“If you can’t find a masterpieces amidst the blockbuster flotsam,” write the folks at BBC.com, in an uncredited feature, “you simply aren’t looking hard enough.”
Could they be right? Most of my friends are talking about the Golden Age of television, with its vast cosmos of options and platforms. But the BBC thinks that feature-length “film” storytelling is really pretty good:
Film-making today, whether massively expensive or made with tiny budgets, shot on celluloid or video, is thriving artistically as much as it ever has. But today you’ll find greater diversity in the kinds of films being made, if not in the people who are making them.
The BBC editors have concocted a list of the 100 best films from the last 16 years. I comment on their list below, despite this being the lowest form of blogging:
100. Toni Erdmann (Maren Ade, 2016) 100. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000) 100. Carlos (Olivier Assayas, 2010)
Well, that was a cheat. Three “hundredth place” films? That means this list is the Top 102. There is a sort of vexing innumeracy to modern journalism*. (In any case, I have not seen any of these.)
99. The Gleaners and I (Agnès Varda, 2000)
I have been meaning to see this. Keep forgetting to look it up.
98. Ten (Abbas Kiarostami, 2002)
97. White Material (Claire Denis, 2009)
Never heard of these.
96. Finding Nemo (Andrew Stanton, 2003)
95. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
Two terrific movies. They might very well be on my Top 102 list. Moonrise Kingdom would probably be much higher than no. 95.
94. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
Am I not supposed to admit that I prefer the American version, Let Me In (2010)?
93. Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)
This is one of the three very best animated films of our time. Let us see if the BBC folks choose my other two selections.
92. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
Yes. I loved this film. It deserves a place on this.
91. The Secret in Their Eyes (Juan José Campanella, 2009)
Never heard of it. It’s a pity that I have spent the last 14 years in the country, away from the cultural bustle of a city like Seattle or Portland (the only two big cities I have lived in. Not that you needed to know.)
90. The Pianist (Roman Polanski, 2002)
Good film. But it is hard to judge Holocaust films. Going into the subject, we are apt to be moved by any serious depiction of the atrocity.
89. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
88. Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, 2015)
87. Amélie (Jean-Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
Wonderful; a delight.
86. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
Very good, but it does not stick in my memory beyond that judgment.
85. A Prophet (Jacques Audiard, 2009)
84. Her (Spike Jonze, 2013)
Have not seen yet.
83. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Steven Spielberg, 2001)
Great film marred by a horribly sentimental ending, not well told. I came out of the theater writing an alternate ending. I forget what it is, now. Steven Spielberg has problems with sentimentality. So, with the horrible ending, it does not deserve to remain on such a list.
82. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2009)
Terrible movie, perhaps the Coen brothers’ worst.
81. Shame (Steve McQueen, 2011)
80. The Return (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2003)
I do not think I have seen either of these, but I may have seen The Return. And forgot it.
79. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
Fine film. Excellent.
78. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
Not a bad film. I enjoyed it. But Scorsese has made better.
77. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Julian Schnabel, 2007)
76. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
75. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
74. Spring Breakers (Harmony Korine, 2012)
I have seen a few of these, but did not like the von Trier, and have no memory of seeing the others — but I still think I have seen them. Not a good sign.
73. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
A great trilogy. Enjoyed this a lot.
72. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)
71. Tabu (Miguel Gomes, 2012)
70. Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley, 2012)
69. Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)
I believe I have seen Polley’s film, but not the others.
68. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
Excellent movie. Very funny. Brilliant in that Wes Anderson way, a sort of twee profundity.
67. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
Respectable enough, but I am not sure I would put it on any tops list.
66. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring (Kim Ki-duk, 2003)
65. Fish Tank (Andrea Arnold, 2009)
64. The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)
63. The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky, 2011)
Four more films I have never heard of.
62. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
This is magnificent. The opening is the best written and acted beginning to a movie in ages. Dramatic, humorous, chilling . . . and it perfectly sets up a subtle logic upon which the rest of the film runs.
61. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)
60. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2006)
Have not seen. Where have I been, eh?
59. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
A fine film working out one simple idea.
58. Moolaadé (Ousmane Sembène, 2004)
57. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)
56. Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, director; Ágnes Hranitzky, co-director, 2000)
55. Ida (Paweł Pawlikowski, 2013)
54. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, 2011)
Not seen, but they look interesting.
53. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
Luhrmann, the most over-rated director of our time? Perhaps. This was a nothing. Luhrmann’s lurid, hyperreal film style is not to my taste.
52. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
51. Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
Fun movie. Worthy of consideration, if not inclusion. Certainly not my favorite Nolan flick from this period.
50. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien, 2015)
49. Goodbye to Language (Jean-Luc Godard, 2014)
48. Brooklyn (John Crowley, 2015)
47. Leviathan (Andrey Zvyagintsev, 2014)
46. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, 2010)
45. Blue Is the Warmest Color (Abdellatif Kechiche, 2013) 44. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
More not seen, most unheard of by me.
43. Melancholia (Lars von Trier, 2011)
I guess I should give this another chance.
42. Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)
Another movie about love? Will it never end?
41. Inside Out (Pete Docter, 2015)
One of the cleverest coming-of-age films I have seen. Very good.
40. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
I keep on meaning to see it.
39. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
I loved this, though I think it is mostly a failure. It does not hold together well.
38. City of God (Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002)
37. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2010)
36. Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, 2014)
35. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
34. Son of Saul (László Nemes, 2015)
Never heard of it.
33. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
Very good, but still not the best Nolan film of the period.
32. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006)
31. Margaret (Kenneth Lonergan, 2011)
30. Oldboy (Park Chan-wook, 2003)
I have not seen these yet. Been meaning to, though.
29. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)
Yes; this is great.
28. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
Probably my favorite by this director.
27. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
If I bracket out the participation of Sorokin, the writer, who is a sort of idiot savant (in writing about real life politics, the “idiot” part is most obvious), I did really enjoy this movie.
26. 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
Whoa: a Spike Lee film I have not seen?
25. Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
Great film. Still not his best, though. Well, maybe it still is. But it is not my favorite Nolan film.
24. The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)
Good film. Does not deserve to be on this list.
23. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
OK. Another no-see-um.
22. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
Great film. I greatly enjoy and admire Ms. Coppola’s work.
21. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)
One of my favorite comedies of recent years. It would be higher up in my list.
20. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
I gave up with the turd in the toilet scene.
19. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
A lot of fun, and, indeed, well made.
18. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
No ribbon for me: not seen.
17. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
Wonderful film. Excellent. Moving.
16. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
15. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
14. The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2012)
13. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
Fine film. I did not understand the many negative critical judgments it received when it first came out.
12. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
I liked it when I saw it, but all I remember now is that it was long and inconclusive.
11. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2013)
10. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
The Coens are my favorite filmmakers. But Inside Llewyn Davis was not a very good film, and No Country for Old Men, though it was good, is certainly not their best film from this period.
9. A Separation (Asghar Farhadi, 2011)
8. Yi Yi: A One and a Two (Edward Yang, 2000)
Sigh. On these go to my list of movies to see.
7. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
One of Malick’s very best, along with Days of Heaven (1978).
6. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
A good film, if a tad over-rated.
5. Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)
I like Linklater’s films. But have not seen this. Was dissuaded by some interesting criticism.
4. Spirited Away (Hayao Miyazaki, 2001)
One of the three greatest animated films of our time, along with Ratatouille (previously listed) and the unlisted The Triplets of Belleville (2003).
3. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
I have the disc. Have not yet seen it, in part because a friend of mine excoriated against the film at length. But I think he has a problem with Paul Thomas Anderson films in general. In my opinion, based on what I have seen so far, Anderson has not yet surpassed his 1999 wonder, Magnolia.
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-wai, 2000)
Oops. Another I have missed. It goes on my list of movies to see.
1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
Yes. This probably belongs here in the No. 1 spot, to the annoyance of most of my friends and neighbors.
Christopher Nolan’s best film from this period is The Prestige (2006). The Coen brothers’ best film is The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001), but the previous year’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? also deserves placement on the list. The same year’s Lonergan effort, You Can Count on Me, would be on my list, as would the next year’s Donnie Darko and Ghost World. Fat Girl might also deserve mention, but it left a bad taste in my mouth. At the risk of being dismissed as a lowbrow, I also submit that Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings movies deserve to be on this list — though certainly not his Hobbit movies. Recent films like Gravity and Interstellar would probably go up on my list, too. My favorite Lars von Trier film is from 2000: Dancer in the Dark. It would be the musical I would put in place of Moulin Rouge!
And what to do with Altman’s clever and memorable Gosford Park (2001)? Downfall and Million Dollar Baby, from 2004? Clint Eastwood made a number of fine films, but Gran Tourino (2008) is surely my favorite. While The Passion of the Christ (2004) lacked something in the theology department — and mainly qualified as a grisly gorefest of Catholic obsession — the same director’s Apocalypto, two years later, mined some of the same themes to spectacular effect. Gran Tourino and Apocalypto would definitely both go on my Top 102!
These are all fiction movies, of course. The great documentaries of our time are even more clearly constitutive of a Golden Age . . . of Non-Fiction Film, of course.