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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

Restorations, revelations, and revivals of 2015 – Celebrating film history discovered and rediscovered

We never stop recovering our film history. Lost movies are being found and older films on the verge of self-destruction are getting preserved and in many cases painstakingly restored, thanks to the digital tools that give filmmakers, producers, studios, and film archivists and restorers the ability to resurrect damaged prints and rescue damaged footage previously beyond the scope of physical and chemical methods.

Jean-Pierre Leaud in ‘Out 1,’ restored and released in 2015

The preservation of our film legacy is essential, but it’s just an ideal until the preserved films become available for viewers at large to watch, not just limited to brief festival appearances. Film history needs to be living history, and thanks to DVD and Blu-ray, streaming and digital downloads, and (ironically) the shift from celluloid to digital projection, classic films are more available than ever.

This list is focused on debuts and rediscoveries of classic films and cinema landmarks, restorations of great films, and revivals of previously unavailable movies that became available to viewers in 2015 in theaters, on home video, or via streaming services. Not just a countdown of the best, it’s a survey of the breadth of restorations and rediscoveries that film lovers across the country now have a chance to see regardless of where they live.

1 – Out 1

Set in “Paris and its double,” Jacques Rivette’s Nouvelle Vague epic (a staggering 12 ½ hours long!) is a film of doubles and reflections: two rival theater groups each rehearsing a different play by Aeschylus (“Prometheus Bound” and “The Seven Against Thebes”), two theater group leaders who were once lovers, two street hustlers (Jean-Pierre Leaud and Juliet Berto) who stumble into the conspiracy of “The Thirteen,” which turns out to be both a fictional creation by Balzac and a contemporary cabal that includes some of the characters in the film. Rivette, who collaborated with the cast to fill out his outline of a script, musters the energy and enthusiasm and free-spirited filmmaking of the Nouvelle Vague that his more famous colleagues left as the moved into their own comfort zones (Truffaut, Chabrol, Rohmer) or, in the case of Godard, discomfort zones. His engagement with actors is there on the screen, creating energy even in simple conversational scenes, and they are co-conspirators in his hide-and-seek narratives, where characters circle conspiracies and play blind man’s bluff through mysteries that may have no solution. Meanwhile their lives go on, even if their projects are sidelined, shut down, or simply left to evaporate as they move on to their next project.

Keep Reading

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for the week of December11

Charlotte Rampling

“I sat down and said something sincere and clumsy about how I knew she was going through a hard time and that I was concerned about blundering into things I shouldn’t touch. ‘If you do that, I will stop you,’ she replied. ‘If you ask anything I don’t like, I’ll step around it and go on. I can take care of myself.’” Mary Gaitskill ably defends Charlotte Rampling’s notorious privacy as her right even in a profession synonymous with tell-all confessionals; then rather less convincingly argues that the actor’s unique appeal owes mostly to her skill at portraying “the natural representation of real people.” Possibly NSFW due to a Helmut Newton portrait (hey, it was the ‘70s).

“In conversation with his high-school mentor Roger Hill, he declared that opera directors should be unobtrusive presences, serving the conductor, the performers, and, above all, the composer. The man who helped to originate conceptual staging, with his historically displaced productions of Macbeth and Julius Caesar, felt that such radical transpositions had no place in opera. In a sense, he may have been captive to his early operatic memories, to the lingering Gilded Age milieu in which he got to know the art. On his home turf, however, Welles handled music with freewheeling brilliance.” The only strange thing about last week’s excellent Orson Welles piece by Alex Ross is that one of our best music critics had no comments to make about Welles’s use of music or even his films’ inherent musicality. Turns out that discussion had merely been carved out for a separate, equally fine article.

“Still, this judgment [that Harold Lloyd is the most complacently ordinary of the early comedians] needs to be complicated, because only a profoundly and uniquely imaginative artist—by definition, an outsider—can take on his shoulders the burden of synthesizing the entire society around him and fashioning an archetype from it that will play in Peoria.” Phillip Lopate finds the virtues of Speedy precisely in the everyday-man archetype that Lloyd’s detractors find so off-putting—and in the matchless string of terrific gags, of course.

Dan Callahan takes stock of William Dieterle’s career, and finds a talent probably too eager to fall into the boring solemnities of big studio biopics, but one who managed more to achieve more than a few delights along the way; and, in The Last Flight, at least one “triumphant” masterpiece.

Keep Reading

Moments Out of Time 2014

[Originally published in Keyframe, January 14, 2015]

We perpetrated the first “Moments Out of Time” in ecstasy over the cinematic splendors of 1971—The Conformist, The Last Picture Show, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Straw Dogs, Dirty Harry, et al. It ran in our Seattle Film Society journal Movietone News (“The trees creaking in the wind: the murder in The Conformist…“), where it became a much-anticipated annual feature ’til the journal wrapped in 1981. We’ve missed memorializing a few years since, but have enjoyed at various times the hospitality of Film Comment, American Film, Steadycam, Movies/MSN, and Cinephiled. A comprehensive “Moments” library is maintained at Parallax-View.com.

‘Cold in July’
  • Under the Skin: disembodied face lies in a lap, gazing upward, its eyes blinking…
  • SQÜRL’s banshee screech, “Funnel of Love,” over the first ravishing images—including turntable as flat circle of time—of Only Lovers Left Alive
  • “I was once considered a great beauty,” confides Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge extraordinaire, The Grand Budapest Hotel….
  • A dollhouse town and the relentless cheer of a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep), on the edge of the crazy-making emptiness of the American frontier, The Homesman
  • What to say, politely, to an Iraqi woman after your team has burst into her Fallujah home? “Hello….” Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, American Sniper
  • Birdman: After Mike (Edward Norton) blows up the performance, Riggan (Michael Keaton) storms offstage snarling, “Get him out of here!” Annie the P.A. (Merritt Wever) softly asks, “How do you want me to do that?”….
  • Threesome rocking out to “Gloria” on car radio: a rare communal moment of joy in Two Days, One Night
  • The Better Angels: Abraham Lincoln’s second mother (Diane Kruger) balances on one foot, wavering over a fallen tree trunk, the sun blazing a bright halo around her head….
  • In Exodus: Gods and Kings, a tiny white stallion, rearing beneath a heavens-high curve of tsunami….
FOXCATCHER
‘Foxcatcher’
  • Foxcatcher: To celebrate her dying, John du Pont (Steve Carell) drives his mother’s stable of prized horses out into the cold….
  • Roads in mist, Blue Ruin
  • As Force majeure’s vacationers trek down an alpine highway, their long walk imperceptibly morphs out of the everyday into a Bergmanesque pilgrims’ progress….
  • Mocking fellow painter John Constable’s fussing over a tiny brushstroke of red in a packed canvas,Mr. Turner (Timothy Spall) casually rubs a smear of scarlet into the merest suggestion of a buoy in one of his impressionistic seascapes….
  • On some other planet, what looks like a towering cliff becomes a frame-filling wall of water bearing down on Interstellar’s astronauts….
  • J.K. Simmons’s hotwired muscularity in Whiplash
  • The abiding, ever-so-slightly pixilated serenity of Gyp DeCarlo (Christopher Walken), Jersey Boys
  • Under the Skin: the first time the shiny black floor turns liquid, and the guy’s calm descent…
  • “America for Me,” Alex Ebert’s perfect bluesy coda to A Most Violent Year
  • Katniss Everdeen’s (Jennifer Lawrence) soft-voiced crooning of “The Hanging Tree”—the closestMockingjay, Part I gets to something like genuine feeling, even if the performance is “propaganda”…
  • Longtime lovers and newlyweds John Lithgow and Alfred Molina serenade each other—“You’ve Got What It Takes”—in Love Is Strange….
  • Only Lovers Left Alive: Giving Eve (Tilda Swinton) a tour of Detroit, Adam (Tom Hiddleston) points out Jack White’s home. She: “Little Jack White … nice.”…
  • Hilarious chest-baring, acrobatic hoofing all over a picturesque waterfall, by a pair of princely twits (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) warbling about the “Agony” of love, Into the Woods
SKELETON TWINS
‘The Skeleton Twins’
  • The Skeleton Twins: the decisive moment when Maggie’s—and by all means Kristen Wiig‘s—lips begin to twitch, and she gives herself up to “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” as joyously lipsynched and boogied to by brother Milo (Bill Hader)…
  • In Inherent Vice, Doc Sportello (Joaquin Phoenix) watching “Bigfoot” Bjornsen (Josh Brolin) work a Fudgecicle…
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: Zero (Tony Revolori) penciling on his lounge lizard mustache….
  • At the grand party in Magic in the Moonlight, Sophie (Emma Stone) “makes a rather surprising entrance” in Twenties headband….
  • “She just quit by accident.” Josh (Jesse Eisenberg) accounting for Dena’s (Dakota Fanning) exit fromNight Moves
  • Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) contemplating a curl of cream in a cup of coffee, The Theory of Everything
  • Guy Pearce bringing it as The Rover: Is he gonna shoot that old woman in the face? … No, he wouldn’t … wouldn’t shoot that old woman in the face … Oh good, he’s putting the gun away … Oh. Just changing hands…
THE ROVER
‘The Rover’
  • Conferring elbow to elbow with Monsieur Jean; Jude Law and Jason Schwartzman early in The Grand Budapest Hotel…
  • An old seadog (Michael Parks) spins a wicked-strange story about an intimate encounter with a walrus, in Tusk….
  • The visceral horror of Maleficent’s (Angelina Jolie) rape-castration: stumps where wings once grew…
  • Headboard as gravemarker for eleven-year-old girlchild, tilting over in the middle of nowhere, The Homesman
  • Under the Skin: in a backcountry Scottish town, a girl (Scarlett Johansson) in maroon shirt walking down grey road made perpendicular by perspective…
  • Into the Woods: “I’m in the wrong story!” protests baker’s wife Emily Blunt, finding herself hotly wooed by Cinderella’s Prince Charming…
  • Penny Dreadful: Sudden sundering of Dr. Frankenstein’s gentlest creature (Alex Price as Proteus)
  • In Get On Up, James Brown (Chadwick Boseman) and his backup singers costumed in red-and-white Christmas sweaters, with snowflakes: “I’m in honkie hell now!”…
  • Winking Groot-sprout, happy survivor of Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Eminem in The Interview: “I pretty much just been leaving a breadcrumb trail of gayness.”…
  • “I can hear your pants growing.” Penny Kimball (Reese Witherspoon) over the phone to Doc, Inherent Vice….
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
‘Only Lovers Left Alive’
  • After the last slippery coming and going of “Dr. Faust” (Tom Hiddleston’s Adam) at the hospital blood bank, Dr. Watson (Jeffrey Wright) opines, “Cat gotta be from Cleveland.”—Only Lovers Left Alive
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies: Galadriel’s (Cate Blanchett) chilling transformation, in closeup, from ethereal elf into berserker-demon…
  • Leviathan: Outside the window that has landmarked so much of the film, beyond a kitchen table still cluttered with homely dishware, the bucket of a steam shovel rises into view, swings with the languor of a grazing cow, and demolishes a home, the last vestige of shattered family, and any relic of what passed for social order….
  • Heartstopping materialization of a giant arachnid in Enemy‘s toxic-yellow world…
  • The Homesman: Mary Bee Cuddy (Hillary Swank), bending to slip naked into George Briggs’s sleeping bag: “Don’t make me lose any more of my dignity.”…
  • Coitus interruptus, in Under the Skin, when a not-entirely-human (Scarlett Johansson) leaps to aim a flashlight between her legs, shocked to discover a way something might get inside her…
  • The startling apparition of an avenging angel (Sam Shepard), filling the driver’s-side car window, inCold in July
  • A couple of war-weary soldiers (Brad Pitt, Logan Lerman) breakfast with two German women, the moment of fragile community soon shattered by a tribe of savages, in Fury….
  • Two Days, One Night: Despairing, Sandra (Marianne Cotillard) leans way too far out her car window, until the buzz of a seatbelt alarm pulls her back….
  • A woman falls out of a window, into the common grave that is Ida….
  • Midway through Birdman, the rapport of two fallen angels (Emma Stone, Edward Norton), perched on a roof-edge above Broadway and lit from below by marquee light, quietly trading hard truths about themselves…
  • A Most Wanted Man: Annabel (Rachel McAdams) has given up smoking. “Good luck with that”—Philip Seymour Hoffman….
A MOST WANTED MAN
‘A Most Wanted Man’
  • Hercules: soothsayer Ian McShane’s insouciant shrug when it’s clear his death, which he’s predicted at every turn, just isn’t happening…
  • Mr. Turner: Without looking, the seated J.M.W. (Timothy Spall) places his hand flat on his hovering housekeeper’s (Dorothy Atkinson) breast, as though settling a horse….
  • 3 Days to Kill: Needing to get into nightclub, Dad (Kevin Costner) reaches behind him and shoots bouncer in foot….
  • After an old-school hitman (Willem Dafoe) engineers his own bloody demise to avoid prolonged torture, his erstwhile tormentor (Michael Nyqvist) applauds, “Well played, old friend”—John Wick….
  • Nightcrawler: Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) enters the murder house minutes after the crime, and finds himself right at home….
  • Study in beige: Scarf drawn across lower half of her face, Eve (Tilda Swinton) walks down a Tangier street, owning the night—Only Lovers Left Alive…
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel: A prison guard looking for concealed contraband cannot bring himself to ruin an exquisite Mendl confection….
  • Selling sunshine (The Homesman), mining the dark (Into the Woods)—Meryl Streep casts her spells….
  • Eva Green in excelsis, as Vanessa Ives in mortal combat with Lucifer, Penny Dreadful
  • Empty Fifties roads under robin’s-egg-blue sky, Big Eyes
  • Cold in July: blood spatter on the beyond-bland painting that hangs over Michael C. Hall’s couch…
  • Amid snowfall reducing the known world to white-on-white, Lorne Malvo (Billy Bob Thornton) achieves perfect chaos—Fargo….
  • The bullet across the curve, Snowpiercer
  • Night Moves: From their rowboat on the lake, the would-be dambusters watch as headlights enter the parking lot where their car sits alone….
  • Aural climate throughout Under the Skin; what bone-deep Otherness sounds like…
  • Pacing paving stones slicked by rain, Ramses (Joel Edgerton) worries he won’t have time to get his tomb built. Behind him, curtains billow in a wet breeze, portending worse weather to come inExodus: Gods and Kings….
  • “The sun is God.” Amen, Mr. Turner….
  • In American Sniper, sudden red flag as Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) breaks bread with a friendly Iraqi family: the host’s scraped-raw elbow, marking him as a fellow sniper…
  • Out on the American frontier, a little girl walks in the woods, a book on her head—The Better Angels….
  • That precocious little Lorelei Linklater vamping and singing “Oops, I did it again!” at her disgusted younger brother (Ellar Coltrane), in Boyhood
  • The power of doggie love, fueling The Rover, John Wick, The Drop
JOHN WICK
‘John Wick’
  • Mockingjay, Part I: During the mutual jamming of video signals, Peta’s and Katniss’s signals crackle over each other and the separated lovers both call out, as if each felt the other passing….
  • Swapping funiculars, The Grand Budapest Hotel…
  • “Exterminate! Exterminate!”: Hawkings goes Dalek, The Theory of Everything….
  • The start of Fury: lone German officer riding a white horse through gray, cratered wasteland…
  • Mad hornet motorcyclist buzzing tinily over the Highlands, Under the Skin…
  • Something corpsey-white sliding under thinnish ice, soon to be the death of Thorin Oakenshield inThe Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies…
  • The Guest’s (Dan Stevens) amused appreciation of the impact his super-buff torso is having on the teenaged daughter of the unsuspecting family he’s moved in on…
  • Enemy: the shadow of the doppelgänger under the hotel room door…
  • Jax (Charlie Hunnam) fires a bullet into the back of his mother’s head, as Gemma (Katey Sagal) lingers in a rose garden. The last act in a long-running Jacobean tragedy called Sons of Anarchy
  • Rape and fiery death in a Palestinian prison, terrorist theater in which everyone is playing a role except The Honourable Woman (Maggie Gyllenhaal, magnificent throughout)…
  • Boyhood: A guy who once worked on her septic line pops up in a restaurant to thank Mason’s mom (Patricia Arquette) for her life-changing advice years ago….
  • Sliding through Detroit’s deserted yellow-gold streets, Only Lovers Left Alive; Henry Ford’s factory that became the palatial Michigan Theater that became a car-park…
  • The doctor’s (Aidan Gillen) awful parable of the human condition, flaying a priest (Brendan Gleeson) who’s just fallen off the wagon, in Calvary
  • Tom Hardy as Locke: “You don’t trust God when it comes to concrete.”
  • “L’aire de panache,” Gustave H.’s shield against mortality and bad manners—The Grand Budapest Hotel…
  • Late in Edge of Tomorrow (now commercially retitled Live Die Repeat), the general (Brendan Gleeson) and the audience more or less simultaneously catch on that Cage (Tom Cruise) and Rita (Emily Blunt) have been here before….
  • Birdman: Starting to play mad scene after finding his wife in bed with a guy, Riggan notices Mike has a raging hard-on. Theater audience notices, too….
  • Unbroken: after the strafing, underwater view of life rafts against the sky, light showing through bullet holes…
  • What happens on that beach, Under the Skin, and the kinds of sense it doesn’t make…
  • Blue Ruin: color horizontals of a carnival at night…
  • Cousin Marv (James Gandolfini), spread out on his recliner, reminiscing about the days when he was somebody—The Drop
THE DROP
‘The Drop’
  • The long fall of Smaug, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Scritchy plastic couch contributing to the year’s most distinctive and unsettling sex scene, inInherent Vice
  • Love Is Strange: Aging lovers, too long apart, spoon in the bottom deck of a bunkbed….
  • Boyhood’s gutsy mom (Patricia Arquette) abruptly overwhelmed at life passing her by: “I thought there would be more.”…
  • George Briggs (Tommy Lee Jones) and other assorted dregs jigging to fiddle music on a river-raft, slowly swallowed up in darkness, The Homesman
  • In Only Lovers Left Alive, Adam and Eve lean in the doorway of a Tangier dive, drinking in Yasmine Hamdan’s unforgettable performance of Moroccan blues….
  • Monsieur Gustave, The Grand Budapest Hotel: “There are still faint glimmers of civilization left in this barbaric slaughterhouse that was once known as humanity.”…
  • Under the Skin: small quick blaze in snowy woods…

Kathleen Murphy has written about movies for most of her life (Movietone News, Film Comment, Steadycam, MSN/movies.com, et al.), curated film festivals (Women and Cinema, Irish Cinema) and taught film at University of Washington. 

Veteran film critic Richard T. Jameson served as editor of the journals Movietone News (1971-1981) and Film Comment (1990-2000). 

Moments out of Time 2014

Images, lines, gestures, moods from the year’s films

We perpetrated the first “Moments Out of Time” in ecstasy over the cinematic splendors of 1971—The Conformist, The Last Picture Show, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Straw Dogs, Dirty Harry, et al. It ran in our Seattle Film Society journal Movietone News (“The trees creaking in the wind: the murder in The Conformist…“), where it became a much-anticipated annual feature ’til the journal wrapped in 1981. We’ve missed memorializing a few years since, but have enjoyed at various times the hospitality of Film Comment, American Film, Steadycam, Movies/MSN, and Cinephiled. A comprehensive “Moments” library is maintained at Parallax-View.com.

‘Cold in July’
  • Under the Skin: disembodied face lies in a lap, gazing upward, its eyes blinking…
  • SQÜRL’s banshee screech, “Funnel of Love,” over the first ravishing images—including turntable as flat circle of time—of Only Lovers Left Alive
  • “I was once considered a great beauty,” confides Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), concierge extraordinaire, The Grand Budapest Hotel….
  • A dollhouse town and the relentless cheer of a minister’s wife (Meryl Streep), on the edge of the crazy-making emptiness of the American frontier, The Homesman
  • What to say, politely, to an Iraqi woman after your team has burst into her Fallujah home? “Hello….” Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, American Sniper
  • Birdman: After Mike (Edward Norton) blows up the performance, Riggan (Michael Keaton) storms offstage snarling, “Get him out of here!” Annie the P.A. (Merritt Wever) softly asks, “How do you want me to do that?”….
  • Threesome rocking out to “Gloria” on car radio: a rare communal moment of joy in Two Days, One Night
  • The Better Angels: Abraham Lincoln’s second mother (Diane Kruger) balances on one foot, wavering over a fallen tree trunk, the sun blazing a bright halo around her head….
  • In Exodus: Gods and Kings, a tiny white stallion, rearing beneath a heavens-high curve of tsunami….

Continue reading at Keyframe

Videophiled Best of 2014 on Blu-ray and DVD

The death of Blu-ray and DVD has apparently been prematurely called. Streaming and cable VOD still dominates home viewing but Redbox and other kiosk-based disc vendors have kept disc rentals alive (if not quite robust) and Blu-ray remains the format of choice for movie collectors and home theater enthusiasts, keeping sales robust enough to bring new players into the business. Kino Lorber expanded its release schedule with a Kino Classics collection of titles from the MGM/UA catalog and distribution deals with Cohen, Raro, Redemption, and Scorpion. Shout Factory has ventured into restorations and special editions as well as new partners (like Werner Herzog). Warner Archive has increased their flow of Blu-rays with some substantial titles presented in high-quality editions. Twilight Time has made its own limited edition business plan work and started adding more supplements to their releases, including original commentary tracks from the company’s film history brain trust.

This is my highly subjective take on the best disc releases of 2014 (of those I had the opportunity to watch and explore), with extra points for heroic efforts and creative archival additions. Note that this is strictly domestic releases—I do have import discs but I don’t have many and I barely have the time to keep up with American disc releases—and are as much about the importance of the release as the quality of the disc.

1. The Complete Jacques Tati (Criterion, Blu-ray and DVD) collects all six features he directed (including alternate versions of three films) and seven shorts he wrote and/or directed, plus a wealth of other supplements. Of the six features on this set, all but Playtime make their respective American Blu-ray debuts and two appear on disc for the first time in the U.S. From his debut feature Jour de Fête (1949) to the birth of both M. Hulot and the distinctive Tati directorial approach in his brilliant and loving Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) through the sublime Playtime (1967) to his post-script feature Parade (1974), this set presents the development of an artist who took comedy seriously and sculpted his films like works of kinetic art driven by eccentric engines of personality. The amiable oddball Monsieur Hulot was his most beloved creation, a bemused outsider navigating the craziness of the modern world, but unlike the films of Chaplin, Tati’s screen alter ego is just a member of an ensemble. A gifted soloist to be sure and the face of the films, but a player who weaves his work into the larger piece. Tati made comedy like music and this collection celebrates his cinematic symphonies. Playtime reviewed here.

2. The Essential Jacques Demy (Criterion, Blu-Ray+DVD Dual-Format set) offers the definitive American disc releases of six of the defining films of Jacques Demy, the Nouvelle Vague‘s sadder-but-wiser romantic, from his 1961 debut Lola to his 1982 Une Chambre en Ville, which makes its American home video debut here. Like so many of his fellow directors, Rivette loved American movies, especially musicals, but his taste for American musicals and candy-colored romance was balanced with a bittersweet sensibility. For all the energizing music and dreamy love affairs, his romances more often than not don’t really get happy endings. The films include his two most famous musicals, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967), as well as four early shorts—Les horizons morts (1951), Le sabotier du Val de Loire (1956), Ars (1959), and La luxure (1962)—plus two documentaries on Demy made by his widow Agnes Varda, a small library of archival TV programs on the films, and the hour-long visual essay “Jacques Demy, A to Z” by James Quandt. Full review here.

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Ten Silent Movies to Make You a Silent Movie Fan

“We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces.”
—Norma Desmond, Sunset Blvd.

You say that you’re really into old movies and you can’t get enough of the classics but you just haven’t found a way to love silent cinema? You say that all your friends are doing the silents and you feel left out? You say that you too want to be part of the early cinema crowd but just haven’t found your way to loving the movies before sound?

‘The New Gentlemen’

Even among many classic cinema buff, silent movies can appear alien and unfriendly, a duty more than a treat. And it shouldn’t be that way at all. In their day, silent films were a universal entertainment, a truly popular art that transcended language and culture.

There are those who think of silent films as primitive and naïve. Some were, to be sure, but movies grew up quickly in those early years. Those primitive experiments and one-shot gags matured into feature films in under two decades, and the knockabout slapstick comedies of the Keystone Kops gave way to the comic grace of Charlie Chaplin and the invention of Buster Keaton just a few years.

And then there’s those scratchy, poorly-preserved prints that were often presented at wrong projection speeds that made everything look sped up and absurd. It’s hard to appreciate let alone recognize the scope and technical wonder of the silent extravaganzas under such conditions.

Thanks to the efforts of film preservationists, a new spirit of cooperation between international film archives, and new digital tools, those days are fast disappearing. Silent cinema is getting a makeover and audiences are finally getting a chance to see the glamor and splendor that original audiences saw when they went out to the flickers.

There is a universe of films, genres, moods, sensibilities and styles to be discovered in the thirty-plus years of cinema before the introduction of sound changed the way films were made and experienced. This isn’t necessarily a list of the greatest or the most important silent films (though there are some of both sprinkled through), but rather a selection of the most entertaining and engaging films of the era. Consider it a place to start your appreciation of the glory and grandeur that was the cinema before sound.

From the recently restored version of ‘A Trip to the Moon’

A Trip to the Moon (1902, Georges Méliès)
You want to get an idea of how lavish and creative the so-called primitives could be? Magician-turned-filmmaker Georges Méliès was a pioneering special effects artist and a fantasist with an unbound imagination, but more than anything else he was a showman and A Trip to the Moon is his most ambitious spectacle. Thanks to the painstaking restoration of the sole surviving hand-painted print of the film by Serge Bromberg and Eric Lange, we can now see what enthralled audiences at the turn of the 20th century: a picture-book fantasy brought to life as a work of pure, playful imagination with crazy special effects and delirious color. Accompany this with a screening of Martin Scorsese’s Hugo (2011) and you might just come away with a new appreciation for the early years of filmmaking. And if this inspires more interest in the pre-feature era of filmmaking, try the fantasies of Ferdinand Zecca and the work of Alice Guy-Blaché, the most versatile filmmaker of her era.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Restorations, Revelations and Debuts of 2014

Film history discovered and rediscovered on Blu-ray, DVD and digital formats.

We never stop recovering our film history. In 2014 alone we found a 1916 version of Sherlock Holmes starring the legendary stage actor William Gillette (the only known footage of the man considered the definitive Holmes of his era in character) and an unfinished orphan film shot in 1913 starring black Broadway star Bert Williams.

‘Too Much Johnson’

The digital tools have given filmmakers, producers, studios and film archivists and restorers the ability to resurrect damaged prints and rescue damaged footage previously beyond the scope of physical and chemical methods and the transition from film prints to theatrical digital formats for repertory and revival showings has created new incentives to restore and remaster classic films for new theatrical screenings. (There’s plenty of controversy over this shift, with many partisans arguing that movies shot and originally shown in celluloid should be preserved and only screened that way.)

But it’s still a specialized audience and film lovers outside of major metropolitan areas often have no opportunities to see these restorations and revivals on the screen. At least until they are made available to home video formats. For instance, while the new restoration of the original Todd AO version of Oklahoma! premiered at the Turner Classic Movies festival in April, it has yet to reach audiences outside of specialty theaters and the China Film Archive restoration of the 1934 Chinese classic The Goddess has only shown in film festivals.

So this list is focused on debuts and rediscoveries of classic films and cinema landmarks and restorations of great films and revivals of previously unavailable movies that became available to viewers at home in 2014. Not just a countdown of the best, it’s a survey of the breadth of restorations and rediscoveries that film lovers now have a chance to see regardless of where they live, as long as they have a web connection and a Blu-ray player.

Too Much Johnson (1938) (Fandor, streaming)
The home video event of 2014 is not a disc debut or a Blu-ray special edition but a piece of lost film history found, restored and streamed on the web. Shot by Orson Welles in 1938 (two years before he went to Hollywood and began production on Citizen Kane) as a kind of experiment to accompany a stage production of the theater farce Too Much Johnson, the film was never finished by Welles beyond a continuity work print that was thought to have been destroyed in a fire in Welles’ Spanish home in 1970. The 35mm nitrate work print was found in 2013 in a warehouse in Italy (in Pordenone, as it happens, home to the greatest silent film festival in the world) and restored in an international effort. After a series of special screenings, the film (in both the original 66-minute work print and a 34-minute “reimagined” version, with outtakes and duplicate shots removed and footage edited into an “educated guess” of how it would have played in finished form) was made available to audiences the world over for free via the National Film Preservation Foundation website and in an HD edition through Fandor. I celebrated the film and its discovery for Keyframe earlier this year.

Continue reading at Keyframe

That’s not Art, that’s Smut!

Sex sells, as the saying goes, and movie producers, distributors and exhibitors have known this since pictures began to move.

In That’s Sexploitation, filmmaker Frank Henenlotter and exploitation legend David Friedman celebrate the freewheeling culture of sexploitation, the sensationalistic underground of independent filmmakers and studios who cashed in on promises of carnal thrills and forbidden spectacle, specifically naked flesh (mostly female). These are the films that sprung up between the cracks of the production code and studio restrictions and, as the moniker suggests, they aimed straight for the lurid and the tawdry.

But not all films that sold themselves with the promise of erotic thrills and taboo-busting presentations of sexuality were a matter of pure exploitation. American movies started taking on adults themes once again in the fifties while films from the more permissive Europe blurred the lines between art and erotica as they explored sexuality with both a maturity and a more graphic explicitness. In other words, people got naked and shared bed right on the screen. “That’s not smut, that’s art,” was the implicit argument, even if it was the sex that the exhibitors marketed.

Here are ten films from the heady days of the sexual revolution to the present that smudge the line between art and exploitation. Sex may be the subject, the subtext, or the motivation, but promise of steamy spectacle and erotic delights was used attract patrons that normally might not otherwise attend such fare and give them the cinematic equivalent to the time-honored justification for purchasing Playboy magazine: “I get it for the articles.”

‘Contempt’

Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
Blow-Up (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1966)
Here are two examples of marketing skin to attract audiences to challenging films from European intellectual filmmakers. Contempt (1963) is an unlikely meeting between nouvelle vague legend Jean-Luc Godard’s anti-Hollywood sensibility and the showman aesthetic of (uncredited) producer Joseph E. Levine in an international co-production about the clash between art and commerce, the politics of artistic integrity and compromise and the dissolution of love. To meet his producer’s demands, Godard added an opening bedroom scene and inserted pin-up style nude shots of star Brigitte Bardot. Wouldn’t you know he actually makes them work as a comment on the very process of filmmaking compromise? Blow-Up (1966), the English-language debut of Italian filmmaker Michelangelo Antonioni, is an existential murder mystery starring David Hemmings as a jaded fashion photographer who may have taken a picture of murder and Vanessa Redgrave as the mystery woman of his photograph. Set in swinging London, full of mod fashions, free love, a score by Herbie Hancock and an appearance by the Yardbirds, it’s a timepiece by way of Antonioni’s brand of contemporary alienation and it won the Palme d’Or at Cannes. It was also the first mainstream movie to show female pubic hair (however fleetingly) and that was a bigger selling point for a lot of the patrons.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Get your Oscar flick fix without leaving the house

By the time the Oscars air on March 2, most moviegoers will not have been able to get to theaters to see all the nominees. But thanks to the era of DVD, Blu-ray, streaming video and movies on demand, those who really want to cram for Hollywood’s big night can catch up on a bunch of the films at home.

Some of the front-runners still require a theater trip (more on that later), but for those of you who want to order in and prep for your office pool from the comfort of your own couch, it’s possible to cover a lot of ground.

Jared Leto in ‘Dallas Buyers Club’

The biggest talkers

“Dallas Buyers Club” picked up six nominations, including best picture and best original screenplay, but its best chances are in the acting categories, where Matthew McConaughey is a front-runner for best actor and Jared Leto is up in the supporting actor category. The two already took home Golden Globes for their performances. It’s available on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, and On Demand.

“Captain Phillips” also received six nominations, including best picture, adapted screenplay, and actor in a supporting role for Barkhad Abdi, a non-actor who made a vivid debut in the role of a Somali pirate. Star Tom Hanks was overlooked for his equally strong performance. It’s available on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, and On Demand.

Woody Allen’s “Blue Jasmine” earned Cate Blanchett her sixth Oscar nomination and she is a wonder as a Blanche DuBois in contemporary San Francisco. That would make fellow nominee Sally Hawkins (up for best supporting actress) the film’s Stella. It’s available on Blu-ray, DVD, VOD, and On Demand.

Continue reading at Today.com

Parallax View’s Best of 2013

Welcome 2014 with one last look back at the best releases of 2013, as seen by the contributors to Parallax View and a few notable Seattle-based film critics.

Sean Axmaker

1. Her (Spike Jonze)
2. Blue is the Warmest Color / La vie d’Adèle (Abdellatif Kechiche)
3. Something in the Air / Apres Mai (Olivier Assayas)
4. Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery)
5. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
6. Nebraska (Alexander Payne)
7. Drug War (Johnnie To)
8. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet (dir: Alain Resnais)
9. Upstream Color (Shane Carruth)
10. Byzantium (Neil Jordan)

Twelve more: Bastards / Les Salauds (Claire Denis), Fruitvale Station (Ryan Coogler), Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel and Ethan Coen), Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron), Mud (Jeff Nichols), Night Across the Street (Raul Ruiz), Museum Hours (Jem Cohen), Short Term 12 (Destin Creton), Stoker (Park Chan-wook), Stories We Tell (Sarah Polley), The Wind Rises (Hayao Miyazaki), The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)

Best festival film I saw in 2013 without a release: What Now? Remind Me (Joaquim Pinto)


Other lists: Village Voice, Cinephiled, Senses of Cinema

Sheila Benson

(as published in Village Voice)

1. 12 Years a Slave
2. Gravity
3. Captain Phillips
4. Fruitvale Station
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. All Is Lost
7. Philomena
8. The Great Beauty
9. American Hustle
10. The Confessing Stone

Jim Emerson

(as published on Cinephiled)

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Nebraska
3. Mud
4. All Is Lost
5. The Act of Killing
6. This Is the End
7. Behind the Candelabra
8. The Stranger By the Lake
9. The Great Beauty
10. Gravity

Other lists: Indiewire

Robert Horton

(as published in Seattle Weekly)

1. Something In the Air
2. All Is Lost
3. Gravity
4. Blue is the Warmest Color
5. Inside Llewyn Davis
6. The Unspeakable Act
7. Nebraska
8. The Act of Killing
9. Amour
10. Like a Rolling Stone

Other lists: Indiewire, The Herald

Richard T. Jameson

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Gravity
3. Nebraska
4. Blue Is the Warmest Color
5. her
6. American Hustle
7. Like Someone in Love
8. Enough Said
9. All Is Lost
10. Fruitvale Station

Other lists: Cinephiled

Jay Kuehner

(as published on Indiewire)

1. Leviathan
2. The Act of Killing
3. Something In the Air
4. In the Fog
5. Neighbouring Sounds
6. Bastards
7. A Touch of Sin
8. Viola
9. Centro Historico
10. Nana

Other lists: Senses of Cinema

Moira Macdonald

(as published in Seattle Times)

Here are my favorite movies of 2013, in alphabetical (and numerical) order.

12 Years a Slave
56 Up
Before Midnight
Enough Said
Gravity
Her
Much Ado About Nothing
Nebraska
Philomena
Stories We Tell

Brian Miller

(as published in Seattle Weekly)

1. Her
2. The Great Beauty
3. Gravity
4. Before Midnight
5. All Is Lost
6. Nebraska
7. Stories We Tell
8. The Act of Killing
9. (tie) In No Great Hurry: 13 Lessons in Life With Saul Leiter / Cutie and the Boxer

Kathleen Murphy

(as published on Cinephiled)

1. Inside Llewyn Davis
2. Gravity
3. Blue Is the Warmest Color
4. All Is Lost
5. Nebraska
6. Stories We Tell
7. Bastards
8. Her
9. Blue Jasmine
10. The Wind Rises

Andrew Wright

1. Upstream Color
2. Inside Llewyn Davis
3. All is Lost
4. The Act of Killing
5. Frances Ha
6. Gravity
7. You Will Be My Son
8. Mud
9. Her
10. We Are What We Are

Lists of lists:

Fandor List of Lists
Indiewire
Village Voice Film Poll 2013
Cinephiled
Senses of Cinema

Polls (no individual lists)

Film Comment
Indiewire
Sight and Sound
The Dissolve
The A.V. Club

Other lists

Keyframe: The Year in Film
2013 additions to the National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1923

See the 2012 Seattle Film Critics Wrap at the Frye, with Robert Horton hosting Kathleen Murphy, Jim Emerson, and Andrew Wright, after the jump below.

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Ten Great Disc Debuts for 2013

We know that DVD and Blu-ray are losing sales ground to digital and streaming, but the epitaphs for physical media are premature. Every year sees another crop of restorations and revivals rolling out in superb and sometimes lavish editions.

Of course there are the upgrades, the previously available classics in newly-restored editions and state-of-the-art digital remasters, but what excites me are the debuts, the films that have never been on disc before and the personal discoveries of films that, while not exactly unknown, have been largely forgotten because of their unavailability.

Here are my perfectly subjective picks for the top ten disc debuts: the greatest classics, rediscoveries, and revivals that made their first appearance in 2013.

In alphabetical order:

‘Pierre Etaix’ – Celebrated in one of the Top Disc Releases of 2013

Collections:

French Masterworks: Russian Émigrés in Paris 1923-1928 (Flicker Alley) presents of the American home video debut of five silent classics from Film Albatros, a French studio founded by Russian artists: The Burning Crucible (1923), Kean (1924), The Late Mathias Pascal (1926), Gribiche (1926), and The New Gentlemen (1928). The Late Mathias Pascal, a fabulist epic directed by Marcel L’Herbier (also released separately on Blu-ray), and Jacques Feyder’s sophisticated romantic comedy-turned-political satire The New Gentlemen are the crown jewels of the set but all entertaining and revealing examples of the sophisticated filmmaking coming out of France in the twenties. Each are mastered from 2009 restorations from La Cinématèque Français and feature newly-recorded original scores. DVD.

Continue reading at Keyframe

Parallax View’s Best of 2012

Welcome 2013 with one last look back at the best releases of 2011, as seen by the contributors to Parallax View and a few notable Seattle-based film critics.

Sean Axmaker

1. Holy Motors
2. Zero Dark Thirty
3. Moonrise Kingdom
4. Margaret (2011 in NY and LA, didn’t screen elsewhere until 2012)
5. Cosmopolis
6. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
7. The Master
8. The Turin Horse
9. Tabu
10. This is Not a Film

Ten more: Amour, Barbara, Deep Blue Sea, Django Unchained, Hyde Park on Hudson, I Wish, The Kid With a Bike, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Magic Mike

My greatest cinematic events of 2012
Hands down the cinematic experience of 2012 for me was the American premier of the complete restoration of Abel Gance’s Napoleon (1927) with live accompaniment by Oakland East Bay Symphony conducted by Carl Davis. The density of Gance’s ideas, the frisson of his images and experiments in cinematic expression, and the complicated perspectives on the legacy of Napoleon have a weight that is undeniable. And watching the full 5 ½ Napoleon with a live orchestra in a magnificent theater elevates the film to a cinematic experience without parallel, and that experience electrifies the storytelling and imagery.

Local (Seattle) Event: Joe Dante’s The Movie Orgy, one-night-only at Grand Illusion. It was a perfect marriage of film and venue: the tiny, independent house with a storied history and an audience of regulars, and a scrappy compilation movie with some surreal moments and a climax that manages to bring over dozen films into the same narrative universe, if only for this moment. And hey, don’t crowd me, man.

Other published Top Ten Lists: MSN, Village Voice, Fandor

Best of Home Video lists: Top Ten Disc Debuts, Top Five Blu-rays, Top Five TV on Disc Releases, Top Five MOD Releases and Notable Achievements for 2012

Sheila Benson

(as published in Village Voice)

1. Rust and Bone
2. Amour
3. Argo
4. Lincoln
5. Holy Motors
6. The Master
7. The Perks of Being a Wallflower
8. Life of Pi
9. Quartet

David Coursen

(the first nine in alphabetical order, the last as the film of the—um—year)
Holy Motors, Hugo, Lincoln, Margaret, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, Rust and Bone, Silver Linings Playbook, Tabu, Take this Waltz, and La Rabbia: the Rage of Pasolini (“a film released, in what must have been an infinitely less compelling form, in 1963, but listed this year by the National Gallery of Art as a “Washington Premiere” in a form so imbued with greatness it triggered a private pre-New Years Pasolini epiphany”).

Jim Emerson

(as published in Village Voice)

1. Holy Motors
2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
3. The Deep Blue Sea
4. Lincoln
5. Amour
6. Tabu
7. Moonrise Kingdom
8. The Turin Horse
9. This is Not a Film
10. The Master

John Hartl

Technically, Kenneth Lonergan’s remarkable Margaret may not have qualified as a 2012 film (a few people saw it in 2011), but the years he spent in the editing room paid off in this story of a high-strung teenager (Anna Paquin) who causes a horrendous traffic accident. The writer-director’s unique focus on responsibility–and its limits–led to the creation of the year’s most haunting and original film. Almost equally affecting were Michael Haneke’s wrenching account of an older couple facing the end of their relationship, Amour, and Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, about an American personality cult spinning out of control. Among the most playful new movies: Wes Anderson’s tale of romantic runaways, Moonrise Kingdom, and Richard Linklater’s stranger-than-fiction Jack Black vehicle, Bernie. The latter, like Ben Affleck’s self-assured Argo, Steven Spielberg’s painstaking Lincoln, and Kathryn Bigelow’s vigorous Zero Dark Thirty, is based on fact. Gary Ross’ The Hunger Games took a popular young-adult book and made something majestic of it. Northwest filmmaker Jon Garcia’s The Falls, a perfectly cast love story about 20-year-old Mormon missionaries, was the best of several strong gay films.

A second 10: Rust and Bone, How to Survive a Plague, The Invisible War, Keep the Lights On, Barbara, A Royal Affair, Life of Pi, Silver Linings Playbook, Queen of Versailles, Any Day Now.

Robert Horton

(as published at Everett Herald)

1. Margaret
2. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
3. Silver Linings Playbook
4. This Is Not a Film
5. Lincoln
6. The Turin Horse
7. The Master
8. Bernie
9. Searching for Sugar Man
10. To Rome With Love

For the second 10: The Secret World of Arietty, Wreck-It Ralph, The Deep Blue Sea, Cosmopolis, Django Unchained, Holy Motors, Elena, Moonrise Kingdom, The Dark Knight Rises, The Grey.

Richard T. Jameson

1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Lincoln
3. Django Unchained
4. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
5. The Turin Horse
6. Silver Linings Playbook
7. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Cosmopolis
9. The Deep Blue Sea
10. The Sessions

Mooned by the misbegotten: Les Misérables, Rock of Ages

Other published lists: MSN

Jay Kuehner

(as published on Fandor)

1. Leviathan (Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel)
2. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
3. Neighbouring Sounds/O som ao redor (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
4. In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo)
5. Two Years at Sea (Ben Rivers)
6. small roads (James Benning)
7. Viola (Matias Piniero)
8. O Gebo e a Sombra/Gebo and the Shadow (Manoel de Oliveira)
9. Vers Madrid/The Burning Bright (Sylvain George)
10. Arraianos (Eloy Enciso)

Moira Macdonald

(as published in The Seattle Times)

Anna Karenina
Argo
The Avengers
The Deep Blue Sea
Flight
I Wish
Lincoln
Margaret
Pina
Ruby Sparks

Ten more terrific movies, any of which might have slipped into my first ten on a different day: A Cat in Paris, Bernie, Liberal Arts, The Master, Middle of Nowhere, Moonrise Kingdom, A Royal Affair, The Sessions, The Silver Linings Playbook, Skyfall, Smashed. OK, that’s 11. So be it.

Best 2012 movies that haven’t opened in Seattle yet (but I’ve seen them): Amour, Zero Dark Thirty

Kathleen Murphy

(as published at MSN Movies)

1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. Lincoln
3. The Master
4. Amour
5. Holy Motors
6. Django Unchained
7. Moonrise Kingdom
8. Silver Linings Playbook
9. The Deep Blue Sea
10. Cosmopolis

Bruce Reid

1. The Turin Horse
2. The Kid with a Bike
3. Moonrise Kingdom
4. Cosmopolis
5. The Master
6. Holy Motors
7. This Is Not a Film
8. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
9. Not Fade Away
10. The Loneliest Planet

Andrew Wright

1. Django Unchained
2. Holy Motors
3. Elena
4. Looper
5. Margaret
6. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
7. Argo
8. The Master
9. The Grey
10. Skyfall

Lists of lists:
MSN Movies (lists at end of gallery)
Village Voice (poll and lists)
Indiewire’s Criticwire
Movie City News
Fandor
Time Out London
Keyframe Daily Lists and Award 2012 Index

Polls (no individual lists)
Film Comment
Indiewire Poll
Sight and Sound

Other lists
2012 additions to the National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1922
New York Times Year in Culture

See the 2012 Seattle Film Critics Wrap at the Frye, with Robert Horton hosting Kathleen Murphy and Jim Emerson, after the jump below.

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Dossier ’79

[Originally published in Movietone News 64-65, March 1980]

It is appropriate that they just took “There she is, Miss America” away from Bert Parks. I too have been deprived of the opportunity to sing my same old song again. One could say rhetorically that after 1978 the movies had nowhere to go but up; but rhetoric is one thing and the art-industry’s capacity for self-degradation quite another. And ’79 did see a few films as empty, ugly, and offensively inept as any dreck of previous seasons: Bloodline, Prophecy, Nightwing, Sunburn, Love and Bullets, Ashanti, and the phenomenally successful Meatballsas drecky dreck as ever dreck was. But they didn’t taint the whole scene, didn’t seem the dominant alternative to excellence. If only one or two films suggested a radical breakthrough into new zones of artistry or film consciousness, nevertheless an astounding number of movies managed to be lively, personal, nonderivative. François Truffaut may have made an utterly superfluous Antoine Doinel compendium like Love on the Run, and Federico Fellini wasted his time on Orchestra Rehearsal, an only half-good idea for a movie done with about a third of the zest and invention we’d expect of him. But good men like Blake Edwards and Peter Bogdanovich seemed to have got better; at least they were getting more credit for the beauties and intelligence of their work than they had in years. Whatever they had must have been catching because even hacks and/or poseurs like Ted Kotcheff, Peter Yates, William Friedkin, Sydney Pollack, and Arthur Hiller signed their names to very agreeable movies (North Dallas Forty, Breaking Away, The Brinks Job, The Electric Horseman, and The In-Laws, respectively). Going to the movies got to seem more like a pleasant pastime again instead of a masochistic compulsion.

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Slap Shots (1977)

[Originally published in Movietone News 57, February 1978]

I felt a little off-balance throughout film year 1977, and it took me most of that time to figure out why. Even eccentric filmwatchers fall into patterns of expectation, and my Platonic Ideal of eccentricity was taking a beating. Too many of the big, heavily financed productions the freewheeling freelance looks forward to trashing turned out to be not bad films at all. By reverse token, the year was virtually devoid of sleepers—the unexpected, born-to-be-lost-in-the-shuffle beauties like Gumshoe, Bad Company, Charley Varrick and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia the enterprising commentator looks forward to saving for posterity and, in the meantime, directing a few adventurous viewers toward. Just why there were no sleepers is hard to say. Maybe there is so much written on film nowadays that every film’s fair chance at the limelight is conceded in advance. Add to this that the Jet City has acquired an industry rep for scaring up an audience for movies that die on the vine elsewhere. Then too, in recent years we have been dubiously blessed with at least one exhibitor willing to cry sleeper every other week, so that the term has tended to be devalued hereabouts—especially when many of the so-called sleepers have proved resolutely undistinguished.

It just may be that the biggest and, in its rather trivial way, happiest surprise of the year was a George Roy Hill movie that most reviewers suddenly felt compelled to attack for having the flaws all the director’s more popular works have manifested in abundance; I went into that in my quickie of Slap Shot in MTN 54, and I continue to recall this rowdy, raunchy, sharply acted sports comedy with pleasure. And while I was liking a movie by a director I normally find exasperating in the extreme, I was let down—anywhere from mildly to precipitously—by such customarily reliable types as Sam Peckinpah (Cross of Iron), Don Siegel (Telefon), Michael Ritchie (Semi-Tough), Dick Richard (March or Die), and Robert Aldrich (The Choirboys—though not so much Twilight’s Last Gleaming). Fred Zinnemann compelled respect and gratitude for his impeccable craftsmanship, if not necessarily artistry, in Julia. Herbert Ross astonished by coming on like, of all things, a personal director in The Turning Point and, to a lesser extent, The Goodbye Girl. Robert Benton fell a little short of the promise of Bad Company with The Late Show, but that film was one of the early pleasures of the year all the same.

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