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Hello, I Must Be Going

girl on bus decasia small

As the old year fades out, here’s a look at Bill Morrison’s beautiful and provocative “Decasia,” a film entirely assembled out of carefully chosen strips of decaying celluloid. Morrison reminds us, among many other things, that movies are at once glorious illusions situated outside the normal boundaries of time and space and highly fragile physical objects, subjected to a life cycle of their own. The fine new Blu-ray edition of Morrison’s 2002 film from Icarus brings his work into the digital realm, which is of course subject to its own kind of decay, possibly even more devastating in its effects than that which afflicts celluloid. No future Morrisons will be making movies of misaligned 1s and 0s. When a digital file goes, or when the technology to read it slips into obsolescence, it is gone completely and forever. It may well prove that the films of 2012 are more ephemeral than the films of 1912.

As has become custom in these parts at the end of the year, I’d like to invite everyone to submit their ten best lists, be they of new films, newly published DVDs, or older movies you’ve seen for the first time in these last twelve months. My next New York Times column won’t appear until Jan. 7.

177 comments to Hello, I Must Be Going

  • MW

    Thanks for reviewing this, I’ve always wanted to see it. I remember when it came out – I missed its run, but someone I met caught it at Facets in Chicago and told me about it the week after. I never saw that person again, and I could never remember the title or the filmmaker, but the concept of what he described really stuck, and I’m glad I’ll finally get a chance to see this.

    With regards to a ten best list:

    Distributed in the U.S. in 2012
    1. The Turin Horse
    2. Zero Dark Thirty
    3. The Kid with a Bike
    4. Tabu
    5. Holy Motors
    6. The Master
    7. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
    8. Moonrise Kingdom
    9. This Is Not a Film
    10. The Deep Blue Sea

  • Here’s my official list, based on 2012 general releases in US theaters (or, in one case, a comparable VOD release):

    1 THIS IS NOT A FILM (Mojtaba Mirtahmasb and Jafar Panahi)
    2 MOONRISE KINGDOM (Wes Anderson)
    3 FLIGHT (Robert Zemeckis)
    4 THE KID WITH A BIKE (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne)
    5 THE DEEP BLUE SEA (Terence Davies)
    6 LOOPER (Rian Johnson)
    8 SLEEPLESS NIGHT (Frédéric Jardin)
    9 NOT FADE AWAY (David Chase)
    10 CLOUD ATLAS (Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer)

    Runners-up: LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE (Johnnie To); HAYWIRE (Steven Soderbergh); DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (Whit Stillman); PROMETHEUS (Ridley Scott)

    Also, my “pure” 2012 list, based on the criteria that they first showed their face in public in 2012 (thus disqualifying several on the previous list):

    1 THE UNSPEAKABLE ACT (Dan Sallitt)
    2 LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE (Abbas Kiarostami)
    3 MOONRISE KINGDOM (Wes Anderson)
    4 FLIGHT (Robert Zemeckis)
    5 APOLOGIZE (Louis C.K.)
    6 LOOPER (Rian Johnson)
    8 PASSION (Brian De Palma)
    9 NOT FADE AWAY (David Chase)
    10 CLOUD ATLAS (Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer)

    Runners-up: YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHIN’ YET (Alain Resnais); PROMETHEUS (Ridley Scott); THE LAST TIME I SAW MACAO (João Pedro Rodrigues and João Rui Guerra da Mata); NO (Pablo Larraín)

    Honestly I don’t know if the Louis CK item “counts” – I think it’s a deleted scene from the show’s excellent 3rd season – but to me it outclassed almost everything else I saw over the last 12 months, and anyway he’s just wonderful, as someone who thinks in images and ideas.

  • David Cohen

    Have not seen enough of the films of 2012 to make a 2012 list, though I have to say there are few films in recent years I’ve enjoyed as much as MOONRISE KINGDOM. … Unless it was HUGO or TREE OF LIFE, both of which I also saw this year and expect to see many times again.

    TOP 10 of older films

    ALICE’S RESTAURANT (Arthur Penn, 1969)
    BABY FACE HARRINGTON (Raoul Walsh, 1935)
    EARLY SPRING (Yasujiro Ozu, 1956)
    MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
    MATI HARI (George Fitzmaurice, 1931)
    RIFIFI (Jules Dassin, 1955)
    SCHOOL FOR POSTMEN (Jacques Tati, 1947)
    STRANGE CARGO (Frank Borzage, 1940)
    THIEF OF BAGDAD (Raoul Walsh, 1924)
    TRAVELS WITH MY AUNT (George Cukor, 1972)

    … thanks to Dave for his great columns and thanks as well for all the great discussion on this site over the year, which pointed me to some of these movies.

  • Joe Sochor

    Best Films Seen for the First Time This Year

    Saga of Anatahan (Josef von Sternberg, 1953)
    Tickets (Ermanno Olmi, Abbas Kiarostami, Ken Loach, 2005)
    Life of Pi (Ang Lee, 2012)
    Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
    The Thief of Bagdad (Raoul Walsh, 1924)
    The Descendants (Alexander Payne, 2011)
    The Ladies Man (Jerry Lewis, 1961)

    Thanks to Dave and commenters for helping me decide how to spend 2012, two hours at a time.

  • I love the idea of listing the best “old films that were new to me this year” as well. Here they are for me:

    A GIRL IN EVERY PORT (Howard Hawks)
    ABRAHAM LINCOLN (D.W. Griffith)
    WATERLOO BRIDGE (James Whale)
    DOCTOR X (Michael Curtiz)
    YOU AND ME (Fritz Lang)
    THE SPY IN BLACK (Michael Powell)
    WESTERN UNION (Fritz Lang)
    LES ANGES DU PÉCHÉ (Robert Bresson)
    PHANTOM LADY (Robert Siodmak)
    PURSUED (Raoul Walsh)
    LE SILENCE DE LA MER (Jean-Pierre Melville)
    THE UNDERCOVER MAN (Joseph H. Lewis)
    WORLD FOR RANSOM (Robert Aldrich)
    THE PURPLE PLAIN (Robert Parrish)
    LET’S MAKE LOVE (George Cukor)
    BYE BYE BIRDIE (George Sidney)
    WHAT DID YOU DO IN THE WAR, DADDY? (Blake Edwards)
    SURFACE TENSION (Hollis Frampton)
    LA CHAMADE (Alain Cavalier)
    THE STERILE CUCKOO (Alan J. Pakula)
    FOUR NIGHTS OF A DREAMER (Robert Bresson)
    ULZANA’S RAID (Robert Aldrich)
    ROUTINE PLEASURES (Jean-Pierre Gorin)

    Hmmm – I only wanted to mention a few…

  • Daniel F.

    This must be one of the most insular lists I’ve compiled in some time. I applaud Anthology Archive’s series based upon screenwriters; in particular, I followed up on some films penned by Alan Sharpe with great pleasure. In an above-average year of releases, my viewing was largely anachronistic, but nonetheless informative. Kudos to Dave and the contributors here for consistently fruitful dialogue — I tend mostly to lurk, but where else could one find such savory tangents as a Gerd Oswald fan club?

    In no particular order:

    NIGHT MOVES (Penn / Sharpe)
    ULZANA’S RAID (Aldrich / Sharpe)
    THE HIRED HAND (Fonda / Sharpe)
    ROB ROY (Caton-Jones / Sharpe)
    THE FURIES (Mann)
    MEANWHILE (Hartley)
    FLIGHT (Zemeckis)
    THE AGE OF MEDICI (Rossellini)

    My discovery of the late-70s Ealing miniseries OUT was informative and pleasurable, as was filling in some personal gaps, such as Siegel’s CHARLEY VARRICK, and De Toth’s PITFALL. I’m somewhat ashamed to admit I still await the recent releases of Davies, Carax and the Dardennes; at least I was able to catch a premiere of Assayas’s SOMETHING IN THE AIR at NYFF, which I found charming.

  • Daniel F.

    And I’d be remiss if I neglected the following:

    Any year featuring a Bresson retrospective (Film Forum), and Chantal Akerman presenting a new release (ALMAYER’S FOLLY) is something to be thankful for.

  • bill sorochan

    The film that I saw in 2012 that stayed within me and continues to haunt is Jack Clayton’s “Our Mother’s House.” Tragedy that a film of such extraordinary beauty has seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.

    My favorite new release of 2012 is “Holy Motors.” Joyous and filled with salvation.

  • Johan Andreasson

    Top 10 moving pictures released in 2012, including documentaries and television, in alphabetical order:

    A Royal Affair (Nikolaj Arcel)
    Bernie (Richard Linklater)
    Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman)
    Girls, Season 1 (Lena Dunham)
    Looper (Rian Johnson)
    Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
    Palme (Kristina Lindström/Maude Nycander)
    Rust and Bone (Jacques Audiard)
    Searching For Sugarman (Malik Bandjellou)
    Sherlock, Series 2 (Steven Moffat/Mark Gatiss)

    Top 10 older films I saw for the first time in 2012, in chronological order:

    Judex (Louis Feuillade, 1916)
    Regeneration (Raoul Walsh, 1916)
    Thomas Graals bästa film (Mauritz Stiller, 1917)
    Greed (Erich von Stroheim, 1924)
    The Picture Snatcher (Lloyd Bacon, 1933)
    The Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch, 1934)
    The Mascot (Wladislav Starevicz, 1934)
    The Breaking Point (Michael Curtiz, 1950)
    The Ceremony (Claude Chabrol, 1995)
    Cold War (Tessa Coombs, 1998)

  • Johan Andreasson

    Sorry, that should be 1915 for Regeneration.

  • Oliver_C

    My utterly arbitrary, alphabetical top 10 — the top 10 black-and-white DVDs I watched in 2012 (actual release dates be damned), chosen on the basis not just of filmic worth but transfer/extras quality as well, and all available only in SD (there’s still a place for the best of the format)…

    Bellissima (Visconti, 1951) Masters of Cinema R2
    Dark Days (Singer, 2000) Oscilloscope R1
    The Fugitive Kind (Lumet, 1959) Criterion R1
    Hobson’s Choice (Lean, 1954) Criterion R1
    Laurel & Hardy: The Essential Collection (various, 1929-40) RHI/Vivendi R1
    A Man Vanishes (Imamura, 1967) Icarus Films R1
    The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (Ritt, 1965) Criterion R1
    Strip-Tease (Poitrenaud, 1963) Mondo Macabro R1
    This Sporting Life (Anderson, 1963) Criterion R1
    The Virgin Spring (Bergman, 1960) Criterion R1

  • alex

    Bill Sorochan,

    Thanks for recalling CLAYTON’s great OUR MOTHR’S HOUSE to our attention–though I’m not sure HOUSE’s greatness much exceeds that of INNOCENTS, ROOM AT THE TOP or PUMPKIN EATER.

  • Alex

    P.S. To add to Bill Sorochan’s praise for OUR MOTHER’S HOUSE, the film is one of the most moving I have ever seen.

  • Yann Heckmann

    I missed so many new films this year due to time constraints and I’m still playing catch up – anyway, here is my list of films first watched in 2012 that left a lasting impression:

    Barbara (2012) (Christian Petzold)
    Moonrise Kingdom (2012) (Wes Anderson)
    Ted (2012) (Seth MacFarlane)
    Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011) (Sean Durkin)
    Oslo, August 31st (2011) (Joachim Trier)
    A Separation (2011) (Asghar Farhadi)
    Breathing (2011) (Karl Markovics)
    The Silence (2010) (Baran Bo Odar)
    Etre et Avoir (2002) (Nicolas Philibert)
    Cries and Whispers (1972) (Ingmar Bergman)

    Happy New Year!

  • Alex

    Brahm, “The Lodger (1944)
    Carné, “Les portes de la nuit” (1946)
    Edwards, “The Carey Treatment ” (1972)
    Grémillon, “Remorques” (1940)
    Grémillon, “Lumière d’été (1943)
    Grémillon, “Le ciel est à vous » (1944)
    Lang, “Spione” (1928)
    Ozu, Early Summer (1951)
    Rosselini, “Europa ’51” (1952)
    Sjöström, “The Phantom Carriage” (1921)

  • A young film critic at InContention just yesterday showed his shocking depth of ignorance towards the treasure trove that is classic cinema by casually making the following statement:

    “The worst Best Picture winners, then, are perhaps not the ones that get you really inflamed; rather, they’re the ones you don’t remember at all, and wouldn’t have much to say about if you did. Got any strong feelings about “Gigi?” There you go.”

    Thus, in honor of that treasure trove, I give you just not my Top 5 of 2012 but my Top 5 “in repertory” viewings:


    1. Amour
    2. Holy Motors
    3. The Deep Blue Sea
    4. Zero Dark Thirty
    5. Lincoln

    In Repertory (simply in alphabetical order)

    Barry Lyndon
    Objective, Burma!
    Once Upon a Time in America
    The Red Shoes
    The River

  • Happy Holidays! The only gift I have to offer is another list. Ah well. Here is my top ten for films that screened for the first time in 2012:

    1. Leviathan (Verena Paravel & Lucien Castaing-Taylor)
    2. August and After (Nathaniel Dorsky)
    3. Barbara (Christian Petzold)
    4. Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonca Filho)
    5. Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
    6. Motorway (Soi Cheang)
    7. Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning (John Hyams)
    8. Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
    9. Resident Evil: Retribution (Paul W.S. Anderson)
    10. Mekong Hotel (Apichatpong Weerasethakul)

    Honorable Mentions: Bernie (Richard Linklater), In Another Country (Hong Sang-soo), Safe (Boaz Yakin), Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson), Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami), The Three Stooges (The Farrelly Brothers), Vamps (Amy Heckerling), Dredd (Pete Travis), Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh), Romancing in Thin Air (Johnnie To)

    My list for films that were distributed in the U.S. in 2012 is here:

    As for repertory, the Jean Epstein series at Anthology Film Archives was revelatory.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Need to catch up with Tabu and Looper, but otherwise feel fairly confident I’ve seen most others –

    7 best – no order – Amour, Zero Dark 30, Flight, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, The Kid With a Bike, Holy Motors, The Master

    Rounding out the list – Barbara, The Deep Blue Sea, Killer Joe

  • Peter Henne

    “the cue marks that once appeared in the upper-right-hand corner of the frame to warn projectionists that the end of a reel was approaching” I’ve always called them reel markers, for some reason. I miss them the most of those “haptic” elements which Dave elucidated. Watching for the periodic reoccurence of the reel marker on a television broadcast was often my way of determining whether a film was presented pan-and-scan. Sure, you use your own sense of composition for what looks right, and certain linearly drifting “camera” motions look suspicious, but “passing the reel marker test” was a guarantee and often an exhilirating moment for me. Even allowing that 16mm source prints for television broadcasts could have their own cropping, on the horizontal sides, at least the revolution that had widenened the cinema would not be betrayed this time. Fims can fall into a rhythm with their reels, too. For one thing, shot lengths had to accord with projection reel lengths. The only narrative film I ever saw which had a reel change across a shot was NIGHT AND FOG IN JAPAN, which with only 44 shots doesn’t provide much leeway for how you sync up shots with the length of projection reels. Conversely, now and then the end of a reel, with the telltale marker, functioned like a little punctuation mark on the drama, and I’ve sometimes wondered if the filmmakers anticipated these underscorings of their stories. Maybe the most fortuitous I ever saw was the reel marker concluding the close-up where Camille is slapped in CONTEMPT, coming as though the film itself might have to halt from this indignity inflicted on her by her husband Paul. Perhaps Godard anticipated that if the following reel or its projector had a problem getting started, as sometimes happens in projection booths, the whole film should feel as though it were coming to an end, as indeed the characters’ marriage is. But you might not detect any of this from the Criterion dvd, as attractive as the transfer is. The reel markers, as is customarily done these days, are digitally erased.

  • Peter, thanks for addressing so well, in your post, issues of the materiality of the vanishing photochemical process. Dave’s anchoring piece is very good on this as well. As a fan of Morrison’s would like to see DECASIA again some time… on actual film!

    … and perhaps with different accompaniment. If I may quote my one complaint from my review of the film from a few years ago: “Unfortunately DECASIA was occasioned by, and is wedded to, an ear-splitting composition by Michael Gordon that sounds like Philip Glass on crank. Ghostly silence would be a better accompaniment to this American Book of the Dead.”

    My current top ten list, occasioned by my finally get a hold of the 2006 Masters of Cinema edition of Keaton short films, 1917-1923, is comprised only of titles like THE BOAT and THE GOAT. I would like to debate sometime the three contributors to the roundtable that accompanies the MOC edition as a booklet, J-P Coursodon (known in these parts), Brad Stevens, and the already mentioned on this site Dan Sallitt. Well, chiefly I’d like to debate Brad Stevens. Whatever Keaton’s films are about, they’re not about the evils of monogamy. Although in fact some of Stevens’ comments are very insightful.

    A good top ten list could be made of entirely of the great compilations of silent and early sound comedy that have come out this year, not least of which is the Warner Archive collection of Roscoe Arbuckle’s handful of sound short films.

  • Happy Holidays!

    Theatrical releases only:

    1. Holy Motors
    2. Life Without Principle
    3. Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
    4. This Is Not a Film
    5. Bernie
    6. The Turin Horse
    7. The Master
    8. Cosmopolis
    9. The Color Wheel
    10. Prometheus

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, in the interest of consumer enlightenment, could you give us a checklist of the compilations you have in mind. I wouldn’t want to miss any.

    While that is in the works, I’ll go back through my Kino Keatons and check out that monogamy thing.

  • jbryant

    I’ve barely seen ten 2012 releases thus far, but of those, I imagine LINCOLN and THIS IS 40 have the best shot of making my eventual list.

    As for my “new to me in 2012” list:

    DEEP END (Skolimowski)
    APACHE DRUMS (Fregonese)
    THE EXILE (Ophuls)
    ME AND MY GAL (Walsh)
    -30- (Webb)

  • Not a film, but something I think is worth more than just a footnote, today I listened to Tig Notaro’s (now) famous comedy show at the Largo, and I’m convinced that it’s some kind of masterpiece. It’s quite simple: Notaro’s 30-minute stand-up act, which she uses as an opportunity to detail the grave misfortunes she’s experienced over the past few months – and days – leading up to the show. Seemingly plain and deadpan, dry yet sincere, emotional but never maudlin; surely takes “I laughed, I cried” to a whole new level. It’s available on iTunes for five bucks.

  • patrick henry

    LITTLE TREASURE, which Alan Sharpe wrote and directed, is one of the most awful movies I’ve ever seen. Watching it made me feel sorry for Margot Kidder, having to be in it in a humiliating context.

    Of course, someone here will say “It represents his vision, which you happen not to share.” Glad to say I sure don’t share his “vision.”

  • Most wonderful first encounters of 2012 (not sure how many, I’ll have to count them after I make my list)

    Yeo-haeng-ja / A Brand New Live (Ounie Leconte 2009) Took me way too long to see this. A wonderful first film with an extraordinary performance by the lead (child) actress.

    Dyut meng gam / Life Without Principle (Johnnie To 2011)
    Maybe not an A+ Johnnie to film, but a very enjoyable A/A- one. After seeing this, I wouldn’t want to be a HK banker.

    Hog Wild (James Parrott 1930)
    Don’t hire Laurel and Haardy to install your brand new rooftop satellite dish receiver. Inspired destruction derby.

    Mahanagar / the Big City (Satyajit Ray 1964)
    Went near the top of my Ray list instantly. Madhabi Mukherjee is an absolutely phenomenal actress (as good here as in Charulata)

    Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson 2012)
    My favorite new movie, for sure. I like this more than WA’s previous films. The kids here are wonderful.

    Sparrows (William Beaudine 1926)
    Thank you Dennis Doros (and Milestone) for introducing Ms. Pickford to me at long (overdue) last.

    The Last of the Mohicans (Maurice Tourneur 1920)
    Pickford’s Poor Little Rich Girl inspired me to investigate MT — and I was totally impressed by his adaptation of LotM — a book I found definitely unenthralling.

    Kiseki / I Wish (Hirokazu Kore;eda 2011)
    Not as good as Still Walking — but very good nonetheless — more great kid performances here.

    Regeneration (Raoul Walsh 1915)
    One of the earliest films made that I love

    La grande illusion / The Grand Illuusion (1937)
    My distinct lack of enthusiasm for Rules of the Game, made me put off watching this for a long time.. My wife swore this was much better — and I eventually gave in. She was right.

    Book chon bang hyang / The Day He arrives (HONG Sang-soo 2011)
    I liked this a bit more than Hong’s other recent (and also good) film In another Country.

    So — eleven films — but I’m absolutely certain I must be forgetting something essebntial. ;~}

  • Tom Brueggemann

    Peter –
    As someone who once projected 16mm in college, I got very familiar with cue marks, and for the rest of time until digital came along never needed to take a watch to a movie, because every 19 minutes or so usually one would come along, and I never missed it. Yet I’d point them out to people who saw movies all the time and they had no idea what I was talking about, and didn’t believe me when I claimed they’d seen them thousands of times.

  • Barry, per your request for “consumer enlightenment,” here is a checklist of recent (mostly 2012) DVD compilations of early comedy. This is, as I said above, a golden age for silent/early sound DVDs. It’s everywhere if you look sharp. The Sennett short film marathon on TCM a couple of month ago may eventually result in a 100-film DVD. There’s a Norwegian fan of Al St. John has made it her avocation to place many hitherto unavailable St. John shorts on YouTube for our viewing pleasure. Thanks, Annichen!

    KINO – All of the Keaton features (and a 2 volume set of the shorts of 1920-23). These have come out over the past couple of years, with the last one (COLLEGE) due in 2013. There’s new material on every disc, even if you already have the earlier Kino DVDs. Also in Blu.

    IMAGE – The Chaplin Mutuals 90th Anniversary Edition is back in print after 2 years. This version has excellent prints and a Carl Davis score, although I thought the projection speed on some of the prints was too slow.

    LOOSER THAN LOOSE – Their “Roach Volume 3” has one disc (of 3) devoted to Will Rogers’ short films made for the firm in 1924. TWO WAGONS BOTH COVERED is particularly funny. (It’s a parody of James Cruze’s THE COVERED WAGON and it helps to be fresh on it before watching it!) The other two volumes have other good stuff.

    MILESTONE – “Cut to the Chase,” which came out in November, collects nice new prints of several of the Roach/McCarey Chase films of 1924-26, including a couple that aren’t on previous silent Chase collections.

    SONY – “Charley Chase Shorts Volume 1” is available 1/1/13. It’s a program of Chase’s Columbia sound shorts, most of them directed by Del Lord (a much more pleasant director than Jules White, who directed the bulk of the same studio’s Stooges shorts).

    WARNER ARCHIVE – Vitaphone Comedy Collection Volume One has all the 1933 Arbuckle shorts, filled out with shorts from the same period starring Shemp Howard. Stooges fans should also be aware that Columbia’s massive box set (which came out this year, I believe) of their previously issued complete 3 Stooges volumes includes, as a bonus, three discs of Columbia shorts starring the likes of Joe Besser and other part-time Stooges. Hail hail the archivists who exhumed these rarities!

    I can’t not recommend the Criterion issues of Chaplin features (if you don’t have them) but the OOP Image discs are preferred by many si-com buffs for a variety of reasons (the newer DVDs are edited versions that delete certain scenes or moments; there’s supposedly a harshness in the newer digital transfers some dislike).

    Also – the producers of previous anthologies of Arbuckle, Keaton et al material are soliciting donations for their next set of rare Arbuckle material at

    In terms of 2012 books related to the field, “Little Elf” by Chuck Harter and Michael J. Hayde (Bear Manor) is a massive compilation of facts about the comedian. It’s the size of a metropolitan phone book. I loved it, of course, although I think they play up the Capra-was-wrong angle too much, as Capra’s claims about Langdon have been overturned many times since 1972. Turning to academic studies, I’d single out Scott Bukatman’s study of Winsor McCay (“The Poetics of Slumberland,” UC Press). I haven’t seen Ethan de Seiffe’s “Tashlinesque” (Wesleyan) yet. Wayne Koestembaum’s “The Anatomy of Harpo Marx” (UC Press), by contrast, is a jawdropping, gookie-producing parody of Marxist-Freudian overanalysis, but I have to admit I liked it anyway (the same way I like Slavoj Zizek) for the random insight and provoking comment.

    Having nothing to do with silent comedy, very dry but full of useful information, is Brian Taves’ “Thomas Ince” (University Press of Kentucky, 2012).

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, that is great news about the Columbia Chase films finally coming out on DVD. I know that Mike Schlesinger and other friends of this site have been trying to get that done for quite some time. I don’t suppose that there is any way to get the 3 bonus discs without the Stooges however.

    In anticipation of your list, I went back to the Looser Than Loose site for the first time in quite awhile. I saw that Roach set and it does sound attractive. I also saw a set called “Polite Society” which consists of two Syd Chaplin shorts and three Erle Foxe “Van Bibber” shorts. After seeing UPSTREAM, I expect that quite a number of us here are curious about Foxe’s career in comedy shorts. Can you tell us anything about this set?

  • Barry, thanks. I haven’t seen the Foxe “Van Bibber” shorts but most anything from the Looser Than Loose site is worth a look. They do really nice restoration work, using 9.5 mm prints etc as source material, and making an effort to time the film music properly.

    I CAN tell you that Foxe was a co-star of Constance Talmadge in the teens and wound up presiding over the Hollywood military academy bearing his name where Buster Keaton’s kids were sent in the 30s (around the time their mom, Natalie Talmadge Keaton, changed their last names to Talmadge). There’s a nice pen portrait of Foxe in Anita Loos’ book about the Talmadge sisters.

  • Barry, about the Columbia Chase set: 8 of them star Chase and are directed by Del Lord, and the 9th film is a Smith & Dale (!) short directed by Chase. Some of these are pretty rare, but the set does include a minor classic, THE HECKLER (1940)… which I see was remade with Shemp Howard as MR NOISY (1946)… which is on those Three Stooges bonus discs.

    I did buy the entire massive Three Stooges box set to get those discs, too. Thanks, Mr. Schlesinger. I love your work. If you like the Stooges and hadn’t already bought all the previous releases of their complete oeuvre the box set is worth it… if not, and you somehow can score the bonus set (which is called “The Three Stooges: Rare Treasures from the Columbia Pictures Vault”) you can enjoy a disc of odds and ends, a second disc of all-Shemps, and a third all-Joes disc — Besser and DeRita. Besser’s WAITING IN THE LURCH (1949) is actually very funny. Which all leads to the burning question — why oh why didnt the Farrellys include Shemp, Besser and DeRita clones in their THREE STOOGES movie of 2012?

    I was actually afraid Chase, Keaton, Harry Langdon and Andy Clyde clones would turn up in the Farrelly film. They worked for Columbia too.

    According to this Nitrateville thread ( if enough copies of Chase volume 1 are ordered they’ll do a Chase volume 2. They’ve already done the Columbia Keatons… who’s up for the Columbia Langdons? The Columbia Andy Clydes?

  • Robert Garrick

    Dave’s highlighting of “Decasia” brings several preservation-related thoughts to mind.

    First: Is anything more permanent than a vinyl LP? A vinyl record, properly stored (on a bookcase, indoors) will be perfectly playable one thousand years from now. Under normal use, vinyl media degrades at a glacial rate. Digital media–hard drives, CDs, DVDs–is relatively extremely fragile. It can fail completely, all of a sudden, from a single scratch; and under normal use will usually fail in less than a generation.

    Paper is pretty good too. We still have those Gutenberg Bibles. But do you have your most important e-mails?

    Second: What’s a great way to store a film for a long, long time? Put it on a stylus-readable videodisc. Then store that disc on the bookshelf in a library. One thousand years later, the film will look as good as new. Videodiscs were popular briefly in the early ’80s, but they lost out to VHS tapes. Film looks best as film, but you can store a copy for an awfully long time on vinyl.

    Third: Film is dying; in a few years it will be mostly gone from theatres, as the studios push to do everything on video (because it’s cheaper). I note parenthetically that this is a tragedy, and that film libraries are being destroyed right now at one of the highest rates in history. But I also note that video preservation is a greater challenge than film preservation. “Preserving digital media requires greater commitment and overhead than typical film archiving; the most robust archival method, in fact, is converting digital into film.” That’s what Jesse Hicks wrote in an article on video preservation, and it’s confirmed by one of my university-based archivist friends.

    My final word, regarding preservation, is that I have no faith that it will be done correctly. There will be heroes, but mostly this will be a tragedy, full of needless loss. That’s the history of the movies.

  • From 2012 releases, my favorites from everything I saw were COSMOPOLIS (Cronenberg), THIS IS NOT A FILM (Panahi, Mirtahmasb), HOLY MOTORS (Carax), and KILLING THEM SOFTLY (Dominik)

    My top 15 first time viewings of older films would be (alphabetically):

    11 X 14 (Benning)
    THE BRIDESMAID (Chabrol)
    HUSTLE (Aldrich)
    INQUIETUDE (de Oliveira)
    LA CHIENNE (Renoir)
    LITTLE MAN, WHAT NOW? (Borzage)
    OTHER MEN’S WOMEN (Wellman)
    ZORNS LEMMA (Frampton)

  • Barry Putterman

    Gregg, I salute the good folks at Looser than Loose who have been doing God’s work in almost total obscurity. They make available literally hundreds of films that most of us were not aware still existed in a form which is as good as could be hoped for given the circumstances. I intend to dip back into their pool in the immediate future.

    I will also endorse the Chase Columbia set, sight unseen. The few Columbias I have seen are quite a bit below the peerless Roach films, but all things Chase are worth seeing. Further, if the continuation of releases is dependent on the sales of this set, we owe it to Mike Schlesinger and the others who worked so long to bring it to us to show our support.

    As for the almost bottomless pit of additional Columbia shorts, a “Complete Christine McIntyre” box set should provide us with a representative sample.

    As a side note, I will add that if others have had as much trouble getting on to the site as I have today, the paucity of postings will come as no surprise.

  • It’s been a great year! Reading the weekly reviews here are a great lesson in film history and the forum provides an excellent continuation of that conversation. I would usually buy maybe one out of every four new DVD that is reviewed (and be a little disappointed if a DVD I was looking forward to wasn’t reviewed, like, My Own Private Idaho or Heaven’s Gate). This year I also bought used, and cheaper copies, of DVD’s that were written about in previous years.

    Some of my favorite new films of the year include Lincoln, Cosmopolis, Holy Motors, Tabu, Bestiaire, Lawrence Anyways, Keep the Lights On, Trouble with the Curve, John Carter, The Master, From Rome with Love, and Savages. And some of my favorite un-released new films include Passion, Leviathan and Tower.

    Two of my favorite new film books are Jim Hoberman’s Film after Film and Chris Dumas’ book on Brian de Palma. The French film magazine Cahiers du Cinema continues to put out some of the more interesting features and more insightful film reviews.

    Have a good new years, everyone!

  • alex

    While I await enough catchup to compile s serious best films of 2012, good films of 2012 that would never make the real list:

    Cloud Atlas (lovely production valued and a masterpiece of complex multinatrative orchestration if one’s rest the book & doesn’t mind some holey metaphisical glue)

    Looper ( great sci ti plotting)

    Holy Motors (way too grim and misanthropic for this Kubrick & Wilder fan but admiraby bold and inventive)

    Flight (superior thriller melodrama)

    Moonrise Kingdom (boy too arch to be fun)

  • alex

    Abraham Lincoln Vampire Killer.

  • Tom Brueggemann

    A note to mark that Harry Carey Jr has died, age 91.

  • Scott

    Season’s greetings, all!

    I’m glad to see some of my year’s cinematic highlights mentioned already. I also saw Melville’s THE SILENCE OF THE SEA for the first time, and thought it was stunning. In terms of other older discoveries, I’m convinced I saw at least a couple masterpieces: Ritwik Ghatak’s searing melodrama of family and sacrifice, THE CLOUD-CAPPED STAR, and Mikio Naruse’s FLOATING CLOUDS (which I’ve learned was a favorite of Hou Hsiao-Hsien’s and Edward Yang’s). Naruse’s cutting between past and present in the film’s early scenes struck me as almost Proustian in its elegiac effect. I saw LATE CHRYSANTHEMUMS too, and loved it.

    The Sight & Sound film poll was actually a good resource for picking up suggestions. It was a nice surprise to see a list from our gracious host. The only film on Dave’s top ten I hadn’t seen was Raoul Walsh’s THE BIG TRAIL, which I picked up and found fascinating. (So thanks for the rec!)

    In terms of new releases, I was heartened to see somebody mention Amy Heckerling’s VAMPS, one of the year’s most pleasant surprises. It’s a sassy and heartfelt tribute to cinema and friendship. (I liked better it than Scorsese’s HUGO.) Like many others, I was big on Carax’s HOLY MOTORS and Petzold’s BARBARA. Ditto for both Andersons, Wes and Paul Thomas. A lot of people I know are kind of down on THE MASTER, but I thought it was sublime; a very haunting, enigmatic work. People also seemed mixed on Kiarostami’s LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE, Hong’s IN ANOTHER COUNTRY and Cronenberg’s COSMOPOLIS, but I thought all three were high points for their respective makers.

    For films that aren’t scheduled for release in the US until next year, I’d like to pre-emptively make a case for Xavier Dolan’s LAURENCE ANYWAYS and Harmony Korine’s SPRING BREAKERS. Dolan is a director people seem to either love or hate, but I thought LAURENCE was superb — lush, expressive and featuring a knock-out performance by Suzanne Clement. Korine is also a love/hate director (and I actually fell on the hate side before), but he won me over with this filthy-fabulous journey to the end of the night. And Terrence Malick’s TO THE WONDER seems poised to be his most critically-maligned film (at least, judging from the initial response out of TIFF, where I saw it), but I thought it was his best work since THE THIN RED LINE. It’s basically the most relentlessly abstract break-up movie since HIROSHIMA, MON AMOUR. It’s also a strangely evocative slice of contemporary Americana.

    My two biggest disappointments were Olivier Assayas’s SOMETHING IN THE AIR and Haneke’s AMOUR. For a film about revolutionary ardor, I found the Assayas incredibly limp and anemic. And I seem to be in the minority in finding AMOUR curiously unmoving. In my view, it’s a film that attempts to generate feeling by being about something that is emotional for people, as opposed to containing genuine emotion itself. I’ve actually appreciated Haneke’s unique blend of sadism and impassivity in the past, but bringing that to this material just didn’t work for me.

    I have to say, the film I’m most curious about is CLOUD ATLAS, which I’ve heard alternately described as a misunderstood masterpiece and the worst film ever.

  • Alex


    In making a (VERY) qualified reference to CLOUD ATLAS as I meant to write soemthing intelligible like “a masterpiece of complex multi-narrative orchestration if one’s read the book & doesn’t mind some hokey metaphysical glue.

    Without prior reading of Mitchell’s novel, I think the film may be fatally dense; and, for one who’s read the book, the film’s transformation of playful integrative allusions to reincarnation (in which Mitchell has proclaimed disbelief) into part of the film’s ontology, dumbs it down some for me.

    In any case, the Mitchell’s novel IS a masterpiece — and a great entertainment to boot.

    Overall, the movie was, at least, a richly evocative, entertaining and impressive follow up to the novel for me.

  • My list of best DVDs/Blu-rays of the year is up at And yes, you CAN now get the 3 bonus Three Stooges discs separately.

  • Rick K.

    Some vintage dvd/blu-ray which appeared this year … possible “top ten” contenders …

    Ophuls’ sublime LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN had a stunning blu-ray release this fall from Olive Films, courtesy their link with the Paramount/Republic holdings, where it has been dormant in the U.S. for about 20 years (the last release was a Criterion laserdisc from back in the early 90s I think). Before that, I recall seeing it via 16mm, but both those experiences were a mere shadow of the new blu-ray, which beautifully captured all the nuance and brilliance of Ophuls’ masterful style, one of the most elegant and superbly crafted films ever made!

    JOHNNY GUITAR likewise received optimal treatment on blu-ray, again from Olive, which I can honestly say allowed me to truly appreciate Ray’s inspired use of color and composition for the first time (again, 16mm & laserdisc were my only previous exposure … the film obviously went through a substantial restoration since then).

    LONESOME was probably my favorite Criterion release this year, giving auteur Fejos some richly deserved limelight via an exceptional blu-ray which, as noted in Dave’s column at the time, also included two other Fejos rarities on the same disc, LAST PERFORMANCE and BROADWAY, presented in best available prints.

    Walsh’s THE BIG TRAIL crept out on blu-ray too, first as a “Walmart exclusive”, but now generally available, and a considerable upgrade from the already excellent Fox dvd release of the “Grandeur” version.

    I was particularly impressed by two Wellman titles out this year … seeing the blu-ray restoration of WINGS (from Paramount) with its new/rich orchestral score really enhanced my appreciation for that film, and watching WESTWARD THE WOMEN for the first time (released by Warner Archive), was a genuinely unexpected discovery for me, a great 50’s western which I had completely overlooked until now … what a great find!

    Warner Archive, of course, has become an invaluable source with the incredible amount of material they have access to … it was great to finally see RED DUST resurface in an upgraded print … along with two other Gable-Harlow titles which are particularly fascinating and happily upgraded as well, George Hill’s THE SECRET SIX and Sam Wood’s HOLD YOUR MAN … both somewhat uneven, but when they are good, they are very very good, MGM veering into Warner pre-code gangster/con-artist territory … Harlow and Gable really shine in the latter film until the compromised ending … THE SECRET SIX holds some (gritty) surprises as well.

    Outside of the U.S. Region 1 (Region A for blu-ray), a few titles appeared which are still unavailable over here … Carol Reed’s OUTCAST OF THE ISLANDS got a decent Studio Canal dvd release in the U.K., along with several classic Ealing titles on blu-ray, notably Robert Hamer’s IT ONLY RAINS ON SUNDAY (they’ve got THE TITFIELD THUNDERBOLT coming in January!). While I’m not a huge fan of Preminger’s EXODUS, the U.S. dvd release was pretty abysmal, so finding a blu-ray from a German distributer was worth searching for. I’m also a rather diehard fan of the Roger Corman/Poe films, and again, only in Germany can you find a blu-ray release of THE HAUNTED PALACE (tho admittedly bogus Poe, legitimate Lovecraft), apparently the only one in the series given a decent blu-ray so far, but the upgrade is most pleasing and welcome! And the new blu-ray of Orson Welles’ THE TRIAL is practically essential (again from U.K. Studio Canal) … its probably not a top seller, but it SHOULD be, because its PURE Welles … I’ve never seen a decent print of it, until now.

    Still time to watch a few discs before the calendar shifts to 2013!

  • Shawn Stone

    Best Blu-rays/DVDs, in no particular order, and varying quality of transfers. (For example, Glass Slipper looks awful but I’d never seen it before and love it.)

    Lonesome (Fejos)
    Anatomy of a Murder (Preminger)
    The Show (Browning)
    Letter From an Unknown Woman (Opuls)
    Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Siegel)
    Uptight (Dassin)
    The Glass Slipper (Walters)
    Wings (Wellman)
    All Quiet on the Western Front (Milestone)
    Having a Wild Weekend (Boorman)

    The Mary Pickford & Universal Monsters sets, also.

  • david hare

    Best 2012 Blu Rays (And best 10 SD DVDs) as I tendered to the Beaver listserve. In no order of merit:
    1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Powell & Pressburger, 1943) ITV RB (completely flawless and lovingly curated restoration.
    2. Cleopatra (DeMille 1934) MoC RB If onyl Universal could do this with all their Paramount 30s catalogue.
    3. les Visiteurs du Soir (Carne, 1943) Criterion RA
    4. Edipo Re (Pasolini, 1969) MoC RB
    5. Gate of Hell (Kinugasa 1953) MoC RB
    6. Lonesome (Fejos 1928) Criterion RA Plus the astonishingly generous extras of Broadway and Last Performance. All in HD!
    7. My Son John (McCarey 1952) Olive Films ALL
    8. Die Nieblungen (Lang 1924) MoC RB
    9. Universal Classic Monsters Collection (Various 1931-1954) ALL
    10. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Hawks/Jack Cole 1953) Fox ALL

    1 The Erotic Films of Peter de Rome (de Rome, 1965-1972) BFI R2 PAL Breakthrough and still unmatched high quality porn which is genuienly erotic, thanks to the director’s unerring taste, and his instinctive mise en place which serves the attachments and fetishes of the material perfectly.
    2. Pattes Blanches (Gremillon, 1949) Gaumont a la Demande Region free PAL no subs
    3. Something to Live For (Stevens, 1952) Olive Films Region free
    4. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch 1932) MoC NTSC R2
    5. The Lawless (Losey, 1950) Olive Films Region free
    6. Pieges (Siodmak, 1939) Gaumont a la demande Region free PAL no subs
    7. Pearls of the Czech New Wave (Eclipse, 1965-1969) Region 1
    8. Columbia Pictures Film Noir Classics Vol. 3 (TCM Vault, 1945-1957)
    9. Numero Deux (Godard, 1975) Olive Films Region free
    10. L’Amour d’une Femme (Gremillon, 1953)Gaumont a la demande, Region free PAL no subs

    Most wonderful first viewings:

    Gardiens de Phare (Gremillon) from youtube and a rickety bunged up 16mm screening filmed on videocam. This obviously aint the reportedly lustrous Japanese restoration shown at Ritrovata this year but finally…

    Amour (Haneke) his first really great film, and like Cache thankfully a shift from his perpetually annoying displacement of Third Reich analysis and guilt association onto German culture in general. A real beauty.

    Dial M for Murder in 3D. A brand new experience for me of this and definitely assisted by the widescreen masking which helps Hitchcock to liberate and animate the set and the objects within the set as much as the players.

    Weekend (Andrew Haigh) The first real post gay, gay movie. At last a young queer filmmamker with immense talent opening up the dialogue about identity completely without constant referencing to “In” or “Out” concepts, but inclusively. I love this film and the people involved in it. It’s everything Brief Encounter should have been but couldn’t have been because Coward was such a sentimental old closet queen.

    Tabu (Gomes).

    All Quiet on the Western Front (Seconded!) This is a stunning restoration and a benchmark Blu Ray. And having always taken the line of least resistance/received wisdom on MIlestone and not bothered with it previously, I was totally knocked out. Milestone now demands further research.

  • Michael Dempsey

    Still trailing the current crop of releases by several lengths. So herewith, prime discoveries and new visits with old loves during 2012:


    “A Dangerous Method” (David Cronenberg): Not qualified to assess its historical accuracy, but as drama everyone and everything in it is firing on all cylinders.

    “La Ceremonie” (Claude Chabrol): This even-handed but fierce consideration of class conflict between a bourgeois family, its maid, and another working class young woman grips via both its nuanced parsing of daily behavior and its shattering climax.

    “Chronicle Of Anna Magdalena Bach” (Jean-Marie Straub): Comingled art & love – unique.

    “The Kid With The Bike” (Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne): A beautifully simple, piercing consideration of the most important thing in life – the offering and the acceptance of unconditional love.

    “Moonrise Kingdom” (Wes Anderson): A wonderfully artificial yet blazingly real depiction of love in another form, between two children, and radical in that it wholeheartedly endorses their self-performed marriage. No, I’m not a Wes Anderson cultist, as I’ve only seen, besides this, Bottle Rocket, but that’s wondrous also, so (New Year’s Resolution): see the others ASAP.

    “Youth Without Youth” (Francis Ford Coppola): Bat-shit crazy in the best sense. Will have to watch it again to figure out much of it, but it’s a heady feast even on just one viewing.

    “Holy Motors” (Leos Carax): See the above. Movies like these two are always being knocked nowadays for being “indulgent” – meaning that they dare not to follow the norms of whatever is trendy and commercial in Hollywood at any given moment. But if this kind of filmmaking succumbs to such knocks, so will film as a medium that anyone with half a brain can take seriously.

    “Adam Resurrected” (Paul Schrader): Another member of this club. Magnificent black and white sequences of night life in Nazi Germany as well as the camps that followed. Jeff Goldblum’s criminally overlooked performance could not be more masterly.

    “Carlos” (Olivier Assayas): All 539 minutes of it; never has such a chunk of time gone by with such muscular propulsion and political insight.


    “Ride Lonesome” (Budd Boetticher): A scalpel-sharp morality tale Western, as near to perfection in every detail as any human endeavor can hope to be. Every single moment of it offers something to savor and re-savor.

    “Who’ll Stop The Rain” (Karel Reisz): 1978’s best film, though virtually unseen during its release, this never fails to excite and move via its intense and precise dissection of Vietnam War-era anomie and its refusal to play the “likeable character” game. Nick Nolte, Tuesday Weld, Anthony Zerbe, Ray Sharkey, Richard Masur, Charles Haid, and several-scene players comprise a lacerating, at times darkly hilarious ensemble.

    “The Day Of The Jackal” (Fred Zinnemann): A supreme depiction of cold realities behind the façade of international politics. In viewing after viewing, unfailingly gripping and moving. Kudos especially to the large cast – with special mention of Michel Lonsdale’s ultra-low key, unassuming, but imaginative detective.

    “Loves Of A Blonde” (Milos Forman ): What looked like a sad but endearing comedy when it came out in the 1960s now comes across as a stark horror film – a stunning turnabout.

    “Empire Of Passion” (Nagisa Oshima): Originally, arriving in the wake of “In The Realm Of The Senses” but minus the latter’s explicit sex, this seemed a letdown. Re-visited via Criterion’s superb DVD, it now seems every bit as thrilling and moving as its better-known companion.

    “Cross Of Iron” (Sam Peckinpah): Peckinpah, a crazy, twisted human being according to many accounts but a commanding artist at his best, is at his most commanding in this, not simply his finest film but also the finest war film I have ever seen (and there have been many that might be worthy of such praise). Despite all the tales of how insane its production process was, this picture is unsurpassed for capturing both the exhilaration and the savagery of warfare. James Coburn’s performance is a landmark in film history.

    And finally:

    This, our host’s website, is a prime oasis in a rapidly expanding desert. Long may we be able to drink from its riches. Thanks, too, to the contributors who so generously offer so much wit & wisdom and, like so many of the films discussed herein, don’t even get a nomination, let alone a statue, for it.

  • Alex

    Interestingly, no one here has seconded acclaim for one of the critical favorites of 2012, “Beasts of the Southern Wilds.”

    To me, the film does, indeed, seem greatly overestimated, for I regard it as beneficiary of a lot of shrewdly selected moves –in particular, concern for global warming and sea level rise, poor and minority protagonists, mythic (indeed mythopoeic) visual tropes, and a charming lead performer– that are largely stumbled through in realization (impressive “first film” though it may be).

    Any fans of “Beasts?”

  • Nicolas Saada

    Moonrise (1948) Frank Borzage
    In Harm’s Way (1965) Otto Preminger
    You can count on me (2000) Kenneth Lonnergan
    Soyo no no tsuma (1931) Ozu Yazujiro
    The Clairvoyant (1934) Maurice Elvey
    I giorni contati (1962) Pietro Germi
    Woman on the run (1950) Norman Foster
    Angel on the amazon (1948) John H Auer
    Sporting Blood (1931) Charles Brabin
    Something to live for (1951) George Stevens

  • Nicolas Saada

    should add

    Little man what now ? (1934) Frank Borzage
    Crisis (1946) Ingmar Bergman
    Marked Woman (1937) Llyod Bacon
    La polizia ha le mani legate (1975) Luciano Ercoli
    Framed (1947) Richard Wallace

    WHat About Bob (1992) frank Oz
    Trading Places (1983) John Landis
    Both Leave Judd Apatow’s turgid efforts in oblivion.

  • Johan Andreasson

    This is where we need to count television in. The brilliant What About Bob and Trading Places certainly leaves Apatow’s (not too bad) films in oblivion. But consider Freaks And Geeks, and he is (much helped by Paul Feig) still in the running, and possibly even ahead.

  • alex

    Best American comedy in recent memory AND best shootout finale since like DIE HARD — DJANGO UNCHAINED! Unfortunately, the finale down grades the 100 minutes of great comedy. — but it’s still vastly better than Chris Nolan Or SKYFALL mayhem.

    Breakthrough candor about our Southern roots, so it’s got more gravity than most schtick or Rock’n Roll.

    One of QT’s 3-4 best!