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J. Hoberman’s Top 10

Some unfamiliar choices so I’m including abbreviated descriptions. Read Hoberman’s full explanation at The Village Voice.

1. A DANGEROUS METHOD
Consummate classical filmmaking, A Dangerous Method has an exaggerated Masterpiece Theatre patina that is regularly fissured by geysers of desire (as well as dreams and ideas) and ultimately blown away as Spielrein, Freud, and Jung meet their respective fates.

2. MELANCHOLIA
…We are all ultimately alone, and yet this thrillingly sad, beautiful movie dares to imagine (and insists we do as well) the one event that might bring us all together.

3. MYSTERIES OF LISBON
… cuts its own Gordian knot to wrap with a magnificent, looping closer that metaphorically conflates the end of literature, theater, and cinema. The nothingness is Olympian.

4. AURORA
Ionesco meets Jim Thompson: This murder mystery, shot vérité-style, is less a psychological case study than a philosophical treatise…

5. SEEKING THE MONKEY KING
…Jacobs’s incantatory, hallucinated, apocalyptic screed is a deeply troubling combination of stunning abstract imagery and enraged political analysis.

6. TO DIE LIKE A MAN
Fado music makes something wistfully jaunty out of inconsolable loss, and so does this mysterious, fabulously sad fable about the final months of a fado-singing, pooch-pampering drag diva.

7. UNCLE BOONMEE WHO CAN RECALL HIS PAST LIVES
…conversing with the materialized spirits of the dead and watching the so-called living on TV exist on the same astral plane.

8. HUGO
After decades in the business, Scorsese finally makes a kids’ film, and it turns out to be the best Spielberg movie that Spielberg never made…

9. J. EDGAR
Like most Eastwood productions, this densely woven historical tapestry is frugal and underlit; like his better films, it has an undercurrent of nuttiness.

10. UNITED RED ARMY
The veteran Japanese pulp artist makes a new sort of horror movie—a grueling, engrossing three-hour account of Japan’s insanely ideological New Left…

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MILDRED PIERCE

(Todd Haynes, United States)

The most academic yet mass-culture minded of U.S. indie directors, Haynes made a characteristically sidelong move toward the mainstream by treating James M. Cain’s novel as epic domestic drama with intimations of historical tragedy. Haynes’s HBO miniseries saga of unrequited star worship, terminal class envy, failed self-empowerment, and self-immolating smother love is less a narrative than a fastidiously designed, endlessly resonant world that, harking back to Hollywood’s last golden age, might have appeared in the disillusioned days of The Godfather or Chinatown.

A dozen runners-up: Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (Tsui Hark, China); Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami, Italy); Film Socialisme (Jean-Luc Godard, Switzerland); Le Havre (Aki Kaurismäki, France); Martha Marcy May Marlene (Sean Durkin, U.S.); Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt, U.S.); Le Quattro Volte (Michelangelo Frammartino, Italy); Octubre (Daniel Vega Vidal and Diego Vega Vidal, Peru); Super 8 (J.J. Abrams, U.S.); Terri (Aza Jacobs, U.S.); Tuesday, After Christmas (Radu Muntean, Romania); Young Adult (Jason Reitman, U.S.).