject matters that evoke real, raw emotion in people, subjects that people are desperately trying to understand… it just feels like such a hollow way to tackle the subject.
    The ‘hands off’ approach is lazy and gives us no real insight into the story.

  57. jeffmcm says:

    I had a whole response typed out and frickin’ Typekey deleted it.
    Anyway, I think we’re at our impasse: you see the movies as essentially hollow and empty, I see them as more full of life and content than 90% of movies out there. Detachment is a perfectly valid tactic; check out Barry Lyndon or Antonioni. The effect for me in those two movies is that it allowed me, as the audience, unrestricted sympathy for every person depicted. I could witness, and thereby feel for, every person involved. Plus, both movies are loaded with directorial perspective and intent. Like I said before, it’s just very subtle.
    I’m sorry I’m not more articulate, for you to understand what I’m trying to get at.

  58. Lota says:

    i guess i’m not terribly excited about anything if Army of Shadows is in the mix since that is one of my favorite movies, period. It could take spots 1-9.
    many well made movies this year but i didn;t have too much emotional attachment to most of them. Borat I agree with in a top ten for shock effect entertainment and genuinely funny stuff.
    volver & the queen & haven (officially released in USA in 2006?) if it is eligible i guess would include in a top ten too.

  59. jeffmcm says:

    “no real insight into the story”
    I had to comment on this: I don’t know what you mean here. The story of both movies is ‘something terrible happens’. Different movies could delve into the pathology of the Muslim fundamentalist or the teenage psychopath. These two movies are not about psychological expressionism; these two movies are about bearing witness, about the purity of the raw image happening in real time. Again, sorry if that sounds hopelessly pretentious.

  60. Crow T Robot says:

    Do people really think of the film in terms of good/evil/courage/patriotism kinda stuff? I really don’t see Greengrass’s interest in any of that. United 93 is much more about the dynamics of fate than human choice. An experiment in convection; or how two poles of energy (the hijackers and controllers on the ground) pushed back in forth that day. Physical energy. Psychological energy. Symbolic energy. The passengers are merely the copper wire through which this energy flows — which I suspect is why Greengrass skips developing individual characters; because the victims on the plane really only have meaning in their togetherness (that whole “united” thing).
    I’m sure one day someone will make a great, intimate film about the people of that flight, with big crescendos of character and sacrifice. But for the purposes of United 93 — as a finely tuned study of action and reaction — those “Robert McKee” aspects we’ve come to know and love in most every good flick are not necessary in the least.

  61. anghus says:

    nah, it’s not hopelessly pretentious.
    it’s just a difference of opinion based on taste in film. I for one think there’s a certain obligation when dealing with subject matters that contain complexities.
    The job of the documentarian is to catalog fact. The job of a photographer is to capture a moment.
    The job of the filmmaker should be something more.
    It isn’t in the films were discussing.
    interesting? perhaps. entertaining? possibly. technically well put together? sure. Worthy of a Best Picture nomination? I don’t think so.

  62. jeffmcm says:

    Well, I agree that ‘when dealing with subject matters that contain complexities’ (which subject matters does that leave over?) that a filmmaker should respond appropriately with complexity and humanity.
    The difference is, I see that complex humanistic response in the two movies, and you don’t. C’est la vie.

  63. David Poland says:

    Wow… with a few exceptions, civil and tough discourse. Good on ya.
    I don’t think anything about United 93 is lazy. And I don’t think a minimalist film like Elephant is after the same things.
    I would have preferred if United 93

  64. The thing with Elephant is that it demands viewers interaction. Sure, Elephant could have had stock standard characters, a traditional narrative arc and it could have explained down to the last minute detail why the two boys did what they did. But Van Sant chose to not to do that he asks the audience to think about why they would do it.
    Not every school shooting is the same, nor do the people doing it do it for the same reasons every time. There is no one standard method. Van Sant is presenting a vision of an average high school shooting at an average high school filled with average students. He fills it with characters that are identifiable (no Hollywood high schoolers here) and they do things that are normal. Van Sant isn’t giving audiences a reason for what happens (as I said, there is no one single standard reason why kids – or adults for that matter – would do that), he’s making audiences think about it. Think what would lead somebody to do something like that, and then to think about how we can stop it in the future.
    I saw the film when I was in my final year of high school so it had particular resinence with me. Each and every time I watch it it amazes me even more. It’s an astounding marvellous film. It may sound arty and wanky and pretencious, but I would much rather see a person creating a film such as this that presents ideas and demands that I have an opinion than more mindless junk.
    The mere fact that we’re discussing Elephant and United 93 as opposed to stuff like Home Room and World Trade Center means the directors did their job.

  65. Clycking says:

    “the key word there is detachment. taking a passive stance on subject matters that evoke real, raw emotion in people, subjects that people are desperately trying to understand… it just feels like such a hollow way to tackle the subject.”
    So you admit that the detachment is a legitimate choice, merely that it is hollow. And if you don’t, I must defend it as an artistic decision. If there’s any choice that is “not making a choice”, it would be if they chose to go for sixty-string orchestratic melodrama, because it’s the most obvious (even clich

  66. anghus says:

    very well said.
    Between my back and forth with Jeff and the way Clycking succinctly said it, i may have to go back and watch them again with a different perspective.
    For the record, what i like about this blog is that the discourse it, most of time, far more intelligent than other sites. Let’s hope we can keep it that way.

  67. anghus says:

    Of course, the sentence where i discuss the intelligence of the posts is a mangled, grammatical mess.

  68. Clyking hit a very good point. Audiences do already have immense feelings towards these subjects (911, Columbine) so there doesn’t need to be theatrics. That was a problem with World Trade Center – it felt like they were constantly mining for audience tears when really the story should have spoken for itself.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon