Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Silent Cinema

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2024: Finding Clara Bow, Swashbuckling Restorations, & More

For over 25 years, the San Francisco Silent Film Festival called the Castro Theatre home. With the iconic theater now closed for a year-plus-long renovation, SFSFF has relocated to the Palace of Fine Arts Theatre, located in a beautiful park created for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition at the north edge of the Presidio. The auditorium, primarily a performance space, seats nearly a thousand and features a spacious foyer where passholders could visit and relax between shows (particularly useful on chilly weekends).

SFSFF prides itself on mixing landmark productions and audience favorites with rediscoveries, revelations, and rarities, often recently uncovered and restored. And for its 27th edition this year, the festival presented 20 features and six short films over five days, all with live musical scores by some of the finest silent film accompanists in the world.

The opening night film, Albert Parker’s 1926 swashbuckler The Black Pirate, certainly qualifies as both landmark and favorite. This rousing adventure, starring Douglas Fairbanks as the genial gentleman pirate, was shot on full-sized ships that give it a tremendous scope. It was also a groundbreaking experiment in Technicolor filmmaking, only the fourth feature shot entirely in color, and it was presented in a brand new restoration mastered from original camera negatives and a wealth of original archival prints. For the first time ever, the distinctive palette of the two-strip technology was accurately recreated for modern audiences.

Continue reading at Slant

Posted in: by David Coursen, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists

Parallax View’s Best of 2023

We welcome 2024 with one last look back at the best releases of 2023.

As most of us are no longer full-time critics, we haven’t had the same access to films as most film critics. Thus these are snapshots of what we have been able to see, and what impressed us over the last year. We’ve also invited a few old friends to join the group this year.

Also, among those we lost in 2023 was Bruce Reid, former film critic at The Stranger and longtime Parallax View partner, contributor, and friend.

Contributors listed in reverse alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted).

Jeffrey Overstreet

Looking Closer

Ten Favorite Films of 2023 (listed alphabetically)

Asteroid City
Barbie
The Boy and the Heron
Four Daughters
Fremont
May December
No Bears (released in Seattle in February 2023)
Showing Up
Society of the Snow
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar

Moira Macdonald

As listed at Seattle Times

Favorite Movies of 2023

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret
Barbie
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Maestro
Oppenheimer
Past Lives
Sam Now
Stop Making Sense
You Hurt My Feelings

And Moira’s movie highlights of 2022 (in rhyme) can be found here.

Lily Gladstone, Robert De Niro, and Leonardo DiCaprio in ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’ Photo credit: Apple Studios

Richard T. Jameson

Top ten in alphabetical order:

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt
All of Us Strangers
Anatomy of a Fall
Fallen Leaves
The Holdovers
Killers of the Flower Moon
Oppenheimer
Past Lives
Showing Up
The Zone of Interest

Not to scorn Ferrari, Saltburn, You Hurt My Feelings, Barbie, May December, American Fiction, Poor Things, John Wick: Chapter 4, Knock at the Cabin, Maestro, The Killer, Fingernails, Nyad

Robert Horton

As featured on The Crop Duster

Top Tier:
Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki)
Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt)
Pacifiction (Albert Serra)
All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson)
All of Us Strangers (Andrew Haigh)

Second Tier:
Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Trier)
Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)
A Thousand and One (A.V. Rockwell)
Tori and Lokita (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
The Zone of Interest (Jonathan Glazer)

Out of the 10, but Extremely Close Tier:
Walk Up (Hong Sang-soo), Maestro (Bradley Cooper), Asteroid City (Wes Anderson), The Holdovers (Alexander Payne), R.M.N. (Cristian Mungiu), Reality (Tina Satter)

Alma Pöysti and Jussi Vatanen in ‘Fallen Leaves.’ Photo credit: MUBI

Kathy Fennessy

As featured on Andmoreagain

Top 10 
1. Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt) 
2. Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismäki) 
3. Afire (Christian Petzold) 
4. A Thousand and One (A.V. Rockwell) 
5. The Holdovers (Alexander Payne) 
6. May December (Todd Haynes) 
7. Enys Men (Mark Jenkin) 
8. Rye Lane (Raine Allen-Miller) 
9. The Five Devils (Léa Mysius) 
10. Fremont (Babak Jalali) 

Runners-up 
11. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese) 
12. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan) 
13. Priscilla (Sofia Coppola) 
14. Barbie (Greta Gerwig) 
15. Asteroid City (Wes Anderson) 
16. Past Lives (Celine Song)
17. The Killer (David Fincher) 
18. All of Us Strangers (Andrew Haigh) 
19. Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet) 
20. Return to Seoul (Davy Chou) 

David Coursen

Films listed roughly in tiers

All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson)
Anselm (Wim Wenders)
Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)

The Master Gardener (Paul Schrader)
Saint Omer (Alice Diop)
No Bears (Jafar Panahi)
May December (Todd Haynes)

The Holdovers (Alexander Payne)
Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan)
Barbie (Greta Gerwig)

Honorable Mention: American Fiction (Cord Jefferson), Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt), Asteroid City (Wes Anderson), Turn Every Page (Lizzie Gottlieb), Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismaki), Strange Way of Life (Pedro Almodovar)

Dominic Sessa and Paul Giamatti in ‘The Holdovers.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

Dennis Cozzalio

Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule

Best: (But It Goes to 11…):
1. Past Lives (Celine Song)
2. Revoir Paris (Alice Winocour)
3. You Hurt My Feelings (Nicole Holofcener)
4. John Wick Chapter 4 (Chad Stahelski)
5. Carmen (Benjamin Millepied)
6. Godzilla Minus One (Takashi Yamazaki)
7. Anselm (Wim Wenders)
8. Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismaki)
9. Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret (Kelly Fremon Craig)
10. Infinity Pool (Brandon Cronenberg)
11. Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt)

Next Ten: Ferrari (Michael Mann), The Night Of The 12th (Dominik Moll), It Ain’t Over (Sean Mullin), Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan), No Hard Feelings (Gene Stupnitsky), Talk To Me (Danny Philippou, Michael Philippou), May December (Todd Haynes), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (James Gunn), Barbie (Greta Gerwig), M3gan (Gerard Johnstone)

Best Revival: Stop Making Sense (In IMAX) (1984) (Jonathan Demme)

The Worst (In Descending Order): Ant-Man And The Wasp: Quantumania (Peyton Reed), 80 For Brady (Kyle Marvin), Holy Spider (Ali Abbasi), The Exorcist: Believer (David Gordon Green), Asteroid City (Wes Anderson)

Still to See: Poor Things, American Fiction, Maestro, Napoleon, Monster, 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture

Sean Axmaker

Stream on Demand

1. All of Us Strangers (Andrew Haigh)
2. Perfect Days (Wim Wenders)
3. Killers of the Flower Moon (Martin Scorsese)
4. R.M.N. (Cristian Mungiu)
5. Poor Things (Yorgos Lanthimos)
6. Oppenheimer (Christopher Nolan)
7. Showing Up (Kelly Reichardt)
8. The Holdovers (Alexander Payne)
9. American Fiction (Cord Jefferson)
 10. Barbie (Greta Gerwig)

Ten honorable mentions (in alphabetical order): Afire (Christian Petzold), Anatomy of a Fall (Justine Triet), The Eight Mountains (Felix van Groeningen and Charlotte Vandermeersch), Fallen Leaves (Aki Kaurismaki), Fair Play (Chloe Domont), Maestro (Bradley Cooper), Origin (Ava DuVernay), Past Lives (Celine Song), A Thousand and One (V.A. Rockwell), You Hurt My Feelings (Nicole Holofcener)

Ten films that made filmgoing fun in 2023: Asteroid City (Wes Anderson), Bottoms (Emma Seligman), The Boy and the Heron (Hayao Miyazaki), Godzilla Minus One (Takashi Yamazaki), John Wick: Chapter 4 (Chad Stahelski), Lola (Andrew Legge), Polite Society (Nida Manzoor), Saltburn (Emerald Fennell), Spider-Man: Across the Spiderverse (Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, and Justin K. Thompson)

Andrew Haigh in ‘All of Us Strangers.’ Photo credit: Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

Polls / Lists

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant Magazine

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

Seattle Film Critics Society lists

The National Society of Film Critics awards

The Seattle Film Critics Society awards

The Online Film Critics Society awards

Other lists

2023 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson’s Ten Best Films of … 1933

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2023

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2022

Remembering those we lost in 2023

Posted in: Blu-ray, by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, DVD, Film Reviews

Meet the Americans: John Doe and George Clooney – DVDs of the Week

[originally published December 28, 2010]

Meet John Doe: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (VCI)

Frank Capra’s last feature before leaving Hollywood to contribute his filmmaking talents to the war effort is his most populist piece of social commentary, a cynical satire of a publicity stunt that turns into a popular political movement.

Barbara Stanwyck is equal parts street-smart spunk and ferocious ambition as Ann Mitchell, a newspaper columnist swept out with the rest of the staff when a new owner takes over and leaves a kiss-off piece that starts a ruckus, drives sales and puts her in a prime position to negotiate a new contract, providing she keeps delivering her voice-of-the-people. Gary Cooper is at his laconic, everyman best as former minor league pitcher Long John Willoughby, now a homeless, unemployed drifter hired to play the role of Ann’s fictional John Doe, the voice of the people whose “letters” she writes for the paper. He becomes the public voice, his lazy delivery, lanky body language and homespun spirit giving her words an authenticity that raises the depressed spirits of struggling Americans and sparks a spontaneous grass roots movement.

Read More “Meet the Americans: John Doe and George Clooney – DVDs of the Week”
Posted in: Film Reviews

“Un Conte De Noel” (“A Christmas Tale”): The Messy Joys of Family

[originally published November 20, 2008]

“We’re in the middle of a midst of a myth and I don’t know what myth it is.”
– Henri (Mathieu Amalric)

In the opening of Arnaud Desplechin’s Un Conte De Noel (A Christmas Tale), a wily and knotty and unendingly inventive drama of family dysfunction stirred up over a Christmas gathering, the story of the long-ago death of the family first born to leukemia is dramatized as shadow puppet theater. It’s tender and lovely and quite delicate, an evocative way to suggest the theatricality of memory and the blurring of detail over time.

Two and a half hours later, as eldest sister Elizabeth (Anne Consigny) sits at her desk putting her thoughts of family and fears and sins she can’t forgive into a diary in the final shots of the film, a photo of the that very shadow theater can be seen on her desk. It’s the final shot of the film and it echoes the opening images in a whisper. It doesn’t explain everything, and it may not explain anything, but it’s the kind of detail that connects imagery and meaning, memory and emotion, past and present, life and death.

The shadow of that death hovers over the film: in the cancer that family matron Junon (Catherine Deneuve) has been diagnosed with, in the fragility of her teenage grandson Paul (Emile Berling), and in the volatile sibling dynamics that drove eldest Elizabeth to, in effect, legally separate herself from her brother Henri (Mathieu Amalric, in a mesmerizingly manic-depressive performance).

“Henri is the disease,” Elizabeth tells us in one of the film’s direct address monologues, but perhaps the disease is in the blood – the same blood that killed Joseph at age six, the same that will eventually kill her mother (even with a bone marrow transplant, which will only give her a few more years – they have the mathematical formula to prove it!), and maybe the same that haunts her son, Paul. For whatever reasons, Paul seeks out his outcast Uncle Henri and invites him to the family Christmas from which he’s been banished for five years. It helps stir up quite a holiday nog, complete with a brutal little brawl and a bit of adultery that may come some way to smoothing over a few emotional rough patches.

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Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Contributors, Essays, Film Noir, Film Reviews

Stranger on the Third Floor: Notes on the First Film Noir

Film noir historians trace the roots back to the silent era and the full flowering to the war years, but most tend to agree that the first true American film noir came in the otherwise modest package of an ambitious B-movie crime thriller from 1940. Before the hard-boiled world of suspicious private eyes, double-crossing dames and a nocturnal urban jungle where deals and double-crosses are hatched with often fatal payoffs of The Maltese Falcon, and the slippery narrative and visual expressionism of Citizen Kane (an influence on the genre and a close relative if not actually a member of the immediate noir family), there was Stranger on the Third Floor, a paranoid murder thriller that, for all of its budgetary constraints, took viewers on a spiral of justified paranoia. This odyssey into the dark side of American life begins with the hopeless and helpless cries of innocence from a kid convicted of murder on circumstantial evidence and the apathy of a judge and jury (Elisha Cook Jr., soon to become a minor noir icon, delivers the appeals with a haunting plea and eyes watery with abject terror) and builds to a literal nightmare with images right out of the height of 1920 German Expressionist classics.

Plenty has been written about the nightmare sequence, which explodes out of the increasingly oppressive atmosphere created by director Boris Ingster and cinematographer Nicholas Musuraca (who became RKO’s house specialist for shadowy crime cinema and went on to shoot one of the greatest masterpieces of the genre, the sublime Out of the Past) and the guilty conscience of suddenly self-doubting newspaper reporter Mike Ward (John McGuire) as much as the paranoid twists of the Frank Partos’ screenplay. As many historians have written, the stylized sequence of stark settings created largely by massive shadows thrown across a blank canvas of a screen dressed with exaggerated props was the first American expression of this distinctly German style (which, coincidentally, had since fallen out of favor under the Third Reich’s control of the German film industry). 70 years and scores of stylized noir offers later, it is still impressive and effective and not just for its evocation of paranoid nightmare or psychological terror. This sequence effectively replays the ordeal that hapless Joe Briggs (Elisha Cook) endures in the opening act, but this time around with Mike—the star witness for the prosecution—in his position, grilled by the cops and marched off to execution in a resigned, lifeless lockstep shuffle that echoes the worker slaves of Metropolis.

Read More “Stranger on the Third Floor: Notes on the First Film Noir”
Posted in: by Sean Axmaker, Film Festivals, Silent Cinema

San Francisco Silent Film Festival 2023: One Last Silent Movie Party at the Castro Theatre?

The 26th San Francisco Silent Film Festival was another joyous gathering of silent cinema fans, historians, scholars, and all stripes of movie buffs. Launched in 1995, the festival has grown from a single-day event to—excluding two years of Covid shutdowns—an annual, five-day celebration. It’s about the movies, of course, and this year SFSFF presented 20 features and seven shorts. But it’s also about the silent movie experience. All shows were accompanied by live music, from solo piano to small combos to a 10-piece mini-orchestra for the closing-night event, playing both archival music and original scores, many composed for the screenings.

Allan Dwan’s The Iron Mask, from 1929, opened the festival with a bittersweet farewell to the silents. The film, the swashbuckling final silent feature to star Douglas Fairbanks, has added resonance for SFSFF audiences because of the legacy of the Castro Theatre, the festival’s home for its entire 26 years. The new owners of the movie palace in the heart of the Castro district have controversially chosen to remove the seats and level the floor to turn it into a concert venue, which would effectively end its suitability as a screening space.

In many ways, The Iron Mask’s selection was a fitting farewell, as Fairbanks’s older kind of hero is shaped by loss and disappointment but still driven by duty and honor and, of course, friendship, to fight the good fight one last time. The final images are at once joyous and melancholic, a celebration of what has been accomplished as the end comes.

Continue reading at Slant Magazine

You can also read the essays written for the festival program book at the SFSFF website here.

Posted in: by John Hartl, Commentary, Contributors, Essays, Science Fiction

‘Shrinking Man’ reputation grows

Written by John Hartl in 2011, reposted in conjunction with 2023 SIFF showing of the film in tribute to the legacy of Hartl.

The Incredible Shrinking Man screens at the Egyptian at 1:30 pm on Sunday, May 14.

It’s always gratifying when a favorite film is discovered—or rediscovered in a way that creates a fresh perspective .

Such is the case with 1957’s The Incredible Shrinking Man, which was enthusiastically received in its time but continues to grow in stature. Last year, it joined the National Film Registry of significant American films. In late August, it will be released by Universal as a single-disc DVD.

The latest reappraisal may have begun in 2005, when Time magazine’s Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel listed it as a top guilty pleasure and proposed that “it is long past time for a cult to form around its director, the late Jack Arnold, an efficient maker of B-pictures.” While similar 1950s films dealt with insects turning into monsters because of nuclear misadventures, Time pointed out that “this radical variation on that theme was (especially if you are a kid, eager to grow up, not down) scarier and more profound than the competitors.” Around the same time, Steven Spielberg, in a Turner Classic Movies special called Watch the Skies, singled out the film’s “message about not outer space but inner space, and about the soul and where does the soul go, and what is infinity? Is infinity out there or is infinity in here?”

Grant Williams in 'The Incredible Shrinking Man.' Photo credit: Universal Studios
Grant Williams in ‘The Incredible Shrinking Man’

Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide had always given three out of four stars to The Incredible Shrinking Man. But recently Maltin added half a star and included a mostly new write-up: “Intelligent, serious approach, exceptional special effects for the period, and a vigorous leading performance (by Grant Williams) result in a genuine sci-fi classic, unsurpassed by later attempts.”

For years, the movie had been carried on DVD by only one chain (Best Buy), which included it in a couple of DVD collections of 1950s sci-fi movies, some of them directed by Arnold. Even the new disc will apparently be a bare bones release. Surely a Criterion release is in order.

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Posted in: by David Coursen, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert C. Cumbow, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists

Parallax View’s Best of 2022

A belated welcome to 2023 with one last look back at the best releases of 2022.

As most of us are no longer full-time critics, and many other are understandably wary about seeing movies in theaters at the moment, we haven’t had the same access to films as most film critics. Thus these are snapshots of what we have been able to see, and what impressed us over the last year.

Also, among those we lost in 2022 were friends and fellow film critics John Hartl, whose love of cinema defined the Seattle Times film coverage for his 38 year-tenure as the paper’s head film critic, and Sheila Benson, who was (among other achievements) the chief film critic for the Los Angeles Times from 1981 to 1991 before moving north and making Seattle her home.

Contributors listed in reverse alphabetical orders. Films listed in preferential orders (unless otherwise noted).

Sean Axmaker

  1. EO (Poland, Jerzy Skolimowski)
  2. Women Talking (Sarah Polley)
  3. No Bears (Iran, Jafar Panahi)
  4. Everything Everywhere All at Once (Daniels, aka Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert)
  5. Tár (Todd Field)
  6. The Quiet Girl (Ireland, Colm Bairéad)
  7. Broker (South Korea, Hirokazu Koreeda)
  8. The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg)
  9. Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg)
  10. Athena (France, Romain Gavras)

Honorable mentions: All the Beauty and the Bloodshed (Laura Poitras), The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh), Decision to Leave (South Korea, Park Chan-wook), Kimi (Steven Soderbergh), Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Dean Fleischer-Camp), The Menu (Mark Mylod), The Outfit (Graham Moore), RRR (India, S.S. Rajamouli), She Said (Maria Schrader), Saint Omer (France, Alice Diop)

And these films made my year in viewing more fun: Barbarian (Zach Cregger), Catherine Called Birdy (Lena Dunham), Dead for a Dollar (Walter Hill), Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery (Rian Johnson), The Northman (Robert Eggers), Vengeance (B.J. Novak), X (Ti West)

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

Adjusted for inflation and in alphabetical order:

Top Tier:
Both Sides of the Blade (Claire Denis)
Holy Spider (Ali Abbasi)

Rest of the Best:
Ahed’s Knee (Nadav Lapid)
Ballad of a White Cow (Behtash Sanaeeha and Maryam Moqadam)
Benediction (Terrence Davies)
Boy from Heaven (Tarik Saleh)
Hero (Asghar Farhadi)
Hive (Blerta Basholli)
Hit the Road (Panah Panahi)
In Front of Your Face (Hong Sang-soo)
Master (Mariama Diallo)
Memoria (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)
R.M.N. (Cristian Mungiu)

Honorable Mention:
Armageddon Time (James Gray)
Happening (Audrey Diwan)
Nope (Jordan Peele)
Till (Chinone Chukwu)

‘Tár’ Photo credit: Florian Hoffmeister / Focus Features

Robert Cumbow

No “Top Ten” or “Best” lists for me again this year. As always I prefer to just note my favorites (and acknowledge my limitations):

FAVORITE FILMS OF 2022
Vengeance
Tár
The Outfit
Crimes of the Future
Dead for a Dollar

PROPS TO:
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All At Once
X
Barbarian
The Menu

APOLOGIES TO THESE THAT MIGHT MAKE THE LIST BUT I HAVEN’T SEEN THEM YET:
Blonde
The Fabelmans
Marcel the Shell with Shoes On
Elvis
Decision to Leave
Something in the Dirt

Kathy Fennessy

  1. EO (Jerzy Skolimowski) 
  2. Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook) 
  3. Benediction (Terence Davies) 
  4. Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg) 
  5. Lost Illusions (Xavier Giannoli) 
  6. Happening (Audrey Diwal) 
  7. Aftersun (Charlotte Wells) 
  8. X (Ti West) 
  9. Great Freedom (Sebastian Meise) 
  10. Compartment Number 6 (Juho Kuosmanen)
‘Crimes of the Future.’ Photo credit: Nikos Nikolopoulos / Serendipity Point Films

Robert Horton

Top tier:
Crimes of the Future (David Cronenberg).
Happening (Audrey Diwan).
The Eternal Daughter (Joanna Hogg).
Tár (Todd Field).

Second tier:
The Quiet Girl (Colm Bairéad).
The Banshees of Inisherin (Martin McDonagh).
Hit the Road (Panah Panahi).
In Front of Your Face (Hong Sang-soo).
EO (Jerzy Skolimowski).
Watcher (Chloe Okuno).

Third tier:
Utama (Alejandro Loayza Grisi).
The Fabelmans (Steven Spielberg).
Aftersun (Charlotte Wells).
Close (Lukas Dhont).
Three Minutes: A Lengthening (Bianca Stigter).
Murina (Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic).
Benediction (Terence Davies).

(originally published at The Seasoned Ticket)

Richard T. Jameson

The 2022 movie I regarded as the best for most of the year was Watcher, the debut feature of Chloe Okuno — a film of Hitchcockian intelligence with no need to strew Hitchcock hommages.

The movie that now claims top line of my list is Jerzy Skolimowski’s EO, the kind of film with the power to adjust the world.

The 2022 movies I love most are The Banshees of Inisherin, by Martin McDonagh, and Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans.

In alphabetical order, the remainder of my Ten Best are:
Broker (Hirokazu Kore-eda)
Dead for a Dollar (Walter Hill)
Decision to Leave (Park Chan-wook)
Happening (Audrey Diwan)
No Bears (Jafar Panahi)
Tár (Todd Field).

I also want to highlight the extraordinary beauty and power of Taylor Sheridan’s ten-part streaming series 1883.

Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times)

(in alphabetical order)
The Banshees of Inisherin
Everything Everywhere All at Once
Tár
Turning Red

(originally published at Seattle Times)

And Moira’s movie highlights of 2022 (in rhyme) can be found here.

‘The Fabelmans.’ Photo credit: Merie Weismiller Wallace / Universal Pictures and Amblin Entertainment

Polls / Lists

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant Magazine

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

The National Society of Film Critics awards

The Seattle Film Critics Society awards

The Online Film Critics Society awards

Other lists

2022 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson’s Ten Best Films of … 1932

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2022

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2021

Remembering those we lost in 2022

Posted in: Essays, Film Reviews

Skolimowski: “Deep End”

[Originally written for the University of Washington Office of Cinema Studies Film Series “Love and Death,” November 15, 1983]

The original poster: hair turns to blood, or maybe just red

Jerzy Skolimowski. The name does not come trippingly to the Anglo-Saxon tongue, but it’s worth fixing in mind all the same, for Skolimowski is one of the sharpest filmmakers now living. He doesn’t get to make a lot of films, and none that he’s made has won wide or conspicuous release. But every time I see one of his best moves—Barrier, Deep End, Moonlighting, much of The Shout—I come away exhilarated and a little awestruck at the nimbleness and suggestibility of his cinematic imagination. Few films are so quirkily, relentlessly alive. Few succeed so vividly in evoking a distinctive vision of life, in which the abstract and the concrete, the accidental and the poetically inevitable, trade off and reinvigorate one another as naturally as the heart pumps blood.

Blood is the first thing we see in Deep End. Or it may be red paint. Or it may simply be (as Jean-Luc Godard had it in Pierrot le fou) red. One of the moments I always think of first when I reflect back on this movie is a daftly barbed encounter between Sue and the bathhouse cashier. Sue drifts into the cashier’s vicinity and begins lazily to consume a milkshake. The cashier, an older woman, less attractive, more desperate, and weight-conscious, does her utmost to ignore the provocation; she glares without glaring. As so often in the film, the architecture of the scene is fraught with tension and definition. Sue moves to a bench across the corridor and eases down onto it; the cashier sits, half cut off from view, in her window. Hold this no-(wo)man’s-land composition a moment. Then this disembodied hand seems to reach out of the wall beyond the cashier and paint a hot red streak up and down the background. The explanation is perfectly rational: we have had ample opportunity to notice that the baths are undergoing a token cosmetic renovation, and in this case a painter has simply been working his way down the hall that intersects our focal corridor at the back of the shot. (He steps fully into view a few seconds later, a wholly anonymous, dramatically irrelevant personage.) Still, that first shock of red bursting against the otherwise bilious environment is at once profoundly unsettling and giddily satisfying. One wants to laugh and gasp in the same breath: laugh at the outrageous obtrusiveness of this stylistic comment, and gasp at how directly it speaks to the derangement of this deceptively prosaic world.

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Directors, Film Reviews, Raoul Walsh

Me and My Gal

[Originally published on Straight Shooting at Queen Anne News, September 30, 2012]

Ed. note: republished to mark its availability streaming on Criterion Channel this month.

Just a quick recommend, before it’s too late. One of my very favorite movies is making a rare TV appearance Monday, Oct. 1, at 5 p.m. West Coast time on Turner Classic Movies. To “very favorite” let me add an endorsement from an erstwhile colleague and friend, the late Donald Lyons. When, in the early 1990s, a New York City–area PBS station was about to show Me and My Gal as part of a package of rare Fox Films productions from the 1930s, I urged Donald to catch it. A few minutes after the telecast ended, he phoned to say, “You told me to be sure and watch Me and My Gal. You didn’t tell me it was one of the best movies ever made.”

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