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

Sunday, December 30, 2018
SOIXANTE-HUITARDS: We've wandered through my favorite films of
2008, 1998, 1988, and 1978. Now let's drop by the '60s.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1968, it gave its Best Picture award to the Dickens-goes-Broadway musical Oliver! I wouldn't say I dislike that movie, picture? That's just perverse.

1. Je t'Aime, Je t'Aime
Directed by Alain Resnais
Written by Jacques Sternberg

A New Wave film—"New Wave" as in both New Worlds and Nouvelle Vague—about a man who comes unstuck in time. It was shot around the same period that Kurt Vonnegut was writing Slaughterhouse-5, so presumably the writers invented the idea independently.

2. Hour of the Wolf
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

This isn't Bergman's only horror movie—you can make a case for classifying The Virgin Spring, Persona, even The Passion of Anna under that header—but it's the one most obviously indebted to the genre.

3. Shame
Written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

"Sometimes everything seems just like a dream. It's not my dream; it's somebody else's. But I have to participate in it."

4. The Prisoner
Written by Patrick McGoohan, David Tomblin, George Markstein, Vincent Tilsley, Anthony Skene, Terence Feely, Lewis Greifer, Gerald Kelsey, Roger Woddis, Michael Cramoy, Roger Parkes, and Ian Rakoff
Directed by McGoohan, Tomblin, Don Chaffey, Pat Jackson, Peter Graham Scott, and Robert Asher

This spy-fi allegory about a mysterious totalitarian archive was both the most experimental and the most anti-authoritarian TV show of the '60s. And it has enough of an arc for me to treat it here as a miniseries, even if the fans have never been able to agree on the "right" order of the episodes.

5. Coogan's Bluff
Directed by Don Siegel
Written by Herman Miller, Dean Riesner, and Howard Rodman

Clint Eastwood stars as a fool of a cop who stumbles his way through a case and somehow prevails. Suspenseful, quietly funny, thoroughly anti-heroic. Siegel's best movie.

6. Night of the Living Dead
Directed by George Romero
Written by Romero and John Russo

It was alternately ignored and damned at the time, but would anyone disagree today that it's one of the most important pictures of the '60s?

7. Once Upon a Time in the West
Directed by Sergio Leone
Written by Leone and Sergio Donati, from a story by Leone, Dario Argento, and Bernardo Bertolucci

There's making a revisionist western, and then there's casting Henry Fonda as a cold-blooded psychotic.

8. High School
Directed by Frederic Wiseman

An academic dystopia.

9. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Written by Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, from a story by Clarke

"Daiiisy, daiiiiiiiiiisy, give me your annnnnswer, dooo..."

10. The Lion in Winter
Directed by Anthony Harvey
Written by James Goldman, from his play

"If you're a prince, there's hope for every ape in Africa." (See also #20, below.)

Honorable mentions:

11. Stolen Kisses (François Truffaut)
12. Madigan (Don Siegel)
13. Les Biches (Claude Chabrol)
14. Faces (John Cassavetes)
15. Picnic with Weissman (Jan Svankmajer)
16. Bullitt (Peter Yates)
17. The Swimmer (Frank Perry)
18. Death by Hanging (Nagisa Oshima)
19. The Flat (Jan Svankmajer)
20. Planet of the Apes (Franklin J. Schaffner)

Of the films of 1968 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Hell in the Pacific.

posted by Jesse 8:51 AM
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Friday, December 28, 2018
HEAVEN HAS DAYS, GATES, AND PENNIES: I've listed some good movies from
2008, 1998, and 1988. I assume you can guess what comes next.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1978, it gave its Best Picture award to The Deer Hunter. It's in my list too, but not at the top spot:

1. Gates of Heaven
Directed by Errol Morris

"Death is for the living and not for the dead."

2. Dawn of the Dead
Written and directed by George Romero

Everyone knows that these zombies are a Metaphor for Mindless Consumption, but the script is far too sly to stop there. When our heroes hole up in the abandoned Monroeville Mall, consumerism doesn't seem like such a bad thing; if anything, the place feels like a utopian playground. At least until we see the zombie hordes outside trying to push their way in. Then yet another layer of meaning presents itself, one where most of the world is locked out of the wealth that a lucky few get to enjoy. At that point you might be tempted to sympathize with the zombies.

3. Blue Collar
Directed by Paul Schrader
Written by Schrader and Leonard Schrader

"They pit the lifers against the new boys, the old against the young, the black against the white—anything to keep us in our place."

4. The Deer Hunter
Directed by Michael Cimino
Written by Deric Washburn, from a story by Cimino, Washburn, Louis Garfinkle, and Quinn K. Redeker

The scenes in America offer a closely observed realism, and the scenes in Asia are a paranoid fever dream. You can criticize that politically, and a lot of people have done just that. But that contrast does give the film a dizzy power.

5. Pennies from Heaven
Written by Dennis Potter
Directed by Piers Haggard

I like the American remake with Steve Martin too. But if you watch just one version, you've got to go with Bob Hoskins.

6. Days of Heaven
Written and directed by Terrence Malick

The plot is the stuff of a hard-boiled crime story, yet the movie is more like a pastoral mood piece.

7. A Walk Through H: The Reincarnation of an Ornithologist
Written and directed by Peter Greenaway

The Tibetan Book of the Dead meets The Field Guide to Birds.

8. Girlfriends
Directed by Claudia Weill
Written by Vicki Polon, from a story by Weill and Polon

"You know, I'm gonna be old before I get to do what I want. Then I'll have forgotten what it was."

9. Always for Pleasure
Directed by Les Blank

"This is one of the only cities in the world that you can do what you're doing here: drink beer out on the street, throw the cans on the sidewalk. It's one of the greatest places in the world."

10. The Cramps: Live at Napa State Mental Hospital
Directed by Joe Rees

The title tells you what you're getting: A punk band plays a concert at a psychiatric institution. But that doesn't get across the ecstatic weirdness of a show where the audience wanders freely onstage and it's not entirely clear which people are the patients and which are the band's usual hangers-on. I want to believe the guy who takes the microphone about 13 and a half minutes in is a patient.

Honorable mentions:

11. Make Me Psychic (Sally Cruikshank)
12. The Driver (Walter Hill)
13. Mongoloid (Bruce Conner)
14. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman)
15. The Marriage of Maria Braun (Rainer Werner Fassbinder)
16. The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (Fred Schepisi)
17. ...Forever and Always... (George Kuchar)
18. Afterlife (Ishu Patel)
19. Special Delivery (John Weldon, Eunice Macaulay)
20. Phase Transitions in Liquid Crystals (Jean Painlevé)

And finally, a shoutout to The Last Waltz. I don't like this one as much as I used to: The older I get, the more absurd it seems to be so valedictory about a bunch of guys in their thirties. But it's still one hell of a concert.

Of the films of 1978 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Big Wednesday, The Suspended Vocation, and Future Boy Conan.

posted by Jesse 1:12 PM
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Wednesday, December 26, 2018
THE YEAR I GRADUATED FROM HIGH SCHOOL: I've told you my favorite films of
2008 and 1998. Now we'll head into the '80s.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 1988, it gave its Best Picture award to a feel-good formula flick called Rain Man. Which isn't bad as such films go—I've always liked the scene when Dustin Hoffman blithely confesses to counting cards—but it certainly isn't as good as any of these:

1. A Fish Called Wanda
Directed by Charles Crichton
Written by John Cleese, from a story by Crichton and Cleese

The last great John Cleese movie.

2. Apartment Zero
Directed by Martin Donovan
Written by Donovan and David Koepp

"If that's a mask, either take it off now or leave it on forever."

3. Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser
Directed by Charlotte Zwerin

Genius wrapped up in madness.

4. My Neighbor Totoro
Written and directed by Hayao Miyazaki

The phrase "family movie" is usually a euphemism for "children's movie," but this really is a picture that people of all levels of maturity can enjoy.

5. Paperhouse
Directed by Bernard Rose
Written by Matthew Jacobs, from a novel by Catherine Storr

Like My Neighbor Totoro, this is about illness, parenthood, and kids' fantasy worlds. But, um, not in the same way.

6. Distant Voices, Still Lives
Written and directed by Terence Davies

Like a modernist novel crossed with a music-hall singalong.

7. Grave of the Fireflies
Directed by Isao Takahata
Written by Takahata, from a novel by Akiyuki Nosaka

A good movie to watch if you want to cry uncontrollably for a bit.

8. Hôtel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie
Directed by Marcel Ophüls

There are those who collaborated with the Nazis during the war, and there are those who collaborated afterward.

9. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen
Directed by Terry Gilliam
Written by Gilliam and Charles McKeown, from a novel by Rudolph Erich Raspe

"Have him executed at once. This sort of behavior is demoralizing for the ordinary soldiers and citizens who are trying to lead normal, simple, unexceptional lives."

10. The Naked Gun
Directed by David Zucker
Written by Zucker, Jerry Zucker, Jim Abrahams, and Pat Proft

In addition to featuring O.J. Simpson's finest performance outside a courtroom, this is the best baseball movie ever made.

Honorable mentions:

11. Prometheus' Garden (Bruce Bickford)
12. Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (Mark Lewis)
13. Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (Pedro Almodovar)
14. The Vanishing (George Sluizer)
15. Miracle Mile (Steve De Jarnatt)
16. Cannibal Tours (Dennis O'Rourke)
17. The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Philip Kaufman)
18. Running on Empty (Sidney Lumet)
19. Virile Games (Jan Svankmajer)
20. Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (Robert Zemeckis)

And a shoutout to The Thin Blue Line, which can credibly claim to have gotten an innocent man freed from prison. Also, a shoutout to They Live: If I were to judge movies only by their best parts, that one would be in the top 10.

Of the films of 1988 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Bird.

posted by Jesse 10:17 AM
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Monday, December 24, 2018
THE YEAR OF THE LEWINSKY: On Saturday I told you my favorite films of
2008. Now we'll jump back another 10 years.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked at 1998, it gave its Best Picture award to a trifle called Shakespeare in Love. These are all better than that:

1. The Big Lebowski
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

"Fair? Who's the fucking nihilist here?"

2. Happiness
Written and directed by Todd Solondz

Daniel Clowes drew this picture's poster, and the movie matches his sensibility. When I think back to the darkly funny final scene, my mind usually distorts the memory so that I'm imagining a Clowes comic, not a film.

3. After Life
Written and directed by Hirokazu Koreeda

My favorite Japanese movie of the '90s, and my favorite cinematic vision of the afterlife ever.

4. Rushmore
Directed by Wes Anderson
Written by Anderson and Owen Wilson

It has what may be Anderson and Wilson's best script, it has what may be Bill Murray's best performance, and it has what is definitely the best use of the Who on a motion picture soundtrack. Yes, that includes Tommy.

5. The Celebration
Directed by Thomas Vinterberg
Written by Vinterberg and Mogens Rukov

It would be a spoiler to reveal what this story is about. I'll just say that there are approximately 10,000 films on that particular subject, and that this is one of maybe five that are good.

6. Oz 2
Written by Tom Fontana with Sean Jablonski, Bradford Winters, and Debbie Sarjeant
Directed by Nick Gomez, Uli Edel, Bob Balaban, Keith Samples, Kathy Bates, Alan Taylor, Mary Harron, and Jean De Segonza

Your reminder that the Golden Age of HBO was already underway before The Sopranos came along.

7. A Simple Plan
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by Scott B. Smith, from his novel

Raimi's best movie.

8. Out of Sight
Directed by Steven Soderbergh
Written by Scott Frank, from a novel by Elmore Leonard

Part of a great run of Elmore Leonard adaptations in the mid/late '90s, along with Barry Sonnenfeld's Get Shorty and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown.

9. Velvet Goldmine
Directed by Todd Haynes
Written by Haynes, from a story by Haynes and James Lyons

"According to legend, when Curt was 13 he was discovered by his mother in the family loo at the service of his older brother and promptly shipped off for 18 months of electric shock treatment. The doctors guaranteed the treatment would fry the fairy clean out of him, but all it did was make him bonkers every time he heard electric guitar."

10. High Art
Written and directed by Lisa Cholodenko

"I haven't been deconstructed in a long time." "Yeah, I bet you hate that."

Honorable mentions:

11. Pi (Darren Aronofsky)
12. Buffy the Vampire Slayer 2 (Joss Whedon)
13. O Night Without Objects (Jeanne C. Finley, John H. Muse)
14. There's Something About Mary (Bobby and Peter Farrelly)
15. Buffalo '66 (Vincent Gallo)
16. Dark City (Alex Proyas)
17. Billy's Balloon (Don Hertzfeldt)
18. The Truman Show (Peter Weir)
19. The Last Days of Disco (Whit Stillman)
20. Babe: Pig in the City (George Miller)

And a shout-out to Kurt and Courtney, which is brilliant if you take it as a mockumentary.

Of the films of 1998 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in The Apple and The Decline of Western Civilization III.

posted by Jesse 8:44 AM
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Saturday, December 22, 2018
THE YEAR EIGHT: I have no idea what the top 10 movies of 2018 were, because that would entail going to the cineplex far more often than I can manage these days. Fortunately, here at The Perpetual Three-Dot Column we take a longer view: We end each year by listing the best movies of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 30 years ago, and so on.

When the Motion Picture Academy looked back at 2008, it gave its Best Picture award to the faux-gritty fantasy Slumdog Millionaire. Here are some better films:

1. I Am So Proud of You
Written and directed by Don Hertzfeldt

Hertzfeldt's strange, funny, and sometimes heartbreaking animations always have an internal logic to them, no matter how bizarre they get. But no one else could come up with the internal logics that he invents.

2. The Dark Knight
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Written by Christopher and Jonathan Nolan, from a story by Christopher Nolan and David S. Goyer

Nearly every decision in this spandex-noir story is a tragic choice, with unfortunate effects either way. That gives it a weightiness that several superhero flicks have aspired to but few have attained.

Directed by Andrew Stanton
Written by Stanton and Jim Reardon, from a story by Stanton and Peter Docter

"I see the ship's log is showing that today is the 700th anniversary of our five-year cruise. Well, I'm sure our forefathers would be proud to know that 700 years later we'd be doing the exact same thing they were doing."

4. Burn After Reading
Written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen

A screwball spy flick.

5. The Wrestler
Directed by Darren Aronofsky
Written by Robert Siegel

Mickey Rourke's best performance.

6. Wendy and Lucy
Directed by Kelly Reichardt
Written by Reichardt and Jon Raymond, from a novel by Raymond

"You can't get an address without an address. You can't get a job without a job. It's all fixed."

7. Man on Wire
Directed by James Marsh

Nick Gillespie
says this is the 9/11 movie, and he may be right. Though I should note that this was also the year of Cloverfield.

8. The Class
Directed by Laurent Cantet
Written by Cantet, François Bégaudeau, and Robin Campillo, from a novel by Bégaudeau

It's a movie about a young teacher in the inner city, and yes I know that those are usually dumb savior fantasies, but this one avoids the clichés of the genre.

9. The Order of Myths
Directed by Margaret Brown

The mystic societies of Mobile, Alabama.

10. The Headless Woman
Written and directed by Lucrecia Martel

A haunting.

Honorable mentions:

11. The Baader Meinhof Complex (Uli Edel)
12. Bronson (Nicolas Winding Refn)
13. The Wire 5 (David Simon)
14. Mock Up On Mu (Craig Baldwin)
15. In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
16. Lies (Jonas Odell)
17. Civilization (Marco Brambilla)
18. A Matter of Loaf and Death (Nick Park)
19. Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (Joss Whedon)
20. The Facts in the Case of Mister Hollow (Rodrigo Gudiño, Vincent Marcone)

As you probably know, The Wire is a TV series, not a traditional feature film. So the fella in parentheses on that line is the showrunner, not the director.

Of the films of 2008 that I haven't seen, I'm most interested in Let the Right One In and Helsinki, Forever.

posted by Jesse 3:52 PM
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