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Monday, December 23, 2013

BAMcinématek's Best of 2013

As at most film institutions, the tradition of the best-of-the-year list is alive and well at BAMcinématek, and this year we have a whole lot to celebrate. Our version of every cinephile's favorite parlor game does away with the usual listological parameters, so below you'll find us expressing a loose, free-floating love for the moving image with shout-outs to everything from repertory favorites and new releases to GIFs, TV, and Beyoncé's visual album. Enjoy!

Gabriele Caroti, Director
  1. Model Shop, Jacques Demy (Film Forum). I only rent convertibles—sorry, cabriolets—when I visit LA, and this movie is precisely why.
  2. Saxondale. I can’t believe I went eight years without watching this and I am thankful that this was the year. Steve Coogan plays an ex-70s arena rock roadie that runs a small pest control operation in an mid-size English town. He also goes to an anger management group and drives a muscle car. A TV show that aired for two seasons—and a mere 12 episodes.
  3. Without You I’m Nothing, John Boskovich (BAMcinématek). Sandra Bernhard’s one-woman show put on film in 1989—hilarious, moving, complex, difficult, probing, weird, of its time (yet timeless!), and most of all, badass.
  4. Computer Chess, Andrew Bujalski (BAMcinemaFest). I know everyone talks about the cinematography, but whoever production- designed this should get a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy.
  5. We Are The Best, Lukas Moodysson. 12-year-old pro riot grrrls in Sweden. Need I say more?
  6. Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach. I resisted seeing this film for whatever reason and it really struck a chord with me when I did. I think it was a G diminished 7th.
  7. Robert Palmer’s “Looking For Clues” video. Just watch it straight through and try to argue that 80s designer drugs didn’t go into making this—seriously. Also, this aired on MTV’s first day of broadcasting.

  8. Jo Jo Dancer, Your Life Is Calling, Richard Pryor (BAMcinématek). The most self-lacerating and frank autobiopic I’ve ever seen (and the only film Richard Pryor directed).
  9. The Night of the Following Day, Hubert Cornfield (92 Y Tribeca). The title sequence is outta sight—and the movie ain’t so bad either. Why this film is not more well known is… understandable, actually. Thank you, Nic ‘n’ Nick.
  10. The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer. I wanted to take a 10-day-long shower after seeing this. And this is coming from someone who takes long showers!

Andrew Chan, Marketing Coordinator
  1. Before Midnight, Richard Linklater. Makes most films about the trials of long-term grown-up relationships from the past decade or so (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Blue Valentine) look like child's play. It's hard to think of another contemporary romance that balances the equally legitimate desires, resentments, and anxieties of its characters with as much grace and lightness of tone. And I love the perversity of setting a film against a gorgeous Greek backdrop, then holing it up for its climactic 20 minutes in a drab hotel room.
  2. Museum Hours, Jem Cohen. With the influence of John Berger and Bruegel among its guiding lights, this little masterpiece is an uncommonly sensitive act of observation that finds an unlikely intersection between melodrama, art criticism, and travelogue. Cohen's richly textured mix of DV and 16mm deserves to be seen on the big screen.
  3. Stray Dogs, Tsai Ming-liang. This movie haunts my dreams. While most fans are enraptured by the agonizingly long final shot, my personal favorite occurs near the beginning of the film and features Lee Kang-sheng clutching a real-estate advertisement at a traffic median in the middle of a rainstorm, bitterly singing in classical Chinese as his nose drips with snot. Heavy, heady stuff, Stray Dogs is Tsai's most intensely moving work since What Time Is It There? more than a decade ago.
  4. Blind Detective, Johnnie To. Plot points, stylistic ideas, and a formidable cast, all moving at a His Girl Friday-like velocity. After To's dark Drug War, this screwball romantic comedy was pure joy, and I can't wait to see it on the big screen when it's released here in the States.
  5. Faust, Alexander Sokurov. Shot for shot, the most visually spellbinding thing I saw all year. Unexpectedly, Sokurov punctuates his grave and grimy vision with moments of hilarity, including Hannah Schygulla shimmying around in a massive headdress.
  6. ***Flawless, Beyoncé and Jake Nava. I loved Beyoncé's new album on first listen, but I'm still not a fan of all the videos. When I saw this clip, though, I screamed. At first glance it looks like just another instance of random pop-cultural appropriation—in this case, an out-of-the-blue nostalgia for grunge and flannel. But Nava (who has directed many of the Queen's best videos, including "Single Ladies") wisely lets us tune out all the visual clichés and focus on Bey in full-on performance mode. Her transitions are rapid and seamless: one moment she's staring you down through the camera with glassy-eyed nonchalance, next she's throwing down with vigorous gyrating and slo-mo moshing. This is the most aggressive she's been on camera since "Ring the Alarm," and every moment you feel like she's on the verge of exploding off the screen.
  7. Still a Brother, William Greaves (BAMcinématek)
  8. Diamonds of the Night, Jan Nemec (BAMcinématek)
  9. Manila in the Claws of Light, Lino Brocka (MoMA)
  10. The Age of Innocence, Martin Scorsese (New York Film Festival)
  11. The Music Room, Satyajit Ray (The Criterion Collection on Hulu)
  12. Model Shop, Une Chambre en Ville, and Lola, Jacques Demy (Film Forum)
  13. Life and Nothing More…, Abbas Kiarostami (Film Society of Lincoln Center)
  14. The End of Summer, Yasujiro Ozu (Film Forum)

Nellie Killian, Programmer

Ass, Andy Warhol (Anthology Film Archives)
An amazing movie made even more incredible by Taylor Mead’s running commentary and impromptu radio accompaniment.

Caravan, Erik Charell (MoMA)
Best casual use of a bear on film.

El, Luis Buñuel (BAMcinématek)
Booed at Cannes, inexplicably.

Expressive Esoterica series (Anthology Film Archives)
Holy Matrimony (Stahl), The River’s Edge (Dwan), The Spieler (Garnett), Two for the Road (Donen)
Hard to pick just one!

Hours for Jerome, Nathaniel Dorsky + In the Stone House, Jerome Hiler (Light Industry)

Illiac Passion, Gregory Markopoulos (MoMA) + Bad Grandpa, Jeff Tremaine (Loews Kips Bay)
Best double feature of the year.

Jean-Luc Godard – The Spirit of the Forms (Film Society of Lincoln Center)
I only got to see six films, sadly, but each was new to me. Will I ever see a Godard movie that doesn’t blow my mind?

Mask of Zorro, Allan Dwan (MoMA)

Without You I’m Nothing (BAMcinématek)
What a film! And Sandra Bernhard called me “hon."

A Time for Burning: Cinema of the Civil Rights Movement (BAMcinématek)
Especially Still a Brother, William Greaves and the March on Washington Program (The Bus, Haskell Wexler; The March, James Blue; Now!, Santiago Alvarez; Freedom March, Ed Emshwiller)


David Reilly, Programmer

In a year full of memorable guest appearances, five that stand out in my memory:

Taylor Mead’s Ass (1/11/2013, Anthology Film Archives)
R.I.P. Taylor. Your final “live commentary” during Warhol’s glorious tribute to your ass circa 1965—complete with a perfectly timed Alec Baldwin voiceover cameo flowing from your boombox—will never be forgotten.

Sorcerer (5/2/2013, BAMcinématek)
I would pay good money to see a ballet choreographed around the un-suspendered William Friedkin’s sisyphean struggle to keep his pants properly hitched up while furiously pacing the stage and plowing through anecdotes from the disaster-laden filming of his neglected 1977 masterpiece.

Venus in Fur (9/12/2013, Gdynia Film Festival)
Roman Polanski risks extradition to make an unannounced appearance at the Polish premiere of his latest film, and is greeted with a 10-minute standing ovation from a raucous hometown crowd.

Shredder Orpheus (9/23/2013, BAMcinématek)
On a sleepy Monday night, Seattle underground fixture Robert McGinley—a “BAM regular” back in the 70s--unspools a gorgeous 35mm print of his nigh unseen 1990 post-apocalyptic skateboard rock opera-cum-grunge time capsule, which he dug out of his garage and schlepped all the way from the Emerald City for the occasion.

Little Shop of Horrors (10/25/2013, BAMcinématek)
The famously reclusive Rick Moranis chooses the grandest of platforms to come out of hiding: ushered onstage by a trio of drag queens, he briefly slips into character as Seymour Krelborn to share a few memories with an ecstatic crowd of die-hard Little Shop fans.

Last, a special thank you to the Academy Film Archive for their steadfast commitment to 16mm photochemical restoration, as evidenced by the stunning new prints that were unveiled throughout the New York repertory circuit this year: Stan Brakhage’s The Art of Vision at Light Industry, Robert Nelson at Views from the Avant Garde, a Los Angeles avant garde 1965—77 program at Pioneer Works, and Les Blank’s blues films at BAMcinématek.


Lisa Thomas, Publicist

Kind of in order, but not really:
  1. D.A. Pennebaker’s Daybreak Express. Pennebaker’s first film played before a screening of Little Fugitive at Film Forum and was definitely one of my top discoveries of the year. Man with a Movie Camera for New York City!
  2. Miguel Gomes’ Tabu. I know Tabu came out at the very end of 2012, but I didn’t see it until the beginning of 2013, and it would have deserved top billing on last year’s list!
  3. Jan Nemec’s Diamonds of the Night. The revelation of the year…64 minutes so good I saw it twice in a week!
  4. Beyoncé, the visual album. Queen B is back with a surprise album, and goddamngoddamnGODDAMN! Special shout out to the videos for "Ghost," "Blow," and "***Flawless". Honorable mention goes to her never to be topped Superbowl performance.
  5. Breaking Bad. Somehow I managed to watch all five seasons in the month after the season finale aired without hearing any spoilers. Breaking Bad dethroned Six Feet Under as the best TV show I’ve seen (though I have a lot of good ones left to watch).
  6. Johnnie To and Wai Ka-fai’s Running on Karma. Andy Lau is just so good as romantic lead/action hero/comic genius…and all in a latex body builder suit with a hilariously plastic-looking butt.
  7. Richard Linklater’s Before Midnight. This movie DESTROYED me. But I love Celine & Jesse.
  8. Andrew Dosunmu’s Mother of George. A beautiful film that instantly woke me up at my 8am Sundance screening. One of my favorites of BAMcinemaFest and a gorgeous portrait of my ’hood.
  9. Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha. Greta finally charmed me—a nice surprise!
  10. John Frankenheimer’s Seconds. It’s just a really good movie.

Hannah Thomas, Marketing and Publicity Assistant

Little Shop of Horrors Sing-Along (BAMcinématek)
This was my first big event working at BAM, and it was fantastic. Moranis brought down the house and the people in Cinema #3 were animated, excited, and sang their freaking hearts out. Side note: The fierce drag queens who played Ronette, Crystal, and Chiffon owned that stage, but I was nonetheless prepared should they have needed me for a number or two. My alternate persona would have been named Shirelle, obviously.

Fruitvale Station
This film inspired thoughtful dialogue, passionate yelling, and moments of burning rage amongst my multiracial family, multi-perspective. I’m going to be real and accept that the moments of rage were all mine.

World’s Greatest Dad
Immediate entrant into what my friends call “The HT Canon,” a super exclusive, haphazardly selected set of films that I will watch at any hour of any day. The scenes in which the songs “I Hope I Become a Ghost” and “Don’t Be Afraid, You’re Already Dead” (spoilers!) play give me chills every time. Side note: when Bobcat came to BAM and spoke about both his latest, Willow Creek, and World’s Greatest Dad, he shared a chocolate covered macaroon with me and it cemented his status within the Canon forever.

12 Years a Slave
Thanks for bitch-slapping Django Unchained.

The Imposter
I enjoy a crime documentary. Note that I didn’t even say “a good crime documentary.” I just scroll through Netflix and my eyes glaze over. But this one is great, and eerie as hell. I felt charmed, genuinely baffled, and filled with dread (and sometimes strangely all three at once) by the events transpiring. I missed The Imposter when it was in theaters, being abroad at the time, and only caught it this summer. Hence its place on my “Top in 2013” list.

This is a Thanksgiving classic, so I’ve watched it very recently. The Lady in the Radiator is a character I see with fresh eyes each viewing. I wrote my thesis on Lynch and his preoccupations with reality as false, the physically impossible as truth. The Lady got some ink.

Jurassic Park IMAX 3D
RAPTORS ALL UP IN MY FACE! I spared no expense and saw it twice.

Adventure Time
I never feel guilty watching Adventure Time. I feel like it’s truly making me a smarter and better person. It’s an 11 minute pick-me-up.

Ebony’s Cry
My reaction to a lot of things. For example: Jurassic Park is coming out in IMAX 3D. Bruce Dern just complimented my haircut. I’m getting the last blueberry bagel at this cafe. Dom has won Project Runway over Alexandria. I have just walked into the gym.

Jesse Trussell, Programming Assistant

Indelible images from a year of looking.

Godard at Film Society of Lincoln Center

Post Tenebras Lux

Martyrs of Love at BAMcinématek

The Rock's Twitter

To The Wonder

The Yeezus projections

Before Midnight

Far from Vietnam at Film Society of Lincoln Center

The 'Burbs at BAMcinématek

A Touch of Sin

Inside Llewyn Davis

Le Pont du nord at BAMcinématek

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