The Descent [Neil Marshall, U.K] With the lone exception of Alexandre Aja's sly, stylish remake of The Hills Have Eyes, the return of hardcore brutality to the horror film has been an ugly, dispiriting affair. If every era gets the fright flicks it deserves, I suppose we were asking for crass, corporate torture porn. But then along came the spelunking lovelies and albino freakazoids of Neil Marshall's lean, mean, claustrophobic knockout. Fiendishly engineered, fabulously lit, metaphorically pregnant, and scary as fuck, The Descentmade for pure horror uplift.
Coming in from the farthest margins of film culture, two of the very best films I saw this year would rank high on my list had they received any sort of extended play in New York. Luther Price's Nice Basketscontinues his astonishing series of found-footage montages assembled from a series of identical prints, discovered in the garbage, of a faded documentary about poor African Americans in the rural South.
Commissioned for his marvelous, maddening exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, Jean-Luc Godard's latest, Vrai Faux Passeport, is a dialectic essay on, well, whatever Uncle Jeannot's thinking about these days (terrorism, tennis, The Brown Bunny). What's exciting here is the relaxing of his hyper-sophisticated montage techniques, resulting in an enigmatic simplicity and clarity of line reminiscent of a late Braque bird canvas. His installation was pissed-off and punk rock, but his cinema continues to advance the assured, serene harmonics of Notre Musique.
Coming in at 11 through 20 are, in no particular order: Children of Men (for its urgency, insurgency); Borat(for its rage as much as its humor); Clean(dirty pretty things); Three Times(or at least the first two); Shadow: Dead Riot(best zombie flick set in an experimental women's prison ever); 4 (Russia is crazy, man); Inside Man (see 7, above); An Inconvenient Truth (I switched my ConEd account to Green Powerdid you?); Stick It (a teen comedy that nailed it); Superman Returns(all downhill from the credit sequence, but still).
Performances of the Year
Ensemble (Jackass Number Two)
Ensemble (Dave Chappelle's Block Party)
Laura Dern (Inland Empire)
Sacha Baron Cohen (Borat)
Al Gore (An Inconvenient Truth)
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