24 January 2010


This year, I'm late posting my ballots for the annual Chlotrudis film poll -- so late, in fact, that the results are already in. I don't know if they're just popular, obvious choices or whether few people voted this year, but my top films also topped the polls.


1. Before Sunset (dir: Richard Linklater, 2004)
2. 2046 (Wong Kar Wai, 2004)
3. The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-Liang, 2005)
4. Superman II (Richard Lester, 1980)
5. Russian Dolls (Cedric Klapisch, 2005)
6. Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Joe Dante, 1990)
7. After the Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1936)
8. Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Leonard Nimoy, 1986)
9. Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)
10. The Barbarian Invasions (Denys Arcand, 2003)
11. Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
12. Return to Oz (Walter Murch, 1985)
13. X2 - X-Men United (Bryan Singer, 2003)
14. Saraband (Ingmar Bergman, 2003)
15. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)

For me, BEFORE SUNSET was an immediate choice for number one. Initially, it seemed like a terrible idea that Linklater, Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke would craft a sequel to BEFORE SUNRISE (1995), a charming film about a young man and woman who meet on a train in Vienna and have one day to spend together. What makes BEFORE SUNSET such an unexpectedly successful sequel is in how it opens up this limited premise, allowing the two leads to meet up a decade later, only this time not by chance or coincidence. Linklater uses this reunion to say a lot about how time changes and weathers us. Transpiring in real time and long takes, this sequel reveals so much more to us than the first film; its lovely, daring conclusion is practically exhilarating in all of the possibilities it suggests, none less than an urge to see them reunite again.

However, for the most part, I hate sequels - many are uninspired attempts to build a franchise and it's pretty depressing how many of these dreary cash-ins are successful at doing so. One could submit up to 25 entries for this poll and I barely made it to 15. Most of my favorites are, predictably, independent and foreign films from the past decade that I loved, although SUPERMAN II instantly sprung to mind as the rare sequel that outclasses the original in almost every way. As for the anarchic GREMLINS 2, I haven't seen it in nearly twenty years, but I remember it gleefully tearing the original film apart, which is something more sequels should do.

In compiling this list, I completely forgot Michael Apted's "Up" series because I see the films as parts of a whole rather than sequels, but if they're eligible, then 49 UP should've had a place in the top five.


1. Far From Heaven (dir: Todd Haynes, 2002)
2. Nosferatu (Werner Herzog, 1979)
3. Happiness of the Katikuris (Takashi Miike, 2001)
4. The Beat that My Heart Skipped (Jacques Audiard, 2005)
5. Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959)
6. 12 Monkeys (Terry Gilliam, 1995)
7. The Talented Mr. Ripley (Anthony Minghella, 1999)
8. Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
9. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
10. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
11. Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)
12. Victor/Victoria (Blake Edwards, 1982)
13. The Manchurian Candidate (Jonathan Demme, 2004)
14. Reefer Madness: The Movie Musical (Andy Fickman, 2005)
15. The Quiet American (Philip Noyce, 2002)
16. A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)
17. The Departed (Martin Scorsese, 2006)
18. Little Shop of Horrors (Frank Oz, 1986)
19. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)
20. Dawn of the Dead (Zack Snyder, 2004)
21. An Ideal Husband (Oliver Parker, 1999)
22. Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (Frank Oz, 1988)
23. Zatoichi (Takeshi Kitano, 2003)
24. Oceans 11 (Steven Soderbergh, 2001)
25. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Tim Burton, 2005)

Remakes are so much more fun than sequels because they give filmmakers an opportunity to provide a unique spin on an old story. While not by any means a straight ahead remake of ALL THAT HEAVEN ALLOWS (Douglas Sirk, 1956), FAR FROM HEAVEN lovingly recreates the style of 1956 but takes the basic outline of the original story, and retells it in a way that could only be done long after that - making the Rock Hudson stand-in African American and one other major character gay. Instead of doing so with a nudge-wink "boy, weren't the 1950s wacky" glibness, Haynes is completely serious, making exactly the film Sirk would have if issues such as interracial romance and homosexuality (which, after all, were around in 1956) weren't taboo in Hollywood. FAR FROM HEAVEN is as revisionist as it is a tribute.

Other entries on this list are either vast improvements on the originals (THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY, FLOATING WEEDS), terrific new versions of obscurities (THE HAPPINESS OF THE KATIKURIS, DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS), wildly original takes on old films (Herzog's Klaus Kinski-starring NOSFERATU), films redone in different genres (REEFER MADNESS: THE MOVIE MUSICAL, LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS) and true oddities like Demme's THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE, not at all better than Frankenheimer's brilliant original, but a gutsy, modern day take that's far more effective than most lazy, unimaginative remakes of seminal films.

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