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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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1976, Which Will Be Charitably Forgotten by the Year 2000

[Originally published in Movietone News 53, January 1977]

1976 is a year I’m very pleased to see the back of. Several especially nice things happened to me during the past twelvemonth, but an oversupply of cloaca also insisted on hitting the fan with dispiriting frequency, and a good deal of it was cinematic cloaca. Any year in which the man who just made Nashville turns around and makes Buffalo Bill and the Indians, or Sitting Bulls History Lesson, and people who really ought to know better hail Lina Wertmuller as a distaff version of the Second Coming and Network as a serious film of intellectual and aesthetic importance, and the public is asked to pay good money to watch Midway, Gable and Lombard, Won Ton Ton, The Duchess and the Dirtwater Fox, Scorchy, The Great Scout and Cathouse Thursday, Swashbuckler, Vigilante Force and A Star Is Born Barbra Streisand–style can’t be anything but the harbinger of a new Dark Age.

It didn’t help that some normally reliable film artists seemed ‘way off the beam. That The Magic Flute, Bergman’s not-very-adventurous filming of a Mozart performance, or Face to Face, a closet drama of a rather insipid creature who was welcome to stay in her closet (Liv Ullmann’s heroic performance notwithstanding), failed to move me much wasn’t particularly disheartening or even unexpected. (I wish he’d make a spy movie.) Neither, given the international coproduction problems and the preponderance of treacle in the basic makeup of The Blue Bird, was there great surprise in George Cukor’s inability (decision?) to just let the thing lie there and moult.

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Milestone to the Rescue: Dennis Doros on ten American independent films in need of restoration

Milestone Films is raising funds via Kickstarter to fund a restoration of Shirley Clarke’s ‘Portrait of Jason.’

Dennis Doros and Amy Heller, partners in business and marriage, launched Milestone Films in 1990. They made a reputation for the company not merely for its restorations and revivals, but for rescuing and nurturing films that might otherwise have been drowned in the noise of the busy movie landscape, from Mikhail Kalatozov’s all but orphaned 1964 I Am Cuba to the 1972 documentary Winter Soldier (which was vilified in the 2004 presidential campaign) to, most recently, Shirley Clarke’s landmark indie The Connection. Dennis and Amy are currently raising funds to restore Clarke’s Portrait of Jason.

They are also members of the Association of Moving Image Archivists. Dennis came to the 2012 convention in Seattle (Amy, unfortunately, was unable to attend), where I was able to meet up with him. In the interests of full disclosure, I have known Dennis for years and had the pleasure to be a part of the commentary track with Sherman Alexie on Milestone’s DVD release of The Exiles. I can also report that Dennis knows more about the history of American independent cinema, and the forgotten and neglected works that deserve resurrection, than anyone I know. So I asked him to name the ten American independent films most in need of restoration.

“It’s not my ten best,” he’s careful to explain, “just the ones that I could personally support with great enthusiasm. There are tons more that I could add, but if we’re doing a list of ten, this is a cool list to consider and they each have their own merits and different reasons.”

1. The Cool World (Shirley Clarke, 1964) and the short films of Shirley Clarke “We started with Shirley Clarke because we thought it would be a great project to do and I really wanted to do the complete Shirley Clarke. And the only thing we do not have rights to is The Cool World. I think that we have her best films, The Connection and Portrait of Jason are my two favorites, but to represent Shirley in her entirety and to consider her entirety, it would help to have a beautiful version of The Cool World, which hasn’t been available yet.”

Continue reading at Fandor’s Keyframe

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Robert C. Cumbow’s Top 10 Films of All Time

[Originally published on The House Next Door]

For many years, I maintained a Top 10 list. It was changing all the time, but by the mid-1980s, I had pretty well nailed it down. Only by then was it a Top 12, not a Top 10, and anyone who asked me my Top 10 films got an unexpected bonus. And that was how it was until a couple of years ago, when I allowed myself the latitude of increasing my all-time favorites to a list of 15. But as a devoted game player, I respect rules and try to play by them, so for this personal Top 10 list project, I’ve forced myself to pick just 10. These are not necessarily the same 10 I would pick if my criteria were cinematic greatness, beauty, and far-reaching influence—though they easily could be. No, these are favorite films, the films that mean the most to me, the ones that give me the most and best chills. There are lots more where these came from, but for now, these are the ones. I present them in chronological order to avoid any suggestion of preference.

King Kong (Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1933). People tend to forget that King Kong was a sensation, and a huge success, in its day. Perhaps the first horror film that tried to humanize and empathize with its monster, it did so without making any of the mistakes of the two remakes, always keeping the monster scary. It’s easy to sympathize with a teddy bear. King Kong wrote the book on movie monsters for decades to come, and no monster movie ever did it better, or told us more about the beasts inside ourselves.

Continue reading at The House Next Door

The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of June 27

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Is it legitimate to theorize that some culpability for the brutal murders in Aurora lie at the feet of the movies themselves? Apparently, after throat-clearing assertions of their civil libertarian backgrounds, many film writers feel in this circumstance it would be irresponsible not to speculate. Some have ratcheted up from the film itself to the industry—recall the violent legacy of Warner Brothers studio—or even exhibitors—perhaps midnight screenings should be suspendedPeter Bogdanovich blames the movies being too violent—actually, he has Orson Welles do it for him, which tells you how long that argument’s been floated. Speechless myself (out of frustration at my own ignorance and disgust at the inadequacy of words to limn the pain and horror and fury of it all), I find that Bill R. and Glenn Kenny are right that, pace Mr. Bogdonavich’s current ambivalence, he said everything I had to on the topic 44 years ago.

Boris Karloff in Peter Bogdanovich’s ‘Targets’

“What did she realize, Kitten?” “That all the songs she’d listened to, all the love songs, that they were only songs.” “What’s wrong with that?” “Nothing, if you don’t believe in them. But she did, you see.” The new Senses of Cinema inducts Neil Jordan into their database of Great Directors; Carole Zucker ably handles the honors, focusing on how Jordan’s understanding of fairy tales informs his sensibilities. Elsewhere in the issue, Murray Pomerance finds even the interior-bound Go Go Tales suffused with Abel Ferrara’s nonpareil sense of New York; and Jacques de Villiers traces Germany’s romantic heritage, including the Nazi’s perversion of it, throughout Herzog’s Aguirre.

David Bordwell reminds you it’s not just red-state schoolboards that plunk down for creationism over evolution despite all evidence to the contrary; it’s also film lovers obsessed with proclaiming what they deem the first instances of a technique while disregarding the context that led to it. Returned from his latest visit to the Royal Film Archives in Brussels, Bordwell provides several lovely examples of deep-focus blocking from mostly forgotten German and Italian silents. In a subsequent post, he rhapsodizes over a magnificent shot of passengers fleeing a sinking ship from the 1918 Italian serial I Topi Grigi, and provides a link to Joseph North’s fine thesis paper on the film’s Fantomasian antihero, the mostly forgotten Za La Mort.

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The View Beyond Parallax… more reads for week of June 15

The only links page that matters… except for all the others.

Seattle screenings and cinema events, including the “Best of SIFF” series and other post-SIFF releases, are surveyed at Parallax View here.

Girish Shambu leads off his typically fine collection of links with a welcome announcement: Issue 2 of LOLA, the film journal he edits with Adrian Martin, has arrived. The articles are being released piecemeal over the next few weeks, but already there’s such delights as the transcript of a Raúl Ruiz speech from 2005, an almost discomfitingly intimate recollection of Gilbert Adair by Alexander García Düttmann, and a clutch of articles on Chantal Akerman highlighted by an exhaustive, playful, yet fiercely honest interview with Nicole Brenez.

Also presenting their new issue, Experimental Conversations, which leads off with an excellent resource for further study, a tantalizing survey of Thailand’s up-and-coming arthouse directors conducted by Jit Phokaew and friends.

“Sounds like you had a strict upbringing.” “You might say that.” At Movie Morlocks, the Horror Dads offer a back-handed salute to Father’s Day by discussing some of the genre’s most memorably vile patriarchs.

The Cine-Files, a journal by the grad students of the Savannah College of Art and Design, dedicates its second issue to the French New Wave, and the children of Deleuze and Vitaminwater acquit themselves nicely to the challenge. Several distinguished interviewees (including Louis Menand, Jonathan Rosenbaum, and Mary Wiles on meeting Rivette) establish the history, while a trio of student filmmakers confirm the period’s influence extending to the future. Spotted by Film Studies for Free.

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Moments Out of Time 1987

[Originally published in Pacific Northwest, January 1988]

Hope and Glory: Down among the green leaves of his family’s backyard garden, young Bill Rohan (Sebastian Rice Edwards) confronts the wizard Merlin, while in the house the stillness of the adults ’round a grumbling radio signals that the Second World War has just been declared….

The Dead

• The Vietnamese woman’s voice scrapes relentlessly on our eardrums until we wish anything at all would shut her up: an unforgettable scene in Platoon makes us understand, by vicariously participating, how a My Lai might have happened….

The Dead: Gabriel Conroy (Donal McCann) turns from the snowy window to discover that his wife Gretta (Anjelica Huston), after the most intense and revealing conversation of their life together, has fallen deeply asleep….

Barfly: Returning from the hotel bathroom down the hall, Henry (Mickey Rourke) sits on the bed and slowly begins to wonder why the music from his radio should sound so muted. Oh, right. He’s in the wrong room….

• The wind drifts leaves across the road as Gene Hackman’s car and the camera crest a rise together—Hoosiers….

• “I’m gonna tell you something, Bonanza is not an accurate depiction of the West”: earnest breakfast discourse in Tin Men

• Diane Keaton singing “You’d Be So Nice to Come Home To,” New Year’s Eve 1943. Radio Days

Innerspace: Dennis Quaid sees his unborn child…

• On the battlefield at the end of Good Morning, Babylon, the dying brothers film each other in order that their sons will know what they looked like….

• Jimmy Malone (Sean Connery) blows a dead man’s brains out: David Mamet’s most outrageous con job in The Untouchables

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Parallax View’s Best of 2011

Welcome 2012 with one last look back at the best releases of 2011, as seen by the contributors to Parallax View. Critics listed in reverse alphabetical order

Andrew Wright

(as posted at Salt Lake Weekly)
1. Melancholia
2. Rise of the Planet of the Apes
3. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
4. 13 Assassins
5. Drive
6. The Tree of Life
7. Take Shelter
8. Hugo
9. The Descendants
10. Stake Land

Bruce Reid

1. World on a Wire: The gleaming surfaces and monotone bureaucrats are a dig at 2001. The eternally recurring reflections are Fassbinder’s own, Dietrich and gay hustlers and rapacious businessmen stalking a virtual Germany warped by funhouse mirrors. Giddy, heartbreaking, endlessly inventive, and (forget the copyright) absolutely of-the-moment.

2. Tree of Life: It’s not the brutal slaps of nature that birthed you, nor the ways of grace so ethereal they threaten to float away to the sky. It was both of them, and everything else. Malick’s illimitable camera summons grand and mysterious creative forges ranging from cosmic fires to a grandfather’s face.

3. Hugo: The first few reels (those gears; those pipes; the city so close you could reach out and feel its pulse) are so marvelously dense and rich they’re practically retraining you to see in a new way. Which I suspect is pretty close to Scorsese’s personal definition of cinema to begin with.

4. A Dangerous Method: In the past (Spider, Crash) Cronenberg has flung sperm at the camera; here he’s captured by the silky gleam of hymenal blood. Which is less feminism than a sign things have forever changed. A chronicle of dangerous plagues coming to ravage the 20th century: as new as Freud’s talking cure, as ancient as anti-Semitism.

5. Certified Copy: I’d always found something monstrous in Kiarostami’s serenity, a hint of disinterest so profound he could find driftwood as fascinating as people. This study of flowing identities, both playful and devastating, corrects my misapprehension; it’s the drift itself that captivates him, and how we’re all dragged along by the surf.

6. Take Shelter: The first great horror film of post-prosperity America, where job insecurity and HMOs and government therapists fuel the nightmare no less than the claps of thunder or the ominous skies. Almost the polar opposite—in style, in effect—from Nichols and Shannon’s previous collaboration; which suggests they’re capable of anything.

7. Mysteries of Lisbon: The best joke of the year is how the final revealed history in Ruiz’s delightful rebuff to stately period dramas bears no relation to the first, but was entirely dependant upon it all the same. One last labyrinth from the master, the paths this time laid out in human lives.

8. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo: Fincher’s breakneck pace has assumed a frictionless confidence that gives you a heady, almost comic charge to see. Which might seem entirely the wrong tone here, but brings a much-needed fleetness to the exposition while making the horrors ever more jarring.

9. Contagion: Its narrative propelled so breathtakingly by the actors plenty and Martinez’s score, Contagion’s emotional heft can be overlooked. But this is a shattering argument for grief as our overwhelming commonality, and a lovely salute to those brave enough to suit up against it when needed.

10. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy: So guarded and chill you barely notice its beating heart. Till it surges, and wrecks nearly everyone forced to live lives so rigorously, ruthlessly compartmentalized.

Kathleen Murphy

(as posted on MSN Movies)
1. Melancholia
2. The Artist
3. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
4. A Dangerous Method
5. The Tree of Life
6. Certified Copy
7. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
8. The Descendants
9. Drive
10. Meek’s Cutoff

See also MSN essay on A Dangerous Method

Richard T. Jameson

My list submitted to MSN.com on Dec. 9 could just as well have had some of these titles on it. In some cases their omission was chiefly a matter of my not having got round to a second viewing that likely would have put paid to any reservations I harbor. Worthy films all, and enough of them to make the year a better one than it felt like from week to week, month to month. Order here is random:

Melancholia
The Tree of Life
Le quattro volte
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
A Separation
Of Gods and Men
Midnight in Paris
Carnage
Stake Land / Small Town Murder Songs

Midnight in Paris is the only one I hadn’t seen by Dec. 9.  Still haven’t seen Poetry, Mysteries of Lisbon, Film Socialisme, The Road to Nowhere….

See also list on MSN, and essay on Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy

Robert Horton

(as listed at The Herald)
1. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
2. Certified Copy
3. Melancholia
4. A Dangerous Mind
5. Meek’s Cutoff
6. Drive
7. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Remember His Past Lives
8. Poetry
9. Into Eternity
10. The Descendents / Le Havre

See also his list at indieWIRE

John Hartl

Not necessarily the best movie of 2011, but certainly the one that most memorably captured the pervasive sense that the planet is going to hell, was Jeff Nichols’s hauntingly ambiguous doomsday drama, Take Shelter. Michael Shannon gave another of his Cassandra-like performances as a distraught family man who has apocalyptic visions that may or may not be tied to reality. Duncan Jones’ Source Code used its Groundhog Day plot to imagine another kind of catastrophic future. J.C. Chandor’s brilliantly cast Wall Street tale, Margin Call, fictionalized the Lehmann Brothers disaster into a showdown between casually wicked Jeremy Irons and the only slightly less evil Kevin Spacey. John Sayles went back to the turn of the last century to reveal another form of duplicity in Amigo, his best work in years. Lu Chuan’s City of Life and Death transformed the 1937-1938 Nanking massacre into an astonishingly reflective drama. Andrew Haigh’s Weekend used Brief Encounter as the inspiration for an affecting gay love story, while Chris Weitz’s A Better Life lifted the plot for The Bicycle Thief and set it in East Los Angeles. Alexander Payne’s The Descendants deftly transformed its Hawaiian setting into something less than paradise. Among the year’s most provocative documentaries were James Marsh’s Project Nim, about a chimpanzee raised (and sometimes enraged) by humans, and Kenneth Bowser’s carefully researched Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune, about the epoch-defining 1960s singer whose ambitious activism was ultimately overwhelmed by his self-destructiveness.

A Second 10: Arthur Christmas, The Artist, Incendies, Moneyball, Hugo, Beginners, Vito, Le Havre, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, and about two-thirds of The Tree of Life.

Award-winning movies that have yet to be shown in Seattle: The Iron Lady, A Separation, Carnage, Pariah, We Need to Talk About Kevin, Margaret, Coriolanus.

Sean Axmaker

The first three films could swap spots without much anxiety on my part. In the arbitrary, often shifting border between aesthetic principle and personal appreciation, I choose to honor the passing of Raul Ruiz and favor my predilection for labyrinthine storytelling and cinematic weaves of character and narrative across time and space, which Ruiz accomplishes with such grace and beauty I find myself in awe of his art and his insight into human nature and the contradictions that define us.

Three of the films on my list I first saw in 2010, and I construct this list without having seen two films which, by all accounts, are among the year’s best: Margaret, which did not screen in Seattle and which did not play as the film festivals I attended, and A Separation, which screened for critics opposite an end-of-the-year deadline. The rest of the choices and absences are all on me.

1. Mysteries of Lisbon (Raul Ruiz)
2. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
3. Certified Copy (Abbas Kiarostami)
4. Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt)
5. Poetry (Lee Chang-dong)
6. The Descendents (Alexander Payne)
7. Take Shelter (Jeff Nichols)
8. Le quattro volte (Michelangelo Frammartino)
9. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick)
10. Hugo (Martin Scorsese)

Ten More (in alphabetical order): The Artist (Michel Hazanavicius), A Dangerous Method (David Cronenberg), Drive (Nicolas Winding Refn), Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki), Melancholia (Lars von Trier), Of Gods and Men (Xavier Beauvais), The Princess Of Montpensier (Bertrand Tavernier), Road to Nowhere (Monte Hellman), The Skin I Live In (Pedro Almodovar), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (Tomas Alfredson)

I also very much appreciated a year of smart, well-crafted and clever genre films – Attack the Block (Joe Cornish), Limitless (Neil Burger), Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Rupert Wyatt), Source Code (Duncan Jones), Stake Land (Jim Mickle) – and one marvelous mess of a personal project: Sucker Punch (Zack Snyder).

See also lists on the MSN and Village Voice polls and essay on Certified Copy, plus a uniquely Seattle-centric survey of Top Ten cinematic events for Seattle Weekly.

Plus…

Video: 2011 Film Critics Wrap at the Frye (Robert Horton, Jim Emerson, Kathleen Murphy, Andrew Wright)
Audio: Robert Horton, Richard T. Jameson and Kathleen Murphy discuss the movies of 2011 on KUOW.
Village Voice / LA Weekly Film Poll
indieWIRE Critics Survey
Movie City News Top Ten List compilations
BFI 2011 Critics Poll
Senses of Cinema 2011 World Poll
Best Movie Posters of 2011 (Adrian Curry)
Last year’s lists: Parallax View’s Best of 2010
David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson’s Top Ten films of 1921
and the 25 Films chosen for the National Film Registry in 2011

The Best of 2011 on MSN

MSN Movies published its annual Best of the Year poll this week, featuring Top Ten lists from thirteen MSN writers including a trio of Parallax View contributors: Richard T. Jameson, Kathleen Murphy and Sean Axmaker. The rest of the line-up isn’t too shabby either: Jim Emerson, Don Kaye, Glenn Kenny, Kim Morgan, Mary Pols, James Rocchi, Glenn Whipp and out editor, Dave McCoy.

'The Tree of Life'

It’s the first published Top Ten List from most of us (the individual lists are collected here and here) and deadlines being what they, they were made before at least some of us were able to see some of the most talked about releases set for release before the end of the year (to qualify for the Academy Awards). Given that, it turned out to be such a strong year that there was no shortage of films to vie for spots on the lists.

MSN’s gallery-style feature begins here with an introduction by Glenn Kenny and continues with essays on the top ten films by the contributing critics. Jim Emerson comments on the list on Scanners here and Glenn Kenny muses on the project at Some Came Running here, while Richard Jameson reflects on the ritual of lists at Straight Shooting here.

Here are clips from the individual essays (in my laziness, I’m borrowing the editorial acumen of Emerson’s feature on Scanners).

10. “Meek’s Cutoff” (Kelly Reichardt) by James Rocchi:

“This has the big vistas and open spaces of a classic Western, to be sure (it’s even shot in the pre-widescreen Western aspect ratio we know from John Ford films and a thousand other classics), but it also has a rare sense of time as an element of composition: You’re pulled into the rhythm of the trek, slow and steady and terrified.”

9. “Hugo” (Martin Scorsese) by Glenn Kenny:

“While this film is first and foremost a fairy tale, it is still at heart a quintessential Scorsese story of lonely people and the worlds they make for themselves. Only here the invented worlds, works of imagination, are benign, and actually end up reaching out to the other characters and bringing them together.”

'The Artist'

8. “The Artist” (Michel Hazanavicius) by Mary Pols:

“The film is a study of hubris and fear, but mostly, of the easy refuge found in artificiality, the very definition of most contemporary filmmaking. No scene stands out more than a series of takes from George’s silent ‘A German Affair,’ where he dances with Peppy. In one take they flirt, in another they giggle, and finally, as they try to be serious, something real blooms. George, undone, must leave the set….”

7. “A Dangerous Method” (David Cronenberg) by Kat Murphy:

“Do 2011’s end-of-days movies signal some collective anxiety? Electrified by energy and intelligence, David Cronenberg’s ‘A Dangerous Method’ also chronicles end-times, the halcyon era when Freud, Jung, et al., brought the unconscious to light even as the dark seeds of two world wars were germinating. ‘Method’ marks the rise of killer ideas; revolutionary theories skitter like hungry termites behind the film’s perfectly composed interiors and idyllic landscapes. There’s evident strain between civilized surfaces and the dangerous new work of defining madness. For Cronenberg, ideas aren’t dry abstractions; they’re as disturbingly alive, as wildly subversive as those phallic phages in ‘They Came From Within.'”

6. “Certified Copy” (Abbas Kiarostami) by Sean Axmaker:

“You could describe ‘Certified Copy,’ his first production made outside of the borders of Iran, as the cinematic equivalent of a Picasso cubist portrait, presenting multiple experiences along the timeline of a relationship in a single day. The breathtaking tectonic shift is all the more impressive by the subtlety and slyness of the transition, played out in long takes and the easy rhythms of Kiarostami’s heightened naturalism. He has a way of turning the details of his environment into evocative images: The river of sky reflecting across a car windshield illustrates the gulf between Binoche and Shimell, and a parade of hopeful young newlyweds and stooped old married couples continue their life story by proxy.”

5. “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy” (Tomas Alfredson) by Richard T. Jameson:

“Early in ‘Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,’ veteran cold warrior and abruptly retired spy George Smiley (Gary Oldman, magnificent) stares across his sitting room at a painting. The screen is vast, the painting tiny; we can make out only a pattern of frames within frames, one of them as red as a wound. Director Tomas Alfredson ‘s credit appears over the shot, making it seem a mite insistent as an abstraction of impenetrably enigmatic John le Carré world and an assertion of stylistic principle. The movie often has us watching people watching through frames — windows, doorways, ironwork — and being themselves watched; sometimes they furtively cherish the mutual recognition. Yet Alfredson’s signature shot isn’t just a viewing instruction….”

'Uncle Boonmee'

4. “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) by Jim Emerson:

“The mythological terrain here is as personal to Apichatpong as ‘Tree of Life”s is to Terrence Malick. You might recognize characters (or names) from his earlier pictures (‘Tropical Malady,’ ‘Syndromes and a Century). And you can read about some of the how the film became (at some stage in its gestation) part of a larger multimedia installation/exhibition called Primitive; or how he envisioned it as a six-reel film shot in six different styles (from Thai horror movie to European art film), but all that is really incidental to the experience you have while watching and interpreting the film yourself. While it unfolds before you, it is, to borrow the title of another Apichatpong movie, blissfully yours.”

3. “The Descendants” (Alexander Payne) by Don Kaye:

“A number of major movies this year were about looking into the past and attempting to find some sort of solace or meaning there, creatively, personally or otherwise. But as Woody Allen revealed in his ‘Midnight in Paris,’ our view of the past is often distorted by our own desires, and things weren’t truly any better then than they are now. That’s why there’s not a whole lot of emotional truth in a simple homage. But there’s a ton of it in ‘The Descendants,’ which is ultimately about taking one’s eyes off the rearview mirror and peering into the future.”

2. “The Tree of Life” (Terrence Malick) by Glenn Whipp:

“There’s beauty, poetry, tyranny, death. There’s the birth of the universe. There are dinosaurs! Why dinosaurs? Short answer: (Again) Why not? Long answer: Perhaps Malick is reminding us that the creatures that once held dominion over the Earth no longer exist. Could the same fate befall their successors? Or maybe that little moment of grace where the big lizard spares its sickly cousin shows a way of avoiding that destiny. Again, it’s all about the questions, and Malick gives you enough to chew on here that you could return repeatedly to ‘Tree’ for years to come, knowing (and savoring) that your experience will be different each time you watch it.”

1. “Melancholia” (Lars Von Trier) by Kim Morgan:

“Von Trier, a sufferer himself, sincerely understands depression (just as he understood anxiety in ‘Antichrist’), which may be why he maddens many. Weaving himself into his characters, he’s sadistic, masochist, empathetic, self-obsessed, morbid and morbidly funny and then honest and honestly confused. With ‘Melancholia’ he grants depressives a gift….”

Parallax View’s Best of 2010

Welcome 2011 with one last look back at the best releases of 2010, as seen by the contributors to Parallax View.

Sean Axmaker

1. Carlos
2. Let Me In
3. The Social Network
4. White Material
5. Winter’s Bone
6. The Ghost Writer
7. Wild Grass
8. Eccentricities Of A Blond Haired Girl
9. Sweetgrass
10. Our Beloved Month of August

Runners up: Amer, The American, Alamar, Black Swan, Inception, Red Riding Trilogy, Somewhere, Vengeance

Best festival films I saw in 2010 without a 2010 theatrical release: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, Poetry, Mysteries Of Lisbon

Best Unreleased film of 2007 finally getting an American release in 2010 (but still feels like a film from another era): Secret Sunshine

Most Impressive Resurrection/Restoration/Real Director’s Cut: Metropolis

Also see lists at MSN here and the Village Voice / LA Weekly poll. And the Best of DVD / Blu-ray 2010 is on Parallax View here.

David Coursen

A splendid year, in both quality and quantity.   These were all shown for the first time in the Washington, DC area in 2010.

The best film is a tie:
Certified Copy-Kiarostami
Carlos-Assayas

The next seven, in roughly descending order:
A Prophet-Jacques Audiard
Somewhere-Coppola
The Social Network-Fincher
The Ghost Writer-Polanski
The Strange Case of Angelica-Oliviera
Red Riding Trilogy-in total, with James Marsh’s 1980 segment putting it on the list
The Kids are Alright-Cholodenko

And for the final entry, a pairing I couldn’t resist:
Police, Adjective-Poromboiu
Winter’s Bone-Debra Granik

John Hartl

Truth proved far stranger than fiction in many of 2010’s best films. My favorite was Craig Ferguson’s devastating documentary, Inside Job, which painstakingly demonstrates just how our economy was hijacked by greed and ideology. In Roman Polanski’s Ghost Writer, Pierce Brosnan gives a career-best performance as a politician clearly based on Tony Blair. In Doug Liman’s Fair Game, Naomi Watts is equally persuasive as Valerie Plame Wilson, a vulnerable spy whose marriage is nearly demolished in a political feud. James Franco wins this year’s versatility award for convincingly reincarnating two exceptionally different people: Allen Ginsberg in Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s underrated Howl and a carefree rock climber in Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. Jesse Eisenberg deftly captures the drive and insecurities of Facebook’s billionaire chief, Mark Zuckerberg, in David Fincher’s The Social Network. The shameless wartime exploitation of the late Pat Tillman’s heroism is the focus of Amir Bar-Lev’s The Tillman Story, an excellent documentary that goes behind the headlines to suggest the personal extent of that loss. Jim Carrey’s excesses are tapped and artfully used in I Love You Phillip Morris, Glenn Ficarra and John Requa’s mostly true comedy about a con artist who is locked away in prison, but for how long? More fictional, but still quite strange, are Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg, a brave portrait of a mid-life washout played by Ben Stiller, and Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine, with Michelle Williams and Ryan Gosling daring to play the walking wounded in an impossible marriage.

A second 10: The King’s Speech, Animal Kingdom, Cairo Time, Life During Wartime, Toy Story 3, Never Let Me Go, Shutter Island, Restrepo, Cell 211, Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work.

Robert Horton

1. A Prophet
2. Winter’s Bone
3. Four Lions
4. Sweetgrass
5. The Ghost Writer
6. Eccentricities of a Blond-Haired Girl
7. Mid-August Lunch
8. True Grit
9. The Kids Are All Right
10. Greenberg

See also indieWIRE here and Best and Worst lists at The Everett Herald.

Richard T. Jameson

In chronological order seen, but the first two have landed in the right place and there’s a non-chronological tie at 10.

The Ghost Writer
Winter’s Bone
Please Give
The Kids Are All Right
Un Prophète
The Social Network
Hereafter
Let Me In
Sweetgrass
The American / White Material / True Grit

See also lists at MSN and Queen Anne News.

Jay Kuehner

(as compiled for indieWIRE, originally published here)

1. Sweetgrass
2. White Material
3. Carlos
4. Everyone Else
5. The Strange Case of Angelica
6. Alamar
7. Change Nothing
8. Restrepo
9. The Anchorage
10. Daddy Longlegs

Kathleen Murphy

(as originally presented at the Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap)

1. The Ghost Writer
2. Winter’s Bone
3. Let Me In
4. Sweetgrass
5. A Prophet
6. The Social Network
7. Please Give
8. The Kids Are All Right
9. White Material
10. Black Swan

See also MSN here.

Andrew Wright

(as originally presented at the Frye Art Museum Critics Wrap)

1. A Prophet
2. Inception
3. True Grit
4. Red Riding Trilogy
5. Winter’s Bone
6. Hausu
7. The Ghost Writer
8. Four Lions
9. Greenberg
10. Let Me In

More lists:

Village Voice / LA Weekly Poll (and individual lists here)
indieWIRE Critics Survey
Movie City News list compilations (individual lists are here)
BFI 2010 Critics Poll

And the year in review from select publications in print and on the web

New York Times Year in Review
Los Angeles Times Year in Review
SF360 Top Ten Lists and Year in Film
The Onion AV Club
Slant Magazine
MSN Movies

Best DVD / Blu-ray of 2010

Best-of lists are by their nature subjective things, and even more so when it comes to DVD/Blu-ray. What makes a DVD release the “best”? The movie itself? The video and audio quality of the mastering and presentation? The supplements? Rarity of the title? Scope of the collection? Critical acclaim? Cult demand? Some inexplicable balance of some or all of these?

Well, I guess the latter is the closest we’ll come to quantifying the mysterious process, which is why rather than the usual Top Ten list, I’ve broken my picks into categories, so I can celebrate a box set achievement separately from a brilliant home video debut separately from a landmark restoration. Which is not to say this list is not run through with my own subjective judgments, simply that I have found my own way to spread the love around (including naming runners-up as my whims take me). I reviewed most (though not all) of these on various websites (including Parallax View) and have linked to these longer pieces wherever possible. And one last note: The picks are limited to American home video releases, simply because that’s my bailiwick and I haven’t the time or resources to explore the wealth of foreign releases that come out every year.

And for the 2010 release that I love most, allow me to present my…

DVD Release of the Year

Three Silent Classics by Josef Von Sternberg (Criterion)

Josef von Sternberg is the great stylist of the thirties, a Hollywood maverick with a taste for visual exoticism and baroque flourishes (which prompted David Thomson to dub him “the first poet of underground cinema”), but step back into his silent work and you’ll find a storyteller of unparalleled talent and one of the great directors of silent cinema.

Keep Reading

A Sort of 10-Best-Films-of-2009 List from My Niche

I’m not an adventurous filmgoer.

Meaning I’m very seldom in the house for a first-run Hollywood picture.

Rio Bravo - revived
Rio Bravo - revived

There’s generally a lag of a few years – during which a film acquires something of a reputation, or maybe I caught part on it on television – that I’ll check it out more fully.

And then – if it really makes an impression – look for a theatrical revival.

Such was the case – and to the credit of the Egyptian Theater here in the Seattle area – that I had the opportunity to catch up to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction at weekend midnight screenings.

The following pages of this cover file introduce the other four file uploads, plus other work samples through which I hope to persuade you to sponsor my plan for a stereoscopic three-dimensional news beat.

Then there are the films and filmmakers that I’ve admired maybe even back as far as when I was a little kid watching them on the late show.

And have always wanted to see in a theater at least once before I die.

So the best revivals of 2009 that I’ve seen, is the theme of my ten-best-films list.

Keep Reading

Moments out of Time 1999

[originally published in Film Comment Volume 36 Number 1, January/February 2000, reprinted by permission]

• The middle-aged Gerald (Alain Libolt) taking out his glasses to look at a photo of a woman who may become his wife—Eric Rohmer’s golden Autumn Tale

Richard Farnsworth and Sissy Spacek - "The Straight Story"
‘The Straight Story’

• One of those days it’s a minute away from snowing: the dancing bag, American Beauty

The Straight Story: Alvin (Richard Farnsworth) and Rose (Sissy Spacek) watching the lightning storm …

• Slow-motion bullet trajectories and time-lapse clouds, Three Kings

• The first time John Malkovich realizes he is speaking with someone else’s voice—Being John Malkovich

• “You can’t always get what you want”: the far-flung group sing—excruciating and exhilarating—in Magnolia

• The blankness of Rosetta‘s face while she waits for her boyfriend to finish drowning…

• Red balloon sailing up a spiral stairwell, The Sixth Sense

• The queasy roll of a wooden Christ into underwater closeup, In Dreams

• In Boys Don’t Cry, Brandon (Hilary Swank) watching through the windshield as Lana (Chloe Sevigny) walks fluorescent-lit toward the convenience store. The clerk tells her, “Dream on, Lana, I can’t be sellin’ you no beer tonight,” and she replies, “Fine, I’ll browse.”…

• In Besieged, a cleaningwoman (Thandie Newton) hoovers a rug while her enraptured employer (David Thewlis) watches and noodles at the piano: art and love in the making…

The End of the Affair: Sound of door closing on a lower floor. Husband (Stephen Rea) says it’s the maid. Friend of the family (Ralph Fiennes), bent over a whisky glass: “No, it was Sarah’s step.” …

• A postlapsarian pietà—burnt-out ambulance driver Frank Pierce (Nicolas Cage) cradled in the arms of Mary Burke (Patricia Arquette): all that’s left after Bringing Out the Dead

Eyes Wide Shut: the hotel clerk (Alan Cumming)’s flirtation with, uh, Bill (Tom Cruise)…

• The courtroom shouting duel between the Mississippi prosecutor (Bruce McGill) and the tobacco company lawyer (Wings Hauser), The Insider

• In Topsy-Turvy, the wonderful formality and discretion and play of language of Gilbert’s “notes” after the dress rehearsal of The Mikado…

• Cartman’s Vegas finale to “Kyle’s Mom Is a Bitch,” South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

• Ichabod Crane’s journey up the Hudson River Valley in Sleepy Hollow: a haunted landscape straight out of Hawthorne and de Tocqueville …

• The bright-red door of the Burnham home, glowing through curtains of pouring rain: American Beauty‘s unreal estate, as seductive as Gatsby’s green light…

• Re: goggles in Three Kings: “Those are for night vision—they don’t work in the daytime.” “Yeah, they kinda work.”…

Beau Travail‘s “Billy Budd” (Grégoire Colin) staggers through a sea of blinding-white salt, all his beauty burning away in the sun…

• The practice duel between Keanu Reeves and his sensei (Laurence Fishburne) in The Matrix

• The ineffable Eugene Levy, American Pie‘s clueless, cardiganed dad, gamely striving for male bonhomie with his pastry-ravishing son…

• Mira Sorvino tasting someone else in her husband’s kiss, Summer of Sam

• “You!” On the stairs, in her husband’s embrace, Sarah (Julianne Moore)’s rapt face at the sight of her descending lover. The End of the Affair

• Sunlight haloing Magali (Béatrice Romand)’s wild thicket of hair: just one of many visual harvests in Autumn Tale

• An ice cream vendor (Isaach de Bankolé) and a samurai assassin (Forest Whitaker) watch a man building a boat on a New York rooftop—Ghost Dog….

• Reading, by campfire light, a terrible diary that was never written: Limbo

• Grainy, greenish home movie footage of Mr. Death in his basement, cheerily describing the 19th-century electric chair he’s restoring: “so small it looks like it was made for a child or a woman”…

Dogma‘s trenchcoated angel with a Cockney twang (Alan Rickman) remembering the pain of telling a carefree little kid he had to grow up to be Jesus…

• The sweet, shriven clarity of Lester Burnham’s/Kevin Spacey’s smile when he hears the news that his daughter lane is in love (“Good for her”) just before he becomes a casualty of American Beauty

The Green Mile: The Pet Sematary creepiness of a scruffy gray mouse asleep in a cigar box, its l00-year-old heart laboring on…

• An elderly retainer greeting tainted P.I. Nicolas Cage at the mansion door—”Mrs. Matthews chose to take her life this afternoon”—his dignity and self-contained grief an oasis in the deeply unclean 8MM

• A couple of broken-backed fingers sticking out of the gravel beside a roofed-over railroad line in The Bone Collector

• On the move in a screen-filling landscape, a car driven by a serial killer threads down a curving highway while a girl from Ireland—potential prey—trudges wearily off in another direction: fate and potentiality in Felicia’s Journey….

• In longshot, Connie (Stephen Rea) sprawls in an easychair, his Lolita (Sarah Polley) lying full-length across his lap, his hand inside her open jeans … a poignantly erotic vignette in Guinevere

• On a California beach, under an unforgiving sun, a fortysomething lady in a bathing suit flirts with a hunky younger guy: Susan Sarandon acts her age with such brave pride you wish she was Anywhere But Here….

• One-o’clock-in-the-morning kitchen chat between pipe-smoking Southern matriarch (Patricia Neal) and her black caretaker and friend (Charles S. Dutton)—Cookie’s Fortune

• Weeping Ed Norton burying himself in Meat Loaf’s great breasts in Fight Club

• “Respect the cock!”—Tom Cruise’s Mick Jagger strut/rant in praise of macho piggery, Magnolia

• In Go, Manny—deep into Xstasy—hallucinates a passionate macarena in a supermarket with a yellow-uniformed cashier….

• Lester and Ricky (Wes Bentley) toking up against the back wall of the country club, American Beauty

• In The Sixth Sense, a kid shrink (Bruce Willis)’s suitable case for treatment (Haley Joel Osment) turns back, sadly, after their first meeting, in a church pew: “I’ll be seeing you again, won’t I?”…

• “That movie has warped my fragile little mind!” Eric Cartman telling it like it is, South Park

• Beach Boys blare—”I Get Around”—as a clutch of U.S. soldiers careen through a sunbaked Iraqi desert, Three Kings

Double Jeopardy: the car sinking below them ‘as federal marshal (Tommy Lee Jones) and escapee (Ashley Judd) swim up toward ‘the surface of Puget Sound…

The Muse: the long trek across the Universal lot by “crawl-on” Albert Brooks, bound for a meeting with the wrong Spielberg (Steven Wright as cousin Stan)…

Mickey Blue Eyes: Sotheby’s-style art auctioneer Hugh Grant is obliged to announce the new offering painted by one of his gangland associates, “Die Piggy Piggy Die Die”….

• The sudden Morricone shriek of “spaghetti Western” music when Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) sights a rival in Election

American Pie: Checking out the Internet action between Jim (Jason Biggs) and the foreign exchange student (Shannon Elizabeth), one of many onlookers remarks, “That guy’s in my trig class.”…

• The beginning of The Straight Story: the camera frames a little white Iowa bungalow, very slowly edges rightward to register a larger setting, then penetrate a zone of shadow beside the house. The movement’s disquieting, mysterious, drawing us into as-yet-unknown narrative territory (Twin Peaks? Lumberton? Bedford Falls?) where Something Is Going to Happen….

• Every conversation in Autumn Tale, but especially one concerning the nature of love, in which a blooming girl accuses her smitten philosophy prof of “thriving on ambiguity”: she might be speaking of the author of this exquisitely civilized conte.

• Cigarette smoke billowing out of the apartment—stuffed with dolls—of a child-abusing mother, in The Third Miracle

• Hair and blood and aquarium water pooling in a hallway, Bringing Out the Dead

• Denis Lavant jazz-dancing up and down a room with black floor and mirrored walls: Beau Travail‘s caterpillar uncocooned…

• An open window framing the abrupt absence of a fallen soul in Dreamlife of Angels

• “Happy anniversary.” The Sixth Sense

Mr. Death‘s face: flat, ordinary, familiar … Dr. Mengele as Mr. Potatohead…

• An exquisite courtesan (Gong Li) horribly blighting her own beauty in The Emperor and the Assassin

• The way Lester walks down the table and picks up the asparagus, American Beauty

• A flood of milk in the desert, Three Kings

• Her newly hacked-off head rolling across the room, a mother’s eyes come to rest over a crack in the floorboards—and stare straight at her son in hiding: a freakish (and forgotten-about) interlude in Sleepy Hollow

Princess Mononoke: a girlchild sucking tainted blood from a great white wolf … her mother …

• A new baby nurses the nub of a young war veteran’s finger, making good use of flesh sundered in battle: a vote for reunion in Ride with the Devil

• Up close and personal in Romance: a newborn’s Yoda-like face thrusting out of its mother’s vagina…

Rosetta eats a hardboiled egg while waiting to die … then interrupts her suicide to trudge matter-of-factly across the trailer park to buy another canister of gas….

• A freckled little girl fashions earrings and “nail polish” from flower petals in The Silence….

• In a crowded restaurant, recognition shatters the face of Three Seasons‘ Vietnam vet (Harvey Keitel) who’s just given up a fruitless search for the daughter he left behind: she’s the whore fawning over a john, just a few patrons away….

• In Three Kings, the, weird rapport between Troy (Mark Wahlberg) and the young Iraqi torturer (Saïd Taghmaoui) who describes how his wife was maimed in an American bomb run: “That’s horrible!” … “Oh my god, buddy, I didn’t even tell you the horrible part yet.”…

The Iron Giant: “I am not a gun.”…

• Apples and high heels, In Dreams

Topsy-Turvy: Gilbert (Jim Broadbent) accosted by a harridan-whore in a claustrophobic passageway outside the Savoy Theatre during the first performance of The Mikado: down-and-dirty reality intrudes upon his world’s relentless artifice….

• In a late-night bar, putting the obligatory moves on a pretty young reporter (Mary McCormack), True Crime‘s aging womanizer (Clint Eastwood) looks as though he’s sleazed through this scene a thousand times….

• “Once at band camp I put my flute in my pussy”—Alyson Hannigan’s American Pie geek gets real….

• “I’m the Shoveler. I shovel well.” William H. Macy, Mystery Men

• “I’m in awe of you … I’d love to sit down with you some time and just pick your brain.” The precisely gauged cadences of Caroline Burnham (Annette Bening)’s sharky shrillness, gushing over the Real Estate King (Peter Gallagher) in .American Beauty

• “You can afford a house like this, you buy a house like this, you know”—Luis Guzman explaining L.A. to Terence Stamp, The Limey

• Samuel L. Jackson’s rah-rah rant cut shockingly (and satisfyingly) short in Deep Blue Sea

• “Smell the veggieburgers!”—Zack and his lover considering how to dispose of a young woman they may have killed, Go

• Perched on bars tools, an Oscar Wilde wannabe (Henry Gibson) and a onetime quizkid at the end of his tether (William H. Macy) zigzag through a conversation of monumentally ironic cross-purposes—Magnolia….

• Rehearsing a love scene for a play in Mansfield Park, two beautiful young women, “sisters” sharper in their ways than any man of their world, begin to edge into sensual rapport…

• An Amazon raises her rifle against a mythic stag in Princess Mononoke: “I will show you how to kill a god”…

Cradle Will Rock: the jackhammered wall, a great scar where Diego Rivera’s mural used to be…

• Maxine (Catherine Keener)’s crisp white blouse, Being John Malkovich

• Tony Soprano (James Gandolfini) telling .his shrink (Lorraine Bracco) she has a laugh “like a mandolin,” The Sopranos

• The wallpaper in the hotel room where Wigand (Russell Crowe) goes to ground, The Insider

• Nighttown in Ghost Dog: A black samurai slides through wasteland streets, cocooned by luxury car and Wu Tang Clan…

• A degraded earth mother squatting in her filthy subterranean hole in The Thirteenth Warrior

• The sculpted planes of Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio’s face as she kisses off a lover in Limbo—one of the band members backing her—with a haunting country-blues ballad, “Better off without you in my life”…

• In Guinevere, Jean Smart’s bravura performance as a killer mother who takes aim at her daughter’s happiness, verbally castrating Harper’s aging lover and unsexing her child with surgical precision…

• “When I was your age I lived in a duplex!” For Caroline Burnham, a look back into hell—American Beauty

Holy Smoke!: Back in Australia after her earthshaking Indian epiphany, solemn Ruth (Kate Winslet) takes one look at her best girlfriends and regresses instantly into a squealing teen harboring a bigtime crush .

• Pvt. Vig (Spike Jonze) matter-of-factly pauses, in mid-attack on an Iraqi bunker, to remote-lock the beeping luxury car he’s just parked. Three Kings

• “I just thought that’s what guys do around here”: Brandon Teena explains his happy participation in the risky redneck rite of bumper-skiing, Boys Don’t Cry….

• On the run in snowy. woods, a black devil with sharp teeth (Christopher Walken) ssssshhhhhes two angels in pink organdy—one of whom deliberately snaps

a stick. A Sleepy Hollow flashback…

• Walpurgisnacht, In Dreams: a children’s performance of Snow White in an outdoors thrumming with demonic vibes…

• Bellied up to a Midwestern bar, two old men swap tales of decades-old wartime guilt: The Straight Story….

The Limey: Congratulated by his young companion on having been part of “the Sixties,” Peter Fonda starts (to leave the room, then turns back long enough to emend: “Actually, it was mostly 1966 … and the early part of ’67.”…

• The profound pity that suffuses the face of the “goddamn mute orphan halfwit” (Samantha Morton) in Sweet and Lowdown when she lets Emmet Ray (Sean Penn) know she’s married and a mother…

• Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) hanging out with a couple of “suave motherfuckers”—strangers on a train in Dogma

• A handsome gray cat perches on the back of a couch to stare (into the camera) at one of Go‘s seriously stoned adventurers. Subtitle: “I can hear your thoughts.”…

South Park: Bill Gates summarily executed for Windows 98…

• A golden American übermensch sprawled in artful abandon on a Riviera chaise lounge, The Talented Mr. Ripley‘s Dickie Greenleaf (Jude Law) proves F. Scott Fitzgerald’s contention that “the rich are very different from us.”…

• “It flows through me like rain”: The late Lester Burnham savors his life, the tenderness of his imagery a perfect measure of the look and feel of American Beauty‘s climactic weather ….

• Closeup of a pulsing vein in Galoup’s/Denis Lavant’s arm, Beau Travail‘s measure of a soul in extremis…

• The sweet nakedness of brown feet on flagstones: Thandie Newton on her way to Thewlis’s bedroom, Besieged

• “I’m ready to communicate with you now” … grownup formality from a little boy who’s been to hell and back, The Sixth Sense

• Troy Barlow phones home in Three Kings….

• W.S. Gilbert’s shuttered face as he sits on the edge of his wife’s bed and listens to her idea for a new comic opera, about a woman’s life with a Topsy-Turvy husband who has no genius for love: “Every time she tries to be born, he strangles her with her umbilical cord.”…

• Dr. Lester (Orson Bean)· insistently apologizing for his incoherent speech even though he sounds perfectly lucid—Being John Malkovich

The Third Miracle: a priest (Ed Harris) and the earthy daughter of a saint (Anne Heche) slow-dancing over her mother’s grave…

• The wind of God exploding through a window—Neil Jordan’s signature in The End of the Affair

Three Kings: From a worm’s-eye view in the foreground, we watch a blue truck, tipped over on its side, its driver staring out the shattered window, plowing inexorably toward us and the spikes of a land mine….

• Dancing with her husband at her daughter’s wedding party, Isabelle (Marie Rivière) turns suddenly grave, mirroring our sense, at the end of Autumn Tale, of lost summers and winters to come…

• “I’m great.”—Lester Burnham/Kevin Spacey, American Beauty. Yes!…

RTJ/KAM