Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Top 50 of the 2000s: #10-1

10. The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2006): Another film that has dropped somewhat from my rough January list, due to nothing about the movie itself. Others are just moving up and have necessitated some juggling of the order. Judging by other movies that that I love – Antonioni’s Blow-Up, Coppola’s The Conversation, De Palma’s Blow Out, even Bertolucci’s The Conformist – this is a movie tailor-made for my tastes. The reason that I am able to love all of these similarly-themed films is that each of them, despite countless parallels, comes at things from a slightly different bent. To me, The Lives of Others has a much more compassionate, longing undercurrent to everything that is happening. Wiesler seems totally committed to the East German state, but behind the icy demeanor, what slowly emerges is a longing for something else. At least that’s my take, whether or not that makes sense to anyone else I can’t say. It plays like a thriller but has a longer lasting impact than any thriller I have ever seen. Furthering the connection to a movie like The Conformist, this is a story that will stick with you long after it has finished. And that is one of the key marks of a great film.

9. Downfall (Oliver Hirschbiegel, 2004): Possibly the most parodied performance of the decade also happens to be among the finest, as Bruno Ganz pulls of a believable turn as the decaying Adolf Hitler. The controversy surrounding the film’s release in Germany is understandable, as it is a testament to the power of Ganz’s performance that he somehow manages to make Hitler at times seem like a regular person. Just admitting that, though, gives the whole movie a very unsettling feel. You see the Hitler that listens to children singing or cares so deeply for his pet German shepherd and almost feel guilty that for a split second you aren’t looking at him as arguably the most evil man of the 20th century. But the humanizing aspect of the performance actually serves to make it all the more horrifying. The thought of a man capable of such kindness to little kids or the women under his care one minute who can then fly into a rage in which he damns the entire population of Berlin to death is disturbing. Hirschbiegel shoots the film very well, showing just enough of what is going on outside the bunker to keep everything in perspective, but never sacrificing the effective claustrophobic environs of the bunker for more combat footage. This is another downer of a film, but one that is absolutely essential.

8. Atonement (Joe Wright, 2007): As I said, 2007 will be featured prominently throughout this series. My estimation of Atonement has continued to grow and I don't think any film (even Eastern Promises) benefited more from watching it again. This movie skyrocketed up my list after I watched it last week. This was originally slotted somewhere in the 20s, but watching the gorgeous photography from Seamus McGarvey is too overpowering to keep it from at least this high of a position. The technical aspects of Atonement are marvelous, not only in McGarvey’s cinematography but also in some bravura camera movements. The famed tracking shot of the beach at Dunkirk is every bit as impressive as it is hailed to be. I love the way that the story is broken up in the first third, with scenes taking place out of sequential order to perfectly reflect the different perspectives of everyone involved. I previously believed that the final two thirds of the film were significantly weaker than the first, but I was just wrong. The war scenes are very effective. This is equal parts mystery, romance, and heartbreaking tragedy. Of all of the films in the countdown, this might have benefited most by my re-watching it before finalizing the list. It is a movie that is enjoyable due to how well-made it is, but distressing to watch it unfold. Drama of the highest order with photography that is achingly beautiful.

7. Once (John Carney, 2006): Another complete revelation to me when I finally watched this for the first time a few weeks ago. As soon as I finished watching it I had to discuss it with somebody and so I immediately shot off an e-mail to WitD’s Sam Juliano (who I knew was a big fan) just to rave about it. He’ll attest to the fact that I was completely gushing. I could not believe that I had waited years to finally get a copy. I have never really been a fan of musicals, which I saw that this is routinely said to be. That label is a misnomer, as this is nowhere near being a musical in the Singin' in the Rain or West Side Story sense. Rather, this is simply a movie about music or dealing with music, not a traditional musical. Then again, even that description might not be completely accurate, as the music is simply the means by which two completely different people are able to connect. The relationship between the Guy and Girl (yes, no names are given) is what matters, not necessarily the music. To be certain, the music is fun and it’s rewarding even as a viewer to watch as the two are able to blend together their musical abilities and magically write a cycle of songs. I could rave about this movie all day and my suspicion is that over time, this is one that will continue to increase in stature. It’s not easy to make such a simple, laid-back movie so incredibly powerful, but John Carney pulls it off. It runs the gamut of emotions – uplifting, funny, sad, poignant, downright joyous. Carney even manages to avoid the predictable conclusion and instead end things with a perfect finish. A great, great movie.

6. The Black Dahlia (Brian De Palma, 2006): I am already anticipating the collective gasp from most followers of the blog. That is, except for you Doniphon – I at least know that you are with me! Whereas Once was a movie that I just never got around to seeing for whatever reason, The Black Dahlia was one that I intentionally avoided. The reviews were unbelievably negative upon its initial release and I assumed that it was one that I could safely skip and move onto other worthwhile films. Once again, Doniphon at The Long Voyage Home clued me into something I was missing. Trusting his judgment, I decided to give it a shot. I loved it. Then, I had to buy a copy and make sure that it was as good as I thought. It held up. In fact, the movie remained stuck in my mind, similar to how the mysterious murder of the Dahlia consumed the two lead detectives of the story. So, this is the biggest limb that I will go out on for this list, as I do not hesitate in anointing The Black Dahlia to not only be among my personal top six films of the decade, but I now consider my favorite film ever directed by Brian De Palma. The main complaint about the film seems to be that the narrative is incomprehensible, but as Doniphon and I have discussed before, this is just De Palma lulling the audience into that belief. Multiple viewings actually show the he basically lays everything out for the audience. A first-time viewer is unlikely to pick up on all of these clues, but they are all out there to be pieced together. This is one of De Palma’s great appeal qualities for me: his ability to make the viewer think he is being tricky, when in reality things are not as complicated as you think. There is also a surreal aspect to chunks of the film that might be off-putting to some, but it works for me in a weird Twin Peaks kind of way. De Palma the visual stylist also shines here, as the sequence where he transitions from a shootout outside a storefront to the discovery of the Dahlia’s body is spectacular.

5. Lost in Translation (Sofia Coppola, 2003): This one drops a spot from the January rough draft, but only because the four films ahead of it are so strong. I still stand by my often-repeated claim that this is the best movie made by a member of the Coppola family in the last thirty years. This is actually the only film I have seen from Sofia, so she is batting .1000 with me as a director. I had planned on refraining from taking any shots at her turn in The Godfather III, but I can’t help it, she and her father deserve all the razzies they get for that. So, I’ll plead with her not to consider a return to acting at any point in her future. But why would she need to with directorial skills like this? And it’s not just her directing here, as the original screenplay also deserves recognition. What could have easily been dragged into the dreaded cheesy chick-flick territory never even approaches such negatives. Bill Murray should have won an Oscar for Best Actor but was nudged out by Academy favorite Sean Penn in Mystic River. Scarlett Johansson showed the promise here that everyone hoped she would live up to. Unfortunately, I don’t think she has – even in the other films in this countdown that she stars in, Match Point and The Black Dahlia, she comes across as very mechanical. Not in Lost in Translation, though. Here she is almost perfect. What it ultimately comes down to for me and this film, I suppose, is that I find the whole thing charming. Maybe it has something to do with personal experience. Although not the same in terms of age difference, I’ve had relationships that had a dynamic similar to the one here – not romantic, but unique in being different from a normal friendship. That personal connection certainly adds something to the experience.

4. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007): I don’t see how anyone can watch this film and ever listen to Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man” and not be reminded of either this movie of the Zodiac killer in general. The association has been imprinted that powerfully in my mind. David Fincher is another director that is popular both among critics and fans, but one that I never really warmed up to until 2007. I liked Se7en, but outside of that found a lot of his other blockbusters to be overrated. Zodiac was very different. What I like most about it is how it can be approached differently by each viewer. By the title of the film, it would seem that the central issue is examining who actually pulled off the sensational murders and taunted the police along the way. But the more that I watch the movie, the more it seems that the true point is examining the effects of obsession. Robert Graysmith becomes so consumed with discovering the killer’s identity – not necessarily bringing about justice, but just “looking into his eyes” – that it ruins the life he has built for himself. Fincher never resorts to cheap tricks or “got ya” moments to create tension. He doesn’t need to – the movie and story are just flat-out scary. I find few movies genuinely scary, but this is one of them. It’s just unnerving to me in a way that few other films have ever matched. The dread that builds up as Fincher follows years of investigation and speculation is beyond compare. The fact that this was not the top film of its year once again speaks to what a monumental twelve months of cinema 2007 was.

3. Mulholland Dr. (David Lynch, 2003): I don’t know how I could write only a capsule of David Lynch’s crowning achievement, or do so without copying everything I wrote in the annual countdown. So I apologize in advance to those that have faithfully followed the blog, as you’ve probably heard much of this before. The experience I had watching Mulholland Dr. for the first time remains one of the most memorable movie-watching experiences of my life. I had no clue what I had just watched, but I didn’t care – I just knew that I had sat through an undisputed masterpiece. I immediately began playing things back through in my mind, trying to put the pieces together. I’ve now reached a point where I think I can put forth a coherent explanation of what happens in the movie, but that’s really unimportant. Part of me thinks that analyzing it any further than I already have might ruin some of the sheer enjoyment I get from watching it. Perhaps this outlook will eventually lead me to understanding and appreciating Lynch’s later incomprehensible Inland Empire? At any rate, I would give anything to be able to once again experience this movie as I did the first time. Dreamy and magical are the words that come to mind when I think about it. Experiences like that are what hooked me as a serious movie nut.

2. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007): If forced to make a list of my favorite westerns of all time, I would put The Assassination of Jesse James behind only two other films – Howard Hawks’ Rio Bravo and Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven. And even then, I’d be tempted to find a way to nudge it toward the top spot! The movie was criminally overlooked when it came time for the 2007 awards season, but it seems to have enjoyed an ever-increasing reputation among those in the blogosphere. Maybe it’s my love of all things Malick that draws me to this film, but similar to that master’s best works, The Assassination manages to cast some sort of spell over me that keeps me enthralled for its three-hour running time. Somehow Roger Deakins lost the Academy Award for Best Cinematography to Robert Elswit’s work in There Will Be Blood, but in my opinion it is a no contest. Deakins here produces some of the finest work I have ever seen. The famed train robbery sequence never does anything less than give me chills. I had reservations about Brad Pitt as Jesse James but he is more than just serviceable, he approaches greatness. Casey Affleck doesn’t just approach greatness; he achieves it as Bob Ford. The personality he creates for Bob is perfect – at times annoying, neurotic, loyal, occasionally bold. The number of great scenes and sequences here come one on top of another: the train robbery, standing on the ice and firing into it, the tense dinner table showdown, the coda that closes the film. It took a lot to keep this from the #1 slot, but as we’ll see, my top selection is also an all-time favorite…

1. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005): There was certainly no suspense or drama as to what my top pick would be. Anyone who has followed the blog at all knows that not only do I love Terrence Malick, but this film in particular is one that I hold very dear. I mentioned the great experience that I had watching Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. for the first time. I had a similar epiphany with The New World. The great thing about The New World is that I manage to get that same out-of-this-world feeling every time I watch it, even now after having seen it at least six or seven times. I recently bought my third copy of it when I picked up the Blu Ray a few weeks back, which now sits beside the original DVD and the Extended Cut. I hate double-dipping (or in this case triple-dipping) on things, but if anything cries out to be watched in HD or Blu Ray it is the work of Terrence Malick. I pretty much poured out everything I had to say about the film in my review for the annual countdown (so I’ll at least direct folks there for a more thorough discussion). What I will reiterate is the way that I am continually drawn into this movie. Everything about it works for me. In my original review, I described it as “an all-encompassing, overwhelming onslaught of all the senses,” and that is the best way that I can explain it. Malick’s story, where fact and myth are swirled into his own unique concoction, hits me both in the stomach and the heart. The cinematography from Emanuel Lubezki is the best I have ever seen, bar none. The music could not have been more perfectly selected and now I cannot listen to a single note of Wagner’s Rheingold or Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 without wanting to watch this film. I could go on for pages singing this film’s praises. Instead, I’ll encourage folks that haven’t to read the extended piece I already wrote and leave any comments they would like. I will just finish by admitting that the more that I think about it, and more that I watch it, the closer I come to realizing that The New World is probably the best movie I’ve ever seen. If not, it’s damn close.


  1. Definitively daring to give the 6th spot to The Black Dahlia, personally I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it. To me the whole thing felt too messy (pace-wise, but then again it was amputated by an hour, it would be interesting to see a De Palma's cut) and I simply could not get over Josh Hartnett, oh God I hate him. What did you think of his performance?

    If you don't mind me sharing it, I made a little top ten of the decade, a few movies I highly recommend.

    1) Oldboy (2003) - The second most intense reaction I had watching a film, I absolutely adore this one.
    2) 25th Hour (2002)
    3) JCVD (2008)
    4) Big Fish (2003) - Burton might have made two truly wretched movie this decade, but he made Big Fish so...
    5) All About Lily Chou-Chou (2001)
    6) El orfanato (2007)
    7) Inglourious Basterds (2009)
    8) Let the Right One In (2008)
    9) It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004)
    10) Joyeux Noël (2005) tied with Hero (2002)

  2. Atonement is a film I didn't care for much upon release, but now that I've seen it multiple times I would easily place it in my top ten for the decade as well. It's incredibly rewarding upon multiple viewings, I don't feel that way about very many films.

    I'm with you on The New World as well, but although I'm a colossal Ellroy fan and wanted with every fiber of my being to like The Black Dahlia, I felt that DePalma turned it into something like a cartoon. The casting of Fiono Shaw absolutely destroyed the movie for me. Nonetheless, I still can't bring myself to hate it. Keep up the good work Dave.

  3. Your top 4 are all favorites of mine. I consider Zodiac the best film of the decade. People are always arguing that the movie isn't about the serial killer. But it's real power and point is the corrosive effect of obsession and how time can fade any endeavor that was once worthwhile and important. It is this decades Out Of The Past or Touch Of Evil, a top notch modern film noir. Mulholland Dr is a fascinating enigma of a movie. Maybe even better than Blue Velvet when it comes to Lynch's filmography. The New World is beyond description. My favorite Mallick picture after The Thin Red Line. Your top 4 are all in my top 10 of the decade and some of my favorite films ever. I agree that The Assassination Of Jesse James is one of the greatest westerns ever. I'm not a big fan of Lost In Translation or Once but I can see why others would love these movies. Atonement is really good and I remember enjoying it when I saw it in the theatre. The ending is so emotional and heart breaking. I think I need to rewatch it again or buy it to see if my appreciation level reaches yours. I must admit to never seeing Downfall, though I consider the Lives Of Others another great work of art. My disdain for De Palma is great. The only film by him I like is Blow Out which I still have some problems with. I must admit though after reading you and Doniphon praise The Black Dahlia I actually purchased the DVD yesterday and will be watching it soon. As an obvious fan of noir I am interested in seeing this infamous piece of hollywood history. I think every piece of criticism leveled at this picture is extremely negative. Yet since you both vehemently defend it I think it's worth watching to see if our similar tastes translate to this neo noir. Another great list Dave, good job. I'm on a massive film viewing kick lately. I'm trying to compensate for the tailing off that will most likely occur once the World Cup begins. I look forward to your next list project.......M.Roca

  4. It has been very interesting reading your top 50, Dave - there are quite a few of them I still need to see. In your top 10 I'm glad to see you including Atonement and Zodiac (Zodiac is one of the best newspaper films ever and Downey's performance is just heartbreakingly good, he should have had an Oscar nomination) and I also liked The Black Dahlia, though I really need to see it again. I'm not as big a fan of The New World though I do love the cinematography.

  5. First of all, great job (as always) on this list Dave, I really enjoyed reading about your favorites from this past decade, along with your always insightful thoughts.

    A highly compelling top 10 if I may say so. I still need to see Downfall and Once, but am absolutely thrilled to see my favorite film of the decade (and all-time taboot) Mulholland Drive ranked so high, as well as two others that made my own top 20 (A New World and Zodiac). I look forward to watching both The Assassination of Jesse James... and Atonement again, I liked both of them, but actually saw each under weird (and separate) circumstances, and have always felt like I really owed them another viewing. Of course your strong feelings for them only back that notion.

    I figured you would have The Black Dahlia ranked pretty high, though I am a little stunned by your pronouncement of it as your favorite De Palma. I actually liked it, and do think it got a bit of an unfair wrap from critics who labeled it as a sloppy, unfocused mess; it is in fact quite rich in detail, and as you pointed out, all the pieces are there in a stylish, morbid glory. And it's definitely a film that benefits from repeated viewings. That said, it's not close to best-of-the-decade status for me, nor would it rank in my top 5 (probably more) favorite De Palma's, but I love the audacious ranking and reading your passion for it. It's stuff like that that makes these lists so interesting and fun to read.

    My own personal top 10 from the decade:

    1. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2003)
    2. 35 Shots of Rum (Denis, 2008)
    3. Synecdoche, New York (Kaufman, 2008)
    4. Morvern Callar (Ramsay, 2002)
    5. Dogville (von Trier, 2003)
    6. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg, 2001)
    7. Inland Empire (Lynch, 2006)
    8. La vie nouvelle (Grandrieux, 2002)
    9. There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
    10. Colossal Youth (Costa, 2006)

  6. Great effort Dave. But I'm afraid that aside from maybe five or ten titles I must totally disagree with you selections. Most of them I don't think are bad movies or anything, but I find the choices very bizarre and quite different from what mine would be.

    Probably the main reason for this is the fact that I don't like Michael Mann's movies and I don't usually like Brian De Palma's movies. Especially not his latest ones.
    You have, however, given me another reason for wanting to re-watch The Black Dahlia. I saw it when it came out, and I really disliked it. But at the moment I am reading the book by James Ellroy and am loving it, so I will definitely revisit this film. To be honest, I'm really not expecting to like it at all, but you never know.

    Still psyched to see what you'll think of next and I hope that whatever it is, it'll be awesome.

    Keep it up, Dave. Up.

  7. QuebecGuy - I didn't expect any support on The Black Dahlia selection, so I'm OK with the disagreement. I am one of the few (along with Doniphon) that I know of who absolutely loves the movie. Hartnett's performance I thought was actually pretty good, but the movie is more about the overall feeling and style of it all for me rather than hinging on single performances. As for your Top 10, there are certainly some movies there I need to get to.

    Mark - Interesting reaction toward Dahlia, as there doesn't seem to be much middle ground when people assess it. I didn't expect to like it as much as I do - I don't think I'm a sheep following critical consensus, but I rarely have such a radically different assessment from many critics that I tend to agree with. As for Atonement, I absolutely agree. If I hadn't re-watched it, it would have been a Top 20-30 film and not this high.

    M.Roca - I saw your list at WitD and applaud placing Zodiac at #1. Your assessment of it is right on the money, it is a truly great film. I'll be interested to hear what you think of The Black Dahlia. Knowing your dislike of De Palma, I seriously doubt that it will be a positive reaction, but definitely let us know what you make of it. Based on how few people love it, it's obviously not a movie for everyone.

    Judy - Glad to see some appreciation of Dahlia! I'm with you completely on Atonement and Zodiac. Zodiac is another that, like Atonement, definitely holds up to multiple viewings.

    Drew - Thanks for the kind words. As you say, personal lists like this, which always include shockers, are much more interesting that "greatest" or "best made" type lists... at least I think. I'm much more interested in seeing what others truly love. There are certainly other De Palmas that push close to Dahlia for me - Carlito's Way and Dressed to Kill are right there, and Blow Out isn't too far behind either. But like you say, personal quirks like this are what much these exercises so much fun.

    Tommorello - Well, if all of our selections lined up then these lists would be incredibly boring, don't ya think? I'd definitely be interested in hearing your reassessment of Dahlia, even though I would guess that it will still be a negative one. Oh well, I'll sit on an island with Doniphon and Judy on this one! (LOL)

  8. For the record, I thought I would link to basically the only two reviews that I have come across that share a similar passion for The Black Dahlia. These are rare, as nearly every other critic I have seen crucified it.

  9. All very good films there Dave - Lives of Others, Downfall, Mulholland Drive, Assassination of Jesse James... & especially Zodiac, my favourite among the 10. Atonement too was a decent film which, though, I felt has been overrated by most. Once was also a decent film though Black Dahlia, in my opinion, was a mess.

  10. Dave, before the Wonders survey is done I hope to have caught up with those films in your top ten that I haven't seen yet. Of those, Once is the only one that looks not to be my bag, but who can say until I've seen it? I'm saving my own list for Wonders but rest assured that Zodiac and Lives of Others will be very high up. But when you place New World on top should we understand that to be the Extended Cut or does it top the chart in either form? In any event, thanks for focusing my attention on more films I need to see.

  11. Shubhajit - Yes, Zodiac is a great one... and a movie that seems to have acquired a very strong following since its release.

    As for "...though Black Dahlia, in my opinion, was a mess" - as is the best De Palma! I'm kind of kidding, as I actually don't think it's a great of a mess as most other seem to, but I completely understand that I'm in the EXTREME minority on this one.

  12. Samuel - The New World in either form would top my list. If I'm going to put it on to watch myself, though, I'm now reaching for the Extended Cut. As a slight defense of theatrical cut though, I seem to remember some editing differences in one particular scene (when John goes downriver to trade) that I actually preferred in the shorter version. But, there is a lot left out of the theatrical that the Extended Cut allows to be included.

    Give Once a chance... it's a quick film that surprised me at how much I fell for it.

  13. Matt Zoller Seitz is, along with Dave Kehr and a few others, one of my favorite American critics working today, and his review of The Black Dahlia is the best in my opinion (link posted below). It really is an incredible film, and always worth revisiting (or re-revisiting). My #1 is The New World too, and I really like Lost In Translation and Zodiac and Mulholland Dr.

    And I can answer your "how the hell did Elswit win?" question. I was at a screening of Assassination presented by Ron Hansen, who wrote the book, and he said that because Deakins filmed both this and No Country the Academy's vote was split, and that's the reason why he lost.

  14. Doniphon - Thanks for the link, that is a review I have seen before... I remember seeing it shortly after reading the Keith Uhlich Slant Magazine review that I posted earlier. Both are outstanding, as is Jeffrey Anderson's.

    I figured that was why Deakins lost, but I still don't think it justifies it... The Assassination was well ahead of TWBB and No Country, IMO.

    I'm curious, Doniphon, since you are a truly huge De Palma fan... I know that you really love both Femme Fatale and The Black Dahlia. What was your response to 2000's Mission to Mars? That is another one that was completely destroyed by critics, but that I found to be nowhere near as bad as I was lead to believe it would be.

  15. Dave, another great groups of films, though there are some I still have not seen (Lives of Others, Once and The New World). I just watched "Lust, Caution" today and it is an amazing work. The set design recreating the period is superb, Lee recreates a world of a place and time with exceptional detail, and the acting is powerful. I do need to find a place for this in my 2000's best list. "Downfall" comes close to or is a masterpiece as is "Assassination/Jesse James", a brilliant western evocative of Robert Altman's "McCabe and Mrs. Miller" in its exquisite cinematography."Zodiac" may be the best newspaper film since "All The President's Men." DePalma's "The Black Dahlia" will get a spot in my listing too, maybe not quite as high as yours but I am in the camp that this was a much better film than the critics gave it credit for.

  16. John - That is all music to my ears! Really glad to hear that both Lust, Caution and The Black Dahlia will likely make your own list. And I agree with the parallels you draw here between films as well.

  17. I love Mission To Mars too. I have minute reservations about the "this is how we got here" diorama finale, but compared to the strengths of the rest of the film they're slight. It's certainly one of De Palma's most overtly poetic films--the space dancing and follow the blood set-piece especially being highlights. It's all very naked and revealing I think. If The Black Dahlia is an examination of emotion through concealment, through unmitigated pain, then Mission To Mars is a demonstration of why that pain matters, what underlies it, if that makes sense. But I think it's a beautiful film.

  18. I really liked it as well... maybe not quite "love," but I really liked it. So for me, he has three films for the decade that I enjoy quite a bit. I was just curious to get your take on it, as it's even harder to find Mission to Mars defenders than it is to find proponents of The Black Dahlia! (LOL)

  19. Dave, I wouldn't put The Black Dahlia anywhere near a list like this. It was an opportunity lost in my book ---- BUT ---- you do make a very good point about some of the more "surreal" visuals and I like the TWIN PEAKS comparison. Though overall I thought the film is a mess, there are some visuals that have stayed with the raven perched over the body cut in two lying in the grass -- or the old film clips of Mia Kirshner (a very underrated and alluring actress) --- there was indeed some really good stuff in there, but DePalma lost his way in the convoluted narrative and tried too hard to give it that old-timey noir feel.

  20. David - I know I'm the exception in regard to Dahlia, but I don't find it nearly as convoluted as most everyone else seems to. Maybe people are so turned off by it that is never watched a second time, but any questions that may have been lingering for me after watching it a first time are now pretty much cleared up. And what fascinates me so much is how everything was pretty much sitting out there for the viewer, it's just not likely that they will all be picked up the first time through.

    Personal preferences are what make things like this fun for me, though, so there was no question that I was going to include a favorite like this on my own list.

  21. Dave, I just got in from a Broadway show, and am disappointed to see that the long comment I posted early this morning apparently never caught, which I know does seem to happen to me from time to time with that infernal PC on my wife's desk. Ah well, at least it got me to marvel at this fantastic thread by some many enthusiasts.

    You saved your best for last! Indeed, you sent me an effusively favorable e mail after you watched ONCE, and of course I was thrilled. It's one of the greatest contemporary musicals, but as you note it's even more than that. It's a film about innocence and aspirations, and it hits the high note more than once, to use the pun. The song "Falling Slowly" is simple extraordinary, and the scene where it's first played in the music shop is one of the decade's best individual moments.
    Of course, likewise I am celebrating your naming of ATONEMNT here, as it's my own Best film of 2007. Finally a blogger who lets it all hang out with this film, and i say kudos to you. Dario Marianelli's rapturous score, especially in the steady cam scene at the beaches of Dunkirk, and the war scenes you note, as well as the "master class of acting" sequence at the end, are unforgettable. And McAvoy, Ronan and Knightly are superb as is the exquisite cinematography by Seamus McGarvey.

    True, I never connected with DAHLIA and LOST IN TRANSLATION, buy hey.....maybe one day?......

    All others here: THE NEW WORLD, MULHOLLAND DRIVE, JESSE JAMES, ZODIAC and those two German masterpiece, THE LIVES OF OTHERS and DOWNFALL, well, you've struck gold with those!

  22. I disagree on Deakins over Elswit, of course. There Will Be Blood quite easily has some of my favourite cinematography ever. Assassination is incredibly beautiful and better than No Country For Old Men, but many shots and scenes in There Will Be Blood top it, I think.
    I'm not going to go through the whole film and list all the beautiful shots, but on the whole, I think Elswit's Oscar was deserved.

  23. Sam - Ah, I hate to hear that... I never saw the response either so I don't know what went wrong. Glad to see that so many at the top of this list are among your favorites as well. I know that in your list The New World, Atonement and The Assassination of Jesse James all made the cut (I think, going off the top of my head).

    Tommorello - We'll just have to agree to disagree. Elswit's cinematography is very good, but in my mind Jesse James is just on another Malick-like level.

  24. Hey, are blogs are pretty similar. Check mine out.

  25. Yeah, I can definitely see why you'd prefer Deakins' work in Assassination. But when I think of the images that go along with Daniel Plainviews speech towards the townsfolk of Little Boston my heart just starts to melt. Not to mention the Oil! scene...