Saturday 26 December 2009

End of year catching up

I just didn't make it out to the theatre for a whole lot of films this year (outside of festivals that is), so I'm trying to catch up to a bunch of them on DVD. Yeah, there's certainly a few I wish I had seen on the big screen, but there ya have it. I did at least manage to catch both Up In The Air and Fantastic Mr. Fox at the theatre though.

A common theme running through some of my short comments below is how many of these films differed from my expectations. I think in many cases that made them more enjoyable for me, but I do sometimes wonder how much preconceived notions or even just vague ideas about a film going in can alter your feelings for it coming out. A rewatch of a film can certainly shift your opinion closer towards a more "accurate" representation, but this is how I felt about each of these movies after my first viewing (and after much online reading about them).

Funny People

I was hopeful going into Judd Apatow's third directorial effort, but a bit wary considering what I had heard about the last act of the film and how it sprawled a bit at 2 and a half hours. It definitely runs long and that last act has some moments that don't work well for me, but overall I greatly enjoyed it. The mix of comedy and drama was handled quite well even if I never laughed out loud or really became emotionally attached to the characters. I suppose that isn't a ringing endorsement, but I did in fact enjoy spending time with these people. Eric Bana was absolutely great in a role that reminded me (as it did for several other people) of Russell Brand's Aldous Snow character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall - a guy you think you'll hate and will be one dimensional, but ends up being a lot of fun and not what you expected. My main complaint is where Leslie Mann's character ended up (a few spoilers ahead)...A friend mentioned that he appreciated that for once it was the female character that was scrambling at the end and telling lies instead of the man. I'm fine with switching things up, but it didn't feel appropriate for that character. At least not from what we had been shown up until that point. I suppose the story isn't really about her (and Apatow's strength doesn't seem to be with female characters), so there was still plenty to dig into.

Away We Go

Another film I approached with trepidation - even more so than Funny People. Again though, I was very pleasantly surprised. Director Sam Mendes certainly hammers some points home regarding the "bad parent" characters, but I was fine with that within the context of it being a comedy. As well, they managed to spend just the right amount of time with the annoying characters and gave you plenty of time with the two leads played by Maya Rudolph and John Krazinski. As genuinely friendly and interesting people, one wonders why they didn't have more friends, but I was simply happy to spend time with them. I was overjoyed that the film didn't feel we had to be subjected to "the big huge argument" with the inevitable reconciliation - we saw the two of them react to each other like you would expect those characters to do. I was quite taken by many of the transition scenes as well which showed the beauty of the scenery in the Southwest, the loveliness of my old city Montreal and the vibrancy of Miami.

Star Trek

The trend continued with Star Trek. I was having trouble getting past the smarminess of the younger Kirk when I saw the trailers, so I didn't hold out much hope. The very early scene of the rebellious Kirk as a child was pretty horrible, but the story moved forward so effortlessly from there that it ended up being a great deal of fun. I'm also a sucker for any kind of time travel plot line and I quite enjoyed the way they handled it here - particularly in simply ignoring the whole paradox angle. By the end, I was definitely onboard any plans for this to be a new franchise. I do have one question though...What the heck was up with all those lens flares throughout the movie? It was very distracting at times and reduced some scenes to what seemed to be random bursts of light.

35 Rhums

I've been waiting to catch up with this one as it was a favourite of several respected critics and friends from TIFF 2008. I've only experienced a single Claire Denis film previously - the odd, off-putting, but strangely immersive Beau Travail (which also had that great cathartic, though completely out of sync with the rest of the film, final dance routine) - so I wasn't completely sure what to expect. What I got was a slow moving look at a father and daughter, the relationships that depend on them and how they depend on each other. The film let's you in slowly to the history of the characters, though it never really explains things explicitly. This really helped - and I'll use this word again - immerse me into the world of these people and I find that moments from the film keep slipping into my thoughts.

Observe And Report

A bizarre mix of silliness and very dark humour that didn't bowl me over, but worked a whole lot better than I expected from the initial reviews and comments. I actually would have liked it to have gone even darker in tone than it did and to have stayed consistent with it, but it may not have turned the tables on some viewers as much as it did.


A bit of a different take on the "bro-mance", um, genre as two old friends agree to work on an art project together (I promise that'll be the last time I use the term "bro-mance"). They think they've hit upon an idea that has never been done before - filming two heterosexual men having sex. The way the idea comes up in the first place (during a drunken/stoned discussion with a group of artists) is actually quite believable, though it's a bit hard to fully buy into them taking it as far as they did once they've sobered up. However, both the leads have their own reasons for trying to push on through with the project and there's an honesty to them both (as well as the wife of one of them) that I really enjoyed. I expected it to be funnier, but that's not really a knock against it as it kept me engaged for its entire length.

The Broken

A nice surprise as I didn't even have this horror-thriller on my radar until a friend (thanks Kurt!) mentioned it was by director Sean Ellis (Cashback). It's a nice spin on doppelgangers and mirror reflections without getting too talky or caught up in its own ideas. It provides some solid suspense and a great overall look to it.


Definitely deserving of just about every one of the superlatives thrown at it. The initial section of Steve McQueen's debut feature film is solid and disturbing, but it's from the point that Bobby Sands and the priest have their single take 17 minute long conversation that it becomes mesmerizing. That amazing scene is followed by another single take 5 minute monologue by Sands (Michael Fassbender) that I found even more riveting. And from there, the tail end of the film covers the wasting away of Sands and it's purely cinematic as there's nary a word of dialog (a few spoken lines, but no conversation). The pictures show the horror all too well.

Inglorious Basterds

Why even try to discuss this when it's been done to death (both poorly and extra-ordi-narily well). Let's just say it surpassed my lowered expectations and even with a few things that didn't work (I winced every moment Eli Roth was on screen - ugh), I had a great deal of fun with it.

The Hangover

I just don't get the love. The situations of The Hangover are amusing and well staged (e.g. Ed Helms waking up with the chicken behind him) and the mapped out sequence of events is pretty spiffy. The actual script, however, dropped the ball almost completely and wasted what seemed to be so many opportunities to ring more humour out of a situation (aside from just having the guys recognize that they were in a situation). It felt that once they had the timeline of events, they just walked through them and forgot to give the characters anything further to say or do. I wanted to like this, but I don't get it.

In The Loop

Wondrously profane in all manner of ways. Very flawed characters everywhere you look. Cynical like crazy. And very funny. Fuckety-bye.

Fantastic Mr. Fox

One of my favourite films of the year. I love Wes Anderson's style so I'm absolutely biased up front - if he seems to bring similar framing tactics, long tracking shots, whip pans and rat-a-tat dialog to everything he does, that's OK by me because it seems to work every single damn time. Even when the whole film is stop motion animation. I can't wait to see this one again.

Up In The Air

This was pretty darn great for the initial 3/4 of its length and seemed to be growing stronger as it went along, but then it just fumbles it all at the end. I didn't mind the direction it took and where Clooney's character ended up, but didn't like how it got there and really thought it could have been handled in a more clever way. I think I need to see it again to get a better idea if the ending works with everything that preceded it, but at this point in time I just don't want to. Vera Farmiga was terrific though.

(500) Days Of Summer

Yet again, another film I entered into gingerly. Some people loved it, but there were some fairly nasty attacks on it as well. In the end, I emerged much closer to the former camp. All the storytelling tricks used in the film (the fractured storyline, the split screens, the silly Hall & Oates dance number, the cityscape turning into a pencil drawing, etc.) were used really well to reinforce Tom's (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) feelings at any given time (confusion, delirious happiness, a broken heart, etc.). Zooey Deschanel is lovely and I appreciated how her character remained consistent - as a matter of fact, I wish Farmiga's character in "Up In The Air" had been given the same courtesy (though I suppose that's not what Reitman was aiming for).

District 9

Very well done and mostly seemless effects, interesting premise that gets lost a bit, terrific performance by Sharlto Copley in the lead and an odd mix of documentary style footage with scenes completely outside that context. I wish I had more to say, but I'm not overly passionate about it. Uh, I liked it well enough though.

Thursday 24 December 2009

"And it was always said that he knew how to keep Christmas well..."

I'm not overly original when it comes to choosing Christmas movies. I love "Miracle on 34th Street", "Christmas In Connecticut" and "Scrooged", but my two favourites are "A Christmas Story" (watching that tomorrow night) and the 1951 version of "A Christmas Carol" (the one with Alastair Sim) which we just watched tonight.

The story, of course, is so well known that it seems trite, but I still think it's one of the better redemption fables out there. This version of the film is a favourite for several reasons, but the biggest is actually the least Christmas-y: it's looks and feels like a Noir film at times.

The Noir element was heightened towards the end of the movie (just after Scrooge's nephew's wife leans in to hug him) when my 9 year old son piped up and said "And then she sucker punches him and takes his wallet!". Well, I found it funny anyway...

And of course there's Alastair Sim himself who is just awesomely crotchety at the beginning and insanely giddy by the end. Just his reading of "Intelligent boy! Remarkable boy!" alone is worth watching the entire film.

It's a beautifully shot, straightforward telling of a classic tale. Not a bad way to spend your Christmas Eve. A joyous holiday and end of 2009 to all.

Wednesday 23 December 2009

A gift from Intellect - Free online copy of Directory of World Cinema: Japan

OK, I'm biased up front as I was one of the contributors to the book, but this is a pretty sweet deal. Intellect Books has just released for free an online version of their new book "Directory of World Cinema: Japan". Not just the text, but the fully formatted final version with images.

The volume contains numerous reviews of a variety of different films from Japan ranging across many decades and genres. It also includes longer articles on specific directors, styles and movements. Editor John Berra has done a fine job putting everything together and is already planning a 2nd edition. It's a great looking layout and I expect that many people will still want to purchase a copy even after seeing the free PDF file.

I'm pretty excited about it as it's the first time I've ever been "published". The other contributors include some notable authors, scholars and filmmakers and the entire book acts as a great overview and sampler of Japanese Cinema. As Berra states:

"This was never intended to be a conventional film guide, as the overall aim was always to discuss Japanese cultural life and history as expressed through the medium of film."

Looking forward to getting my very own physical copy come its release date (mid-February according to this amazon listing).

Monday 14 December 2009

Oh what fun it is... do the Professor's quizzes!

It's quiz time again over at Sergio Leone and The Infield Fly Rule. This time Dennis has got the Professor to make his biggest and likely best one yet. Entitled Professor Russell Johnson's "My Ancestors Came Over On The Minnow" Thanksgiving/Christmas Movie Quiz (crazy Americans cramming Thanksgiving so close to another holiday), it'll give you hours o' fun trying to answer the questions as well as reading all the varied responses. Now go partake.

1) Second-favorite Coen Brothers movie.

Why Professor? Why do you make me choose? “Raising Arizona” will likely forever remain number one due to its influence on me, but number 2 will randomly shift between about half of their output. Right now? I'm leaning to "O Brother Where Art Thou" mainly because of its music.

2) Movie seen only on home format that you would pay to see on the biggest movie screen possible?

First thing I thought of was Jacques Tati's "Play Time". I'd love to see all the detail and get a better look at everything going on in the corners of the frame. Just to spend some time in those glorious sets at that size would be reason enough.

3) Japan or France?

Tati, Demy, Malle & Melville versus Kobayashi, Kurosawa (both of them), Suzuki & Kitano? Damn...I have to go with Japan though. There's a certain energy many of the filmmakers bring to their craft and a constant feeling of never being able to tell what you might see onscreen next.

4) Favorite moment/line from a western.

From “Rio Bravo”:

"Man gets shot that's got a gun, there's room for reasonable doubt. Man gets shot that hasn't got a gun, what would you call it? But, you knew that already otherwise you wouldn't have set things up the way you did."

5) Of all the arts the movies draw upon to become what they are, which is the most important, or the one you value most?

Considering the image heavy content of my own blog, I would have to go with painting as the art form that I most appreciate in its relation to film. I almost said photography - the way you can play with degrees and shades of lighting - but I love it when filmmakers behave in more, well, "painterly" ways. Whether it's a rainbow of colours ("Survive Style 5+", Mario Bava, etc.) or muted palettes ("Songs From The Second Floor” or "Le Cercle Rouge"), I love to see a director play with their colour scheme.

But I can't forget to mention music...The importance it has in setting mood, teasing out emotions and in manipulation can't be overstated.

6) Most misunderstood movie of the 2000s?

My favourite soapbox - "Ocean's Twelve” is not a heist movie. It's an art film.

7) Name a filmmaker/actor/actress/film you once unashamedly loved who has fallen furthest in your esteem.

"The Gumball Rally". I loved this film as a kid. The idea of the race, the episodic nature of the film and the cars themselves were a lot of fun. But upon reviewing it again for the first time in decades when it got released to DVD, I found myself hugely disappointed. The funny bits weren't very funny and the not funny bits were boring. Perhaps with my expectations set so high for the initial rewatch, it couldn't help but be a letdown. Here's hoping a future rewatch might lessen the blow.

8) Herbert Lom or Patrick Magee?

For me, Herbert Lom will always be Chief Inspector Dreyfus from those Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies. Whether they hold up today or not, they were big in my youth (saw them several times at drive-ins with my family and we'd howl every time).

9) Which is your least favorite David Lynch film

"Eraserhead" is a marvel in many ways - as a first film, as a visual treat and as a disturbing tale - but it just doesn't engage me anywhere near as much as his other films (though I have not seen key titles like "Dune" or "Inland Empire" yet).

10) Gordon Willis or Conrad Hall?

For the record, this response has nothing to do with who is "better". I just want that on the books, OK? So given that, it looks like Willis has been cinematographer on more films that I really like, so I give him the nod. I thought it would go to Hall, but no such luck. Hall did do "Electra Glide In Blue", though, which is a damn stunning film at times...

11) Second favorite Don Siegel movie.

I really have to add a bunch of his titles to my need-to-see list. Just looking through IMDB, I noticed "The Big Steal” which looks great (Mitchum and Greer). Of the ones I've seen, I have a great fondness for "Escape From Alcatraz", so number two slot has to go to "Invasion Of The Body Snatchers". Those positions aren't that far apart though.

12) Last movie you saw on DVD/Blu-ray? In theaters?

On DVD, “Urgh! A Music War”. I hadn't seen it in over 25 years and finally got the Warner Archives DVD of it. Just as great as I remembered it to be. In theatres it was "Overheard" (the opening film of the Reel Asian Film Festival) - a Hong Kong thriller about the surveillance of a company suspected of insider trading. If that doesn't sound overly thrilling, well, you'd be mostly right. It's OK, but its characters were too broad and lacking any subtlety to pull me in.

13) Which DVD in your private collection screams hardest to be replaced by a Blu-ray?

Well, they're all whining about it, but I've told them it's not happening anytime soon. “Play Time” is trying to stir up a revolt though.

14) Eddie Deezen or Christopher Mintz-Plasse?

"Superbad" and "Role Models" are preferred over just about everything in the entirety of Deezen's oeuvre, but if we're just comparing actors I'd have to pick Deezen.

15) Actor/actress who you feel automatically elevates whatever project they are in, or whom you would watch in virtually anything.

Barbara Stanwyck and Gloria Grahame. Both are huge crushes admittedly, but I think they've been great in every part I've seen them play (though perhaps not every film has been completely stellar).

16) Fight Club -- yes or no?

You betcha!

17) Teresa Wright or Olivia De Havilland?

Do not mess with the cheekbones of Maid Marian!

18) Favorite moment/line from a film noir.

I was trying to find a specific quote from "Murder My Sweet", but instead came across these two beauties:

"He died in 1940, in the middle of a glass of beer. His wife Jessie finished it for him."

"She was a charming middle-aged lady with a face like a bucket of mud. I gave her a drink. She was a gal who'd take a drink, if she had to knock you down to get the bottle."

I'll go with those two for now...As for moments? Any of a hundred different scenes of light cascading through the blinds of a window at the appropriate moment. I love that stuff.

19) Best (or worst) death scene involving an obvious dummy substituting for a human or any other unsuccessful special effect(s)—see the wonderful blog Destructible Man for inspiration.

The end of Lucio Fulci's "Don't Torture A Duckling" made me laugh out loud. The falling body in the long shot is obviously a dummy, but when they cut in close it's even more so. And when his head hits a rock and an explosion of light comes out of it - like sparks being generated as the face scraped along the jagged rocks - well, that did me in. Here it is (containing big spoiler by the way):

20) What's the least you've spent on a film and still regretted it?

The minuscule rental fee for "The Girl From Monday". It was my first Hal Hartley film and almost my last. Geez that was terrible. “Fay Grim” hasn't helped boost his reputation with me either...

21) Van Johnson or Van Heflin?

I like 'em both, but Heflin's role in “The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers” is my favourite.

22) Favorite Alan Rudolph film.

I've only seen “Mortal Thoughts”. It's OK (mostly due to Glenne Headly), but I don't think I should really have that next to the word 'favourite' in any context.

23) Name a documentary that you believe more people should see.

All of them. People should just plain see more docs - there are so many good ones. Errol Morris' "Mr Death" is a favourite though and it's unjustly ignored. Recently, "Dear Zachary" floored me. I swear, I've never wept openly during a movie before. Days later, I still couldn't talk about it without starting to choke up. It's manipulative as hell, so I'm not sure if I'm recommending it or not. I'd just rather not have to explain it to anyone and then start crying on their shoulder...

24) In deference to this quiz’s professor, name a favorite film which revolves around someone becoming stranded.

Scorsese's "After Hours".

25) Is there a moment when your knowledge of film, or lack thereof, caused you an unusual degree of embarrassment and/or humiliation? If so, please share.

At this year's Toronto After Dark, a few fellow bloggers and I were introduced to Noah Segan - star of "Brick", "Deadgirl" and a film playing at the festival entitled "Someone's Knocking At The Door". We were at the Pub After Dark and retreated to the upstairs outdoor patio so he could have a smoke. We chatted quite amiably about numerous things and got on the subject of influential films. He mentioned "Toy Soldiers" and I immediately said "Oh yeah, I've heard that's actually quite good - Joe Dante directed that.". He looked confused and got confirmation from someone else near him that I was thinking of "Small Soldiers". A bit later, he was discussing how he would at the drop of a hat work with Rian Johnson on anything - I couldn't hear very well, so when he said "Looper" (Johnson's next project), I said "Oh yeah, when's that coming out?" He paused and said "Well, he's got to finish writing it first...". After another faux pas, his conversation started leaning towards the other group near him. I don't think my friend has forgiven me (she thought he was hot). He was actually quite friendly though.

26) Ann Sheridan or Geraldine Fitzgerald?

Both lovely, but I'll side with Fitzgerald for her later movies and TV work. Sheridan sure had those smoky eyes, though, didn't she?

27) Do you or any of your family members physically resemble movie actors or other notable figures in the film world? If so, who?

I've been told that with my glasses I resemble Anthony Edwards - especially as Dr. Mark Greene in "ER". I think it's the similarity in our, ahem, hairstyles.

28) Is there a movie you have purposely avoided seeing? If so, why?

"Salo" is the obvious choice. I just don't think I can do it. "Ichi The Killer" is probably the best answer, since I've wanted to see it for a long time, but whenever I pick it up I always get second thoughts. For some reason, it just feels like the violence and gore in the film will be a little too realistic.

29) Movie with the most palpable or otherwise effective wintry atmosphere or ambience.

I just watched Larisa Shepitko's "The Ascent" set during WWII in occupied Russia. Though filmed in Black and White, it looked more like just White. Every frame of that film gives off a chill.

30) Gerrit Graham or Jeffrey Jones?

Graham almost disqualifies himself immediately by having been in the awful “Chaotic Ana”, but his credits are much too lengthy and fun to pass over (“Child's Play 2" and “Chopping Mall”?).

31) The best cinematic antidote to a cultural stereotype (sexual, political, regional, whatever).

I can't quite think of a perfect specific example, but I've found generation spanning family drama/comedy films like "Eat, Drink, Man, Woman", "Monsoon Wedding" and "East Is East" tend to simply show people struggling with the same things we all do - affected in different ways due to cultural backgrounds of course, but still showing a diversity of thought within those groups.

32) Second favorite John Wayne movie.

I've seen such a small percentage of his movies, but "Red River" is a great Western by any measure, so it slides into the number 2 spot behind "Rio Bravo".

33) Favorite movie car chase.

George Miller and crew risked life and limb to bring us those spiffy chases in "Mad Max", so the least I can do is give them some recognition.

34) In the spirit of His Girl Friday, propose a gender-switched remake of a classic or not-so-classic film.

The Godmother.

35) Barbara Rhoades or Barbara Feldon?

Though I appreciate Rhoades and the massive amount of work she's done (always liked her), my twelve year old self insists on Agent 99.

36) Favorite Andre De Toth movie.

I have to give it to his version of "House Of Wax" - possibly because I expected very little going in. I didn't realize he was director, figured it was a lesser Vincent Price film and that it would not compare well to the original "Mystery of the Wax Museum" from 1933. I'd love to see it in all of its glorious 3D.

37) If you could take one filmmaker's entire body of work and erase it from all time and memory, as if it had never happened, whose oeuvre would it be?

OK, I'll go with the spirit of the question...Tony Scott drives me crazy and I don't think he's ever made a picture that I can actually say that I like. Therefore, be thee banished Tony!

38) Name a film you actively hated when you first encountered it, only to see it again later in life and fall in love with it.

"2001: A Space Odyssey". 9 years old was a bit early for me.

39) Max Ophuls or Marcel Ophuls?

Woefully unschooled in both...I've only seen "Lola Montes" and have more films by Max on my Must-See list, so he wins.

40) In which club would you most want an active membership, the Delta Tau Chi fraternity, the Cutters or the Warriors? And which member would you most resemble, either physically or in personality?

The Delta Tau Chi parties would be, I'm guessing, slightly more entertaining than the other two.

41) Your favorite movie cliché.

The homely girl becomes the gorgeous girl everyone wants to date. This is usually accomplished simply by removing her hideous glasses (whether she can see or not without them never really seems to be an issue). It's my favourite because it immediately signals to me how incredibly lazy the filmmakers are so that I can readjust any expectations I had for the film.

42) Vincente Minnelli or Stanley Donen?

"Royal Wedding", "Singin' In The Rain" and "Charade". Advantage Donen.

43) Favorite Christmas-themed horror movie or sequence.

The short film "Treevenge" - the trees fight back. Extensive gore in part 2.

44) Favorite moment of self- or selfless sacrifice in a movie.

I can't seem to think of anything else right now aside from Gene Hackman's reverend character in “The Poseidon Adventure”.

45) If you were the cinematic Spanish Inquisition, which movie cult (or cult movie) would you decimate?

The attempt to make “Repo: The Genetic Opera” into a new late-night cult movie (almost begging people to approach it as another Rocky Horror) was actually kind of sad. Especially since the movie is just awful. Hopefully it just decimates itself.

46) Caroline Munro or Veronica Carlson?

Both are lovely and Munro was in the Dr. Phibes films, but Carlson in "Dracula Has Risen From The Grave" is my favourite. When Drac has her under his spell, that look she gives him - the inviting "I'm yours" stare - is wicked.

47) Favorite eye-patch wearing director.


48) Favorite ambiguous movie ending.

Spoiler alert

Just after the two characters decide to give it another shot near the ending of “Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind”, we see three repeated short scenes of them on the beach. Just when you thought it was a happy ending, there's that indication they may actually be doomed to repeat the same cycle over and over. I thought that was perfectly bittersweet and certainly open to interpretation.

49) In giving thanks for the movies this year, what are you most thankful for?

That my biggest problem is that I can't keep up with my Must-See list. The vast majority of them are actually available on DVD, so my issue is one of too much choice. Not a bad problem to have...

50) George Kennedy or Alan North?

I guess it should be Kennedy - whether it was the crap or the good stuff, he always made me smile a bit when he popped up on screen - but North was in those 6 episodes of "Police Squad". For me, that alone gives him my undying gratitude. Then again, Kennedy was in "Strait-Jacket" and I love every frame of that movie. Prof, why do you torment me so?

Friday 11 December 2009

Beyond The Canon - The results

Previously published at RowThree.

As we near the end of not only 2009, but also the decade of "The Naughts", we movie buffs turn our attention to lists. Glorious lists. Top 10s, Top 50s, Best ofs, Worst ofs and all the rest. Along with the lists though, come the anti-list brigades. The onslaught of comments about how useless lists are, how they always represent the same small crop of movies and how they don't represent the complainer's personal tastes (which leads one to wonder if the list did match their tastes, would they still complain?). Some people just really hate lists.

This was never more apparent than when the Online Film Community Top 100 films of all time was published a few years ago. The thought was an interesting one - gather numerous bloggers and online film buffs and have them put together their "canon" of top films to see how it compares to the same old same old lists that always have "Citizen Kane", "Casablanca" and "Vertigo". Nothing wrong with those films of course, but there was the idea that the online community might come up with something different...What hidden gems might the community rally around? How might this newer generation of film critics (mostly non-professional of course) expand the canon of great films? As it turned out, neither of those questions had hugely satisfactory answers - the resulting list was different in many ways than existing canon lists (pulling in more action/sci-fi/genre titles as well as recent features), but it didn't really unearth any surprises since many of the individual "different" films selected were sifted out when the data was rolled up. Which is fair enough and should be expected since any list that pulls together more than, say, 10 people's individual lists will weed out the stuff that is "different". That's just the nature of the task (and to be fair to the fine gentlemen who initiated the project, wasn't really their intent anyway). The list, however, generated discussion - and movie geeks love discussion...

So Iain Stott thought he would try to generate some more discussion with a new list and to do it in a novel way. His idea was to come up with a secondary "canon" of films - something Beyond The Canon. He thought that some of the most interesting parts of these consolidated lists were the dark corners of the individual taste which contained those movies that the listmakers loved and thought deserved wider recognition, but never made the final cut because they wouldn't receive enough votes. He wondered what would happen if we lopped off that top heavy section of "standard" favourites and found what lurked just below. Were there any commonalities in these bubbling under films? Was there a list that could serve to extend the canon? Iain's approach was slightly different: he started by blacklisting any typical "canon fodder" from anyone's list of 100 choices (by combining several sources of top films, he devised a list of films that contributors could not pick). The idea was that it would force the submitters to go deeper into their reserves of favourites and pick out some titles they thought might not get the recognition they so richly deserved. The final list would rank the films that were selected the most often (from unranked submissions).

So, how did it turn out? Pretty good if you ask me...The list is not an amalgam of rare and surprising choices - in fact, there's some very popular and straightforward titles on it. But what other list will have a Top 25 consisting of Polanski's The Tenant, Preminger's Laura and Welles' F For Fake? Or Eric Rohmer's The Green Ray at number 33 (aka "Summer"), Wim Wenders' Alice In The Cities at 47 and Jacques Rivette's La Belle Noiseuse at 87 (3 films I have not seen, but am now eager to search out). In addition to the 100 most popular, Iain has also created a weighted list of films called Further Beyond The Canon - a list of some of those films that really aren't that well known, but still received more than just a smattering of votes.

So have at it. Explore the site and the individual contributors lists and the list of films that got 4 or more votes and even this guy's negative feedback about the whole idea (I agree with his thought that people should extend their comfort zones when watching film, but I love lists far too much to agree with him beyond that). I'll admit my bias here - I was one of the contributors to the list. And I'd do it again.

Note: Top and bottom images ("Eyes Wide Shut" and "Mulholland Drive") finished 1-2 on the list. Middle two images from "The Tenant" and "La Belle Noiseuse".