’Tis the season when we’re inundated with best-of lists. As any journo knows, it’s hard to make a compilation that sticks out from the massive pack. One that always does, year after year, is new Rolling Stone critic David Ehrlich’s. Instead of the usual torrent of arbitrary rankings and text, he makes an actual video — a beautifully constructed flurry of music and images, plowing through his 25 film favorites with elegance and beauty.
This year is no different. Even if you don’t agree with his list — like if you think “Mad Max: Fury Road,” at number 10, is eight or nine rungs too low, or have no idea what “Kumiko the Treasure Hunter” or “Tokyo Tribe” are (though now you do) — you can probably agree it’s a rapturous watch, making you weep for the year that was: a year filled with great art and greater suffering.
Indeed, even if the bulk of it — the countdown itself — is simply what Ehrlich loved in order of preference, there’s a real shape to it. It moves from the exuberant melancholy of The Turtles’ “Happy Together” (accompanying the likes of “James White” and “The Mend”) to “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” (“Magic Mike XXL,” “Clouds of Sils Maria,” “Mistress America”) on through the devastating torch song that closes the German drama “Phoenix.”
The lyrics about mortality (“Love is pure gold/And time a thief”) resonate right up to Ehrlich’s top choice, “Carol,” one of the list’s many ruminations on the joys and despairs of love. By the time he brings back Marlon Brando, from the experimental doc “Listen to Me Marlon,” talking about how “life’s but a waking shadow,” what could have been a mere ranking of movie films has become a gutting reminder of the momentariness of life and how we’re probably wasting it.
Anyway, laugh and weep, in that order: