The best films of 1999

1. The Dreamlife of Angels (Eric Zonka)
2. Election (Alexander Payne)
3. Rosetta (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
4. All About My Mother (Pedro Almodóvar)
5. Topsy-Turvy (Mike Leigh)
6. The Insider (Michael Mann)
7. The Straight Story (David Lynch)
8. The Wind Will Carry Us (Abbas Kiarostami)
9. The Limey (Steven Soderbergh)
10. South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut (Matt Parker and Trey Stone)

HONORABLE MENTIONS: Three Kings (David O. Russell), The Sixth Sense (M. Night Shyamalan), Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze)

Screenings #40

November-December is my most crowded screening period. I wanted to get these titles dispatched before I add the final viewings of 2018.

Vox Lux (Corbet, 2018) 6/10
Green Book (Farrelly, 2018) 2/10
The Favourite (Lanthimos, 2018) 7/10
Hereditary (Aster, 2018) 7/10
Widows (McQueen, 2018) 6/10
Mirai (Hosoda, 2018) 8/10
Beautiful Boy (Van Groeningen, 2018) 3/10
Roma (Cuaron, 2018) 5/10
Shoplifters (Kore-eda, 2018) 9/10
The Guilty (Möller, 2018) 6/10
*Burning (Lee, 2018) 7/10
Boy Erased (Egerton, 2018) 5/10
Monrovia, Indiana (Wiseman, 2018) 8/10
Wildlife (Dano, 2018) 7/10
An Actor’s Revenge (Ishikawa, 1963) 7/10
* Midnight (Leisen, 1939) 9/10
* A Day in the Country (Renoir, 1936) 9/10
* Boudu Saved from Drowning (Renoir, 1932) 9/10

The best of Jean Renoir

Until the last decade many of the films that made Jean Renoir’s reputation in France moldered in reel-to-reel versions at university libraries. Now it’s clear how astonishingly those 1930s films meshed complementary tones, bawdiness, and a leftism he found indivisible from curiosity: the loving depiction of the improvised co-op in The Crime of Monsieur Lange, the proletarian romance in La Chienne, the beauty and terror of a young girl seduced in A Day in the Country. If he had never written and directed Grand Illusion and, god, The Rules of The Game, Renoir would already have proven himself a worthwhile member of the pantheon.

Flummoxed by the rigid sets and literal methods of Hollywood film production, Renoir made a couple of worthwhile American pictures during his World War II-era American sojourn. The third act of his career, during which his reputation rose to heights from which it has never plummeted, saw a fascinating but often ungainly and strained fusions of realism and artifice; one day I may love Elena and Her Men as something other than a delightful pastry, or can hear past the infelicities of language in The River.

I haven’t seen everything, La Marseillaise and This Land Is Mine in particular. But here’s how I’ve ranked the goods, and the order in which first timers should watch them. Finally, Pascal Mérigeau’s 2012 biography, translated in 2016, is fulsome in every sense — like the master he honors.

1. The Rules of the Game
2. A Day in the Country
3. Grand Illusion

4. The Crime of Monsieur Lange
5. La Chienne
6. La Bête Humaine
7. Boudu Saved From Drowning
8. The Lower Depths
9. Toni
10. The Southerner
11. Diary of a Chambermaid
12. The River
13. The Golden Coach
14. Elena and Her Men
15. French CanCan
16. Swamp Water

The best of Eric Rohmer

An exquisite miniaturist, Eric Rohmer isn’t steeped in literature so much as infatuated with the rhythm of literature and the patina of respectability that literature can provide. Distinguishing good from great Rohmer, let alone okay Rohmer, requires familiarity with his rhythms. Nevertheless, his peak came in the eighties when an exposure to sunlight and an enthusiasm for young performers coaxed his work into a new tonal complexity (Pauline at the Beach, Full Moon in Paris, the sublime The Green Ray/Summer). Watching A Summer’s Tale several years ago in its first serious American run was one of the highlights of a dull year.

1. The Green Ray
2. A Tale of Autumn
3. My Night at Maud’s
4. A Summer’s Tale
5. Claire’s Knee
6. Pauline at the Beach
7. A Tale of Winter
8. Love in the Afternoon
9. Full Moon in Paris
10. The Lady and the Duke)
11. A Tale of Springtime
12. Boyfriends and Girlfriends

The best costume dramas

The critical success of The Favorite made me wonder what period drama combines meticulous art direction and visual design and a similarly ruthless attention to character? My selections hover between the obvious and obscure; I direct readers to Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou immediately, for example. I define the costume or period drama as a film set before the early twentieth century.

In no order:

1. Dangerous Liasons (1988)
2. The Heiress (1948)
3. A Quiet Passion (2016)
4. The Age of Innocence (1993)
5. Jezebel (1938)
6. Love & Friendship (2016)
7. Fanny and Alexander (1983)
8. Marie Antoinette (2006)
9. Bright Star (2009)
10. Barry Lyndon (1975)
11. The Lady and the Duke (2001)
12. The House of Mirth (2000)
13. The Portrait of a Lady (1996)
14. Amour Fou (2014)
15. The Death of Louis XIV (2017)
16. Gosford Park (2001)
17. A Dangerous Method (2011)
18. The Scarlet Empress (1934)
19. The Duellists (1977)
20. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (1974)
21. The Magnificent Ambersons (1942)
22. Ran (1985)
23. Napoléon (1927)
24. The Life of Oharu (1952)
25. The Emigrants and The New Land (1971)

Supporting Actress Smackdown — 1994

A reader since 2006, I considered the Supporting Actress Smackdown begun by film blogger Stinkylulu an unalloyed pleasure. To banter alongside Nick Davis (Film Comment, Nick’s Flick Picks), Tony Award winner Itamar Moses (The Band’s Visit), and Eric Anderson (AwardsWatch) was no less a delight (we lost Sheila O’Malley thanks to a sudden emergency). 1994 marked the zenith of my Oscar obsession; it would wane steadily, despite my treasuring bits of trivia like a squirrel does an acorn (didja know that Dianne Wiest remains the only actor to win two Oscars in the same category for the same director???).  Continue reading