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MARTIN: Continuing our special show on the best movies of the ’90s, my choice for Number 3 is a 1994 Taiwanese film called “A Borrowed Life,” directed by Wu Nien-jen. The Chinese title is “Do-sang,” which means “Father.” It’s an autobiographical story about a poor family in the Taiwanese countryside during the 1950s, right after the end of Japanese rule and the nationalist secession from the mainland.

[A CLIP IS SHOWN]

MARTIN: The camera remains still, it lives with the characters, and it observes their most difficult emotional interactions with a restraint that often becomes painful. This is a movie that forces you to re-think how you view movies. If you go with it, if it clicks for you, the results are very rewarding.

ROGER: The camera holds back, it doesn’t become a protagonist along with the characters. And here’s the mother –

MARTIN: Yeah.

ROGER: — and here’s the father –

MARTIN: Yeah.

ROGER: — and here’s the kid.

MARTIN: Yeah.

ROGER: It says here they all are and here is this period of time they’re living through and you begin to realize that you’re like another observer there in their house.

MARTIN: Exactly. You become part of the family –

ROGER: Yes.

MARTIN: — whether you like it or not. Because the picture has a lot of domestic violence in it. In fact, in one scene the camera’s inside the house and the husband and wife go outdoors and you hear them fighting outside. The camera stays inside and in a way you don’t want to go out there, but you’re part of the family.

ROGER: It stays inside, like the narrator who was the little boy –

MARTIN: — as a little boy. Yeah.

ROGER: — and he probably stayed inside and he heard his parents fighting and this has made an impression on him.

I started this two years ago, but forgot about it and only recently found it. I tinkered with it a touch, but I’ve decided to release my Best of the Decade List with warts and all.

The fun thing about lists is that everyone has their own criteria. Much of it is intuitive, but I’ve tried to make choices according to a few guidelines. The following films are not necessarily my favorite films of the decade (though many are) but films that seem to me to be both artistic and influential. I’ve also approached this list as though it were a  meal, it is balanced with a smattering of genre films, bread and veggies, meat and pudding. I’ve been fiddling with the same films in different order for a while now and I’m tired enough to grant pretty much any argument placing one film over another outside of the top ten. I’ve also cheated with regards to “ties”, wanting to pair certain films due either to a flaw or its similarity to another film, or because I felt like it didn’t warrant its own slot.

  1. There Will Be Blood
  2. Yi Yi
  3. The New World
  4. Junebug
  5. Children of Men
  6. Punchdrunk Love
  7. Elephant
  8. 4 luni, 3 saptamani si 2 zile (4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days)
  9. Nobody Knows
  10. Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow
  11. Sunshine
  12. All the Real Girls
  13. The Darjeeling Limited
  14. Cast Away
  15. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
  16. Spirited Away
  17. Eastern Promises
  18. Where the Wild Things Are
  19. No Country for Old Men
  20. Unbreakable
  21. Hable con Ella (Talk To Her)
  22. The Incredibles
  23. Rachel Getting Married
  24. La Science des Reves (The Science of Sleep)
  25. Marie Antoinette
  26. Once
  27. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring
  28. The Royal Tenenbaums
  29. Happy-Go-Lucky
  30. 28 Days Later
  31. Lars and the Real Girl
  32. Synechdoche, New York
  33. The Squid and the Whale / Margot at the Wedding
  34. The Wrestler
  35. Cache
  36. Howl’s Moving Castle
  37. A.I.
  38. Nacho Libre
  39. Wall-E / Finding Nemo
  40. The Assassination of Jesse James by that Coward Robert Ford
  41. Gosford Park
  42. Das Leben der Anderen (The Lives of Others)
  43. El Laberinto del Fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth)
  44. Inglorious Basterds
  45. Memento
  46. Dogville / Manderlay
  47. King Kong
  48. Sideways/ About Schmidt
  49. Big Fish
  50. Moulin Rouge!

I haven’t read much of him, but this is the only poem of Charles Bukowski that I’ve ever liked:

alone with everyone

the flesh covers the bone
and they put a mind
in there and
sometimes a soul,
and the women break
vases against the walls
and the men drink too
much
and nobody finds the
one
but keep
looking
crawling in and out
of beds.
flesh covers
the bone and the
flesh searches
for more than
flesh.

there’s no chance
at all:
we are all trapped
by a singular
fate.

nobody ever finds
the one.

the city dumps fill
the junkyards fill
the madhouses fill
the hospitals fill
the graveyards fill

nothing else
fills.

A farmer walked into an attorney’s office wanting to file for a divorce. The attorney asked, “May I help you?”

The farmer said, “Yea, I want to get one of those dayvorces.”

The attorney said, “Well do you have any grounds?”

The farmer said, “Yea, I got about 140 acres.”

The attorney said, “No, you don’t understand, do you have a case?”

The farmer said, “No, I don’t have a Case, but I have a John Deere.”

The attorney said, “No you don’t understand, I mean do you have a grudge?”

The farmer said, “Yea I got a grudge, that’s where I park my John Deere.”

The attorney said, “No sir, I mean do you have a suit?”

The farmer said, “Yes sir, I got a suit. I wear it to church on Sundays.”

The exasperated attorney said, “Well sir, does your wife beat you up or anything?”

The farmer said, “No sir, we both get up about 4:30.”

Finally, the attorney says, “Okay, let me put it this way. WHY DO YOU WANT A DIVORCE?”

And the farmer says, “Well, I can never have a meaningful conversation with her.”

via

Lines from Gottfried Benn:

A woman is something with a smell.
Ineffable! To die for! Mignonette.
Shepherd, sea, and South.
On every declivity a bliss.

and

Bring down the temple
by the yearning of your knees

and

Spill, spread, unpetal, bleed
your soft flowers through great wounds.

and

when my little prince
pokes his chubby little legs through the bars of his cot
it melts my heart

and the autumnal poem, full of slow glories, Left the House

The second part of Geoffrey Brock’s Alteration Finds (Defaced, After Rilke), reworking the Rilke poem Archaic Torso of Apollo, is quite fine.

Two lines from Eugene Dubnov’s poem Lips:

Yesterday I was mastering words
And kissing lips lightly

Music Box : Jorge Luis Borges

A line from Antonio Porchia’s Voices: “Man is a thing children learn. A childish thing.”

I’m really excited for SAID’s book of Psalms (translated by Mark Burrow). There’s a lot of mystery in the selection here, particularly the third and fourth psalm.

A little treasure from Marina Tsvetaeva : “I am happy living simple”

Paul Claudel’s The Day of Gifts is one of the most remarkable poems I’ve read this year. I’ve already earmarked it for my end of the year list.

[Another movie I'm excited for]

We Don’t Eat : James Vincent McMorrow

If this is redemption, why do I bother at all
There’s nothing to mention, and nothing has changed
Still I’d rather be working at something, than praying for the rain
So I wander on, till someone else is saved

I moved to the coast, under a mountain
Swam in the ocean, slept on my own
At dawn I would watch the sun cut ribbons through the bay
I’d remember all the things my mother wrote

That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you, I’d have a little trust

Two thousand years, I’ve been in that water
Two thousand years, sunk like a stone
Desperately reaching for nets
That the fishermen have thrown
Trying to find, a little bit of hope

Me I was holding, all of my secrets soft and hid
Pages were folded, then there was nothing at all
So if in the future I might need myself a savior
I’ll remember what was written on that wall

That we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you, I’d have a little trust

Am I an honest man and true
Have i been good to you at all
Oh I’m so tired of playing these games
We’d just be running down
The same old lines, the same old stories of
Breathless trains and, worn down glories
Houses burning, worlds that turn on their own

So we don’t eat until your father’s at the table
We don’t drink until the devil’s turned to dust
Never once has any man I’ve met been able to love
So if I were you my friend, I’d learn to have just a little bit of trust

 

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