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December 17, 2009


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Nathan Duke

No "The White Ribbon"? That's the film I'm holding out on before I put together my own list. Interesting list, though. Loved "Adventureland" and glad to see someone else did.

James Keepnews

I should'a given you your proper propers for citing Limits of Control as one of the decade's best before, and I'll make up for it here. What an essential Jarmusch film and no less bedeviling for that, nor less "cool" (or remove the quotes. Fine. I really don't want to fight about it...). Jolly Mr. Ebert's dis-as-ostensible-parody-of-a-review was starlingly beneath him, even if he didn't like the film. I remember Dead Man getting the "meh" treatment from the establishment (up to and including Miramax) in the mid-90's, and now we all recognize it as one of the major achievements of the decade, a haunting melding of frontier verisimilitude and hipster surrealist distancing into an incomparable cinematic experience with equally essential work from Neil Young. Right?

So, too, here. I'm sure we'll look back on Limits in much the same way, the same way I have for other Jarmusch films that stay with me for years after viewing: asking "is that it?" when credits roll, and subsequently asking "what IS it about it?" as it persists in the memory...


Great list! Lots to love (SUMMER HOURS is my #1 unless I see something better in the next coupla weeks, lots of catching up to do).

Usual inquisition/nitpic follows:

Is HEADLESS WOMAN considered this year? If so, why isn't it one of the sixteen? And what about HURT LOCKER?

I'm a die-hard Jarmusch fan and damned if I couldn't like anything about LIMITS other than the flamenco scene and Doyle's beautiful photography. Too masturbatory and (intentionally, I'll grant you) solipsistic for my tastes.

Robert Merk

It seems as each year passes our tastes grow farther and farther part (another agonizing endurance test from the condescending Coen boys makes the list) but what a boring world it would be if we all agreed on everything.

I was happy to see the inclusion of both “Up” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox”, but sad that “Bright Star” (the best picture I’ve seen so far this year) didn’t make the list.

All criticisms aside, thank you for another great year of postings. Happy Holidays to you and yours.

Match Cuts Glenn

Glenn - You shouldn't be ashamed of putting Summer Hours #1. It's that good, but like the comment above, no The Headless Woman? And did you see Lake Tahoe? Both great films in my book.


Good stuff. Only how is it that Invictus made your top 100 of the decade and yet is ranked #16 here, behind several films that didn't? I hope you haven't lowered your opinion of it; I just saw it and thought it was, as the kids say, the bomb.


Love seeing DRAG ME TO HELL get some love. It was great having the Sam Raimi of my formative years back for 90 minutes or so. I look forward to spending some time with the James Cameron of my formative years this weekend.

I need to catch up with a bunch of these but they'd really have to knock me on my ass to supplant SUMMER HOURS in my affections. I was shocked enough when SH managed to leapfrog UP.

Re: LORNA'S SILENCE- I don't know that I've ever liked a film more without enjoying it. There was so much about the craft in the acting and filmaking that I liked- for example the way the Dardennes elided information and let us play catch up (Lorna buying a shirt for her husband being an instance of particular note). And yet the film really felt like an exercise in "Ok, buckle your seatbelts. Terrible things are going to happen to everyone for two hours and you've just gotta take it". I suppose that's just a combination of my mood that evening and, I dunno, Dardennes fatigue. I like Tarr's DAMNATION, for christ's sake. It's not as if I require sunshine and lollipops.

Any top ten (or 16) list that I put together for this year would have to include THE BEACHES OF AGNES and CAPTAIN AHAB. The first made me feel as invigorated about life and art as anything I've seen in recent memory. The second (which I already harped on under the top 70 post) was truly singular and haunting. The world also just needs more Denis Lavant movies.


love seeing up, adventureland, the limits of control and summer hours in your top ten. they aren't showing up enough. i need to give tokyo sonata a second look and night and day is now on my radar. i guess i should go see avatar *sigh*


This must be one of the better lists I've seen this year. Thank you SO much for topping it with Summer Hours; it's a beautiful, poignant little film that never got enough attention. This year's 'Paranoid Park' for me. A Serious Man and Drag Me to Hell are spot-on choices as well.


I bought THE LIMITS OF CONTROL sight unseen when it came out, because I love Jarmusch, but haven't watched it yet. If I'd merely rented it, I obviously would have. That'll teach me.


No love for 35 Shots of Rum, Eccentricities of a Blonde, or In the Loop? Shame.


I think if you're asking a "Why no -fill in the blank-?" question, you should tell us which movies in the original list you'd replace and why.


@ forager23 I'd post my own provisional top ten but that seems rude. I guess I'd ditch CONTROL (for reasons above) and replace it with LOCKER (because it's the most poetic "pure genre" piece I've seen since COLLATERAL). Not sure where HEADLESS would go (maybe in LORNA'S spot, though I loved that thing, too). You?

Scott Nye

I'm not 100% sure Summer Hours is the best movie of the year (your numbers two and three keep nipping at its heels, but we'll see), but it damn sure deserves any claim that it is. And I'll fight anyone who disagrees. Too far? Well, the film's made a passionate defender of me.

Oh, and thanks for urging me to see it in the first place, Glenn. I'd been hearing good things, but your post pushed me over the edge and I just fell for it; the ending especially just knocked my socks off. I've seen it twice now and can't wait for the Criterion Blu-Ray.

Dan Coyle

For me it was Public Enemies, Inglorious Basterds (which I'm still not sure was GOOD, but it was such an... experience), District 9, and The Girlfriend Experience.

I dind't see a lot of good movies this year.

david hare

Glenn, way OT but I should adivse you re. the BFI Bluray of The Leopard: BFI recalled the pre-release after getting our advice about the defective mastering of the second side of the disc file which had the black crush/gamma issues. They confirm the fault occurred during the mastering encode on the desk and they are remastering and repressing the Blu in plenty of time for general release in February - given the first 154 minutes of the disc which are unaffected on the "Bad" pressings, it will be a killer.

Eric Stanton

I want to add to the chorus praising "Summer Hours," a perfectly fine choice for best movie of the year, as far as I'm concerned, since I thought it was great. Nothing crazy about that choice. Also, this means I enjoy the collateral benefit of not having to fight Scott Nye, who obviously has excellent taste in movies. :)

I think a few critics' groups have picked "Summer Hours" as best foreign language film of the year, which indicates a possibly surprising but welcome outbreak of collective good judgement on that point. So it looks as if "Summer Hours" may do alright in the year end trophy derby, which is good news, if it brings Assayas any increase in ease in finding financing in the future.

Speaking of trophies, if Oscars are going to be handed out anyway, I'd enjoy seeing Assayas get one. The foreign film nominations are determined based on submissions made by competing nations or something like that, right? So "Summer Hours" would have a shot at an Oscar if it is the nominee submitted by the French. I wonder if those submissions have been made yet?


If you love KCRW music montages in lieu of actual scenes, you'll love UP IN THE AIR. The critics are goofy.


Count me in the Summer Hours camp, although my enthusiasm for it has cooled considerably. I may have to watch it again soon. Still haven't seen The Hurt Locker, Lorna's Silence, and Up, and want to.

Two films that left me intrigued and impressed, although I didn't love them, and they also sort of faded view rather quickly, were HEADLESS WOMAN and LIVERPOOL. I still can't figure out what I thought about LIMITS OF CONTROL, except that I liked some parts very much, but I get the sense that some of it is lazy and uninspired.

So it was a confusing year, apart from two big standouts - INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, which was a blast but kinda shallow, and TWO LOVERS, which was a blast and also heartbreaking and also plenty deep.

Oh, and ditto on more Denis Lavant. The world can never have too much Denis Lavant. I'm intrigued by this AHAB movie, but IMDB says it came out in 2007? Anyway, Carax & Lavant's turn in Tokyo! was great but oh-so-brief. Can we get a MERDE IN AMERICA petition going?

Lord Henry

This is a list where I think, "Okay, those films wouldn't be my faves, but I understand..."

But LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK are massive omissions.

UP IN THE AIR is pretty good, by the way, and I thought I wouldn't like it either. I'm thinking of starting a Vera Farmiga fan club.

Tony Dayoub

@Lord Henry,
Maybe he left LET THE RIGHT ONE IN and SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK out because they are actually 2008 films.

I thought for sure you would include THE WHITE RIBBON. Didn't I spot it in your top 70 of the decade?

And I saw SUMMER HOURS at the same screening you did. Doesn't that make it a 2008 film? Or is it customary to hold off until it is officially released versus a Festival screening?

Glenn Kenny

@Tony, yes, I"m going with the actual U.S. theatrical runs, as paltry as they might have been, rather than their festival screenings. But I wasn't aware that "Ribbon" was getting its limited U.S. release on December 30, which (no offense to my friends at Sony Pictures Classics) feels like kind of a bullshit move to me. Oscars or no Oscars.

Even so. As much as I admire "Ribbon"'s exquisite formal qualities, there's also something about it that's a trifle obvious, and, dare I say it, cheap. I keep debating myself about it.


Did Up just get overlooked or did you mean to leave it off?

Tom Russell

@Sean: I believe it's # 4 on the list.

Joel Gordon

Up in the Air has its moments (the firing of "Mr. Samuels" is like something out of a Saw movie, and would definitely go on my scenes-of-the-year list), but it's kind of a poor man's About Schmidt, except without any clear moral point of view. I would add JULIA to your list, but maybe that was a 2008 release. Either way, Tilda Swinton deserves two years' worth of awards for that delirious trip to crazytown.


Just an FYI for anyone interested, Headless Woman is 'watch instantly' on Netflix, and Summer Hours is available on there 12/20. I go to Netflix immediately after these lists appear!
Oh, and Up made me tear up both times I saw it. Second time worse than the first!


Two Lovers also on Netflix Instantly. Okay, I'm done.


Your top 6 is pretty close to my top 6, but I like FMF a bit more than Up, think 35 Shots... is up there, and whenever I actually make a list I'm going to forego the US release rule and put Love Exposure at or near the top.

John M

I watched TWO LOVERS streaming on Netflix, and it looked great. A lovely film--I really hope Joaquin Phoenix stays in movies.


Not to keep playing the "does this foreign film count this year?" game but what about "Everlasting Moments"? Is that '08? Wonderful picture regardless.

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