Lost in America

Bill Murray's Star Vehicle, Gus Van Sant's Double Comeback, and the Year of the Documentary

The lay of the land really shifts if one applies the Passiondex© to the Top 20. Here Platform reigns supreme with a hefty 4.472, followed by Lukas Moodysson's Lilya 4-Ever (3.273), Jim Sheridan's In America (2.540), Mystic River (2.444), and only then, Elephant, The Return of the King, and demonlover, with Van Sant's other film, Gerry (1.742), slipping in ahead of The Son to leave Lost in Translation at the bottom of this recalibrated Top 10. That Lilya scored so well on the Passiondex© may be a tribute to its youthful star Oksana Akinshina. Indeed, Akinshina came in #14 in the Performance category, behind Zooey Deschanel (#10) of All the Real Girls (#43) and Scarlett Johansson (#11) in the all-important race for gamine of the year.

At what point does passion shade into something more irrational or willfully obscurantist? There is no way to quantify this, but my own rule of thumb is that to be Passiondexical, a movie must have a minimum of three voters. (One is a loner, two make a codependent relationship, but three constitute a political cell.) If the list were open to all movies with at least three votes, the results are positively cultish. Takashi Miike's Ichi the Killer, the real Kill Bill and real #62, would rool as #1 with a colossal 7.778, followed by Platform, Lilya 4-Ever, Lars von Trier's Medea (#70, 3.267), the Christopher Guest comedy A Mighty Wind (#53, 2.813), the Hugo Chávez doc The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (#57, 2.563), In America, Mystic River, Elephant, and The Return of the King. (At #12 on the cult list, with 2.028, behind Whale Rider, would be my #1 film and Take Five's #34, Peter Watkins's La Commune: No matter how I cook the books, I can't get it into the Top 10!)

As always, the poll is full of mysteries. Why would anyone vote for The Last Samurai, and who expected 21 Grams to wind up a lowly #40? Why did Capturing the Friedmans finish ahead of The Fog of War, which beat it for Best Documentary? And why did Best Supporting performer Peter Sarsgaard swamp his competition (92 more points than runner-up Hope Davis) for his role in Shattered Glass (#48)? Was it respect for a versatile character actor or a bunch of journalists saluting his portrayal of a testy, righteous editor?

Elephant (#2 Film, #1 director, #1 cinematography)
photo: HBO Films/Fine line features
Elephant (#2 Film, #1 director, #1 cinematography)

Speaking of journalism, the poll's single most important category is Best Undistributed Film, resoundingly won by Tsai Ming-liang's Goodbye Dragon Inn (cited by an amazing one-third of our voters). Previous winners include Platform—twice listed before its inspirational breakthrough this year—and Manoel de Oliveira's I'm Going Home, subsequently picked up and #14 in Take Four. We'd like to show Tsai's mordant comedy about a haunted Taipei movie house next summer at BAM; we'd like it even better if we don't have to.

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