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by Richard T. Jameson

Contributor

Moments Out Of Time 2015

‘It Follows’

It Follows: A classroom reading of “Prufrock”—”and in short I was afraid”; old woman seen slowly approaching across schoolyard…
• In Bridge of Spies, Jim Donovan (Tom Hanks) instructing CIA man Hoffman (Scott Shepherd) on what makes them Americans: “the rule book”…
• The head-scratching guys, Spotlight: Marty (Michael Keaton) post-golf and Mike (Mark Ruffalo) post-run, beginning to have a sense of how big the story might get…
• Indian stepping straight out of dark screen into firelight, The Revenant
Timbuktu: walking through haze glare of sun while getting away from the suddenly dead Amadou…
Carol: steam off the road caught in headlights at night…
• A fetal form curled up in bright green grass, the little boy (Jacob Tremblay) who has just fallen out of his Room into a great ocean of world…
• An exquisitely manufactured Eve (Alicia Vikander) contemplates iterations of her own visage, displayed on her creator’s wall in Ex Machina….
• Tour-de-force directing and acting in Clouds of Sils Maria: Maria (Juliet Binoche) running lines with Valentine (Kristen Stewart), the two slipping back and forth between the dynamics of the script and their relationship, between roleplaying in and for Oliver Assayas’s movie and acting out as themselves…
• Glorious, deadly moment in Phoenix when the caged bird (Nina Voss) sings, and voice becomes definitive signature of self

‘Phoenix’

• The way Elly (Taraneh Alidoosti) lets herself get carried away by kite-flying on the beach, carried right out of frame while the camera holds on an ocean where tragedy is about to change everything … in About Elly
Brooklyn: Tony (Emory Cohen) holding a blanket up as Eilis (Saoirse Ronan) gets undressed at the beach, and his unabashed delight with the way his Irish girl looks in a bathing suit…
• Lysistrata (Teyonah Parris) and her sisters, holed up in the Armory, assaulted by sexy slow-jams in Chi-Raq
Mad Max: Fury Road: After the storm, a sand ridge that moves and is Max (Tom Hardy)…
• For no rational reason, one of the good guys (Patrick Wilson) starts bloody surgery on a fallen cannibal’s throat in Bone Tomahawk. It’s a while before we discover he’s “eaten” a monster’s voice….
• A bare-chested brute masturbates in a barrel bathtub, making ripples. Behind him, two distant figures, father and daughter (Viggo Mortensen and Viibjork Maling Agger), sit utterly still in the engulfing landscape of Jauja….
• Kevin Corrigan photographing his food—Results
• Sam Elliott—eleven minutes of greatness in Grandma: “Sage? Nice name. Pungent. Want some zucchini?”
• Topping a steep incline at dusk, Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) takes in a screen-spanning vision of stampeding buffalo, attacking wolves, a Pawnee hunter—just another food chain in The Revenant
• In Creed, Donny (Michael B. Jordan) tells Rocky (Sylvester Stallone) it’s OK if his smartphone gets broken, because he’s already stored his program “in the cloud.” Replies Rock, “What cloud?,” looking up to see whether he can spot it….
• Fingers plucking at a weed after backseat sex in car—It Follows
• The wind in brittle leaves outside cottage window—45 Years
• Candleflame bleeds into itself, and us, in The Assassin
• In Spotlight, church towers seeming to rise up out of Boston homes…
• Torches, night fog, riders among trees—The Revenant
• Daisy Domergue (Jennifer Jason Leigh) catching snowflakes on her tongue, The Hateful Eight
• Soap bubbles bursting on milady’s undies, The Duke of Burgundy…
• A woman’s bandaged face as tabula rasa, focus of annihilating male gazes: Phoenix and Goodnight, Mommy…
• Tribute paid in Kingsman: The Secret Service, Samuel L. Jackson to Colin Firth: “You know your thyit.”…
• Samuel L. Jackson’s flash glee as Chi-Raq‘s chorus…

‘Chi-Raq’

• Ronnie Hall in Stray Dog as he prepares to exit his mobile home, leaving a couchful of canines: “Put some dog TV on”…
• A kid edges deeper and deeper into the dark crawlspace under his grandparents’ farmhouse where something waits, in The Visit….
• In Goodnight, Mommy, a boy winks in and out behind crowded tree trunks … until he doesn’t…
• Ma (Brie Larson) outside police car window, Room
• Molly Shannon’s drunk, heartbroken, somehow flirtatious welcome when Greg reluctantly turns up to visit her terminally ill daughter, in Me and Earl and the Dying Girl…
• Blythe Danner getting sloshed over a long afternoon shooting the breeze with her pool cleaner in I’ll See You in My Dreams
• Monroe’s (Alexander Skarsgard’s) queasily swift slippage from precarious adulthood into adolescent horniness over beers with young Minnie (Bel Powley)—Diary of a Teenage Girl
• Sam Elliott’s Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde switcheroo in Grandma, a jilted lover’s vengeance that’s been a long time coming…
• Ryan Gosling in The Big Short: “That’s a nice shirt, do they make it for men?”…
It Follows: lobby door at moviehouse, where a girl in a yellow dress is or isn’t standing…
Bridge of Spies: “Don’t say my guy. He’s not my guy”—Jim Donovan’s first words prophetic several times over, though he can’t know it at the time…
Creed: Taking out her ears, Bianca (Tessa Thompson) doesn’t hear Donny say “I need you right now.”…
• Boldwood (Michael Sheen) confessing to Gabriel (Matthias Schoenaerts) that he feels “the most terrible grief”—Far from the Madding Crowd
• Slide show in attic, 45 Years: Kate Mercer’s/Charlotte Rampling’s face and, seen simultaneously from behind the sheet, the face of the woman her husband loved half a century before…
Spotlight: Getting deeper into his interview with Sacha (Rachel McAdams), Joe Crowley (Michael Cyril Creighton) registers the arrival of fresh cups of coffee and says, “We should probably get these to go.”…
Carol: “Just when you think it can’t get any worse, you run out of cigarettes.”…
• Coffee steam curling under Marquis Warren’s (Samuel L. Jackson’s) hatbrim, The Hateful Eight
• Attorney Donovan sizing up his client (Mark Rylance) in Bridge of Spies: “You don’t seem alarmed.” “Would it help?”…
• In Youth, Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) sitting and staring silently at the offscreen suicide of his oldest friend…
• Roger Deakins channeling Gabriel Figueroa: skies in Sicario

‘Sicario’

• Night stage disappearing up a funnel of road, The Salvation
• GPS the cow’s dying, Timbuktu
• “I’m comin’.” Assurance spoken to dying horse in Bone Tomahawk
• Over the cliff and into snowy pine, The Revenant
It Follows: Impossibly tall man enters Jay’s room right behind Yara…
• Nathan (Oscar Isaac) and one of his Ex Machina playthings  breaking out in mirrored dance moves, madly mechanical exuberance…
• Hamish Linklater in The Big Short: “Please don’t be chipper in the face of me being miserable. It makes me hate you.”…
• Han Solo (Harrison Ford) ever exasperated: “So? It’s big!” Star Wars IV: The Force Awakens
• Polecats and hog-riding old ladies in Mad Max: Fury Road
• On a sunny Swiss hillside, Michael Caine conducts the music of the natural world: Youth
Kingsman: Michael Caine, aristocratic for the occasion, reverting to full Alfie mode in his final moment…
• Brando’s disintegrating digital head, quoting Shakespeare, in Listen to Me Marlon

‘Listen to Me Marlon’

Creed: Rock says he’s “back there, in the past, with all those guys on that wall.”…
• “Ha.” Mary Sinclair’s (Annette Bening’s) response when Danny Collins (Al Pacino) asks what college she goes to…
Carol: lighted windows on Frankenberg’s electric train set…
• Kite passing empty doorway, About Elly
The Hateful Eight: After delivering an aria of race baiting, Chris Mannix (Walton Goggins) cheerfully protests, “I was talking politics!”…
Spotlight: Sacha Pfeiffer’s look as the former Father Paquin (Richard O’Rourke) patiently explains he did it for the children: “I fooled around, but I never felt gratified myself.”…
• In the dead of night, grandma scrabbling around the hall on all fours—The Visit…
Chi-Raq: Sam Jackson’s Dolmedes striding up into view in front of huge, Patton-like American flag…
• Ian McKellen in/as Mr. Holmes: “It isn’t a bee, it’s a wasp. Different thing entirely.”…
• Roar of moths, The Duke of Burgundy
• Traffic light going red over longshot post-accident, The Final Girls
• A long-limbed dandy’s (Matthew Fox’s) brutally sudden ending, hurt and left to die by the side of a dusty scrubland track, in Bone Tomahawk
• In Creed, the young lovers’ first kiss, upside down…
• Kevin Corrigan and Cobie Smulders, Results: watching her watch TV from a medicine ball…
• Nailed it!: Dean O’Gorman as Kirk Douglas, Trumbo; Emory Cohen as nice Italian boy in the Fifties, Brooklyn; Ben Vereen as canny but distinctly cuckoo street creature, Time out of Mind; Alfre Woodard in Mississippi Grind as a nice lady who turns out to be … whatever…

Emory Cohen

The Hateful Eight: trying to get a clear look at Demián Bichir between his hatbrim and his beard…
• ISIS guy stymied by woman washing her hair, Timbuktu
• Francis Gary Powers and U2 falling together, Bridge of Spies
• The ridiculous giant green-felt frog that has no rhyme or reason to show up for the climactic mayhem of Yakuza Apocalypse
He Never Died: Deadpan Jack (Henry Rollins) plucks bullets out of his forehead with needlenose pliers—”otherwise you get migraines.”…
Bone Tomahawk: In the aftermath of the troglodytes’ horrific reduction of man to meat, Chicory (Richard Jenkins) retreats into memory, that time when he went to a flea circus and wondered whether the stars were electrified corpses or live actors….
• The bear, The Revenant
• The ultrafocused busyness of Stanley Tucci’s Mitch Garabedian, Spotlight (“You’re shitting me.” “No, I am not shitting you.”)…
• Colonel Abel, finding “visitors” in his dim apartment at the beginning of Bridge of Spies, begs indulgence to clean his paintbrushes lest they be ruined … and quietly blots out the spywork he was just doing. (Mark Rylance is God.)…
Creed: Michael B. Jordan’s gobsmacked expression after going one bloody round with the British champion, as if he didn’t get how good this guy was until this very moment…
• Throughout Son of Saul, despite the tight focus on a man’s face (Géza Röhrig), the frame can’t wall out images from Dante’s Inferno….

‘Son of Saul’

• In the derelict high school, under ripple-shadow and thunder—It Follows
• Donkey walks through football match, Timbuktu; they wait….
Stray Dog: Ronnie Hall assuring the bees he means them no harm and appreciates what they do…
Mad Max: Fury Road: Almost subliminal thumb-up to first victim-wife just before she is lost…
• Every moment Saoirse Ronan’s face fills the screen in Brooklyn, the almost unbearable clarity of her gaze recalling the way Anna Karina (and Falconetti) looked into Godard’s camera…
• Styles of stonewalling in Spotlight: Billy Crudup, Paul Guilfoyle, Jamey Sheridan…
• Scott Shepherd in Bridge of Spies as CIA man Hoffman—a ginger skull…
• Sharp casting of Kevin Crowley as Carol‘s divorce lawyer, an echt-Fifties creature…
• Anthony Michael Hall as Russian mega–fitness guru, Results
• By gad, he is in The Hateful Eight! How Channing Tatum shows up….
The Assassin: mist and reeds moving between us and island…
• Tom (Bobby) Cannavale watching the father who will outlive him, Danny Collins
• The cold, almost perfunctory precision with which brand-new star Chloë Grace Moretz cuts the veteran Juliet Binoche down on their way out of an autobiographical play, in Clouds of Sils Maria…
• Blythe Danner sings “Cry Me a River” at karaoke bar in I’ll See You in My Dreams….
• Ma (Brie Larson), voice cracking: “I’m sorry I’m not NICE anymore!”—Room
Bridge of Spies: Schischkin (Mikhail Gorevoy) commiserates on the loss of Donovan’s overcoat to East German thugs—after all, it was from Saks Fifth Avenue—and Donovan’s silent registering of the implications of that remark….
• The terrible violence of Kate’s gesture of rejection and rage at the end of 45 Years, even as no one else notices … “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes”…
• Distant avalanche past Hugh Glass’s shoulder, The Revenant…
• Best suburban neighborhood street opening since Halloween: the amazing on-your-mark, get-set, go of It Follows. And then the shore…

Copyright © 2016 by Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy

‘The Revenant’

Review: The Internecine Project

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, August 1974]

The Internecine Project seems to be biding time on theater screens until a place can be found for it on the CBS Late Night Movie (it’s hardly likely any network would want to waste prime time on it). Everything about it promises negligibility, and the promise is kept: a less-than-super star (Coburn), a female lead whose potential has scarcely ever been fully realized (Lee Grant), some character actors who stopped getting—or making—good parts some time ago (Andrews, Hendry), a forgettable British sub-leading man who muffed his one big chance (Jayston—Nicholas of Nicholas and Alexandra), an anonymously pneumatic foreign blonde (Christiane Kruger), an English hack with conspicuously unimaginative pretensions to distinction (Hughes), and above all the tiresomely formulaic genre in which doublecrosses are so taken-for-granted by the audience that no degree of geometric complication can do more than increase the boredom. Geoffrey Unsworth unaccountably signed on for it, but his frosty images hold no surprises, and between Hughes’s dully tricky direction and the gross miscasting of Grant as an intellectual glamour girl (more filters and soft-focus are used on her than on Lucy in Mame), he is sunk with the rest of the crew. Indeed, one almost suspects a destructive round-robin behind the scenes keeping pace with the one onscreen.

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Review: 99 and 44/100% Dead

[Originally published in Movietone News 33, July 1974]

The hyperchromatic comic-strip explosion terminating the credits sequence gives way to an American flag flapping over Puget Sound, and the camera half-crawls, half-pans toward the dock to pick up a black limousine sleeking toward us. The cut recalls the zany political surrealism of The Manchurian Candidate—generals snapping to attention to salute a brainwashed assassin, a fat Senator pinked through the milk carton by a silenced bullet—and what immediately follows also suggests the offbeat cinematic imagination that, eight or twelve years ago, enabled John Frankenheimer pictures to crackle. Two black-suited gangsters spill a corpse out of the backseat, his feet cased in concrete, and heave him into the drink; down the body sinks to land kachunk on the bottom among a submarine orchard of similarly weighted cadavers in various stages of corruption; and with them rests and rusts a nostalgia-ridden criminal landscape, a grand Guignol hall of memories: slot machines, chemin-de-fer tables, safes, skeleton-stuffed phonebooths and automobiles. It’s a giddily hilarious moment in spite of, more than because of, the rinkytink Mancini music on the soundtrack. And the grim comedy continues as the dumpers of the latest human detritus are themselves spilled into another part of the water mere moments later—in a less reputable corner of the graveyard.

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Review: We All Loved Each Other So Much

[Originally published in The Weekly, October 12, 1977]

The Pizza Triangle opens with an all-male reenactment of a crime of passion before a judge and jury. Everything else but the final scene is flashback, a reconstruction of the cockeyed lovelife of a bungling leftist, a streetwalker, and the protestor’s best buddy, a pizza chef. The prostitute first sees the protestor while she is riding in a delirious, fluorescently colorful circle above a makeshift amusement park; he is lying on some rubble. She disembarks, walks over to him, and kisses him back to life. They become a couple. She meets the buddy. Everyone is friends for a while. Then she and the buddy make love. Alliances form, shift, realign. Everyone gets older. The three inadvertently meet again after time has passed and the girl and buddy have married. There is a clumsy fight, fully as graceless and absurd as—and much more moving than—its comic reenactment; the original is funny, too, but the woman ends up dead.”

That’s from a review I wrote six-and-a-half years ago. You’re reading it now because Ettore Scola, the director of that idiosyncratic 1970 comedy, is the guy who made We All Loved Each Other So Much, and because I was struck, upon rereading the piece, how true it also seems of the newer film. Make it a girl and three men instead of two, expand the time frame by a couple decades, change the lethal reunion into a self-designated “ambiguous conclusion” wherein three old friends discover a fourth is not what he pretended to be, and you have much the same film, in style, essential scenario, and sadly comic spirit.

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Review: Down and Dirty

[Originally published in The Weekly, 1979]

…Another, more peculiar Italian film has opened this past week: Ettore Scola’s Down and Dirty. A surrealistic comedy bedrocked in a card-carrying realist milieu, it deals with a dirt-poor Italian family living in a shantytown. The catch is that the family numbers in excess of twenty—in-laws, outlaws, legitimate and illegitimate children—and they all live in one (1) crumbling hutch on a mudflat. Although their occupations include housekeeping, nursing, pursesnatching, and several varieties of prostitution, they have one thing in common: they all hate papa Giacinto and he hates them.

Story is rarely the long suit in Italian movies and Down and Dirty is no exception. Having established the basic situation—embellished by the fact that Giacinto has received a sizable insurance settlement for the loss of one eye, money that he must constantly shift from hidey-hole to hidey-hole and guard with a sawed-off shotgun—Scola simply plays it and plays it. He gets away with this, keeps it all interesting, because he has a truly grotesque sense of humor and boundless capacity for visual invention within carefully maintained limits.

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Review: Zandy’s Bride

[Originally published in Movietone News 34, August 1974]

It may be a peculiarity of my character that a little of Jan Troell’s unassumingness goes a very long way. There’s something very admirable—and certainly “grownup,” to anyone passionately concerned that the movies grow away from Melodrama and towards Life—about his talent for capturing the offhand beauties of a field, a rock, the picturesque yet undecorative angle from which the whimsy, at once gentle and profound, of a pregnant woman indulging in her last reverie on a swing is observed and defined. The New Land begins (at least, as it is shown in this country) with a slow, obscurely motivated zoom-out from a deep stand of trees somewhere in 19th-century Minnesota, the sound of … an axe? a gun? a wheel? … reverberating within. Anything could be happening there—something surely seems to be happening there—and in its own good time the land and the film may reveal that something to us.

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Review: The Underground Man

[Originally published in Movietone News 32, June 1974]

While maintaining a properly modest reticence myself, I spent the commercial breaks—and part of the regular showtime—wondering who really should be the one to direct the film versions of Ross Macdonald’s Lew Archer books. Altman has the southern California feel for the milieu, but—sometimes for good, sometimes ill—he can’t leave the original of anything intact enough to suit an admirer of the original. Besides, his acid-splashing approach to interpersonal relations runs counter to the concerned decency of Macdonald and his protagonist, a sort of well-meaning-English-teacher-with-an-edge private eye with memories of a long-ago world war and a marriage that failed. Huston? Yes, the Huston of today, the Huston of Fat City rather than The Maltese Falcon, the Huston who can now take his camera where a Lew Archer has to go without the sense of slumming that mars some of his best work (The Asphalt Jungle, for instance). Bogdanovich? Maybe, yes, if he can keep from quoting The Big Sleep (Hawks’s grey-and-grey soundstage world with sprinkler rain and Max Steiner thunder music and chauffeurs getting driven off piers on the wrong side of a town that has nothing to do with real space, isn’t Archer’s California, though it was certainly Bogart/Marlowe’s). Bogdanovich has the penchant for long-take, middle-distant contemplation that the styles of both novelist and detective call for.

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Review: S*P*Y*S

[Originally published in Movietone News 34, August 1974]

The only thing of interest in S*P*Y*S—and it’s of sooooooo little interest—is the mystery of how such sharp guys as Kershner, Gould, and Sutherland ever got mixed up in it; or, beyond that, how, having recognized what a mire they were in (and they must have recognized it, sooner or later), they failed to distribute more clues to their disenchantment as disavowals of any responsibility. Since I’ve tossed more than my share of bouquets toward directors, I’ll continue to play it the auteur way and throw my biggest stink bomb at Irvin Kershner. No semblance of focus or structure is to be detected in the film, and it does seem proper to blame the director for that. Even when a competent, well-intentioned director has his film messed up in production or post-production by the proverbial front office, traces always remain: the occasional sequence left intact, a broken-backed but discernible emotional rhyme scheme in the performances, distinctive niceties in the selection of angles here and there, the way corners of shots get filled up. And I didn’t see nothin’ like that in S*P*Y*S, nowhere, no way.

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Review: Death Wish

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, September 1974]

The gyroscopic suspension of Michael Winner has been reported on fairly regularly within these pages, as films like Chato’s Land, The Mechanic, Scorpio, The Stone Killer, and the unquickied Lawman have kept his name and work lucratively in the public eye; it would be hard to find a week in the past several years during which at least one Winner film wasn’t on a screen somewhere in the greater Seattle area, if only as a second feature at some drive-in. It is perhaps to the point that he also made, during that same period, a film supposing what sort of events might have led up to Henry James’ Turn of the Screw (The Nightcomers); the endpoint known after a fashion, the film became the sort of closed system that his other recent works integrally describe. Most of the films operate on the principle of a war of attrition: usually there is a large cast of characters to work down from until all or all but one of the dramatis personae have been exterminated; as many roles as possible are filled with hungry has-beens whose former eminence lends them a ready identifiability and enables the viewer to keep track. Structurally, the films are depressingly nihilistic, and Winner’s soulless cleverness—a camera almost incessantly in motion, shots that dovetail to little purpose save the fact of dovetailing, bizarre, immediately graspable caricatures in place of characterizations—somehow renders them the more chilling, because slickly pointless. A sense of (fully earned) self-loathing emanates from these products, which nevertheless are highly salable in their overall gruesomeness.

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Parallax View’s Best of 2015

Welcome 2016 with one last look back at the best releases of 2015, as seen by the Parallax View contributors and a few notable Seattle-based film critics.

Soren Andersen

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Spotlight
3. The Revenant
4. Ex Machina
5. Chi-Raq
6. Steve Jobs
7. Kingsman: The Secret Service
8. Goodnight Mommy
9. The Martian
10. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared
(more at The Seattle Times)

Sean Axmaker

1. Clouds of Sils Maria
2. Carol
3. Phoenix
4. Taxi
5. Mad Max: Fury Road
6. Spotlight
7. 45 Years
8. Mustang
9. Jauja
10. Ex Machina
And ten more that almost made the list: Brooklyn, Experimenter, Girlhood, Inside Out, It Follows, Love & Mercy, The Martian, Queen & Country, Sicario, Timbuktu
Also lists at Village Voice Film Poll and Keyframe

David Coursen

(alphabetical)
About Elly (Asghar Farhadi, Iran)
Chi-Raq (Spike Lee,US)
Leviathan (Russia, Andrey Zvyagintsev)
Love and Mercy (Bill Pohlad, US)
Sicario (Denis Villeneuve, US)
Spotlight (Tom McCarthy, US)
Taxi (Jafar Panahi, Iran)
Timbuktu (Abderrahmane Sissako, Mauritania)
The Tribe (Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy, Ukraine)
Winter Sleep (Nuri Bilge Ceylan, Turkey)
Honorable Mention: Carol (Todd Haynes, US)

Bob Cumbow

(in no intending order)
Phoenix
Brooklyn
Ex Machina
Spotlight
Sicario
Slow West
Carol
The Big Short
Bridge Of Spies
Jauja
Also: The Walk, Mr. Holmes
Endings: PhoenixCarol
Disappointments: SpectreThe Hateful 8
Surprises: Mission Impossible: Rogue NationPredestination
Guilty Pleasure: San Andreas
Actors: Nina Hoss (Phoenix), Ronald Zehrfeld (Phoenix), Rooney Mara (Carol), Saorise Ronan (Brooklyn), Oscar Isaac (Ex Machina), Alicia Vikander (Ex Machina), Emily Blunt (Sicario), Mark Rylance (Bridge Of Spies), Laura Linney (Mr. Holmes)
Director: Christian Petzold (Phoenix)
Music: Thomas Newman, Bridge of Spies; Carter Burwell, Carol; Howard Shore, Spotlight; Alan Silvestri, The Walk; Andrew Lockington, San Andreas

John Hartl

45 Years
Spotlight
Brooklyn
Sicario
Trumbo
Carol
Ex Machina
Bridge of Spies
Inside Out
99 Homes
A second 10: The Walk, Joy, Timbuktu, Love & Mercy, Phoenix, Tab Hunter Confidential, Rosenwald, I’ll See You in My Dreams, The Big Short, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.
Most miraculous restoration: The Apu Trilogy.

Robert Horton

1. 45 Years
2. Son of Saul
3. Bridge of Spies
4. Experimenter
5. It Follows
6. Clouds of Sils Maria
7. Ex Machina
8. The Assassin
9. Spotlight
10. The Duke of Burgundy
The second 10, just missing: The droll Swedish film A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence; Mad Max: Fury Road, maybe not as good as the fanboys say, but definitely good; the straightforwardly lovely Brooklyn; Viggo Mortensen in the magical Jauja; Bone Tomahawk; Mississippi Grind; the devastating documentary The Look of Silence; The Hateful Eight; the pictorially astonishing The Revenant; and—why not—Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
(via Seattle Weekly)

Richard T. Jameson

1. It Follows
2. Clouds of Sils Maria
3. Spotlight
4. Bridge of Spies
5. Room
6. The Assassin
7. 45 Years
8. Son of Saul
9. Jauja
10. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Close and by all means a cigar: Bone Tomahawk, Brooklyn, Blackhat, Mad Max: Fury Road, Phoenix, Ex Machina, Sicario
Pix: Saiorse Ronan, Emory Cohen, Brooklyn; Charlotte Rampling, Tom Courtenay, 45 Years
(via Framing Pictures)

Jay Kuehner

1. The Assassin (Hou Hsiao-hsien)
2. Carol (Todd Haynes)
3. Horse Money (Pedro Costa)
4. Jauja (Lisandro Alonso)
5. The Kindergarten Teacher (Nadav Lapid)
6. Heaven Knows What (Benny and Josh Safdie)
7. The Wonders (Alice Rohrwacher)
8. Arabian Nights (Miguel Gomes)
9. Phoenix (Christian Petzold)
(via Keyframe)

Moira Macdonald

(in alphabetical order)
45 Years
Brooklyn
Carol
Diary of a Teenage Girl
Grandma
Inside Out
Room
Shaun the Sheep Movie
Spotlight
The Third Man/ Tales of Hoffmann
(more at The Seattle Times)

Brian Miller

Favorite moments at Seattle Weekly

Kathleen Murphy

(in no intending order)
Brooklyn
Phoenix
Clouds of Sils Maria
45 Years
It Follows
Room
Son of Saul
Jauja
Bone Tomahawk
Mad Max: Fury Road / The Assassin
(via Framing Pictures)

Bruce Reid

1. Experimenter
2. Taxi
3. It Follows
4. The Hateful Eight
5. Welcome to New York
6. Blackhat
7. Clouds of Sils Maria
8. Timbuktu
9. Queen and Country
10. Maps to the Stars

In my absolute favorite scene of the year Stanley Milgram sits and reads from Speak, Memory the famous opening line of how we’re all our lives suspended between oblivions. Behind him two assistants lower lab equipment into a crate with the professional solemnity of undertakers.

In my second favorite scene a figure loping down a road, dressed in a ridiculous, baggy frog costume complete with bulging eyes, is revealed to be the last-act badass whose coming has been threatened throughout the movie.

One of those films made the list below; the other, Miike’s entertainingly unhinged Yakuza Apocalypse, didn’t quite. But both show off the quality that marks my favorite movies: an apparent legibility that, looked at more closely, resists any definitive reading. The ending of Milgrim’s most famous experiment is framed (literally, through a window that carves another screen inside the screen we’re watching) as a death; but one of the movie’s many points is that lives carry on, quite fulfillingly, after their supposed defining moments have passed. And when the muppet suit comes off there’s another surprise, and a further bad guy to confront.

We’re always told that movies, capturing real people moving through real environments, tend away from the mysterious and toward the concrete in a way that the other arts aren’t hampered. Except the camera’s eye can make even concrete glow with mysteries. I fell in love with the films above for the way they tracked down hallways in prisons and apartments, refusing to distinguish between the two; for the expertly timed closing of a piano lid; for the anxious way its actors clutched fishbowls, and the nonchalance with which they grasped cameras; for clouds roiling down a mountaintop, which you’d think would be beyond a director’s control; for a skyscraper flickering in a dying woman’s eyes. But it’s not just pianos and hallways, fishbowls and clouds and cameras, or even flicker. It never is.

Andrew Wright

1. Mad Max: Fury Road
2. Blackhat
3. Carol
4. The Hateful Eight
5. It Follows (Reviewed for the Portland Mercury)
6. Bridge of Spies (Reviewed for The Stranger)
7. Tangerine (Reviewed for The Stranger)
8. Bone Tomahawk
9. Creed
10. Sicario

Lists of lists:

Village Voice (poll and lists)
Roger Ebert.com
Variety
Keyframe Best Feature Films of 2015
Keyframe Daily Lists and Award 2015 Index

Polls
Film Comment
Indiewire Poll
Roger Ebert
Sight and Sound
Time Out London

Other lists
2015 additions to the National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1925
New York Times Year in Culture

Review: The Abdication

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, September 1974]

I saw a sneak preview of The Abdication on Friday, August 9; when the title, unaccompanied by any credits or similar words of explanation or orientation, hit the screen, a ripple of laughter moved through the audience as they took their reference from the day’s headlines. It wasn’t the last unintentional laugh Anthony Harvey’s colossally miscalculated chamber epic drew that evening. Admittedly a two-character play involving the self-deposed Queen Christina of Sweden and the Vatican prelate, Cardinal Azzolini, assigned to decide her worthiness to be embraced by Mother (or Father) Church didn’t sound like the most auspicious pretext for a film, and tricking up that claustrophobic core with pedantically “imaginative” cuts and dissolves to stylized memory-visions of incidents in the ex-queen’s past—itself a pretty stylized procession of events—has only undercut whatever personal and ideological majesty the confrontation might have had. Indeed, no one connected with The Abdication seems to have had a very clear grasp of the ideology involved and, worse still, of how they felt about that ideology.

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Review: Macon County Line

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, August 1974]

Macon County Line has no special meaning in Macon County Line, but that’s the least of the film’s sins against form and sense, not to mention—and I shall mention—decency. A headnote assures us that this is a true story, one that happened in Louisiana in 1954. Louisiana is a lucky break; 1954 is a lucky break. 1954 means that the first few minutes of the film may be devoted to a sort of Lords of Underbrush tapping of the nostalgia vein. Louisiana means that it’s redneck-paranoia time on the open road, and all the Stars-and-Bars, gun-cult, male-chauvinist, white-supremacist hobgoblins are at the filmmakers’ beck and call whenever they feel the need. Stir in two fun-loving ripoff artists from Chicago, enjoying their last days of freedom before forced enlistment in the Army (it’s that or serve time in the pokey), and you’ve got the makings of a confrontation. Top with one slightly cynical but also fun-loving blonde hitching a ride between two meaningless stopovers, and flash kinescopes of Joe McCarthy on a handy TV screen, just for pseudo-intellectual seasoning. And I haven’t even got to the barrel-chested cop who doesn’t notice his wife would appreciate a midafternoon lay, so wrapped up is he with the shotgun he’s bought for his disturbingly liberalminded nine-year-old son in military school, or the … well, that’ll do for now.

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Review: The Longest Yard

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, September 1974]

Robert Aldrich pumps enough gutty style into The Longest Yard that one needn’t feel too ashamed of himself for delighting in its formulaic progress. For one thing, despite a very unpromising opening five minutes during which former football pro, current kept man Burt Reynolds does some macho strutting before his enraged ladyfriend, Aldrich has become the first director (in my experience, at least) to tap some of the likably flamboyant personality the actor habitually displays in his personal appearances. After “stealing” the woman’s sports car, leading the police a merry chase (more satisfying than most these days), and dumping the prize in the bay, Reynolds finds himself on the way to a Georgia prison where both the warden and the captain of the guard have strong feelings about football. Trouble is, the captain (Ed Lauter) happens to coach the semi-pro prison team and strongly feels Reynolds should stay out of his way; the warden (Eddie Albert ) would very much like to win the league title Lauter hasn’t been able to get for him and strongly feels Reynolds should get involved. Then there are the cons who, as one fellow deadpans, take their football seriously and have never forgotten Reynolds’s exit-in-disgrace from the sport eight years earlier for shaving points.

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Review: The Terminal Man

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, September 1974]

Our Man in Vancouver and I have been carrying on a (mutually, I trust) enjoyable dialogue-by-mail over the virtues and failings of Mike Hodges’s The Terminal Man. Some of the failings were set forth in a review heading up last month’s quickies section. As it happened, I encountered the review before the film, and while I don’t wish at all to cast aspersions on a very fine commentary, I must admit that the movie thrilled me a good deal of its running time, to the extent that I feel compelled to file what has become—in the light of still other reviews—a minority report on its behalf. I don’t discount for a moment the possibility—indeed, the likelihood—that Mr. Eisler’s objections might have served as a sort of cadmium rod inserted into the cinematomic pile, catching a lethal dose of oversimplified ideas, narrative inconsistencies, and plot lacunae, and reducing my exposure to them. If so, I’m grateful, because I was then enabled to like what I saw.

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Review: Uptown Saturday Night

[Originally published in Movietone News 35, September 1974]

Uptown Saturday Night would be a lot better film if it kept about the business of portraying Uptown Saturday night. Cram the events of this movie into one zany, frenetic dusk-to-dawn and you might, almost without worrying about it, create enough artificial pressure in space and time to make up for the fact that Sidney Poitier, directing his third feature film, still hasn’t much idea what to do with his camera. Mainly he and the movie try to get by on good faith and the proliferation of talented and likable black players—and good faith is easy to come by with Poitier himself, Bill Cosby, Roscoe Lee Browne, Richard Pryor, and the rest of the cast announced up front. Indeed, for anyone who may doubt that that’s the strategy, there are unabashed recognition shots for most of the players, so that the audience can greet them volubly without missing any exposition in the ensuing dialogue, and a sort of black Quiet Man finale—in which cameo shots of all the colorful characters are strung together in farewell—and to make up for the fact that the movie just lamely stops instead of arriving at an organically satisfying ending. Poitier also borrows a leaf from René Clair for his premise—a poor workingman (Poitier), having bluffed his way into a black gambling den, has his wallet lifted by holdup men and later learns that the numbers ticket inside is worth $50,000—and perhaps his opening, too, though here Rouben Mamoulian aficionados (are there any Rouben Mamoulian aficionados?) might protest that Mamoulian’s stage production of Porgy and Bess in the Twenties anticipated Clair’s early-sound frolics with its rhythmic, stylized-sound awakening of Catfish Row.

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