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: 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: 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.”

Read More “Me and My Gal”
Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews, Jean-Luc Godard

Sauve qui peut (la vie) – Jean-Luc Godard begins again

[Originally published in The Weekly, March 11, 1981]

A conversation early in the new film by Jean-Luc Godard:
“Is it a novel, this project you’re working on?”
“No, but maybe it could be.”
“Maybe it should be a new type of serial—how things really are.”
“It wouldn’t work around here.”

The thing about Godard movies is, he’s always talking to us. Talking to us about himself, talking to us about us, talking to us about talking to us. We don’t think about this all the time because movies are seductive, even movies that work to be analytical and disjunctive and Brechtian, and we get drawn along by the beauty of the images and the movement of things via 24 still pictures per second. But every once in a while we snap into recognition that we’re on the other end of a cinematic conversation.

Like that moment in Band of Outsiders (1964), a wacky, funny-sad romantic comedy about three young Parisians who like gangster movies and musicals, and decide they’re going to rob an isolated mansion where one of them, the girl, works. Except of course the movie dithers around a lot while they take English lessons and do a solemn softshoe in a juke bar and break the world’s speed record for touring the Louvre — and suddenly they’re on this train. The girl starts to sing a love song that turns into a ballad of loneliness. The screen fills with luminous nocturnal images of the city, streets, windows, pedestrians, the long glowworm of the train sliding toward the suburbs. Then the girl is onscreen again and she looks right into the camera and sings the last line of the song, something like “My heart goes out to all of you,” and suddenly you feel as big as the night sky and as vulnerable as a newborn child. Part of it is that the whole movie has been building on this theme without getting explicit about it. Part of it is that the girl is beautiful and fragile and brave, and also Anna Karina, the director’s wife, who’s essentially looking at him the same time she’s looking at us. And part of it is that Karina is speaking for Godard, who could never make this declaration of love and caring in person, but makes it and means it, through her and through his glorious film.

Read More “Sauve qui peut (la vie) – Jean-Luc Godard begins again”
Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Essays, Jean-Luc Godard

Masculin-Féminin – Mapping All Over

[Originally published for the University of Washington Continuing Education Film Series, February 15, 1983]

It used to be complained of Jean-Luc Godard that his movies were all over the map. Masculin-Féminin (1966) suggests, better than any other single movie he’s made, that such complaints had it turned around. What Godard was really up to was mapping all over.

At a glance, Masculin-Féminin seems fragmented and arbitrary beyond any hope of yielding a coherent viewing experience, let alone a conventionally passive entertainment about some youthful Parisians during the mid-Sixties. Its subtitle proposes that the film will consist of “15 precise facts” (or “acts” — already precision begins to generate ambiguity), but determining the dividing lines among the 15 is problematical. Occasionally the director vouchsafes a chapter number, à la Vivre sa vie, but just when we might begin to feel cozy about this, “fait” number 4 gives way to 4A. Shortly thereafter, a numerical 7 is followed by the single, screen-filling word MAIS, which is followed in turn by a numeral 8: fait 7, it would appear, is one large “but”. Okay, sure, why not! And if the question still persists why, surely the answer is that this is Godard’s way of proposing that chapters, categories, the notion of precise and discrete facts/acts, are unreliable epistemological baggage we should do well to jettison. But in so proposing, he also knows that none of us, least of all Jean-Luc Godard, can forswear trying to make organized sense of the teeming phenomena around us.

Masculin-Féminin teems thrillingly. No other filmmaker has ever looked at streets, passersby, traffic, graffiti, the exultantly grungy multifariousness of modern urban life, with such a sharp and hungry eye as Godard’s. Of course, all the French New Wavers played that game to some degree. A lot of the excitement and challenge of the nouvelle vague films had to do with their demonstration that anywhere could become a movie set and any life a movie. You live in these rooms, you work in that office, you go out at night to those cinemas and cafés? Then that is where your movie should happen. One of my favorite scenes in Masculin-Féminin is the one wherein Paul (Jean-Pierre Léaud) meets Madeleine (Chantal Goya) in a café for the purpose of proposing marriage. Godard shoots this whole desperate, can’t-get-started encounter in a single take that peregrinates up and down the length of the place, around and among tables and chairs, the camera and the couple ever seizing at new angles of approach. I’m sure Godard and cameraman Willy Kurant didn’t move a stick of furniture, but rather made the inefficient randomness of the environment part of the dynamics of the scene; the broken-field trajectories dictated by the ambient décor are as important to, and determinative of, the tenderly comic desperation of the action as the oddball characters Godard plants around the café to frustrate Paul’s design.

Read More “Masculin-Féminin – Mapping All Over”
Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Directors, Interviews

William Richert on ‘Winter Kills’

[Originally published in The Weekly, September 15-21, 1982]

Bill Richert and Tony Perkins were standing on top of the world when somebody cut the power. From this eyrie, banked by vast computers and embraced by a luminous diorama of the solar system, John Cerruti (Perkins) could monitor every salient fact on the face of the globe, catalogue it, and consider its implications for the financial and political future of the Keegan dynasty—the Kennedyesque family and megaconglomerate whose ins and outs define the texture of modern reality in Richard Condon’s dazzling novel Winter Kills. Richert had whipped this kaleidoscopic narrative into a fluid screenplay and was halfway through the process of realizing the film itself. But in the giddy orbits of other, less reliably monitored galaxies, the source money twinkled away. Now, on the soundstage floor far below, studio representatives with no sense of irony were killing the lights, shutting his picture down. It stayed shut down for a year and a half.

It’s been like that throughout the history of this brilliant film. The $6.5-million project was announced in 1976: a major production to be shot on locations round the globe, and literally all-star at every level. Jeff Bridges and John Huston headed a cast that also included Perkins, Richard Boone, Toshiro Mifune, Sterling Hayden, Eli Wallach, Dorothy Malone, Tomas Milian, Ralph Meeker, and an unbilled Elizabeth Taylor. The production designer was Hitchcock mainstay Robert Boyle; the cameraman, Vilmos Zsigmond. Maurice Jarre would compose the score. And the story! Just as Richard Condon had anticipated the assassination era with his Manchurian Candidate, so in Winter Kills had he supplied the perfect metaphor for life after Watergate—a surrealistic study of Power from an incestuous inside view, with lashings of assassination conspiracy arcana and roman à clef titillation. A more unlikely candidate for shelving would be hard to imagine.

Read More “William Richert on ‘Winter Kills’”
Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Film Reviews

Hard Eight

[Originally published in Film Comment, March-April 1997]

Black screen; the sound of a truck starting. Fade in on a drab morning, the parking lot of a roadside diner, and the truck itself, a long freighter that hauls itself into, across, and out of a Super-35 frame that, for one satisfying instant, it perfectly fills. As the engine roar recedes, a trenchcoated back looms in frame right, pauses a beat, then approaches the diner, camera following at elbow level. There is a young man seated on the ground near the diner entrance, head bowed, legs drawn up to his chest, like a fetus that has learned to sit up. The man in the trenchcoat stops and speaks to him—an older man’s voice: “Want a cup of coffee? Want a cigarette?” The young man takes his time looking up, as if he’d been somewhere else, and had already accepted that in that place he would never be spoken to again. He can see the man who’s standing over him; except for a blurred reflection in the nearby door, we still haven’t.

Gaston Monescu once observed that beginnings are always difficult. With movies, just the opposite is often true. The audience is eager to be caught up in something—a story, a vision, a mood—or they wouldn’t be there. It’s child’s play to turn on the engine; riding out the trip is hard. Hard Eight, Paul Thomas Anderson’s feature debut, has a classical beaut of a beginning. The better, rarer news is that, having confidently taken the wheel, Anderson never loses his grip or his way. Like its opening shot, Hard Eight keeps us wanting to see more, and is equally satisfying in the ways that it does and doesn’t permit that to happen.

Read More “Hard Eight”
Posted in: by David Coursen, by Richard T. Jameson, by Robert Horton, by Sean Axmaker, lists, remembrance

Parallax View’s Best of 2021

A belated welcome to 2022 with one last look back at the best releases of 2021.

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. For that reason, many of our regular contributors respectfully dropped out this year. For those of us who did participate, 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 2021 was one of our own, fellow film critic and good friend Tom Keogh, who passed away from long-term health issues.

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

Moira Macdonald (Seattle Times)

Favorite movies of 2021

My Favorite Movie of the Year: The Power of the Dog
The Movie That Gave Me the Most Joy: In the Heights
The Movie I Most Wished I Could Have Seen on the Big Screen: Passing
The Movie I’m Most Grateful to Have Seen on the Big Screen: Spider-Man: No Way Home
The Movie That Was Exactly What I Thought It Would Be, and I Loved It: The French Dispatch
The Movie That Wasn’t At All What I Thought It Would Be, and I Loved It: West Side Story
The Movie With the Most Glorious Fashion: Cruella

(originally published at Seattle Times)

Kodi Smit-McPhee and Benedict Cumberbatch in “The Power of the Dog.” Photo credit: Kirsty Griffin/Netflix

Richard T. Jameson

Back in 2017, the most riveting screen experience I had was season one of Mindhunter (David Fincher et al.) on Netflix. In 2021 it was another Netflix limited series, Mike Flanagan’s Midnight Mass, each of the seven episodes casting a spell all its own, mounting toward the extraordinary finale with its utterly unexpected swarm of conflicting emotions. Midnight Mass premiered in September. Most of the films on the Ten Best list and addenda came along later. And no, I haven’t seen Drive My Car.

1. The Lost Daughter
2. The Card Counter
3. The Power of the Dog
4. The Worst Person in the World
5. Licorice Pizza
6. Bergman Island
7. Titane
8. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn
9. Annette

I’ll forgo a tenth slot if I may salute Passing, The Last Duel, Don’t Look Up, Last Night in Soho, Dune (Part One), Red Rocket, and The Night House.

Robert Horton

1. What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? (Aleksander Koberidze, George/Germany)
2. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, USA)
3. Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
4. Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, USA/Australia/New Zealand etc.)
6. Herr Bachmann and His Class (Maria Speth, Germany)
7. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude, Romania)
8. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
9. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)

(originally published at The Seasoned Ticket)

Kathy Fennessy

1. Drive My Car (Ryūsuke Hamaguchi)
2. Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn (Radu Jude)
3. No Sudden Move (Steven Soderbergh)
4. The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes)
5. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion)
6. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson)
7. Pig (Michael Sarnoski)
8. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier)
9. Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman)
10. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader) 

(originally published at AndMoreAgain)

Oscar Isaac in ‘The Card Counter.’ Photo credit: Focus Features

David Coursen (Washington, D.C.)

10 Best
Procession (Robert Greene, US)
Swimming out Til the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhangke, China)
The Velvet Underground (Todd Haynes, U.S.)
The Woman Who Ran (Hong Sang-soo, S. Korea)
Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn/Uppercase Print (Radu Jade, Rumania)
Days (Tsai Ming-liang, Taiwan)
There is No Evil (Mohammad Rasoulof, Germany, Iran)
Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, NZ)
Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time (Lili Horvat, Hungary)
Drive My Car (Ryusuke Hamaguchi, Japan)

Honorable Mention:
Passing (Rebecca Hall, US)
You Will Die at Twenty (Amjad Abu Alala, Sudan)
Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)

Sean Axmaker

1. The Lost Daughter (Maggie Gyllenhall, US)
2. The Green Knight (David Lowery, US)
3. The Card Counter (Paul Schrader, US)
4. Spencer (Pablo Larrain, US/UK)
5. Drive My Car (Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, Japan)
6. The Worst Person in the World (Joachim Trier, Norway)
7. The Power of the Dog (Jane Campion, New Zealand)
8. Petite Maman (Céline Sciamma, France)
9. Quo Vadis, Aida (Jasmila Zbanic, Bosnia & Herzegovina)
10. Licorice Pizza (Paul Thomas Anderson, US)

Runners-up and honorable mentions: Bergman Island (Mia Hansen-Løve, France/Sweden), C’mon, C’mon (Mike Mills, US), A Hero (Asghar Farhadi, Iran/France), The Last Duel (Ridley Scott, US), Last Night in Soho (Edgar Wright, UK), Passing (Rebecca Hall, US), Pig (Michael Sarnoski, US), Shiva Baby (Emma Seligman, US), The Souvenir Part II (Joanna Hogg, UK), Titane (Julia Ducournau, France)

Surprises and joys:
Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (Josh Greenbaum) – a whimsical comedy played for utter absurdity that came along just when I needed a belly laugh.
Get Back (Peter Jackson) – an utterly immersive experience and an unexpectedly joyous exploration of creation and collaboration.

Dakota Johnson and Olivia Colman in “The Lost Daughter.” Photo credit: Yannis Drakoulidis/Netflix

The Seattle Film Critics Society will announce their 2021 awards on January 17.

Polls / Lists

Sight and Sound / BFI

Slant

Roger Ebert.com

Indiewire Critic’s Poll

Other lists

2021 additions to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell’s Ten Best Films of … 1931

Rotten Tomatoes Top-rated movies of 2021

Here’s the Parallax View list for 2020

Remembering those we lost in 2021

Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Television

TV: Lou Grant – hail

[Originally published in The Weekly, November 30, 1977]

He’s stacking frozen dinners in his shopping cart when he notices an attractive woman, fortyish, coming in out of the blank L.A. sun. She turns down another aisle; he decides he has to go to that part of the market too. She can’t quite reach a box on the top shelf; he gets it for her, gives an amiable no-sweat smile, cannily steers his cart elsewhere.

A minute later, he’s back beside her at the produce section. She smiles politely. He grabs an avocado and beams, “These are really great here!”

Her smile gets a little strained as she glances around the commonplace market: “Here?”

“California….”

He’s losing the moment. “The only trouble is, there’s too much for one person. No matter what ya do, that other half is gonna turn black”—his cowpie grin spreads wider in desperation—”and rotten“—things aren’t going quite the way he hoped—”and slimy!” She’s gone.

As anyone of taste and discernment must know, Lou Grant lost his job at the end of last TV season when he and Mary Richards and Murray Slaughter—everybody except Ted Baxter—got fired from the news department at WJM-TV, Minneapolis. It was The Mary Tyler Moore Show‘s unorthodox way of writing finis to itself after seven years as one of the most successful comedy series in the annals of the medium.

The MTM team wanted to quit while the show was still at top form—an admirable ambition, but one that threatened to leave a number of fine character actors at loose ends, and at least one splendidly ripened (far from rotten or slimy) character in syndicated limbo.

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Posted in: by Richard T. Jameson, Contributors, Television

TV: ‘Lou Grant’ farewell

[Originally published in The Weekly, July 7, 1982]

My wife just told me that Lou Grant is going to be on in Lou Grant‘s time slot this week. This is something new and different. It had looked as if CBS, not content with having cancelled one of the best dramatic series in television history, wouldn’t even let it die in its own bed: for the past few weeks, the 10pm Monday berth has been consecrated to pumping ratings life into a piece of dreck called Cagney and Lacey. Lou’s fans had begun to wonder whether they’d have a chance to bid him farewell.

Actually, part of me has always been getting ready to live with Lou Grant‘s cancellation. Fear of that eventuality brought me out of the closet in November 1977 to do my first television review. This terrific show had been on for about a month and hardly anyone I knew, people who ought to like and value it, was watching. (They didn’t know about it; it was on too late for a weeknight; “I only watch public television.”)

Quality in television scored one of its rare victories that season: Lou Grant survived despite slow-building ratings. On ABC or NBC it would have been chopped after thirteen weeks, if not sooner. But CBS had a tradition of nurturing distinguished slow starters (including The Mary Tyler Moore Show where Lou Grant, if not Lou Grant, had been born). The network remained patient. Critics spread the word and so did more and more regular folks. The show’s viewing strength grew. Come one miraculous week in the summer of ’78, a Lou Grant rerun copped number-one position in the Nielsens and Ed Asner beamed at us from the cover of People.

I breathed a sigh of relief along with Lou’s other fans, but remained apprehensive. That summer fluke aside (what else was there to watch that week?), the program’s numbers weren’t that great. Any time I happened to notice the weekly top 10, or even top 20, shows listed in TV Guide, Lou Grant wasn’t among them. Although it was being spoken of casually as a “hit,” and had begun to be treated like an institution, the possibility of permanency still seemed remote. A network can’t make big bucks off an only moderate hit, no matter how regularly it wins Emmys for its star (1978) or itself (1979).

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