The Best Films in Life Are Free

YouTube’s Top Ten

Everything I discovered this year that really mattered to me was old — Ingmar Bergman’s Shame; Marco Bellochio’s snarling Fists in the Pocket; Jean-Marie Straub and the late Danièle Huillet’s Too Early/Too Late; Heart of the Congos; Deadwood; Tommy Keene’s “Places That Are Gone”; John Anderson’s “Wild and Blue”; and especially Pedro Costa’s mesmerizing documentary on Straub/Huillet, Où gît votre sourire enfoui?

While I was at home, not getting out to the movies or the record store, YouTube provided me with a year’s worth of surprises, weird juxtapositions, archival treasures and pop culture I never heard about at the time. Things disappear and reappear so regularly that the links may disappear soon — the YouTube search engine is a better bet if something's gone.

1. “Solla Solla Enna Perumai”
If more Bollywood movies featured foot-high afros, gold lamé platform boots, backward leaps from dance floors to balconies, and testosterone-dripping superstuds scatting fluty falsetto passages over chugging blaxploitation soundtrack music, well, I’d spend more time haunting Indian grocery stores for DVDs.

2. “Tolerate Mornings”
Best commercial ever.

3. “Times Square”
Ornette Coleman on Saturday Night Live. Since this is from an episode so notoriously disastrous that it’s never been rerun in the nearly thirty years since it ran, the mere fact that I finally got to see it may have led me to overrate it. I doubt it, though — this is Prime Time’s prime lineup doing Ornette’s peak electric song.

4. “Leroy Jenkins”
Triumph of the Dumbass.

5. “Way of the World”
Flipper. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but this concert footage from 1982 convinces that they really were as good as I thought they were at the time.

6. “Sugarcube” and “From a Motel 6”
Yo La Tengo. Mr. Show sends indie geeks to rock school, then Hal Hartley (back when he was funny) demonstrates that Pere Ubu was right — rock and roll really is about moving big black boxes from one side of town to the other.

7. “Hey Ya!”
Outkast as performed by Snoopy, Lucy, Schroeder and a tranced-out kid in a green sweatshirt.

8. “Baby Please Don’t Go”
AC/DC. If more hard rock bands outfitted their lead singers in Pippi Longstocking schoolgirl outfits — their tough, booze-swilling, gravel-voiced male lead singers — the world would be a far more amusing place.

9. “Christine’s Tune”
The Flying Burrito Brothers. The mediocre documentary Fallen Angel: Gram Parsons features a long excerpt from what looks like a 1969 television appearance, with the Burritos in their Nudie-suited glory singing “Hot Burrito #1 (I’m Your Toy). ” While that can’t be had on YouTube — at least this month — this song (from the same appearance) can. Nothing to complain about, of course, but this song is merely very good, while “Hot Burrito #1” is one of the handful of times Parsons sat at the adult table with Hank Williams and Merle Haggard.

10. “You’re No Rock ’n Roll Fun”
Sleater-Kinney. Whenever this comes on, my six year old daughter leaps up and down and screams along. As such, it’s my favorite three minutes of anything this year.