The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
The Perpetual Three-Dot Column
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by Jesse Walker

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
NINE OF OUR LUFTBALLONS ARE MISSING: On Monday I listed my favorite films of
a decade ago. Today we'll go another 10 years into the past.

When the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences looked back at 1990, it gave its Best Picture award to Dances with Wolves, the middlebrow message-movie that definitively established that a revisionist western could be boring. I prefer these:

1. Miller's Crossing
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

A story about power, loyalty, and violence, and the ways the first item on that list depends on the other two.

2. Ju Dou
Directed by Zhang Yimou and Yang Fengliang
Written by Liu Heng

From the days when Zhang made movies that worried the Chinese authorities instead of celebrating them.

3. The Reflecting Skin
Written and directed by Philip Ridley

This would make an interesting double feature with Martin.

4. An Angel at My Table
Directed by Jane Campion
Written by Laura Jones, from the memoirs of Janet Frame

The life of Janet Frame, who endured psychiatric torture just for being a bit of a nonconformist, survived the experience, and became a successful writer. I've never been a big Campion fan, but this movie is a masterpiece.

5. Jacob's Ladder
Directed by Adrian Lyne
Written by Bruce Joel Rubin

Lyne's flicks are usually unwatchable, and Rubin is best known for writing the sappy Ghost. How those two, of all people, managed to put together this absorbing thriller -- part Philip K. Dick, part Lucius Shepard, part Ambrose Bierce -- is a mystery.

6. Europa Europa
Directed by Agnieszka Holland
Written by Holland with Paul Hengge, from the memoirs of Solomon Perel

Schindler's List poses the audience a question: Would you give up your riches to save thousands of lives, or would you selfishly serve the Nazis? And us viewers allow ourselves to believe that we would be as noble as Oskar Schindler, and we pat ourselves on the back. Europa Europa, the tale of a Jewish boy passing as an Aryan in the Nazi era, asks a much trickier question: whether we'd be willing to suppress our own identity to survive, inflicting tremendous physical and emotional pain on ourselves in the process. The answer is not as easy, and the movie is much more interesting.

7. The Nasty Girl
Written and directed by Michael Verhoeven

Another good Holocaust film -- they're rare, but they do exist. This one is about the Germans who weren't as noble as Oskar Schindler, and how they dealt with their history after the war was over.

8. Sink or Swim
Written and directed by Su Friedrich

"She didn't know whether to feel pity or envy for the young girl who sat alone in the sunshine trying to invent a more interesting story."

9. Quick Change
Directed by Howard Franklin and Bill Murray
Written by Franklin, from a novel by Jay Cronley

Some movies are love letters to New York. This is not one of them.

10. To Sleep with Anger
Written and directed by Charles Burnett

"And where did he get the power to summon up all his old raffish friends?"

Honorable mentions:

11. Metropolitan (Whit Stillman)
12. King of New York (Abel Ferrara)
13. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese)
14. Miami Blues (George Armitage)
15. La Femme Nikita (Luc Besson)
16. The Freshman (Andrew Bergman)
17. The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia (Jan Svankmajer)
18. White Hunter, Black Heart (Clint Eastwood)
19. Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami)
20. To Be (John Weldon)

Of the movies of 1990 that I haven't seen, the one that interests me the most is No Fear, No Die.

posted by Jesse 4:13 PM
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