Forever you'll be able to bust out the statement "What did you think of the end of The Sopranos?" and people will get all lit up.
5. Margot at the Wedding (Noah Baumbach, US). Thanks to audacious writing and powerful acting (especially by Jennifer Jason Leigh), the bittersweet sincerity is pitch-perfect.
6. Californication, season 1 (various directors, US). David Duchovny is alive and hilarious. Creator Tom Kapinos cuts right through our progressive relationship era, devilishly developing each character over 12 episodes. This is heavy-duty stuff mixed with dirty, dirty sex.
7. Year of the Dog (Mike White, US). White brings heartfelt storytelling to his directorial debut.
8. Manufactured Landscapes (Jennifer Baichwal, Canada)
9. The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Martin Weisz, US). This Wes Cravenproduced Iraq war allegory deserves more attention than Brian De Palma's patronizing Redacted.
10. Hostel 2 (Eli Roth, US). Baddie Roth again makes social commentary on America's xenophobic world colonization by torturing the pathetic children of the apathetic parents who make our lovely world go round.
11. Silent Light (Carlos Reygadas, Mexico/France/Netherlands/Germany). Reygadas updates the transcendental religious overtones of Carl Theodor Dreyer by way of a Mennonite community.
12. At Long Last Love (Peter Bogdanovich, US). Never released on VHS or DVD, this throwback to the musicals of Ernst Lubitsch featuring Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, Madeline Kahn, and Eileen Brennan was dismissed and despised on its only theatrical release in 1975. All of the Cole Porter musical numbers were filmed live, with the actors using their own voices. Not only are these numbers brilliantly executed (inspiring realistic musicals like Lars von Trier's Dancer in the Dark), but the film also attains the rapid-fire interaction and casual kookiness of late '30s screwball comedies. Did critics really overlook the fact that this is clever cheekiness? It's a true treasure that serves as a '70s time capsule and should inspire future filmmakers to take their chances all the way. It may have taken 32 years, but your time has come, Mr. Bogdanovich. Thank you.
Jesse Hawthorne Ficks teaches film history at the Academy of Art University and curates Midnites for Maniacs (www.midnitesformaniacs.com) at the Castro Theatre.
JAMES T. HONG'S TOP 11, STARTING FROM 0
0. The 70th anniversary memorial of the Nanjing Massacre in Nanjing, China, and especially survivor Xia Shuqin's reaction to her re-created wartime house, where most of her family was raped and killed by Japanese soldiers.
1. The passing of House Resolution 121 (the "Comfort Women" resolution) on C-Span, July 30.
2. Yasukuni (Li Ying, China/Japan). The power of the shrine isn't fully captured, but this is the closest an outsider has come to doing so that I've seen. All captured on a Japanese mini-DV video camera, in American NTSC.
3. Nanking (Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, US). AOL + Iris Chang = Woody Harrelson and the Nanjing Massacre.
4. A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila (various, US). The alpha and omega of Asian America. For those with the required assets and skills, Playboy and the Internet can make you, regardless of race, a bisexual American celebrity the end and a new beginning for all the so-called angry Asian Americans.
5. Summer Special Olympics in Shanghai, China. Globalization was transformed into music by Kenny G during the opening ceremony.
6. Pride: The Moment of Destiny, or Puraido: Unmei no Toki (Shunya Ito, Japan). Finally found a good DVD copy of this, in Canada of all places. This could also be called Tojo: The Hero.
7. Inside the Brookhaven Obesity Clinic (various, US). Pride and Prejudice for the heavyset, on the Learning Channel.