Archive for the Lists Category

Best of 2011: Attrition Edition

Posted in film, Lists, Music with tags on March 12, 2012 by Nathan Douglas


As usual, the process of catching up with the dozens of titles I missed in 2011 will take something like the next 10 years to carry out properly. Hopefully, that amount of time will help to winnow some of the overpraised chaff out of the viewing queue, as various titles that earned December buzz  recede into their proper places in the grand scheme of things (I’m looking at you, Animal Kingdom).

For now, I will name only the films I saw in 2011 that I know I will be revisiting for the rest of my life.  It’s pretty brief; there’s still a lot left to see. Nothing is budging #1 from its spot, though.

1. Certified Copy (Kiarostami)
2. The Tree of Life (Malick)
3. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (Alfredson)
4. Of Gods and Men (Beauvois)

Honorable Mentions (in alphabetical order):

  • Cave of Forgotten Dreams (Herzog)
  • Melancholia (Von Trier)
  • The Mill and the Cross (Majewski)
  • Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol (Bird)
  • War Horse (Spielberg)


A bit more complete, but when you consider it’s cheaper to buy most of these albums on iTunes than a regular multiplex movie ticket in Vancouver, it starts to make sense. My favourite albums of 2011, including one (or two or three) favourite songs from each:

1. Joe Henry – REVERIE – “Strung” “Eyes Out For You” “Unspeakable”
2. The Roots – UNDUN- “The Other Side”
3. The Decemberists – THE KING IS DEAD – “Down By The Water”
4. Aaron Strumpel – BIRDS  – “Never Finished”
5. Kate Bush – FIFTY WORDS FOR SNOW – “Snowed In At Wheeler Street”
6. Hugh Laurie – LET THEM TALK – “Let Them Talk” ”
7. M83 – HURRY UP, WE’RE DREAMING –“Midnight City” “Wait” “Splendor”
8. Over The Rhine – THE LONG SURRENDER – “The Laugh of Recognition”
9. Josh Garrels – LOVE AND WAR AND THE SEA IN BETWEEN –  “The Resistance”
10. Moby – DESTROYED – “Slow”

Honorable Mentions:

  • In Media Res – IT WAS WARM AND SUNNY WHEN WE FIRST SET OUT – “Tonight I Am New”
  • Okkervil River – I AM VERY FAR – “The Valley”

The *Other* Best Films of 2010

Posted in film, Lists on March 16, 2011 by Nathan Douglas

Every year has its discoveries. And since my progress at catching up with the acclaimed titles of the most recent year is advancing at its usual crawl, I tend to get more pleasure out of compiling my list of favourite non-2010 films that I watched for the first time over the last year.  In that sense, 2010 was a rich year.  Below are my top 11 films that didn’t come out last year, followed by various other rankings.  You can find the entirety of my 2010 film journal on the sidebar.

* Denotes a repeat viewing that provokes a considerably different reaction from the last remembered viewing.

Image: The unforgettable Sandrine Bonnaire in Vagabond, one of the most haunting films I’ve ever seen.

New Favourites:

1. The New World [2008 Extended Cut] (USA, 2005) Terrence Malick

2. Vagabond (1985) Agnes Varda

3. Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles

4. The Gleaners and I (2000) Agnes Varda

5. *Pinocchio (1940) Hamilton Luske, Ben Sharpsteen

6. Memories of Murder (2004) Bong Joon-ho

7. Beau Travail (France, 1999) Claire Denis

8. The Ice Storm (1997) Ang Lee

9. Being John Malkovich (1999) Spike Jonze

10. Vertigo (1958) Alfred Hitchcock

11. Raising Arizona (1987) Joel and Ethan Coen

Films to be grateful for:

  • After The Thin Man (USA, 1936) W.S. Van Dyke II
  • A.I. Artificial Intelligence (USA, 2001) Steven Spielberg
  • Angels With Dirty Faces (1938) Michael Curtiz
  • Another Thin Man (USA, 1939) W.S. Van Dyke II
  • Bad Lieutenant (1992) Abel Ferrera
  • Brakhage (1998) Jim Shedden
  • Brazil [Dir. Cut] (1985) Terry Gilliam
  • Bright Star (UK, 2009) Jane Campion
  • Bringing Up Baby (1938) Howard Hawks
  • Defiance (USA, 2008) Edward Zwick
  • Election (China, 2005) Johnnie To
  • Election 2 (China, 2006) Johnnie To
  • The Flowers of St. Francis (1950) Roberto Rossellini
  • Hallelujah (1929) King Vidor
  • Junebug (2005) Phil Morrison
  • Loves Of A Blonde (1965) Milos Forman
  • Match Point (USA, 2005) Woody Allen
  • Nights of Cabiria (Italy, 1957) Frederico Fellini
  • Putney Swope (1969) Robert Downey Sr.
  • Rope (USA, 1948) Alfred Hitchcock
  • A Serious Man (2009) Joel & Ethan Coen
  • Sonny (USA, 2002) Nicolas Cage
  • Still Life (China, 2005) Jia Zhangke
  • Stroszek (1977) Werner Herzog

So, What’s The Big Deal?

  • Bronson (2009) Nicholas Winding Refn
  • Days of Heaven (1978) Terrence Malick
  • The Five Obstructions (2004) Jorgen Leth & Lars Von Trier
  • In The Loop (2009) Armando Iannucci
  • Killer of Sheep (1977) Charles Burnett
  • Let The Right One In (2008) Tomas Alfredson
  • Punch-Drunk Love (2002) Paul Thomas Anderson
  • Superman: The Movie (USA, 1978) Richard Donner
  • Taste of Cherry (1997) Abbas Kiarostami
  • The World (2004) Jia Zhangke


  • Daughters of the Dust (1992) Julie Dash
  • Legends of the Fall (USA 1994) Edward Zwick
  • One Hour Photo (2002) Mark Romanek
  • Super Fly (1972) Gordon Parks Jr.


Favourite Music of 2010

Posted in Lists, Music with tags , on January 26, 2011 by Nathan Douglas

I’ll remember 2010 as the year I started to actually pay attention to fresh non-pop music.  Or to put it another way, I will remember it as the year in which I began to make an effort to keep up with quality bands and albums as they released new work, enough so that I feel confident in putting together a list of favourites.  It was also a year in which I solidified my appreciation of artists, some of whom I began exploring in 2009, but who did not release albums in 2010: Joe Henry, Over The Rhine, Okkervil River, The Mountain Goats, David Bazan, Florence and the Machine, to name a few.  And Radiohead. Heck, even Bob Dylan.  I have had a very sheltered listening life.

To put things in context, my music-listening tastes have always been months or years-long affairs dominated by one major genre or type.  Besides a childhood raised in traditionally Anglican church musical setting (and discounting my brief, second-grade flair with new country) film scores were my first great musical love.  At fourteen I discovered Switchfoot and almost immediately after, CCM, both of which dominated my high school life.  I still love Switchfoot to this day; the CCM of my teen years, not so much (and for those who care, I would indeed defend the notion that Switchfoot should not be described as CCM).

For the last couple of years my listening time has been devoted to more “indie” bands and artists (and catching up on 30 years of U2).  And for the first time ever, I’m enjoying a truly wider variety of styles all at once.

When I put together a list like this, I don’t really have a critical hat to wear as I would if it were a film list.  If it moves me in some way — emotionally or physically — or if I think it reaches down into that spot a bit to the left and below the stomach and presses my melancholy buttons, it’s probably going to make the list.  And to be honest, 2010 had a lot of melancholy moments.

These were the albums, the songs, the notes, the words, that would come alongside and sigh like an old friend.  These works went a long way to making the hard times bearable. Or they were just plain fun. Either way, I needed these albums.

  1. Arcade Fire — The Suburbs (Half-Light II)
  2. The National — High Violet (Bloodbuzz Ohio)
  3. The Roots — How I Got Over (Right On)
  4. Daft Punk — Tron: Legacy (End of Line)
  5. Janelle Monae — The ArchAndroid (Cold War)
  6. Mavis Staples — You Are Not Alone (Wonderful Savior)
  7. Shearwater — The Golden Archipelago (Black Eyes)
  8. Titus Andronicus — The Monitor (The Battle of Hampton Roads)
  9. Anais Mitchell — Hadestown (Wait For Me)
  10. Tobymac — Tonight (City On Our Knees)

John Legend’s collaboration with The Roots, Wake Up!, deserves an honorable mention.  I’d also be remiss to avoid the fact that one of the single most possessive and, somehow, satisfying singles I heard in 2010 was B.o.B’s “Airplanes.”

In terms of non-2010 releases, I was immensely moved by David Bazan’s Curse Your Branches (2009), thoroughly wowed by the lyrical dexterity of Okkervil River’s The Stage Names (2007), and, in what was perhaps my favourite musical experience of 2010, brought to my knees again and again as I worked my way through Joe Henry’s output.  Civilians (2007) is a masterpiece for the ages.

Soundtrack-wise, I didn’t hear much besides Tron: Legacy that really gripped me, although Hans Zimmer’s surprisingly excellent Sherlock Holmes score does technically qualify as 2010 music release.  I greatly admired John Adams’ work on I Am Love, but have not heard it as an album yet.

And that was 2010.  The new year has already brought at least one album that I’m fairly certain will be on this list next January.  Onwards and upwards, then.

EDIT (3/3/11): Shuffled Mavis up to #6. It’s a beauty.

The Best Films of the Decade

Posted in film, Lists with tags , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2010 by Nathan Douglas

I don’t know why it happens this way.  I try to put together a “Best of …” list through methodical and reasonable means.  I let it stew for month after month, taking the time every once in a very long while to try and find spots for my new darlings and justify the ones that stubbornly hang onto their spots, all the while never making much actual progress towards finishing it.

And then, somehow, usually at 2:00 AM on a night that I really have to be asleep, everything falls into place.  The final list reveals itself to me in the dark, and I go scrambling for my notebook and pen.  That’s how it happened with my first All Time Favourites List, which (completely unexpectedly) solidified one night in December, and now it has happened once more with my long-frustrated attempts to figure out my absolute favourite films of the last ten years.

What sets these films apart?  They all have one thing in common:  My experiences of watching these films went deeper than any other experiences of films made between January 1, 2000 and December 31, 2009.  By “deeper,” I mean this: of the responses that plenty of good and great films from this period have stimulated within me – passion, worship, reflection, revelation, a heightened awareness of being alive – everything that passes between the viewer and the screen, and remains with the viewer for the rest of their lives; the richest and most powerful of these exchanges found me while sitting and watching each of these ten films, and realizing in real-time or soon thereafter, that something truly amazing was before me, and changing me.  All of these films strike me as vitally alive in ways that their contemporaries are not.  All of these films have blessed me richly.

My ten favourite films of the Aughts:

1. Children of Men (Cuaron, 2006)

2. Munich (Spielberg, 2005)

3. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Jackson, 2003)

4. Birth (Glazer, 2004)

5. Sophie Scholl: The Final Days (Rothemund, 2005)

6. Moolaade (Sembene, 2004)

7. Speed Racer (Wachowskis, 2008)

8. The Twilight Samurai (Yamada, 2003)

9. Silent Light (Reygadas, 2008)

10. Once (Carney, 2007)

Too Good To Be a Runner-up, But I’m Not Sure If I’m Ready For It To Be on the Big List:

  • The Gleaners and I (Varda, 2000)


  • The Assassination of Jesse James By The Coward Robert Ford (Dominik, 2007)
  • Gosford Park (Altman, 2002)
  • Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)
  • Hero (Yimou, 2004)
  • A History of Violence (Cronenberg, 2005)
  • I’m Not There (Haynes, 2007)
  • In Bruges (McDonagh, 2008)
  • Public Enemies (Mann, 2009)
  • Ratatouille (Bird, 2007)
  • There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)

I hope to come back and elaborate on my reasons for these choices, but I’m away for most of this week for my brother’s wedding and need to keep this brief.  I’m very happy with this list, though.  It will be revised in the years to come; I’ve only scratched the surface of this past decade’s great cinema.  Several of my top picks are in need of revisiting, but the strength of their first viewings, years ago in some cases, remain too powerful to ignore. Until the next batch of great discoveries, these will do nicely.

Image above from Birth: arguably my single favourite shot of the decade.

The Arts & Faith Top 100 Films List

Posted in Lists, News with tags , , on March 12, 2010 by Nathan Douglas

This is way, way overdue, but I would like to note that something happened on February 28, 2010, and it had little to do with Olympic hockey (though that was one heck of a good game, and no, the thrill of the outcome still hasn’t worn off).

What happened?  The Arts & Faith online community, with the help of Image Journal, published the latest version of its Top 100 Films List (the first in four years).  Compiled from a pool of hundreds of nominees and voted on by Arts & Faith members (including yours truly), the Top 100 List both reflects the diverse tastes of the community and offers an invitation to further discuss what it is that makes a “great” film.  If that sounds like your cup of tea, stop by A&F sometime and have a look; better yet, sign up (it’s free) and join the conversation!

Without further ado:

Jeffrey Overstreet’s introduction to the list.

The Arts & Faith Top 100 Films List.

Eight for 2009, and Many More From Other Years

Posted in film, Lists with tags , , on December 31, 2009 by Nathan Douglas

I realized something this year: unless I am working a 9-5 job that allows me a) regular income to spend on movies and b) plenty of evenings to catch up on everything released in a year, or I’m working at a video store that includes free viewings of said releases, I don’t get to see everything, or even a good amount of everything.  At this point in my life, trying to wait until I’ve gotten a firm grasp on the majority of film releases for a year before compiling a favourites list is useless.  It’s taken me a year, but I’m finally getting around to 2008’s leftovers (turns out The Wrestler really was good).  So, this list is not comprehensive at all, and is merely a preview of the longer list I will publish in, oh, say, 2012.

As of the end of 2009, these are my eight favourite films to receive Canadian theatrical distribution.  If Letters To Father Jacob, which I saw at VIFF, had been seen in such a way, it would probably be #1 or #2.  Festival or not, it was my single favourite cinematic experience of the year.

1. Where The Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze) – Outside of my festival experience, this was the most exhilarating thing I saw in a movie theater.  Messy, difficult, dark, frustrating – all that, orchestrated to provoke one of the most extraordinary emotional climaxes I have ever seen in a Hollywood picture.  It is a masterpiece, one that is angsty but honest, uplifting but true.

2. Public Enemies (Michael Mann) – The more I think about this film – and I’ve been thinking about it a lot  – the more I’m convinced it’s Mann’s best work since The Insider. Bold and transcendent, with a powerhouse finale.  The most formally refreshing American film released this year.

3. Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas) – Masterful, refreshing, and deeply-thought provoking.  Of the films on this list, I think this one will prove to have the longest legs.  The only reason it isn’t higher is due to the emotional (and in Mann’s case, formal) sledgehammer that those two films deliver.

4. Up (Pete Doctor) – You’ve already heard it a million times, but I’ll say it one more time: the opening montage is a feat unto itself.  The rest of the movie is no slouch, either.

5. The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow) – A penetrating study of men at war, anchored by Jeremy Renner’s magnetic performance.  An intimately focused companion piece for Black Hawk Down.

6. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino) – I’m well overdue for another look at this, but few films I’ve seen this year proved so effortlessly entertaining.  I’m not convinced the film is as morally sound as I want it to be – as I thought during the screening, I want to think that Tarantino is exposing our own culture’s bloodlust, but it’s not an open-and-shut case, hence the need for another watch – but I can’t deny that, on a formal level, this was the most satisfying of the year.

7. The Road (John Hillcoat) – There is a great film lurking outside this very good one; let’s hope for a longer cut.  My favourite male performance of the year, by Viggo Mortenson as a loving father trapped in hell on earth.

8. Moon (Duncan Jones) – For once, a story that truly surprises, envisioned with care and economy and a great performance from Sam Rockwell .  Refreshing in its use of practical special effects to support the narrative, not create the reason for it.

Not the whole deal, but worth remembering: The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call – New Orleans (Werner Herzog), District 9 (Neill Blomkamp).

Non-2009 Films I’m Glad To Have Caught Up With (in the order in which I watched them):

  • All That Heaven Allows (1955) Douglas Sirk
  • Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) Elia Kazan
  • Floating Weeds (1959) Yasujiro Ozu
  • Rachel Getting Married (2008) Jonathan Demme
  • Au Hasard Balthasar (1966) Robert Bresson
  • Miami Vice (2006) Michael Mann
  • Night and Fog (1955) Alain Resnais
  • Black Girl (1966) Ousmane Sembene
  • Overnight (2003) Tony Montana & Mark Brian Smith
  • Do The Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee
  • Strangers On A Train (1951) Alfred Hitchcock
  • O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000) Joel & Ethan Coen
  • Ace in the Hole (1951) Billy Wilder
  • Baraka (1992) Ron Fricke
  • Koyaanisqatsi (1983) Geoffrey Reggio
  • How Green Was My Valley (1941) John Ford
  • Youth of the Beast (1963) Seijun Suzuki
  • Don’t Look Now (1973) Nicholas Roeg
  • Contempt (1963) Jean-Luc Godard
  • M. Hulot’s Holiday (1953) Jacques Tati
  • The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed
  • The Virgin Spring (1960) Ingmar Bergman
  • Alphaville (1965) Jean-Luc Godard
  • Foreign Correspondent (1941) Alfred Hitchcock
  • Cloak & Dagger (1984) Richard Franklin
  • Alice (1988) Jan Svankmajer
  • Gosford Park (2001) Robert Altman
  • Faust (1994) Jan Svankmajer
  • Seven Up (1964) Paul Almond
  • 7 Plus Seven (1971) Michael Apted
  • Capturing the Friedmans (2003) Andrew Jarecki
  • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Carl Theodor Dreyer
  • Man Hunt (1941) Fritz Lang
  • Elephant (2003) Gus Van Sant
  • The Rules of the Game (1939) Jean Renoir
  • The Thin Man (1934) W.S. Van Dyke
  • Babette’s Feast (1987) Gabriel Axel
  • A History of Violence (2005) David Cronenberg
  • Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1973) Werner Herzog
  • Manhattan (1979) Woody Allen
  • Mon Oncle Antoine (1971) Claude Jutra
  • Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg
  • Grizzly Man (2005) Werner Herzog
  • Ghost Dog: Way Of The Samurai (2000) Jim Jarmusch
  • The Haunting (1963) Robert Wise
  • Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001) Zacharias Kunuk
  • Silent Light (2008) Carlos Reygadas
  • Eastern Promises (2007) David Cronenberg
  • It’s A Wonderful Life (1946) Frank Capra
  • All About Eve (1950) Joseph L. Mankiewicz
  • In America (2003) Jim Sheridan
  • The Wrestler (2008) Darren Aranofsky

2010 beckons, and with it, a best of the decade list.  But shucks, I’m going to miss 09.  This was a good year.