The best of not-2010

I blogged less than usual in 2010, due to a couple of factors. One, I work a lot (and just a few days ago got a “you’re gonna be putting in some hours, it’s true” pep talk from the boss, so that’s not likely to change anytime soon). Two, there’s that pesky other site that’s been taking up a chunk of my writing time. But I’ve been looking forward to writing this particular post for awhile. These are the ten best films I saw last year, that weren’t made last year. (You can see my 2010 top ten list at the aforementioned pesky site. And you can see my 2009 and 2008 best-of-not lists here and here.)

10. Caché (2005)

I made a big mistake watching this film by myself, because afterward I was desperate to discuss it with someone. I ended up listening to an episode of A Damn Movie Podcast where they talked about this movie, then emailing them with my thoughts, which they read on an episode a few weeks later. Not the most efficient way to satisfy a desire to talk about something, but fun! Anyway, in Michael Haneke’s unpredictable, puzzling thriller, a couple (Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil) is sent videotapes of themselves in situations where seemingly no one could have been there to record them. It gets crazier from there. Haneke can go either way for me, but this one is a great film.

9. Schizopolis (1996)

Ok, trying to really explain what goes on in this film would be nuts. It involves a man named Fletcher Munson (played by writer/director Steven Soderbergh, who is quite a good actor), who works in an office so fraught with rumor and ridiculousness that it makes the one in Office Space look like paradise. Fletcher’s minimal adventures, and those of the people in his general circle, are pretty much a means to an end to skewer various conventions of film and life, in hilarious and often thought-provoking fashion. A film that requires multiple viewings, after the weirdness has settled in.

8. The Jerk (1979)

One day Sara and I were sitting around pretty bored, and we ended up having the best double feature courtesy of Netflix streaming eveeeeerrrrr. What did we watch? Amelie and The Jerk. Sounds pretty bizarre, but it was the best. First, a standby film that never gets old, then one neither of us had ever seen that totally exceeded our expectations. It was one of those great moments when you assume a film has been built up so much that it can never be as good as people say…but then it totally is. I laughed so hard, guys. I laughed so hard. Steve Martin, man. When he’s good, he’s incredible.

7. Blood Simple (1984)

The Coen brothers’ first film tells a seedy crime story with talented, offbeat actors in an unsettling atmosphere. Basically all of the ingredients that would show up in great later films such as Miller’s Crossing or No Country for Old Men, though of course no one can accuse the Coens of being repetitive. It was really interesting to watch this film for the first time being so familiar with nearly all of their films since; they just had it, right from the beginning.

6. Sin Nombre (2009)

Are you the sort of person who likes your movies tense? This is tense. A Honduran family, trying to pass through Mexico on the way to illegally immigrate into the U.S., rides with many others on the roofs of cargo trains. Their journey becomes deeply complicated when members of a Mexican gang rob the train, but the robbery doesn’t quite go as planned. I don’t want to say too much, as the choices the characters make mean everything. Writer/director Cary Fukunaga’s next film is the new adaptation of Jane Eyre, which is much-anticipated by me for many reasons, including his involvement. Tense, I tell you.

5. Departures (2008)

I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a film so genuine and sincere in its emotion as Departures, a wonderful Japanese film about a young man who takes a job preparing dead bodies for funerals. This isn’t at all like the American vision of undertaking. It involves much more beautiful ritual, but also a much greater social stigma. I saw this film at Roger Ebert’s film festival and wrote about it then. If I didn’t convince you to watch it before, let me convince you now.

4. Dirty Harry (1971)

Here’s another one that I’d just not gotten around to seeing and that I thought might be a letdown once I finally did. But honestly, how badass is Harry Callahan? And this is such a patient, interesting movie in ways I did not expect at all from such badassery. I loved it so much I watched Magnum Force the next day, which is obviously not as good, but I will now take all the Harry Callahan I can get. I will be finishing the series shortly.

3. Cléo de 5 à 7 (1962)

I wrote a piece about Agnès Varda’s beautiful French film for my Great Films by Women series (links in the sidebar), so I won’t go into too much about it here. This is one of those films that I couldn’t stop thinking about, to the point that I watched it again just a few weeks later. It will be one I return to a lot, I think.

2. You, the Living (2007)

This highly charming and original Swedish film was another offering from Ebertfest. It was the first film I wrote about for The MacGuffin, so you can check out my review round those parts if you’re so inclined. This is for lovers of quirky, bizarre things, but I think also for people who are not normally lovers of quirky, bizarre things. It’s that lovely within all of its oddity. It’s so rare to see a film that just doesn’t remind you of anything else you’ve ever seen…and this is it.

1. After the Wedding (2006)

This is another one I wrote about for Great Films by Women (sidebar!), and another that I think about very often. It’s just absolutely remarkable in every way, one of those experiences that means for the rest of time if I ever hear that Susanne Bier is involved with a film, I will be interested, no matter what other factors. She is brilliant, this film is brilliant, you will gain brilliance points by giving yourself over to it. Bring your tissues and let go.


4 Responses to “The best of not-2010”

  1. 1 Rebecca January 2, 2011 at 11:25 pm

    I nearly spilled my martini onto my keyboard in my haste to write a comment about how much I love, love, love The Jerk.

    It was the first thing I ever watched on Hulu when it was in beta–having never seen The Jerk in its entirety, it was such a lovely discovery. Plus, how impressive–watching movies on the Internet…and NOT in ten-minute increments on YouTube.

    To this day, it is difficult for me to see a paddle game or a thermos and not chuckle like a crazy hobo.

  2. 2 Carly January 5, 2011 at 12:51 am

    Brandi, this is my favorite “the-year-in-film” list anywhere, because it’s so personal, as these films only come together in the year for you, and I love love love that there’s a mix of original release dates, and the results are subsequently free from any of the current trends or genre-obsessions, and it’s way more interesting to read about why you’ve been watching certain things now, instead of the standard “because it just came out”. I will be insisting you compile this list for me well into our retirement. Also, J and I loved After the Wedding, so thank you for that recommendation. Also, I’m so glad you liked Cleo de 5 a 7; I remember renting it in bk and wishing you were there to watch it with me.

    • 3 Jared January 6, 2011 at 12:48 pm

      Agree 100%. Best year-end list of movies I know of! Thanks for continuing to pad my Netflix queue…

      • 4 Brandi Sperry January 9, 2011 at 9:14 pm

        I’m so glad you guys like this list! It’s way more fun to write than the traditional sort, and I really do think about it all year. Also, Carly, very glad you guys loved After the Wedding.

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Other projects:

Downton Gabby: podcasting about Downton Abbey from a funny, foul-mouthed, feminist perspective

Quick Lit: reading one short story a day in 2015

Grand Dames: collecting sundry achievements of admirable women

The MacGuffin: archive of my days as a film critic

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