December 2009 Archives

The Top 10

Memento1. Memento
2. Pan’s Labyrinth
3. Requiem for a Dream
4. Oldboy
5. The Royal Tenenbaums
6. No Country for Old Men
7. The Mothman Prophecies
8. Mulholland Drive
9. Donnie Darko (original theatrical version)
10. The Descent (international version)

The PrestigeChristopher Nolan directed five movies released this decade; two of them are nearly perfect, one of them has unparalleled rigor for a superhero movie, and the other one has Heath Ledger’s Joker casting an enormous shadow over (and therefore obscuring) its many flaws. The unnecessary remake of Insomnia was the necessary bridge between Memento and Batman Begins — from independent to studio work — but beyond it Nolan has made nothing but winners.

To be clear, I don’t believe Nolan is a great filmmaker, and I’m skeptical he’ll ever equal any of these four movies, even though he hasn’t yet turned 40.

Sunset RubdownThe goal: Make an album from favorite songs released in 2009, with special attention paid to the arc and to the relationships between songs.

The rules: one song per performer; artists featured in the previous three years of this project are excluded.

The caveats: I listen to a lot of music, and I estimate this list is culled from roughly a thousand songs from the past year. But I don’t hear everything, and my listening is constrained by both taste and work. These are merely favorites.

The results: I had a much easier time selecting and sequencing in past years; the order here is more random than I would like, and it feels like it’s missing some connective tissue. But these 16 tracks (totaling just more than an hour) do follow a path. This album puts up a defiant front before revealing its heart, and then it falls into a dark and cold place for much of its second half before recovering a little at the end. A line in the final song is “I believe in growing old with grace,” and I think that can be seen as a loose theme running through this collection.

Pick Best Picture


As of December 23, The Gurus o' Gold pick these 10 movies as their Best Picture nominees. Which will win?

Voting is now closed for this poll, but here are the results:

Total votes: 13


Saddened but not surprised by the death of Vic Chesnutt. Here’s an interview I did with him earlier this year: Link

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There might be no greater joy than listening to one’s mother read ‘Walter the Farting Dog’ to one’s not-quite-two-year-old child

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Now *this* is seriously reflexive: Link

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What Is Mainstream?

mainstream.jpgA throw-away bit of connective tissue struck me in Jim Emerson’s announcement of his and MSN’s movies of the decade:

“That’s a pretty mainstream list (hey, it’s for MSN) — and so is mine.”

“Not really,” I thought. Unsurprising? Yes. Dominated by English-language films? Yes. But mainstream?

This is, of course, a matter of definition.

new-moon.jpgThe Box Office Power Rankings do not like the Twilight movies. We are not fooled by the excitement or ticket-buying power of teenage girls. We are on Team No One. (Did I do that right?)

Neither movie has ever finished better than third place in the Box Office Power Rankings. We are confident that this validates our methods.

The first movie in the series was hammered by stiff competition. With a Rotten Tomatoes score of 44, it was 10th in the top 10 its opening weekend. To put that in context, New Moon’s 28 netted it a seventh-place finish in the Rotten Tomatoes criterion its first weekend. (Thank you, Couples Retreat, The Fourth Kind, and Planet 51.)

But the reality is that neither of these movies, given Thanksgiving release, is ever really in the Box Office Power Rankings conversation, even though they’re mostly avoiding the end-of-year Oscar bait. They might be ATMs for the studio, but without even better-than-mediocre reviews, they’re DOA in this neighborhood.

And that means there’s lots of room for movies that are more ... colorful. These five weeks of rankings feature wins by Precious (twice), The Blind Side (twice), and The Princess and the Frog, and a second-place debut by Invictus.

Continue reading for the full rankings and methodology.

With the broad rubbing hornily against the observant, the clear-eyed ‘Adventureland’ views an awkward age with fondness and well-aged shame.

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It’s messy and too telegraphed, but ‘Thirst’ employs vampirism probingly, is anchored by two great performances, and is disgustingly funny.

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eyes-wide-shut.jpgThe One-Line Review’s Iain Stott has followed up his The 50 Greatest Films project with Beyond the Canon, meant to address complaints that the first survey was too canonical.

The top five:

  1. Eyes Wide Shut;
  2. Mulholland Dr.;
  3. The Killing;
  4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind;
  5. Shadow of a Doubt.

The list is here. A different list, weighted for obscurity, is here.

The introduction and methodology are here. The list of 155 participants is here. My ballot is here.

It’s great fun to see which movies I was alone on (Clockers, Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, Incident at Loch Ness, and Trees Lounge, among others), and those on which I had unexpected company. Iain has done a tremendous job coordinating the project, compiling the results, and building the site so that everything is cross-referenced.