The Edge of Heaven: at left, Hanna Schygulla
The Edge of Heaven: at left, Hanna Schygulla

The last thing I did as editor of Queen Anne & Magnolia News (August 2003-December 2007) was to lay out the pages of the Jan. 2, 2008 issue displaying my Ten Best of 2007. Although I continued to write the occasional film piece for the paper under Myke Folger, I didn't propose doing Ten Best pieces for the next two years. (Myke himself suggested I do the 2010 list for his printed page.) So just to fill an apparent gap here, I'll merely list the films I'd have written up in their respective years. And as long as it's casual, I'm going to take liberties with the Ten limit.

I've written somethingorother elsewhere on a few of these films, so I'll post links for them at the bottom of this page. Since the URLs for my year-end thumbnails of my two top films appear to have evanesced, I'll insert the original MS Word files here. -RTJ



     At one point in Fatih Akin's The Edge of Heaven, a Turk who has been a professor of German in Germany becomes proprietor of a German bookstore in Turkey. People cross a lot of borders in this movie and meet one another coming and going—or rather, don't meet, even as they're looking for one another. We're sitting back watching characters live out what seem to be separate dramas—a Turkish prostitute passing as German, a student radical simultaneously fleeing the authorities and searching for her mother, a father and son trying to be comfortable in their mutual estrangement, and so on—but really, the viewer is on a journey, too, through space and also time. For just as incidental spaces and places recur in the movie and become landmarks, we also may find ourselves witnessing—experiencing—the convergence of present and past in a single, awesome camera movement. Akin's 2004 Head-On was a shattering tale of cross-cultural tensions and fierce love. With his latest film he moves beyond that, into metaphysical mystery and hard-earned transcendence. There are passages in The Edge of Heaven worthy of Murnau or Kieslowski. Standouts in an excellent cast include Nurgül Yesilçay as the Turkish student on the run and, in a role that seems incidental at first, Fassbinder icon Hanna Schygulla (The Marriage of Maria Braun).

Gran Torino (Clint Eastwood)
A Christmas Tale (Arnaud Desplechin)
The Secret of the Grain (Abdellatif Kechiche)
I've Loved You So Long (Philippe Claudel)
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson)
Wendy and Lucy (Kelly Reichardt)
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
WALLE (Andrew Stanton)
The Visitor (Tom McCarthy)
Summer Hours (Olivier Assayas)
Tell No One (Guillaume Canet)



A SERIOUS MAN (Ethan Coen and Joel Coen)
     Two things about A Serious Manare very reassuring. One is the last thing in the end credits, a mock-boilerplate declaration that "no Jews were harmed in the making of this motion picture." The other is that the brothers Coen, Ethan and Joel, are at the very tiptop of their game, delivering a totally original black-comedy creation that never puts a foot wrong. We're in exotic country, and not just the 19th-century Poland of the prologue, with its Yiddish dialogue, artificial snowfall, and geography and nomenclature so foreign that the subtitles could use subtitles. This droll setup, a folk tale in miniature (and in the old-fashioned 1.33:1 format), prepares the goyische majority in the audience for the most in-your-face Jewish experience ever proffered as a mainstream American movie. Most of it's laid in the Coens' native Minnesota and 1967, the "summer of love," largely recalled here as an era of F Troop reruns, Coppertone tans, and the inescapability of the Columbia Record Club. College physics prof Larry Gopnik (welcome Michael Stuhlbarg!) is apparently in good health and in line for tenure, but he's also about to be reminded that all life is lived in the penumbra of the Uncertainty Principle: "It means we can't always know what's going on—and it'll be on the midterm!" The key lesson is that, as Larry pietistically observes, "Actions have consequences." Then again, so does non-action; barely a scene passes without someone protesting that he, she, or they "didn't do anything!" Do, don't do, you're done for. The screenplay (best of the year, hands down) elevates the shaggy-dog story to an existential principle, and the film's final moments will haunt you to your grave, should you live so long. In the meantime ... "Embrace the mystery."

The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow)
35 Rhums (Claire Denis)
Bright Star (Jane Campion)
Taking Woodstock (Ang Lee)
Up in the Air (Jason Reitman)
Liverpool (Lisandro Alonso)
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino)
Public Enemies (Michael Mann)
(500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb)
Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans (Werner Herzog)



Bright Star

Gran Torino

Hurt Locker, The

In Bruges

Inglourious Basterds

Serious Man, A

Taking Woodstock
My QA&Mag News review is posted in the Classics department: