Although I detest the idea of lists, I thought I would mention “10” films that convey an amazing articulation of contemporary culture (and they just happen to be a some that I find as my favorites of this year).
Birdsong (Albert Serra)
The limits of plot are less a concern than the grace of an event’s miraculous and personal unfolding for an individual. While the film conveys the infamous birth of a religious figure in a manner that is rooted in secular mortality, the film focuses on the personal contemplation and expressionistic moments inspired by the meaning of the event rather than expository dialog about religious convictions. Amazingly brave in its contemplative execution, Serra continues to allude to things beyond the nature of cinema’s plastics and today’s climate of physicality, technology and the literal.
Fearne and…Peaches Geldof (Iain Thompson)
The exuberant and excessive brit-pop culture anthropologist Fearne Cotton interviews the walking symbol of pseudo-modernist globalization: Peaches Geldof. While dismissed as another tabloid celebrity, Peaches is fascinating for the very fact that she is the end result of an over-saturated culture of mediated capitalism, and this “investigative” documentary defines a strange paradox behind the vapid meaning of today’s pop-psych justified Global- capitalist-culture. Like it, or hate it, this is the fascinating actualization of Godard’s chapter entitled “Dialogue with a Consumer Product” in Masculine Feminine.
The Girlfriend Experience (Steven Soderbergh)
Speaking of Godard, Soderbergh perfects the mediated analogy of prostitution in the modern commodification of women through his study of Sasha Grey. While the film situates this classic genre within the American bail-out crisis and, as such, does adhere to a cold execution of facts, Soderbergh does not derail enough to miss the true emotional pain in the mediation and sale of women. Though his choices may appear simple, they are bold, and his genius comes through in his ability to convey an articulate analysis immediately!
Julia (Erick Zonca)
Zonca’s very quiet and confident character study of an American woman on the verge of drug-craved financial crisis overcomes the somewhat conventional narrative approach. The strengths of this film is in Zonca’s ability to draft a such a strong and weighty character through Tilda Swinton in a time when character goes overlooked in the seemingly popular didactic plot-driven approach of contemporary political cinema.
_Martyrs _(Pascal Laugier)
While Laugier’s film appropriates horror conventions in a tale of secret sadistic torture, it does so to provide for a strong critique of voyeurism in the vein of Haneke’s Funny Games. Laugier’s film depicts a complicated emotional analysis of the victimization in torture for exploratory and vicarious spectatorship that implicitly deconstructs the decade’s cinematic obsession with flesh-horrors such as Roth’s Hostel or Wan’s Saw series. In the end, Laguier’s point verges on satiric ambiguity as the responsibility of viewership results in appropriate self-disgust that should follow this trend.
nbc.com/yoteach / Funny People (Judd Apatow)
While not necessarily a film, the NBC website gave room for the Funny People viral campaign that rose above simple advertising. A fascinating and illuminating commentary about television’s mediation and appropriations of cultural stereotypes, the YoTeach site holds clips from a fictitious NBC show that address issues such as teen pregnancy and internet stalkers. The strength of the commentary resides in a biting satire that questions television’s oversimplification and commodification of real American issues. The false solutions found in the false sitcom clips address the limits of the media’s antiquated means of conversation.
_Pontypool _(Bruce McDonald)
Always the popular genre, the zombie film is used as a means of understanding the elusive horrors of today’s loss of meaning in the use of English language. The confusing concept is amazingly handled by McDonald’s ability to navigate through abstract concepts in the appropriate and accessible moment-to-moment zombie trap. The strength of the film lies in the imperceptible way terror hints its way into our lives before we know with what we are dealing –the real scare effect that recalls the initial moment of cinematic zombies, before they loss their scare-factor.
Sauna (Antti-Jussi Annila)
Annila’s film depicts the imperceptible horrors associated with intangible powers behind religious convictions. While the film’s depiction of 16th Century Occidental landscape can be distancing, Annila’s able to amazingly manifest the horrors behind the question of another’s belief system overcoming your own facilities and rationale behind your own convictions. In what feels like an Ingmar Bergman horror, Sauna hauntingly reverberates the horrifying questions of a higher intelligence’s wrath through something as simple as an accidental murder in a border-town.
Two Legged Horse (Samira Mahkmalbaf)
The daughter of Iranian cinema master Mohsen Mahkmalbaf, Samira takes her place as his successor with this complex portrait of victimization. A young man plays “horse” to a boy whom is unable to use his legs, and becomes a poetic metaphor for mistreatment by those whom take advantage of their positions of power. The disabled young boy mistreats his “horse” and enacts some of the most disturbing abuses committed to film this year. Strongly calling for real-life action beyond the confines of this sensitive, yet intensely scarring film, Samira has places herself among the most important political filmmakers working today.
Whatever Works (Woody Allen)
The grand comedic artist returns to American to provide a simple update of the neurosis of contemporary Americana. While Larry David is prominent, he is merely the vehicle through which Allen is able to deconstruct the apprehension Americans have about finding comfort in the overcomplication of sex roles. The real resolve is in trusting happiness can exist without hope, and that love’s overly complicated depiction is simply to validate itself when the humanity remains within its clichés.