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

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
THE BEST MOVIES OF SOME OTHER YEAR: As 2004 draws to a close, the nation's film critics prepare their inevitable horde of top-ten lists. So do I. The
tradition on this weblog is to ignore the year just past, on the grounds that I haven't seen nearly enough recent movies to offer an informed judgment as to which is best, and instead to publish top 10 lists for the films of 10 years ago, 20 years ago, and so on. After a decade of this, I'll presumably have seen enough pictures released in 2004 to catch up with my colleagues.

The drawback to this is that, even with the long delay, I keep seeing old movies that I wish I'd included a year or two before. If I could take another crack at the 1982 list I printed here two years ago, I'd find room for Say Amen, Somebody, a wonderful gospel-music documentary that I didn't see until a few months ago. Similarly, that 1993 list really ought to include The Nightmare Before Christmas, a flick I never got around to watching until last month. (And 1992? Make space for Svankmajer's Food!)

Oh, well. Here -- 10 years late but still provisional -- are my favorite films of 1994. If I ever get a chance to see Satantango (aren't they ever going to release that on DVD?), I might feel like rewriting this one as well.

1. Pulp Fiction
Directed by Quentin Tarantino
Written by Tarantino and Roger Avery

The most influential American movie of the '90s. Unfortunately, Tarantino is one of those artists, like Hunter Thompson or Marcel Duchamp, who it's better to admire than to imitate. But you can't blame him for that.

2. Crumb
Directed by Terry Zwigoff

This has a sequence -- everyone remembers it -- in which a comic book slowly devolves into something else, the illustrations swept aside by page upon page of tiny, illegible words. No movie has ever portrayed a man's descent into madness so effectively.

3. Hoop Dreams
Directed by Steve James

Better than every scripted basketball movie I've seen.

4. Before the Rain
Written and Directed by Milcho Manchevski

A Balkan time-loop.

5. Red
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski
Written by Kieslowski and Krzysztof Piesiewicz

Surveillance, love, and coincidence.

6. Chungking Express
Written and Directed by Wong Kar-Wai

More surveillance, more love, more coincidence. There's a plot line in this movie about a woman who keeps sneaking into a man's apartment and rearranging his things. I'm a sucker for stories like that.

7. Ed Wood
Directed by Tim Burton
Written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski

Alexander and Karaszewski went on to write two other movies about misfits, The People vs. Larry Flynt and Man on the Moon. But they were directed by Milos Forman, who turned them into sanctimonious biopics. Burton did much better, because he had the inspired idea to treat Ed Wood's life as a fairy tale.

8. Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter
Directed by Deborah Hoffman

It's a touching documentary about Alzheimer's -- and it's funny. No, really.

9. Burnt by the Sun
Directed by Nikita Mikhalkov
Written by Mikhalkov and Nikita Mikhalkov

A sad yet comic story of Stalinism, dedicated "to everyone who was burnt by the sun of the Revolution."

10. Pipsqueak Pfollies
Written and Directed by Danny Plotnick

In the words of the filmmaker, this brilliant little short "painstakingly details all the crap little kids can get away with."

Honorable mentions:

11. The Last Seduction (John Dahl)
12. The Kingdom (Lars von Trier)
13. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson)
14. The Madness of George III (Nicholas Hytner)
15. Faust (Jan Svankmajer)
16. Barcelona (Whit Stillman)
17. Fresh (Boaz Yakin)
18. The Hudsucker Proxy (Joel Coen)
19. True Lies (James Cameron)
20. Crooklyn (Spike Lee)

posted by Jesse 1:07 PM
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