My Favourite Films of 2020

1. last night I dreamt that somebody loved me / A letter to adolescence / The Tale of Eurydice
by Haaniyah Angus
The most exciting new voice in film lays out a perfect hand of short form work and waits for us to blink. I was stuck to the screen watching these, pint-sized rhapsodies for not just lost happiness but depth of feeling. It isn't that Angus misses feeling good, it's that she knows that feeling anything this much is itself the terrible privilege of being human. And no artist made me happier to be human this year. 


2. About Endlessness
by Roy Andersson
Every few years Roy Andersson seems to charm a series of paintings to come to life and each time there’s an unrepeatable effect on the mind. Sometimes it’s an ineffably warm despair, sometimes it’s a feeling of colliding with the infinite. Here it’s of a kind of gentle envelopment from an unknown force, as if time, the end of all things, is taking you by the hand and guiding you like of Dickens’ ghosts through the full spectrum of modern behavior, from true, deep love to random violence. This is it. This is what we wade through and this is what we will, for better or worse, will leave behind when we too become part of the endlessness. Andersson’s always slyly joked about the enormity of the universe (those gorgeous zero perspectives) but here he does seem to be sort of throwing his hands up at his own findings and his own impulse to investigate in the first place. Can we really and truly conceive of the vastness of time and space? Almost certainly not, but you know what? Who cares? There are people to hug in the now, right next to you. That matters.


3. It Must Be Heaven
by Elia Suleiman

Cut from the same cloth as Keaton and Chaplin, Elia Suleiman has long been the stone faced counter programmer of middle eastern cinema, a Palestinian looking for a home untouched by war and conflict and finding little but bad luck and crooked mirrors. Journeying with him has been among the most endearing pleasures of the modern cinema and to see him squeezing himself into an increasingly difficult to read and define 21st century makes for a hearty banquet indeed. There are effulgent sight gags, side-splitting edits, gorgeous visions of disobedience, and anchoring the piece as ever is Suleiman, looking downright debonair as a well-to-do world traveler. He’s still looking for a home, more aware than ever he might never find it (the world has grown no kinder to the plight of the Palestinian people in the years since his last film) but it is a genuine privilege to travel with him with no destination in mind.


4. The Amusement Park / Hopper/Welles
by George A. Romero / Orson Welles
They were destined to be minor works in the canons of their illustrious creators, but in 2020, dredged up like sunken idols from the ocean floor, they're blinding beacons of beauty and horror, nearly radioactive in impact. One about what happens when society neglects the individual, the other about when it neglects the artist. The former is a carnival of horrors, minor indignities that erode the sense of self and the latter shows two men who should be on top of the world. It wasn't to be, Welles and Hopper both took their turn at the Amusement Park, and they were spat out just as indifferently. Romero himself died before his body of work, his mind, was given its due. Men pinioned to their first works and dropped off the side of the boat to struggle for money the rest of their lives. Hopper gave up trying to direct, maybe the only one of them who saw the writing on the wall (Hopper's Out of the Blue was also restored this year), and now we'll be piecing together what they did and what they meant for years. All of it is too late. 


5. Lovers Rock
by Steve Mcqueen

Steve McQueen's strengths I think have much to do with a kind of quest for the synesthetic. As a gallery artist he used cinematic ideas to make us consider time and proximity, to kind of make an audience be aware of the space between themselves and people and objects - the world and where we fit into it. As a director of fiction features, he's been attempting to place us inside new worlds through temperature and movement. The cold air on a bruised hand of a prison guard in Ireland, the rhythmic bouncing of two snitches flailing for their lives, the sweaty muscularity of participants in a lamplit orgy, that I think is what he does best. Placing you somewhere and making you feel that you're there, whether that means living your best life or dying slowly. Lovers Rock not only possesses the strongest dose of this textural transportation, it's a movie that's little else except for the you are there feeling, and where McQueen finally gifted us transit to is the best cinematic party of this or possibly any year. The dramatic situational work of Widows and 12 Years A Slave has been replaced with an intuitive certainty. It never matters what happens next because what's happening now - the slow grinding of the hips of dance partners, eager skin apparent under ample fabric, hands touching bodies, bodies gyrating as reggae, dub, and soul fills the air like the warm air and weed smoke - is just right. 


6. Tesla
by Michael Almereyda

A movie interested not in the achievements of its ostensible subject but rather how his mind worked, and the places his life's work lead us thinking people. His legacy is not in the way we turn on the kitchen light, but rather how we are now able to investigate the unknowable world. Almereyda as usual imagines a place where we'll never truly be alone, no matter how desperately lonely we feel, because we have the history of the mind to keep us company. 

7. City Hall
by Frederick Wiseman

Talk of the "Great American Novel" has been unavoidable in conversations about Frederick Wiseman's 
City Hall, a film defined by completeness of perspective and ambition. Here nearly every civil concern he's ever taken up for the length of a movie, to say nothing of the scope and interests of his city symphonies (and this is quietly one of his best), is given new life in a roving diary of Wiseman's own hometown of Boston. There's some beautiful Joycean character to this movie, which judges the progress of a city through its trash collectors, fiances, and public servants. There is similar a beautiful optimism inherent in the idea that Boston should be functioning properly by now, and for a place with such a storied history of racist violence it's doing better than I think anyone could have imagined. Wiseman checks in on this town's great experiment in working normally and finds a kind of herculean thrust toward normalcy beset on all sides by budgetary problems, men and women who've been brutally knocked down by life, and a cold, gray place that was once the first great city in America. It's something of a miracle that Boston has survived enough to do so well (and lord knows her worst people will keep holding her back), but at the same if any place was going to, it's this. Wiseman allows himself just this much belief in institutions for this, because he looks around and sees so many people trying and that looked like hope. 


8. Her Socialist Smile
by John Gianvito

Gianvito the formalist is known mostly for the quiet and focus with which he makes his points. This is his version of a punk song, but even still its power and anger sneaks up on you. Predictably it starts from a place of overwhelming empathy, trying to get us to imagine life with no sight or sound, before also then asking how the rest of us didn't come to the same conclusions she did: that everyone is equal truly, no matter how or where they were born. Shockingly effective and immediate work. 

9. Bad Trip
by Kitao Sakurai
Eric Andre is just about the most reliable comedic presence in America. Whether as a bit player in Popstar, a stand-up comedian, or a fake talk show host, there's no presence as charismatically depraved. It was only a matter of time before he'd make a movie that was a proper showcase for his worldview and his antic form of comedic assault. Backed by Jackass producer Jeff Tremaine (who also helped the rap group Odd Future find their inner Lonely Island on Loiter Squad) Andre's hit upon an idea so brilliant I'm almost mad no one's done it like this before. He, Tiffany Haddish, and Lil Rel Howery enact a personal drama around unsuspecting bystanders, including musical numbers, car crashes, and prison breaks. Andre as ever is the beatific face of Biblical misfortune, looking to the hapless for help when his clothes are eaten by a vacuum or when he winds up with his penis in a Chinese finger trap. It's like a 90s buddy comedy wore Jimi Hendrix fabled acid-headband, magnificently disgusting, perfectly profane, aggressively cinematic, and surreally humourous. 


10. On a Magical Night
by Christophe Honoré

Chistophe Honoré is something like  the John Cale of French cinema. Beneath the really tough emotional truths is an ornately manicured stylization that's like a magazine spread of the greatest hits of french cinema. Here some of Varda's second wave feminism, there some of Godard's lithe color coordination and musicality, and front and center a Rivettian melding of the performative and the realistic. All the world is a gorgeously upholstered stage in his cinema of magnificent excess. Here Chiara Mastroianni is a woman who gets tired of sleeping with hot young men just as her husband discovers her storied history of infidelity. What follows is a deliberately feather weight psychodramatic slideshow as she is visited by the ghost of her former lovers and her husband's younger self. Every couple of seconds there's a visual idea or an editing trick that reminds you that few artists take their job as seriously or have as much fun doing it as Honoré. The film culminates in a montage set to Manilow's "Could it be Magic?" and that's just not something a lightweight would attempt, let alone pull off. 


11. Look Then Below / Movie That Invites Pausing
by Ben Rivers / Ken Jacobs

I'm a lucky fellow, all things considered. Maybe my favourite male experimental directors were quite busy this year. Ken Jacobs has been practically hyperactive lately and his newest is sensational even for him, filling the eye and sweetly overwhelming the mind with a riptide of textures moving faster than you can keep track of them. Rivers has abandoned easy subtext (well Easy isn't the right word, Rivers is never easy) for pure image and sound, creating a luminous cathedral of things, some of his most purely pleasurable work. Both films seem to understand that we need our screens to give back to us more than ever and invite us to be lost in the minute rippling of gold or in divining the shape and size of a cave, these are pockets in which weary viewers may climb. 


12. Night of the Kings
by Philippe Lacôte
Riding a wave of brilliant French African cinema, Lacôte makes the coolest film of the year, a smattering of Denis, Carax, Sembene, Mambety and Cissé that nevertheless feels singular. None of them would have had the idea to fuse sober folk stylings with post-colonial post-modernism in quite so snappy a fashion. Blood-black images of men deciding that the walls of a prison don't mean what they're meant to: walls can't hold legends, and they can't stop the law, so the inmates will make their own. A whole ecosystem of a movie; I could have pulled up a piece of wall and lived there. Americans try every year to make something this snappy and fail. 


13. His House
by Remi Weekes

On the one hand it's good that the refugee crisis received a horror treatment as sensitive as it is bone-chilling, a slam dunk as drama and genre, but on the other hand - the refugee crisis has gotten so bad we're making horror movies about it. 


14. Emma. / The Personal History of David Copperfield
by Autumn De Wilde / Armando Iannucci 

There’s of course something to be said for the intricate framing and Byzantine choreography but I think the success here is one primarily of tone. This new, brilliant Emma is breezy and free, correctly situating Jane Austen’s text in a zone free of modern mannerism or overly emotional reading, but rather treating each character as a sort of quickly shuffled card in motion. The latest Dickens is a windswept storm of happy maybes and possibility. Emma. practically floats from one painterly image to the next, and though it’s lovely there is beneath it all the threat of encroaching melancholy and disfavor. The film tap dances on a knife edge, over there unwanted depth, here too much quirk and twee. It never once loses its footing, astonishingly making this one of the most successful Austen adaptations of all time, lighter than air but robust and warm. David Copperfield is faithful in spirit and word to the great novel, but Iannucci has created something so rapturous that any student of moving images will find some hook, some way in, a true democratizing through unyielding pulchritude, beautiful music, insatiable pace, and a similar lightness. What a triump that our old texts can still so magnificently be brought to life. 


15. Wolfwalkers
by Tomm Moore & Ross Stewart
A pagan song of love and friendship from the guys who've been conquering the form for over a decade, and as lovely and winning as every note and performance is, things get awfully dark and frightening before the dawn. This is what you can get away with without a Walt Disney watermark. 


16. Gretel & Hansel
by Oz Perkins

Homegrown Jodorowski from the most exacting user of space and silence on the scene. Oz is a dynamo at arranging things in the frame and letting menace creep all over you like beads of sweat you hadn't noticed you were gathering. This is a splendid revisionist Grimm tale with all the blood and guts left in and no small dose of empowerment left in the ashes and bones. Every gorgeously precise images of psychedelic, autumnal New England, every shudder-inducing ounce of momentum, every keyhole hiding something somehow worse than the mess in the antechamber delivers on the promise of Perkins' luscious debut films. He just keeps getting better. 


17. Notturno
by Gianfranco Rosi

Rosi's films seem to deliberately aim right for the heart of the question of modern documentary ethics. As in, how much can an account of real misery and death feel like a movie and should it? Of course the more movies try to act worthy of the stories they tell, the more unconscionable pious the result. And so Rosi remains himself, showing not the death that captures headlines but the truly unsettling aftermath. He simply sets up his camera, showing the quiet dusks, the tense little arguments, the way that lives and societies are routinely upended into absurdity and no one thinks that maybe well behaved issue docs that win awards is not the way forward. No one is coming to help the people made homeless by the endless war America waged on the middle east and the splinter groups formed in response to the lying intervention. Maybe just showing you what it's like to be a kid might do something. Rosi's intentions I think are honorable and this is my favourite of his movies, a look at how when war has made its home in your backyard, not even sunrise and sunset look the same anymore. Nothing, no minuscule normality on which you once relied, will be the same. 


18. Joan of Arc
by Bruno Dumont

I used to think there was nothing better than Dumont ditching dogged Bressonian despair for Tati-esque comedic absurdity, but I kind of like this compromise, where he seems to just kind of be following his bliss to whatever kind of sequence he wants, whether it's pure rhythm, wordplay, or the theoretical, theological arguments from his early work. It's a little firework of a film, crackling with attention to detail and the pleasure found in the shapes and designs of the antique world. Turns out questioning the order of the unknown world can be just as fun as cannibalism and aliens. 


19. Alone
by John Hyams

It may be weird to say that Hyams has been building to a movie this self consciously small and modest when he came from star studded operas of violence, but it's always easier to tell someone's strengths when they're filming two people chasing each other. There's nothing between Hyams' formal acuity, compositional strengths, and jaw-dropping command of the mechanics of tension. A man looking at you wrong here feels as nightmarish as when he locks you in the basement - they mean the same thing: you're going to have to fight for your life. 


20. Possessor 
by Brandon Cronenberg

Exactly the sort of violent, living cyberpunk comic book this era needs. And that's the reference that best suits it more than anything by Cronenberg, Sr. It's in the way every part feels secondhand but admits it in premise. His hero (the unstoppable Andrea Riseborough) steps into other lives like she were switching movie theatres without a ticket. It's silly and vile and wonderful and the fact it means nothing makes it deeper than it could be with even one foot pointed at sincerity. 


21. Saint-Narcisse
by Bruce LaBruce
As fun as it is to champion LaBruce as his most pornographic and flashy, he really is better at these trippy dramas where most of the sex is implied. I think I say this every time he releases a new movie but I think this is my favourite Labruce movie, a fall-leave strewn saga of competing incestuous abandon at perpetual dusk in 70s queer chic. It is extremely lovely to spend time in a kind of moral nether zone where it can be expected that when a man meets his twin, he will have sex with him in the woods and it will not matter at all later. LaBruce tweaks the ending of hair to indict religious restriction of sexual expression on both sides of the spectrum and ends in a garden of frotter-nal delights. 


22. Siberia
by Abel Ferrara

Abel Ferrara has been every kind of male director - religious wanderer, hyper-masculine avenger, sexual apologist, screwball tapdancer, sensitive diarist, you name it - but until now he's never quite been the man who uses oedipal metaphor to paint the room with his guts. Finally and justifiably reaching for his inner Tarkovsky and discovering a cornucopia of ripe, modernized symbols spurting like wounds onto his canvas. A bare and risky work, it finally shows Ferrara without a framework, without a net to be glib, and he does a marvelous job just floating from one confrontation to the next. 


23. The Truth
by Hirokazu Kore-Eda

Perhaps the world's greatest suburban dramatist finds his footing in France, documenting a history of repressed emotion and dulled longing. A host of unparalleled performances anchor this generational roundelay, everyone mad about something that can simply never be resolved, people being what they are, and yet the tragedy of the impasse never fully comes to bear. Kore-Eda's gift is placing his narratives in the continuity of life, which is to say there will be more to say when the story ends and he never ever tries to wrap up what isn't dramatically interesting to solve. I thought the novelty of seeing him direct Ethan Hawke would be the reward; turns out it was just the silver lining to a tale expertly told. 


24. Another Round
by Thomas Vinterberg

Vinterberg, the other melancholy Dane, knows from addiction narratives and lowlifes galore, but there is such an ebullience, a sense of infinite possibility here you'd think he was born yesterday. I cannot help but adore that when the quartet of losers here decide to start drinking, it's treated like a grand experiment with the very fabric of life and interaction, like they'll be the first men to live like kings and Churchill. The film is as delighted in each new development, even the unspeakably sad ones. Vinterberg knows there's nothing truly inspiring or uplifting about a teacher helping a student through an exam with a secret bottle of vodka, but in the moment it's like the end of a Lifetime movie. This should have toppled over at any point, but refused to. 


25. To The Ends of the Earth
by Kiyoshi Kurosawa
Kurosawa's bow after a decade of innovation and as usual he hinds his clearest and cleverest articulation for his interests when they come out of the mouth of a lost woman looking for purpose. 


26. Mangrove
by Steve McQueen

Mangrove was the movie that briefly had me fully on the side of McQueen's critics. Too harsh, too didactic, too preachy, too violent for the sake of being violent, the odds deliberately stacked so high that only one real outcome is possible, and almost as if he knew that they'd said this and were saying it even as they watched, he kept solving his own problem by simply directing so well that you can't object to his tactics. No, we did not need more depictions of police violence, but McQueen is full Sidney Lumet courtroom mode is one of the sharpest forces in the modern cinema. I was stunned into silence and not just once. It's obvious, it's righteous, it's beyond compelling. If people demand this kind of narrative, it had better always be this good. 


27. Malmkrog
by Cristi Puiu

Puiu adapts an arch novel so that he can write his own, one more thesis statement on the pile of them he's accumulated through his remarkable career. Here all the implication has been replaced with talk, as a gang of aristocrats plot out the 21st century from the 19th, and suddenly every lost and dying bastard from his later works has their origin story. This was the beginning of the end, and the only way to get at is through the words, the plates, the food, the butlers, and the dead bodies. 


28. She Dies Tomorrow
by Amy Seimetz

A mantra for the dissociative, a tonic against thoughts of the end. Maybe you will, maybe you won't, but today there's so much to do.  And so much to enjoy. Tunde Adebimpe as the world's most exhausted party guest, getting high in an RV with a weirdo, playing the same song over and over again because something in it makes you aware that you're alive, Jane Adams off the chain, Kate Lyn Sheil getting back in touch with her experimental roots. Seimetz made a film out of time. 


29. Never Rarely Sometimes Always
by Eliza Hittman

Hittman’s study of melancholy kids reaches its brutalist apex, a dizzying flurry of close-ups and uncomfortable questions. Her cinema has always been about scraping the ceiling of adulthood and springing a leak that can’t be patched up. Here the trouble is compounded by the seeming impossiblitu of being a young woman who can have anything she wants. The lot of the poor woman is asking permission to be less wretchedly sad, and getting mostly no’s and any film that stares into the face of someone who simply can not afford to take those no’s would be worth your time. Hittman builds in heart-breaking grace notes keep the true horrific monotony of bureaucracy and sexism at bay that will linger hopefully as the particulars of taking back your life fade into a terrible blur.


30. A Revolt Without Images
by Pilar Monsell
So much of the history of the world is lost to all but shreds, shards, and hearsay, which is how narratives of rebellion are quelled along with any hope of new ones being written. Monsell reconstructs a fire from smoke, building the best form of experimental history, where she is an active and necessary participant but not the hero of the story except to us, grateful for her effort, her focus, and her talent. 


31. Greenland
by Ric Roman Waugh

Waugh is a director like Carhartt is a clothier: dependable and for a certain breed of strapping, self-made, hungover, tall boy pounding man. If that sounds flippant, know that I am an enormous fan of his tales of the new modern übermensch, and this may be the sort of purest distillation of what he does. A hungover man trying to save his family from the horrors of the world. In this case, an asteroid, something that can't be bargained with, but the trappings remain. Too proud fathers, panicking men of low character, prefab mansions, addictions, marriages on the rocks, and a goal that must be run down in an SUV. People complain Hollywood isn't conservative enough but I do rather suspect Waugh makes the movies on which people of all sides of the spectrum could agree are elegant things, despite all the sweat and blood. 


32. Good Lord Bird 
by Albert Hughes, Kate Woods, Michael Nankin, Darnell Martin, Haifaa Al-Mansour & Kevin Hooks
A bouquet of technique and enormous performances elbowing their way to the forefront of this tale of who gets to be responsible for our freedom. As Brown's story superceded that of the men and women he was trying to help, so too is Brown's story co-opted by a black man forced to live as a woman to flatter Brown's delusion. Martin, Hughes, and Hooks seem to have been waiting most of their careers to have a hand at these images and settings, to tell this story in their own way, and Hawke is both producer and their willing pawn. This pulpy comic book is as funny and warm as it is rousing and dizzyingly enervating. If we must have slavery stories, this is how they should be drawn.


33. Episodes - Spring 2018
by Mathilde Girard

Honest to god political cinema, unafraid of bodies, language, and ideas, radically unruly in form and splendidly voluptuous in delivery and demeanor. 

34. Lingua Franca
by Isabel Sandoval

This may be the most exciting work of the year for all it promises. A major influential moneyman gifts us this deeply felt romantic work on the biggest streaming platform in the world. Sure, Array could have done a bit better by it, considering how monumental the achievement as a piece of aching art, but I'll take the movie in my living room. That's plenty. Sandoval's managed to shoot New York with a kind of luscious depth akin to the best of 
Barbet Schroeder, it looks almost pre-industrial at its most alien. But then the turn and suddenly the depressing event spaces and cramped bedrooms seem so shot through with sex and romance you never want to leave. It's a special filmmaker who can make New York seem both old and new, and Sandoval is that major talent. 


35. małni – towards the ocean, towards the shore
by Sky Hopinka

I mainlined Sky Hopinka's work this year and discovered the kind of talent who seems to have invented film anew. His work with text, texture, post-production effects, song and sound feels sui generis, even if each component is modified not invented. But that's what it's like when a director sort of shakes your brain with two hands and gets your blood up. małni is his first feature and he boldly abandons most of his previous technique to try his hand at a more active listening, watching people navigate land that once belonged to no one and everyone, and now is a small refuge from a dangerous and unfeeling world. 


36. Color Out of Space
by Richard Stanley

I wasn't initially moved or impressed by this work, a kind of tribute to Stuart Gordon and Brian Yuzna that seemed to borrow their grammar and their stark naked effects work. But the more time passed the more I kept seeing lost and lonely Lavinia (Madeleine Arthur) praying to her absent satanic forces to save her and getting only prismatic radiation scars for her faith. I couldn't get her scared visage, finally giving into cosmic madness, letting the alien hue eat her alive, and saw a timeless reflection of anti-apathy. It's not that we don't care anymore, it's that no other choice arrived. So throwing your hands up at an unspeakable horror isn't surrender, it's a plea for release from these circumstances. If the first sign of relief happens to be a murderous ecosystem with no place for humanity, it's not like life on earth is much more accomodating. 


37. The Plastic House
by Allison Chhorn

A beautiful trip inside a nervous breakdown. A woman contemplates her place in the world as represented by the tangle of leaves that surround her, her place in time represented by the age of her parents, her place in the continuity of human labor and filmmaking (which reflect each other), and we grip it all in deafening silence. 


38. Samurai Marathon 1855
by Bernard Rose
And here I thought Bernard Rose had run out of genres to tag with his spray paint signature. Of course this isn't the vandalism of something like his new horror tales or his quick and dirty Tolstoy adaptations, no this is something like a perfect 10 dive into the deep waters of a genre's history. He'll emerge soon enough but he almost touched the bottom. Armed with Philip Glass's nervous symphonies like a quiver of arrows, Rose finds the kind of narrative not terribly common in the canon of great Samurai films, which allows his to not feel like a cover song so much as a modest new wing of a house. The movie is all galvanizing motion and imperial intrigue on the field of battle/play. Rose should always have a canvas this big he only gets better. 


39. King of Sanwi
by Akosua Adoma Owusu

A requiem for a co-opted king, a lightning bolt of forgotten power and fury, a buried map to a colonial casualty's pyre. Owusu's editing is still maybe the most sensuous in the avant-garde game, which makes her works of justified anger ring like gun shots that can't be dislodged from your body. Think, she asks us, what we lose when we let other people decide who we're meant to be. Remember that no one makes you hold assumptions. You can be rid of them anytime you want. That's the first step to freedom. 


40. Dick Johnson is Dead
by Kirsten Johnson
Perhaps the most relatable experiment of the year, in which the ace cinematographer and newly born hybrid filmmaker tries to throw a funeral for a man she'll miss who nevertheless stands right beside her. Charming, disarming, funny and of course desperately sad, this one bets it all on red, on you identifying with the figures in this tragically absurd carnival of memory. Film remains the only medium that lets us keep our loved ones when they're gone. 


41. Da 5 Bloods / American Utopia
by Spike Lee
A double feature of diametric opposites, yet ruled by the same ironclad beat. On the one hand Marvin Gaye scores the dwindling fortune of money hungry vets, who need to grab what they can after so many years as the unsuccessful subjects of the American experiment. On the other a physicist trying to re-do the whole experiment himself in a lab filled with song and dance. The work of the Talking Heads and Marvin Gaye have more in common than great rhythm: they were artists who knew the world could only fleetingly be beautiful. There are too many obstacles to continued happiness. Even best friends with a shared traumatic history and a common goal can't keep it together long enough to thrive. Bands that can and can't stay together, America the beautiful. 


42. I’m Your Woman
by Julia Hart

Hart's continuining interest in stripping genre for parts continues unabated. Here she's taken the already threadbare likes of John Carpenter's 70s and reduced it to little but tired eyes, frightened neighbors and depressing days without company. Rachel Brosnahan is getting to the point where it's difficult to believe she could be so disarmed, so formidable a presence is she regularly, but she gives the role of a cowed mother to a foundling her all.  The overlapping misfortunes make for marvelous marginalia in every situation in which she becomes ensnared and Hart's crisp framing and eye for sad detail are formidable indeeed.


43. The Grudge
by Nicolas Pesce

I was not heartened by all the stolen music in Pesce's Piercing. He'd just started and he'd resorted to fetishistic theft right away. Well I needn't have worried. Pesce "sold out" and took this studio assignment and made maybe the best studio-born horror movie of the year, a cinemascope fugue of yellowing corpses and bad decisions. Andrea Riseborough, looking like death itself (be still my heart), leads one of the most gonzo A list casts in history for this bizarre procedural that always ends in decay. I shall endeavor not to be alarmed by Pesce's talent in the future. 


44. Cut Throat City
by The Rza

The Rza's latest pulp opus is a wickedly engrossing story of social climbers tired of relying on the government and gangs (same dif when you're family is underwater) and go into business with themselves. There seem to be deliberate echoes of Hype Williams' landmark Belly in this but Rza's still chasing a blissful comic velocity, turning his hip-hop hopefuls into superheroes in a flooded post-Katrina neighborhood. Rza splits the difference between Rossellini and Joe Carnahan for one of the most enjoyable picaresques of the year. 


45. Driveways
by Andrew Ahn
A brutally lovely work on the finding of friendship, and the way that life is about relinquishing our grip on principals to make room for people.


46. The Expecting
by Mary Harron

I've been privileged to recommend two movies to the legendary Molly Haskell in my life. The first was Gatorbait, starring Claudia Jennings. I have yet to show that to her, but I did get to show her the second one, Mary Harron's The Expecting, and all the encouragement I've ever needed in my own convictions was when she enjoyed it. Haskell and I had both enjoyed Charlie Says, which took a male-dominated news item and re-told it from a complicated but sympathetic female perspective, and this did the same to the male-told Alien pregnancy narrative. Harron skimps on nothing, not the genre-dictated grotesquery and squirm-inducing gore moments, nor the sympathy for the desperate unwed mother whose life should be going somewhere else about now. As compact and concise a theoretical exercise as it is a very real and very unnerving horror movie. 


47. Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
by Bill & Turner Ross

Perhaps the most shocking thing about this modern marvel is the way it captures that whole days just vanish when you've had too much to drink. The time slips away and you remember things you were supposed to do and didn't, or weren't supposed to and did. The Ross Brothers continue looking in to the little things, places, faces, space, that are supposed to make America what it is. Here they've gone to every one's home away from home and found beauty and warmth and togetherness, and people so addicted to it they don't want to go home, those who have homes to which to go. It would be beautiful but it's just not. 


48. Tommaso
by Abel Ferrara
Abel Ferrara chances a positive self-portrait of an artist in recovery before leading him(self) back to the gates of hell, where he feels at home. 


49. Love and Death in Montmartre
by Evans Chan
A tear-stained poem of regret and thanks, for the people who made the space for us, not around to witness the beauty they created. 


50. Apparition 
by Ismaïl Bahri

A clever game of hide and seek with an endearing lesson built into its pleasing simplicity and its single image: What we can and can't see, what we choose to not see, what is hidden from us in light and darkness, that is how history is allowed to repeat itself. 



51. Sanfield
by Kevin Jerome Everson
Kevin Everson could power cities. He's unstoppably productive and productively prolific. He's after every possible intersection of the contemporary human experience through the lens of blackness and in the way society intersects with and mistreats black people. Here we have a kind of institutional diagnostic and in traditional Everson form, there's much more beneath the helmets and inside the wings than easy answers. His hypnotizing monochromatic images harmonize with the militaristic milieu perfectly.


52. Labor Of Love
by Sylvia Schedelbauer

There may not be much more to this than hand-painted frames, pleasing colors, and exotic sounds, but uhh, well, look at the title. Anything this well-conceived and obviously hand made and delicious has to be the work of someone in love with the shape and capability of the filmed image. I was enraptured. 



53. I’m Thinking of Ending Things
by Charlie Kaufman

Kaufman's movies are always basically about Kaufman and while on paper it seems myopic for him to have co-opted a novel and turned it into a movie about his particular imposter syndrome as a writer/director, I accept the brazenness of the theft for a few reasons. One, he's outfitted into a marathon of a thing, a kind of Mother & The Whore-style nightmare of circuitous gab without any of the relief or realizations. Everyone here was long dead before the road trip began. Second, I don't mind Kaufman boosting someone's mannequin for his own suit because without a framework, he made Anomalisa, which was too ugly for me. This is admittedly pretty fucking mean, but somehow it's less cloying when Jesse Plemons and David Thewlis are aging and dying in front of our eyes, spouting reams of useless anti-platitudes in an attempt to grappling hook onto the sands of time. It's a chore, this movie, and I was happy to do it. 


54. Parts & Labour
by Julia Murray
A quick spin in the gears of cinema itself, a misfiring projector reminding us of the business of scrutinizing a frame and the mathematics that make one frame into twenty four and so on. It's the kind of old school, nuts and bolts enervation on which the avant-garde was founded, Tscherkassky and Run Run Shaw, together at last


55. Monster Hunter
by Paul W.S. Anderson
Picking up the Arthurian gauntlet thrown during Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, Anderson pits wife/ muse/reason for being Milla Jovavich against dragons, big bugs, thunder, lightning and Ron Perlman in this, maybe his most purely fun movie. Someone else brought up Hell in the Pacific to describe her chemistry with co-star Tony Jaa, but it's worth noting just how flippantly the marine infrastructure is treated. Milla once again is that one in a thousand warrior trained to kill whatever and whoever gets in her path, even as spiders and beetles lay waste to one battalion after another. It's a crunchy, crispy fast food buffet that doesn't even waste undue time with nonsense like valor and patriotism. It's true lizard brain speed chess, a garden of exquisitely sculpted CGI thrills. 


56. There Are Not Thirty-Six Ways of Showing a Man Getting on a Horse
by  Nicolás Zukerfeld

There is something to simply the notion of taking a body of work as splendid as Raoul Walsh's and laying it out like each film's ideas were one color on a palette. Zukerfeld is at once having fun with the idea of a supercut with A levels and also trying to get at something interesting about the print-the-legend nature of film scholarship (what, indeed, would the field be without hearsay and maybe?), but also he's onto something more important: it's easy to lose what we're talking about/fighting for when critics get wrapped around the umbilical cord of theory. Sometimes what we want is to watch men riding horses. Thinking about film is a many splendored thing. 


57. Cuties
by Maïmouna Doucouré

It will never cease to frustrate me to live in a country still given to hollow and dimwitted moral panics, but this one at least gave me some hope that the torch wielding charlatans in question had watched a movie with subtitles. Progress? It hardly matters, but this movie, about the mounting pressure to grow up despite their being no room to do it and no lessons available about how to parse the countless influences found in the flesh and on the phone. Despite the wonderfully specific milieu, this threatens to become every young person's story now. This one has a tragic character, but it's heartening to see an adult take the emotions and the reference points of an impressionable child seriously. Every kid now is in danger of becoming old before they know what it means.


58. The Salt of Tears
by Philippe Garrel

If it's not too gauche to name drop, both Ben Sachs and Molly Haskell told me they were riveted by the appalling selfishness of the character at the heart of Philippe Garrel's latest. Take heed that that caliber of admirer has to be onto something. Only Garrel, now over 70 though clearly only made sharper with age, could paint someone so unsympathetic on paper who is just figuring it out like the rest of us and have that not be the central dynamic. He doesn't need to be redeemed in the eyes of the movie (Garrel, needless to say, has never gone for easy moralizing - love isn't easy and it isn't moral), he simply learns what happens when you don't listen to the people nearest to you. You'll always learn that you should have said or done something else too late. 


59. Days / Swimming Out Til The Sea Turns Blue
by Tsai Ming-Liang / Jia Zhangke

Valedictory and deeply felt works from some of the best filmmakers in the world, finding solace in the faces and bodies of the people who give our lives meaning. A festival and a brief encounter both find the directors focused and yet easy. Both are hypnotizing films, like memories of afternoons and nights we weren't there to experience. Both men always seem on the verge of retirement but how could they? How else can they transport their comforting ideas from their brains to reality?


60. Beastie Boys Story
by Spike Jonze
Spike Jonze kicks back (grammatically speaking) and lets his old friends and the copious great images of a never ending party tell their own story. 



61. Education
by Steve McQueen
McQueen's least underlined work (maybe ever?) finds its purpose in the lost eyes of a boy who is compelled by the way the universe ought to work while the way the school district works ensures his continued struggles and unhappiness. It may lack the fire and the percussion of Mangrove but it is nevertheless potent. The look of a child crying as he confesses he just wants to learn is all the argument McQueen needs and he knows it. 


62. The Giverny Document (Single Channel)
by Ja'Tovia Gary
One of the more unemphatically radical films of the year, planting bodies next to sites of Euro-centric fixation and worship, implicitly and persuasively equating modern blackness with the Renaissance's definition of beauty, treating her subject, the black woman, as a work of art, while also showing how few of them feel safe walking around in life, let alone appreciated. It's a tough film in reflection, but as it unfolds it's most generous and frequently flooring. 


63. The Jesus Rolls
by John Turturro

The danger with consensus is that if you listen to it, you miss out on the funniest fuckin' movie starring like twelve Oscar nominees and based on an antique French movie about how soldiers are rubes. 


64. Maggie’s Farm
by James Benning
The reliable stillness and outward introspection of Benning is a perennial tonic against the horrors of current events and the blurry intensity of modern images. Benning will always simply stare and pull up a chair for you to join him. This is a study of the environment most like home to him in his working life and its bare dusty familiarity helps the film's images sing, albeit low and soft. The fires were near but the landscape wasn't afraid. 


65. Ema
by Pablo Larraín

I have Ben Sachs again to thank for the comparison of this film to 60s Godard, which is useful certainly, even if it isn't the one I reached for or found. Larraín's steady working habit, his flagrant stylishness, his range of subjects, all nakedly political, has made him enemies and friends as ardent, and they all seem more or less united on the subject of this luminescent nightmare of neon, fire, and sweat, of girl gangs, flamethrowers, and sweet, elaborate revenge. I think I love it, but I suppose I wanted a little more proof that the man who made my beloved Neruda hadn't been totally seduced by sensation, understandably appealing as it is. There is much here on which to chew (and the film is so sideways you will do quite a bit of anxious chewing) xand I'm perfectly capable of enjoying all of that but I also can't fight the feeling that this exploding disco ball of gesture and excess is simply one step on the road to something greater. 

66. The Calming
by Song Fang

It's a special joy when a slight movie reminds you of other slight works that have, regardless, stayed firmly planted in your memories. I thought of course of the travelogues of producer Jia Zhangke. I thought of the filmmaker narrative of Ying Liang's A Family Tour. And I thought of Chantal Akerman's haunting road movie Les rendez-vous d'Anna, no small comparison indeed. Together they form the stunningly soft-spoken tale of a woman whose life is meaningless encounters with the public she's meant to know as an artist. Her displacement is at the heart of her crisis, and it becomes devastating to see her struggle so quietly with her place. You want to step into frame and share the world with her. 


67. Relic
by Natalie Erika James

One of those marvelous chamber horror pieces where the ghosts and goblins are the prospect of inherited traits. Each actor here is more natural and radiant than the next and the scares and implications compete for dominance in your terrified mind. Becoming trapped in the walls of the family home is frightening enough without imagining what it portends.


68. Ms Slavic 7
by Sofia Bohdanowicz and Deragh Campbell

Canada's soft spoken angsty sisters present the kind of heady examination you only ever seem to get in microbudget cinema. A close cousin to Ted Fendt's Classical Period, this wraps librarian's woes with family betrayal and finds a tenuous connection that grows stronger as our involvement in both the distant drama of a long dead poet and the very real and petty disillusioning squabble between cousins becomes more concrete. Celebrations of love take a back seat to issues of ownership and destiny. A lot of longing and fury for such quiet, well-behaved form.


69. The Dead Ones
by Jeremy Kasten

Ten years in the making and worth every second of the wait, this is the sort of expressionistic, hallucingenic dare that I truly wish Americans could count on. Kasten was just ramping up to become one of the most singular filmmakers in this country. A couple of low budget shockers gave way to his whizzbang 3D Wizard of Gore remake, which had more personality than most people know exists. This was meant to follow it up but instead he did the sensible thing and made a great life for himself. Nevertheless he finally released this, looking a trifle nervous it must be said, at a time when gun violence at schools has become shamefully commonplace. This grey-green whatsit, the color of a festering wound, is all about the way we seek some clearer sense of our identity through violence and find only the dead end we hoped to outrun. A sick place needs real sick, risk-taking art, and here it is. I wish I knew Jeremy had a next act planned. 


70. Still Processing
by Sophy Romvari

It's always curious to see what shape a metaphor can take. In the case of Still Processing, Sophy's literally taken a history of loss and painful happy memories and rendered them as objects: stills to be scanned and lingered over, things you can touch. The pain in her hand, in a box, in a scatter over a light table, there to give and take away meaning. I know only too well what it's like to have all the evidence there is of a person looking at you, motionless, forever and never again. This deliberately isn't the tidiest look at grief, at holding your pain on the subway, it's the only way. Because when tragedy, unthinkable loss, comes to us, it comes with sheet music only we know how to read and each of us must play it. Sophy stays one of our most public and vital short form filmmakers because there's no way to fake what she has to say, nor any but the most unshakably honest way to say it. 


71. The Ghost of Peter Sellers 
by Peter Medak

A lovely visit from smiling ghosts, old friends and enemies made whole and equal by death and the reputation for a movie for once left tantalizingly blank. None of it matters anymore. We just came to hear some stories. Medak the giant is now a smiling old goat living out his remaining years with good company: the dead and us. I'm always happy to spend time in his company. 


72. The Load
by Ognjen Glavonić

A neo euro death march, charismatic as it is bleak and uncompromising, each new sight of destruction and poverty is rendered with a cool eye. You can't help but think about what made all of this possible. 


73. Pinocchio
by Matteo Garrone 
Garrone's fantasy films are a too-infrequently lionized fixture of world cinema, taking what we think we know about fantasy grammar and rewriting it in squiggly calligraphy. Here not only does he return the story of the wooden puppet who wants to be a real boy back to its native Italy with its upsetting imagery intact, he gives elfin clown Roberto Benigni a deserved second crack at the story. Garrone didn't simply rewrite this story in his typically steady hand, he gave a reputation a new coat of paint. That's just nice. Even if the film weren't flooring to behold and amply weird and sweet, it would still be a most important work indeed. 


74. Bacurau
by Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho

A kind of affectless midnight movie, the totems of 80s horror hung on the wall like framed posters while the movie moves and sounds like contemporary agitprop. This became the movie of the moment because it eats the rich and diagnoses our illnesses without pulling punches. Thankfully its pleasures as a film are nearly as potent as its purpose. 


75. Drills
by Sarah Friedland 
A mesmerizing bit of intrigue, in which ritual explores trauma and trauma has already become ritualized. A sick nation will never heal decides instead to keep building bells and whistles to alert us to what we already know: we're doomed. Friedland's head is in the right place (inches from the wounds inflicted on children for the sake of adults feeling like they have control) and her mise-en-scene is anger itself. 


76. Chasing Dream
by Johnnie To

Pre-code panache rendered with still-wet paint from pristine technology and To at his most lithe and gymnastic. Not a dull moment or a bad scene. Sometime it's like he's painting the future before it happens.


77. Capone
by Josh Trank
In which Dorothy tries like hell to get back into Oz, and finds the door shut and barred and every friend she made dead and mocking her with rictus grins. The enduring American myth pulled inside out so many times it can't be made to sit up straight anymore.


78. Fireball: Visitors from Darker Worlds
by Werner Herzog & Clive Oppenheimer

Herzog's mind firing on all cylinders while prostrate before possibility, gazing at the heavens, empty of gods but filled with mystery and wonder. His rationality is one of the most exciting points of view in non-fiction and as he grows closer to the end of his life it becomes downright chipper spending in the glow of his curiosity and agreeability. An honorary scientist and a man who speaks the language of angry earth tracing the finger prints of alien objects, a most excellent use of one's afternoon. 


79. An American Pickle
by Brandon Trost
A modern doppelgänger fairy tale with refreshingly few hangups about being honest about how much the present and the past still reflect one another. Trost's post-punk cinema rewrites an antique way of life by laying it over top of the too-arch pretenders. It's telling and sharp that when the 100 year old man emerges in modern Brooklyn, he's not the one with the stupid facial hair. This is a movie about the way the desire to just live hasn't been uncomplicated by capitalism in so many years that no one can even culturally remember a time when their people were happy, though they've hidden it in a very funny little comedy. 


80. Sputnik
by Egor Abramenko
Water-tight genre thrills bathing in grim Kremlin trappings, as fun to hold your breathe during this as it is to see how the Russians approach an idea America and the UK have worked to death. 


81. Build The Wall
by Joe Swanberg

I sort of suspect that Joe doesn't quite know what to do with himself anymore. He's got a prime spot on Netflix but he hasn't released a film into theatres in quite some time. The uncertainty nicely colors Build The Wall, a film all about not knowing what to do next. Two people seem certain they're getting together for sex, but neither really knows what the other's version of intimacy looks like. The newly purchased house of Swanberg lead Kent Osborne seems an interesting site for dissecting the problem of purpose - was any of the mumble core players ever supposed to be here? I rather like this study of pale, fumbling bodies feeling strange and watched in the deep greens of the forest and the grey browns of the house. 


82. Viena and the Fantomes
by Gerardo Naranjo

Naranjo's latest seemed almost like someone wanted it torpedoed, dead and buried, rather than properly released. The color timing was botched, the release was whisper quiet despite a cast of thousands, and there wasn't even a soundtrack release for this movie about a touring band filled with terrific retro shoegaze that sounds like the genuine article. I personally don't get it? Maybe it isn't the hugely ambitious follow-up fans of Miss Bala hoped for but I don't mind at all the director just trying to make another movie that interests him rather than betting it all on red with a new line of credit. This may ultimately just be a story about a woman who gets lost looking to live her rock and roll dream, but it's not prescriptive, it's not cliched, and it's not so ugly you forget its moments of real beauty. It's always itself and I liked that just fine. 


83. Amulet
by Romola Garai

A drunken, miserable catholic hootenanny where everyone gets punished for trying to do better and for needing to do better because they have been very, very bad. Garai the director may need a little of Garai the writer's spunk, but there's something very funny about the bait and switch of a sad arthouse movie become a bonkers 80s brit horror movie. If Norman J. Warren and Pete Walker had ever collaborated, it would likely have looked like this and real heads oughta know a hot ticket when they hear one. 


84. The Man In The Woods
by Noah Buschel

Even Buschel at his most self-referential and cute is better than just about any other American stylist. If the script for his new one needed cutting back a hair, the compositions in this are like ice sculptures by Rodin, chilly and precise and marvelous. I could watch the man direct space and light all damn day. I think I like him best when he's navigating the present through that iron clad sense of talk and action, but the classic noirs aren't half-bad. And anyway who the hell else is doing them? 


85. Guest of Honour
by Atom Egoyan

Egoyan is now more than ten years deep into an idiosyncratic mission to continue charting the flow of malice and ill-will. The machinery is the same here (a mystery of lonely men and women searching for their personal rosebud at someone else's expense) but the cogs are maybe his most exquisite since The Sweet Hereafter. David Thewlis here outdoes even David Thewlis in I'm Thinking of Ending Things as a man who has decided to let himself become the off-putting gargoyle everyone imagines him to be. He's marvelous but he's hardly the only interesting presence. Rossif Sutherland and Laysla De Oliveira playing horny mind games are every bit the cinematic equal of Thewlis' scorched earth puzzle. The public long ago left him to his own devices which has allowed him to keep making and remaking the movie of his dreams, which I happen to love, whether it's called Adoration, Remember, The Captive, or Guest of Honour.


86. Blood Quantum
by Jeff Barnaby

An unhinged fable of living after fables usually end. A murderers' row of indigenous talent forming a cut-throat commune after the fall of mankind makes for one of the great cinematic hang out spaces of the year. 


87. Unhinged
by Derrick Borte

The pleasures of the late Russell Crowe movie are lost on many and at those poor souls I can only shake my head. I pity them, really. How could you not love a movie in which Crowe's some kind of curdled Southern gentleman who's held onto the ideas of "happy wife, happy life" and every other cross-stitched platitude so tightly they've made him a hulking maniac with biblical delusions, as if Charles Laughton had stepped into Robert Mitchum's role in Night of the Hunter and then slipped on a banana peel into a time machine? There's just so much to enjoy here, from Borte's economical (in every way) direction, to the beige purgatory of the anonymous depressed location, and of course Crowe's drooling drawl and menacing small talk. Chef's kiss. 


88. Black Water: Abyss
by Andrew Traucki

The scariest thing isn't the crocodile you see it's the one you can't. Traucki's continued commitment to documenting the crossroad between the all-too-real and the horrific may have reached its apex here, as each puddle of light and water may portend screaming toothy death. 


89. Family Romance LLC
by Werner Herzog

Herzog drops all but the barest essence of human beings at their loneliest to craft his latest fiction (which may be no such thing at all). It's good to see him wield the camera next to actors, sensing his excitement at every development, recognizing the sort of immortal truths of people in his vignettes of connection. People do sort of crave the same things from each other, no matter how bizarre the circumstances, and like tyranny and madness, his old hobby horses, that does seem to be forever. Enough time filming the true dereliction of order in the universe, he has eventually found somethings about people he likes. Not bad for an old hellraiser. 


90. The Human Voice
by Pedro Almodóvar

Almodóvar's glittering bauble, one of the first covid movies, is a film that feels long overdue, and not simply because he should have worked with Tilda Swinton before now but it's the first time he's adapted Cocteau, a creator after his own heart. This lissome little monologue crackles with the fire and chromatic lunacy that marks the best of Almodóvar, who has a way of making all other directors look like cowards and dilettantes. Yes, we're all sort of alone, on the phone with phantom lovers, looking to burn something to feel anything. More than that, we want to feel seen by something as stupendous as this. 


91. May The Devil Take You Too
by Timo Tjahjanto

More purely mischevious and empathetic a haunted house than the nicely grim original entry, it's fun to have a guide whose face we recognize when the action turns to mortified flesh, screaming innocents, and gaping wounds. I think I'm hard on Timo Tjahjanto because he's obviously talented and knows how to shock an audience out of their seats but I don't ever want someone so motivated to stop trying to reach new heights. This is a marvelous bit of spooky skullduggery, but is it the best this guy's got in him? Certainly not. I hope he never stops trying to find the next best thing. 


92. The Woman Who Ran
by Hong Sang-soo
Minor variations in Hong's playbook now stand out like key changes in power ballads and they are fun when they arrive. Hong can do this in his sleep, and I think he knows we know this, so he works harder than usual to be surprising, and release unexpected dynamic pleasures, from the comparative lack of male presence, to the sudden appearance of everyone's favourite movie cat of the year. This is just another Hong, but it's one of his most delectably oblong.


93. Sea Fever
by Neasa Hardiman

Though the playbook has to eventually run out of...well, plays, I do still love a good riff on Alien (there are several on this countdown, I ought to!) and I like the contours of this one very much. The setting at sea, the obvious low budget hidden in magnificent practical effects, the cast working overtime, the combination of claustrophobic high seas bad luck and cosmic indifference creating a uniquely unpleasant atmosphere. This may be one micro idea executed with maximum malevolence after another, but that's not a half-bad way to build a scary movie. 


94. Deerskin
by Quintin Dupieux

Dupieux hasn't exactly been busy rediscovering the purpose of the seventh art, but he's made enough boringly off-putting films to make me wonder what's prevented him from making something good until now. Well Deerskin won't answer that question but it is the good film in question and it's a doozy. A kind of post-Tarantino serial killer's notebook masquerading as a revisionist film school textbook and finally all the funnier for having nothing to say. The way this movie keeps poking walls in the rules of filmmaking only to discover they come right down is continuously engaging and hysterical. 


95. I’ve Been Afraid
by Cecilia Condit

Fresh off her newfound fame as a tiktok icon, Condit returns with another 5 star self-portrait, a typically idiosyncratic portrait of a woman trapped in the center of a weird and lovely world. Her witty use of new technology highlights her strengths, as a total filmmaker, creating a kind of anthem of re-discovery that looks like a music video but is defined by a kind of everyday darkness that escapes most social media art. Inventive, fun, haunting, and new, this is up there with her best work.


96. Her Name Was Europa
by Anja Dornieden & Juan David Gonzalez Monroy

What begins as a kind of sweetly ludicrous zoological curiosity becomes, as these things tend to, about its own creation. The nazis couldn't bring prehistoric cows back to life, they couldn't hunt them to the entryway of Valhalla, and thus there really isn't a point to be made one way or the other about the effort, except that its metaphorical in the way all Nazi totems were. They wanted to be gods, but they weren't even cows. Our filmmakers realize it too late and go revel in another grand German folly, the airport hangar Disney world they built. Even now the bones of titans litter the country. No one learned anything. No one ever will. It is perverse to vacation in a graveyard, but that doesn't mean you won't have fun. 


97. Beneath Us
by Max Pachman

While His House offered a kind of arthouse appropriation of Wes Craven, mixed with effulgent modern style, Max Pachman offered a sleazier and more grueling spin on The People Under The Stairs. It's most satisfying when the film takes a turn toward the outwardly satirical and we start imagining the rich reward waiting for the central villains. But they also make quite a compelling display of a new breed of macro and micro-aggressive moneyed ghoul. This is what we're up against now. They have everything, they didn't earn it, but they think you should have to. Refreshing to see the newly wealthy treated as purely and simply monstrous. 



98. Luxor
by Zeina Durra

Andrea Riseborough is the face of despair, of longing, of exhaustion in your lungs and your skin, of being so done with the things life throws at you. During Covid she had something like nine movies come out and in each she looked more tired than the last. I love Andrea Riseborough. She is the actress who most conspicuously abandoned the idea of the glamourous actress. Even here, doing a kind of riff on Before Midnight (which was second-hand Rohmer, not a vein in whcih I think many people find success), she seems so past the notion of romantic excitement. This fling with an old flame won't awaken anything in her. It will at best distract her from what she knows: life sucks and it's nowhere near over. 


99. The Wanting Mare
by Nicholas Ashe Bateman
This one's kind of cheating because I'm not sure if I like this movie yet but I do know they took an approach I can't help but applaud. This was obviously a purely visual exercise (I mean kind of an aural one too but it's more like they were looking for sounds that had the same thrust as the visuals, which doesn't mean the same thing because in the former case you're looking to reinvent the wheel and in the latter you're trying to come up with a song that scores that feeling) and as a movie trying to show you things you wouldn't ordinarily see in the American cinema in a way you don't often see anywhere, it's rather a thrilling piece of work. The energy, the nimbleness, I guess you could call this synth wave cinema and though I'm not convinced this more than a feature length music video, it was rewarding to look at the whole time it was on. Can't say that about Waves


100. My Spy
by Peter Segal
My love for Dave Bautista knows few limitations (Kumail 1, me 0) and while one of my wrestling fan friends guffawed a little when he was quoted as saying he wanted to make real movies and then a few weeks later the posters for My Spy started showing up on the subway, I was delighted. First of all The Rock has progressed past making The Tooth Fairy and The Game Plan, and anyway there was something perfunctory about them. Second of all, Bautista does seem to understand that this project, while unspeakably silly, is not beneath him. Why? Because he decided to make it. Sheer force of personality turned a movie with a mugging Ken Jeong cameo into a near-classic. That's commitment. That's Bautista.