Monday, January 19, 2015

Chart toppers

For the 19 years I've been ranking all the movies I see each year, I have always been curious when a director would top the mountain a second time. It's almost happened twice. Cristian Mungiu and Spike Jonze have each scored movies that landed at #1 and #2 on my year-end list in different years -- Jonze with Adaptation (#1 of 2002) and Where the Wild Things Are (#2 of 2009), and Mungiu with 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (#2 of 2008) and Beyond the Hills (#1 of 2013). If I were ranking today, I'd rank 4 Months as #1 of 2008 as well, but I'm not ranking today, am I?

So a couple days ago, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu became the 19th different director to achieve top honors for the year. In case you're keeping track at home, the other 16 beyond Jonze and Mungiu are Al Pacino, James Cameron, Todd Solondz, Tom Tywker, Michael Almereyda, Robert Altman, Sofia Coppola, Michel Gondry, Craig Brewer, Alfonso Cuaron, Paul Thomas Anderson, Darren Aronofsky, Duncan Jones, Danny Boyle, Asghar Farhadi, and Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris.

However, I noted that a creative talent other than director did top the chart for his second time in 2014. That's cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, pictured above, who shot my #1 movie of 2006 (Children of Men) and now again my #1 movie of 2014 (Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance)). With the work this guy is doing (he also shot The Tree of Life and one of last year's top ten, Gravity, which won him an Oscar), I wouldn't be surprised if he has his sights set on another of my future #1s.

That got me thinking about others who have been involved with more than one of my top-ranked films. There had to be some during nearly two decades, right?

I knew I could figure it out with some quick research ... knowing also that even with something as thorough as IMDB, it would be difficult to determine multiple appearances by technical crew and the like. I'd have to know what I was looking for already.

So I scanned the top-listed cast and some key crew on each movie, and came up with the following, in alphabetical order:

Jane Adams
Contribution: Actress, Happiness (1998) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Significance of contribution: Minimal. Although you could argue that she was one of the key members of the Happiness ensemble, she's a side character in Eternal Sunshine, possibly only appearing in that one scene.

Paul Dano
Contribution: Actor, There Will Be Blood (2007) and Ruby Sparks (2012)
Significance of contribution: Performances kind of cancel each other out. Dano's work can be described (and has been described by many) as one of Blood's few true weaknesses, and even though I don't necessarily agree with that, there's no doubt this opinion colors my perception of the performance. However, I think he's perfectly cast in Ruby Sparks and plays a big role in why it works so well.

Charlie Kaufman
Contribution: Screenwriter, Adaptation (2002) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Significance of contribution: Major. Talk about a streak of good work. Kaufman's sensibilities are entirely key to making these movies sing. I dare not think how the end-of-year-rankings in 2008 might have turned out if I'd seen Synecdoche, New York in time to rank it that year.

Bill Murray
Contribution: Actor, Hamlet (2000) and Lost in Translation (2003)
Significance of contribution: Sizeable. Perhaps this will make up for me naming him as one of three who had a bad year in Saturday's post. Murray is "only" Polonius in Michael Almereyda's adaptation of Shakespeare's most famous play, though he's quite funny. But Lost in Translation is all about his performance.

Clive Owen
Contribution: Actor, Gosford Park (2001) and Children of Men (2006)
Significance of contribution: Kind of like Murray's. The ensemble is massive in Gosford Park (I seem to have a fondness for ensemble films), so one couldn't chalk up Owen's role to anything truly significant in my overall affection for the film. But I think of his work as indispensable to Children of Men.

Kevin Spacey
Contribution: Actor, Looking for Richard (1996) and Moon (2009)
Significance of contribution: Sneakily important. I saw Looking for Richard, my first-ever #1, only that one time, so I have no memory of the size of Spacey's role. But as the voice of the moonbase robot in Moon, he's basically the closest thing Sam Rockwell has to a co-star, and helps enable Rockwell's dynamite performance.

Kate Winslet
Contribution: Actress, Titanic (1997) and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Significance of contribution: Major. Both of these movies are tragic love stories, in very different ways, and Winslet's performances are undoubtedly key to the extent to which we invest ourselves in them.

Incidentally, that means Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind boasts three different contributors who appeared in previous #1s. No wonder I loved it so much.

Thank you for tuning in to Another Post Written Entirely for My Own Amusement.

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