Inspired by Dave Hicks’ excellent blog, I have decided to write about my favorite film for each year from 1926-2008.

1997: Fireworks (Takeshi Kitano)

I don’t know if it’s the Virgo in me, but I always prefer simple to complicated. Particularly as our world seems to be getting more and more complex, I want art to strip that complexity away to give us a view of something pure, clean and fairly uncluttered. I want art to be a respite from my daily life.

Many of my favorite moviemakers (Bresson, Jarmusch, Rohmer, Dreyer and early Wenders, to name but a few) make films that fall into this category. They are simplifiers, always looking to distill their work to its most basic essence. “What else can I take away?” must be one of the most important questions in their approach.

Another moviemaker I’d put into this category is Takeshi Kitano. Like those mentioned above, Kitano keeps things spare and minimal. I also think he uses color just as well, or even better, than any other moviemaker working today. He has a very specific, mannered rhythm, like Jarmusch or Hartley, and a way with violence that is quite his own.

I like almost everything Kitano has ever done. But Fireworks (Hana-bi) is my favorite.

What moviemakers can learn: Like Taxi Driver, this violent movie actually contains very little violence. But because Kitano orchestrates those few violent moments with such grace and skill, they lend a special verve to the otherwise contemplative nature of the work. Think about using movie violence like you would use saffron in a kitchen: Sparingly but correctly. That way, you maximize its impact.

Other contenders for 1997: At some point, I need to revisit Curtis Hanson’s L.A. Confidential, as I struggled with it the first time I saw it. From this year, I really like Gus Van Sant’s Good Will Hunting, Quentin Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, Woody Allen’s Deconstructing Harry and Wong Kar-wai’s Happy Together. I love David Lynch’s Lost Highway, Andrew Niccol’s Gattaca and Abbas Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry. And my closest runner-up is Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter.

After living in Los Angeles for seven years, Jeffrey Goodman returned to his hometown of Shreveport, Louisiana to direct The Last Lullaby. Co-written by the creator of Road to Perdition, and starring Tom Sizemore and Sasha Alexander, The Last Lullaby was filmed entirely in and around Shreveport and financed by 48 local investors. Goodman is now at work raising money for his next feature, Peril.