Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Countdown to Top Ten 2K11: “Bill Cunningham New York” (photo)

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Countdown to Top Ten 2K11 is a column with one simple goal: to help you decide what films you need to see before making your end of the year top ten list. Each installment features my thoughts on a critically acclaimed 2011 movie, a sampling of other critics’ reactions, the odds of the film making my own list, and the reasons why it might make yours.

This week, we’re covering one of the best reviewed movies of the year. Yesterday it earned a Gotham Award nomination for Best Documentary. Did it deserve it? Let’s find out.

Movie: “Bill Cunningham New York”

Director: Richard Press
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%
Plot Synopsis: A look at the life and career of photographer Bill Cunningham, whose two regular columns in The New York Times have helped define the discourse of the fashion industry for decades.
What the Critics Said: “Made me happy every moment I was watching it,” Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
“A delightful documentary,” Bill Goodykoontz, Arizona Republic
“A celebration of individualism, integrity, fashion, and passion,” Steven Rea, Philadelphia Inquirer
Were They Right? Absolutely. There’s no greater honor you can bestow upon an artist than making a work of art about them, and that’s exactly what director Richard Press did with this film. It’s one of the best documentaries I’ve seen in 2011.

President John Kennedy once described the life of an artist as “stern and lonely. He has labored hard, often amid deprivation, to perfect his skill.” Bill Cunningham lives his life like a man who took those words very seriously. For years, Cunningham lived alone in a tiny apartment in Carnegie Hall. A small bed on the floor belonged to him. The rest of the space was owned by his work: dozens of file cabinets, hundreds of books, and thousands of photographs. Cunningham has very few friends and fewer familial entanglements. He abhors money almost as much as he hates free time. He has spent his entire life thinking about fashion and putting those thoughts into words and images that he shares with his readers in the Times. On the basis of this film, it would seem to be a life well spent.

Press reveals the secrets of the 80-year-old Cunningham’s longevity in the youthful word of fashion: a relentless work ethic and an endlessly upbeat outlook. A melancholic interview late in the film about Cunningham’s personal life reveals some unacknowledged — maybe even unrealized — regrets. But the pleasures of the job far outweigh the burdens and Press shows enough of Cunningham’s photography to make it clear the man isn’t simply enjoying his work, he’s excelling at it. Cunningham devotes his “On the Street” column to celebrating the beauty and style of regular folks he sees while riding his bicycle around Manhattan. Press’ documentary essentially does the same thing. It points a camera at a subject that rarely gets much attention and discovers extraordinary hidden beauty.

Worthy of Oscar Nominations For: Best Documentary
Chances of Making My Top Ten: Not great. Chances of making my top twenty: almost guaranteed.

It Might Make Your Top Ten List If: you’re a fan of documentaries about the practical side of genius; if your two passions in life are women’s shoes and bicycles.

“Bill Cunningham New York” is now available on DVD as well as on Netflix Watch Instantly and Amazon Instant Video. Tell us what you think about the film in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

Previously in Countdown to Top Ten 2K11
“Hanna,” directed by Joe Wright

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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