zedz wrote:Having compiled the lists for one cycle, I'm pleased to report that just about every list submitted is endearingly eccentric.* The more lists are submitted, the more the final list ends up reflecting The Movies Everybody Has Seen rather than The Movies We're Really Passionate About. That's the nature of these kinds of exercises, but it also makes the aggregate list in a way peculiarly unrepresentative of the individual lists and passions that generated it, so I'm happy that the finished lists don't take on any kind of monolithic 'representative' presence and continue to be bare stages for discussions of what has been left out this time around.
I completely agree; I love looking at lists of different people's favorite films, as although there are people whose taste is apparently in lock-step with the Sight & Sound canon or whatever, most of them are quite eccentric and deeply personal, with at least a few films in there that are either obscure or critically-maligned but which the list-maker holds dearly. I dislike the tendency to try to be "objective," to be more in lock-step with that canon, and thus to not rank some of one's favorite films as highly just because no one else seems to hold the same passion for them. What's the point -- and the fun -- of that?
I didn't submit a list this time, and I have been far too busy to watch many movies as of late, as well, but the following would be my most cherished twelve films of the 90s, the cream of the crop, the ones which speak to me on some level that goes past enjoyment and into passion and importance:
1. Eyes Wide Shut
(1999, Kubrick): The most haunting and, well, greatest film I have ever seen. If I were to elaborate, I'd just never stop typing, so deep is my love for this one.
2. Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me
(1992, Lynch): Incomparably visceral and emotionally devastating. After a long period of indifference, I have recently realized this is Lynch's masterpiece. It is one of the most fearless works of art I know, an intentionally "messy" and excessive trek through some of the darkest path one could ever imagine. This kind of film needed some sort of redemptive conclusion, but it still amazes me just how incredibly well-earned and tear-inducing the one Lynch dreamed up is.
3. Bad Lieutenant
(1992, Ferrara): An astonishing combination of highly controlled formalism and raw NYC neo-realism, this epitomizes all that is great and affecting about Ferrara. Keitel's howls of anguish and guilt and pain will always stay with me, as will many other things from this film, namely the miraculous final shot (a kind of lo-fi remake of Antonioni's The Passenger, perhaps).
(1995, Mann): Mann at his most unabashedly Romantic conjures poetry out of prose in transforming this ostensibly old-hat tale into a movingly elegaic fugue that looks and moves and feels like no other comparable film of recent years. Because Mann truly is one of the most Romanticist filmmakers of his generation; even when his films appear pessimistic or cynical, there is always the shimmering beauty of the skyline or the saintly clean surfaces of modernist architecture, or the creased, pock-marked landscape of the human face, all equally mysterious and glorious, to look at in awe and enchantment. His cinema offers a way of seeing, not a way of storytelling, and Heat is always most compelling on a purely sensory level.
5. New Rose Hotel
(1998, Ferrara): More a world unto itself than a story, this fascinatingly hermetic chamber-piece has the poignancy of a long-lost memory that's too painful to fully confront -- more comfortable, instead, to retreat into an opiated world of red neon and cheap pleasures, fantasizing and despairing for what could have been. A formally seductive and totally one-of-a-kind film, not quite like anything else I know.
6. Three Colors: Red
(1994, Kieslowski): Besides the sense of humanism that makes me want to embrace life to the fullest every time it ends, the film has a certain mystery to it, a wonder at the endless possibilities of the world, which is beautiful. A very rich and complex film pretending to be a small and simple one.
7. Carlito's Way
(1993, De Palma): Cahiers were correct; this is not just an outstanding genre film but an outstanding film of any kind. Never before or after was De Palma so nakedly moving, and never before or after has Pacino produced such an eminently likeable, passionate and fascinating character and performance (yes, I stand by that). Carlito has soul, and this is what makes the fatalistic gangster-noir aspect of the film so very affecting. And of course on a formal level the film is astonishing, matching its protagonist's personality with an incredibly lush and human camera-eye that helps make this easily De Palma's greatest work.
8. Short Cuts
(1993, Altman): It says a lot about how much I love and am absorbed by this film that the first time I watched it, I watched it two or three more times in the following week. There's something so effortless about what Altman does here, how easily he keeps my eyes glued to the screen, how vividly these people come to life. It's a cliche, but it really feels like watching "real life," at least far more than any film of its kind. In contrast to the bombastic show-off Magnolia, Altman bathes his film in lifelike ambiguity, and it becomes all the more haunting because of it. I wish there were three more hours of this, these characters, these lives. It's addictive and almost interactive in the way it asks the viewer to participate more than passively view.
(1991, Mamet): Mamet's delirious, staccato dialogue rhythms and an initial surface of cop-movie familiars mask the mournful dirge of a film that lies underneath; an emotionally charged, pitch-black masterpiece about the con that is the longing to belong to a group. One of the great films about identity, with an incomparably devastating ending.
10. The Addiction
(1995, Ferrara): Ferrara and St. John's cinema truly is one of ideas, in the purest sense, one of dialectical protest and spiritual searching. This film is perhaps the apotheosis of their unique, cerebral-yet-visceral sensibility. Restlessly probing, aesthetically anxious, it melds high and low culture, ecstasy and exploitation (because all art is exploitation anyway), and the result is twice as profound as all of Bela Tarr's films combined. This incredibly rich work is many things, one of them being a bracingly stark statement about evil and our complicity in it. It's also just as powerful a depiction of heroin addiction as was Bad Lieutenant; few other filmmakers "get" this subject the way Ferrara does -- the all-consuming, excessive, self-destructive gore of it.
11. The Thin Red Line
(1998, Malick): An amazing experience seen on 35mm in a large theater, the sound exploding all around you. And experience is the key word, as I always leave this film feeling like I've lived a thousand different lifetimes in the preceding three hours. Yes, the use of voiceover is flawed and the first crack in the Malick facade, but nowhere else has Malick's man vs. nature dichotomy been more effectively deployed. And there has simply never been another war film as graceful and enchanting as this one.
12. Lost Highway
(1997, Lynch): I prefer to see this as pure dreaming, a modernist nightmare that calms itself into a teenage wish-fulfillment fantasy which then implodes into extra-dimensional noir. In other words, it's unclassifiable. It's also proof that Lynch is capable of some of the most gorgeous filmmaking of all -- Getty and Arquette's final love scene in the sand, lit by blindingly white light and scored to the hymn-like gossamer of Liz Fraser's voice, easily rivals Don't Look Now in the transcendent-sex-scene pantheon.