The 6 Best: My Favorite Films of 10 Cities/10 Years, So Far


As I head into my 7th year of a 10 year project, I’m looking back on the art that I’ve discovered in my first 6 cities.  I’m examining the music, films and literature that have had the greatest impact on my life throughout the previous 6 cities.  In doing so, I’m only discussing the albums, movies and books that were released since June 1st, 2005, the official start of the project.  My intention is not to proclaim these as the greatest works of art in the past 6 years, but rather to spotlight the art that has had the deepest, most consistent effect on my life and the entire 10 Cities Project.

Regular readers will probably recognize a few of these from previous posts.  But maybe a few will surprise you.

Listed in order of release date (in this case, theatrical release, ignoring any festival showings).

Films

The Aristocrats – Dir: Penn Jillette and Paul Provenza
Released: August 12, 2005

Saw in theaters:  No.
Thoughts:  So, right off the bat, I start with a documentary.  A coarse, vile documentary about some of the filthiest jokes ever spoken on camera, including the Grand Poobah of dirty jokes: The Aristocrats.  Man, do I love this film.  I’ve probably watched it a couple dozen times (three times in one weekend), and I still laugh my ass off.  That probably tells you if I’m someone you can be friends with.  But I will defend this film to the end.  Sure, the humor is gross and the language is as crude as it gets, but like the poster says, there isn’t any actual sex or violence in the film.  It’s all about language, and humor.  In that way, it’s really a much smarter and more profound film than the subject would seem to indicate.

The Squid and the Whale – Dir: Noam Baumbach
Released: October 5, 2005

Saw in theaters:  Sadly, no.
Thoughts:  This is my favorite film on this list, and easily top 3 of all time.  The most honest, painful and yet funny film about a family falling apart; you don’t have to
be a child of divorce to appreciate this film, but it probably helps.  Of course, it’s also about the neurotic minds of writers, so it reaches me on that level, too.  Jesse Eisenberg’s (who would later go on to kill it on screen as Facebook founder Mark Zuckleberg) character is the center of the film, but every performance is pitch perfect, which only goes to accentuate a blistering but bittersweet script.  Beautiful desolation.

Brick – Dir: Rian Johnson
Released: April 7, 2006

Saw in theaters:  No.
Thoughts:
  You know when people say things like, “I can tell if I’m going to like someone based on what they think of this movie?”  I hate that, it’s such a reductive way to look at art.  Yet, I can’t help but feel that way about this film.  If I met anyone who didn’t like this movie (if not flat out love it), I’m pretty sure I’d know I couldn’t have a conversation with them.  I don’t think I’ve met such a person, or if I have, I’ve blocked them from my memory.  With his debut film, Rian Johnson took one of the great film genres, detective noir, and set it in a modern high school.  He then cast one of the greatest actors of our generation, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, as the lead, and surrounded him with the kind of menacing brutes and gorgeous dames that every great whodunit should have.  So, yeah, if you don’t love this film, I’m not sure we could ever be friends.

The Fountain – Dir: Darren Aronofsky
Released: November 22, 2006

Saw in theaters: Yes.
Thoughts:
  I wanted to see this movie so bad when it came out, I took two buses to get to downtown Philly and ended up missing the first few minutes of the film.  No matter, I still loved it.  But man is this film divisive.  This isn’t a case of art-house versus blockbuster  film lovers.  This is art-house versus art-house.  I know plenty of film aficionados who absolutely loathe this film.  People who like David Lynch think this film is nonsense.  Well, they’re wrong.  It actually makes perfect sense, though it doesn’t spell out its themes or larger ideas for you.  It’s not a spiritual film (though it uses that visual language), it’s a science film couched in metaphor.  It’s the movie that has made me an Aronoskfy devotee for life, a Hugh Jackman apologist, and a Rachel Weisz wannabe-stalker.  And, hell, even if you can’t stand the film, the music (and visual effects) are too gorgeous to hate.

The Bourne Ultimatum – Dir: Paul Greengrass
Released: August 3, 2007

Saw in theaters: Yes.
Thoughts:
  This is actually kind of a cheat, because when I say “The Bourne Ultimatum,” I really mean the entire trilogy, of which this is the final and arguably best film.  And when I say “arguably,” I mean arguing with myself, because I can’t pick which one is my favorite.  I would contend that this is the greatest action series ever created.  With not a bad film in the bunch (some people hate the second film’s overly-shaky camera work, but it doesn’t bother me), I can rewatch this whole trilogy over and over again.  And I do.  If all action films were this good, I’d enjoy the summer film period 100x more.

Into The Wild – Dir: Sean Penn
Released: September 21, 2007

Saw in theaters: Yes.
Thoughts:  It shouldn’t surprise anyone that I love this film.  It’s not a stretch for me to put myself in Christopher McCandless’ mindset.  Like the Supertramp, himself, I set out from college and stripped myself of my past attachments (both personal and material) and started on a path that felt more true to myself.  Of course, there are huge differences between us, specifically in that he wanted to escape from the mass of humanity to live in nature, and I live exclusively in large cities.  And, hopefully, we won’t meet the same end.  But while some people say Christopher’s path was selfish and/or stupid, I understand his motivation and feel a kinship with his drive.  The film is such a powerful, uncynical retelling of Christopher’s life, I can’t help but be emotionally shaken every time I watch it (especially at the scene when he and Hal Holbrook’s character part for the last time; heartbreaking).
(Here’s my embarrassing admission though:  I’ve never read the book, only seen the film.)

Truly Honorable Mentions:

Black Swan
The Departed
Gone Baby Gone
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Knocked Up
Lake of Fire
Milk
No Country For Old Men
The Social Network
United 93

Next:  My Favorite Books of 10 Cities/10 Years, So Far

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One thought on “The 6 Best: My Favorite Films of 10 Cities/10 Years, So Far

  1. I like your list… Read ‘The Tender Bar’ by J.R. Moehringer, if you haven’t already. It is a memoir, unlike others you’ll read, and his first novel. Something tells me you’ll like it. It is a fairly easy read even if it doesn’t knock your socks off.

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