My 101 Favourite Films of 2023

1. Close Your Eyes
by Victor Erice

"The unluckiest filmmaker in the world," was how Ben Sachs described Victor Erice. The funding cut or witheld entirely for projects realized and unrealized, years without financing, dear friends dying before their time, and lately a great movie going undistributed after of a fiasco of a Cannes premiere. As always the central tragedy of film history is people not knowing what they have on their hands. Erice made El Sur, which is my vote for the second greatest film ever made. I do know what we have, and I'm even more keenly aware that we're letting him slip away. 

Close Your Eyes is a film in correspondence with the culture he lost and the people who went with changing time and tide. Abbas Kiarostami, Raúl Ruiz, Jean-Luc Godard, Theo Angelopoulos, all gone and with them less of a chance of a dream-like cinema of abstraction becoming popular again. Perhaps this explains the concrete nature of Close Your Eyes, his first film to trade in dialogue and references above the raw image of life and creation, of our relationship to memory. In Erice's cinema to create something is to pass it from reality to myth, from present to past. Film is a saviour in Spirit of the Beehive and once more here, as a man who loses his concept of himself rediscovers it only with images. In this idiom, it is the link between the imagined self and the realized one. A director's bad dream becomes his lost star's lifeline, a way to heal, and thus make his own pain mean something. It's Erice allowing himself the grace fate never afforded him, to say that suffering and loss and a career spent waiting for the plaudits mediocrities and other geniuses alike were gifted while he was adrift, it was all for something. It is because he says it is. Because it is his pain to contextualize and his life and art to claim. 

This man, one of our greatest living artists, has opened his cinema up beyond his own experience and allowed the world of cinema inside. It scraped at the door of a horrific present in Spirit of the Beehive, but here the door is wide open. "Miracles in the cinema are over since Dreyer died." "My Rifle, My Pony, and Me." Nicholas Ray and Fritz Lang looking down from the beyond they helped create, because could heaven be more lovely than the fantasies they made for us to protect against the dreariness of the everyday. Erice of course found magic in the dreary, and soon we'll all look back on every moment as if we were Erice and find in it the same beauty we do in a frame of celluloid. This perfectly lit, exquisitely paced, lucid dream of the movies, you can wait a lifetime for something this good. Heaven as a screening room with friends all around you, and the best of your life on screen.  

2. La Chimera
by Alice Rohrwacher
3. Tótem
by  Lila Aviles
4. Scarlet 
by Pietro Marcello

Gorgeous and rich and complex and archly personal looks at the need for community. Whether as colleagues in need of money enough to live on, or family during horribly tragic times, or outcasts propping each other up when everyone else rejects them, these films show the desperate need for people, the ones we want to see and the ones who want to see us. Personalities, as the title of one of them suggests, talismans, as protection, as artifacts of a life, whether one lived without protection from life's most cruel turns, or in the arms of a loving family. Tótem shows at best what community can feel like when we are born into it and leave while still wrapped up in it. A young girl sees the world through interactions with the people nearest to her without understanding most of it as much more than the first language of her people. The screaming rows and childish games make as much sense as the reverence shown a dying father. It's all just the heady, teeming cauldron of life. When grown, as in Scarlet and La Chimera, we see the need to climb back into the womb of community, especially when it's comprised of people who never got their shot at life in the wider world. People looked down upon, people who were rejected, found wanting. These remarkably touching fables have, like their heroes, a found quality, as if stumbled upon in the wild begging for their story to be told, a junk shop tabernacle of grave robbing oddballs lead by their sleepless prophet wrestling with the meaning of life on the one hand, and the lovely product of a giant who rejected a soldiering life and the witches who flocked to her. They are just to the left of where we think to look for humanity, and every bit the ecstatic exemplars of it. Fellini would have been proud.

5. Godzilla Minus One
by Takashi Yamazaki
6. Shin Kamen Rider
by Hideaki Anno
Reclamation of a dropped national identity and a childhood obsession with harmless fantasy. One suggests that decades of making defeat the national sigil can become the ramp up to a healthy dose of nationalism (is there such a thing?), and another that says that making pain an intrinsic part of the memories of a kids shows will help you have an honest conversation about the pain in the heart of everyone who grew up at the same time. The Kamen Rider is in agony, emotional and real, and he fights creations of a deranged psyche, but it's the same impulse that made him. Destruction and birth must go hand in hand, and rebirth through destruction binds these two blistering works, the kinds of movie from which you cannot turn away. 

7. Unrest
by Cyril Schäublin
8. Showing Up
by Kelly Reichardt
Films about the political nature of creativity. A factory full of people making watches are witness to burgeoning revolution, and an artist struggles to pay rent and get the creature comforts that might make her feel human in return. Cyril Schäublin and Kelly Reichardt both agree that any depiction of craftsman or artist must make us itch and sweat because no part of the life is assured and no part of the making is without damage to the body and soul. Watching watch parts fit together through magnifying glasses I felt my cuticles crawl off my hand and into a sewer. Watching Michelle Williams navigate local art space culture made me want to lose my skin entirely. The indignities, the care that goes unrewarded, the mistakes, and all the while a culture may change in the blink of an eye and render you completely obsolete instead of merely invisible. And yet some of the most warm films under their depictions of austere conditions, of lives spent staring at something in your hand, knowing the wrong movement could ruin a piece or ruin your life...or do nothing at all. 

9. The Pot-Au-Feu
by Trần Anh Hùng
10. Menus-Plaisirs les Troisgros
by Fred Wiseman
I was aware during the two splendid hours of movie with many terrible names The Pot-au-Feu that I was falling into the same trap that led the vanguard of foreign films in America to include the most stultifying of middle brow claptrap while I was growing up. It's a 'nice' movie about French people making food and loving each other from a far. It's the Mad Magazine or Onion parody of french cinema...and yet...sue me, I melted like butter and spices into a pan sauce. I was so moved by the continuous sight of Benoît Magimel falling in love with Juliette Binoche with her every movement of a ladle or a knife. I couldn't help myself. If this version of cinema is a stereotypical crowd pleaser, this exact iteration of it is enunciated with Trần Anh Hùng's existential sensuality. The hands of a chef on food, those same hands fumbling to connect with the woman he admires and loves in equal measure. Cool nights in the green moonlight with the most important person in his life. Heaven on earth, an impossibility he tried to depict in Éternité, in conversation with the work of Terrence Malick, is found in fits and starts, in otherwise ordinary moments. On the flipside is Fred Wiseman's own personal heaven, the kitchen of meticulous chefs, crafting the same delicious meals with a hundred years between the two narratives. Skill and patience still the same virtues, and when applied correctly you can guarantee a taste of something as it would have been enjoyed by emperors and kings in the distant past. Together a treatise on the best of life being a quality that can be handed down. The next generation can continue to make life worth living if you let them see how best to create, to love an ingredient and a dish like you would a person. Everyone must eat, but not everyone knows how to cook. So it is with art. 

11. The Killer 
by David Fincher
12. Silent Night
by John Woo
13. Revolution+1
by Masao Adachi
When men become instruments of death, they reflect the world that so made them. What needed changing so badly that men would kill to do it? Or were these men already lost and looking for a way to cry about it and ended with blood on their faces instead? Form so ironclad it hardly matters what horrible things these works tell us. Murder feels good in a place like this. 

14. Kidnapped
by Marco Bellocchio
15. Killers of the Flower Moon
by Martin Scorsese

True life tales of betrayal and savagery, of the men born into authority taking flamboyant and imaginary revenge on people with the audacity to be born to nothing within their sight. Directors whose anger and focus has not dimmed with old age reaching back to the original sins of their cultures. America and Italy, capital and religion, families ripped apart to prevent a new narrative from springing up like a weed in the tidiness of totalitarianism. 

16. Winter Boy
by Christophe Honoré
17. Brother and Sister
by Arnaud Desplechin
Very French and very raw tales of the runts of a litters learning how hard everyone else had it before them. Self-expression and exploration comes at a high cost and every little knick and cut, to say nothing of the big scars, take time to heal and effort to avoid in the future. Honoré's musicality imbues his young hero's awakening like a great album, changing tones and dynamics between tracks, but keeping the spirit alive between the peaks and valleys. Desplechin's latest symphony finds him revisiting pet themes with his most potent and true pen stroke. His fifth tale of the amorphous Vuillard family replays the notes of his best work, A Christmas Tale, and finds him as sharp as ever in his depiction of scoundrels dancing around the path to redemption, and the undefeated urge to fall back into old habits. Together a snow-bounded experience of messy bonding and hearts thawing. Indispensable cinema. 

18. Rewind and Play
by Alain Gomis
19. Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé
by Beyoncé Knowles, Mark Ritchie & Ed Burke
Who controls an image? One of the 20th century's greatest artists is left hung out to dry by imperialist videographers, and only in the hands of a simpatico editor can the man's genius breathe. Like James Baldwin, Monk's genius was so rarely allowed to stand for what he intended because it passed through the hands of colonising collectors and arbiters. Here's an object lesson in presentation and co-option. A lesson for everyone still clinging to fairy tales of inherent superiority: just because he won't speak your language does not mean he doesn't speak with more clarity and authority than you. Maybe your language has no word for beauty. Maybe your language is dead. Reviving Monk's language in the 21st century is Beyoncé and her cadre of stylists, videographers, cinematographers, choreographers. The second coming of the silenced black artist, the woman who has everything and yet makes her film a reflection of millions. She's the artist but she's the vessel through which they speak. She points the way to the future. She is the future. 

20. The Holdovers
by Alexander Payne
21. Asteroid City
by Wes Anderson
Movies with deliberate fetishism of decades-old style and delivery telling the story of young people being led to their latest selves by people who have lived long enough to have lost touch with who they once were. 

22. Mission Moscow
by Herman Yau
23. Raid on the Lethal Zone
by Herman Yau
Herman Yau released three movies this year, which I have to say makes him the most consistent filmmaker of the year without having seen one of them (it was the third in a series I have not seen any of). The two action films of his I did see were beyond impressive feats, wrangling dozens of extras in hairy conditions in order to produce some of the most pulse-pounding action sequences of this or any year. Watching people take part in a vehicular gun battle as they avoid a torrential flood and mudslide, watching them fly from train car to train car avoiding death by farming implement...where does he get the stamina? This is action filmmaking to make most Americans sweat just looking at it. The CGI is unselfconsciously mixed with the daredevil practical effect, and the color pallette is always exciting and crisp. Works designed to be rewatched without losing their sting, their sense of danger. 

24. Knock at the Cabin
by M. Night Shyamalan 
25. Sick
by John Hyams
The search for solitude interrupted by fanaticism, the cracked psychology of people who think they see a better way for the world to be. M. Night Shyamalan and John Hyams are two of the American cinema's most daring formalists, and just seeing them navigate small, out-of-the-way spaces without repeating a trick, without letting the audience breathe, this is top tier filmmaking, movies we'd be thrilled to discover in any year, unsurprised when we're told they weren't appreciated at the time of their release. These two directors picking single locations (for the most part) allow them to show you how to direct space and action, because your eyes cannot stray far from the subject of every shot, and yet feasts of meaning in every composition. Frightening, adrenaline-jacking works of patience and skill. 

26. The Old Oak
by Ken Loach
27. Fallen Leaves
by Aki Kaurismäki
Two old fashioned works of working class love and camaraderie. As one hero tries to quit drinking to meet his love where she wishes, another tries to put his pub to use, to become a pillar of a community that's long since dissolved any bonds of togetherness. The two films warmth is not to be discounted, and though the Kaurismäki has proven popular, the Loach has yet to premiere, my guess is out of fear of a lukewarm response among Americans who everyday wish to re-enact this movie's plot about locals fearing immigrants heedlessly to give their hatred a name and their purposelessness a cause. It is not marginalia, it is not texture; the point of these movies is to love thy neighbor and what a horrible shame we still need the lesson. 

28. Anatomy of a Fall
by Justine Triet
Turning your personal life, your romance, into a deposition is one of those ingenious ideas that only the hackiest and smartest of us have given it a whirl. I could have watched hours and hours more of this, of Hüller having her life unspooled and then debriefing with Swann Arlaud, with his scientifically perfect features and hair. Cinema is a slippery thing, there's sometimes no telling when a conceit can support endless iterance, but starting from a Preminger movie is almost never a bad idea. Triet's camera doesn't have to do much, but it never gets in the way of the important thing; old school close-ups and hungry mediums of people discussing the hardest moments of their lives. I guess it's time to watch all of Triet's other movies.

29.   May December
by Todd Haynes
30. All Of Us Strangers
by Andrew Haigh
Haigh and Haynes are kindred spirits in they're obvious comfort with a dozen genres and their awareness of the venom in the human heart. Haigh doesn't have the satirists/academic's distance between himself and his subject, nor does Haynes have Haigh's earthy immediacy, but when you pair them, as they allowed us to do when they released their beautifully tense latest films side by side, you can work up quite a sweat watching them. Haigh's tale of regret, of wishing you could have one more moment is lifted into the stratosphere of "how dare you" by a career high Andrew Scott performance, the epitome of broken yet open. His scenes of speaking earnestly to his parents have the same intensity as a fight scene. It's like he survived ten rounds with the world heavy weight champion, and then has to stare mortality and the parents he never knew in the face. It's so fragile, you're scared for every second of it. And then Haynes compliments the idea of looking back on the start of your trauma by introducing, as is his wont, an element of performance and production. The chance to do it all again is someone else's privilege, but not yours, and a man old before his time and a woman still trapped in her younger body. Film, in Haynes' worldview, can select the pieces of your life it wants, and make them into something else, to completely remove your image from its context. Bracing, smart, hard stuff, but never less than easy to watch. What a pair. 

31. Boy and the Heron
by Hayao Miyazaki
Perhaps the most exciting piece of Miyazaki's brain is the fearlessness with which he veers away from the mythic contours to which his stories might ordinarily hew. Boy and the Heron, perhaps more than any of his post-Spirited Away works, follows nothing more important than his latest urge and imagistic idea. Joseph Campbell would be useless in deciphering where this one goes, because it's so obviously personal to the point of having emerged fully inexplicable from his dreams. What safer and more wonderful place to be than uncharted territory with a master's guidance. Fearless storytelling about the fear of having no story to tell. 

32. Master Gardener
by Paul Schrader
33. Padre Pio
by Abel Ferrara
Two of our oldest martyrs, suffering under the weight of the gods they agreed to carry from a young age. Now, staring down the final chapters of their lives, they pit self-flaggelating stoics against worlds falling apart. The emergence of and re-emergence of fascism are the ground on which dubious battles with the empty promises of the afterlife will transpire. Joel Edgerton's extremely moving repentant sinner grabbing dirt with both hands, knowing he isn't much more than that, and dreaming of the flowers that may yet blossom. "Shut the fuck up and say Christ is lord!" cries the Padre. The spirit may win or lose, but these directors have tried to find theirs and show them to us. 

34. Will-O’-The-Wisp
by João Pedro Rodrigues
35. Magic Mike’s Last Dance
by Steven Soderbergh
Feats of carnal athleticism as men of leisure discover their purpose in the arms of an adoring stranger. The men of Magic Mike discover meaning between the legs of the lost, while a princeling discovers lust and more at a firehouse, doing good (and more) for his fellow man instead of growing useless among his people. The safety of a new space, a place for regrowing damaged confidence or for training a generation of healers, a place to go feel like a queen, where you'll need new clothes after your visit, one way or another. The exchange of fluids, whether putting out a fire or lighting one, is the currency of progress. 

36. About Dry Grasses
by Nuri Bilge Ceylan
37. Afire
by Christian Petzold
38. Rotting in the Sun
by Sebastián Silva

In the tucked away corners of the earth, where creativity and amorousness ought to flourish, men get in their own way. Pig-headed intellectuals and artists refusing to see what's before them, choosing instead to become characters in stories they might have written were they more perceptive. Movies that double back on themselves to investigate their own impulses, that take the roman à clef for a joyride. 

39. Trenque Lauquen
by Laura Citarella
40. The Delinquents
by Rodrigo Moreno

A couple of Argentine behemoths so rich and free to discover what lies outside the confines of genre and three acts. Like watching whales swim the vastness of the ocean. Laura Paredes, the patron saint of a boundless latin american cinema, injects both works with her steely poise and one-of-a-kind facial expressions. 

41. Incident
by Bill Morrison 
42. Youth (Spring)
by Wang Bing
43. Our Body
by Claire Simon
Linking these three great but quite distinct pieces of non-fiction may seem like a copout but they're about the fixed price of freedom on the one hand and what that freedom actually affords you on the other. The care needed to take care of people who have not been cared for by systems and society, by the people nearest to them. The definition of the body is ever-changing and so the care needed to preserve it must as well, but what remains the same is the way the body can be maimed, disrespected, exploited. In a Chinese factory people keep their sanity by pretending they're working any other job, instead of slave labor while the world happily pretends they don't exist at all. It begs asking whether it's worse being a cog in that machinery, or someone out of step with any machinery; a barber walking to work who did the same kind of nothing thousands before him have, and wound up filled with police bullets on the streets, as if a casualty of a great battle, and not a man on his lunch break. But maybe the broader point is globalization has ensured there is no difference. We all serve men we'll never meet, and we all may be killed by them, too. The comparatively utopian vision of Our Body says we might be saved by him. It's a lot to ask, and a lot to hope. Three of our best non-fiction directors take the temperature of the world and find three different problems. 

44. The Color Purple
by Blitz Bazawule
45. Terence Nance: The Swarm
by Terence Nance, et al
The joy of seeing black directors take the American cinema for their own, and arrange bodies in cinematic spaces of their own design. After creating the greatest HBO show, Nance was asked to take over the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and filled with images of his artistic past and present that felt like the future. The overwhelming, sensuous expression, the florid expanse of image and sound, so few are at Nance's level. Blitz the Ambassador getting the reins of a huge, Spielberg-produced remake of The Color Purple, and turning it more into a tribute to Haile Gerima and Julie Dash is the kind of revisionism the cinema needs before it can shed its skin and enter a better age. A beautiful celebration of joy and bodies in uproarious, spiritual motion. It's not Alice Walker's book, it's something else, and I'm happy to have this, too. 

46. Desperate Souls, Dark City and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy
by Nancy Buirski
47. Cobweb
by Kim Jee-Woon
Two invocations of 60s radicalism. The neurotic, erotic Midnight Cowboy and The Housemaid get their turns in the limelight, one as tragedy, one as farce. My friend Nancy Buirski's final film, a loving and calm and thorough deconstruction of a classic, takes us into the belly of an era and shows us how it came together to make an unlikely cause celebre. Kim Jee-Woon's thinly veiled comedy about Kim Ki-Young's crazed monstrosity of the first golden age of Korean cinema, a loving but cautionary tale of how someone gets swept up in art when human life is on the line. Both of them changed the world in their ways. And both get fittingly singular tributes from some of our best. Rest in peace, Nancy. I'll have to carry on our conversation by myself from here on out, and it will not be the same. 

48. Are You There God, It’s Me, Margaret?
by Kelly Fremon Craig
49. Monster
by Hirokazu Kore-eda
50. Priscilla
by Sofia Coppola
The impossibly tricky path of childhood, made more treacherous by adults with their backs turned and their eyes closed, by willful misunderstanding, by clashing hormones and the temptation to make enemies where you might have made friends. Being someone else's version of your true self will get you in the end, and the vast array of endings ought to remind us how difficult it is to emerge from childhood unscathed, when the rewards for damage, for letting your guard down here or raising it there, appear so high. 

51. Dry Ground Burning
by Joana Pimenta & Adirley Queirós
The latest entry into Brazil's post-apocalypstic canon, an afrofuturist Upton Sinclair piece by way of Pedro Costa's cinema of decaying dreamers. Open hearts and pissed off minds, the streets belong to who tends them. 

52. Wes Anderson’s Roald Dahl Compendium
by Wes Anderson
53. The Caine Mutiny Court Martial
by William Friedkin
Wedding the theatrical to the cinematic with acuity and unexpected force, where the speed of dialogue delivery comes to make us hold our breath, as both an aging director making his final statement, and a director on the precipice of old age making something steeped in the distinctness of memories of early childhood accessed through byzantine artifice. The word and flimsy sets, meaning sprung forth fully enunciated. 

54. Geographies of Solitude
by Jacquelyn Mills
Paradise is 16mm images of things people leave behind, which also includes 16mm, a format becoming the providence of collectors and exacting students. The world moves on, and its refuse washes up in the least likely places, because it all must go somewhere. A thoughtful warning, yet a happy celebration in pictures. 

55. Miss Me Yet
by Christopher Bell
56. Do Not Expect Too Much From The End of the World
by Radu Jude
57. In Viaggio: Travels of Pope Francis
by Gianfranco Rosi
Travels with the people and gods-on-earth alike show us the misery of a ground level view of existence. Whether shaking hands for posterity, to put some of that divinity into the mitts of a hungry public, or driving millionaires to and from the airport, you will see the wretched conditions of the everyday. And coloring both of them is a series dragging us head first back through the 2000s, to the creation of our current reality, the alchemy of fusing bottom-of-the-barrel consumer culture with blithe genocide, explaining how we made it to this moment where we're watching the destruction of even more cultures with even more transparency. You can choose to be of it, like Ilinca Manolache's Angela, or try to stem the tide like Jesus Christ, but neither seems capable of changing the world when it's being broadcast to our phones and our televisions day after day, each second of content another moment of normalization. 

58. Présages
by Joanna Hogg
59. Passing Time
by Terence Davies
Short films, one a gift from the beyond the grave, one a word in exile, from the best the British film industry has to offer. It is truly the least we could ask when we lose someone as irreplaceable, as brilliant, and perfect, as lovable as a man as he could be curt and unsparing as a dramatist, to have Joanna Hogg waiting in the wings to make movies of similar power. This accidental double feature shows an English cinema in crisis, linked by two of its only great artists, one gone, the other thankfully receiving the love she needs to continue to create. Hogg has deserved every cent she's been given but in a better world Davies would have gotten it too, the greatest tragedian we had. Personal cinema always. 

60. Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant
by Guy Ritchie
61. Leo
by Lokesh Kanagaraj
62. Creed III
by Michael B. Jordan
More than these are two fisted tales of men combatting their demons and their would-be nemesis at the same time, these are different treatments of the idea of the soldier abroad and the man at home. How do you turn off the boxer's stoicism, the soldier's doggedness and frayed nerves, the killer's viciousness, in order to start a life free of the impossible stresses of that line of work. What is a soldier when he has no rifle, what is a fighter with no ring? Can a life be rerouted? Can a battle be left undecided? The bruising set pieces are more the point but I appreciate the downtime as much or more. 

63. Chile ’76
by Manuela Martelli
64. R.M.N.
by Cristian Mungiu
Sickbed visits with countries on the precipice of collapse, one of fever, one of frostbite. 

65. Napoleon
by Ridley Scott
66. Ferrari 
by Michael Mann

Two of our elder statesman give us their treatises on marriage and family. Both are not taken for personal filmmakers, but these two break open the pages of their diaries and gift us idiosyncratic and privileged looks at life inside the ever-churning minds of those who saw the future, while all around them the people closest to them wished they could see what was right in front of them. 

67. Full River Red
by Zhang Yimou
68. Phantom
by Lee Hae-young
Spy craft in period get-up, two breathless, bountiful works of suspicion and quick violence at the first sight of your opponent sweating. Beautiful people in ugly times, risking it all in the hope that some example will exist for future generations. Say something, do something, be something, no one else will and that's how they win. Wonderfully choreographed and surprising at every turn. 

69. The Pigeon Tunnel
by Errol Morris
70. The Ghost of Richard Harris
by Adrian Sibley
Biographies as seances, with the sons of Richard Harris having no choice but to stare down their father's wandering eye and casual disappointment even as they embrace him as man and legend. "Richard went to London, Dickie stayed in Limerick." What better guides than Jamie, Jared, and Damien Harris, some of the most magnificent and magnetic men in the world. Just a few miles away Errol Morris looks long into the darkness in John le Carré's lying heart and bruised soul and finds the regrets he covered with tales of espionage and double crosses. A man will reveal himself, in his work or in his actions, one way or another. Beautifully hushed works of discovery. 

71. The Innocent
by Louis Garrel
72. Origin of Evil
by Sébastien Marnier
Hysterical tales of dysfunctional families, one shameless, the other strivers steeped in matters of succession. Garrel has decided that his chronicles of masculinity will be the madcap opposite of his father's (or his cinematic fathers Bertolucci and Honoré) have yielded rich rewards. Marnier, hitherto unknown to me, paints a bleak picture of a family unit that stands in for old money everywhere. Would you kill to join a family? Would you to kill to keep one together? A delicious double feature to ponder that out for yourself. 

73. The Outwaters
by Robbie Banfitch
74. Society of the Snow
by Juan Antonio Bayona
Going mad in the wilderness, a landscape as an active enemy. Heading off into the unknown to better ourselves quickly becomes a matter of counting bodies for unspeakable purposes. One of these is a cosmic horror and the other a true life tale of survival, but both remind us that we may have moved down from the mountains but we're just animals. If we were to return to the states we fled or comprehend everything we could as bipeds with the apparently superior reasoning power among all species on the planet, we wouldn't last long. 

75. You Hurt My Feelings
by Nicole Holofcener
Holofcener truly feels like one of the last Americans who is interested in how we talk and relate to one another. Doggedly low key and approachable texts like this sometimes get dinged for their stakes but I'd happily watch a married couple have their first honest conversation in years. That's the kind of truly liberating, cathartic spectacle you cannot find anywhere else; when an argument breaks and gives way to confessions of the sort two people who have seen each other every day of their lives have been compartmentalizing out of commonplace embarrassment for years, there's no more freeing sight. You exhale with the characters. It might be antithetical to some people's idea of cinema, but it's new ground as far as I'm concerned. Holofcener evolves with us, even if she seems narrowly focused. That is, like so much else in her work, gleefully deceptive. 

76. The Gold
by Lawrence Gough & Aneil Karia
77. The Long Shadow
by Lewis Arnold
Taken together like a nature preserve for the best of English acting talent, magnificently absorbing true crime with few heroes and fewer happy high points. The Gold diagnoses the failures of the English economy as stolen gold makes its way around the far corners of the earth all while Scotland yard looks on with murder in their eyes. The Long Shadow shows how ill-equipped those same folks were at capturing a serial killer whose target was undesirable elements of English society. You'll want to run screaming when it's over but each performance keeps you glued to the spot. Jack Lowden, Hugh Bonneville, David Morrissey, Toby Jones, and yet the best performance in the whole mess might belong to Danny Webb, a forgotten man in UK cinema, who makes you remember why you take chances on what could be an ordinary procedurale. " will think of Caesar's Wife."

78. De Humani Corporis Fabrica
by Lucien Castaing-Taylor & Véréna Paravel
79. Saw X
by Kevin Greutert
The high cost of good medical care

80. Joan Baez: I Am A Noise
by Karen O'Connor, Miri Navasky, & Maeve O'Boyle
This one caught me completely off guard. I wasn't going to watch it except that I had a Joan Baez song stuck in my head when the screener wound up in my mailbox. What starts as exactly the kind of documentary you expect about a one-time fixture of the American folk scene without warning slithers into territory you didn't expect. The film actually explains Baez's pathology, the part of her late career that I always found enervating, that she seemed to abandon the reality she used to fight for for something metaphysical and at times frustratingly off topic. Then you get it. You see it and the performance art phase of her late life becomes the most heartbreaking story because you've been listening to it your whole life and didn't know you were. Many movies can claim pathetically to be studies in empathy but this one truly is. You don't know what people have been through. You don't know the depths of suffering, and you don't know what it does. 

81. It’s a Zabriskie Zabriskie Zabriskie Zabriskie Point 
by Daniel Kremer
82. Marlowe
by Neil Jordan
Different stories of the importance of looking back on film history. Neil Jordan's movie may have the whiff of a deal, a tax write off, but his love of American cinema in the 40s, perhaps the earliest signifier he handed his critics, carries this from lightweight exercise to a loving photo album of memories born in the cinema. Daniel's movie is a heavy photo album, with a story that begins, in a roundabout way, with the conquering of a stutter with the help of the films he watched so often. Daniel's love of film is not just a piece of his personality, it is the skeleton key, it's what forged him. As a longtime friend and fan, I can say it made him into the kind of supportive and loving person he is, a soldier of cinema, someone as happy to wear the badge of the acolyte as he is the hand of a friend on his shoulder. Zabriskie's magnificently conspiratorial tone gives way to something more open and warm, and ultimately a timeless work, the kind of video essay that makes me proud to make them. In a year of great work from him, this one stands tall. 

83. Birth/Rebirth
by Laura Moss
84. Evil Dead Rise
by Lee Cronin
Apartment-bound horror shows of motherhood turned gangrenous and wrong. One a film as hard to hold as a handful of broken glass, the other a film teetering on the brink of despair. Evil Dead Rise means to rip your expectations and your heart out with little care for how the nightmare affects you. Birth is a film that knows it's playing with heavy forces and that it can only end one way, and so keeps you at arm's length by playing the heartache of Judy Reyes against the calculating inhumanity of Marin Ireland's modern Frankenstein. As fertile from a speculative, hard sci-fi perspective as it is a psychological or emotional one. Evil Dead, though, that's about three headed demons and watching your family get fed into a woodchipper. 

85. Dark Harvest
by David Slade
86. Teen Wolf The Movie
by Russell Mulcahy
87. Retribution
by Nimród Antal
Pure form. Directors still out there in the wilderness, who never caught on like they should have. Antal has to craft an entire world from the front seat of a car and chooses all the right angles to do it. Mulcahy puts a bow on the teen-courting TV show he shepherded from day one, and if I was lost as a blind man following the lore the images and montage were clear enough. Slade adapts a novel with a fraction of the budget he needed to do so, and makes every missing cent work on his behalf. Eccentricity is the name of the game. How do you keep an audience engaged when they're primed to tune out on theory alone. Slade's film is maybe the oddest of the three, with its slang-heavy 60s netherworld caught between naivete and bone-deep cynicism, between earnest discussions of civil rights and the sight of kids being exploded like bags of groceries dropped from a great height. The less the film made sense to me the more my affection for it grew. 

88. Voleuses
by Mélanie Laurent
89. Ballerina
by Lee Chung-hyeon
I don't know much about astrology but if the full moon has you down, enjoy these two movies where ladies kill the ever loving shit out of everybody who wronged them. One is a B movie with a post-Mann spatial sense, the other a Charlie's Angels style romp where our heroes take time out of assassinations and capers to tell each other to drop that zero and get with a hero. Both will cure your hangover. Oh, and shoutout to Joy Ride, which may not have impressive set pieces, but is also a girls trip worth taking. 

90. Under the Light
by Zhang Yimou
91. Mission Impossible: Dead Reckoning Part 1
by Christopher McQuarrie
92. Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre
by Guy Ritchie
We love a movie where the guys and the gals get together and wreak havoc on impossible missions. Zhang's tale of police corruption, Chris and Tom's latest compulsively digestible if flabbergasting treatise on male and female relations, and Guy's horny spy game all throw their teams of searingly hot killers and fall guys into a neon blender. Movies with color and light and heat.

93. The Last Voyage of the Demeter
by André Øvredal
94. Emily
by Frances O'Connor
Stories of women surrounded by and given over to death as the men around them fall apart when presented suddenly with their own frailty and impermanence. Corsets real and metaphorical wrapped around the fate of women chosen not to be great while they still draw breath. A future poet in the wrong time is just a dreamer like any other. A woman fighting her own creeping death will have to succumb to it at some point, on her terms or someone else's. 

95. The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The Future
by Francisca Alegría
96. From Black
by Thomas Marchese
Two disparate stories of motherhood, and a psychedelic solution to the crisis of absence. One is gentle and steeped in a rich tradition of latin literature, the other a horror movie with more ambition in its emotional stakes and specificity. Anna Camp shocks as a mother who was given every chance to stop messing things up and Mia Maestro enchants as a woman given a reprieve from the beyond. They have little in common as experiences but they share a searching quality, a wish for one more moment. 

97. Jawan
by Atlee Kumar
98. Kandahar
by Ric Roman Waugh
99. Plane
by Jean-François Richet
Let's hear it for the boys. 

100. Anselm
by Wim Wenders
101. The Zone of Interest
by Jonathan Glazer
Two films that approach the legacy of the Nazi party from a modern vantage point, with very similar results. Trying to animate a piece (or pieces) of inanimate art processing the grief of a nation, the trauma and shame baked into the very DNA of the German, will always be an uphill climb, in two or three dimensions. So will representing the holocaust without ever showing its violence. The spaces these work create for contemplation is needed, though I found myself unable to embrace them both fully, I was occasionally stunned into silence by formal attempts, by the act of a film asking us to process every day atrocity, because of course it was ordinary and it was extraordinary. The culmination of attitudes you'll find right next door and the loosing of those thousands of neighbors on each other. Trying to locate a space where we must consider this, is not a bad goal, even if the films fall short of their other aims. 


Angela said...

Curious if you saw Zone of Interest on the big screen? It matters for the sound design. And the sound design is telling us so much. I went to the cast and crew BAFTA screening, and the process of making this film was pretty interesting and unusual. I hear you about the lack of full embrace... I think the detachment was inevitable in the way it was constructed. I think maybe you're supposed to feel alienated, as they were. It's the very core of what's outrageous about this moment of time and viewing experience. A major piece of feeling function is just missing. I don't know if it's what Glazer intended, but I think it worked and I thought/felt about it a lot after I left the theater. But you know film better than I do. Thanks again for doing what you do. Angela G.

Scout Tafoya said...

Thanks very much Angela! I don't know if his characters were meant to feel alienated, they're masters of the world, as it were, which I think leads to a bifurcation of intention and text, for me. I did not see it in theatres, I watched a screener.