The end of each year brings a blitz of polls tabuutf8g the best movies and music of the past 12 months. These monster projects spit up a ton of fun lists, but in terms of science or revelatory truth, they range from suspect to useless. In contrast, the Guardian‘s annual end of the year film issue gives ideas and opinions precedence over bogus math. Antiauthoritarian up through the last second of every December, we’ve discovered that if you collect commentary from a varied group of imaginative people, certain patterns of creative resistance emerge that are a lot more revealing than any number one spot.
This year, for example, it’s apparent that (perhaps spurred by the YouTube boom?) television is on the upswing. Critic Chuck Stephens, Brick writer-director Rian Johnson, and "Midnites for Maniacs" programmer Jesse Ficks all sing its praises, while A Sore for Sighted Eyes, by TV Carnage mastermind Derrick Beckles, a.k.a. Pinky, takes found-footage montage to areas of derangement Sergey Eisenstein, let alone today’s Hollywood directors, couldn’t conceive. Speaking of great derangement: Jason Shamai contributes a pirated-DVD diary that’s one of the best pieces of movie writing I’ve read this year.
The varied new currents of Mexican cinema, surveyed here by Sergio de la Mora, show up on a number of people’s lists of faves. Over the next few years more and more people will be recognizing the visionary talents of a tight-knit community of young filmmakers in the Philippines, including Raya Martin, who contributes to this issue. Alexis A. Tioseco, whose excellent Web site Criticine is in perfect sync with the movement, has written a sharply observant and keenly sympathetic manifesto about it, also included here.
In the United States troubled dudes (analyzed in these pages by Cheryl Eddy and Max Goldberg), bad mamas (well rendered by Kimberly Chun), and fucked-up families (pinpointed by Dennis Harvey) ruled the best low-budget features and worst moneymaking hits. That is, when a visiting journalist named Borat wasn’t giving new meaning to the phrase high grosses by lampooning the ugliest American behavior in the last days of the Bush era.
Locally, some of my favorite films were made by this issue’s cover stars, David Enos and Sarah Enid Hagey, who frequently collaborate and star in each other’s work. Enos has drawn a comic for the issue; it gives readers a hint of the perceptive scrawls and deadpan hilarity that characterize the one-of-a-kind male portraiture in his animated shorts, which often focus on musical figures (The Dennis Wilson Story, Leonard Cohen in Alberta, Light My Fire). Hagey’s movie The Great Unknown features a funny performance by Enos as an undersung auteur. In her Lovelorn Domestic, she lights each scene to create an eerie glow and portrays a silent wife with a giant, beaked head who mercilessly pecks her protesting beloved’s eyes out. If Hagey’s recent movies and Enos’s self-published comics and books (Pock Mark, On the Grain Teams) are any indication, they along with their Edinburgh Castle Film Night cohorts Cathy Begien and Jose Rodriguez are just beginning to tap into big talents. Look for them in the future.
Super visions: The Guardian year in film