Best Films List: A Bakers Dozen
by Dennis Morton
Some lists are useful. Others arent. A
list of the years best films is probably more useful to
the person who compiles it than to anyone else. It requires
at least a modicum of reflection, and its a self-testing,
too. Does that movie you gave a glowing review to six months
ago hold up? Do you even remember it?
Well, for better or worse, heres a list of the movies
Id see again, gladly. Many of them Ive already seen
Ill start with the foreign films.
There are six Ill mention in the first tier. They are:
Cuckoo a Russian film about the limits and uses of language.
The absence of a lingua franca among the three lead characters
drives the story. Its a nearly perfect movie.
Swimming Pool a French film about the creative process.
Charlotte Rampling is a great actress. Look for the egg on the
dresser. It signals the beginning of many things.
Magdalene Sisters Riveting and upsetting. Its based
on a true story of slave labor sanctioned by an unholy alliance
of church, state and a misogynist culture in an Ireland
of not so long ago.
Dirty Pretty Things A taut tale of immigrant life in
contemporary London. Part love story, part mystery. Beautifully
acted by a great cast.
Winged Migration One of the greatest nature films of
all time, and vitally important. The people who put this film
together are now collaborating on a film with Paul Watson, the
founder of Sea Shepherds.
Bus 174 This Brazilian movie should be required viewing
for any person seeking public office. Poverty is expensive.
This film shows us why. Its humane and intelligent.
Now, to round out my bakers dozen, here is a list of seven
American films worthy of sustained attention.
There are four films from the major studios that stand out for
In America and Lost In Translation are my favorites.
In America is the story of one familys struggle to come
to grips with a tragedy. Had mom and dad read Jon Kabot-Zinns
"Wherever You Go, There You Are", the family might
have stayed put in Ireland. But wed have been deprived
of a great story.
Lost In Translation is Sofia Coppolas second film. She
is wise beyond her years. Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansen are
great as two old souls who meet on a temporarily narrow path.
This movie is distinguished by its uncommon restraint.
Mystic River is a showcase for Sean Penns greatest performance.
Clint Eastwood has never made a better film. Mystic River is
brilliantly chilling and easily one of the best movies of the
Legally Blonde 2 probably wont be on anyone elses
list of best pictures. Its on mine because its an
ethically revolutionary film. LB2 cleverly and unashamedly targets
teenage girls who will buy billions of dollars of cosmetics
over the course of their consuming years. Thanks to this film,
many of them wont be purchasing cosmetics tested on defenseless
animals. Three cheers to Reese Witherspoon and to animal rights
Ill close by naming three films that are smaller only
in the sense of their budgets. They are Raising Victor Vargas,
Capturing The Freidmans, and what may be my favorite film
of the year Northfork.
Raising Victor Vargas is an urban coming of age movie. Good
intentions do not always lead to hell, as this movie sweetly
Capturing The Freidmans is a documentary that turns the audience
into an appellate court. Using astonishingly invasive and intimate
home film stock, and interviews with participants in a famous
pedophilia trial, this film asks if justice was served.
Last, but by no means least, Ive placed the Polish brothers
third film on my list of bests.
Northfork is the story of the death of a town, a death by intentional
drowning. Its surreal and beautiful and sad. Its
also droll and funny. The Polish brothers are the real thing.
And Northfork is their best movie so far.
If I were the Emperor of Oscars, Id slice the little golden
guy into three equal pieces and give one part to Northfork,
one part to In America, and one part to Lost In Translation.
For KUSPs Film Gang, this is Dennis Morton.