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The thriller occupies the same territory as countless science fiction movies about deadly invasions and high-tech conspiracies, but has been made with intelligence and an…

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Planes, Trains and Automobiles

It is perfectly cast and soundly constructed, and all else flows naturally. Steve Martin and John Candy don't play characters; they embody themselves.

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More film polls: Top 150 of Decade, Top 160 of 2009...

Ow, my brain hurts. So, let's just get these out of the way, shall we? In the annual Village Voice/LA Weekly Film Poll, announced just before Christmas, 94 critics (including me) came up with 160 nominations for best films of 2009 -- and voted in a bunch of other categories, too, including Best Film of the Decade ("Mulholland Drive"). [My decade favorites are here.]

Meanwhile, Film Comment polled another big batch o' crix (a lot of the same ones, in fact) and came up with a somewhat different 20 Best of 2009 list -- and 150 Best Films of the Decade (topped by... "Mulholland Dr."). Just for fun, let us compare the two groups' Top Dozen for both year and decade:


Village Voice/LA Weekly 2009 Poll:

1. "The Hurt Locker" (Kathryn Bigelow, USA) 2. "Summer Hours" (Olivier Assayas, France) 3. "A Serious Man" (Joel & Ethan Coen, USA) 4. "Inglourious Basterds" (Quentin Tarantino, USA) 5. "35 Shots of Rum" (Claire Denis, France) 6. "The Headless Woman" (Lucrecia Martel, Argentina) 7. "Police, Adjective" (Corneliu Porumboiu, Romania) 8. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" (Wes Anderson, USA) 9. "Two Lovers" (James Gray, USA) 10. "Up" (Pete Docter & Bob Peterson, USA) 11. "The White Ribbon" (Michael Haneke, Austria) 12. "Still Walking" (Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan)

Film Comment 2009 Poll:

1. "The Hurt Locker" 2. "The Headless Woman" 3. "Summer Hours" 4. "35 Shots of Rum" 5. "Fantastic Mr. Fox" 6. "Police, Adjective" 7. "Inglourious Basterds" 8. "A Serious Man" 9. "The Beaches of Agnes" (Agnès Varda, France) 10. "Lorna's Silence" (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne, Belgium) 11. "24 City" (Jia Zhangke, China/Hong Kong/Japan) 12. "The White Ribbon"

Village Voice/LA Weekly Decade Poll 

NOTE: Each critic voted for only one film.

1. "Mulholland Dr." (David Lynch, USA, 2001) 2. (tie) "In the Mood for Love" (Wong Kar-Wai, Hong Kong, 2000) "25th Hour" (Spike Lee, USA, 2002) 4. (tie) "La Commune (Paris, 1871)" (Peter Watkins, France, 2000) "Zodiac" (David Fincher, USA, 2007) "Yi Yi" (Edward Yang, China, 2000) 7. (tie) "Dogville" (Lars von Trier, Denmark, 2003) "The New World" (Terrence Malick, USA, 2005) "There Will Be Blood" (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA, 2007) "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" (Cristi Puiu, Romania, 2005) 11. (tie) "Syndromes and a Century" (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2006) "Spirited Away" (Hayao Miyazaki, Japan 2001) "Children of Men" (Alfonso Cuarón, Japan/UK/USA, 2006) "A.I. Artificial Intelligence" (Steven Spielberg, USA, 2001) "No Country for Old Men" (Joel & Ethan Coen, USA, 2007)

Film Comment Decade Poll:

1. "Mulholland Dr." 2. "In the Mood for Love" 3. "Yi Yi" 4. "Syndromes and a Century" 5. "There Will Be Blood" 6. "The Death of Mr. Lazarescu" 7. "A History of Violence" David Cronenberg, Canada/USA, 2005) 8. "Tropical Malady" (Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Thailand, 2004) 9. "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days" (Cristi Mungiu, Romania, 2007) 10. "The New World" 11. "Platform" (Jia Zhangke, Hong Kong, 2000) 12. "Zodiac"

Sad year-end news: Esteemed Village Voice critic J. Hoberman finally jumped the Armond White in his 2009 wrap-up, with this Rule of Nazi-violating sentence about "Inglourious Basterds" (#9 among his favorites of the year), upon which he declined to elaborate: "It's also amoral and a bit obnoxious, but I'll take Tarantino's essentially generous 'Jewish porn' (as one participant crassly put it) any day over the mean-spirited 'Nazi porn' (yes) of 'A Serious Man.' "


So... does that mean anything at all? As Glenn Kenny once wrote of White: "I don't want to know what you think it means, what you infer it means when you put it through your own personal White [or Hoberman] decoder ring, no; I want to know what the words in the sentence as they are actually written actually mean."

Like most of what it characterized as "hate speech," those loaded words (Nazi plus porn!) weren't likely intended to mean much of anything in particular. Just a little hate-slap at anybody who found something to value in "A Serious Man."

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