The Best Films from 2010-2014

Below is a list of excellent films, to my mind the best, that were made and released between January 01, 2010 and today, December 23nd, 2014. Obviously there are many I haven't seen and I've not included shorts or animated films, for no real reason. Just to make my job easier. I realize there is repetition of auteurs, but it's my dumb list so there. These aren't in any real order. 

1. Hard To Be A God
2. Dormant Beauty
3. Computer Chess
4. You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet
5. Leviathan ('12)
6. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
7. Holy Motors
8. 13 Assassins
9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
10. The Tree of Life
11. House of Pleasures
12. On Tour
13. The Turin Horse
14. The Immigrant
15. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
16. The Deep Blue Sea
17. The Master
18. The Unspeakable Act
19. Once Upon A Time In Anatolia
20. Cosmopolis
21. Force Majeure
22. In Darkness
23. Tabu
24. Patience (After Sebald)
25. Two Years At Sea
26. Shit Year
27. John Carter
28. The Lone Ranger
29. Certified Copy
30. The Grey
31. The Color Wheel
32. A Separation
33. A Touch of Sin
34. Stranger By The Lake
35. Timbuktu
36. The Strange Case of Angelica
37. Beyond The Hills
38. The Hunter
39. Journey To The West
40. Actress
41. Moebius
42. Under The Skin
43. The Grand Budapest Hotel
44. Only Lovers Left Alive
45. A Field In England
46. Hugo
47. The Sleeping Beauty
48. The Rover
49. Perhaps Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve
50. The Wall
51. Inside Llewyn Davis
52. The Past
53. The Wolf of Wall Street
54. Celestial Wives of the Meadow Mari
55. Vanishing Waves
56. In The Fog
57. Never Let Me Go
58. Jealousy
59. A Screaming Man
60. Tuesday After Christmas
61. Beloved Sisters
62. Super 8
63. Norwegian Wood
64. Last of the Unjust
65. NEDs
66. Margaret
67. Melancholia
68. War Horse
69. Art History
70. Manakamana
71. We Need To Talk About Kevin
72. Silver Bullets
73. Foxcatcher
74. The Skin I Live In
75. Silent Souls
76. Anonymous
77. Archipelago
78. Beginners
79. Looper
80. Lore
81. Kati With An I
82. The Bling Ring
83. Alps
84. Wuthering Heights
85. Jauja
86. Killing Them Softly
87. Somewhere
88. One Minute of Darkness
89. Miners Hymns
90. Tender Son: The Frankenstein Project
91. Inherent Vice
92. Keyhole
93. Lines of Wellington 
94. La Noche De Enfrente
95. The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
96. Listen Up, Philip 
97. The Mill & The Cross
98. Contagion
99. Mr. Turner
100. Night Moves

11 Excellent Songs from 2014

Faith No More - "Motherfucker"

Whirr - "Penny Royal Tea"

St. Vincent - "Birth In Reverse"/"Digital Witness"

Scott Walker & Sunn 0))) - "Brando"

Spoon - "They Want My Soul"

Temples "Shelter Song (Live on the Tonight Show)"


Circa Survive - "Scentless Apprentice"

Future Islands - "Seasons"

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah - "As Always"

Tony Allen - "Ire Omo"

Tim Earle's Episodes You Should Have Seen in Twenty Fourteen

Reviewing TV pilots is, in some ways, a lot like evaluating a baby. It doesn't matter if he'll grow up to be Neil deGrasse Tyson, for now he's a drooling idiot who keeps trying to eat his own vomit. Pilots are often the worst episode of a show. On the other hand, sometimes a pilot is all a show has to offer and after the first episode the show just circles the drain. So I want to talk about episodes that were really damn good in 2014 that weren't pilots. Here's my list, in no particular order. 

The Legend of Korra - "Ultimatum"

"As long as I'm breathing, it's not over."

Avatar: The Last Airbender was one of the more important kids shows of the last decade. It handled adult themes in a way that was kid friendly and yet in no way watered down. The Legend of Korra is an excellent companion piece to Avatar, but for a slightly older generation. And yet it has been shat upon by Nickelodeon, its third season getting released with no marketing, then pulled from air halfway through its run, available only via streaming on the Nick website. And it's a shame because the third season of The Legend of Korra is the best by far. The fourth and final season, airing currently, is not bad but pales in comparison. "Ultimatum" is a perfect specimen of what Korra does best. It's mostly fun and fast paced, and yet complex, highly political events underline every moment, every choice. On top of that, this episode has the best fight scenes I've seen on television ever, in my whole life. They are beautifully animated, amazingly choreographed and staged. The represent everything that animation can bring to the table with martial arts and they do so without ever forgetting about the stakes that underpin the action. I'm happy to be able to suggest many high caliber kid's shows (Adventure Time, Over the Garden Wall, Bravest Warriors) that parents can watch as well. But The Legend of Korra is the only kid's show this year that is constructing a cohesive lesson on how to view world politics. Also, girl power. So much girl power.

The Good Wife - "Last Call"

"What does it mean if there is no god? How is that any better?"
"It's not better. It's just truer." 

Speaking of girl power and politics... The Good Wife! There's nothing quite as shocking as killing a main character in a TV show. Since it is such an easy way to drum up emotion and pathos, it is frequently misused as a cheap trick to cover up poor character growth or to mine some drama out of an actor's contract dispute. Despite being a personal top ten drama for the last four years, this year, The Good Wife decided to kill off a main character for all the wrong reasons. And yet, from the ashes of this bad decision, the writers for The Good Wife created an hour of unwavering emotional free fall, the likes of which I have not seen since Buffy The Vampire Slayer ("The Body"). What is most fascinating about "The Last Call" is that there is a very serious discussion of atheism plopped down in the middle of what is otherwise a very focused story about discovering the meaning of a dead man's last voicemail. I find that atheism is often misrepresented in TV if represented at all. Atheists in media are always either acerbic intellectuals or nihilists. Rarely do you see a woman with a family, and a job that has nothing to do with science, who simply does not believe. There is no reason, no psychological framework, for her atheism. She just has no faith. And after decades of shows dealing with matters of faith, it's nice to see the other side represented with the same emotional care.

The Americans - "New Car"

"It's nicer here, yes. It's easier. It's not better."

And speaking of struggles with atheism... The Americans! I've started pitching The Americans to people as "Mad Men with a plot." I don't mean to disparage Mad Men. Sometimes finely crafted wandering is enjoyable. But every now and then, it's nice to see a little story between all that symbolism and critique. And story is where The Americans is king. Each season is a mile-a-minute spy thriller, loaded with heaping doses of critique and satire. What stands out about "New Car" is just how many themes it juggles. American commercialism, patriotism, the futility of vengeance, all culminating with the tearful breakdown of a child who was caught sneaking into the neighbor's house to play video games. And it's moment's like this, where the stakes are relatively low and the setting is intimate that the show strikes its hardest. Because no battle, no global event will ever hit as close to home as... well... home. 

Game of Thrones - "The Mountain and the Viper"

"People die at their dinner tables. They die in their beds. They die squatting over their chamber pots. Everybody dies sooner or later."

And speaking of the futility of vengeance... Game of Thrones! Where everybody dies and nothing has any meaning. This episode is Game of Thrones at its finest. The fight has edge-of-your-seat tension, breathtaking choreography and nightmare-inducing special effects. The writing is crisp, the meanings layered. And while it ends with a woman shrieking in horror, it also features one of the show's most triumphant moments. Sansa Stark, after seasons of nonstop torture, emerges from the castle, clad in black feathers, powerful, magnificent. It won't last, because nothing ever does. But for a moment, Game of Thrones has given us the kind of triumph you can't manufacture with all the special effects in the world. It is the triumph you earn. The victory you claim by passing through the flames.

Rick and Morty - "Rixty Minutes"

"Nobody exists on purpose. Nobody belongs anywhere. Everybody's going to die. Come watch TV."

And speaking of everybody dying and nothing having any meaning... Rick and Morty! This is the funniest half hour produced in 2014, without a doubt. No contest. It takes what is essentially a throwaway sitcom B plot and turns it into a mission statement. And it couldn't have come at a better time. 2014 was a decidedly unfunny year. Robin Williams passed away, Bill Cosby probably raped a lot of women. It was hard to find new things to laugh at without feeling bad about yourself. But not Rick and MortyRick and Morty laughed at all the bad stuff and said, "Not only is it OK to laugh, it is the only thing you can do." Not since Douglas Adams has a show mined this much humor out of destroying all life on earth. And I can't think of a time in the history of television when nihilism has kept a family together. Life sucks, I know. Wubalubadubdub! 

True Detective - "Who Goes There"

"Enough with the self-improvement-penance-hand-wringing shit. Let's go to work."

And speaking of nihilism... True Detective! I think I loved True Detective a lot less than everyone else. It's on my top ten list, so obviously I loved it, just not as much as the guy sitting next to me. The main complaint I have with the season is that it isn't as profound as it pretends to be. But not being profound is not a bad thing. If you aren't telling us a story about life, but instead just telling us a story about two guys and a case, it frees you up in a lot of ways. So, why do I love this episode so much? Rust says it all when he says, "Let's go to work." This is the finest hour of True Detective. There is no pontificating, no discussions of emotional turmoil. Instead, Rust and Marty go off book and get into some serious shit. And boy is it thrilling. Everyone and their mother knows about the six-minute continuous take, but what is more interesting to me is the six minutes of no scripted dialogue in what is otherwise such a talky show. It is just action, tension, spectacle, and dread. And in the end, what makes "Who Goes There" such a good episode of television is that all that talk of "touching evil" is just talk. Finally, here, we see the lengths Rust is willing to go to for the truth, for his obsession. It is hypnotizing and deeply troubling. 

Hannibal - "Tome-wan"

"Whenever feasible, one should always try to eat the rude."

And speaking of hypnotizing and deeply troubling... Hannibal! I honestly cannot get over how beautiful this show is. It is unthinkably pretty. And it has the greatest score on television - all sloshing water and bending pipes with the occasional brush of piano strings, haunting and murky. Season one of Hannibal was a descent into madness, while season two is a game of cat and mouse between Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter. Of course, you're not ever sure who is the cat. Unfortunately, the season finale wraps up this battle of wills in a very stupid and clunky way, but right before the final episode came "Tome-wan," a moment of stillness and camaraderie between Will and Hannibal before it ends. Hannibal is very much like an epic poem of old, prone to hyperbole and meandering philosophical musings, filled with heroes, gods, and the Devil himself. But like all good epic poems, it makes a world of strange beauty that you cannot help but tumble into.

Fargo - "A Fox, A Cabbage, And a Cage"

"I'd call it animal except animals only kill for food."

And speaking of the Devil... FargoFargo could have easily wound up the ugly stepchild of one of the greatest movies ever made, but instead it treated its pedigree as a challenge and rose to the occasion, becoming one of the greatest miniseries of all time and my favorite show of 2014. How it does this is honestly beyond me. The twists and turns, the humor and horror, all make a little clockwork universe too complex and tightly wound for me to ever really wrap my head around. At first I thought it was impressive that Noah Hawley wrote every episode, but after watching the whole season, I can say that no committee could have ever made that show. It is a singular creative vision, and it is a bold one. Though I can't ignore the fact that Noah Hawley had help from some of the year's most brilliant performances. Allison Tolman is a gem, Joey King is possibly the best child actor out there right now, and Martin Freeman deconstructs everything that has made him lovable in a long career of being lovable. Eventually, Martin becomes a villain so malevolent he dwarfs even Billy Bob, who is the actual Devil.

The reason I chose Fargo's penultimate episode is, like the show's very inception, it takes what seems like a bad idea on paper, and makes it brilliant in actualization. Shows rarely come back from inserting a "one year later" in the middle of a season. Hell, most shows rarely come back from inserting anything more than a summer break. But Fargo does exactly that. It skips ahead a year. Lots of things change, cases close, people move on, and more importantly, the Devil is now a dentist. Turning your biblically evil bad guy into a dentist may be the single greatest story decisions I've ever seen in television. And the Billy Bob really commits to his character reassignment, constructing a new look, a new demeanor, and a new catchphrase. Aces!

The Honourable Woman - "The Paring Knife"

"Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that in a room full of pussies, I'm the only one with a vagina."

Speaking of a miniseries with a single bold creative vision... The Honourable Woman! Hugo Blick's strange, dreamy, chronologically-impaired spy thriller. This show, despite having star power from Maggie Gyllenhaal, managed to slip right under the pop culture radar, which surprises me since it is very similar to True Detective. One mysterious (spy thriller instead of serial murder), two complicated leads (women instead of men), lots of philosophical musing (about politics instead of nihilism), and the same writer and director for every episode (except in this case Hugo Blick is both the writer and the director). Just take a moment to appreciate this accomplishment: a single man directed and wrote what is basically a six-hour film. The show is about an investigation into the very strange life of Nessa Stien (Gyllenhaal) as she tries, in her own way, to bring peace to Israel and Palestine. It's an unwavering parable, and over time Nessa becomes less and less a character and more and more the embodiment of naivety and goodness. So, predictably, she is quite thoroughly punished. The show manages to discuss politics without ever becoming condescending or preachy. It makes some rather bold assertions, not all of which I agree with, but all well thought out. The reason I chose "The Paring Knife" is because it is the final episode, so to see it, you must have watched every episode preceding it. Unlike Fargo or True Detective, the show does not have peaks and valleys, higher and lower quality episodes. The Honourable Woman is a straight shot, a rocket to the finish line. It's a new and fascinating way to make a show.

Last Week Tonight With John Oliver - "Episode 18"

"Currently, the biggest scholarship program exclusively for women in America requires you to be unmarried with a mint condition uterus and also rewards working knowledge of buttock adhesive technology."

Speaking of bold political assertions... Last Week Tonight! This show seemed, at first to be a knock-off Daily Show but missing the daily aspect. Of course, what seemed at first a disadvantage wound up being far from it. Giving John Oliver and his team a week to fully investigate every story meant that Last Week Tonight could do some honest investigative journalism into subjects not usually considered newsworthy - but very much lampoon-worthy. I respect what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are doing, but they are mostly just sitting on the sidelines making fun of bad journalists. Meanwhile, John Oliver is actually in the game, reporting on real issues that no one seems to care about but everyone should. Interestingly enough, the episode I picked criticizes the US embargo of Cuba which wound up being rather prescient as Obama is now discussing lifting that embargo.


So there you have it people - my favorite episodes in a banner year for good episodes. Strangely, while writing this I discovered an interesting theme that connects all these shows. It seems 2014 was the year for finding solace in hopelessness. And now that I understand this, it's not so strange that Rustin Cohle took over the internet with his cool disaffected nihilism. This was the year in which the end was nigh and everyone just shrugged and made another beer can sculpture.

Marissa D'Elia's 2014 in Music

The following is promoter Marissa D'Elia's list of her favourite albums of the year. Her list doubles as an account of a year spent inside a music scene -Scout

It’s true that I rarely seek new music to listen to. This year it was so pathetic that less than a month ago I went to my Facebook, begging friends to tell me what they thought were the best records released this year. Some ninety comments later I was deep into a music vortex that pulled in me in all directions from hardcore to twinkly shit to pop punk and places I had never been before. Below you’ll find the few records I did find on my own and others that my friends suggested (so s/o if you were helped with that). The list ends with my favorite record of the year. Enjoy!

Soul Glo- “ “
favorite track: "closer to god"

A little while ago I was standing next to Blair Elliott, who owns Siren Records in Doylestown, talking about the current state of hardcore. The conversation turned to the subject controversy. Blair saw the rise of bands coming out of the early 80s, specifically ones that took strong political and social stances, as the heydey of the scene. Those bands had something to say. They were angry. I’ve never personally been big on the music from that era but spent nearly 6 months working on a project that asked how punk/hardcore worked as a revolution. Blair posed the question “Where are all the bands that give a shit about something? Where are the bands that actually say something?” The best answer to that question today is Soul Glo. Their record might make you uncomfortable and it should as it cross-examines race, class, gender and all of the ways violence and oppression flirt with those pillars of society.

Radiator Hospital - Torch Song
favorite track: "Fireworks reprise"
When I sat down to listen to this record it was my first time listening to RH (again, I’m very lazy).  But oh I’m so happy I did. As I was listening I jotted down real time reactions like “I’m literally crying” because there were so many times where the lyrics met the music in the most beautiful way. I felt like with every song I was further on a journey that examined a relationship so honestly and whole from being in love to the moment you realize that it’s over to the moment you have finally started to move on. It is bittersweet, melancholy, and optimistic all at once.

Clique - Clique
favorite track: "Sucker" + "Get By"
Bands in Philly are a dime a dozen... Truly. I believe that many of those bands subconsciously write music that they think will mean something to someone else that has no personal meaning to the musicians. There are a lot of Snowing and American Football covers for that reason. And that’s okay, it’s just boring. Then there’s Clique. Their self-titled EP is lyrically debilitating with no better way to describe than to say it makes me feel “some type of way.” I feel like I’m in a deep reflectively trance from start to finish. They really hit it out of the park on their first try and that’s more of an accomplishment than some band’s entire discography.

The Hotelier - Home Like Noplace Is There
favorite track: "Dendron + The Scope of All This Rebuilding"

I don’t even remember when I first heard this record. That may be because I have nearly played it to death and back hundreds of thousands of times. A phenomenal record for me is determined by its listenability. This means sitting down and listening to a record start to finish without getting bored or confused when it takes an irreverent turn. Home Like Noplace is There listens like a diary left open. Every time it’s picked up it tells a story, whether it be about personal identity, abandonment, or mental illness. It is impossible to put down once you’ve begun as you are bound to find a song that hits you in a place that nothing else has. I got to see the record performed in its entirety at FEST 13 and I can say it nearly changed me. They are not empty feelings or realities and you can see that in the way people respond and how the songs themselves are presented. I have never felt so connected to a record - at least I haven’t for a really long time...

Hightide Hotel - Naturally
favorite track: A Soft, Subtle Sound
It’s not a secret that as all patiently waited for the final HH record to be released after being completely finished last fall/winter there were several of us that got our hands on it a little earlier. I would say nearly all of Philadelphia, in fact. We had housed the best kept secret and I think when people heard it for the first time this September they would agree that it was worth the wait. I had always heard about this band from my Lehigh Valley friends who would probably tell you that listening to this band’s discography is like going to church. It took me a minute but I finally found myself agreeing. Naturally this is best listened to while coming out of a rut as the music itself feels terribly optimistic juxtaposed with lyrics describing the motions of acceptance and moving on which compliments their Nothing Was Missing, Except Me record. That was more acceptance, reflection, and depression more than anything else. I felt like Naturally was the most perfect end to that story but also an incredible record to leave us with as we personally mourn the end of Hightide Hotel.

Drake - Singles
"How Bout Now" is my favorite Drake song we are so blessed

Mitski - Bury Me at Makeout Creek
favorite song: "first love/ late spring, i don’t smoke, i will"

I worship this record. Worship. It feels like waking up from a winter hibernation. It feels like floating while being hypnotized by a choir or meditating to drawn out fuzzy guitar. It is mesmerizing. It can be haunting. It feels like being up at 2 am with a buzz staring at your ceiling and wallowing. Lyrically, this record is worthy of a pulitzer. Musically, this record is intoxicating and goes on a new journey with each track. I don’t think there are enough ways for me to describe how important this record is to me and how it is probably more than the top of my end of the year list but also one of my favorites of all time.

The Encyclopedia of Film Criticism - Kiva Reardon

Kiva Reardon
I use verbs to describe what I do, not nouns. I hesitate to say “I am a writer” because in my mind a writer isn’t just someone who gets paid to put words to paper (or a screen) as I do, but someone whose words provoke revolution, tears, laughter, orgasms, and other things that make life worth living.

Contributed to: Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, NOW Magazine, National Post, POV Magazine, Fandor, Masionneuve, Little White Lies, The Black Museum, MUBI Notebook, Cineaste, The Globe and Mail, Torontoist, The AV Club, cléo, The Hairpin and collected writings here at

Noted champion of: Denis Côté, Claire Denis, Athina Rachel Tsangari, Haywire/Gina Carano, The Grey/later-career Liam Neeson, Eliza Hittman's It Felt Like Love.

Influences: Manohla Dargis, bell hooks, Michael Koresky, the essays in Interrogating Post-Feminism, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Nina Power, Adam Nayman, Virginie Despentes' King Kong Theory.

Toronto-born Kiva Reardon (March 27, 1987-) can be easily spotted at festivals and screenings thanks to her iconic top-knot, which is fitting because she's got a samurai's dedication to fostering a more informed critical climate. "I started writing by blogging in 2009. I had just graduated from McGill (where I did Cultural Studies) and missed thinking about and discussing film. From there, I started covering film and culture for, a local site. This city has a rather large and active film community and as I continued to write I met more critics and editors, which led to writing for (in some rough chronological order): Cinema Scope, Reverse Shot, NOW Magazine, National Post, POV Magazine, Fandor, Masionneuve, Little White Lies and The Globe and Mail. In January 2013, I was chosen to be a part of the International Film Festival Rotterdam's Young Film Critic Trainee Programme. In 2013, I founded cléo, a journal of film and feminism. Now run by myself, Julia Cooper (Managing Editor) and Mallory Andrews (Submissions Editor), the journal is published three times a year and issues are based around a theme."

There may be no better way to dive headlong into Reardon's essential point of view than to read this line from her capsule review of '71 by Yann Demange: "’71 takes an ethno-nationalist conflict rooted in hundreds of years of colonialist history and makes it beige, apolitical and gutless. As is said, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it, and apparently also make mediocre films." Like the best political writers, she has an infectious fierceness, a refusal to suffer destructive and self-defeating tendencies in modern cinema and the covert, even unintentional messages they send. This blithe dismissal of '71 is a macro masterstroke, but her greatest strength is in dissection of the micro, gestures and the way they so often define films. When she goes small, there's nothing more satisfying, as in a clever 26-part essay on Trouble Every Day. She takes an often comical, incredibly thorough tour through the ways the film and director Claire Denis makes humans connect, both erotically and grotesquely. At bottom, the article is about the way that a male critical and filmmaking community views what a female director's role is and the way Denis refuses to care about what it means to fit that role. Reardon might helpfully be thought of as  the critic most concerned with celebrating/analysing films that break from expected sociopolitical and generic molds. Look at the way she ends a brief, dissappointed review of Peeples: "Peeples fails to deliver one crucial thing: real people." In that one sentence are galaxies of anger, whether you get from it a Marxist deflation of Hollywood's inability to imagine the other or a cry for films that rely less on cliche is up to the reader. She says a lot by saying a little. Though of course when she goes long her prose is impossible to break away from. She gains and loses speed knowingly throughout, knowing when to slow down and expand, and when to run with an idea as quickly as possible. When she's plugged into a subject, she's unstoppable, and when she's removed from it, she's still terrifically purposeful. She cuts a figure not dissimilar from Toshiro Mifune's character in Yojimbo [topknot and all]. She's capable of playing the long game beautifully, but when push comes to shove, a quick, merciless turn of phrase will get the job done beautifully. Kiva Reardon is a force to be reckoned with. 

On Tracks:
It’s too bad, since Tracks could have offset the gender imbalance that’s so prevalent in the “on the road” genre. Outside of Thelma & Louise, such travel-based excursions of self-realization are normally the realm of those with XY chromosomes (Easy Rider, Two-Lane Blacktop). Or if there is a woman in the picture, she’s usually part of a doomed romantic duo (Bonnie and Clyde, Natural Born Killers). This is especially true of sand-swept stories, which truly put the “man” in “no man’s land”: the lone cowboys of 1950s westerns, David Lean’s epic Lawrence of Arabia, the wandering bros in Gus Van Sant’s Gerry, any number of modern war films set in parched-earth conflict zones (Three Kings, The Hurt Locker). So when Davidson proclaims, “I just want to be by myself,” the moment is filled with vast potential – here’s a female lead heading off on her own. The issue is that her character isn’t compelling enough to carry this one-woman quest. Wasikowska does her best to convey the strain of the near cross-continent walk (embracing the role by growing out her leg and armpit hair for verisimilitude), but beyond squinting into the harsh sun, the actress isn’t left with much to work with: Any attempts at fleshing out Davidson’s backstory are reduced to softly lit, slow-mo childhood flashbacks. Because of this heavy-handed tone, Davidson comes across as flat as the desert, which hardly makes her tracks worth following.

On Gone Girl:
Of course, none of Amy’s actions represent any kind of sustainable feminism. But who cares? What revenge fantasy is wholly defensible? In the end, Amy’s revenge is getting her rom-com ending of a husband, home and baby. It’s the latter that finally nearly causes Nick to break, as he slams Amy’s precious head against a wall. Pinning her down, Nick hisses in her face she’s a cunt. "I'm the cunt you created," she replies, unfazed by his violence. Nick, and all men like him, have to live with that. Joke’s on them.

On The Immigrant:
The last thing cinema needs is yet another tale of female exploitation that uses prostitution as some allegory for saintly sinning by yet another male director. The Immigrant, however, cannot—or ought not—be so easily dismissed. If Gray’s previous work hadn’t already established him as one of the greatest storytellers of contemporary times (see the mirror opening and closing shots of Wahlberg riding the subway in The Yards, or the perfectly envisioned Russian family homes where couches overflow with mink coats at Christmas parties in We Own the Night), The Immigrant only proves the point. Because while Gray works in archetypes—the bad gangster brother; the good-cop son; the beleaguered but tenacious girlfriend; the innocent woman turned lady of the night—he always captures the person within. No one is so easily reduced.

On What Now, Remind Me?: 
This ambitious aim makes E Agora? Lembra-me far more than a diarist approach to doc filmmaking, though it never feels sensational. In one particularly evocative scene, Pinto relates how the drugs he is taking cause him to feel a pain that makes him constantly aware of his body. Beginning by attempting to express this feeling by speaking straight into the camera, the scene then changes. Pinto captures his body moving in time delay, creating a layering effect, as his frail form becomes something of a bespectacled, multi-limbed specter. The technique itself is not radical, but in the context of the film it speaks to the limits of language — both cinematic and linguistic — when it comes to expressing lived, sensory experience. Here, Pinto attempts to give a form to his pain so we can understand his bodily experience, yet this can never fully be. As such, we're brought intimately in to his life, yet constantly aware of the gulf that remains. This is further echoed when Pinto, a longtime producer and director, at one point confesses: "I don't know how to talk about film." Here cinema feels oddly similar to his illness: central to his life, yet beyond expression; a structuring transcendental force. In these moments, the film transcends mere confessional narration and enters the realm of the philosophical.

The Encyclopedia of Film Criticism - Daniel Kasman

Daniel Kasman
I must admit I saw more, much more, in something small due to the titanic vision of something almost too large. Cinema is so full of images it seems like history only remembers that which looms, towering; but perhaps the mysteries of the lesser things are those created by—if not existing on—those towers' shadows.

Contributed to: MUBI, Senses of Cinema, The Chiseler, La Furia Umana, LUMIÈRE, and Cinema Scope

Daniel Kasman (Born 1982) has been the editor at the MUBI Notebook through many changes to the site over many years and, along with Adam Cook, has kept the place a most vital destination for anyone looking for incisive and unique film criticism. He's been breaking down borders and questioning assumptions [look no further than his involvement in posthumously granting Tony Scott the respect he was denied in his lifetime] with grace and deftness since he first started writing criticism. He's a formally adventurous writer and curator, giving time to short form, image-based, long-form, epistolary and conversational criticism. In a given week he could post spare, minimalist entries in the Notebook, or long, winding diary entries about how his experiences of getting to and experiencing a festival can reflect the films on offer. I've mentioned before that his conversations with Fernando F. Croce are some of the most entertaining reads in any given year. Should one ever need a reminder that criticism is as beautiful diverse and nebulous an art form as the one it comments upon, Kasman is always up to the task of providing one. 

Take a look at this entry, a report from a trip to the 2014 Viennale:

It is a joy, of course, to see such grandiose films by Ford as How Green Was My Valley (1940) and The Searchers (1956) on vibrant 35mm prints. (The weak but comparatively experimental shaggy-dog cavalry film She Wore a Yellow Ribbon [1949] positively radiated warmth from its immaculate color quality, restored by the UCLA Film & Televsion Archive.) But better still is that pleasure particular to large retrospectives full of accepted masterpieces to encounter the smaller, more inconsequential films made in-between. Such is certainly the case for 1925's Kentucky Pride, a tale narrated by a once-favorited racing horse (!) and not so much a drama as a quintessentially Fordian combination of sentiment and silliness. Likewise 1933's Will Rogers vehicle, Doctor Bull, one of my favorites and a film, like Vincente Minnelli's The Reluctant Debutante (to pull another favorite), that's an example of a master filmmaker and an A-list actor collaborating on what feels merely a programmer between more ambitious and/or lucrative projects. Such movies have a humility to them that is utterly freeing.

"Freeing" is the keyword there because on top of being what he searches for from film culture, it's also the perfect way to sum up his approach to writing. Look, for instance at the range of entry points he provides, without slavishly sticking to one. They're not only entry points into the movies, but ways that the experience itself can impact him and the film. He's a gripping extra-textual documentarian. In this paragraph he comments first on the way the 35mm prints of the classics improves them, even a "comparatively" minor film like She Wore A Yellow Ribbon [the juxtaposition of "major" and "minor" is a pet theme], then on the way the way the program he attended presses films together in unconventional ways, allowing them to converse with each other. Then he moves onto the way reputations collide to create hybrid art, taking time to impart personal preference and speak openly about his place in the program as an audience member. Letting himself into the pieces and the films does not sap his razor-sharp focus one iota. He's one of the most refreshingly clear-eyed around. His attitude is never  that a film doesn't meet his standard, but rather that it doesn't meet the standard he knows cinema capable of. And on top of all that, his prose can be delightfully labyrinthine when he finds himself on a roll, a thing to behold. Kasman's understanding of the essence of a filmmaker makes his shorthand intensely satisfying. Look at the asides in this sentence from a review of Steven Soderbergh's Che

If The Argentine recalls Preminger and Exodus, the second part of Che, called Guerilla and detailing the man’s failed attempt to move the revolution to Bolivia, recalls Merrill’s Marauders (1962), though certainly not Samuel Fuller’s brute forcefulness as a filmmaker. A more accomplished film, though to a degree less interesting because less baffling than the indeterminate angle of attack that The Argentine takes, the second half of Soderbergh’s film grasps more firmly the physical sense of guerilla life.

His rhythm here, not to mention the "forcefulness," to use his own phrase, tonally communicate his feeling for the film as well as his individual points. His writing here and elsewhere at times recalls the style of Ghostface Killah, taking gamble after gamble on sentence structure and focus that most writers wouldn't dream of attempting, and getting it right every time. Indeed it's not hard to imagine his last sentence in one of Ghostface's verse's on the Wu-Tang Clan song "Gravel Pit." Kasman's created a safe space for exploration of every facet of film and criticism at the Notebook and his own writing has always led the charge toward ever more freedom of expression and form. 

On The Hole:
One thing I’ve found consistent in the handful of film festival experiences I’ve had is that by a certain point you’ve seen so much sloppiness that when a crafty movie comes along, one made with skilled deliberation and mature filmmaking, there is a danger of overrating its supreme comparative steadiness and experience.  At Toronto this year, Joe Dante’s The Hole is the embodiment of that phenomenon.  Its first act alone is made with such inspired knowhow of how to stage a dramatic scene, how to express and use space, and how to define in human terms genre-based characters—in short, are directed with such expressive expertise—that the relief at being in the hands of someone of obvious experienced talent was palpable, regardless of whether the film would stand as highly on its own.

The Hole suffers from a similar problem as Claire Denis’s White Material in being fundamentally rooted in its screenplay, an heavy-weighted anchor to the imagination.  Still, Dante is one of our foremost spirits of imagination, and let’s count our lucky stars that he’s still getting money to make feature films (his last was 2003’s Loony Tunes: Back in Action); unfortunately with The Hole he is hampered by the overbearing literalness of the Mark L. Smith’s script.  When a single mother (Teri Polo) and her two sons (Chris Massoglia and Nathan Gamble) arrive in a new town and the boys, along with their next door neighbor (Haley Bennett), discover a hole under their house that opens to an endless void, the potential for horror is beautifully evoked and modulated.  Dante keeps the scale of the idea in check and focuses on the various ways the kids explore their new found fantastical feature, how at first it treads the line between creating wonder and horror, and the regular, highly suburbanized ways the boys start and stop their investigations, hide their discovery from their mom, and otherwise integrate supreme weirdness into their every-days lives.  But once the titular void starts literalizing each child’s fears so that they may over come them, there’s little Dante’s directorial imagination can do to enliven a plodding series of supposedly fearful confrontations.

On Redbelt:
With a Mamet film, we can be propelled forward on the confident completeness with which the writer/director thinks he has crafted his characters. Whether or not they are whole, or even meaningful, they nevertheless exist and move like defined masses, whose only purpose is to exhibit their own definition, secureness, and resiliency by coming into volatile contact with other such masses. Lean little planets in orbit, they are dying for a galactic collision that will never come in a cinema so pre-determined. But at least in the best of Mamet there is a sense of melancholy recognition, the awareness that since everything has been set up from the beginning—in both senses, Mamet being a dialog writer above all else, and that so many of his films feature elaborate confidence games—a character should accept the sad fate of never exploding gloriously, never being truly tested for this philosophical wholeness Mamet's killer dialog encases everyone in. The over-determination eliminates the spectacular but it does provide a fast ride of confidence, stories and characters skating forward with believable momentum and weight on rails to the end of their films.

On Kinatay:
Dedicate a movie to one thing, respect the singular attention of the camera, and a film should be rich enough to overcome just about anything.  Brillante Mendoza gives almost half of his film Kinatay to the nocturnal drive of a group of policemen out of Manila to its suburbs, and another half hour of night awaits them at their destination, a police black site.  This rich vision of so much gloom, dim suspension, no action, no spectacle, no drama is a beautiful thing, something out of an avant-garde film dedicated to textures, subtle shifts in color, and spatial uncertainty of a sunless world.  There is a story of course, of a young police trainee just married (that very day!) taken along on an off -he-books mission to torture a drug addicted stripper, and for a long time Mendoza plays the story like Haneke’s Funny Games (or a Park film), building up the audience’s desire for his hero to act violently, here to lash out at his sadistic superiors.  And some of Kinatay is that tasteless, with its handholding music (riffing off of Kubrick’s synth scores for A Clockwork Orange and Full Metal Jacket) and artless, didactic cutaways That Explain Motivation by showing the cops’ horrific acts, the home that must be thought of.  But, as with Mendoza’s previous film Serbis, the rest of the movie is given as a handheld dedication to space—there, a porno theater, here, a sinister, anonymous police van traveling great distances at night for the purpose of terrible things, and later a torture house.  But it is a space of obscurity, of uncertainty in a morally certain situation, and so the space, covered and run over again and again by the roving camera, takes on an abstraction nearly outside the story itself.   A palette of sleek grays makes a death grip on this film that started—again, didactically—in daylight with a marriage, and Kinatay’s immersion into nightfall stands strong, splendidly, as independent force. 

The Encyclopedia of Film Criticism - Olivia Collette

Olivia Collette
Since becoming agnostic, I’ve often said that I preferred it when I believed in a god, because it meant believing in a magical afterlife…When I die, I probably still won’t believe in god, at least not with any certainty. But I will no doubt wish that I did.

Influences: "Roger Ebert was probably the greatest influence, and he inspired me in a couple of ways. Firstly, and I say this in “My Favorite Roger”, he was a terrific writer, and one I turned to often when I was studying film theory. The second thing he made me appreciate was how to be a better reader. Even if I only knew him for 3 short years, I can’t begin to express what a privilege it was to be one of the people in his entourage in those later years.

Another influence is Matt Zoller Seitz, who I started reading after meeting him at Ebertfest 2011. I doubt he realizes this, but I nearly peed myself when he first complimented my writing, and then asked me to contribute to the Grand Budapest Hotel book, which is sort of an appendix to his book The Wes Anderson Collection. I wrote the chapter on music. I especially enjoy his TV recaps, because while most recappers tell you the order of things that happened in an episode, Matt tells you what was really going on. He talks about the layers rather than the events. And then there’s how he does it, which is just so many levels of good. 

Finally, there’s Odie Henderson and Steven Boone. They have very different styles of writing, and they’re both equally captivating. I especially recommend Odie’s Silicon Valley recaps and everything Boone’s written for Capital New York. Every now and then, Odie and Boone write together in a kind of epistolary blog post, which, for me, is an absolute treat. We haven’t necessarily worked together, but we’ve had the pleasure of talking to each other live, and the exchanges are incredible. They shape my writing because as a writer, I strive to have a voice as distinct as theirs. So I guess what I’m really saying is, I’m lucky to have worked with people I also admire greatly."

Proud champion of: Norman Jewison, Night and Fog, Jesus Christ Superstar, Ari Folman, Moonstruck, Tous les matins du monde, Ron Fricke, Celda 211, El laberinto del fauno, A Serious Man, Michael Slovis, Yin shi nan nu, Wandâfuru raifu, Pedro Almodóvar, Pleasantville, Federico Fellini, Suspiria, Volver, ¡Átame!, Denys Arcand, Pepi, Luci, Bom y otras chicas del montón, Brian Froud, Koyaanisqatsi, Persepolis, Wes Anderson, Julie/Julia, Lee Daniels, The NeverEnding Story, The Dark Crystal, Michel Gondry, The Doinel CycleAgnès Varda

Contributed to: The McGill News, Caustic Truths, Journal Place Publique, enRoute, eHow,, Montreal Gazette, Mondo*Arc, The Spectator Arts Blog, World Film Locations (San Francisco), Sparksheet, Indiewire/Press Play, Urbania, Huffington Post Québec and her writing is collected at

Despite a gift for it, Montreal-based Olivia Collette (October 19, 1976-) doesn't consider herself a film critic: "I feel I’m a journalist first, and an art critic second. And I say “art critic” because I’ve written about music, cinema and TV. And I put the emphasis on “journalist” because I’m much more interested in a variety of topics that shape society, not just art; things like linguistics, architecture, urban planning, transportation, politics; stuff that’s not necessarily artsy."

"What made it possible for me to even dabble in criticism was a combination of things: namely writing, studying film theory in university, and studying music before going into film theory. Even when I was studying music, it became clear that I was far more interested in deconstructing an art medium than being the artist. Although there are parts of me that still need those artistic outlets, writing will always be the most fulfilling thing for me."

"I feel that I got started with film essays before getting the chance to review anything. I really like to analyze the shit out of things, so I suppose the first time I did that, and made a significant mark, was when I wrote an essay in university about the visual theme of chess in Jesus Christ Superstar. It wasn’t the first film essay I wrote, but it was the one that made the most waves. My professor really liked the idea, and my cousin, who’s a religious scholar, used my premise to dig into representations of Christ in pop culture. "

"The first time I published any kind of review, it was in a community newspaper called Journal Place Publique, and it was about Yagayah, a play co-written by d’bi young and Naila Belvett. The first time I started to commit to writing about pop culture was on my blog, and it was with this entry, which I followed up with this piece [on devilry in the movies]. And eventually led to this piece [on video games], which continues to be the most popular on my blog: The first time I wrote for Roger Ebert about film was with a piece on the role of architecture in Inception."

Olivia identifying herself as a journalist is the key to understanding her film writing. Her pieces have an honesty, not only about the fundamental form and image in front of her, but about herself and what she brings to every piece of art she encounters. Kent Jones, among others, has frequently called for, to put it simplistically, people to actually write about the movie they're watching, and Olivia is one of the few writers who rarely strays from what can be known about the film, about its reality, and about how it achieves its effect on the viewer. Her prose, candid, funny and relatable, lowers a bridge for readers, offering an easy, rewarding rapport. She thoroughly researches the movies she watches to fully engross herself in the artist's intentions and palette. Her endlessly fascinating look at religion informs her writing on film, in that both approach something unknowable with two feet firmly planted on the ground. She offers the safety of the rational world while examining gigantic, often terrifying subjects, offering her healthily skeptical POV as a way into discussing sacred cows, from religion to sexism to blockbusters. Every subject is treated equally, with the same scrutiny and openness. More concisely, Olivia Collette is fearless. 

On Laurence Anyways: 

The film's biggest strength is dealing with a taboo as if it wasn't. When Laurence starts dressing in women's clothing, she looks less like Jenna Talackova and more like an awkward man in a skirt, because it takes time to get comfortable with who you are. Eventually she returns to pants because a dress doesn't make the lady. Despite her ability for great tenderness, Laurence can also be selfish and rude. She's not an angelic transgender heroine; she's just exceedingly normal.

On A Hijacking:

The bulk of the stress revolves around 12 phone calls between Peter and Omar. Connor is always present to make sure each conversation never gets frantic. The one time things reach Samuel L. Jackson pitch, there are immediate consequences. The film earns Dogme points with handheld cinematography and uncomfortable, sometimes inefficient lighting. But Lindholm wanted to achieve maximum realism. So the boat scenes were filmed on a real ship in the Indian Ocean. A satellite phone was set up on the boat to make phone calls to the actors in Denmark, so echoes and lagging weren't scripted and the reactions were often improvised. Gary Skjoldmose-Porter, who plays Connor, is an actual hostage negotiator. He convinced Lindholm not to create a plasma screen-filled situation room and instead opt for a small conference set-up and sticking red tape on the phone the CEO would use. Other non-actors include 4 of the crewmembers of the MV Rozen, which was hijacked by Somali pirates in 2007. "Violence is expensive," is the simple — and loaded — thing that director Alrick Brown said during Ebertfest 2011, when someone asked him why there was a lack of bloodshed in "Kinyarwanda," a movie about the 1994 Rwandan genocide. That's why all the violence in "A Hijacking" occurs off-screen.

On The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey:

Some people hate "Dune" because it's nothing like the novel, but venerate "The Shining" for the same reason. You can't please everyone when you adapt a book to film, so you're better off hoping you'll please anyone. Even if it's just a handful, it's those few who will be your fiercest defenders against the purists. So let's start with what Peter Jackson's "The Hobbit" isn't: If you read the book, it's not the book you read. It includes plot elements from "The Hobbit," details that weren't fleshed out in "The Lord of the Rings" movies, bits from the "LOTR" appendices, and stuff that was created for the sake of this new trilogy.

We all know why, too. As a standalone story, "The Hobbit" had enough material for just one movie: a Hobbit named Bilbo Baggins is recruited by the wizard Gandalf and 13 dwarves to reclaim the kingdom that was stolen from them by a dragon; along the way, the company fights dangerous trolls and orcs, while Bilbo finds a ring that makes him invisible; it all leads to a final conflict. The End. 

That brevity won't do for such a lucrative franchise. And Hollywood economics dictates this must be a trilogy. Sporadic insertions of the Middle-Earth mythology were the only way to stretch the otherwise succinct saga over three films. Just the same, any film--whether it's adapted from a novel, comic book, TV series or video game--deserves to be reviewed as a separate entity, and on its own merits.