best film: The White Ribbon from Michael Haneke
- The White Ribbon is a magnum opus from Haneke and easily his most visually spectacular film
- On top of the picturesque beauty, The White Ribbon is formally accomplished (Haneke is one of the great formal masters) as well, and that is what he is most well known for.
- Ernst Jacobi does the voice over of the school teacher as an older man in flashbacks and whenever he speaks, Haneke uses these gorgeous landscapes shots in jaw-dropping monochrome
- No musical score- like all of Haneke’s work
- The narration says the events “clarify some things that happened to this country”
- Stern parents to say the least: the Baron, the Doctor, the Pastor – he is the one who institutes the white ribbon on his children to remind them of innocence (he really means sinlessness and purity- a key word here in Germany).
- Gorgeous hallway shot of a dead woman in bed (we just see her legs) at the 13 minute mark. A meticulously designed frame. Actually it looks more like Bela Tarr than Haneke. Another hallway shot later as we get just the audio of the child being beaten for his bad behavior.
- Haneke is not normally known for photography attractive enough to rival Terrence Malick
- The narrative is superb as well: mysterious incidents, the Baron’s son goes missing, a laborer has an accident, suicides, torture– fire, it is all building… a film about death
- Haneke keeps his trademark chilly distance in his shot length—mostly medium and medium-long shots
- many immaculately crafted medium-long tableau shots including the final frame below
- A really strong shot of the alley of the church at 65 minutes and then the winter trees at 68- art museum quality photography capturing the seasons
- A scene right out of Bergman’s Winter Light between the doctor and his assistant (who he is sleeping with). “You’re ugly, flabby and have bad breathe” and that is a sample of how he speaks to her
- Again with the voice-over and landscapes—a rigorous form like always from Haneke—winter montage at 86 minutes
- Certainly in-line with Haneke’s philosophies on evil—-tie-ins to this generation of future Nazi children and the timeline with The Great War starting
- Haneke builds insulated worlds for his characters- a sort of monstrous dollhouse
- Leering children in the frame—disturbing—it does make you think of Village of the Damned
most underrated: There are as many as four films that stand out in 2009 as being unforgivably underrated by the TSPDT consensus. Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising may lead the way but Pedro Almodovar Broken Embraces, Jim Jarmusch’s The Limits of Control and Xavier Dolan’s I Killed My Mother are all infuriatingly missing from the TSPDT 21st century consensus top 1000.
most overrated: Above are listed four films that should be near the of the list for 2009. There are four films that need to move down to make way for the more deserving. A Prophet, Fish Tank, Up and White Material are all somewhere in the top 10 of 2009 according to the TSPDT consensus and should not be. Up has an brilliant opening that makes for shot a great short film. The opening is impressive to look at, innovative in its storytelling and it packs an emotional well earned wallop emotionally. However, the parade of dogs final chapter just does not work as well and that brings the overall film down (Wall-E, Pixar’s effort from 2008 suffers a similar fate actually).
gems I want to spotlight: There are bigger debut and first time archiveable films from 2009 but Tom Ford’s A Single Man (not to be confused with the Coen brothers’ A Serious Man) is evidence that this fashion designer is also a budding filmmaker as well. Werner Herzog’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans is a film I revisit often and Todd Solondz’s Life During Wartime could be another choice for the underrated category if that category was not already overstuffed for 2009. Lastly, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince proves to be the strongest film from the series.
trends and notables:
- 2009 may not quite be 2007, but it is closer in quality to the famed 2007 year than the lackluster 2008 year in cinema that proceeds it. There are quality films that will most certainly land on the top 1000 greatest films of all-time that do not make the top 10 of the year cut below
- Michael Haneke may be the director of the decade and 2009 with The White Ribbon is one hell of a capper. 2009 marks Haneke’s fifth top 10 of the year film, and fourth of the decade.
- The Coen brothers’ remarkable career continues with A Serious Man. They are on a run from 2007-2010 that includes a masterpiece, a highly-recommend film, a must-see/masterpiece border film and a highly-recommend/must-see film in four consecutive years with no break.
- Quentin Tarantino bounces back 2007’s Death Proof (his weakest effort) with 2009’s Inglourious Basterds– sort of reestablishing himself as one of the greatest contemporary auteurs
- Avatar is the box office supernova and obviously a major story in 2009. It makes for a very proud one-two punch for box office champions of 2008 and 2009 with The Dark Knight. These two serve as evidence that there does not always have to be a large gulf between art and commerce.
- This is a ridiculous class of auteurs with first time archiveable films. Xavier Dolan turned twenty (20) in 2009 making him, if I am not mistaken, the youngest director of a top 10 of the year quality film. Yorgos Lanthimos announced himself with Dogtooth. Cary Fukunaga delivered Sin Nombre and Luca Guadagnino’s I Am Love just slides off the back end of the top 10 of the year because of the unusually high caliber of films from 2009.
- Lars von trier starts The Depression Trilogy in 2009 with Antichrist
best performance male: Christoph Waltz was over fifty with decades of film and television work under his belt when he was cast as Hans Landa in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. Waltz’s trilingual talents (English, German, French) make him a perfect fit for the role. It is far more than that though. The unique emphasis Waltz put on the diction make him (along with Samuel L. Jackson) the perfect vehicle for Tarantino’s trademark dialogue. Michael Stuhlbarg would be a very worthy straight out winner of his category for his work in A Serious Man if it were not for Waltz. Like Waltz, Stuhlbarg is a late bloomer and 2009 and this film (imagine getting plucked out of relative obscurity to star in a Coen brothers or Tarantino film) changed the trajectory of his career (which is actually more impressive than Waltz’s at this point). That is it here for 2009- a light year for this category.
best performance female: This category has undeniably more depth than their male counterparts for 2009. Anne Dorval is as good a place as any to start here and Dorval’s story is crazy similar to Waltz and Stuhlbarg. Dorval had plenty of credits to her name when she took up with young Dolan for I Killed My Mother. Penelope Cruz, on the other hand, was a big name already in 2009. Cruz got her start in the archives with Almodovar, then went to Hollywood, then came back to working with Almodovar and Broken Embraces is the best work of her career to that point in 2009. In one particular scene, she is sitting wearing a platinum wig in front of big mirror– she is clearly a born movie star. Mélanie Laurent earns a spot for her performance in Inglourious Basterds. Multiple viewings of the film reward Laurent’s performance. Upon first blush, she may be overshadowed by the dazzling Waltz and louder (and funnier) Brad Pitt. But Laurent’s largely non-verbal performance is crucial to the film. Abbie Cornish does exemplary work in Bright Star– another standout female acting performance in a Jane Campion film that gets a mention (the fourth I believe) in this category. Lastly, Angeliki Papoulia gives a bizarre and undoubtedly memorable performance fitting of Lanthimos’ world in Dogtooth.
- The White Ribbon
- A Serious Man
- Inglourious Basterds
- Valhalla Rising
- Bright Star
- Fantastic Mr. Fox
- The Limits of Control
- I Killed My Mother
Archives, Directors, and Grades
|500 Days of Summer-Webb||R|
|A Prophet- Audiard||HR|
|A Serious Man- Coen||MS/MP|
|A Single Man- T. Ford||HR|
|Ajami – Copti, Shani||R|
|An Education- Scherfig||R|
|Antichrist- von Trier||MS|
|Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans- Herzog||R|
|Bright Star- Campion||MS|
|Broken Embraces- Almodovar||HR/MS|
|City of Life and Death – Chuan||R|
|Coraline – Selick||R|
|Crazy Heart – S. Cooper||R|
|District 9 – Blomkamp||R|
|Enter the Void – Noé||HR/MS|
|Fantastic Mr. Fox – W. Anderson||MS|
|Fish Tank- Arnold||R|
|Get Low- Schneider||R|
|Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince – D. Yates||HR|
|I Am Love- Guadagnino||HR|
|I Killed My Mother – Dolan||MS|
|Inglourious Basterds – Tarantino||MS|
|Life During Wartime – Solondz||HR|
|Mary and Max – Elliot||R|
|Me and Orson Welles- Linklater||R|
|Police, Adjective – Porumboiu||R|
|Precious – Daniels||R|
|Public Enemies – M. Mann||R/HR|
|Red Cliff II- Woo||R|
|Sin Nombre- Fukunaga||R/HR|
|Star Trek- Abrams||HR|
|State of Play – K. Macdonald||R|
|The Damn United- Hooper||R|
|The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo- Oplev||R|
|The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus – Gilliam||R|
|The Informant! – Soderbergh||R|
|The Last Station- Hoffman||R|
|The Limits of Control – Jarmusch||MS|
|The Maid – Silva||R|
|The Messenger- Moverman||R|
|The Red Riding Trilogy- Jarrold, Marsh, Tucker||R|
|The Road- Hillcoat||R|
|The Secret in Their Eyes – Campanella||R/HR|
|The White Ribbon – Haneke||MP|
|Up – Docter||R|
|Up in the Air- J. Reitman||R|
|Valhalla Rising – Refn||MS|
|Vincere – Bellocchio||R|
|Where The Wild Things Are- Jonze||R|
|White Material- Denis||R|
*MP is Masterpiece- top 1-3 quality of the year film
MS is Must-See- top 5-6 quality of the year film
HR is Highly Recommend- top 10 quality of the year film
R is Recommend- outside the top 10 of the year quality film but still in the archives