02 November 2009

Skandies Decade Recap

For those of you arriving late, here's how it went down—again, with an asterisk to the effect that the results won't be final until February, after voters see this year's remaining films and have a chance to revise their ballots. (At this writing it appears that only Inglourious Basterds and Christoph Waltz have any real shot at placing, but you never know.)

Best Films of the Decade

01. Dogville (2003, Lars von Trier)
02. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry)
03. In the Mood for Love (2000, Wong Kar-wai)
04. Mulholland Dr. (2001, David Lynch)
05. There Will Be Blood (2007, Paul Thomas Anderson)
06. The New World (2005, Terrence Malick)
07. Memento (2000, Christopher Nolan)
08. 25th Hour (2002, Spike Lee)
09. Yi Yi (A One and a Two…) (2000, Edward Yang)
10. No Country for Old Men (2007, Joel Coen & Ethan Coen)
11. Before Sunset (2004, Richard Linklater)
12. Silent Light (2007, Carlos Reygadas)
13. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino)
14. Werckmeister Harmonies (2000, Béla Tarr)
15. Irreversible (2002, Gaspar Noé)
16. Zodiac (2007, David Fincher)
17. Ghost World (2001, Terry Zwigoff)
18. The Man Who Wasn't There (2001, Joel Coen)
19. Trouble Every Day (2001, Claire Denis)
20. Gerry (2003, Gus Van Sant)

Best Performances of the Decade

01. Daniel Day-Lewis, There Will Be Blood (2007)
02. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain (2005)
03. Naomi Watts, Mulholland Dr. (2001)
04. Imelda Staunton, Vera Drake (2004)
05. Isabelle Huppert, The Piano Teacher (2001)
06. Summer Phoenix, Esther Kahn (2000)
07. Björk, Dancer in the Dark (2000)
08. Laura Dern, Inland Empire (2006)
09. Mathieu Amalric, Kings & Queen (2004)
10. Daniel Day-Lewis, Gangs of New York (2002)
11. Heath Ledger, The Dark Knight (2008)
12. Christian Bale, American Psycho (2000)
13. Billy Bob Thornton, The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)
14. Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)
15. Laura Linney, You Can Count on Me (2000)
16. Amy Ryan, Gone Baby Gone (2007)
17. Q'orianka Kilcher, The New World (2005)
18. Julianne Moore, Far From Heaven (2002)
19. Peter Sarsgaard, Shattered Glass (2003)
20. Aurélien Recoing, Time Out (2001)

As ever, the Skandies do reflect to some degree my own taste in movies, if only because I've made an effort to collect at least somewhat like-minded cinephiles. And I must admit that I'm enormously pleased with our choice for the decade's best film, even if it isn't my own personal favorite. (That would be #7.) As it happens, 2000 was the first year in which I started traveling to major film festivals; between Sundance, Cannes and Toronto (plus occasional jaunts to Berlin, Rotterdam and Thessaloniki, and of course NYFF), I saw a goodly percentage of the decade's most significant films at or at least adjacent to their world premiere. And of all those many films, Dogville was the only one that provoked the sort of frenzied, thunderous reaction from the audience that made it seem like an instant classic—the only time I felt like I was experiencing what it must have been like to see the first-ever screening of, say, Apocalypse Now or Last Year at Marienbad. I choose Marienbad—a movie I don't especially like, though I've only seen it once so far—because what I'm talking about transcends personal taste. It's more about knowing you've seen something truly visionary, unprecedented, sui generis. Even Ryan Wu, the most vocal Von Trier skeptic among the August Voting Body (hereafter AVB), had to admit that there was something extraordinary at work, despite his usual reservations. And having also directed what the Skandies deemed the best performance of the '90s ten years ago (Emily Watson, Breaking the Waves, Lars can clearly boast of being the world's greatest film director in these parts without fear of significant contradiction.

Likewise, while I didn't vote for Daniel Day-Lewis myself, I can't complain about his victory—especially since first place in that category was essentially a three-way tie that included Heath Ledger and Naomi Watts. (As noted in the comments, more than 100 points separated Watts from 4th-place finisher Imelda Staunton; precious few points separated 1st from 2nd from 3rd.) They're all indelible performances, and I expect to see all three fare roughly as well in the various other decade surveys that'll surface over the next few months. The rest of the acting results were markedly more idiosyncratic, and not in a D'Angelo Effect kind of way, either—I still think of Summer Phoenix's allegedly deliberately unpolished work as The Esther Con. But none of these 20 turns is what you'd call forgettable, certainly.

Other quick notes and observations:

• Some years are better than others, clearly. Breakdown for the films (by premiere) goes like this:

2000: 4
2001: 4
2002: 2
2003: 3
2004: 2
2005: 1
2006: 0
2007: 4
2008: 0
2009: 0

It's probably just too soon for folks to start thinking of films from the past two years as perennials, but the downturn in 2005 and 2006 was for real. I count only five films from those two years that I consider truly great, and they're decidedly not part of any known consensus: Dave Chappelle's Block Party, Who's Camus Anyway?, The Wayward Cloud, The Prestige, and Time. Others would name different titles, but that's the point: No acknowledged masterworks. Nice save, 2007.

• I'm always concerned—and by "always" I guess I mean "twice so far"—that not dividing the performances by gender will result in a landslide of dudes, simply because male actors still tend to get the bulk of the really juicy roles. But not only did the top 20 split neatly in half in that respect, with ten men and ten women, but the latter made up the bulk of the upper half, even if testosterone ultimately won out this time. (Again, the '90s winner was Emily Watson.) And we—meaning the heavily youngish-male AVB—actually managed to keep our collective libido in check, ignoring smokin' hot previous Skandie Actress winners like Sibel Kekilli and Carice van Houten in favor of the matronly Imelda Staunton and the aging (but, okay, still smokin' hot) Isabelle Huppert, plus Laura Dern and her smeary Laura Dern face (thanks Josh).

• Most surprising result imo: Scorsese, who directed our vote for the best film of the '90s (GoodFellas), gets almost zero support in the aughts, despite having won not only his long-awaited Oscar but also that year's Best Picture Skandie. Just goes to show how pathetic '06 was, I guess.

• Most screwed actor: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who just missed the top 20 due to having votes evenly split between partisans for his work in Mysterious Skin and Brick.

• Of the 45 Skandie "nominees" over 2000–2008 (obviously we don't yet know the five for this year), only three received not a single decade vote: Traffic (remember when people loved that one? no?), Old Joy, and (surprisingly) Syndromes and a Century. (I'm counting Matthew Butcher's nod for Death Proof toward Grindhouse.)

That's about it, I guess. Hope the daily clips were fun—I'll leave 'em up until somebody insists they come down. My thanks to everyone who participated; see you all again very soon for the '09 balloting.

128 comments:

The Hunting of the Snark said...

Great lists. A lot more fun than the agenda-ist group I'm voting with (and far cooler than the imdb consensus picks). Also I plan on watchhing MEMENTO a second time to see what I missed.

Brian said...

Not that I know a lot about the tastes of Skandies voters, but I have to say I'm shocked that any best-films-of-the-decade list by discerning viewers would leave off ROYAL TENENBAUMS. I thought that was pretty much a consensus choice for one of the absolutely towering movies of the 2000s. It's certainly in my own top two or three. Perhaps the Wes Backlash is in effect, but I thought that only applied to AQUATIC and DARJEELING. Ah well.

Anonymous said...

I'd be very interested in checking the Best of '90s results too.

md'a said...

The Royal Tenenbaums only placed 8th back in 2001, and my sense is that its stock has gone down since. (I myself downgraded it from a B to a B- upon a repeat viewing a few years back, and consider The Life Aquatic and Fantastic Mr. Fox the best Wesworks from this decade.)

Jake M. said...

Have you wrote anything on Dogville m'da? I can't locate anything on the main site, but I'd be interested in reading it. (If not, if you could point me to some other writings that you agree with, that'd be cool too.)

md'a said...

Jake: Dogville was the subject of the first column I wrote for Esquire. Anonymous: All things Skandie are located here; you can find the '90s decade list at the bottom of the 1999 page.

Ryan said...

Thanks for the shout-out, Mike, and I apologize for being petty, but I'm not sure "despite his usual reservations" comment is fair. My objections to Dogville are substantially different from my objections to Dancer (and for that matter, Antichrist and The Idiots). By that I mean, my criticisms are directed at that movie's specific failures, and are not based on some inchoate hatred Lars von Trier in general. (I don't feel the need to repeat those criticisms, but they are easily found in the Movie Nerd Discussion Group archives.) Also, for the record, I am PRO on Breaking the Waves and The Five Obstructions and pro on The Boss of It All and Manderlay.

Gilidor said...

RE: 2005-2006

No love for A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE? OLDBOY? CHILDREN OF MEN? PAN'S LABYRINTH?

Personally, the one film from those years that should make my '00s Top Ten is THE FOUNTAIN, but that's just me.

Robert Fuller said...

I actually consider 2005 and 2006 to be vastly superior years to 2007 (which, for me, was probably the worst year for movies since I started going to the movies). But admittedly, most of my favorites from those two years are fairly idiosyncratic (Bubble, Manderlay, The Science of Sleep, Me and You and Everyone We Know, Lady Chatterley, et al.), while most of the acclaimed films from 2007 left me underwhelmed (like, the four that made this list, for example).

Nictate said...

Dogville was the subject of the first column I wrote for Esquire.

Perhaps this will fall into the verboten "quote and agree" category of blog comments, but I hadn't read your Esquire DOGVILLE piece in years and gotta say, DAMN, that's crackerjack film criticism.

Michael Casey said...

Hey, props to you Mike for your work as master of ceremonies. I liked your choice of clips; much of the fun derives from the seconds of suspense before fade-in, which gives a delightful oomph to your own faves that make rank. And the clips make nice teasers for films we haven't yet seen. You got the job of Halloween decorator, and you converted the joint into a haunted house. Right on.

Nictate said...

I have to say I'm shocked that any best-films-of-the-decade list by discerning viewers would leave off ROYAL TENENBAUMS.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS is in my top 15 for the decade, for sure.

It's one of those films I loved on first viewing, then decided it wasn't *all that* the second or third time around. Yet I kept coming back to it and from the fourth or so viewing on, its emotional richness and lovely nuances just got more and more satisfying with each return trip. (Same story with ETERNAL SUNSHINE.)

IMO, TRT is Wes's masterpiece.

Skander said...

You know, there are those of us who just thought Dogville was boring, obvious, unremarkable, and not worth kicking up much of a fuss about either way. We will see if it stands the test of time like Apocalypse and Marienbad, AVB. We will see.

(What the answer is is no.)

md'a said...

You know, there are those of us who just thought Dogville was boring, obvious, unremarkable, and not worth kicking up much of a fuss about either way.

Yes, but you also thought Manderlay was awesome when in fact it was labored and tedious and pretty much demonstrated exactly how Dogville could have been done wrong. Therefore you can be ignored on this subject.

Skander said...

That's ed, this list contains 4 pictures which I do not believe will show up on any other decade poll: not James Quandt/Cahiers-type ones, not more mainstream ones like NSFC, and not male nerdy ones like OFCS. And those are Dogshit, 25th Hour, Irreversible, and Trouble Every Day. Which is admittedly pretty kind of cool, even if I am only dislike/like/love/love on those pictures respectively.

Skander said...

Therefore you can be ignored on this subject.

You know very well I am not the only one bud. For example, it is too bad Le Chuck is nowhere to be found and is not posting insightful comments on this sight.

Anyways, my point -- and it is a minor one -- is that you are elevating this picture to the level of some kind of notorious bete noir, when aside from your hoity-toity Cannes screening and some mildly offended American critics, it was just pretty kind of shrugged off for the most part.

You could make more of a case for Irreversible -- or heck, even Antichrist -- as love-it-or-hate-it lightning rods of the decade.

md'a said...

Anyways, my point -- and it is a minor one -- is that you are elevating this picture to the level of some kind of notorious bete noir, when aside from your hoity-toity Cannes screening and some mildly offended American critics, it was just pretty kind of shrugged off for the most part.

If by "for the most part" you mean by general audiences, then yes. Otherwise what are you talking about bud. Nobody shrugged this picture off apart from you. Perhaps you looked at the Metacritic score of 59 MuseMalade mentioned and concluded that every critic had given it a mixed ho-hum review, when in fact if you look at the rundown you'll see it's pretty evenly divided between 'masterpiece' and 'shite.' Also my memory is that Dogville placed around 3rd in the Village Voice poll that year. The current Film Comment piece on Antichrist refers to Dogville as Von Trier's masterpiece. Your perception of this film's status is seriously out of the whack imo.

Bilge said...

RE: Wes A. I can't recall if I voted in the 90s poll, and I certainly can't recall if I voted for BOTTLE ROCKET at the time (if I did vote)...but I'd like to think I did. I'd also like Wes to make another movie like that.

RE: DOGVILLE. I don't necessarily disagree with What Mike Says about it in his post, but I can say that I keep forgetting it when I try to offhandedly name some other LVT films (as happened in several discussions around the time of ANTI-CHRIST's release).

Also, thank you fellow AVB'ers for not showing any love for A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE, CHILDREN OF MEN, and PAN'S LABYRINTH.

Skander said...

If by "for the most part" you mean by general audiences, then yes. Otherwise what are you talking about bud.

Overall, lasting impact? Something beyond heated discussions at the Village Voice water cooler? Post-Dancer, poor L'Arse has had increasing difficulty making more than a ripple in the cultural pond. This picture did not win awards, do any box office, generate op-ed pieces, or appear on college t-shirts. It sort of came and went. This is not a dig, as the same could be said of one of my personal favorites Inland Empire, it is just a fact. A fact that should make Dogshit's victory here all the more rewarding to its champions, one would think. D'Angelo, I'll give you the last word.

Bilge said...

BTW, did anyone download A Landslide of Dudes' latest album yet? I hear it abandons the glitchtronica of the last two and marks a return to the ironic hard rock of their debut.

Matthew B. said...

Exactly which films are going to be eligible for the ballot revisions? E.g., Synecdoche, New York has its Japanese premiere this month. If I decide that Dan Ziskie's performance as Leg Tremor Doctor is one of the performances of the decade, am I allowed to vote for it?

md'a said...

Overall, lasting impact? Something beyond heated discussions at the Village Voice water cooler? Post-Dancer, poor L'Arse has had increasing difficulty making more than a ripple in the cultural pond. This picture did not win awards, do any box office, generate op-ed pieces, or appear on college t-shirts. It sort of came and went.

I dunno bud. Today Paste unveiled its list of the top 50 films of the decade. It's not an especially art-damaged group of films—they include stuff like Little Miss Sunshine, Whale Rider, In America (!), Once, etc. And there's Dogville at #22. Which admittedly is a ways down from #1, but that it placed respectably even on this pretty mainstream rundown suggests that it made more of an impact than you believe.

Exactly which films are going to be eligible for the ballot revisions?

Technically, only films that opened after I started collecting ballots. However, I'm willing to consider other requests on a case-by-case basis. "I live in Japan and it only just opened here" is a decent excuse. "Oops I forgot," let me note now, is not.

md'a said...

Actually, I stopped to make the previous comment about the Paste list (neglected to link it last time) while only halfway through it. I hadn't yet learned that their vote for the best film of the past ten years is City of God. 2nd best: Amélie. 3rd best: Almost Famous. If that gives you a better sense of the sensibility that Dogville was able to register upon.

Victor said...

That Top 2 (CITY OF GOD and AMELIE) is pretty awesome. Though I could give neither Skandies points, both comfortably made my Top 5 for the year they came out and they're surface-pleasurable movies I've repeatedly watched since and wouldn't hesitate to recommend to any literate person -- a roller-coaster ride gangster film about dancing with the devil's whims and a confectionary comic fantasy about a soul too good for its own good.

Ryan said...

The Paste Magazine list seems fine. Kinda egregious to leave out In the Mood and Yi Yi, but Mike's really nitpicky here. It's not a populist list: (decade-poll-unqualified) Beau Travail was in the top 10 and Syndromes and a Century along with a number of Dardennes are listed.

Granted, they also include Lord of the Rings and The Dark Knight, both of which will appear on every mainstream decade poll.

Also, I've mentioned this before, but I'm quite convinced that The Royal Tenenbaums' rep has gotten much stronger over the last nine years, contra Mike. People speak of it highly, and it's a fave of a lot of cultured but not hardcore cinephile types. And lo and behold, here it is at #10.

lee said...

Paste correctly thinks 'Boxer' (by The National) was the best album of of 2007, so they'll always have my ear. Even if Almost Famous is a bit weak, eh, its good for their demo.

md'a said...

Granted, they also include Lord of the Rings and The Dark Knight, both of which will appear on every mainstream decade poll.

And their top three films are City of God, Amélie and Almost Famous. And they think Juno is a far better movie than In the Mood for Love. Sure, there are a few scattered Level III flicks in there (and I guess it's possible that the same contingent is responsible for Dogville's appearance), but on the whole this list does not suggest hardcore cinephilia. It's more like the NYFCC, where five or six people from the Voice and other alt.pubs manage to get their favorite mentioned as the second runner-up.

Also, I've mentioned this before, but I'm quite convinced that The Royal Tenenbaums' rep has gotten much stronger over the last nine years, contra Mike.

I was referring exclusively to the AVB. You probably know better than I do what the man on the street thinks.

Ryan said...

on the whole this list does not suggest hardcore cinephilia. It's more like the NYFCC, where five or six people from the Voice and other alt.pubs manage to get their favorite mentioned as the second runner-up.

It's not as hardcore as the Skandies, which in turn will be less hardcore than the Indiewire poll, etc., but ultimately, it's a perfectly respectable list. For my money, the NYFCC pretty much defines "cinephile". Sure, you can narrow the definition of the hardcore cinephile until you're left with only Olaf Moller and James Quandt, but by and large, any list with Denis and Joe qualifies as cinephilic.

On the larger point of Dogville, I think the truth is somewhere between you and Skander's position. Dogville is considered by critics to be a major film, and the recent Antichrist reviews tend to cite it as a LvT touchstone. Personally, I *always* recommend the movie if von Trier's name comes up. I don't think Dogville will show up on another decade top 10, but I can see it in the top 30 of the Indiewire or Film Comment poll, if one is done.

However, Skander's right that Dogville not exactly Irreversible either. It doesn't seem to have penetrated the culture in any way. Outside a very, very small world of film bloggers and hardcore buffs, this picture really has made no impression whatsover.

And this post made it sound as if Dogville's the 21st Century Rite of Spring or something, and the result here is a triumph of artistic courage. Reality check: folks who hate this movie mostly think it's conceptually (or becomes retarded, as LvT is not exactly a man whose political ideas are well thought out). This isn't Marienbad or hell, Tropical Malady where the film is so formally challenging that it draws enmity from Philistines who despise newness. I have no real problems with the film winning the Skandies, given the makeup of the voting body and the fact that it is a tremendous film on a craft-level, but this result hardly warrants this kind of self-congratulation.

I bet if Mark Perenson came up with the same copy for Colossal Youth ("a triumph of polarizing art over middling tradition of quality!") after it topped a best-of-decade poll voted on by hand-picked Perenson types, you'd be all over it.

You're happy because a film you love won your poll. That's perfectly fine. No need to stretch it out.

Nictate said...

As an apparent Philistine who despises newness (and, OK, as an admitted Larsophile), everything MD'A has written about DOGVILLE rings true to me.

DOGVILLE *is* well-thought-out and a touchstone and a masterpiece and it *will* stand the test of time. I'll bet Charlotte's rusty scissors on it.

md'a said...

It's a [...] respectable list.

If you think a list that cites City of God, Amélie and Almost Famous as the three best films of the past ten years—and includes Juno, Whale Rider, In America, and Little Miss Sunshine among the top 50—that's your affair. The fact that they also throw in Joe and the Dardennes doesn't change the fact that the vast majority of their selections are populist rather than cinephilic. Which is fine—I wasn't trying to badmouth the list so much as point out that even this sort of mostly populist exercise still found room for Dogville.

However, Skander's right that Dogville [is] not exactly Irreversible either. It doesn't seem to have penetrated the culture in any way.

I'm a bit baffled by that comparison, since I don't have the impression that Irreversible is any more of a cultural touchstone than Dogville is. Both went almost entirely unseen by the masses. If the Noé has a bit more of a rep, it's surely because it serves up two scenes of nearly unwatchable violence, plus Cassel and Bellucci frolicking in the nude for like ten minutes. In any case, I never claimed that Dogville is culturally significant, and don't much care that it isn't. What cultural significance did The Wizard of Oz have in 1945? (A: Zero.)

And this post made it sound as if Dogville's the 21st Century Rite of Spring or something

Yes. That was my experience. I can't say how it played in the arthouses, as I wasn't there. But, as I said in the post, of all the many major films I saw world-premiered at festivals over the past decade, Dogville was the only one greeted with anything close to overwhelming rapture. You could barely hear "Young Americans" over the Lumière audience applauding and whistling and hollering, nonstop, for six minutes or however long that song is, and then beyond. Which never happens. By contrast, I was also present at the world premiere of No Country for Old Men—a film you'll agree has achieved a whole lotta cultural significance, and which will likely cream Dogville in most other decade polls—and the response was...enthusiastic. Yay. Good film. People clapped, nobody booed. But it was nothing like how that same (pretty much) audience reacted to Dogville. People. Went. NUTS. They responded as if they'd just seen one of the greatest films ever made. I happen to concur where you don't, but still, the phenomenon I'm referring to here is objective, not subjective. Maybe it was confined to that one screening (and obviously it didn't matter to the jury, who Palme'd fucking Elephant—which was greeted with what I can only call consternation), but even if so, in the audience at that screening was a hefty percentage of the world's super-cinephiles. So while there were several films I liked even better than Dogville this past decade, I still think it the most apropos choice in terms of artistic (not cultural) significance.

(cont'd)

md'a said...

(DISCLAIMER: This is obviously not an exact science. I happened to see There Will Be Blood very early, in a NYC screening room with an audience numbering less than 10. I wouldn't be surprised if someone who saw it at Fantastic Fest, where I believe it premiered, had a tale to tell similar to my Dogville experience. But my point is that said experience is beyond rare. Once a decade.)

This isn't Marienbad or hell, Tropical Malady where the film is so formally challenging that it draws enmity from Philistines who despise newness.

Oh, I stoutly disagree. It's formally challenging in a different way than those two films, to be sure—you're never in doubt about what's going on in terms of the narrative, for example. But Dogville is like no other movie ever made, and so sui generis that nobody (apart from Von Trier himself) could get away with making anything remotely similar. You're selling the Brecht-on-film conception way short. (And I maintain that those of you who think it "becomes retarded" are rebelling against LvT's commitment to theatrical abstraction.)

I bet if Mark Per[a]nson came up with the same copy for Colossal Youth ("a triumph of polarizing art over middling tradition of quality!") after it topped a best-of-decade poll voted on by hand-picked Perenson types, you'd be all over it.

To be clear, I did not intend to celebrate Dogville as a polarizing film. I pointed out that its Metacritic scores were largely divided between 100s and 10s by way of observing that the 59 average doesn't signify that everyone was shrugging at it. But my original post was about the rapture it inspired, not the disdain.

You're happy because a film you love won your poll.

No. That would be the case if Memento had won. I was celebrating its victory because I felt it was the only film I saw in the Aughts that registered as an instant masterpiece. As I wrote.

cstults said...

Any list of the top 50 films of the past 10 years that includes THE LAST FUCKING KING OF SCOTLAND can in no way be considered a cinephilic list. End of story.

Ryan said...

If you think a list that cites City of God, Amélie and Almost Famous as the three best films of the past ten years—and includes Juno, Whale Rider, In America, and Little Miss Sunshine among the top 50—that's your affair.

I'm sorry, but you sound as blinkered as the guy complaining that Taste of Cherry would make millions if only the distributor was more courageous. This list contained movies by Joe, Denis, and Dardennes. 99.9999% of the people in this world have never seen these pictures or even heard of them.

In a world where everyone's seen at least five Desplechin movies, sure, this list would draw snickers. We do not live in this world. By any reasonable definition of "cinephilic" -- unless you're reducing cinephilic to only the kind of cinephile you would invite to vote in your poll, this is reasonably cinephilic. Yeah, this list includes a number of not-approved-by-the-AVB middlebrow fare, but so what? Would Guy Maddin's buff privileges be revoked if he had Whale Rider on his decade list? It seems to me "cinephilia" can't be synonymous with "taste that is close to mine."

The point of this conversation is about whether a movie like Dogville has penetrated the larger, non-cinephile but film-aware world -- the type who reads The New Yorker and/or votes on the IMDb. To me, this list is far closer to the cinephile world than that larger world.

Which is fine—I wasn't trying to badmouth the list so much as point out that even this sort of mostly populist exercise still found room for Dogville.

Your point would be stronger if Dogville showed up in a Empire Magazine poll. Again, while this list contains movies that you and other Skandies voters (including me) would snicker at, it also contains some movies that would *never* show up on the IMDb top 100 or Empire Magazine list.

Also, In America and Whale Rider are not "populist" movies, at least not anymore than 25th Hour is. Not every non-Skandie-approved picture is populist.

In any case, I never claimed that Dogville is culturally significant, and don't much care that it isn't.

I think Skander's point isn't that the movie caused a coup d'etat or something. My very minimal demand for cultural impact is that it's been mentioned by someone outside the world of Twatting movie nerds. By that standard, I've had numerous conversations with people who've rented Irreversible based on its rep. Dogville's never been mentioned, unless I bring the movie up myself. (cont.)

Ryan said...

People. Went. NUTS. They responded as if they'd just seen one of the greatest films ever made. I happen to concur where you don't, but still, the phenomenon I'm referring to here is objective, not subjective.

Which is fine. I do appreciate your story. And since Dogville provoked as strong a reaction as any I've had in a movie theater, I can totally understand the audience response. However your arguments are not fundamentally different from Peranson making the case for Colossal Youth based on how loud the cursing was at the screening. Regardless of whether it's cheers or jeers, you're suggesting that other peoples' reaction at one screening merits extra consideration, as the result would be less noteworthy had No Country for Old Men won.

Look, I agree that Dogville is a distinctively powerful movie, but Skander's also correct in saying that, outside of your screening and the world of movie nerds, this picture made no impression at all. It may be true that only Lars von Trier could have made this movie, but it necessarily follows that Dogville, unlike Marienbad, say, isn't influential because it is sui generis. So if the movie had no real impact on film culture and no actual influence on filmmakers, why are we talking about screening reactions as if it were some revolutionary event?

Like I said, it's perfectly acceptable that a bunch of people you've selected to vote in a poll ended up picking a movie you loved as the decade's best film.

(And I maintain that those of you who think it "becomes retarded" are rebelling against LvT's commitment to theatrical abstraction.)

Can't speak for anyone else, but I'm rebelling against his idiotic political ideas. And if there's anything in the world I'm confident about, it's that I understand politics better than Lars von Trier.

Is it not possible that people have legitimate fucking criticisms of this movie, that *many* really, really smart cinephiles hated?

I don't need anyone to fucking agree with me concerning my bill of particulars w/r/t the movie. But this kind of "oh, you just can't accept von Trier's approach" or "you're just a humanist" or "you're just a hater" crap bugs the fuck out of me. I fucking wrote enough in the nerd archives to fill a book; they are legitimate. Fucking. Criticisms. I already feel stupid having wasted that time to write it. I don't need to be fucking patronized as well.

Ryan said...

Last point, I made *very specific* arguments detailing why the theatrically abstract Manderlay is a stronger work than Dogville. There are good arguments as to why the former is more intellectually cogent, sharper in its critique of overweening liberal humanism, and more accomplished in its depiction of the naif. There is a post easily found in the movie nerd archives concerning these arguments.

I don't think people who love Dogville betray an unsophisticated view of politics, or are ignorant as to theories and literature concerning American direct democracy, or are too sadly underexposed to modernism in other artforms, or are too easily impressed by jejune stunts. At the very least I have the courtesy not to say that out loud. I appreciate the same courtesy.

Sky said...

Can't speak for anyone else, but I'm rebelling against his idiotic political ideas.

Apparently you can, because this was a big problem for me, too. Still remember a heated post-screening discussion in which terms like "allegory" and yes, "theatrical abstraction" were bandied about, to my mind, as euphemisms for employing unnuanced drama in service of big ideas.

md'a said...

This list contained movies by Joe, Denis, and Dardennes. 99.9999% of the people in this world have never seen these pictures or even heard of them.

The list also maintains that the three best films made in the last ten years are City of God, Amélie and Almost Famous.

Again, the fact that a few abstruse pictures also show up does not change the overall tenor of the enterprise. It merely tells us that there were at least a handful of serious cinephiles (I know Robert Davis and J. Robert Parks were two) amidst a group of primarily populist voices, and they managed to get a few of their very favorites in there. But, also again, the likelihood is that those same people—and not the people who voted for Juno—also got Dogville in there, so never mind.

you're suggesting that other peoples' reaction at one screening merits extra consideration

No, just providing some anecdotal evidence that Dogville is considered something extremely special within the cinephile world.

Like I said, it's perfectly acceptable that a bunch of people you've selected to vote in a poll ended up picking a movie you loved as the decade's best film.

And like I said, it's not about that. Look, there's no question that I shape the results based on who gets invited to participate. Of the 20 films that placed, I was at least 'pro' on 17. One of the three films I didn't quite like is The New World. But I would have written something fairly similar had Malick's film won. I find it flawed myself, but the fervor it excited among cinephiles in the wake of its release was pretty extraordinary. (Among other things, we have The House Next Door to thank for it.) It, too, would have made a fitting choice for the decade's best, even though it wouldn't be on my personal list of the decade's top 200 films. Is that clearer?

Is it not possible that people have legitimate fucking criticisms of this movie, that *many* really, really smart cinephiles hated?

Point conceded. Though I'll have to go back to the nerd archive and refresh my memory as to why you think it suddenly becomes retarded at the end, as opposed to being politically obtuse throughout. That's not making immediate sense to me.

Ryan said...

The list also maintains that the three best films made in the last ten years are City of God, Amélie and Almost Famous.

I don't really want to belabor this, since you did concede the main point, that Dogville's inclusion in this list probably doesn't mean much given that the same block of folks likely voted in the Denis, Joe and Dardennes. But I'm still having trouble seeing what is self-evidently wrong with these titles. All three pictures have smart devotees and are perfectly respectable. Each scored higher than Dogville on Metacritic, and the latter two pictures did place in the Skandies voting in their respective years while City of God placed for director.

Now, does this list look like an idiosyncratic survey of a very small voting pool, consisting of some middlebrow Oscar-type voters as well as more adventurous ones? Sure. Does this list glaringly omit some of the most acclaimed films of the last ten years? Mos def. Do I think the Skandies list is superior, both because the movies listed are better and because the list is more representative of the major films of this era? An emphatic yes. But the Skandies also commit errors of omission, arguably shafting the likes of Lord of the Rings on one extreme to Star Spangled to Death on the other. If this Paste list is insufficiently cinephilic, then surely nothing prevents Olaf Moller from suggesting the same of the Skandies. I'd rather not play that game.

Mainly, I'm pressing this point because it's important not to lose sight of what cinephilia means: an obsessive love for movies. And that definition isn't necessarily connected to the idea that a cinephile must like the same small subset of movies that a few annointed tastemakers like.

Ryan said...

[The New World], too, would have made a fitting choice for the decade's best, even though it wouldn't be on my personal list of the decade's top 200 films. Is that clearer?

Really? Sorry, with this backtracking comment you're making even less sense now. You're clearer, but your reasoning suffers for it. In your post and in this comment, you imply that certain results, such as Dogville or The New World winning, would be more "fitting" than, say, if Eternal Sunshine or Mulholland Dr. had won. And you now suggest this isn't because of your own personal desires, but because the former movies elicit a kind of intense passion from certain cinephile precincts that the others didn't.

I'm sorry, but...huh? I appreciate the concern for intensity, but by employing the Jazz & Pop point allocation method, intensity is already baked into the cake. Whichever movie wins is "fitting" in the sense that the results certainly best reflects the view of this voting group, taking into account both depth and breadth of a movie's support. That's about all we can do.

In terms of being a "fitting" topper, I guess if Dogville tops a bunch of other surveys, we can say these results are fitting in that we've anticipated this picture's support. Or perhaps if Dogville proves influential, taps into the zeitgeist, or is a signature picture of some major cinematic trend/movement, we can say its win is fitting. But none of these cases are being made.

Instead, Dogville's a "fitting" winner mainly because it elicited an unusual reaction at your screening (and nowhere else, as far I know). This is the opposite of objective. You're trying to extrapolate larger meaning from one unique screening experience that has never been replicated.

Similarly, The New World is intensely loved by a small group of very vocal people with whom you happen to be acquainted. That's it. In other dark corners of the blogosphere, cinephiles may pour their hearts out for Old Boy or In Praise of Love. Like Dogville, The New World has been mostly shrugged off, boasts a fairly mediocre MetaCritic score (69), isn't particularly influential, and has made little impact outside of The House Next Door. A "fitting winner"? For whom? I mean, besides for the movie's hardcore fans.

By the same reasoning you're offering, had Summer Phoenix won the survey for her performance in Esther Kahn, you would say it's fitting, because she aroused a small, very passionate band of vocal supporters who pushed her case relentlessly, in spite the reality that this picture and her performance are largely forgotten.

But somehow, had Phoenix won, I don't think we'd be getting a valentine to her perf making the case that such a result is very fitting.

md'a said...

I'm still having trouble seeing what is self-evidently wrong with these titles. All three pictures have smart devotees and are perfectly respectable.

Well sure. I like two of the three myself, and might like Almost Famous too once I finally get around to watching the longer Untitled cut. I even own Amélie on DVD, and have scoffed at the Peransons and Quíntins and Units for acting as if it's some sort of affront to all that is Cinema. If any one of those had turned up in the top three, I'd only raise an eyebrow for a moment. But really, for a collective to name those three films as the three best of the last ten years—I'm sorry, but that's wackadoo.

And it's really not just a question of my own personal taste, as you keep insisting. I was quite pleased, for example, that not a single person in the AVB voted for Lost in Translation, a film I find ludicrously overrated. But its presence on Paste's list doesn't bother me. That's unquestionably among the decade's most significant and critically acclaimed films. City of God, not so much. Even on Metacritic, which seems to be your Real-World Arbiter of choice, it has only a decent 79 average. They're goofy choices for the decade's greatest films, to say the least.

md'a said...

Instead, Dogville's a "fitting" winner mainly because it elicited an unusual reaction at your screening (and nowhere else, as far I know). This is the opposite of objective. You're trying to extrapolate larger meaning from one unique screening experience that has never been replicated.
[...]
Similarly,
The New World is intensely loved by a small group of very vocal people with whom you happen to be acquainted. That's it.

I guess this is where we disagree. To me, the reaction of the Cannes audience means more than the non-reaction (let us stipulate, though we don't really know) everywhere else, by virtue of the fact that (as I said) a hefty percentage of the world's most ardent cinephiles were present. Likewise, I don't see the folks who championed The New World as just any old collection of movie nerds, readily likened to a group of fanboys drooling over Park Chan-wook flicks on Is It Not Cool News. It's an elitist argument I'm making, to be sure, but I never claimed not to be an elitist.

Ryan said...

To put it another way, Goodfellas winning the 90s survey is perfectly fitting in the sense that it was pretty much The Most Acclaimed Movie of the Decade. And not only that, it exerted a tremendous amount of cultural influence, spawning imitators and is still referenced frequently.

Had Pulp Fiction won, we could say it's the emblematic film of AmerIndie cinema or pomo pastiche filmmaking or what have you. If Rushmore had taken it, the win would be fitting in that this was the breakout feature of a new breed of intensely personal young American mannerists that emerged in that decade.

What if Naked had won? A tougher case. And if my personal favorite, The Age of Innocence, which made no ripple anywhere, had taken it? I think I'd say, thanks for choosing an awesome film, guys. Good job.

md'a said...

See, you're measuring this entirely in terms of "Did the film have a palpable influence, either on public discourse or on other filmmakers"? I don't really give a shit about that. I'm asking "Did it rock the world of the small, elite cadre of people who live and breathe cinema?"

Ryan said...

But really, for a collective to name those three films as the three best of the last ten years—I'm sorry, but that's wackadoo.

Similarly, one can look at our survey and say, "they've got Dogville at #1, 25th Hour and New World in there, and Trouble Every Day in the top 20? That's crazy talk, man!"

Again, cinephilia is not limited to championing only movies derived from a larger list of approved movies, most of which were sanctioned by the New York Film Festival committee.

If this Paste list contains nothing but middlebrow arthouse, or Knowles faves, or Oscarbait, then it's a much easier case to suggest the list isn't sufficiently *broad* to be properly cinephilic. But they do cover int'l auteur cinema and popcorn flicks. The totally respectable Lord of the Rings is #4, Eternal Sunshine is #5, Beau Travail is #6. What you're essentially saying then, is that they pick movies you don't happen to find worthy, which are movies that a certain segment of the movie nerd community doesn't find fashionable to love.

But look, City of God is a really popular movie, especially among male movie geek set. It's a 3 hour Brazillian movie that's ranked #16 on the IMDb, ahead of such male movie geek touchstones as Fight Club and The Matrix. A list that registers the preferences of this set of movie lovers and also middlebrow types like former AVB member Ken Rudolph is arguably stronger than something like the Skandies, in that such a list reflects the diversity of cinephilic opinion.

I'm an elitist, too. But it's one thing to prefer some sensibilities over others. It's another to try to define some sensibilities out of cinephilia altogether.

In any case, you up for betting another lunch that City of God finds its way into the top 10s of more decade polls than Dogville?

Ryan said...

I'm asking "Did it rock the world of the small, elite cadre of people who live and breathe cinema?"

Actually, no. You're asking, "did it rocked the world of a bunch of people at this one screening I happen to be at, which admittedly was filled with a bunch of ardent cinephiles, even though the buzz I personally perceived was never reported by anyone else at any subsequent screening of this film?"

Whatever. You're free to post whatever you'd like, and opine to your heart's content. Just don't try to pass this off as being in any way "objective."

We have any number of ways of looking at things in a far more precise or objective manner. By whatever metric you wish to use, awards, star systems, MetaCritic, year-end surveys, aggregate top tens, and the like, outside of results generate by the AVB, I know of no metric that indicates that Dogville is in anyway a remarkable or unique film in the annals of Aughts cinema that deserves special attention.

Which is fine, if you happen to have arguments supporting your insistence that it's somehow especially fitting winner. I mean, arguments outside of you loving the movie and having attended a screening where others also seem to have loved the movie (but somehow that reaction wasn't really registered in any metrics we can use). But you appear to be utterly uninterested in arguments. Or metrics. You're just content to repeat over and over that this position is entirely supportable on just your perception of that very special audience at your screening loved this picture in some distinctive fashion.

Oh. Kay.

(And you'd think that if this critical mass of influential cinephiles all thought Dogville was an instant immortal masterpiece, this reaction would somehow be registered somewhere.)

md'a said...

Similarly, one can look at our survey and say, "they've got Dogville at #1, 25th Hour and New World in there, and Trouble Every Day in the top 20? That's crazy talk, man!"

Actually, the only one of those that I'd expect serious cinephiles to find crazy is 25th Hour. That's one film the AVB loves to death that truly has no other critical support that I know of, however sad that is. The other three, while they don't score well on Metacritic, with its Lou Lumenicks and Kyle Smiths and Kirk Honeycutts, are widely acclaimed among the Nerd Elite.

You're asking, "did it rock the world of a bunch of people at this one screening I happen to be at, which admittedly was filled with a bunch of ardent cinephiles, even though the buzz I personally perceived was never reported by anyone else at any subsequent screening of this film?"

It wasn't "this one screening I happened to be at." It was the film's world premiere at Cannes, attended by over 2000 of the world's most ardent cinephiles. Those circumstances were not duplicated elsewhere. When people talk about the whole Rite of Spring deal, nobody says, Well, sure, but how did it play when the Podunk Philharmonic performed it six months later? I didn't hear of any consternation there!"

By whatever metric you wish to use, awards, star systems, MetaCritic, year-end surveys, aggregate top tens, and the like, outside of results generate by the AVB, I know of no metric that indicates that Dogville is in anyway a remarkable or unique film in the annals of Aughts cinema that deserves special attention.

Even that isn't true. Dogville didn't win the Village Voice poll in 2004, but it did place 3rd, which clearly demonstrates that it's beloved by a wide swath of the Nerd Elite. Also, the Cannes audience hails from around the world—what I experienced was a global response. I don't know of a ready means of determining how the film fared critically in other countries, do you? I do know, however, that many U.S. critics did not take kindly to some Danish prankster criticizing their homeland. That likely explains much of the disparity between the response at Cannes and the more tepid reaction here upon its release.

No wager on decade polls in general, as I have no idea how many there'll be and from what sources. But I'll bet lunch that Dogville places higher than City of God in any such poll conducted by the Voice or indieWire.

Michael said...

Okay, Ryan, we get it.

WE ARE NOT THE WORLD.

(Now, can we please go back to being insular? I have to spend enough time worrying about Other People's Taste every day of my life. I mean jesus.)

Victor said...

We're not the world
We're not the children
We're not the ones who'll make a brighter day
Cuz we love DOGVILLE
It's the Lars we're lovin'
Who's judging out lioves
It's true we'll make a darker day
Just him and us

Victor said...

Obviously

"Who's judging out lioves"

Should be

"Who's judging our own lives"

Damn ... I was proud of that and I effed up the typing.

Nictate said...

I don't think people who love Dogville betray an unsophisticated view of politics, or are ignorant as to theories and literature concerning American direct democracy, or are too sadly underexposed to modernism in other artforms, or are too easily impressed by jejune stunts. At the very least I have the courtesy not to say that out loud. I appreciate the same courtesy.

Your "I have the courtesty not to say that out loud" line was hilarious, RW.

While it might not operate on your preferred level of political savvy, what DOGVILLE does offer is a artfully produced, unblinking critique of "overweening liberal humanism" (nicely described, by the way). A scarce few films breach even this level of political discourse, raising issues that people *should* be thinking about.

The reason LvT is my favorite director is that he is constantly challenging the medium of film and himself and his audiences. The dude is goddamn audacious and while you may find his politics retarded or his oeuvre uneven, I can't think of another filmmaker outside of the Coens who is more adept at looking our current world and its issues in the face and calling us all on the carpet in an entertaining, artistic fashion.

That the Skandies put film by a director like that at the top of the heap is a joyous thing to me, because it represents a celebration of what a force of nature film can be.

betes said...

25th Hour is AO Scott's #9 of the decade, being unveiled on "At the Movies".

Jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
md'a said...

I didn't know about Tony citing 25th Hour. That's heartening as hell.

David said...

These are the ones I haven't seen:
Dogville
The New World
Yi Yi (A One and a Two…)
Before Sunset
Silent Light
Werckmeister Harmonies
Irreversible
The Man Who Wasn't There
Trouble Every Day
Gerry

What should be next for me? Of those I did see, I loved Eternal Sunshine and Kill Bill, liked Mulholland Drive and Memento, and the rest were just... 'eh.' I recognize that the rest are good movies but just didn't find them very enjoyable.

Eric Freeman said...

Mick LaSalle of the SF Chronicle is also a big 25th HOUR fan, placing it 2nd in his April list of the decade's best: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/04/02/MVMQ16NHG1.DTL

Then again, he also has some weird ones in a tie for 10th and once said CLICK was the best film of its year, which I won't look up because I don't want to go to CLICK's IMDB page.

Adam Cadre said...

To pick up on an earlier comment thread, the two main reasons I keep an eye on this corner of the net despite not being one of those "people who live and breathe cinema" are:

* the discussion itself is very interesting; and

* I may not be a huge fan of the medium, but my tastes do tend to match up more with those of the AVB than with those of any other group I'm aware of. I haven't seen nearly as many movies as all y'all, but of the four 6s I gave out to '00s films (and for me, 6 equates to PRO), three of them showed up in the top four on this list: Dogville, Eternal Sunshine, and Mulholland Dr. (I didn't care for In the Mood for Love. My fourth, which I should probably revisit soonish, was Charlie and the Chocolate Factory of all things.) 25th Hour is also way up there (right on the border between pro and PRO). So I find these lists a great resource because for me a 20-30% hit rate is actually really good. Thanks, voters!

Ryan said...

It wasn't "this one screening I happened to be at." It was the film's world premiere at Cannes, attended by over 2000 of the world's most ardent cinephiles. Those circumstances were not duplicated elsewhere. When people talk about the whole Rite of Spring deal, nobody says, Well, sure, but how did it play when the Podunk Philharmonic performed it six months later? I didn't hear of any consternation there!"

My last point on this. Imagine if I report the following: "Guys, I was at this industry show for Homicidal Naifs, and let me tell you, the reaction was like nothing I've ever experienced! And I've been attending industry gigs for ten years. The defeaning buzz is akin to what I imagined what it's like to see the Beatles in Liverpool. Their record drops in two months, and man, it'll be a landmark."

Based on my comments, you'd expect the record to be at the very least, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan or something earth-shattering. Say when the record drops it turns out to garner some polarizing notices, was embraced to varying degrees by some music bloggers and ended up on #3 of Pitchfork's year-end list while being completely left off of other lists. In that case, the sensible conclusion isn't, "man, this record has got to be seen landmark, because I never been a show like that!" Instead, the conclusion is, "hey, maybe there's something off about the way I perceived my industry gig. Maybe those closest to me were especially vocal; maybe in my excitement, I just selectively noted all the enthusiastic responses while blocking out apathetic responses."

You say 2,000 ardent, influential cinephiles treated this like the premiere of Rite of Spring. Based on this reaction, when Dogville opened, you would think some of these same set of ardent, influential cinephiles would be hyping this movie as not just a great movie, but some watershed moment.

Yet nobody I am aware of, besides Mike, was saying this.

Let there be no confusion: I am not saying there is no support for Dogville, or that it isn't seen as a masterpiece by a non-trivial number of critics and cinephiles. But it is not the case that a non-trivial group of critics see Dogville as some landmark in cinema -- something far more notable than your run of the mill masterpiece like MULHOLLAND DR. or YI YI, which Mike is claiming it is.

Pauline Kael referenced Rite of Spring in her notorious review of Last Tango in Paris, which made the case that Brando's performance and the movie was somehow revolutionary. It turned out pretty much no one agreed with her, and in hindsight her review seems wildly hyperbolic. She could have easily made the same case for the film's merits without trying to justify it as some landmark in motion picture art.

Why not say, "this group collectively decided that Dogville was the greatest picture of the Aughts. Here's a link to my review making the case for why this picture is great. And I am especially happy it won this survey because hopefully these results will draw attention to this comparatively underappreciated picture."

There's no shame in that.

Ryan said...

Okay, Ryan, we get it.

WE ARE NOT THE WORLD.

(Now, can we please go back to being insular? I have to spend enough time worrying about Other People's Taste every day of my life. I mean jesus.)


I hope it's warm in that little tree hole. Anyway, I don't "worry about Other People's Taste" myself. In fact just the opposite: I think if you think Dogville's a great movie, make the fucking the case and don't hide behind the ridiculous hyperbole (revolutionary like Rite of Spring, really? For a picture its admirers describe as Brechtian, as in Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956))?) of the sort that Mike is offering here.

Why are people afraid of admitting that these evaluations are subjective (but based on insight, knowledge, experience, etc.)?

And call me a Fascist, but it just so happens that I don't think that you, Mike, me or anyone else gets to decide which pictures are cineaste-approved for top ten list publication. Next thing you know, someone will say anybody who puts Life Is Beautiful on a top ten gets his badge taken away, or anyone who thinks The Time Traveler's Wife is good is exiled, and we're left sitting on a dirt field in anguish as a crane shot captures us exclaiming "What have we done? What have we done?" in shimmering black & white.

md'a said...

My last point on this. If the allegedly overwhelming response to Homicidal Naifs took place at the world's most significant international music festival, with over 2000 music buffs from all over the world in attendance, I would be hesitant to draw sweeping conclusions based upon how the album got reviewed by 28 rock critics in England.

md'a said...

Next thing you know, someone will say anybody who puts Life Is Beautiful on a top ten gets his badge taken away, or anyone who thinks The Time Traveler's Wife is good is exiled

No. Saying "I think The Time Traveler's Wife, Ocean's Twelve and Wimbledon (all of which Waz liked better than, say, No Country for Old Men) are underrated pictures that deserve more consideration" is one thing. Saying "the three greatest films made over the past ten years are The Time Traveler's Wife, Ocean's Twelve and Wimbledon" is fucking another.

Ryan said...

If the allegedly overwhelming response to Homicidal Naifs took place at the world's most significant international music festival, with over 2000 music buffs from all over the world in attendance, I would be hesitant to draw sweeping conclusions based upon how the album got reviewed by 28 rock critics in England.

But there's such a thing as representative sample, no? 28 rock critics *on record* is far, far, far better evidence as to the reaction to that hypothetical show than one person's anecdote.

How do you not understand this simple point: you're making extraordinary claims -- that this picture isn't just acclaimed, isn't just a great picture like, say, Mulholland Dr., but is seen by some substantial group of "ardent cinephiles" as some kind landmark in cinema, like Marienbad or Breathless, something like that. Sorry if I need some evidence beyond your anecdote to support such extraordinary claims. That Dogville finished #3 in the Village Voice poll doesn't hack it; that only supports the claim that it's acclaimed, which I never disputed.

Again, you'd think if a room full of the world's influential cinephiles saw a revolutionary type of picture, some of those cinephiles will be jumping up and down telling the world about it.

You bring up non-American response, and here's a passage from CM27465, author Le Chuck, whom we can all agree is a trustworthy source in summarizing reviews:

"As it happens, DOGVILLE's most enthusiastic supporters appear to be in the more mainstream French press, while the highbrow contingent
(Cahiers, Inrocks, Le Monde, Positif, Reperages, Synoposis, the
unlisted Libe) appears to be giving the edge to Van Sant.

The tone of the reviews bears this out. The praise is definitely
there for DOGVILLE, but it seems just a tad less gushy."


Earth-shattering cinematic landmark? Where are you getting this stuff?

Saying "the three greatest films made over the past ten years are The Time Traveler's Wife, Ocean's Twelve and Wimbledon" is fucking another.

And so if Waz claimed this, you would expel him from the realm of movie nerds? I care about arguments, not whether someone's favorites match my perception of what is verboten for a cinephile to like. Waz has proven to be insightful and knowledgeable, and he's welcome to insist that The Price of Milk is the decade's best film.

md'a said...

28 rock critics *on record* is far, far, far better evidence as to the reaction to that hypothetical show than one person's anecdote.

No, it isn't. For one thing, we don't even know how many of the 28 critics were at the show in question. And even if all of them were, 28 people from a single country out of roughly 2200 from around the world is not a significant sample size.

What annoys me about this argument is that because you haven't personally seen evidence of the reaction I cite, you assume I must have imagined it to some degree. I did not. Categorically. There is no such thing in this instance as "well, you only paid attention to the people going crazy and ignored all the people sitting on their hands." I'm sure plenty of people in that audience didn't care for the movie. Todd McCarthy was there, for example, and he fucking hated it. That does not matter. I am telling you (for the umpteenth time) that the crowd reaction was several orders of magnitude more wild than for any other film that screened in Competition at Cannes in the years 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2009. (The only possible exception is Fahrenheit 9/11, which reportedly got a lengthy standing ovation; I fled that screening the instant the film ended in order to join the line for another screening.) It's not something I could be exaggerating. The audience did not stop applauding, loudly, with hoots and hollers and whistles, for the entire closing credits and perhaps two minutes after the curtain closed. There was not a single other film at Cannes in all those years for which end-of-film applause lasted more than perhaps 40-60 seconds. Not one.

So something significant happened at that screening. Maybe after the audience had had some time to digest the film, they realized it was actually retarded. But I think it far more likely that of the let's say 1000 people who were going unprecedently (for this decade) nuts—I'll err on the conservative side and say it was less than half—few if any happened to file reviews in U.S. periodicals that are picked up by Metacritic. Which is hardly surprising given that the movie attacks the United States in no uncertain terms.

You are perfectly free to cling to your metrics if that's what makes you happy, but I was in the room that morning and the response was like nothing I've ever experienced in a movie theater, with the sole exception of the opening night of Malcolm X in Times Square. And the fact that the most enthusiastic U.S. critics "only" call it a masterpiece (I find that very word in the blurbs for J. Hoberman and Glenn Kenny on Metacritic, without even checking the other reviews in full), without expressly adding "and one of the greatest films of the decade so far" or whatever you demand, does not trouble me, frankly.

Again, you'd think if a room full of the world's influential cinephiles saw a revolutionary type of picture, some of those cinephiles will be jumping up and down telling the world about it.

Not that you'll bother, but it'd be interesting to see if you could find such hopping in contemporaneous accounts of Breathless and Marienbad and etc.

md'a said...

Waz has proven to be insightful and knowledgeable

Yes. Primarily because he does not in fact claim that undistinguished films are among the decade's greatest. If he said stuff like that on a regular basis, I'd probably conclude that he's got lousy taste and move on to someone else. And this is not a matter of whether I agree or disagree—as a matter of fact I generally dislike Waz's very favorite films. Did not like Bamako. Did not like When It Was Blue. Did not like La France. Did not like Colossal Youth. Did not like Regular Lovers. Etc. I think Almost Famous is way better than all of the above. (Well, only marginally better than the Reeves.) And yet Almost Famous is a wackadoo choice for top 3 of the decade in a way that none of the above remotely are. By the same token, I like Sky High far more than A History of Violence, but if it were up to me to pick one to represent the decade in film, I would select Cronenberg's in a heartbeat. Do you follow that?

Nictate said...

Beware the highbrow gush! Especially when it's a tad less. And French!

More (unrequested) anecdotal evidence: Quentin Tarantino has DOGVILLE in his Top 20 Since He Started Directing list.

He said (if it had been eligible) it would've be Pulitzer-worthy.

Sounds kinda landmark-y and stuff.

Nictate said...

Tarantino on DOGVILLE (which he placed at the time at #7 on his Top 20 list of films made since 1992):

"...one of the greatest scripts maybe ever written for film and I actually think if he'd... done it on the stage, he would've won a Pulitzer prize."

Nictate said...

Oh, and Ryan, I'm pretty sure the Clintons heart DOGVILLE, too.

Gilidor said...

For what it's worth, DOGVILLE will make my Top Ten of the decade for sure. Then again, so will ALMOST FAMOUS. :)

md'a said...

Something rather belatedly occurs to me. We know for sure that the one person on earth who came away from the Cannes premiere of Dogville believing he'd just seen something extraordinary and potentially canon-worthy was myself. I wrote nearly 2000 words on this film for Esquire (see link above, 5th post from top), and then a totally different 1000 words for Time Out New York (which was a bitch and a half, btw). Read both pieces and tell me where I say anything remotely Rite of Springish. These two reviews read exactly like the "only a masterpiece" reviews you cite elsewhere—it's obvious that I think it's a great film, but I never claim it's one of the best ever made or refer to it as one of just a handful of key cinematic achievements throughout history. Because, frankly, critics working the beat tend not to make those claims, feeling (justly imo) that that's for posterity to work out. (Plus you don't want to hype the movie too much and create expectations that can't possibly be met.) So even I do not meet the standard of evidence you're demanding. This whole thing is silly.

Bilge said...

You know what's weird? This whole conversation is making me think I didn't give enough points to IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. I love DOGVILLE and all, but I actually thought that the broad consensus of "electrifying-masterpiece-that-will-be-remembered-for-centuries" thing would've centered around this film instead. I'm sure it's Cannes premiere wasn't as lightning-strikey as DOGVILLE's, but, well, that's why we have provocateurs.

Also, "If it had been a play, it would've won the Pulitzer" doesn't really feel like such great praise to me, although QT obviously meant it as such.

(Bear in mind, this is not to demean DOGVILLE in any way. I consider myself a valid contender for Lars's Biggest Fan USA.)

Nictate said...

You know what's weird? This whole conversation is making me think I didn't give enough points to IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE. I love DOGVILLE and all, but I actually thought that the broad consensus of "electrifying-masterpiece-that-will-be-remembered-for-centuries" thing would've centered around this film instead.

IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE is certainly ravishing and I remember it feeling very fresh and striking at the time of its release, but I don't see it standing the centuries-bound test of time (outside of a thing of beauty being a joy forever).

Also, "If it had been a play, it would've won the Pulitzer" doesn't really feel like such great praise to me, although QT obviously meant it as such.

I'm suddenly reminded of THE HUDSUCKER PROXY.

(Bear in mind, this is not to demean DOGVILLE in any way. I consider myself a valid contender for Lars's Biggest Fan USA.)

I will fight you for that title.

Michael said...

Not that I want to throw evidence Ryan's way, since I'm generally on Mike's side on this one. But as far as the landmark-masterpiece question, and its immediate reception at Cannes, one thing has to be remembered. The 2003 Competition was Dead. In. The Water. Especially at the point when Dogville screened. I think Hoberman said something to the effect of it "galvanized a moribund Competition." So, taking nothing away from Dogville, but context probably counts. Poke in the eye with a sharp stick, feels so good when it stops, etc.

Ryan said...

Primarily because he does not in fact claim that undistinguished films are among the decade's greatest. If he said stuff like that on a regular basis, I'd probably conclude that he's got lousy taste and move on to someone else.

Two movie nerds, 1959.

"Hey, this frog mag just posted a bunch of top tens of the decade. Check it out."
“Let’s see. [Pauses to read.] Is this for real?”
“Yeah, I mean, freaks, huh?”
“Look, this guy’s got a Rock Hudson soap in his top 5, along with a crap load of B Westerns. Haven’t these guys seen any Bergman?”
“Yeah, a lot of ‘em have Bergman in there, but some put our #1 movie, Wild Strawberries, below programmers like The Tall T."
“Jesus. So Johnny Guitar is ranked higher than Rashomon, what?
B: “Wait, look at this one, The Searchers ahead of our #3 movie, The Quiet Game.
A. “This is a joke. What can these frogs possibly know about cinema based on their horrid taste?”

The combination of unwarranted self-confidence and close-mindedness doesn’t become you, Mike. Tastes change, trash in one era can become masterpieces over time. The _Film Comment_ guys can look like Stanley Kramer acolytes in 50 years.

Drop the Word of God edicts.

Ryan said...

Read both pieces and tell me where I say anything remotely Rite of Springish.

I'm not saying you were saying it then. You started taking this position during *this conversation*, when you argued that Dogville's win is somehow especially "fitting" (in a way that Memento's win wouldn't be). You did so first by comparing it to Marienbad, by which I mean you suggest it is challenging, ahead of its time, and/or groundbreaking.

When I called you out on this, you began to make ever-more-ridiculous arguments (such as that New World's win would be fitting on account of minoritarian passion, though you would never suggest that Summer Phoenix win would also be "fitting"). Then you summarized your point this way:


ME: And this post made it sound as if Dogville's the 21st Century Rite of Spring or something

YOU: Yes. That was my experience.... By contrast, I was also present at the world premiere of No Country for Old Men—a film you'll agree has achieved a whole lotta cultural significance, and which will likely cream Dogville in most other decade polls—and the response was...enthusiastic. Yay. Good film. People clapped, nobody booed. But it was nothing like how that same (pretty much) audience reacted to Dogville. People. Went. NUTS. They responded as if they'd just seen one of the greatest films ever made. I happen to concur where you don't, but still, the phenomenon I'm referring to here is objective, not subjective. Maybe it was confined to that one screening (and obviously it didn't matter to the jury, who Palme'd fucking Elephant—which was greeted with what I can only call consternation), but even if so, in the audience at that screening was a hefty percentage of the world's super-cinephiles. So while there were several films I liked even better than Dogville this past decade, I still think it the most apropos choice in terms of artistic (not cultural) significance.


In other words, there's special artistic significance to Dogville, the evidence of which you point to audience reaction at one screening. I thought you were the guy who never considered this kind of stuff?

I'm sure this isn't obvious to you, but let's take a break. Come back to this conversation in a week's time and look over your evolving arguments. You'll see that, instead of conceding some valid points I raised and move to a reasonable position, such as "Fuck you, Skandies result was fawesome", you doubled-down and was forced to take increasingly untenable positions, until you're left suggesting that Dogville is some revolutionary event in the art of cinema.

Ryan said...

What annoys me about this argument is that because you haven't personally seen evidence of the reaction I cite, you assume I must have imagined it to some degree.

If it sounds like I'm trying to detract from your experience, I apologize. I'm not suggesting it didn't happen, or that the response wasn't awesome.

What I am saying is that, either your perception was affected by common human biases or *you are over-extrapolating* from your experience. Because the facts don't support the grandiose conclusions you are drawing on the basis of the reaction at one screening.

Again, say most of the important movers, shakers & tastemakers were at this show for Homicidal Naifs. Stipulate also that, in my long experience at this type of shows, I've never seen this audience of heavyweights react so rapturously. My perception of the buzz that night was that the Naifs' new album is a landmark that comes along once every ten years. If what I am perceiving about the audience is true, you would expect that this audience represents a good sample of all influential reviewers/tastemakers and that the release of the record would be met with the same kind of reaction.

If in fact after the album drops, the reviews, blogs, etc. (of people who either were in that audience or whom would be a good sample of that audience) only points to a pretty great, one-of-the-year's best but not extraordinary-OK Computer-level rapture, then it seems to me is far more determinative in answering the question of whether or not "the small cadre of people who live and breathe" rock think the Naifs album is just very good or something truly once-in-a-decade.

I'm pretty sure you'd laugh at anyone else arguing that we should privilege one screening experience to objective metrics (e.g., actual reviews) in determining the response to a particular performance/movie/etc.

And it's true I don't know exactly what the international reaction is to Dogville. But I'm not the one making the claim that there's something extraordinary. My suspicion is that it's treated no more differently than other acclaimed arthouse movies.

Skander said...

(Disclaimer: this debate is so retarded.)

#22 on some obscure poll is pretty weak evidence. If Dogville finishes in the top 10 in any poll other than ours, I will concede some ground to D'Angelo.

But why does nobody bring up the obvious point: this Self-Evidently Significant picture got nothing from the Cannes jury -- a jury that contained enough folks (Soderbergh, Tanovic, Jiang) who would seem to have the right sensibility to dig it.

Apocalypse, of course, won the Palm. Even Cronenberg's Crash (another far better example of everything D'Angelo claims Dogville is, as far as reception goes) (and another film I personally happen to think is dumb and not at all Significant, so I have no horse in this race) got a Special Jury Prize, as the people on the jury who did not outright despise it felt it deserved some kind of mention. Then Cahiers put it #1 on their year list and #8 on their decade list. Now that's a lightning rod.

I will (unlike Ryan) grant that Dogville is legitimately radical in some respects. I don't care if it came out 50 years after Brecht died bud, it is still a picture with major movie stars walking around on chalk outlines and shot on shitty video, which is pretty unprecedented as far as I know. But that is not the point. The point is if a tree is challenging and provocative in the forest and nobody is around to give a fuck, does it really make a sound in my opinion.

Ryan said...

Not that I want to throw evidence Ryan's way, since I'm generally on Mike's side on this one.

Keep in mind, the argument isn't about the merits of Dogville. If you think that some non-trivial number of cinephiles think this is a once-in-a-decade revolutionary work of the art, I'd love to see some evidence more probative than anecdotal evidence of reaction at one (admittedly important) screening.

If you want to make the case for Dogville's as some kind of revolutionary piece of art yourself, I have no objections. My entire argument is premised on my belief that if you think the Skandies are ahead of its time or should be congratulated for picking Dogville, like some hypothetical nerd body in 1969 would be for picking 2001: A Space Odyssey as Mike suggests off-list, just make the fucking case on the merits.

Don't say, well, yeah, I think a bunch of people back me up but they're not writing in English so we can't find out.

If you are on Mike's side because you think Mike's arguments are logically sound, well, no offense, but I strongly suggest a remedial course in Rhetoric 10 at Cal.

(And that hypothetical 1959 conversation, the #3 movie was The Quiet Man, not "Quiet Game".)

Ryan said...

I will (unlike Ryan) grant that Dogville is legitimately radical in some respects.

So is Derek Jarman's BLUE. "Legitimately radical is some respects" can refer to TEARS OF A BLACK TIGER, any number of Soderbergh movies, etc., if by that you mean it takes chances most movies don't. If that's what you mean, I don't deny it.

I'm not suggesting there isn't formal experimentation. And I would agree that it is an extraordinarily impressive picture formally. But Mike was saying people couldn't take the Brechtian abstraction, you know, fifty years after Samuel Beckett. That this stuff is somehow too radical for sophisticated viewers to handle. I don't think so.

This isn't doing jump cuts for the first time and blowing people's minds.

Ryan said...

For the record, I accept QT's reaction as a data point in Mike's favor. And I think Le Monde in its Cannes 2003 coverage also suggests that Dogville's a groundbreaking work of cinema.

If we can obtain handful of other data points, we'll be getting somewhere.

Not that you'll bother, but it'd be interesting to see if you could find such hopping in contemporaneous accounts of Breathless and Marienbad and etc.

I just thumbed through the first 100 pages of Sarris' Confessions of a Cultist online. Here's a link to his review of Vivre sa vie, written 3 years after Breathless after opened in the US.

http://www.archive.org/stream/confessionsofacu000678mbp#page/n99/mode/2up

Sounds like the cognescenti already see it as an *exceptional* work, the leading movie of a major cinematic movement.

The review of L'Avventura a few pages up also pretty much counts as "hopping".

Michael said...

Not sure if this is getting at more facts than anecdote. But I think it was in Philip Lopate's FC wrap-up of NYFF 06 (? -- whenever Manderlay was out), that he said something very direct, to the effect of, "I suppose it's time I come out of the closet as someone who thinks Dogville is a masterpiece." The implication was clear: Dogville is so uniquely divisive that its would-be champions demur for fear of others thinking they have a major character flaw. (See also: Trouble Every Day; any Vincent Gallo joint).

Skander said...

Probaly it bears mentioning that at no time in recent history was an auditorium of Euro-snobs more pre-disposed to give a lengthy standing ovation to any (perceived) anti-Amerikain picture than in May 2003. Less than three weeks prior to the Dogville screening, Bush had infamously declared "Mission Accomplished."

Ryan said...

Sorry, last points as I do my best Debate Club Zombie impression:

* Good call on the Crash comparison, Skander. It's pretty dead-on. Btw, has Crash's rep increased or decreased since '96? I can't tell at all.

but I never claim it's one of the best ever made or refer to it as one of just a handful of key cinematic achievements throughout history.

From this post:

I choose Marienbad—a movie I don't especially like, though I've only seen it once so far—because what I'm talking about transcends personal taste. It's more about knowing you've seen something truly visionary, unprecedented, sui generis.

Anyway, seems to me this retarded debate stems from Mike's apparent fear that in the end, this is all just "personal taste." But that's just what it is. We are picking movies. That's why polls are not invalidated on the basis of whether City of God, In the Mood for Love or Dancer in the Dark tops it.

"Personal taste" doesn't mean, who the fuck cares, I like my thing you like yours. It means an acceptance that these kinds of endeavors are inherently subjective, but that stronger or weaker cases can be made based on proper reasoning, experience, insight, knowledge of the artform's history, knowledge of other fields, understanding of human beings, etc. People invariably bring in their own histories, views, biases, preferences. That's just the nature of it.

If you think Dogville is ahead of its time, and that, 30 years from now, the AVB will look as prescient as if we had anointed 2001 as the decade's best back in 1969, then write a post making the case. It will be based on your subjective views, but that's all we got, man. (I think it'll look like we picked the equivalent to something like Gertrud, which is a perfectly "interesting" result for a decade poll.)

Methodology and cognitive mistakes are a couple of my hobby horses (as you know) which is why I keep pressing the issue here. Objectively, there are simply better and worse ways of measuring claims of the sort you make.

If you want to know whether a public health care option is popular, a well-designed poll will give you a better answer than if you were to look at letters to the editor, calls to congressional offices, or who shows up at town hall meetings.

If I want to know whether A Serious Man is more acclaimed than The Informant!, the method of comparing scores generated by sites like Metacritic or Rotten Tomatoes will be superior to one person's opinion based on his sample of reviews, or from the audible reaction at a critics' screening in NY.

If someone were to tell me that a movie is seen by many ardent cinephiles as visionary and unprecedented, I'd like to see some evidence -- reviews, awards, poll results, etc. If those metrics don't support the claims, then is it just as likely that the response at one screening was temporary (and enhanced by bandwagon or mob effects present at the screening) and tapered off after these ardent cinephiles reflected on the film. Or it could be driven by anti-Americanism, since Fahrenheit 9/11 (which I presume you are not suggesting is some visionary masterpiece as well) was reported by you to have been met with the same kind of frenzied response at Cannes. There are better and worse methods of determining the validity of your claims, and the better ways simply don't support those claims

But you know all this.

md'a said...

I'm happy to let this go, but I need to clarify one point that's evidently been misunderstood. My point in noting that I made no extraordinary claims (beyond "plain old humdrum masterpiece") in my own contemporaneous reviews of Dogville was that I wouldn't really expect to find such overweening proclamations in print just a year after the film's premiere, regardless of what people think. Critics who aren't blurb whores tend to err on the side of reserve. In other words, I don't necessarily agree with the statement "Based on this reaction, when Dogville opened, you would think some of these same set of ardent, influential cinephiles would be hyping this movie as not just a great movie, but some watershed moment." Because, again, hell, I didn't even do that. (And it's not because I cooked up this whole stance just this week. I can point to Nerd Group posts at the time in which I referred to the Cannes insanity.)

Also, suggesting that The Time Traveler's Wife (which admittedly I haven't seen) could be the Tall T or Searchers of future generations strikes me as pretty specious. We're long, long past the point where excellence goes unrecognized due to genre stigma. I'm always interested in seeing a smart cinephile make a case for some seemingly worthless picture, but if a person consistently identifies apparent crap as awesome, Occam's Razor tells us that it's far more likely that said person is delusional than that (s)he is decades ahead of his/her peers.

Oh, and Skander, juries are juries. The Pianist won the fucking Palme d'Or the year that Irreversible was in Comp. Who cares.

md'a said...

Ryan, our posts were apparently being drafted simultaneously, but let me clarify again that what I was saying was that I never made those extraordinary claims in the print reviews I filed. As opposed to on Nerd groups or years later on my own blog. And if even I was not making such claims in print, who would?

By the way, casual readers, if you aren't a member of the Movie Nerd Discussion Group, be advised that this debate is exactly what that group is like when it's not totally dead. Be envious or alarmed, according to taste.

Ryan said...

I'm happy to close this out as well (and acknowledge your point that reviewers are generally keen to avoid putting their balls on the line a la Pauline and Last Tango) but here's a last point that's actually something sorta new (I promise)!

Also, suggesting that The Time Traveler's Wife (which admittedly I haven't seen) could be the Tall T or Searchers of future generations strikes me as pretty specious. We're long, long past the point where excellence goes unrecognized due to genre stigma.

The point behind the example I provided isn't so much about genre stigma being removed as it is about the more general and obvious point that "excellence" in movies is a subjective value that can change pretty dramatically over time. In the 60s, formerly disreputable genre pictures were re-evaluated after being championed by auteurists. In 1957, a lot of critics probably couldn't imagine that Written on the Wind would be seen as accomplished a work as The Seventh Seal. In twenty years, it could be middlebrow arthouse flicks that becomes valued, or whatever. We just don't know. We could be well be sitting from the vantage point of the cineaste in 1957, enraptured by Kurosawa and Bergman.

And it's not a stretch to believe that cinema, a comparatively young, technological, expensive, and commercially-oriented artform, will change pretty radically in the next twenty years. And that this coming transformation may well be a reaction/response to the way people consume the Internet, video games, and new developing leisure technologies. (It's already happening, I'd argue.)

Nobody really knows how this will all shake out, and how and if aesthetic judgments change as a result, where critics and tastemakers will end up valuing more visceral works closer to the new artforms, more story-driven movies, or quieter, more abstract experiences in contrast.

Even amid this change, I expect that strong writing and smart insights will remain valued. So the better approach is to avoid being overly attached to a deathless list of cinematically correct pictures that may be rendered invalid in time but instead be very discerning when it comes to critical faculties.

Nictate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Nictate said...

Less than three weeks prior to the Dogville screening, Bush had infamously declared "Mission Accomplished."

Pardon Lars' prescience.

Bilge said...

Skander gets at it a bit with the "Mission Accomplished in Our Opinion" banner comment, but has anyone noted that part of the insane Cannes reaction to DOGVILLE might be because DOGVILLE's ending pretty much demands some kind of insane reaction.

Between the sudden shift in style, the Parallax-Corp-style editing, "Young Americans," and the knowledge that Lars is sitting somewhere flipping Dubya's America off...I mean, it's hard not to react in some way, and if you happen to love the film and agree with the general sentiment, then chances are your response will count in the rapturous category.

Mike pointed out the FAHRENHEIT 911 response -- think of DOGVILLE's response as that, coupled with the fact that it is, in fact, also a great, or at least very good, movie (which F911 ain't).

A film like IN THE MOOD FOR ASS may not deliver that exact combination of cinematic awesomeness, Fuck-You-America-style nose-thumbing, as well as a Please-Be-Provoked-Now-style ending. But that doesn't mean that it may not, in its own way, be more revolutionary and momentous.

In fact, I'd argue that ITMFL turned Wanker into what many acknowledged as The Greatest Film Director in the World at the time; it raised his profile to an astounding degree. By comparison, while DOGVILLE certainly maintained LVT's notoriety to some degree, I didn't see it making too many new converts to the Lars Cause. Whereas after ITMFL I distinctly recall hearing about Wanker from all sorts of folks who had never heard of him before.

Skander said...

The Pianist won the fucking Palme d'Or the year that Irreversible was in Comp.

Congratulations bud, this is the first valid counterpoint you have made in this entire thread.

I hadn't yet learned that their vote for the best film of the past ten years is City of God. 2nd best: Amélie. 3rd best: Almost Famous. If that gives you a better sense of the sensibility that Dogville was able to register upon.

At least they didn't include Gladiator! If I have one automatic dealbreaker, it's people who actually fell for that Academy-approved, Tradition-of-Quality, middlebrow bullshit! Ooh, excuse me, I have to go drive my Prius now and listen to Coldplay. Hahaha! Losers!

But seriously bud, nice job throwing the two people from your hand-selected group who voted for two of those pictures under the bus. (And Andrew Johnston [RIP] probaly would have voted for Almost Famous, had he been able.) Then again, you do this every year... "No offense to the one person who voted for [film Mike D'Angelo considers overrated], but phew, I'm glad we're not all so retarded!

That's ed, I'm having trouble reconciling Ryan's hardcore "Nobody Is Wrong When It Comes To The Cinema" stance with all the grief he has given me over the years for liking Billy Elliott.

P.S. This Paste poll, whatever Paste is, is truly fucking weird, rather impressively so. Good luck trying to characterize it as any one thing.

Skander said...

Mike pointed out the FAHRENHEIT 911 response -- think of DOGVILLE's response as that, coupled with the fact that it is, in fact, also a great, or at least very good, movie (which F911 ain't).

Cue Ryan blowing his top. Seriously buds there is a world where people who are not retards or philistines prefer Fahrenheit 911 to Dogville for valid reasons. And it is not a magical faraway island where large plush creatures who sound like Tony Soprano hurt each other's feelings.

Skander said...

In fact, I'd argue that ITMFL turned Wanker into what many acknowledged as The Greatest Film Director in the World . . . DOGVILLE certainly maintained LVT's notoriety to some degree, I didn't see it making too many new converts to the Lars Cause.

Yes, but curiously Dogshit was a way more exceptional, left-turn of a picture for L'Arse than Ass was for Wanker. I think even many of Ass's megafans will admit that it was essentially Wanker making the same picture he has made over and over since he has started making pictures, except kicking his game up a notch (or, from my point of view, finally rising above pure stylistic wankery).

Whereas L'Arse went from his highest-grossing, most award-garnering picture, probaly the closest he will ever come to the mainstream, to a video of people walking around on fucking chalk outlines. The content may have been Same Old L'Arse, but the form was most definitely not.

Given the audacity of L'Arse's stunt, I could totally see how Dogville might have sent shock waves through the film world, forever blurred the line between cinema and theater, and influenced a generation of imitators. However, this only happened in Mike D'Angelo's head.

md'a said...

I was trying to move on, but what the hell, we're closing in 100 comments now so let's leave this retarded debate in the multiplexes for another few weeks with its $452 per-screen average.

At least they didn't include Gladiator!

Yes. Even though I happen to like Gladiator more than many of the pictures that actually placed, and was happy that it snuck into our top 20 back in 2000, to cite that film as one of the 20 (or even 50) best of the last ten years would be inane. (For Ryan: in my opinion.)

Given the audacity of L'Arse's stunt, I could totally see how Dogville might have sent shock waves through the film world, forever blurred the line between cinema and theater, and influenced a generation of imitators. However, this only happened in Mike D'Angelo's head.

I never claimed that Dogville has had any kind of influence, either culturally or in terms of other filmmakers. All I said was that of all the films I saw over the last ten years, it was the only case in which the audience reacted like they had just seen Zeus descend from Olympus. Which it was. Bilge makes a good point, however, in that certain films are just more likely to inspire that kind of reaction. Certainly I didn't feel any desire to applaud and hoot and holler during the closing credits of Silent Light, even though I loved it about as much as Dogville. It's more of a sit-in-silent-worship kind of experience on account of the lack of bloody violence, David Bowie, etc. That does not to me invalidate the intensity of what I experienced but it does suggest at the very least that other films may have inspired equal passion even though the crowd did not go berserk at the end.

Skander said...

Yes. Even though I happen to like Gladiator more than many of the pictures that actually placed, and was happy that it snuck into our top 20 back in 2000, to cite that film as one of the 20 (or even 50) best of the last ten years would be inane.

So let me get this straight bud. Mulholland Drive (#6 on your 2001 list) is a perfectly acceptable choice to finish high in a decade poll. Amelie (a mere 3 spots lower on your 2001 list) is an indication that the voting body is not to be trusted. In the Mood for Ass (#3 on your 2000 list)? Good job, buds! But Gladiator (4 spots lower) -- you are "inane" (or insane, if that is what you meant to write). A curious place, is D'AngeloLand.

md'a said...

So let me get this straight bud. Mulholland Drive (#6 on your 2001 list) is a perfectly acceptable choice to finish high in a decade poll. Amelie (a mere 3 spots lower on your 2001 list) is an indication that the voting body is not to be trusted.

Yes. Because—I'm not sure why this is so hard for some people to grasp—I'm not basing these assessments on my own personal opinion of the films. Dr. Mulholland and In the Mood for Ass are both plainly among the most celebrated films of the last ten years (by the Elite Nerds whose opinions I value, whether or not I agree with them, based on their general critical acuity—this remains an elitist argument). Amélie and Gladiator, equally plainly, are not. Hence my previous remark that while I personally think Sky High is a much better film than (let's change the other one to something I really dislike) The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, I would still look funny at a group that claimed Sky High was one of the decade's greatest achievements, but would not blink if Lazarescu showed up on such a list.

Also, I kept forgetting to say this, but actually I would have celebrated a Summer Phoenix victory for Best Performance, even while badmouthing her in the next breath. Because while I don't understand what folks like Dan Sallitt and Chris Stults see in that performance, I'm aware that it's singular enough to justify that degree of passion from those on its wavelength.

Really, this whole thing was not about the fact that I think Dogville is awesome. I would have made the same remarks about a winner I didn't care for, had I been present at its world premiere and experienced such a tsunami of Huzzah!

Bilge said...

Seriously buds there is a world where people who are not retards or philistines prefer Fahrenheit 911 to Dogville for valid reasons.

I wasn't trying to get a dig in at F911 or the people who might prefer it to DOGVILLE (I actually am mildly pro on F911 myself) but to point out the fact that one part of DOGVILLE's cocktail is genuine cinematic achievement in the eyes of many of the people who saw it. And I'd be willing to bet that a Cannes premiere audience would probably rank DOGVILLE above F911 in that regard, and thus may give it an even more rapturous reception than F911. Izza my point.

Agh, why am I getting into this debate, anyway? LVT's real masterpiece this decade was THE BOSS ON IT ALL.

Bilge said...

I think even many of Ass's megafans will admit that it was essentially Wanker making the same picture he has made over and over since he has started making pictures, except kicking his game up a notch (or, from my point of view, finally rising above pure stylistic wankery).

But my point is that ASS introduced entire new constituencies to Wanker's world. Like one day My Hipster Friends are living in blissful ignorance and thinking that HIGH FIDELITY is the be-all and end-all of cinema, and the next day they're all wearing dark sunglasses and blazers and looking morosely and saying, "Hey, Wanker is the greatest director of motion pictures working in the world today, even though I've never seen anything else he's done. Also, in this picture there is ass." (Another example of this would be Michael Haneke's CASHEW. [Only without the ass part.])

Whereas L'Arse went from his highest-grossing, most award-garnering picture, probaly the closest he will ever come to the mainstream, to a video of people walking around on fucking chalk outlines. The content may have been Same Old L'Arse, but the form was most definitely not.

Meh. I guess. But I feel like the whole Dogma 95 thing kinda laid the groundwork for this alleged sharp and sudden left turn. I mean, I barely shrugged when I heard what he'd done with DOGVILLE. My reaction was more like "Yeah, that's our Lars."

jeff_v said...

Seems like this is all about maintaining street cred for the Skandies among the film nerd culture. Dogville is a good #1 because it's not so obvious a pick that no one would care (which would be the case if, say, Mullholland Dr. were the #1). It's a provocative and defensible choice. By coming out with an early best-of-the-aughts list, the gauntlet is thrown, etc.

Anonymous said...

Almost at 100 inane remarks! Come on everybody!

Also, Tale of Two Sisters was fucking awesome, what the fuck.

Ryan said...

That's ed, I'm having trouble reconciling Ryan's hardcore "Nobody Is Wrong When It Comes To The Cinema" stance with all the grief he has given me over the years for liking Billy Elliott.

Bud, everyone knows there's only two movies one can never put on a top ten list: Billy Elliot and Twentynine Palms. So I hereby declare that your cineaste privileges are revoked, and I will have you arrested for saying the word “bravura” in public or for watching four movies in one day.

Ryan said...

Before I go on, I want to make clear that I have no personal dog in this fight (this Paste magazine list contains mainly titles that left me shrugging). I also appreciate Mike conceding some very good points made by others here, especially Bilge’s observation about how Dogville is sorta designed to elicit a frenzied closing-credits reaction in a way that other, perhaps equally loved movies would not.

Dr. Mulholland and In the Mood for Ass are both plainly among the most celebrated films of the last ten years (by the Elite Nerds whose opinions I value, whether or not I agree with them, based on their general critical acuity—this remains an elitist argument). Amélie and Gladiator, equally plainly, are not.

By this, what you are saying is that a decade poll must be *representative* first, and that the poll must be representative of a certain sensibility which are possessed by elite nerds, people you have defined as people “who live and breathe film.”

The representative issue really gets at sample size. I don’t know how many people voted in the Paste Magazine poll, but I bet it’s like Slant Mag. and AV Club, with the voting block consisting of a handful of staffers and freelancers. There’s no reason for a poll with N<15 people to arrive at a representative result. Had we picked out 10 people from the Skandies roster past and present, and they happen to be Dan, Skander, Jeff, Waz, Donna, Ken R., Wexler, Missy, and baaab, we will probably get a pretty “unrepresentative” result.

But I think Mike’s main objection is that, in his mind, no real group of cinephiles would arrive at the conclusion that City of God, Amelie, and Almost Famous are decade-best contenders. And I still don’t know where this conclusion comes from.

From City of God’s Wikipedia entry:
”City of God received impressive positive acclaim from major publications in the United States, gathering 93% of favourable reviews on Rotten Tomatoes. Empire chose it as the 177th best film of all time in 2008,[7] and Time chose it as one of the 100 greatest movies of all time. In the UK it was ranked 3rd in Film4's "50 Films to See Before You Die".

I know what Mike’s response would be, which is basically a hunt for mirror-images until we cast out not only the movie-lovers who have a fanboy sensibility, but also mainstream press reviewers, genre movie magazines, etc., until we get to a pool that exactly reflects a Film Comment/Village Voice sensibility. But be careful! If we reduce the scope further until we get to Cinemascope Mafia and Cahiers designating Colossal Youth, In Praise of Love, and Southland Tales as the top 3 of the decade, then we’ve gone too far.

My aperture isn’t so finely-calibrated, but by any reasonable measure of cineaste approval, those three movies are acceptable top movies. For one thing, unlike Sky High, they are drawn from the pool of generally acclaimed movies. In fact, why don’t I provide a link I found through D’Angelo, from Kevin Lee’s They Shoot Horses, Don’t They, that ranks the most acclaimed movies of the decade.

http://www.listsofbests.com/list/5305

This is as “representative” a list as I’ve seen. Look, we have all the usual suspects, including the likes of Mr. Lazarescu at #26. And yet here is City of God at #41, two spots above...wait for it, Dogville! And we’ve got Amelie and Almost Famous ensconced safely in the top 100.

Absent another list you can provide me that’s somehow more worthy, I’ll go with Kevin Lee’s list. By that measure, and Paste’s list is no more or less self-evidently right or wrong than one that trumpets Mr. Lazarescu, Still Life, and I’m Going Home as the top movies of the decade.

Ryan said...

Let's get to 100, shall we?

Also, I kept forgetting to say this, but actually I would have celebrated a Summer Phoenix victory for Best Performance, even while badmouthing her in the next breath.

Sure, you've got say something, and "singular" is polite enough. But the only claim you could have reasonably made was, “a lot of very smart people think this performance was awesome”, which is the *only* conclusion you can reasonably draw from the voting. That's noteworthy, but hardly a praiseworthy achievement in itself. You would not suggest that, based on the fact that some members of the AVB love this picture it is more praiseworthy in some way than if it had wider support. That is because it does not make the sense. And I bet you don’t believe this argument yourself, since throughout the thirteen or so years I’ve known you, you have rarely taken the position that nebulous, extrinsic-to-the-movie elements should be considered. I realize you are not using these elements to actually judge the movies/perfs, but I don’t see how anyone should be more or less happy about a particular result just because it reflected minoritarian passion, that a 160/7 vote is more meaningful than a 160/15. I can see being happy because the result brought attention to something you feel is under-recognized, or because you agree with the result, or even because you thought the movie/perf was particularly influential/meaningful/impactful in some way.

Also note that partisans of In the Mood or Mulholland Dr. might be less vocal simply because they don’t feel that their favorite was unjustly dismissed. In the comments you already have people saying they wish they threw more points to In the Mood, which was widely perceived as the favorite going in. If I reflected a little more, I probably should have maxed out on it, given the gap in my mind between the #1 and the #5-10 movies.

Nictate said...

OK, so now the rabid Cannes crowd reaction to DOGVILLE has been blamed on world politics, closing credit editing shifts, David Bowie, Lars' middle finger and a dead in the water competition slate. Mkay.

None of that explains away those critics who have called Dogville a masterpiece (at Cannes and since) -- whether they said it loud and proud or whispered it years later as they came out of the Lars-admiring closet.

That WKW won over some shade-wearing High Fidelity-embracing hipsters with ItMfL don't sound like no great shakes to me.

And, by the way, no one who would consider sliding more points to ItMfL at this point could really be Lars' Biggest Fan in America, so I WIN!

Andrew Dignan said...

Nictate:

So when Fahrenheit 9/11 gets some obscenely long standing ovation, it's universally accepted as an endorsement of the film's politics/thumb in Dubbya's eye as opposed to an honest response to the merits of the filmmaking but when the same crowd has allegedly the same response (albeit much, much shorter) to a similarly political film, one should in no way draw a similar conclusion?

(apologies for the run-on)

Nictate said...

Reply to Andrew:

Not at all. I'm not denying that politics intensified the applause. Makes perfect sense. My point is that there's so much passionate howling going here that's focused on that one showing in Cannes (however cool the story is -- I wish I would've been there). It feels a little ridiculous that people are even getting into analyzing the way the closing credits edit shift/David Bowie song might've intensified the reaction. That's all fine and blog-worthy, but the more important fact is that respected critics consider Dogville a masterpiece -- then and now. My remark was made to bring some focus back to that.

And, Skander:
I really enjoyed your Prius/Coldplay/Gladiator snap. Funny because it's true.

Skander said...

I personally think Sky High is a much better film than (let's change the other one to something I really dislike) The Death of Mr. Lazarescu, I would still look funny at a group that claimed Sky High was one of the decade's greatest achievements

Probaly this is due to your shaky sense of self-worth.

Seriously bud you are starting to make my head hurt in my opinion. I am but a simple man, who when I see a picture I like represented on a pole I think "Good job buds." End of story. Why does it have to be any more complicated than that.

Seems like this is all about maintaining street cred for the Skandies among the film nerd culture.

Good job vornporn getting to the hart of the matter.

Bilge said...

OK, so now the rabid Cannes crowd reaction to DOGVILLE has been blamed on world politics, closing credit editing shifts, David Bowie, Lars' middle finger and a dead in the water competition slate. Mkay.

Well, as far as I'm concerned, I did add that the fact that it was also a great movie was one of the elements contributing to said rabid response. And my point was specifically in comparison to the not-as-rabid-but-still-enthusiastic (reportedly) responses to other decade-defining films like ASS.


And, by the way, no one who would consider sliding more points to ItMfL at this point could really be Lars' Biggest Fan in America, so I WIN!


This is probably true, alas, since my fondness for L'Arse (as opposed to my fondness for ASS, or for that matter my fondness for ass) tends to center on his 80s and 90s output than his aughts output. I mean, after THE KINGDOM touched me in places where I don't like to be touched, a certain numbness occurred.

Skander said...

my fondness for ass) tends to center on his 80s and 90s output than his aughts output.

I do not know bud. Kidman, Howard, and Gainsbourg -- that is some pretty tough to beat ass. Better than this

http://tinyurl.com/yeznauk

in my opinion.

(Sorry female readers.)

Nictate said...

Excerpts from THE SIX COMMANDMENTS OF THE CHURCH OF THE ANTICHRIST
by Larry Gross
Film Comment, September/October 2009

"Von Trier, who’s made more great or near-great films than any European director under 60 except Almodóvar, does a perfect imitation of a fake."

"Von Trier was obviously venturing beyond himself and into masterpiece territory in Dogville with the introduction of the Paul Bettany character, whose mixture of tenderness and cruelty, intelligence and myopia, altruism and egotism, strongly implicates us in a way no other masculine figure in the director’s work ever had done before. Unlike any other von Trier film, Dogville incorporates the image of a believable masculine norm that might conceivably link up with feminine spiritual power and grace. The subsequent collapse of that alliance is excruciatingly sad, granting Dogville a depth and universality unique in von Trier’s films."

J said...

For the sake of the folks that skip to the bottom of end-user license agreements, FAQ's, and other publications whose text is of a generally intimidating length, I will summarize the gist of the participants' positions, both of whom are absolutely correct.

M'DA
Sky High is awesome.

RYAN
Even frogs liked Rashomon.

D. Rock said...

My apologies if it was brought up previously, but no Best Scene of the Decade?

Anonymous said...

This reads like "The Best Of Metacritic." A nice summary of middle-brow, Indiewood- and Cannes-centric criticism, but no way to go about appreciating cinema as art. Or even challenging entertainment.

You're a great writer, Mike, but you and your colleagues' tastes make me think you guys are still college sophomores.

"OMG did you see the new Wes Anderson!
"Yah bro! So quirky and hilarious!"
"Wait. Did you see Memento?!"
"It's even better if you're HIGH!"
"Totally!"

md'a said...

This reads like "The Best Of Metacritic."

Uh, no. Here are the highest-ranked films on Metacritic from the period in question:

01. Pan's Labyrinth
02. 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days
03. Ratatouille
04. 35 Shots of Rum
05. Spirited Away
06. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
07. Sideways
08. The Hurt Locker
09. WALL•E
10. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
11. Yi Yi (A One and a Two...)
12. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
13. The Class
14. There Will Be Blood
15. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
16. Werckmeister Harmonies
17. Moolaadé
18. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner
19. The Triplets of Belleville
20. The Queen

Total overlap: 3 films. And two of the three are by those notable mainstream filmmakers Béla Tarr and Edward Yang. Meanwhile, Skandie finalists achieved such legendary scores as 59 (Dogville), 54 (Gerry), 69 (The New World), 67 (25th Hour), 51 (Irreversible) and 36 (Trouble Every Day).

You're welcome to think our taste sucks—and to say so anonymously, without providing any indication of which films you believe would be deserving—but this is hardly a rubber-stamp list.

Also, I'm bewildered by this nonsense:

"OMG did you see the new Wes Anderson!
"Yah bro! So quirky and hilarious!"
"Wait. Did you see Memento?!"
"It's even better if you're HIGH!"
"Totally!"


Actually never mind. I was gonna say something in response, but I think just repeating it suffices. I've written extensively about Anderson and Nolan for Esquire; if you've read those pieces and still think the above a fair characterization, I don't need your compliments, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Mike,

1) I didn't mean that "Best Of Metacritic" remark in the way you think it did. I meant that all the movies you picked are listed on Metacritic -- i.e. only feature-length narrative films that have received some sort of distribution in the US.

Why is that a nitpick? Because that leaves out a shit ton of films. The Skandies List demonstrates a GLARING lack of avant-garde, festival-only, short, and documentary films. I'm not even saying that I know better or have better taste than you. But as a film critic, I think it's your job to tell us what you think are the best/most interesting films -- period.

I mean, Zero For Conduct and Flaming Creatures and Dog Star Man would never have made today's critics' lists of "best films" despite being revered now. I realize that not everyone is Michael Sicinski (lord knows, I'm not), so maybe you don't watch a ton of those "underground" films, but you should have the humility to admit that your list is very limited in scope. Just as I have the humility to admit that I'm no classical or hip-hop expert when I'm making "best of" music lists with my friends.

2) My "college sophomore" crack was pretty sophomoric. I just find it hard to reconcile your excellent critical skills with the somewhat fanboyish and/or trendy films-du-jour you choose to spend them on. I mean, do you really think we'll look back on Memento and 25th Hour as defining works of human expression? God, I hope not.

Btw, I love a lot of your picks. I just find it unsettling that a quality film critic such as yourself doesn't have any more of a broad and challenging a palette as an average part-time cinephile (like me). Critics should be challenging and improving readers' tastes and habits, not confirming existing ones.

md'a said...

I meant that all the movies you picked are listed on Metacritic -- i.e. only feature-length narrative films that have received some sort of distribution in the US.

Well duh. For one thing, only feature-length films were eligible in the first place—I consider the short a separate medium, more or less. (By the same token, most music lists don't combine singles and albums.) And films that weren't distributed in the U.S. were far less likely to be seen by enough voters to place, given that most of them are civilians who may or may not attend one festival per year.

Beyond that, I think you'd have to work pretty hard to find any group of 35 or so people who had seen and loved, I dunno, Klahr's Antigenic Drift or whatever. I mean, they're out there, but you'd have to deliberately assemble them with that result in mind. Not my personal intention here. This was always going to be a catalogue of (some of) the decade's most notable films, not a collection of obscurities that have been seen by a total audience numbering in the hundreds.

I just find it hard to reconcile your excellent critical skills with the somewhat fanboyish and/or trendy films-du-jour you choose to spend them on. I mean, do you really think we'll look back on Memento and 25th Hour as defining works of human expression? God, I hope not.

I have no idea what posterity will think of those films, but I do in fact consider them two of the aughts' ten best. Memento I would rank among the 10 or 20 greatest films ever made; it remains the only film I've called a masterpiece in print since becoming a professional critic. Again, I'm on record as to why, in multiple places, and it's hardly for fanboyish or trendy reasons—I think Nolan is working at a level of philosophical profundity that puts almost every other working writer-director to shame. You're welcome to disagree, but I don't appreciate the condescension.

Indie Rock Pete said...

Oh, Mike, don't you understand? Nothing is any good if other people like it!

Anonymous said...

"This was always going to be a catalogue of (some of) the decade's most notable films, not a collection of obscurities that have been seen by a total audience numbering in the hundreds."

Umm, isn't that a bit of circular logic? Those films will remain obscurities because critics like yourself refuse to point them out to wider audiences.

Mike D'Angelo: "Safe, Conventional, and Proud of It."

Nictate said...

Believe it or not, Anonymous, to "wider audiences," many of the films on this decades list qualify as obscurities.

For instance, it took me *years* to convince a very culturally literate friend of mine to see Dogville. Even though The Hurt Locker (while not on this list, still a useful example) got a decent release, everyone I've raved about it to (coworkers, friends, family) has never even heard of it.

The benefit of a list like this that doesn't deep-dive into arcana is that it serves as a bridge to that wider audience -- introducing them to challenging, beautiful, intelligent fare that either wasn't on their radar or that they were too intimidated to seek out on their own. With some good experiences in that realm under their cinema-viewing belts, they're then bumped that much closer to being ready to appreciate the obscurities you're longing to see listed.

Anonymous said...

Before Mike responds again (if he does indeed reply), I just want to: A) apologize for the unnecessary snark and B) admit that I'm venting largely because of the "genre" homogeneity of year-end and decade lists.

Again, it shouldn't matter whether many people have seen the films. As Nictate points out, Dogville is a total obscurity to most people. I understand that when writing for mainstream media publications, film writers have to keep in mind what is actually available for public viewing, but in a series like the Skandies, why not take an opportunity to promote films based purely on artistic merit? Doesn't commerce have enough of a stranglehold on the medium already?

Lemme put it this way. I listen to a lot of indie rock. I love it. But I'm upset that almost every Best Of list from "expert" critics consists of 90% indie rock/electronica...plus the token hip-hop or country album (which is usually something fairly mainstream anyway, e.g. Lil Wayne/Miranda Lambert). I find it hard to believe that little to no jazz or classical or "world music" albums belong on a Top __ of the Year/Decade list.

Anyway, that is all.

J said...

... why not take an opportunity to promote films based purely on artistic merit?

Seriously?

So you're actually alleging that the Skandies ballots are incontrovertibly the result of a group of folks dedicated to:

a) Validating their own self-image via their selections, and
b) Promoting "mainstream" fare so as to uphold cinema as a commercial enterprise,

and not:

c) Choosing submissions based on what they thought were among the decade's most meaningful movies?

And you conclude all of this solely because "mainstream" choices like Yi Yi and Werckmeister Harmonies were represented over such unnamed but deserving "underground" films? Please.

Roger said...

Hey, Anonymous, which films would you consider the best of the year? If you're so concerned about promoting obscurities to the uninformed, now's your opportunity. Go!

[The crowd swells with anticipation.]

Robert Fuller said...

Do you not understand, Anonymous, that EVERY year- and decade-end list and poll is limited in scope, by necessity? There are, after all, only so many films that a person (even a professional film critic) can see in a decade. Do you really think the Skandies voters see every "avant-garde, festival-only, short, and documentary" film, and then write their lists thinking, "That avant-garde film was great, but since nobody's seen it I'm going to bump it for Memento 'cause it's on DVD"? It's not a critic's job to point out obscurities just for the sake of pointing out obscurities.

This argument is inane.

Victor said...

why not take an opportunity to promote films based purely on artistic merit?

What makes you think any of us don't do that? Or shouldn't be offended by the implication we don't currently.

I certainly *do* vote for what I think are the best films of the year/decade, and do so without any regard for box-office or popularity. That list will, of course, reflect my tastes and what I have seen or can see. And this will penalize certain types of movies -- those I don't see or can't stand (the two categories not being unrelated to one another).

Only in Cloud-Cuckoo Land could my Decade Top 10 -- THE CHILD, TIME OUT, SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR, two documentaries, and only one American fiction feature — be considered in the grips of the stranglehold of commerce.

Victor said...

Just for fun, I decided to look on the IMDb for the US grosses of my Decade's Top 10 films, caught in the grips of UFC champion Commerce's rear naked choke. Each is rounded to the nearest 5,000-dollar figure:

MEMENTO: 25,530,000
GRIZZLY MAN: 3,175,000
CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS: 3,120,000
LA PIANISTE: 1,900,000
DOGVILLE: 1,530,000
4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS: 1,185,000
THE CHILD: 650,000
TIME OUT: 450,000
SONGS FROM THE SECOND FLOOR: 80,000
SILENT LIGHT: 50,000

The grand total of those figures is $37,670,000, of which two-thirds was accounted for by a single film. The other nine grossed an average of not quite $1,350,000, and two of them grossed less than $100,000 — i.e., a rounding error in Hollywood.

Seuss said...

I mean, Zero For Conduct and Flaming Creatures and Dog Star Man would never have made today's critics' lists of "best films" despite being revered now.

I'm sorry but this sentence does not make any sense. Do they not teach grammar anymore at Troll Academy?

Joshua said...

I would encourage "Anonymous" to look up the Skandies Undistributed polls, which are conducted annually to select the top films of two years prior that have not received a commercial theatrical release in New York. (For example, ballots will soon be due for the best undistributed film of the year 2007.)

The undistributed poll voters are those voters in the regular poll who have seen enough undistributed films to choose to participate.

Anonymous may find these lists more to their taste. If you need links to them, just ask.

Bilge said...

I'm kind of weirded out by Anonymous's encomiums to Mike as a critic, given the whining about the absence of documentaries, avant garde films, etc. It suggests that he has not actually read anything by Mike and is just pumping him with praise as a debating tactic more than anything else.

Certainly, anyone who is reasonably familiar with Mike's writing would never write such nonsense about MEMENTO (but I guess Mike basically said this already).

Anonymous said...

I'm a different Anonymous, but would appreciate links to the undistributed list.

Joe said...

Upon giving the list a second glance, my eyes nearly popped out at Summer Phoenix. Really? I'm going to have to go back to Esther Kahn.

Joshua said...

Other Anonymous: Here are the past Skandies Undistributed lists.

Undistributed of 2000 (conducted in 2002)

Undistributed of 2001 (conducted in 2003)

Undistributed of 2002 (conducted in 2004)

Undistributed of 2003 (conducted in 2005)


Undistributed of 2004 (conducted in 2006)
(starts here and continues over ensuing posts)

Undistributed of 2005 (conducted in 2007)

Undistributed of 2006 (conducted in 2008)

Undistributed of 2007 (conducted in 2009): poll is presumably ongoing, look for results on this blog in about two weeks.