Marie writes: Club member and noted blog contributor Tom Dark took this astonishing photograph near his home in Abiqui, New Mexico. The "unknown entity" appeared without warning and after a failed attempt to communicate, fled the scene. Tom stopped short of saying "alien" to describe the encounter, but I think it's safe to say that whatever he saw, it was pretty damned freaky. It sure can't be mistaken for anything terrestrial; like a horse pressing its nose up to the camera and the lens causing foreshortening. As it totally does not look like that at all. (click to enlarge.)
Yes it is, I'm afraid. Or almost. Good grief, I know, it's not even Thanksgiving yet and they've already got the festive "Best Of" decorations up in the stores! And I know lots of critics who've been told by their editors to start working on their big '00s lists -- so, reluctantly, I've begun to ponder mine, as well. I haven't even taken a first stab at it but I can tell you this: It will probably not resemble the Top 100 list published a few days ago in the Times of London. Oh, sure, I can conceive of putting together some kind of list that includes "Crash" (#98), "Bowling for Columbine" (#77), "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" (#28), "Slumdog Millionaire" (#6) and the like -- but such a ranking would not be comprised of movies that I hold in high esteem. (Have any of the decades' movies plummeted in reputation more dramatically than "Columbine" and "Crash"?)
If you want to page through the Times' list, you can go ahead and start here. It's not all so bad. Meanwhile, here are the top 20 -- with links to things I've written about some of the titles:
View image Just a few of my very favorite stars from "Boogie Nights."
Yes, I know "favoritest" isn't a word, but I'm (mis-)using it in the spirit (though not the letter) of the German language, in which you can construct all kinds of nifty words freely and on the spot -- like "Nachkriegsjahrzehnte," which as near as I can tell means "the decade after the war." All in one word! Wundervoll! Es ist mein neues Lieblingswort! German happens to be the primary language of the excellent film magazine Steadycam, edited by Milan Pavlovic, which has just published a magnificent 50th edition/25th anniversary issue (354 pages, plus a 24-page insert -- the size of a film festival catalog!), featuring a massive tribute to Robert Altman and an international poll of "lieblingsfilme" -- or, as I prefer to think of them, "favoritest films." (I'll take that over "most unique" any time.)
See, these are not just favorite films. They are the 30 most favorite films of the participating critics and filmmakers. (I suggested some online critics be included, so some of my favoritest -- including Dennis Cozzalio and Andy Horbal -- were also invited to contribute faves.) The last such Steadycam poll was in 1995, and although many of these movies are also on the AFI 100, I really enjoy the eccentricities and idiosyncrasies of these individual and collective selections.
I'll have more about my 6,000+ words on Lady Pearl in "Nashville" (greatly expanded from a spontaneous Scanners post after Altman's death last year), but since we've been talking so much about the AFI 100 and other lists recently, I thought I'd take the opportunity to share the results of Steadycam's poll, along with my "30 lieblingsfilme" -- as I threw them together the day I submitted my list....
View image Listen (doo-dah-doo), do you want to know a secret?
I have new reviews of two fine films -- one from Germany and one from Turkey -- in today's Chicago Sun-Times and on RogerEbert.com:
The Lives of Others
It feels like science fiction -- "Fahrenheit 451" or "THX-1138" or "Brazil," with roots in Kafka and Orwell -- but the chilling and chilly dystopian world of writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "The Lives of Others" existed. The film, which begins in 1984, is a depiction of historical reality, not a cautionary fiction. It's set in East Germany, the German Democratic Republic, then a Soviet bloc communist-totalitarian state. Think of it as "The Conversation" behind the Iron Curtain.
The air is alive in Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylon's "Climates" -- more alive than the characters, who are like inert lumps of rock or sand. But that's the point. In this movie, so finely attuned to frequencies of light and sound, it's the invisible space around the characters that swarms with life and possibility. Their interior lives are muddled, opaque even to themselves, and they can't express anything directly, not even their own anguish and dissatisfaction.
In a year when the Academy Award nominations are more diverse and international than ever before, it's anyone's guess who will win best picture. "Dreamgirls" garnered more nominations than any other movie, but was passed over for both picture and director.