The Best Films of 1997

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The Best Films of 1998

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The Best Films of 1999

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The Best Films of 2000

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The Best Films of 2001

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The Best Films of 2002

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The Best Films of the 2000’s

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The Best Films of the 1990’s

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The Best Films of the 1980’s

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The Best Films of the 1970’s

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The Best Films of 1990

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The Best Films of 1991

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The Best Films of 1992

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The Best Films of 1993

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The Best Films of 1994

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The Best Films of 1995

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The Best Films of 1996

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INTOLERANCE: LOVE’S STRUGGLE THROUGHOUT THE AGES (1916)

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Having reinvigorated and innovated elements of the (still) fresh medium of cinema in Birth of a Nation (1915), D.W. Griffith decided to one-up himself with the epic Intolerance (1916), a reply to critiques of the “somewhat” over-the-top racism of his previous seminal work.

In Intolerance, not content to simply use an epic canvas to tell one story, Griffith set forth to tell four intercut and thematically reflective narratives in the same roughly three-hour runtime. Challenging audiences who had (relatively-speaking) no (or little) experience with basic cross-cutting, let alone stories spanning generations and settings, Griffith attempted to make a point by expanding his already epic worldview in order to include all of history and the world – quite a leap from the tunnel-vision of his previous effort (Birth of a Nation).

Intolerance tells four stories intercut, spanning time and “space” to make a larger point about the history of intolerance in the world in many forms and contexts. The film tells its stories clarifies the differences through tinting of different segments. Telling the most modern tale in black-and-white – that of a woman deemed an unfit mother by puritanical activists – he suggests that in her world there is no room for shades of grey, at least through puritanical eyes. And then there is the tale of the French royalty and their sickly green sense of depravity.

For the ancient Babylonian sequences, he used a dusty yellow hue to capture a sense of time gone-by and give the screen an organic feel for the time and place. Further, intertitles in these sequences suggested an almost “Encyclopedic” quality with their explanatory notes at the bottom. This lends itself a historical context as well – ‘it is written, so shall it be,’ as it were.

These Babylonian sequences utilize a technique unheard of in American cinema at the time. The so-called ‘Cabiria Tracking Shot’ is named for Giovane Pastrone’s 1914 Italian historical epic. Like the Babylonian sequences in Griffith’s film, this too featured

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The Best Films of 2013

Every year, it is any critic’s “duty” to put together a list of the “ten best” films of the year. I find year after year that this is a time-consuming and difficult task. How is one who truly loves film supposed to narrow down a list to a mere “top 10″? I’ve tried every way I know how to list, number, and/or categorize my favorite films of the year – a lengthy list, indeed – and it never feels as though I’m doing true justice to those films that don’t fit in a list of ten.

So: I have listed my “top 10″ alphabetically below, preceded only by my two favorite films of the year, then an “Alternative Top 10” (all the great films that won’t fit in a list of 10). There is then a Best Documentaries list followed by the “Eleventh Place” tie (Honorable Mentions; very good films which didn’t quite reach full “greatness” but were worthy nonetheless). Still, this is all pretty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. However, as a top ten is some kind of sacred thing for critics, here goes… Continue reading

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Terrence Malick

Russian filmmaker and theorist Sergei M. Eisenstein (1898-1948) had a profound effect on how cinematic montage is constructed, viewed and interpreted. In his joint “A Statement (on Sound),” written with contemporaries V.I. Pudovkin, G.V. Alexandrov and Dziga Vertov, Eisenstein wrote that:

At present, the film, working with visual images, has a powerful effect on a person and has rightfully taken one of the first places among the arts. It is known that the basic (and only) means that has brought the cinema to such a powerfully effective strength is MONTAGE. The affirmation of montage, as the chief means of effect, has become the indisputable axiom on which the worldwide culture of the cinema has been built. Continue reading

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60s Cinema

The sixties were a turbulent time. The sound of war drums reverberated throughout the land and anger, frustration and melancholy filled every man and woman who took umbrage with their government’s decision to create such a climate. Fear and hatred reigned over nearly everyone. Yet in this climate, film artists were able to capture its essence in remarkably accurate ways. Utilizing (pseudo-) documentarian style, polemical methods of collage and a keen eye for detail, such diverse, youthfully-spirited upstart filmmakers as Haskell Wexler, Jean-Luc Godard and Robert Altman managed to create a “feel” for what it was like to be there in the thick of a world on the cusp of catastrophic social change. Continue reading

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John Carpenter

For a pop filmmaker who specializes in elegantly made if occasionally somewhat hoky modern horror films and cheeky action extravaganzas, one can nevertheless find many recurring themes in the cinema of John Carpenter. From his use of the ‘siege movie’ motif and the claustrophobic implications of that sub-genre to his political undercurrents in even the goofiest surfaces of his plots to his recycling and elaboration of the concept of the Hawksian woman, so named for the kind of tough, independent and quick-minded female often featured in the work of his idol, Howard Hawks, John Carpenter’s work is often more than meets the eye. Fitting then that perhaps one of the most overlooked themes of much of his best work is existential in nature – that of the discovery of worlds within worlds leading to the breakdown or redefining of the concept of reality. Continue reading

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The Best Films of 2012

Every year, it is any critic’s “duty” to put together a list of the “ten best” films of the year. I find year after year that this is a time-consuming and difficult task. How is one who truly loves film supposed to narrow down a list to a mere “top 10″? I’ve tried every way I know how to list, number, and/or categorize my favorite films of the year – a lengthy list, indeed – and it never feels as though I’m doing true justice to those films that don’t fit in a list of ten.

So: I have listed my “top 10″ alphabetically below, preceded only by my two favorite films of the year, then an “Alternative Top 10″ (all the great films that won’t fit in a list of 10). There is then a Best Documentaries list followed by the “Eleventh Place” tie (Honorable Mentions; very good films which didn’t quite reach full “greatness” but were worthy nonetheless). Still, this is all pretty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. However, as a top ten is some kind of sacred thing for critics, here goes… Continue reading

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The Best Films of 2011

To quote Roger Ebert, whom I cannot top: “I am violating the age-old custom that film critics announce the year’s 10 best films, but after years of such lists, I’ve had it. A best films list should be a celebration of wonderful films, not a chopping process.” Here then is my list of every great film: the very cream of the crop of U.S. film releases I’ve seen in 2011.

The list is categorized, however, into my alphabetical top 10 list (headed by my two favorite films of the year), followed by a “Tie for 11th” list in alphabetical order. Enjoy!

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The Best Films of 2010

To quote Roger Ebert, whom I cannot top: “I am violating the age-old custom that film critics announce the year’s 10 best films, but after years of such lists, I’ve had it. A best films list should be a celebration of wonderful films, not a chopping process.”

Here then is my list of every great film and masterpiece: the very cream of the crop of U.S. film releases I’ve seen in 2010.

The list is categorized, however, into an alphabetical top 10 list (headed by my two favorite films of the year), an “alternate” top 10 list in alphabetical order, “The Rest of the Best” (alphabetical; Eleventh Place tie) – consisting of films that didn’t quite make the two ten best and finally the alphabetical best animated, documentary and foreign films of the year. These categories are intended to clarify things only – they are virtually all equals. Enjoy!

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The Best Films of 2009

To quote Roger Ebert, whom I cannot top: “I am violating the age-old custom that film critics announce the year’s 10 best films, but after years of such lists, I’ve had it. A best films list should be a celebration of wonderful films, not a chopping process.”

Here then is my list of every great film and masterpiece: the very cream of the crop of U.S. film releases I’ve seen in 2009.

The list is categorized, however, into an alphabetical top 10 list (headed by my two favorite films of the year), an “alternate” top 10 list in alphabetical order, and finally the alphabetical best animated, documentary and foreign films of the year. These categories are intended to clarify things only – they are virtually all equals. Enjoy!

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The Best Films of 2008

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Every year, it is any critic’s “duty” to put together a list of the “ten best” films of the year. I find year after year that this is a time-consuming and difficult task. How is one who truly loves film supposed to narrow down a list to a mere “top 10″? I’ve tried every way I know how to list, number, and/or categorize my favorite films of the year – a lengthy list, indeed – and it never feels as though I’m doing true justice to those films that don’t fit in a list of ten.

So: I have listed my “top 10″ alphabetically below, preceded only by my two favorite films of the year, then an “Alternative Top 10″ (all the great films that won’t fit in a list of 10). There is then a Best Documentaries list followed by the “Eleventh Place” tie (Honorable Mentions; very good films which didn’t quite reach full “greatness” but were worthy nonetheless). Still, this is all pretty arbitrary in the grand scheme of things. However, as a top ten is some kind of sacred thing for critics, here goes… Continue reading

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The Best Films of 2007

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The Best Films of 2006

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The Best Films of 2005

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The Best Films of 2004

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The Best Films of 2003

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