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by Nicolas Rapold
At the risk of being unfashionable and refraining from political-economic bulletins or critical do-overs, we at The L humbly submit 2008 as a year of great beauty in cinema. While the intensity and bloodlusty popularity of The Dark Knight warrant morbid attention, this was also a year of serene, intimate time-slipping (Hou Hsiao Hsien's Flight of the Red Balloon), breathtaking panoramas of destruction and dispersal (Jia Zhangke's Still Life, a delayed release), and astonishing iterative compositions (James Benning's RR, an American classic on many levels). The stirring moments could be found in strange places: brashly engaging revolution (Che, Part One) and its mesmerizingly drawn-out twilight (Part Two), an inward portrait of a bereft woman and her dog (Wendy and Lucy and Michelle Williams), Scandinavian-engineered vampire tween friendship (Let the Right One In), rapture in archaic dialect (Silent Light), and terrible storms tracked with novelistic nuance (The Last Mistress).
But, yes: the genre of indie film received its periodic rejiggering of authenticity rhetoric, shifting focus from mumblecore to neo-neorealism, with one example being the carefully engineered Ballast (and a counteralternative coming from a Frenchman—not Laurence Cantet's The Class but Jacques Nolot's Before I Forget). A franchise recalling the avid turnover of silent serials arose (Twilight) and like Mamma Mia! made a lot of money off a strange niche audience only recently identified and classified after extensive scientific research. Iron Man offered Hollywood another model of offhand blockbuster charisma, and Slumdog Millionaire the nearly audible head-scratching of what a knock-off attempting to repeat its success would even look like. Meanwhile, an embattled blockbuster-scale mentality seized Synecdoche, New York and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Animation as form or function saw sweeping old-time grandeur (in the rubble heaps of Wall-E), hybrid wormholing into scarred consciences (Waltz with Bashir), and the glorious folly of live-action imitation (Speed Racer). Lastly, as the decade of a documentary boom wound down, Man on Wire and Trouble the Water found ardent support, Wiseman's heartening government-in-action portrait State Legislature saw the light of a theater, The Unforeseen found an aesthetic for the mapping of progress, and more people lined up for Alex Gibney's Hunter S. Thompson hagiography Gonzo than his Taxi to the Dark Side.
The second half of a two-part video essay on the decade at the movies covers the best of 2005-2009. Plus, year-in-review snapshots from our senior film writers.
Dec 31, 2009
Our senior film writers offer their thoughts on the decade at the movies, one year at a time.
Dec 30, 2009