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 2020 was one of our own, fellow film critic and good friend Tom Keogh, who passed away from 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 Robert Horton, by Tom Keogh, Film Reviews, remembrance

In Memoriam: Tom Keogh

On September 28, 2021, the Seattle film community (and many other communities) lost a mainstay in Tom Keogh, and I lost my closest friend. Tom wore different hats in his life, but his interest in movies and his passion for writing about them was a constant.

I am sure I will write and talk about Tom many times in the future, but I thought it would be good to let him speak in his own voice. Thus we are re-printing a piece Tom wrote for The Informer, the monthly newsletter of the Seattle Film Society, in November 1984. This in itself was a kind of memorial: Truffaut had just died, and I wanted to do a tribute in The Informer. So I published a program note I’d written about Jules and Jim, and Tom wrote this piece on The Wild Child, which the SFS has just screened on a bill with Truffaut’s short, Les mistons.

I thought the piece, which begins with an adolescent memory, marked a turning point in Tom’s writing. I believe Tom did too. Some of his obsessions are here, and his communion with cinema, and his strong feeling for childhood. This piece is insightful on a particular film, but it also shows you a writer – which is what good film writing does. I hope it helps you appreciate our friend. (Thanks to Marni Wiebe-Keogh and Kevin Keogh for their blessing and the photo of Tom.) – Robert Horton

‘The Wild Child’

The Wild Child

by Tom Keogh

In the relations between artist and critic, everything takes place in terms of power, and curiously, the critic never loses sight of the fact that in the power relationship he is the weaker even if he tries to hide the fact with an aggressive tone; while the artist constantly loses sight of his metaphysical supremacy. The artist’s lack of perspective can be attributed to emotionalism, sensitivity (or sentimentality), and certainly to the more or less powerful dose of paranoia that seems to be his lot.

When I was a critic, I thought that a successful film had simultaneously to express an idea of the world and an idea of cinema; La règle du jeu and Citizen Kane corresponded to this definition perfectly. Today, I demand that a film express with the joy of making cinema or the agony of making cinema. I am not interested in those films that do not pulse.

–Francois Truffaut, “What Do Critics Dream About?

Seventeen years ago, I was a fat, morbid Catholic schoolkid in dreamland, sitting politely in a rented movie theater in Honolulu with a thousand other Catholic schoolkids who were, largely, running amok and having a better time than me for it. Why I was missing my freshman English that day and even (shudder) mixing with girls for this, I didn’t know. Then a local priest, popular with kids for his gentleness and slightly maverick reputation, walked slowly in front of the screen and quieted everyone.

“This is an experiment,” he said. “I asked your schools to let you be here for something new. I want you to really look at this movie today. Look for symbols, especially Christ symbols. See if you can understand why the hero is a Christ symbol. Then go back to your schools and talk about it.”

I looked. It was the first time I really looked at a movie at all: On the Waterfront. Afterward, I sensed there was more to talk about than how many times Marlon Brando fell and rose again, unaided, Christ-like, before wobbling all the way to the dock and redeeming the lifeless workers, but it didn’t matter. “Christ symbols” gave me a strange way to read a movie, but I got the idea I could do better. There was something living in the film, and now, between coming out of the closet about loving rock and roll (the anti-Christ in grade school; a valuable teaching tool in high school) and a desire to see more films, I had something to do with myself. Enter Francois Truffaut.

Read More “In Memoriam: Tom Keogh”
Posted in: by Bruce Reid, Contributors, Essays, Obituary / Remembrance, remembrance

How do you not find that hilarious? Celebrating Jerry Lewis

Take it from experience: one of the first questions asked of any Jerry Lewis fan who declares his admiration is, “Do you really find him funny?” The question isn’t as confrontational as it seems; read generously, there’s even a bit of a back-handed compliment in there. Sure, he’s an interesting case study in American celebrity, worthy of attention; the acknowledgement that, depending on the age and viewing habits of the interlocuter, he gave surprisingly supple, moving dramatic turns in The King of Comedy, Wiseguy, Funny Bones; and all right, he made you laugh as a kid. But now? Funny?

Well, I really do and always have. Lewis’s reaction to calamity—the spasmodic efforts at extraction, interspersed by rounds of disturbing calm, building to the burst of apoplectic frenzy that proves as futile as any other measure tried—is as iconic and hilarious as Keaton’s unperturbed fatalism or Groucho’s peevish snipes. Lazy impersonations of Lewis focus on the mania and miss those pauses the perfectionist, preternaturally gifted physical comedian would lace into his bits. A random limb swiftly raised then replaced just as quickly, the intention realized as useless almost the instant it’s conceived; the trailing-off sentence fragments and swallowed coughs, a need to articulate the dilemma strangled by the pointlessness (or impossibility?) of the effort; the childlike defensive stance, crouched so his butt sticks out and face juts forward, and cautious tread—more a single legged-pivot with, somehow, forward momentum—around the problem; the hand briefly cradling the brow beginning to seethe. It’s a magnificent collection of cancelled gestures and never-stated oaths, as if even Lewis’s frustration was being frustrated. And then—and only then, snarky shouters of nasal freundlavens should note—the explosion.

Read More “How do you not find that hilarious? Celebrating Jerry Lewis”

Posted in: by Sheila Benson, Contributors, remembrance

The remarkable Mr. Champlin

It’s rare that you can say that one person changed the trajectory of your life, and for the better. Charles Champlin, who changed mine in every way, died on Sunday. He was 88, and at the end he had Alzheimer’s but the earlier deviltry was that in 1999, he’d developed age-related macular degeneration that left him legally blind.

Charles Champlin, 1979

That must have been purgatory for someone whose life had been the graceful  consideration of books and films, films and books. As the writer that he was, above all else, he wrote about his AMD too, in a sliver of a book, “My Friend, You Are Legally Blind.” Purportedly, it’s about ways to get the better of the disease; it’s really a look at lifelong gallantry.

The persona that Champlin presented to the world: a man foursquare as the aviator glasses that became his trademark, wasn’t all of him, not by a Hammondsport mile. The essential Champlin who could shift among a half-dozen settings and arrive intact and unruffled at each one, was compound-complex.  He’d have to be; he was functioning as an editor, an essayist, a critic, most certainly a teacher, a lecturer, a sometimes author and a card-carrying devotee of the hurly-burly of Cannes. And, somewhere in all that, he and his extraordinary wife Peggy were raising a family of six.

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