Tuesday, December 04, 2012

In thinking about the best films of the year, one problem is that release dates tend to be different from the dates one saw the movie, especially if one attended various festivals or showcases. Case in point is that several of my favorite movies of 2012 i saw in 2011: "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia", "The Kid With a Bike", "Two Years at Sea". And there's a tendency to forget some movies: this summer, Garrel's "A Burning Hot Summer" had a release at the IFC Center, and it was a movie i found very pleasing (fantastic settings, gorgeous cinematography). "Francine" had a one-week run, and it was a movie i thought was tough-minded and scrupulous, with a superb performance by Melissa Leo. So Yong Kim is one of the finest filmmakers working, i thought "Treeless Mountain" was one of the best films of recent years, so i was excited about her new film, "For Ellen"; unfortunately, i thought the script was problematic, but the performances by Paul Dano and Shaylena Mandigo were impeccable. And that was another thing this year, a lot of performances by children were terrific: Quvenzhane Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Shaylena Mandigo ("For Ellen"), Thomas Doret ("The Kid With a Bike"). (So Yong Kim certainly has a way with directing children, as she proved in "Treeless Mountain" and "For Ellen".) This question of how to judge a performance by a child has come up many times. (It's implicit in the documentary "Baby Peggy: The Elephant In the Room".) I remember when Jacques Doillon's "Ponette" (1996) was making the festival rounds, and there was a lot of discussion about the performance of the then-4-year-old Victoire Thivisol.

But there's so much now: until the 1990s, if 400 films were released in a year, that was a lot. We are reaching the point where the number of films released in a year comes in at over 700, and growing. There's no way anyone can see all the movies released in a year! There's no way anyone can even try to see all the movies.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Monday, December 3, 2012. On Friday, i received my invitations to participate in the IndieWire poll and the  Village Voice/LA Weekly poll. And today brought the first of the Critics Awards: the New York Film Critics  Circle announced their winners.

On Thursday (Nov. 29), i went to Film Forum for the press screening of "Consuming Spirits", an animated feature by Chris Sullivan. This year, there have been several "independent" animated features, such as "Chico and Rita" and "The Rabbi's Cat"; "Consuming Spirits" is certainly ambitious, it's over two hours long (129 minutes), and there are different animation techniques used (cut-outs, stop-motion, drawings, collages) to tell this sad tale of dysfunctional lives. There are moments when the film becomes attenuated, when the narrative is moving forward but the animation is rather perfunctory. Still, it's probably the most inventive animated film i've seen in a long time.

Right now, i'm watching the documentary "Baby Peggy: The Elephant In the Room", a riveting documentary about one of the earliest child stars in cinema, Baby Peggy Montgomery (who remains alive today, at the age of 94), who now goes by the name Diana Serra Cary. It's amazing how the history of Hollywood is filled with these stories of how families exploit these children, from Jackie Coogan and Baby Peggy right up to Lindsay Lohan. The documentary is going to be available from Milestone, which is doing so much to save many forgotten films and bring them back for audiences. Movies like "Araya", "The Exiles", "On the Bowery"; right now, they've embarked on the restoration of the feature films by Shirley Clarke. Milestone has already worked on the restoration of "The Connection" and "Ornette: Made In America"; now, they're trying to restore "Portrait of Jason". But getting back to Baby Peggy, the question of the extent to which child actors are responsible for their performances keeps coming up, as in the case of Quvenzhane Wallis in "Beasts of the Southern Wild".

This year, both New Directors/New Films and the New York Film Festival had some extraordinary films. So did the BAM Cinemafest. In fact, this year, it's difficult to come up with a Top Ten, because there's always another film which i feel should be on the list. Some of the movies: "A Man Vanishes"; "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia"; "Almayer's Folly"; "5 Broken Cameras"; "Abendland"; "Keep the Lights On"; "The Turin Horse"; "United In Anger"; "The Kid With a Bike"; "I Wish"; "Ginger and Rosa"; "Goodbye First Love"; "Two Years at Sea"; "The Loneliest Planet"; "The Deep Blue Sea"; "The Forgiveness of Blood"; "Tchoupitoulas"; "Attenberg"; "Tabu"; "Footnote"; "This Is Not a Film"; "Barbara"; "Robinson In Ruins"; "The Central Park Five"; "Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry"; "Marina Abramovic: The Artist Is Present"; "Beasts of the Southern Wild". And that doesn't even count the various Hollywood and off-Hollywood films this year.