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jim's annotated best favorite movies of 2008 part 1

or: as promised, an explication of why I chose these pictures and sounds:

I. Titles: Chad Feldheimer gives the invocation (Brad Pitt in Joel and Ethan Coen's "Burn After Reading").

II. Prologue: Hannah Schygulla, Goddess of Fassbinder, Animating Spirit of Cinema, awakens to look us in the eye and set the movie-countdown in motion. (From "The Edge of Heaven." I tweaked it to begin in black and white and fade into color.)

10. "The Fall" (Tarsem Singh; comedy, Western/Eastern, fantasy, adventure). "The Fall" is a tall tale about storytelling and the movies -- the shadows that flicker on screens and the images that excite our imaginations. It is a tale told by an injured American stunt man, bedridden in a Los Angeles hospital circa 1915, and filtered through the consciousness of a little Romanian girl with limited English and a broken arm. She craves the story as much as he craves morphine. He becomes a too-human god, creator and destroyer of worlds; she becomes hooked.

The shot quoted above is a piece of shadowplay from the opening sequence -- the reverse-image of a bridge and a locomotive imprinted on the surface of the water. The white specks are men in the water. A figure on the shadow-bridge tosses them a rope, which becomes a thread linking the positive and negative sides of the picture in the same shot. The rope itself snakes out in shadow (in the foreground, illuminated from behind, not cast on the water) until the tangled coil appears, falling through sunlight, set off against the shadow of a pillar of smoke, and the "tail" is swallowed up by the black of the bridge. "The Fall" accomplishes astounding feats like that throughout.

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