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If I Had a Sight & Sound Ballot Tim Peters’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tim Peters’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Tim Peters’s Top 10 Films of All Time

In the interest of iconoclasm, and of pointing one’s critical finger at great movies that were created, you know, sometime after the 1970s, what follows is an alphabetically-arranged list of what this reviewer thinks are world-historically worthwhile films produced after 1986, the year of his birth. The standards of judgment that these movies were able to so spectacularly and consistently surpass are the standards of a person who is, well, in his mid-20s, and who is agitated and restless and frequently lonesome. Those standards involve, more cinematically-speaking, the intensity of the movie; the intelligence of the movie; its willingness to admit that life is often disappointing, drab, and deceptive; and a preference for protagonists who are struggling to resist the rather deadening expectations of the society in which they’ve found themselves living. Given the quantity of critical cinematic verbiage that’s emanated forth on the Internet prior to, and in the wake of, the release of the 2012 Sight & Sound Top 10 list, this reviewer will say no more, but merely and humbly direct your attention to the list he’s provided.

SXSW 2012: Dollhouse and Bernie

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SXSW 2012: <em>Dollhouse</em> and <em>Bernie</em>
SXSW 2012: <em>Dollhouse</em> and <em>Bernie</em>

Kirsten Sheridan’s Dollhouse has a great hook: five Irish street kids, one fancy house, 95 minutes of mayhem. The possibilities for this kind of distinctive scenario seem endless, as the kids break in, then waver between exploration and destruction, a sense of freedom heightened by the film’s use of entirely improvised dialogue. But as often happens, increasingly complicated plot machinations spoil the simple beauty of this premise, and Dollhouse gets harder to take seriously as it becomes more outlandish.

The film remains fascinating for a good portion of its running time, most acutely in scenes where it isn’t entirely clear who’s running the show: the director or the actors. The improvised dialogue and use of non-professionals allows for a liberated, impulsive feel, which Sheridan apparently finessed by sending her main players away to a house for a week, to acclimate to one another while working on improv exercises. It means that the majority of Dollhouse feels unstable but also achingly real, in sharp contrast to the scripted diversions that get shoehorned in as it progresses.