Moments Out of Time 2018

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

* At the movies, Roma: German slapstick on screen in deep distance, a pair of lovers in closeup silhouette in left of frame, gray ranks of anonymous filmgoers in between. The space is familiar, auspicious, yet somehow fraught. Camera does not move, but things come undone….
* “I felt like I was Jacob wrestling all night long with the angel, fighting in the grasp. Every sentence, every question, every response a mortal struggle. It was exhilarating.” Rev. Toller (Ethan Hawke), First Reformed…
* Leave No Trace
: the myriad intonations and valences Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie can get into “Dad”…
* Pirandellian rewrite: At the outset of The Other Side of the Wind—begun 1970, completed 2018—Peter Bogdanovich speaks with old-age voice….
* The Death of Stalin: body tumbling down stairs in background as Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) makes his rounds…
* Hereditary: rooms that suggest dollhouse miniatures, and may be…
* Filial love in You Were Never Really Here: Joe’s honk honk honk mock hammering of Mom; Joaquin Phoenix and Judith Roberts
* The endless, obscuring, occasionally decapitating frames of civilization in Zama; maddening protocols and deflections…
* The Old Man and the Gun: Forrest/Robert Redford’s “yeah it’s for real” shrug after slipping note to bank teller…
* The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: the Wingless Thrush (Harry Melling) catching snowflakes in his mouth…
* Lisa (Regina Hall) almost falling asleep in the midday sun—Support the Girls…
* Widows: Dog in arms blinks as Veronica (Viola Davis) enters husband’s workshop….
* If Beale Street Could Talk: moving “furniture” in the loft…
* Bohemian Rhapsody: cats in window watching Freddie’s limo leave for the concert…
* Queen Anne (Olivia Colman) petting a rabbit while having her hair brushed—The Favourite…
* Michael Myers mask rising out of car trunk—Halloween…
* Border: yearning through windowglass—werewolves in love?…
* A Quiet Place: Creature that can’t see and one who can’t hear pass in the night….
* “Being dead” up on the roof, Roma…
* “Go for a cruise,” the horseman proposes, and his steed breaks into fluid glide, camera tracking right along. Brady Jandreau, The Rider

Brady Jandreau in ‘The Rider’

* “Shoot her before him and make sure he sees it.” Beria’s instructions for disposition of politically superfluous married couple—The Death of Stalin…
* Recurrently in First Reformed, the sound of footsteps on bare wooden floors. Such sense of place, community, ethos…
* Private Life punctiliousness: “The seltzer comes from one place, the syrup from somewhere else.”…
* Blake Lively to Anna Kendrick post-sudden-kiss, A Simple Favor: “You’re OK. You wanna order pizza?”…
* The Little Drummer Girl: in mid-interrogation, need 50p to turn lights on again…
* The Favourite: “Must the duck be here?”…
* Film freak: “I’m Marvin P. Fassbinder!” Jake Hannaford/John Huston: “Of course you are.” The Other Side of the Wind…
* Bad Times at the El Royale: Far across rainswept parking lot, Jon Hamm’s glasses reflect lightning….
* Small plane like a dragonfly over arctic waste, Hold the Dark
* November, an Estonian ghost story: flying skull carries cow over treetops…
* The reservoir and what might be in it—Burning…
* Dying man singing along to ambient music; his killer lying down beside him and joining in—You Were Never Really Here
* Hereditary: papers blowing out through backseat window just before … you know…
* Bird Box: Woman steps into blazing car and takes her seat….
* Les Affames/Ravenous: cow eating lawn along suburban street…
* Zama: squeak of native-operated wood fan behind ambiguous flirtation…
* Candles on railing of borrowed porch, Leave No Trace…
* BlacKkKlansman: Flip (Adam Driver) and other cops turning as they hear Ron (John David Washington) on the phone listing all the types of nonwhite Americans he hates…
* Motherhood is hard. “I am so sick of that face on your face!” Toni Collette, Hereditary…
* “So grandma only wanted their money, not me?” Could be, kid. Then again, what’s family anyway? Shoplifters…

Shoplifters

* Roma: Seriously stressed Galaxie pulls into frame below Aztec entablature….
* All the good doctors in Moscow having been liquidated, how to get medical assistance for Stalin? Khrushchev (Steve Buscemi) rationalizes: “If he recovers, then we got a good doctor, and if he doesn’t recover, then we didn’t, but he won’t know!” The Death of Stalin settles that….
* Night Eats the World: man contemplates suicide, nods off, accidentally discharges shotgun in his sleep….
* The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: creak of Leone windmill that isn’t there…
* Gray church, gray sky, gray dusk—First Reformed…
* The Old Man and the Gun: Forrest, horseback on hilltop, watching caravan of cop cars on road below…
* Torch-bearing riders spread into the night, The Favourite….
* Pact under red umbrella, If Beale Street Could Talk…
* “I can take fuckin’ up all day but I can’t take not trying”—Support the Girls values…
* The Sisters Brothers: riding through cemetery of discarded luggage on seashore…
* A scattering of rocks in a green graveyard: rough memorials for Border’s deformed dead…
* The Rider: Cat Clifford’s talking prayer by campfire…
* The food no one ever gets to eat in You Were Never Really Here, until someone does…
* “Kentucky Fried Chicken—in Kentucky! When’s that gonna happen?” Tony Lip (Viggo Mortensen) open to delight, Green Book…
* Llama kibitzes at dashing of Zama’s (Daniel Giménez Cacho) hopes…

Daniel Giménez Cacho in ‘Zama’

* Vigil in rain with two geese—Happy as Lazzaro…
*
The grandmother at the beach, setting about dying. The late Kirin Kiki, Shoplifters…
* John Carroll, Norman Foster, Tonio Selwart; shades tenderly at large in The Other Side of the Wind…
* Burning
: The bewitching Haemi (Jun Jong-seo) slips out of her shirt to dance in the warm light of a setting sun; two young men watch (Yoo Ah-in, Steven Yeun), curiously impassive….
* The towering blond distraction of Elizabeth Debicki, Widows…
* Kayli Carter’s misconstrued “OK,” Private Life. (Watch this young actress. And, to be sure, Thomasin McKenzie.)…
* The Favourite: Emma Stone’s imposing lexicon of sniffles, snorts, head wags…
* Zoe Kazan as Miss Longabaugh … Has Sarah Vowell seen The Ballad of Buster Scruggs?…
* Cabiria-like, the unsought power to balance on one foot: Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) at the martial arts field, Roma
* Night run through corn shocks, A Quiet Place…
* Leave No Trace: Truck driver (Art Hickman) who has to know he’s doing the right thing…
* The Armstrongs’ laughter at “kinda neat,” First Man…
* Touching the nose, A Star Is Born…
* Ants crawling over head as oblivious motorists drive past, Hereditary…
* Elder doctor pursued across white plaza, The Death of Stalin…
* Rooftop sleepwalk under full moon, November…
* The Quake: shattered skyscraper like a tyrannosaur profile…
* Nocturnal greeting from/to reindeer, Border…
* Cold Skin: mermen climbing down off lighthouse in first rays of sun…
* First Man: Pre-launch, bird flies past porthole….
* “You’re starting to harsh both of our mellows”—Sorry to Bother You…
* “You know you’ve missed me.” The return of Frank Underwood. Kevin Spacey on YouTube. OMG….
* Zama: coy menace of Vicuña Porto (Matheus Nachtergaele)…
* Ron’s karate-chop war dance in front of Records counter, BlacKkKlansman…
* The Old Man and the Gun: Tom Waits’s reminiscence about why he hates Christmas…
* Bad Times at the El Royale: Father Flynn (Jeff Bridges) and the right/wrong jukebox tune: “you’re just too good to be true”…
* The Ballad of Buster Scruggs: the Impresario (Liam Neeson) walking back from the gorge…
* “She died. Or maybe she didn’t die. Maybe she just moved back to the suburbs.“ Jack Hock (Richard E. Grant) can’t be expected to remember everything. Can You Ever Forgive Me?…

Melissa McCarthy and Richard E. Grant in ‘Can You Ever Forgive Me?’

* Eighth Grade: Dorky father (Josh Hamilton) wants to “say one thing.” She (Elsie Fisher): “Dad, this is more than one thing.” He: “It’s a chunk of things.”…
* “Same thing that’s wrong with you isn’t wrong with me”—Leave No Trace….
* Dog running out to chase truck, Les Affames/Ravenous. Life goes on, even in zombie apocalypse.
* The Favourite: hand job disquisition on realpolitik…
* Avengers: Infinity War: Dr. Strange saying douchebag…
* Brotherhood of the toothbrush—The Sisters Brothers…
* In Support the Girls, stormin’ Cubby (James LeGros) popped in stomach. Did not see that coming….
* Hold the Dark: Offered soup, sorely wounded Slone (Alexander Skarsgard) asks, “What kind?”…
* President Pierce’s accommodation to change, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
* Park Chan-wook’s red and green rooms, The Little Drummer Girl…
*
What rough beast sinks into the depths with its tender burden—You Were Never Really Here
* A Star Is Born: Ally’s final, hieratic closeup; Lady Gaga indeed…
* Wig? No wig? Sharon (Regina King) calculates her best approach in Puerto Rico. If Beale Street Could Talk
* “Has anybody got a Swiss Army knife?”—First Man…
* Somewhere Don Gabriel Figueroa smiles: in Roma, thundercloud light on cactus as mommy drives her family home from vacation….
* Schrader’s use of the classical 1.33:1 format in First Reformed: initially startling; effective at setting the tone of austerity; then disconcerting as, what, the whole film is going to be in this shape? Yes, and rightly so….

First Reformed

* Hulk towering darkly above parkway, bisecting Scope frame—You Were Never Really Here…
* Cliff fall without end—Happy as Lazzaro…
* Zama: ambush by red-painted phantoms amid the long grass…
* Outlaw King: apples rolling in the road under horses’ hooves…
* Molly Shannon murdering roast turkey, Private Life…
* Daniel Kaluuya, stone cold malevolence in Widows…
* “First time?” The Ballad of Buster Scruggs…
* Hereditary: house swallowed in night, silver tree trunks shining above…
* Atavistic thrill of that music coming on as Michael Meyers once again walks the streets of Haddonfield—but there’s still only one Halloween
* Border: smelling smartphone…
* Cellphone call among tombstones, First Reformed…
* Kid in hospital to fellow survivor of 22 July: “Cigarettes would be nice … except I don’t smoke.”…
* Hold the Dark: Vernon reclaiming cigarette from windowsill after killing rapist…
* Erramentari: torment by chick pea…
* Apostle: the silhouettes around “the purification”…
* Car painted pink by neon sign, Bad Times at the El Royale…
* Suicide in white lake amid white trees, November…
* Sarah (Golshifteh Farahani) appears to have won approval of zombie Alfred (a new frontier for Denis Lavant)—Night Eats the World….
* The Death of Stalin: breathtaking precision of comedic ensemble…
* Unsettling, unexpectedly heartbreaking memento mori: in The Favourite, Olivia Colman’s final closeup, the Queen’s voice the slurry growl of a stroke victim…
* “Cut” (The Other Side of the Wind). “Shantih Shantih Shantih” (Roma). Things Netflix didn’t want you bothered by…
* Apollo 1 mission: the two shots of the cockpit hatch—First Man…
* Ferocity of the Cheeon shootout, Hold the Dark (Julian Black Antelope as Cheeon)…
* Emily Blunt cocking a pump shotgun, A Quiet Place…

Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds in ‘A Quiet Place’

* Can You Ever Forgive Me?: Parting after dinner, the shy dynamics of Lee (Melissa McCarthy) and Anna (Dolly Wells) wordlessly wondering what this might lead to…
* Burning: The cat with no name has one….
* Queen passing offstage, leaving the screen to the vast crowd. Bohemian Rhapsody…
* You Were Never Really Here: suicide skip on the check. “Have a nice day.”…
* Profile, pirogue, endless carpet of green—Zama…
* Seahorse frond, Leave No Trace…
* “Whistle for him when you walk away, please”—The Rider….
* The Death of Stalin: furtive glances of the next men in line who suddenly, inexplicably, just avoided getting executed…
* The Ballad of Buster Scruggs reaches its destination, the prairie precursor of the Hotel Earle….
* Roma’s transcendent final shot. Stay for the last plane….

RTJ wishes to acknowledge the contributions of Kathleen Murphy to this year’s edition.

Copyright © 2019 Richard T. Jameson

Relive past “Moments” at Parallax View here…

Thomasin McKenzie and Ben Foster in ‘Leave No Trace’

Review: Cold War

I saw Cold War last summer at a film festival in Ukraine, where I was on an awards jury. When it concluded, I stood up and declared aloud to no one in particular, “We have just seen the winner of the next Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.”

Of course I didn’t actually do that. Who am I to stand up and make pronouncements in English in a Ukrainian movie theater? (But I did mutter it to myself.)

Cold War has all the attributes of a classic Oscar-winner in that category: It’s accessible; it’s serious but also deeply romantic; it’s got political overtones; and it’s gorgeous to look at.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Film Noir on Blu-ray: ‘Moonrise,’ ‘Gun Crazy,’ ‘No Orchids,’ and the restored ‘Man Who Cheated Himself’

The Man Who Cheated Himself (Flicker Alley, Blu-ray+DVD)
Moonrise (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)
Gun Crazy (Warner Archive, Blu-ray)
No Orchids for Miss Blandish (Kino, Blu-ray, DVD)

Flicker Alley

Lee J. Cobb takes the lead as Lt. Ed Cullen, a veteran Homicide detective in a secret affair with socialite Lois Frazer (Jane Wyatt) while she’s in the midst of a divorce, in The Man Who Cheated Himself (1950), an independently-made film noir shot on location in San Francisco. When she shoots her soon-to-be-ex-husband (in self-defense), Ed looks over the incriminating evidence and decides that a cover-up is in her best interest. When he’s assigned the case, all looks good, except that his rookie partner—his newlywed and newly promoted younger brother Andy (John Dall)—digs into the evidence and uncovers contradictions in the case, despite Ed’s efforts to nudge him in other directions. It’s a classic good cop gone bad set-up but Ed isn’t greedy or corrupt, merely protective of the woman he loves, which gets complicated because he’s equally protective of his kid brother determined to pull at every loose thread. Wyatt is an unlikely femme fatale, less cold-blooded than practical, but Cobb is excellent as the tough mug of a cop swayed by love and the two deliver a beautifully understated coda that sums up their relationship without a word, merely glances and body language that suggests a tenderness that still exists between them. Dall is the opposite as the bright and energetic rookie on the trail of his first big case, with wide grins and a twinkle in his eye.

Continue reading at Stream On Demand

Blu-ray Animation: Deluxe ‘Totoro’ and the complete ‘Batman’

My Neighbor Totoro: 30th Anniversary Edition (Shout! Factory, Blu-ray)
Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Warner Bros., Blu-ray)

Photo credit: GKids/Shout! Factory
GKids/Shout! Factory

Hayao Miyazaki is one of Japan’s living treasures, a beloved filmmaker whose animated films number among the most beautiful and most enchanting productions ever drawn by hand. In this day of CGI productions, the aging artists still personally draws his key frames and defining characters, with a love and craft that comes through every frame. They may seem old fashioned and perhaps too sweet for American audiences—his films, while loved by many, have never found the huge audiences that flock to the more knowing and culturally savvy Pixar films and Shrek sequels—but the lovely fables, epic adventures, ecologically-minded dramas and modern fairy tales are all treasures.

My Neighbor Totoro (Japan, 1988) was Miyazaki’s first genuine masterpiece and perhaps my favorite of Miyazaki’s films.

Continue reading at Stream On Demand

Noir Now Playing: 1983

The title of 1983, a murder mystery turned conspiracy thriller from writer/creator Joshua Long, is more than an oblique reference to George Orwell’s 1984. Set in a parallel 2003 where the Berlin Wall never fell and the Communist Party has a chokehold on Poland, this alternate history opens on the 20th anniversary of devastating terrorist attacks. The national myth of martyred victims murdered by resistance groups and the necessary guidance of a benevolent government is trotted out in ceremonies celebrating Polish resilience. Katejan (Maciej Musial), a fresh-faced law student orphaned by the attacks and raised on such propaganda, is jolted from his complacency after his mentor, a beloved judge with deep Party ties, posits an unexpected question in his oral exams: what if the attacks didn’t backfire at all? What if they accomplished exactly what they were supposed to? When the professor is murdered by one of his students, Katejan starts to question everything he believes.

Continue reading at Noir Now Playing at Film Noir Foundation

Parallax View’s Best of 2018

Welcome 2019 with one last look back at the best releases of 2018, as seen by the Parallax View contributors and friends and a few special invitations.

Sean Axmaker

1. First Reformed
2. The Rider
3. Roma
4. Leave No Trace
5. If Beale Street Could Talk
6. Private Life
7. Burning
8. BlackKkKlansman
9. Hereditary
10. Zama

A second ten (in alphabetical order): Annihilation, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Cold War, The Favourite, First Man, Happy as Lazzaro, Revenge, Shoplifters, Support the Girls, Suspiria

Cinematic achievement of 2018: the decades-in-the-making completion of Orson Welles’ The Other Side of the Wind, left incomplete at the time of his death.

First Reformed – Photo credit: A24

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

Best DC non-theatrical Premieres:
An Elephant Standing Still
Family Tour

Singular Blessing:
The Other Side of the Wind

And the 11 best of the rest, listed alphabetically
BlacKkKlansman
Black Panther
Claire’s Camera
First Reformed
Happy Hour
Loveless
Madeline’s Madeline
Private Life
Roma
Sorry to Bother You
Wormwood

The Other Side of the Wind
Peter Bogdanovich, John Huston in Orson Wells’ “The Other Side Of The Wind”

Robert C. Cumbow

The Top 10

(DisclaimerThe list of important 2018 films I have not yet seen is embarrassingly long—so many movies, so little time—and is included here for context: If Beale Street Could Talk; Roma; Black Panther; Transit; Other Side of the Wind; Can You Ever Forgive Me?; Eighth Grade; Mid-90s).

Of the ones I did see, the ones I enjoyed most:
First Reformed (Paul Schrader)
Hostiles (Scott Cooper; technically 2017 but released in Seattle—scantly—in 2018)
The Party (Sally Potter)
The Old Man and the Gun (David Patrick Lowrey)
The Endless (Aaron Moorehead & Justin Benson)
You Were Never Really Here (Lynne Ramsay; year’s best example of telling a story in sound design)
Isle of Dogs (Wes Anderson)
First Man (Damien Chazelle, whom I still don’t like, but I can’t deny how much this film affected me)
Green Book (Peter Farrelly)
Annihilation (Alex Garland)

A Little Respect (because it’s actually been a pretty good year for movies):
Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Coen Bros.)
The Mule (Clint Eastwood)
The Wife (Björn Runge)
Mary Queen of Scots (Josie Rourke)
The Favourite (Yorgos Lanthimos)
The Rider (Chloé Zhao)
Disobedience (Sebastián Lelio)
A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)
A Simple Favor (Paul Feig)
A Star Is Born (Bradley Cooper—a few things about this movie made me like it a lot more than I expected to, and persuaded me that Cooper has a directorial eye and instinct to be reckoned with)

2/3 of a Good Movie:
Vice
Hereditary
BlacKKKlansman

1/3 of a Good Movie:
Sorry to Bother You

Music:
Justin Hurwitz, First Man
Max Richter, Mary Queen of Scots

Too many great performances this year to list favorites, so I’ll just mention Cynthia Erivo, a compelling presence in Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale, whose name should be a household word by this time next year.

First Man – Photo credit: Universal Pictures

Jim Emerson

Favorites of 2018
1. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (Joel & Ethan Coen)
2. Roma (Alfonso Cuarón)
3. The Rider (Chloé Zhao) / The Sisters Brothers (Jacques Audiard)
4. If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins)
5. Leave No Trace (Debra Granik)
6. Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada)
7. Hereditary (Ari Aster)
8. Bird Box (Susanne Bier) / A Quiet Place (John Krasinski)
9. Eighth Grade (Bo Burnham) / Mid90s (Jonah Hill) / Minding the Gap (Bing Liu)
10. First Reformed (Paul Schrader)

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs – Photo credit: Netflix

John Hartl

1. Leave No Trace
2. First Reformed
3. Fair Game (director’s cut)
4. Springsteen on Broadway
5. Three Identical Strangers
6. Love, Gilda
7. The Death of Stalin
8. A Moment in the Reeds
9. Sorry to Bother You
10. Outside In

Also recommended: We the Animals, BlacKkKlansman, Return to Mount Kennedy, On Chesil Beach

Leave No Trace – Photo credit: SIFF

Robert Horton

(as published in the Seattle Weekly)

1. The Rider
2. Support the Girls
3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4. Lean on Pete
5. First Reformed
6. Roma
7. Hereditary
8. Zama
9. You Were Never Really Here and Leave No Trace
10. First Man

My Top 10 honorable mentions would have the slow-winding Korean gem Burning; the psychotropic Nicolas Cage thriller Mandy; Bo Burnham’s very funny coming-of-age tale Eighth Grade; the Melissa McCarthy film Can You Ever Forgive Me?, which is as much about loneliness as literary scandal; the cutting British comedy The Death of Stalin; the torrid black-and-white romance of Cold War (opens locally in January); Yorgos Lanthimos’s wicked comedy The Favourite; Hirokazu Kore-eda’s prizewinner Shoplifters; Alex Garland’s sci-fi puzzler Annihilation, with a strong Natalie Portman performance; and Charlize Theron’s postpartum workout in Tully.

Support the Girls – Photo credit: Magnolia Pictures

Richard T. Jameson

1. Roma
2. First Reformed
3. Leave No Trace
4-12 alphabetical:
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
Border
Burning
The Death of Stalin 
Hereditary 
If Beale Street Could Talk
The Rider
Shoplifters 
You Were Never Really Here 

Yalitza Aparicio in Roma – Photo credit: Carlos Somonte

Moira Macdonald

(as published in The Seattle Times)

In alphabetical order:
Black Panther
Can You Ever Forgive Me?
If Beale Street Could Talk
Mary Poppins Returns
Paddington 2
The Rider
Roma
Shoplifters
Widows
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

A splendid second 13: BlacKkKlansman, Crazy Rich Asians, Disobedience, Eighth Grade, The Favourite, Incredibles 2, Leaning Into the Wind: Andy Goldsworthy, Mission: Impossible — Fallout, Searching, A Star Is Born, Where Is Kyra?, Whitney, Wildlife

Shoplifters – Photo credit: Magnolia

Kathleen Murphy

Most Memorable Movies (2018)
1. Leave No Trace
2. First Reformed
3. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
4. Roma
5. Shoplifters
6. Burning
7. You Were Never Really Here
8. The Rider
9. Support the Girls
10. If Beale Street Could Talk
Documentary: Struggle: Life and Lost Art of Szukalski

Burning – Photo credit: Well Go

Amie Simon

1. Suspiria
2. Revenge
3. Apostle
4. Hereditary
5. Mandy
6. Sorry To Bother You
7. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
8. Eighth Grade
9. Love, Gilda
10. Black Panther

Hereditary – Photo credit: A24

Andrew Wright

1. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs
2. Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts
3. Hereditary
4. Paddington 2
5. You Were Never Really Here
6. First Reformed
7. Roma
8. The Rider
9. Mandy
10. Cold War

You Were Never Really Here – Photo credit: Alison Cohen Rosa/Amazon Studios

Filmmakers and film programmers

Brian Alter (programmer, Grand Illusion)

Best gut-punch ending: BlacKkKlansman
Best film about millennials: Never Goin’ Back
Most depressing film: First Reformed
Best weird film: Mandy
Favorite repertory screening: AGFA’s restoration of Godmonster of Indian Flats

Megan Griffiths (filmmaker, Sadie, The Night Stalker, Lucky Them)

You Were Never Really Here (d. Lynne Ramsey)
Eighth Grade (d. Bo Burnham)
The Rider (d. Chloé Zhao)
Minding the Gap (d. Bing Liu)
Destroyer (d. Karyn Kusama)
Roma (d. Alfonso Cuarón)
Madeline’s Madeline (d. Josephine Decker)
Outside In (d. Lynn Shelton)
Leave No Trace (d. Debra Granik)
Sorry To Bother You (d. Boots Riley)

Jennifer Roth (producer: The Wrestler, Black Swan, Laggies, Mudbound)

Cold War
Shoplifters
Zama
You Were Never Really Here
American Animals
Land of Steady Habits (self-promotion aside)
Can You Ever Forgive Me
Roma
Private Life
The Rider

The Seattle Film Critics Society gave their 2018 awards; you can find them here.

Cold War – Photo credit: Amazon Studios

Polls / Lists

Film Comment
Sight and Sound / BFI
Time Out London
Slant
Roger Ebert.com
Indiewire

Other lists

2018 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry
Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1928
Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2018
Here’s the Parallax View list for 2017

Remembering those we lost in 2018

Review: If Beale Street Could Talk

When you win the Best Picture Oscar, you’ve got a choice: play it safe or take a chance. Moonlight director Barry Jenkins obviously decided to gamble.

Jenkins’ follow-up to his intense 2016 prize-winner is If Beale Street Could Talk, a complex, offbeat adaptation of James Baldwin’s 1974 novel. The story revolves around Tish (wondrous newcomer KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephan James), two lovers who’ve known each other since childhood. As the film opens, Tish finds out she’s pregnant while Fonny languishes in prison—two situations we’ll eventually learn more about as the movie skips around in time.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Aquaman

At its most inspired moments, Aquaman plunges straight into the deep end—like when a giant octopus commences an undersea gladiatorial contest by rapping its tentacles across a collection of oversized drums, or when someone offers the movie’s villain a weapon that “converts water into beams of energized plasma.”

I mean, if a movie is going to be this wacky, you really should give in. And I wanted to.

The problem with Aquaman, the latest attempt by the DC Comics faction to match their rivals at Marvel, is that it never picks which wave to surf.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Mary Poppins Returns

The first soundtrack album I ever knew deeply was Mary Poppins, and of all the delightful songs from that movie, the one that really stirred my childhood self was the chimney sweep’s anthem, “Chim Chim Cher-ee.” It took me a few years to understand that songs in a minor key sound darker than songs in a major key, but even as a kid I sensed that something about that tune was slightly eerie—its philosophical mood gave ballast to the movie’s floatiness.

There’s nothing like that minor-key tone in the new Mary Poppins Returns, no waft of night magic to offset the cheerful candy colors. But otherwise this is a crisply executed and refreshingly old-fashioned musical, drawn again from P.L. Travers’ Poppins books.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

The new Spider-Man movie opens with an apology about being yet another Spider-Man movie, which pretty much sets the tone: This is a flip, oh-so-postmodern take on a franchise that won’t stop rebooting itself. An animated Marvel saga, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse tips its hat to the existing Spider-Man movie thread while introducing the idea that multiple universes hold different Spider-Men.

That convoluted concept must be fun for some people, because Into the Spider-Verse has been winning rave reviews (and a nod for Best Animated Film from the New York Film Critics). I’m not raving, but the film is certainly different.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: Return to Paradise

[Originally written for Amazon in 1998]

Set the wayback machine to 1998. Parallax View presents reviews of films released 20 years ago, written by our contributors for various papers and websites. Most of these have not been available for years.

In Malaysia, three young Americans with little else in common are united in a shared enthusiasm for beer, women, and righteous hashish. Eventually, “Sheriff” (Vince Vaughn) and Tony (David Conrad) head back to New York. Lewis (Joaquin Phoenix), a spacey but good-hearted sort, stays on with the notion of helping save the orangutans. Two years later, a brassy lawyer (Anne Heche) shows up in Manhattan with the news that her client, Lewis, has spent the interim in Penang prison. Arrested for a prankish misdemeanor they all shared in, he’s taking the rap for something worse:the dope stash they left him holding was a fatal few grams over the limit. Unless his fellow Americans return voluntarily to (literally) share the weight, in eight days Lewis will be hanged as a drug trafficker.

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Blu-ray: Orson Welles’ ‘The Magnificent Ambersons’ on Criterion

The Magnificent Ambersons (Criterion, Blu-ray, DVD)

How did it take so long for the sophomore feature from Orson Welles to finally get its Blu-ray debut?

I don’t need an answer, I’m just thrilled that it’s finally here, and in such a beautiful edition.

The Criterion Collection

The magnificence of The Magnificent Ambersons (1942) is apparent from the first frames of the film. Welles sketches a vivid, idealized portrait of American life in the late 19th century in a brilliant montage that sets the time, the place, and the culture in a series of postcard images and comic snapshots. While Welles narrates (in his glorious authorial voice with an understated warmth and familiarity) the changes in fashion through the years,the images introduce hopeful suitor Eugene Morgan (Joseph Cotten in his star-making performance) and disappointed heiress Isabel Amberson (Dolores Costello) and Welles effortlessly segues from exposition to story. The mix of silent movie-like compositions and imagery, striking montage, and radio drama narrative that introduces the world eases into a graceful, glorious long take that sweeps us into the “now” of the story: a ball at the Amberson Mansion, a place frozen in the past of those opening scenes, where social convention and grandeur are upheld for no reason other than tradition. It is beautiful, a portrait of wealth and culture out of touch with the world outside, and unconcerned with it. At its peril. Just as the fashions and conventions of society constantly evolved in those early montage sequences, so does industry and culture and life itself in the upheaval of progress in the 20th century.

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Review: Roma

The opening shot of Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma is a self-contained masterpiece—no surprise, considering the mind-boggling opening shots of Children of Men and Gravity, the Oscar-winning director’s two previous features. Here, our focus on a section of elegant floor tiles is interrupted by a wash of water that flows in waves across the floor, a mysterious image that turns out to be a housemaid washing up the exposed entryway at a Mexico City house, a favorite spot for the family dog to do its (apparently prodigious) pooping. As the water accumulates, the image changes, and we can now see the reflection of the sky above the entryway.

The water, the sky, the dog poop—everything will play a role in this intimate yet somehow epic film, which Cuarón has said is based on his childhood memories of Mexico in the early 1970s. 

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Review: ‘The Favourite’

Along with its other wicked attractions, The Favourite serves as a corrective to all those fluffy period movies where pretty costumes and set design function as the cinematic equivalent of a bubble bath. The art direction is plenty handsome here, too, and the film will likely collect a few Oscars for its physical production. But The Favourite uses its lavish backdrops in order to show off the nastiest sides of human behavior—this is a beautiful dinner spread with a rat as its centerpiece.

Continue reading at Seattle Weekly

Bernard Bertolucci’s ‘Partner’

[originally written for NoShame Films, August 27, 2005]

Our subject is primarily life, but if you feel that life’s missing something, steal a camera and try to give life a style.

Partner, Bernardo Bertolucci’s third feature film, has always been one of the most elusive of the director’s endeavors: a forthrightly experimental work—”a film that comes from the head,” in Bertolucci’s own phrase, “a totally deconstructed film”—that willfully declines to satisfy audiences’ conventional expectations regarding narrative and emotional identification with characters. Nominally based on the Dostoevsky novella The Double, the movie centers on—and largely transpires in the imagination of—a rather priggish young drama teacher in Rome played by Pierre Clémenti. Clémenti also plays the wilder, looser alter ego who begins to share the teacher’s life and, to an extent, identity; both go by the name of Giacobbe (or Jacob, in English-language commentaries).

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