Share your favorites with us!
1. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
The rest is in alphabetical order:
Barbara (Christian Petzold)
Beloved (Christophe Honoré)
The Deep Blue Sea (Terence Davies)
In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo)
Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
The Master (P.T. Anderson)
Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
Something in the Air (Olivier Assayas)
Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
Tess (Roman Polanski)
Special mention to Searching for Sugar Man for the (re) discovery of Rodriguez
Special repertory mentions to The Emigrants and The New Land (Jan Troell)
Best actor: Dennis Lavant, playing the multi-faceted Monsieur Oscar in Holy Motors
Best character on screen: the lifeguard in In Another Country
Best Claire Denis impersonation: Isabelle Huppert playing the French filmmakers in In Another Country
My top 11
This year I didn’t see many movies, especially ones that were shown outside of my workplace. This list reflects this sad fact.
1. Il Sorpasso by Dino Risi at Film Forum as part of the Trintignant retro. It affected me deeply for very personal reasons–tears welled, people! A revelation.
2. Girlfriends by Claudia Weill as part of our Lena Dunham selex series. Ditto, but a weensie bit less. (That’s why it’s number two.) But it was still a revelation.
3. Reggae by Horace Ové as part of the reggae ting I and I did. You can find the blurb with my thoughts on our website. A revelation!
4. Merry Christmas by Jerome Hill, Anthology Film Archives co-founder. Part of our dysfunctional holiday series, screening in 16mm. A haunting mini-masterpiece in which painted spectres of Mary and Joseph on a donkey get turned away from the Algonquin Hotel. You can see it here.
5. Babylon by Franco Rosso, also part of said reggae series, starring Brinsley Forde, lead singer of Brit group Aswad and former child actor. Seriously deep and for such a “gritty” movie it looks truly stunning – ’twas shot by Oscar winning DP Chris Menges (his other work includes The Killing Fields and The Mission.) Stars notable reggae personalities Mikey Dread and Shaka and boasts a dreadest of the dread soundtrack by Dennis Bovell. Revel-I.
Introduced to me by Nellie Killian with the note “best movie of the year.” Revelation.
7. Rich Kids by Robert M. Young on Netflix streaming. Bad marriages in New York in the 70s have never looked this good and Trini Alvarado rules as does the poster. Revelation.
8. Hard Times - Walter Hill’s debut in a pristine ’Scope 35mm. Another revelation, albeit tawny colored.
9. Holy Motors at West Williamsburg’s reliably Euro indieScreen -- a great night. And a revelashe.
10. The Master in 70mm at the Village East from the mezzanine. Although there was a metal railing that I had to crane my neck over, it still was… a revelation.
11. Francine, by Cassidy & Shatzky. Minimal, beautiful, also ’Scope but in HD, from BAMcinemaFest. A…….. revelation.
2 notable mentions for “Headscratchers of the Year”
Zulawski’s On the Silver Globe -- kinda challenging to follow.
Garrel’s Le Berceau de Cristal -- not really challenging to follow.
Why aren’t Bernie, The Kid With a Bike, Moonrise Kingdom, Tabu, and This Is Not a Film on the list, you ask? Because I didn’t see any of ’em.
1. In the Family (Patrick Wang)
Sometimes a recognizably flesh-and-blood protagonist is all a movie needs to feel miraculous. This little-seen indie melodrama gets away with its fair share of clunky and amateurish moments by placing a beautifully calibrated, authentically human lead performance front and center. With an admirable lack of vanity, Patrick Wang casually upends clichés of gay and Asian American experience, raises painful questions about the line between dignity and passivity in the face of injustice, and locates something urgent, nonpartisan, even self-effacing at the tired old heart of identity politics.
This Is Not a Film (Jafar Panahi)
Walker (Tsai Ming-liang)
The Turin Horse (Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky)
Welcome to Pine Hill (Keith Miller)
Memories Look at Me (Song Fang)
Keep the Lights On (Ira Sachs)
GF*BF (Ya-che Yang)
The Long Day Closes (Film Forum)
Conan the Barbarian (BAMcinématek)
Son of Paleface (BAMcinématek)
The Ballad of Narayama (Film Society of Lincoln Center)
Hibiscus Town (Asia Society)
The Black Cat (Anthology Film Archives)
|The Walking Dead|
My main takeaway from this list is that I spend far too much of my life at BAM. Can someone please invite me out or something? Please note: I’ve been pretty terrible with my end-of-year viewing, so there are many films which might make this list if I took the time to watch them.
10. The Comedy, Dir. Rick Alverson (BAMcinemaFest 2012)
I laughed (nervously), I wept (although someone may have just poured a beer over my head), and I felt a discomfiting connection with Swanson, the main character in this movie. So, if you’ve seen The Comedy, you’ll know to avoid me as much as possible.
9. The Adventures of Prince Achmed, Dir. Lotte Reiniger (BAMcinemaFest 2012)
The earliest surviving animated silent film, this Aladdin tale is startlingly modern and colorful and the music by Erik Friedlander and members of 3epkano perfectly melded with the film’s magic and mystery. Plus, any time you have an audience full of children watching a 1920s silent film, that’s a major victory for cinephilia.
8. On the Silver Globe, Dir. Andrzej Zulawski (BAMcinématek, March 2012)
That scene of bloodied naked people perched on tall spikes on a desolate seashore still plagues my dreams.
7. Keep the Lights On, Dir. Ira Sachs
The best gay film since Andrew Haigh’s Weekend, sure, but also my favorite American independent film of the year and one of the best films about New York life in over a decade.
6. Elena, Dir. Andrei Zvyagintsev
Features my favorite final shot of any movie I’ve seen this year and my favorite performance, too, by Nadezhda Markina as Elena.
5. The Walking Dead Season 3 (My Sofa, October—December 2012)
After I’ve awarded it much patience over its first two seasons, this show has really just started to get interesting. In a rare trajectory for an Asian character on a major American TV show, Glenn has become a major badass.
4. The Kid with a Bike, Dir. Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne
The Dardennes don’t make bad movies, do they?
3. Four Nights of a Dreamer / L’Argent, Dir. Robert Bresson (BAMcinématek, April 2012)
Two Bresson adaptations of short stories by Russian literary titans (Dostoyevsky’s White Nights and Tolstoy’s The Forged Coupon, respectively). The entire Bresson retro was a revelation, but these two were my favorites.
2. The Emigrants / The New Land, Dir. Jan Troell (BAMcinématek, December 2012)
If only Criterion could find a way to release these. Though directed by a Swede in the early 1970s, these two are collectively the best film ever created about the “American dream” and the aspirations of those who emigrated here.
1. The Deep Blue Sea (BAMcinématek, March 2012) / The Long Day Closes, Dir. Terence Davies (Film Forum, March 2012)
In one of the highlights of my career at BAM, we welcomed Terence Davies here last March for The Deep Blue Sea. The key moment is when Davies ties together two distinct and devastating moments of time through two elegant, slowly spinning shots of a tangle of human limbs. Davies’ earlier work, The Long Day Closes, in my all-time top 10 list, ran for a week at Film Forum and this was my first time seeing it on the big screen (I had rented the VHS). After watching it and being moved to tears, I exited the theater and immediately went back in to watch it a second time. It was even more glorious on second viewing.
John Sayles on his adventures with Joe Dante in Hollywood after a screening of Bill Forsyth’s Breaking In during Anthology’s indispensable “From the Pen of…” series.
Seeing the color in Luther Price’s hand-painted films now that they can finally be shown without fear of inking up the projector, especially the crystal clear projection at this year’s Views from the Avant Garde and the slide projection at the Whitney Biennial.
The setpiece cinema of Leos Carax and Paul W. S. Anderson in Holy Motors and Resident Evil: Retribution 3D.
La Région centrale at Light Industry, though according to the intro by an apoplectic, sleepmask-clad Chantal Akerman, I really should have tried to see it at The Invisible Cinema in 1971.
MIA’s Bad Girls video
Two very different German serpent dances from Debra Paget in Fritz Lang’s Indian Epic at Migrating Forms and Magdalena Montezuma in Werner Schroeter’s Der Bomberpilot at MoMA.
The Universal logo in 35mm (on the pristine prints they somehow keep in circulation), especially during this summer’s unofficial, citywide Bruce Dern retro: Silent Running at BAMcinématek, King of Marvin Gardens at Anthology, and The ’Burbs at 92YTribeca.
Lena Dunham in conversation with Claudia Weill after the mind-blowing Girlfriends and with the incredible Nora Ephron after This is My Life, both at BAM.
Jerry Lewis answering his fans’ questions at 92YTribeca.
Looney Tunes on film with an audience and on YouTube whenever I have seven minutes.
20 more: Epstein’s Finis Terrae, La Cava’s Unfinished Business and She Married Her Boss, Petzold’s Barbara, Wellman’s Wild Boys of the Road and Heroes for Sale, Ruiz’s Chinese Shadows, Peggy Ahwesh and Joe Gibbons restorations, Rocha’s The Lion Has Seven Heads, Soderbergh’s Magic Mike and Haywire, Schmidt & Abrantes' Palaces of Pity, Roemer’s Nothing But a Man, Godard and Miéville’s Ici et Ailleurs, Panahi’s This is Not a Film, Grifi & Sarchielli’s Anna, Lertxundi's A Room Called Heaven, Robinson's Circles of Confusion, Bresson’s Four Nights of a Dreamer, and Kiarostami’s Like Someone in Love.
|The "survivors" of Death in the Land of Encantos with Lav Diaz|
Red Hook Summer + The Comedy (1/22 + 1/26, Eccles Theatre)
Two bold, atypical Sundance premieres: both set in Brooklyn, both play to packed houses at the festival’s largest venue (1,200 seats) and leave the audience baffled, unsettled, and occasionally incensed by their uncompromising styles.
Love Jones (2/19, BAMcinématek)
A sellout crowd for the ActNow Foundation’s burgeoning New Voices in Black Cinema series goes totally nuts for Ted Witcher’s 90s classic. Witcher receives a hero’s welcome during an impassioned Q&A session, where he excoriates the difficulties facing minority filmmakers that have prevented him from making another film since 1997. The most raw energy I’ve felt at a screening this year.
This is My Life (4/2, BAMcinématek)
Two weeks before the HBO premiere of Girls, BAMcinemaFest alum Lena Dunham hosts a hilarious, touching Q&A with Nora Ephron (1941—2012) after a screening of her directorial debut in a gorgeous new print. Devastatingly, it would turn out to be one of Ephron’s last public appearances; Dunham describes it best in her remembrance for The New Yorker.
Death in the Land of Encantos (4/28, Exit Art)
The sadly shuttered Exit Art’s under-heralded Digimovies screening series went out with a bang: a tribute to Filipino master Lav Diaz, whose languid, sprawling epics rarely clock in at less than six hours. A dedicated coterie hunkered down for the 540-minute Encantos, each of us claiming an entire sofa (or two) to ourselves. We shared pizza with Diaz at the midpoint, and gathered with him for a “family photo” after the film’s hard-won conclusion.
Cabin Boy (5/25, 92YTribeca)
“Basic Cable Classics” are 92YTribeca’s bread and butter, and this rowdy screening of my 10-year-old self’s favorite movie was a dream come true. Meeting Chris Elliott after the Q&A left me as giddy as a schoolgirl.
Gestures and Fragments (8/17, Cinemateca Portuguesa Conservation Center)
A last-minute visit to the Cinemateca Portuguesa’s Conservation Center, located in a pastel-colored villa in the hills outside Lisbon, leads to a flatbed viewing of this political documentary by Alberto Seixas Santos. Footage of Robert Kramer delivering furious screeds, intercut with heated debates between key players of the Carnation Revolution, make this genre-bending curio ripe for (re)discovery in the US.
La Région centrale (9/9, Light Industry)
Introducing Michael Snow’s masterpiece at Light Industry’s indispensable new Greenpoint space, a cantankerous Chantal Akerman takes cheap swipes at the storied tradition of alternative film exhibition, only to be proven completely wrong by the hypnotic, utterly absorbing 16mm projection that followed.
The Master (9/25, Village East Cinema)
Thank you, PTA, for reminding us just how poorly digital still fares against celluloid. 35mm is dead? Long live 70mm.
Ramrod (10/8, BAMcinématek)
In good spirits for his 121st and final Cinemachat, intrepid raconteur Elliott Stein (1928—2012) holds court on the gritty elegance of De Toth’s noir-western, delivering dishy anecdotes with his one-of-a-kind relish and aplomb. He will be sorely, sorely missed.
Tits + Y (10/27, Anthology Film Archives)
On the eve of Hurricane Sandy, a storm of a different sort: two American avant-garde masterworks, nigh unseeable prior to being restored by the National Film Preservation Foundation, both ostensible explorations of the female anatomy and irreverant documents of their 60s milieu. The sight of a shirtless Andy Warhol, mere weeks after he was shot, “showing his tits” to Larry Rivers under Taylor Mead’s mocking voiceover, was among the most jaw-dropping moments of my filmgoing year.
Ten Runners Up: George Kuchar tribute series (2/10-12, Anthology Film Archives); Breaking In w/John Sayles Q&A (2/24, Anthology Film Archives); Andrzej Zulawski retrospective (3/7-20, BAMcinematek); Paul Swan, introduced by Douglas Crimp (5/14, Light Industry); Werner Schroeter retrospective, especially Goldflakes (5/11-6/11, MoMA); The Satin Slipper (9/30, New York Film Festival); “To Save and Project,” especially The Dancing Soul of the Walking People, The Lion Has Seven Heads, and Right On! (10/11-11/12, MoMA); Red Square Screenings (10/15-19, Moscow); Cocksucker Blues (11/15, MoMA); The Emigrants + The New Land (12/5-12, BAMcinématek)
1. Girlfriends: one of my favorite discoveries this year, part of Lena Dunham’s Hey Girlfriend! series in April with Lena and director Claudia Weill in conversation.
2. The Devil / Zulawski retrospective: I prefer his Polish films to the French ones, but the whole series was a revelation.
3. Repulsion: may have made me a feminist
4. The Patron Saints: my favorite film of BAMcinemaFest
5. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad: an especially memorable Cinemachat with our friend Elliott Stein, and that print was a beauty.
6. Daisies: Marie I and Marie II are my new fashion icons
7. The Master: let’s shoot all movies on 70mm!
8. Trapped in the Closet: I have been waiting for the next installment of chapters for nearly five years, and they did not disappoint. R. Kelly in person with red leather gloves and a cigar hanging out of his mouth was an extra bonus! Don’t judge me.
My top 10 (in no particular order):
1. The Emigrants (Jan Troell)
2. The New Land (Jan Troell)
3. Three Days of the Condor (Sydney Pollack)
4. Argo (Ben Affleck)
5. The Comedy (Rick Alverson)
6. Sleepwalk with Me (Mike Birbiglia)
7. High Noon (Fred Zinnemann)
8. The French Connection (William Friedkin)
9. It Should Happen to You (George Cukor)
10. Born Yesterday (George Cukor)