Wednesday, November 18, 2009

My top ten movies of the decade-Jury Prize

So it's nearly that time, where we close out the opening ten years of the two thousands. Naturally, list maker that I am, this leads me to make a list of the ten best movies of the past ten years. So as to give each one a bit more attention, rather than just having it be a title on a list, I've decided to put each one as its own post. So here we go with the the first piece:

The "Jury Prize" is handed out at many film festivals as an award the judges would like to give a movie that they admire a great deal, but not enough to give it the top prize. The top prize in this case, of course, is my top ten. So this is basically an 11th place. And here is my Jury Prize winner.

I first discovered Hou Hsiao-Hsien's brilliant Three Times back in May and was bowled over by it. Hou's style, slow paced, gorgeously filmed, but not distractingly so, mesmerized me. I was also taken by the incredible beauty of lead actress Qi Shu. But mostly, I just flat out loved the first of the three times that Hou gives us. I think the opening section, the simplest of the three segments, is one of the 3 or 5 greatest pieces of filmmaking I've ever seen. Its simplicity gets right to the heart of the love story, and I've never felt such joy just watching two people hold hands.

Sadly, the next two sections don't live up to the first (honestly, how could they?). The second segment is at least interesting from the point of how different it is. It's filmed like a silent movie, complete with title cards for dialog, using the same actors from the first section to play out a love story of a different sort. It has a tremendous score, and is unbelievably beautiful to look at, but doesn't have the emotional resonance of the first section. To be fair, it's not meant to, since Hou isn't just repeating the same love story in different times, but it doesn't work as wonderfully as the first. The final section is the only one set in modern times, and is by far the weakest. It doesn't ruin the movie, but it is not a good piece of drama and keeps the movie as a whole from unencumbered greatness.

So I felt a need to include Three Times, since it has one of my favorite pieces of cinema (and that piece is about 40 minutes long, so it's not just a snippet of the movie or anything) but didn't feel like it deserved inclusion in the top ten itself. So here it is with the Jury Prize. The rest of the top ten will be honored over the next week or two, as I get time to write the little pieces I feel they deserve. I will come back and include pictures when I figure out how to do that on my girlfriends laptop.

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