Monday, January 18, 2010

Hidden Horrors and Assured Ambiguity

by Brandon Colvin

Michael Haneke’s cinema is one of elision and obfuscation. From The Seventh Continent (1989) to Caché (2005), the Austrian auteur’s oeuvre hinges, formally and narratively, upon withheld information: off-screen occurrences, inscrutable interiorities, fragmented framings, cryptic (in)conclusions. Haneke has frequently remarked that his style – owing much to work of Bresson and Tarkovsky – is intended to activate the viewer, to burden her with interpretive responsibility, thereby inciting creative participation. Crucial gaps are left unfilled. Cracks are allowed to widen, opening up the narrative. Cinematic space and time are made malleable in their uncertainty – a result of ambiguous implication and deliberate deception. Haneke’s newest film, The White Ribbon, a beautifully crafted, black-and-white, Palm d’Or-winning period piece, is a continuation of the director’s interest in oblique storytelling and is as visually/aurally precise, emotionally intriguing, and interpretively demanding as his best films, presenting the viewer with a moral and epistemological puzzle of devastating intensity.

Set in a provincial north-German village of Eichwald during the months preceding the onset of World War I, The White Ribbon details the mysterious and violent deterioration of a community terrorized by what might be best described as the wrath of oppression. Narrated as the dubiously remembered experiences of a young schoolteacher (Christian Friedel), the film is populated with despicably self-righteous, callous control mongers and their justifiably reactionary victims – not the least of which are their own psychologically and physically abused children, whose collective sense of justice has been disturbingly deranged. Whether suffering the totalitarian indulgences of the local pastor (Burghart Klaußner), the resident baron (Ulrich Tukur), or the town doctor (Rainer Bock), the villagers are subject to constant exploitation, a circumstance that grows even more horrifying once a series of brutal, seemingly connected, incidents befalls the community, culminating, suggestively, just as the news of Archduke Ferdinand’s infamous assassination reaches Eichwald. In trademark fashion, Haneke leaves the viewer with many more questions than answers regarding the various mutilations, deaths and defilements that arrive in bursts of agonized ferocity throughout The White Ribbon. Though clues abound, the culprit(s) are never specified. Motivations are never made explicit. Events are frequently left unresolved. The heart of the matter is tactfully skated around, preserving its dark complexity while providing an ominous outline for the viewer to fill in.

Of course, Haneke is not alone in creating his note-for-note, pitch-perfect symphony of cruelty. The ensemble cast never misses a beat, maintaining a consistently subtle performance style throughout – never showy, always measured – imparting an appropriate sense of communal as well as individual existence to the characters by limiting the ability of a handful to charismatically dominate the narrative. As a result, the story is effectively forged as the confluence of a multitude of fragmented perspectives (regardless of the fact that the entire film is ostensibly the memory of the schoolteacher). Most impressive are the many child actors in The White Ribbon, all of whom handle Haneke’s emotionally challenging material with startling maturity and heartbreaking depth; Haneke and his casting directors (Simone Bär, Carmen Loley, Markus Schleinzer) certainly deserve recognition for the remarkable acquisition of such capable adolescent performers, young actors who certainly make the film come alive.

The most lauded of Haneke’s collaborators on The White Ribbon – and definitely on par with the uniformly excellent cast – are production designer Christoph Kanter and cinematographer Christian Berger, both of whom contribute to the film’s impeccable visuals. Though Haneke creates shot-by-shot storyboards for all of his films, determining the vast majority of their appearance before ever using a bit of celluloid, the deft execution of his plans by Kanter and Berger (aided by certain digital effects) is masterful.

Intricate and impressive, Kanter’s work convincingly captures the film’s 1914 atmosphere without flashily emphasizing period detail, allowing the characters to exist in a lived-in environment, one that appears as if the filmmakers had somehow stumbled upon a hermetically isolated, unchanged locale, existing on a mythic plane of parable and preserved past. Berger’s efforts in actualizing Haneke’s compositions and photographing Kanter’s production design are perhaps the best in any film this year, replete with carefully obscured framings, fluid movements, and gorgeous lighting. Two of Berger’s shots have haunted me for months: the first, a stationary composition, depicts a peasant farmer viewing the corpse of his deceased wife, partially concealed by a foreground wall and held in an aura of light defused by a hanging curtain; the second, a complex steadicam shot that gracefully reveals the nature of the same peasant farmer’s shocking demise before gliding away to find his tragically unaware son nearby. Both shots are precisely lit and paced and both pack an indelible emotional wallop achieved through understatement and implication – two of Haneke’s most effective narrative tools.

Just as astonishing as The White Ribbon’s visuals, however, is its sound design, crafted by Haneke along with sound editor Vincent Guillon and Haneke’s frequent sound mixer Guillaume Sciama. As in many of his previous works, Haneke is prone to keeping many moments off-screen, seducing the viewer’s imagination and allowing representational ambiguity to flourish as a series of sonic intimations replaces visual certainty. With this narrative mode in place, Guillon and Sciama’s contributions become absolutely critical to the success of numerous scenes, providing an evocative soundtrack that intersects and complicates visual information rather than merely accompanying it. The film’s aural environment expands the narrative beyond the frame, initiating a dual perception of the seen and heard, each informing the other in striking ways. A painful scene depicting the pastor’s abuse of his young children exemplifies this technique. The camera lingers outside the room where the lashings occur, yet the sounds of the beatings make the remote spatial area as palpable as the pictured hall, doubling the simultaneous space of the scene and sparking an imaginative curiosity in the viewer, imploring her to mentally construct the unseen, yet heard, components of The White Ribbon’s cinematic world, those lying beyond the frame’s edge. Haneke’s stated aims of activating the viewer are fulfilled in such instances of audio-vision, encouraging cooperate creativity from the viewer in completing his narratives while demonstrating absolute technical virtuosity.

Indeed, from script to acting to image to sound, The White Ribbon is a masterpiece, one that recalls the sober works of classic art film directors from Bresson and Tarkovsky to Bergman and Dreyer. Refreshingly, Haneke has made a serious film with serious intentions. No winking. No self-reflexive evasion. No postmodern playfulness. The White Ribbon is as unflinching, sophisticated, gripping piece of cinema – revealing not only a trust in the active viewer, but also a confidence in the ability of a film to be successfully crafted in complete earnest. Some have criticized Haneke as being too “didactic” as a result of his undiluted solemnity but The White Ribbon’s sincerity and gravity strike me as indications of a filmmaker with sustained conviction and moral purpose – traits absent from far too many modern movies. Here’s hoping Haneke never loses his severity; if he does, we will lose something even more devastating: one of cinema’s greatest artists.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Out 1 Film Journal's Best Movies of the 2000s

I'm sure you've all seen Best of the Decade lists, and, yes, this is another one adding to the many you've seen online and elsewhere. We tried to spice things up in a couple of ways. One, by including a wide range of writers who are friends, acquaintances, and all-around excellent critics. Two, by asking each of the writers to submit 13 movies rather than 10. This allows everyone to fit in a couple more titles in impossible difficult to make lists and goes along with a riff in Jacques Rivette;s Out 1 - revolving around Balzac's History of the Thirteen. So, using thirteen lists from thirteen writers submitting their thirteen best movies of the decade, I submit you to the following results! The only stipulation was that each movie in the top 13 had to be included on at least two lists and it wouldn't have mattered points wise regardless. Each individual list contributed can be seen after the break. A special thanks to each contributor!

1. Dogville (Lars Von Trier, Denmark/Sweden/Norway/Finland/U.K./France/Germany/The Netherlands, 2003)

2. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, USA/Poland/France, 2006)

3. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai, Hong Kong, 2000)

4. The New World (Terrence Malick, USA, 2005)

5. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand/France/Italy/Germany, 2005)

6. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA, 2002)

7. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, USA/France, 2001)

8. Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, Hungary, 2000)

9. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)

10. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA, 2007)

11. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/The Netherlands, 2007)

12. Zodiac (David Fincher, USA, 2007)

13. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina/France/Italy/Spain, 2008)

Directors of the Decade
1. Michael Haneke
2. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
3. Lucrecia Martel
4. Paul Thomas Anderson
5. David Lynch

Performances of the Decade
1. Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE
2. Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood
3. Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher
4. Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
5. Tilda Swinton, Julia

Individual Lists

James Hansen

1. Mulholland Drive/INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2001/2006)
2. Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003)
3. Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, 2000)
4. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2007)

5. Southland Tales (Richard Kelly, 2007)
6. Light Is Waiting (Michael Robinson)
7. When It Was Blue (Jennifer Reeves, 2008)
8. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2008)
9. Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
10. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
11. Two Minutes To Zero Trilogy (Lewis Klahr, 2003-4)
12. Colossal Youth (Pedro Costa, 2006)
13. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)

1. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2. Lucrecia Martel
3. David (Cronenberg/Gatten/Lynch)
4. Lewis Klahr
5. Michael Robinson

1. Naomi Watts, Mulholland Drive
2. Laura Dern, Inland Empire
3. Maggie Cheung, In The Mood For Love
4. Charlotte Gainsbourg, Antichrist
5. Olivier Gourmet, The Son

Brandon Colvin

1. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2006)
2. Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2008)
3. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2005)
4. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2008)
5. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
6. Punch-Drunk Love (PT Anderson, 2002)
7. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
8. Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
9. Adaptation. (Spike Jonze, 2001)
10. I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004)
11. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
12. Gerry (Gus Van Sant, 2002)
13. Into Great Silence (Philip Gröning, 2005)

1. David Lynch
2. Gus Van Sant
3. Michael Haneke
4. Paul Thomas Anderson
5. Steven Soderbergh

1. Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE
2. Casey Affleck, The Assassination of Jesse James By the Coward Robert Ford
3. Nicolas Cage, Adaptation.
4. Nicolas Cage, Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
5. Steve Carrell, The 40-Year-Old Virgin

Chuck Williamson

1. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
2. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2000)
3. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
4. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2006)
5. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2004)
6. Goodbye, Dragon Inn (Tsai Ming-liang, 2003)
7. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
8. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
9. The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)
10. Friday Night (Claire Denis, 2002)
11. The Virgin Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors (Hong Sang-soo, 2000)
12. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2008)
13. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)

1. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2. Michael Haneke
3. Lucretia Martel
4. Tsai Ming-liang
5. Claire Denis

1. Laura Dern, Inland Empire
2. Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher
3. Daniel Day Lewis, There Will Be Blood
4. Christian Bale, American Psycho
5. Thora Birch, Ghost World

Joseph Bowman

1. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
2. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodóvar, 2002)
3. Morvern Callar (Lynne Ramsay, 2002)
4. Black Book (Paul Verhoeven, 2007)
5. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel, 2008)
6. Yi yi (Edward Yang, 2000)
7. The Piano Teacher (Michael Haneke, 2001)
8. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005)
9. Late Marriage (Dover Koshashvili, 2001)
10. Wild Side (Sébastien Lifshitz, 2004)
11. Songs from the Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)
12. The Intruder (Claire Denis, 2004)
13. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas, 2008)

1. Olivier Assayas
2. Lucrecia Martel
3. Michael Haneke
4. Claire Denis
5. Gus Van Sant

1. Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher
2. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
3. Tilda Swinton, Julia
4. Laura Dern, Inland Empire
5. Ryan Gosling, Half Nelson

Tony Dayoub

25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin, 2008)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Spike Jonze, 2004)
I ♥ Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004)
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)
Miami Vice (Michael Mann, 2006)
The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
There Will Be Blood (PT Anderson, 2007)
The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke, 2009)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)

-Paul Thomas Anderson (Punch-Drunk Love, There Will Be Blood) for allowing the madmen—actors—to run the asylum.
-Charlie Kaufman (Synecdoche, New York) for being an auteur before he was a director.
-Michael Mann (Ali, Collateral, Miami Vice, Public Enemies) for mastering the digital camera as he ventures further into "pure" cinema.
-Julian Schnabel (Before Night Falls, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Lou Reed's Berlin) for following his muse, and making lyricism a priority in cinema.
-Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich, Traffic, the Ocean's Eleven series, Full Frontal, Solaris, Eros (segment: "Equilibrium"), Bubble, The Good German, Che, The Girlfriend Experience, The Informant!) for his overwhelming output, consistent in both quality and innovation.

Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
Benicio Del Toro, Che
Laura Dern, Inland Empire
Mélanie Laurent, Inglourious Basterds
Meryl Streep, Doubt

Jeremy Heilman

1. Punch-Drunk Love (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002)
2. Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, 2000)
3. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
4. Dogville (Lars von Trier, 2003)
5. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
6. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2004)
7. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
8. Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)
9. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)
10. Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
11. Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
12. Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
13. Hunger (Steve McQueen, 2008)

1. Paul Thomas Anderson
2. Quentin Tarantino
3. David Cronenberg
4. Lars von Trier
5. Richard Linklater

1. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood
2. Nicole Kidman, Dogville
3. Naomi Watts, Mulholland Dr.
4. Meryl Streep, The Devil Wears Prada
5. Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher

Nathan Lee

1 My Hand Outstretched to the Winged Distance and Sightless Measure (Robert Beavers, 1967-2002)
2 Mulholland Drive/INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2001/2006)
3 In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
4 Russian Ark (Aleksandr Sokurov, 2002)
5 Spider (David Cronenberg, 2002)
6 Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005)
7 Before Sunset (Richard Linklater, 2004)
8 In Praise of Love (Jean Luc Godard, 2001)
9 Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
10 Donnie Darko (Richard Kelly, 2001)
11 The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
12 L'intrus (Claire Denis, 2004)
13 Pootie Tang (Louis CK, 2001)

VJ Morton

Capturing The Friedmans (Andrew Jarecki, 2003)
L’enfant (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2005)
Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003)
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (Cristian Mungui, 2007)
Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)
Memento (Christopher Nolan, 2000)
La Pianiste (Michael Haneke, 2001)
Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, 2008)
Songs From The Second Floor (Roy Andersson, 2000)
Time Out (Laurent Cantet, 2001)

Jeremy Richey

1. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003)
2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
3. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
4. I Heart Huckabees (David O. Russell, 2004)
5. Sex and Lucia (Julio Medem, 2001)
6. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
7. Punch Drunk Love (PT Anderson, 2002)
8.21 Grams (Alejandro González Iñárritu, 2003)
9. Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004)
10. Vicki Cristina Barcelona (Woody Allen, 2008)
11. Amelie (Jean Pierre Jeunet, 2001)
12. Auto Focus (Paul Schraeder, 2002)
13. Talk To Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)

Nathaniel Rogers

1. Moulin Rouge! (Baz Luhrmann, 2001)
2. Dancer in the Dark (Lars Von Trier, 2000)
3. Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee, 2005)
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
5. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
6. In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)
7. Talk to Her (Pedro Almodovar, 2002)
8. Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008)
9. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000)
10. A History of Violence (David Cronenberg, 2005)
11. Requiem for a Dream (Darren Aronofsky, 2000)
12. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
13. Lord of the Rings (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)

Jacob Shoaf

1. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
2. No Country for Old Men (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2007)
3. Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
4. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
5. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuaron, 2006)
6. Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003)
7. Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt, 2008)
8. Caché (Michael Haneke, 2005)
9. Werckmeister Harmonies (Bela Tarr, 2000)
10. There Will Be Blood (PT Anderson, 2007)
11. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
12. Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003)
13. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar Wai, 2000)

1. Michael Haneke
2. Guy Maddin
3. Gus Van Sant
4. Carlos Reygadas
5. Lars Von Trier

1. Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE
2. Sean Penn, Milk
3. Michelle Williams, Wendy and Lucy
4. Audrey Tautou, Amelie
5. Michael Fassbender, Hunger

Michael Sicinski

( ) (Morgan Fisher, U.S., 2003)
Bamako (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mali / U.S. / France, 2006)
The Brown Bunny (Vincent Gallo, U.S., 2003)
Dogville (Lars von Trier, Demark / Sweden / Norway / Finland / U.K. / France / Germany / The Netherlands, 2003)
The Heart of the World (Guy Maddin, Canada, 2000)
Irreversible (Gaspar Noé, France, 2002)
Phantoms of Nabua (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand / Germany, 2009)
Regular Lovers (Philippe Garrel, France, 2005)
St. Ignatius Church Exposure: Lenten Light Conversions (Lynn Marie Kirby, U.S., 2004)
Still Life (Jia Zhangke, China / Hong Kong, 2006)
Werckmeister Harmonies (Béla Tarr, Hungary, 2000)
What the Water Said, Nos. 4-6 (David Gatten, U.S., 2007)
When It Was Blue (Jennifer Reeves, U.S. / Iceland, 2008)

Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Pedro Costa
Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Claire Denis
Nathaniel Dorsky

Olivier Gourmet, The Son
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Samantha Morton, Morvern Callar
Issey Ogata, The Sun
Summer Phoenix, Esther Kahn

Blake Williams

1. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch, 2006)
2. Syndromes and a Century (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2007)
3. Punch-Drunk Love (PT Anderson, 2002)
4. RR (James Benning, 2008)
5. Melancholia (Lav Diaz, 2008)
6. In the City of Sylvia (Jose Luis Guerin, 2007)
7. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, 2005)
8. La Ciénaga (Lucrecia Martel, 2001)
9. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
10. The Gleaners & I (Agnes Varda, 2000)
11. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
12. Code Unknown (Michael Haneke, 2000)
13. Dogville (Lars Von Trier, 2003)

1. Apichatpong Weerasethakul
2. Michael Haneke
3. James Benning
4. Lucrecia Martel
5. David Lynch

1. Laura Dern, INLAND EMPIRE
2. Tilda Swinton, Julia
3. Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher
4. Eva Löbau, The Forest for the Trees
5. Juliette Binoche, Code Unknown
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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Best Movies of 2009

As is the custom at the end of every year, we take a final look back at the year of movies in 2009. Of course, many of the best movies "made" in 2009 actually premiered at various places in 2008, which puts the time they were "made" somewhere around 2007. Semantics are always a part of these lists for what qualifies and what doesn't. Do festival screenings count? Does it need a domestic release or is it based on world premieres? Who knows. I kept a couple of my personal favorites I saw in 2009 (Ne Change Rien, Trash Humpers, DDR/DDR) since they were only seen at festivals. Alas, I included a set of films that were shown online and festivals only, and another that was associated with a festival, but screened elsewhere "publicly" during the festival. Just as we make it clear, it becomes muddy again.

So what do we know? Well, if these lists are any indication, there were plenty of good movies to be seen in 2009. Although it may have been a down year for Hollywood and American cinema, there was plenty to celebrate, denigrate, and shrug off. It was another year. And here is another set of lists.

(And stay tuned! Tomorrow, Out 1 will unveil the top 10 movies of the 2000s, as determined by 13 co-conspirators who have included their individual lists as part of Out 1's collective lists. Both collective and individual lists will be published tomorrow. Get excited.)

James Hansen

1. Primitive project (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
2. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
3. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
4. Police, Adjective (Corneliu Porumboiu)
5. Let Each One Go Where He May (Ben Russell)
6. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch)
7. Hunger (Steve McQueen)
8. Birdsong (Albert Serra)
9. Antichrist (Lars Von Trier)
10. Jennifer (Stewart Copeland)

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical)
35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis); Adventureland (Greg Mottola); Afterschool (Antonio Campos); Beeswax (Andrew Bujalski); Crank High Voltage (Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor); Fantastic Mr. Fox (Wes Anderson); Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso); Jerichow (Christian Petzold); A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen); Sutro (Jeanne Liotta)

Best Performances
Female: Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist) & Maria Onetto (The Headless Woman) (tie)
Male: Michael Fassbender (Hunger)

The Hurt Locker - It’s a good movie, but, I mean, Jesus.

Crank High Voltage - Aesthetically radical (in a good way) and a total blast.

Brandon Colvin

1. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
2. The Limits of Control (Jim Jarmusch)
3. Adventureland (Greg Mottola)
4. Hunger (Steve McQueen)
5. Loren Cass (Chris Fuller)
6. We Were Once a Fairytale (Spike Jonze)
7. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
8. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
9. Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog)
10. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical)
I Love You, Man (John Hamburg); Plastic Bag (Ramin Bahrani); Star Trek (J.J. Abrams); A Serious Man (Joel & Ethan Coen); Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Best Performances
Nicolas Cage (Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans) & Kanye West (We Were Once A Fairytale)

Up in the Air (Jason Reitman) & Avatar (James Cameron)

Watchmen (Zack Snyder) & Three Monkeys (Nuri Bilge Ceylan)

Chuck Williamson

1. The Headless Woman (Lucrecia Martel)
2. Still Walking (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
3. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
4. The White Ribbon (Michael Haneke)
5. A Serious Man (Joel and Ethan Coen)
6. Antichrist (Lars von Trier)
7. In The Loop (Armando Iannuci)
8. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
9. You, The Living (Roy Andersson)
10. Afterschool (Antonio Campos)

Honorable Mentions (alphabetical)
35 Shots of Rum (Claire Denis); Bright Star (Jane Campion); The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh); The House of the Devil (Ti West); Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino); Hunger (Steve McQueen); Night and Day (Hong Sang-soo)

Best Performances
Male: Souleymane Sy Savane (Goodbye Solo)
Female: Kim Ok-vin (Thirst)

Avatar (James Cameron) & Love Exposure (Sion Sono)

A Town Called Panic (Stephane Aubier & Vincent Patar)
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Monday, January 11, 2010

A Travail of Passion

by James Hansen

It might sound like an extended YouTube video gone array, but Zachary Oberzan’s Flooding With Love for the Kid – a feature length remake of First Blood shot inside a 220 square foot New York City apartment with a budget of $96 in which Oberzan plays every role – is more a (slightly schizophrenic) treatise on the illusions of film production and the (delusional?) wish fulfillment inherent in home video production. Oberzan pushes past his imposed conceptual parameters (including blatant artificiality where stuffed animals serve as forest creatures, Oberzan plays a pack of dogs, and a toaster stands in for a radio) to on full display his incredible passion for the project which propels its surprising effectiveness.

Flooding With Love for the Kid isn’t some narcissistic experiment made by Oberzan in hopes of 15-minutes of cult status. It’s an enthralling video precisely because of the intense emotion and love for the story, characters, and cinema that floods every image of its 107 minute running time. Amidst an emotionally devoid Hollywood prestige picture season, Flooding With Love for the Kid is a challenging, yet therapeutic reminder of what movies are, why they should be made in the first place, and what it actually takes to make them work.

An opening title card labels the movie as a “one man war” and, although the story of Rambo is a one man war by its own right, Oberzan’s singular war becomes more impactful. Closely following David Morrell’s novel, most importantly the bleak, impactful conclusion, Flooding With Love for the Kid serves as a metaphoric Rambo with cinematic production, just as the narrative of John Rambo follows suit with war. Without outside influence, Oberzan single-handedly fights the mores of the Hollywood action genre, spectatorial expectations, and artistic capability in a dire economic situation. A war is raging, but who and what does it take to keep fighting?

Oberzan plays the literal Rambo as his video situates itself as the figurative. A Rambo looking to the past for reference, but wildly fighting for some kind of [artistic] freedom and a fresh start. Flooding With Love for the Kid may not send shockwaves through the typically unsubstantive, non-sensical Hollywood action genre – elements the video mirrors for purpose of confrontation – but Oberzan’s video has the answers for what it takes to win a Rambo-esque war against an unflappable foe. It’s all in his title.

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