1977

best film:  Annie Hall from Woody Allen. Annie Hall leads the way in 1977 just every so slightly over Dario Argento's Suspiria. Annie Hall is a breakthrough for Woody. He emerges as an exciting formal artist and the film is an important work for the comedy genre and it certainly has become highly influential (it feels like its own subgenre). It’s also Woody’s first collaboration with Gordon Willis who would become his Sven Nykvist over the next decade (Allen would actually work with Nykvist on three features from 1988-1998).   Dario Argento's Suspiria is neck and neck with

19772021-05-31T16:40:32+00:00

Dark City – 1950 Dieterle

William Dieterle’s film noir Dark City is probably best known for being the “introduction” of Charlton Heston (the film’s credits tout it being his introduction but in fact he had been in two films prior). It is a fine noir, costumes are by Edith Head and the big, bold jazzy score is by Frank Waxman (Rebecca, Sunset Boulevard). There is no voice-over here, nor femme fatale-- Lizabeth Scott plays a woman in love with the young, handsome Heston. Scott is probably best known for The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) and there are some great interludes of her

Dark City – 1950 Dieterle2021-05-30T16:05:06+00:00

The Canterbury Tales – 1972 Pasolini

The Canterbury Tales is Pasolini’s second film in his Trilogy of Life—landing between The Decameron (1971) and Arabian Nights (1974) It is an adaptation of Chaucer of course- and Pasolini playfully actually portrays the author on screen, jotting down all these vignettes Hugh Griffith in the lead in the first vignette gives it a sort of fun, yet toothless (which can’t be what Pasolini is going for after Teorema in 1968) carnal frivolity. “I must trespass you” to his much younger new wife. It is like Tom Jones (also with Griffith) without the polish (which is shocking giving the

The Canterbury Tales – 1972 Pasolini2021-05-30T16:04:05+00:00

8 Women – 2002 Ozon

An array of beautiful diamonds and flowers during the opening credits sets the tone- François Ozon’s 8 Women is a welcomed mix of Agatha Christie story and Demy/Sirk aesthetics. Serves as a sort of who’s who of French cinema in terms of the talented women assembled for the cast. The big ones are Catherine Deneuve (an all-timer, royalty at this point) and Isabelle Huppert (right in her prime here, this lighthearted folly is just one year after Haneke’s The Piano Teacher, so it is fascinating to see those two performances/films back to back). The rest of the cast includes

8 Women – 2002 Ozon2021-05-30T16:05:17+00:00

Passion – 1982 Godard

Nineteen years after Contempt, Godard retraces many of the same steps here with Passion. This is largely about the making of a film (like all of Godard it is never that simple of course). Godard shoots the camera shooting another movie (instead of The Odyssey like in Contempt, the movie within the movie here is “Passion”). Godard even brings back Michel Piccoli who starred in the 1963 masterpiece. Reflexive and post-modern, in many ways all of Godard’s films are about the making of film—but this, like Contempt again, quite literally is. Here the actors use their own name which

Passion – 1982 Godard2021-04-11T19:23:53+00:00

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – 1937 Hand

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs must have blown people’s hair back in 1937. It stands as a major triumph for Walt Disney (still just 36 years old at the time of the film’s release)- it is a landmark film- the first feature length color animation film. And it was a monster at the box office, still one of the top 10 films of all-time when you factor in inflation. Heavy praise at the time from everyone from Eisenstein (he called it the best film of all-time) to the New York Times (comparing it to The Birth of a

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – 1937 Hand2021-04-11T17:59:03+00:00

Ludwig – 1973 Visconti

Visconti’s four-hour (238 minutes) opus Ludwig is the final film in his German trilogy (which includes The Damned from 1969 and Death in Venice from 1971) Visconti suffered from a stroke (aged 67 at the time) while filming and would die in 1976 Shot in glorious 35mm, Ludwig has lush set and costume design, and a narrative that follows the inevitable decline of a monarchy—indeed-- his is the work of the man behind The Leopard The costumes were acknowledged by the Academy with a nomination. Whether it is the military or clergy— these uniforms are clearly a passion of

Ludwig – 1973 Visconti2021-05-30T23:49:09+00:00

Every Man for Himself – 1980 Godard

Godard saw this as a sort of rebirth, a second debut, and I do think there is a very nice formal connective tissue between the jump cut editing in 1960’s Breathless and the slow-motion work here twenty years later in Every Man for Himself. It opens on an Ozu-like doorway and interior – it is the last beautiful image in the film (not that stunning imagery has ever been a major strength of Godard’s compared to the other greats). Jacques Dutronc (playing a film director named Godard who smokes cigars constantly and makes a fascinating confession about hating directing

Every Man for Himself – 1980 Godard2021-11-19T11:57:56+00:00

Antebellum – 2020 Bush, Renz

Remember the names of Gerard Bush and Christopher Renz. They are the co-directors and co-writers behind 2020’s horror/thriller Antebellum starring the magnificent Janelle Monáe. It is the debut film for Bush and Renz, it premiered during the pandemic so there’s virtually no box office, and the reviews are rough- so here’s hoping they get another chance. the prologue is a Faulkner quote- “The past is never dead. It's not even past.” the opening shot many be cinema’s single finest shot in 2020. Their camera travels underneath the Spanish moss and past Don Johnson’s house in Django Unchained. It features

Antebellum – 2020 Bush, Renz2021-05-21T12:58:39+00:00

1976

best film:  Taxi Driver from Martin Scorsese Mean Streets marked the announcement of Scorsese a major new talent. It’s not a perfect film but a film with so much bravado on display in it that it’s impossible to deny it’s status. Scorsese’s Taxi Driver IS a perfect film and the full realization of one of cinema’s great auteurs. Scorsese’s direction, De Niro’s performance, Paul Schrader’s script, and Bernard Herrmann’s score are all talked about as amongst the best in their given category and rightly so. It is  unquestionably one of the top 50 films of all-time, a hallmark of

19762021-05-30T19:46:13+00:00

Weekend – 1967 Godard

Godard uses both montage and long take duration as stylistic tools in his last great hurrah, Weekend. There are six or seven individual shots that take up about half of the overall running time (Cuaron’s Children of Men is the same way)—this is new for Godard. Godard’s approach is very different from Ophuls, Renoir, Hitchcock and Welles—but still a very important film when talking about the history of the tracking shot and long takes. Godard’s 14th archiveable film, and at age 37, in a blaze of furious glory, he’s really done as a top auteur. He’d go on to

Weekend – 1967 Godard2021-06-02T21:07:13+00:00

Clemency – 2019 Chukwu

Clemency has both a strong lead performance (veteran Alfre Woodard has never been better) and a color design in the mise-en-scene throughout from relative newcomer Chinonye Chukwu Chukwu and Woodard are on the same wavelength here with mood and pacing. The pauses let you soak up the detail in the visual design (a clear dedication to this specific greenish/blue tealish color) and nuance of the performance (especially in that sustained final close-up). Chukwu’s second feature, I have not seen 2012’s alaskaLand- her debut Woodard has been in archiveable films going back to the late 1970’s- but her best work (probably

Clemency – 2019 Chukwu2021-03-30T17:08:09+00:00
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