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

  • David Cohen

    Johan, agree about FREAKS AND GEEKS. Think that Apatow was one person actually helped by having to bow to the network’s standards department – restraint did him good.

  • Foster Grimm

    Happy New Year

    I’ve been lurking on this site for 2 plus years and not only have Mr. Kehr’s columns been a must read, the discussions following are always stimulating as well.
    I’ve decided to take the plunge and join the actionwith our host’s invite for a 2012 list.

    My discovery of the films of Keisuke Kinoshita this past year (thanks to Criterion/Hulu & FSLC) has been the major development in my film awareness. I’ve watched 20 of Kinoshita’s films to date, but if I had to pick one it would be
    Thus Another Day (1959)

    The ongoing discussions here on the subject of Raoul Walsh got me interested in checking out his Fox years. I got my eyes on, and loved, What Price Glory, Me and My Gal, Sailors Luck, and my favorite
    Wild Girl (1932) – despite a really limp performance from Charles Farrell

    The recent film noir discussion reminds me that I was awed by Siodmak’s
    Pièges (1939) – and I agree with those who feel Phantom Lady runs out of steam after Elisha Cook exits. And wasn’t Marie Déa one of the great
    beauties in cinema?

    While in a French mood, these also brought joy
    Toni (Renoir, 1935)
    Lumiere d’ete (Gremilon, 1943)
    Riptide (Allegret, 1949) – a Madeline Robinson festival these two
    Le Bonheur (L’Herbier, 1935) – silly story, but visually breathtaking

    And, in the noirish mood
    Ruthless (Ulmer, 1948) – the Warner’s B cast list in top form & Ulmer’s best
    The Sleeping City (Sherman, 1950)
    Story of a Love Affair (Antonioni, 1950)

    Before 1930
    The Dumb Girl of Portici (Weber, 1916) – a revelation
    Paths To Paradise (Badger, 1925) – introducing Raymond Griffith
    Chinatown Nights (Wellman, 1929)
    Lonesome (Fejos, 1929)

    And then there was
    The Great Silence (Corbucci, 1968) – stunned silence at film’s end at Film Forum

    Every list should have at least one left field choice
    The Man Who Walked Alone (Cabanne, 1945) – every dog has its day. Laugh out loud funny.

    I only keep up with new films when they hit DVD or are available to stream
    Easy Money (Espinosa)
    Footnote (Cedar)
    The Day He Arrives (Hong)
    Life Without Principle (To) – thanks to you for bringing this to my attention
    Holy Motors (Carax) – maybe nothing in its empty head, what a fascinating head.

    Cheers,

    Foster Grimm

  • Barry Lane

    Nicholas Saada:

    Re Angel On The Amazon: Did you see a good copy of this and if so, where and how?

  • Barry Lane

    Ruthless is most certainly not a B nor is WB. The film was produced independently by Arthur Lyons and releaed through Eagle-Lion, a production and distribution outfit with deep pockets in England. Louis Hayward did the film for an enormous fee that was deferred in its entirety. He did this for Lyons his agent, whom he loved, and Edgar Ulmer, his best friend. Sidney Greenstreet, whatever studio he worked for is no one’s idea of a B actor. While I can see in hindsight thinking that re Zachary Scott, at the time of production he still had A list possibilities. And, of course, he was dead on for the part. Throughout the production serious people, such as Raymond Burr in a single scene, may be found simply by looking. Diana Lynn, Lucille Bremer and Martha Vickers, especially at the time, were certainly not, or not yet, second feature players.

  • jbryant

    Barry, I took Foster to mean that much of RUTHLESS’s cast had served time on WB’s “B team,” meaning supporting performers rather than leads (generally), and not that RUTHLESS itself was a WB picture. I guess he can clarify that himself, though.

  • jbryant

    Since a couple of TV shows have been mentioned here and there, I’ll just throw out that the most consistently entertaining filmed entertainment I’ve experienced this year is repeats of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW on Me-TV (back-to-back episodes run very early every Sunday morning). I discovered the show when they were airing the last couple of seasons. When they reached the last episode, they started over from the beginning, and it was fascinating to see the difference. The early episodes are much more ambitioiusly staged, with lots of camera moves and close-ups, quite unlike the well-oiled, performance-centered approach of the later shows. Silvers is astonishing throughout, and I’ve never seen an installment that wasn’t laugh-out-loud funny from beginning to end.

    Current shows that I found worthwhile include LOUIE, MAD MEN, BREAKING BAD, THE HOUR, JUSTIFIED, SUITS, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, THE OFFICE (which has often been amusing, even in decline), the few episodes I’ve seen of GIRLS, and the great guilty pleasure of REVENGE.

  • jbryant, I agree with you; it seems clear to me that RUTHLESS’s cast indeed features some Warners supporting players (Scott, Greenstreet, Vickers) although of course I agree the great Mr. Greenstreet should never be taken for granted. The key point is that we should be welcoming new voices like Mr. Grimm’s, to freshen up the familiar core contributors group. I like all the films Grimm names (that I’ve seen). I don’t recall that the richly deserved praise in today’s NYT piece on Jean-Louis Trintignant mentioned THE GREAT SILENCE but I doubt that either AMOUR or (to reference the director of the original DJANGO) DJANGO UNCHAINED will approach the stature of Sergio Corbucci’s film. I hope to be pleasantly surprised!

  • jbryant, there was a very interesting article on Phil Silvers in an old Vanity Fair I got around to reading the other day; it praised his old SGT BILKO show (which I’ve never seen, except maybe in fragments when I was a l’il one) extravagantly, along the lines you mention. Worth a look. It also mentioned that the series has run continuously in England for years, and Silvers’ fan base there led to the arrest of a Brit tourist in Tibet who was wearing a Bilko T-shirt. The Chinese cop thought she was wearing a T-shirt of the Dalai Lama!

  • Nicolas Saada

    Dear Barry,
    I got a copy lent by Bertrand Tavernier who himself bought it on one of these “Great Hollywood Classics dvd sites” which sell bootleg dvd’s of films recorded on television. Dave, correct me if I’m wrong but it seems that it’s one of the films by John Auer which will sit on a shelf forever unless people at Olive do something about it.
    As much as I hate every possible “ten best list” (they always hurt filmmakers and artists) I chose to make an exception to the rule with “films of the past”. As I realize that most members here have done the same, I have to add that I find the exercise a lot more interesting and rewarding than the traditional “Best of 2012″. I would add that MARGARET by Kenneth Lonnergan was released for five days in one theatre in Paris, and of course, does not make it in any of the French critics ten best list this year.

  • Good to see you here, Foster! I hope you will stick around.
    I’m encouraged by how many mentions Johnnie To’s “Life without Principle” has gathered, even though the film was never officially released in the US. I’d also encourage others to see Miguel Gomes’s “Tabu,” which opened at New York’s Film Forum last week and has earned some justifiably enthusiastic reviews.

    Barry Lane, I think it was fairly clear what Foster was saying about “Ruthless” — that it featured a number of actors who had appeared in Warner B films. I doubt that someone who’s familiar with the work of George Sherman would have trouble distinguishing between the Warner Bros. shield and the Eagle-Lion escutcheon. Eagle-Lion was, in fact, created by J. Arthur Rank when he purchased Ulmer’s ailing home studio, PRC, to distribute British films in the US. Arthur Krim, later of United Artists, was the US head of production.

  • Foster Grimm

    Greetings, again.
    Re:Ruthless – jbryant is right. (And thanks, Gregg, for the kind words.) I should have been a little clearer, but I read the “Warner’s B” line somewhere so I stole it.
    In truth I am a great fan of Eagle-Lion pictures and know its story and sad end, but what films E-L released (The Black Book, anyone?). And I would watch anything with Greenstreet or Scott(well, almost). And Ruthless opened my eyes to Dianna Lynn.

    To open another hornet’s nest, I would like to vote for the most disappointing film I saw in 2012. After many years i took a relook at “The Man Who Shoot Liberty Valance” after all that had been written about it here and was utterly underwhelmed. I understand it’s point and why it is important in the Ford scheme of things, but I didn’t find it very good in so many ways. (And Bucking Broadway was one of my discoveries in 2011. Guess I like the early, funnier Ford.)

    Cheers,
    FG

  • Nicolas, John Auer’s “Angel on the Amazon” will indeed continue to sit on a shelf somewhere, but the responsibility belongs not to Olive Films (which so far has only licensed films from others for video distribution, and does no mastering on its own), but to Paramount Pictures, which owns the Republic library and to date has only provided a handful of John Wayne titles that were originally remastered for Wayne’s 100th anniversary a few years ago. It’s by no means clear to me that Paramount actually has prints of any of the vast majority of Republic’s bread-and-butter productions, though a few westerns used to turn up on the Western Channel and the occasional crime thriller on the Mystery Channel. Most of what Olive has released under the Republic banner are actually independent productions that were gathered together by an outfit called National Telefilm Associates, which eventually acquired much of the Republic library and renamed itself “Republic Pictures,” though it had no direct relationship to the production entity. The television mogul Aaron Spelling later acquired Republic/NTA, reportedly because they held the rights to Frank Capra’s indie production “It’s a Wonderful Life,” which Spelling wanted to remake (and did) with Marlo Thomas. When Paramount acquired Spelling’s library, the Republic films came along for the ride, though there’s little evidence that the cash-strapped studio has done anything since to take care of them.

  • Barry Putterman

    Let me add another voice of welcome for Foster Grimm and a hope that he (I’m assuming that Foster is a male name, but you never know these days) will continue to contribute here. Frankly, it has been rather depressing to witness the gradual disappearance of a number of old regulars as well as those who post interesting comments on one or two occasions and never come back.

    It has been a very long time since my one viewing of RUTHLESS, but it struck me that the film was very consciously playing off of THE MASK OF DIMITRIOS which would account for some of the casting. In addition to Greenstreet, I would never underestimate Zachary Scott as well.

    All fans of THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW (aka SGT. BILKO, aka YOU’LL NEVER GET RICH) should also latch on to Nat Hiken’s other great series CAR 54 WHERE ARE YOU? The laugh content runs equally high. And, at a much lower laugh content, for television sitcom direction, I would recommend Peter Tewksbury’s work on the final season of FATHER KNOWS BEST, which, at times, verges on the spectacular.

  • Barry Lane

    Nicolas Saada:

    Thank you for your response. I have The Sinister Cinema DVD of Angel On The Amazon and while you can see and hear it there is still quite a bit lacking. Again, my appeciation.

  • Taking the plunge of Dave’s invitation, I have to say it’s always tricky to reduce a year of films to a ten-best list. It’s something I usually have to do for work and while it focuses the mind it runs the risk of leaving behind a lot of stuff that was equally deserving. Nevertheless, a few thoughts on this year:

    – My three best for ’12 were (in this order) Joachim Trier’s masterful “Oslo, August 31st”; Bela Tarr’s “The Turin Horse”; and Miguel Gomes’ “Tabu”. Irony demands the acknowledgement that I actually saw the first two for the first time in ’11 in festival berths, but since they only gained a commercial release in Portugal in ’12…

    – The discovery of the year was, for me, the richly inventive film world of late Brazilian meteor Glauber Rocha. First with an remarkable season at the Lisbon Cinemathèque, then with a DVD release of five films among which the key trilogy of “Black God, White Devil”, “Entranced Earth” and “António das Mortes”. It was like opening the door on a parallel history of 1960s radical cinema that never truly happened.

    – Three films seen in ’12 didn’t qualify for my best-of as they didn’t gain commercial release in Portugal this year, but truly deserved to be there – Canadian hipster Xavier Dolan’s massive leap “Laurence Anyways”, Paul Thomas Anderson’s extraordinary “The Master”, Mexican director Michel Franco’s quietly disturbing “After Lucía”.

    On that note, I wish Dave and all of the contributors and readers a wonderful ’13, with as much great films, modern and classic, as needed, and preferably away from dreck such as the horrendous “Les Misérables” (which I loathed so much as to single-handedly make it THE worst film of ’12). Happy New Year everybody.

  • jbryant

    Gregg: That Bilko/Dalai Lama anecdote is hilarious (for us, if not the poor Brit tourist).

    Barry P.: Me-TV also airs back-to-back episodes of CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? on Saturday nights (actually early Sunday, starting at 2:00 a.m. Eastern). I’ve seen only a few, and it is indeed excellent. So far, it’s only time constraints that are keeping me from diving in headlong.

    For the new year, Me-TV is adding such series as WAGON TRAIN, THE SAINT and (of likely interest here) MR. LUCKY, the latter a one-season show developed by Blake Edwards, who co-wrote and directed the first episode. About half of the other episodes were directed by Jack Arnold (also a producer on the show). Other directors include Lamont Johnson, Boris Sagal and Jerry Hopper.

  • @ Jorge:

    It sure looks like Les Miserables is shaping up to be the most divisive film — at least from an aesthetic standpoint — of the end-of-year ponies. (The Django and Zero Dark Thirty controversies being more on the “moral plain” level.) And I grant you that Hooper’s subtle-free direction is a major liability — as is Crowe’s painful bleat of a vocal — but, damn it, if the thing didn’t work for me on a purely emotional level. Which then begs the question as to how to exactly categorize it from a critical standpoint.

  • @ Robert:

    From my standpoint, I can only categorize “Les Misérables” as dreck of the highest order, though hugely effective dreck. Highly professionally made, stiff-upper-lip, take-one-for-the-team cynical audience manipulation to which I remained entirely immune; it has been a very long time since I last squirmed this much on my seat. I can see a lot of people just loving it to death, and a lot of people just hating it for being a musical. What pains me the most is that for many younger viewers this may be their first experience of a musical film and this may put them off for life.

    Alas, regarding “Django” and “Zero Dark Thirty”, we have not yet had the pleasure to screen them here, since they’ll be January releases.

  • Jim Gerow

    The year was bookended by two essential retrospectives, Robert Bresson at Film Forum in January and Pier Paolo Pasolini, still ongoing at MoMA. While I had seen all of these directors’ feature films previously, I was grateful for the chance to see so many of them again in that dying medium of 35mm.

    I would like to echo Foster Grimm’s praise of Keisuke Kinoshita, whom I discovered thanks to the series at the Walter Reade. I’ve seen about ten thus far and am continuing to work my way through his many films available on Hulu Plus. I would single out two, PHOENIX and WEDDING RING, for their sublime performances by Kinuyo Tanaka. (The latter also featured two scenes of Toshiro Mifune in a bathing suit that, as they say, are worth the price of admission.)

    The other major auteur discovery this year was Pierre Etaix, especially for LE GRAND AMOUR, YO YO and the brilliant vampire episode in AS LONG AS YOU’RE HEALTHY.

    Other top repertory films first seen in 2012:

    The Satin Slipper (Manoel de Oliveira)
    La chouette aveugle (Raul Ruiz)
    The Man Who Left His Will on Film (Nagisa Oshima)
    Hotel du Nord (Marcel Carné)
    Coeur Fidèle (Jean Epstein)
    Pièges (Robert Siodmak)
    Malina, Dress Rehearsal, Eika Katappa and Willow Springs (Werner Schroeter)
    Feu Mathias Pascal and Le Bonheur (Marcel L’Herbier)
    Max et les ferrailleurs (Claude Sautet)
    Moana (Robert Flaherty)
    The Walls of Sana’a and The Paper Flower Sequence (Pier Paolo Pasolini)
    Unfinished Business (Gregory LaCava)
    The Loves of Pharaoh (Ernst Lubitsch)
    Lumière d’été and Le ciel est à vous (Jean Grémillon)
    Chung Kuo China (Michelangelo Antonioni)
    A Short Film About the Indio Nacional and Autohystoria (Raya Martin)
    Where Does Your Hidden Smile Lie? (Pedro Costa)

    THE PERFUMED NIGHTMARE (Kidlat Tahimik)
    I actually first saw this many years ago, but Tahimik’s one-of-a-kind performance piece/Q&A after the screening, in which he discussed his “indie-genius” filmmaking philosophy, qualifies as the directorial appearance of the year.

    The Best New Films (alphabetical):

    Almayer’s Folly (Chantal Akerman)
    Barbara (Christian Petzold)
    A Century of Birthing (Lav Diaz)
    Holy Motors (Leos Carax)
    In Another Country (Hong Sang-Soo)
    In the Family (Patrick Wang)
    Life without Principle (Johnnie To)
    Like Someone in Love (Abbas Kiarostami)
    The Master (P.T. Anderson)
    Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson)
    Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonça Filho)
    A Simple Life (Ann Hui)
    Tabu (Miguel Gomes)
    Unforgivable (André Téchiné)

    Runners-up: Bernie (Richard Linklater), Damsels in Distress (Whit Stillman), Dark Horse (Todd Solondz), Elena (Andrei Zvyagintsev), Las Acacias (Pablo Giorgelli), Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow)

    Finally, the Akerman, To and Zvyagintsev films all had their New York premieres at the First Look Festival at the Museum of the Moving Image last January. I would encourage New York area cinephiles to venture out to Astoria January 4-13 if you want to see films by some of the best established and emerging international directors in MOMI’s beautiful big blue auditorium. Cheers to another year of cinema.

  • Johan Andreasson

    THE DAMMED UNITED is one of my favorite films from recent years and I also liked Hooper’s HBO series JOHN ADAMS very much, so I was looking forward to LES MISERABLES, but I have too agree that it isn’t very good. Some of the performances, especially Jackman’s, are excellent, as is the production design, but the camera work, with constant close-ups and tilted horizons, becomes so repetitive that it soon feels like an annoying tick, and takes your mind off what would otherwise have been an emotionally involving story. I wouldn’t call it the worst film of the year, but it did feel like a waste of time.

  • @ Jim Gerow : Isn’t Pierre Étaix an extraordinary filmmaker that was well due a reappraisal by now?

  • Barry Putterman

    jbryant, you also have the option of buying the complete runs of “Car 54 Where Are You?” and “Mr. Lucky” on DVD. You would thus avoid commercials, popups, and missing sequences and be able to view each episode at a time of your own choosing. Would that this option were available on “The Phil Silvers Show” as well.

  • David Cohen

    Foster, my biggest letdown this year was THE MOON IS BLUE. I know there are a lot of Preminger devotees out there, but this one seemed flat and fairly contemptible – I dislike when people refer to a work as “dated” since I think it is often a way to simply mock old movies/ideas/customs, but that term seems to fit in this case. And I thought the lead performances were all a bit off-kilter.

    About CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU:
    Years ago I had a newspaper copy editing job that started at 2 a.m. Nick at Nite was airing CAR 54 every night at some point shortly before 2 a.m. and it turned out a bunch of us were watching it before we drove to work, a point hammered home when the desk rang out with a rendition of the theme song. (“There’s a Scout troop short a child/Khruschev’s due at Idlewild” is etched into my brain.) … Need to go back and watch that delightfully Yiddishkeit show again.

  • Jim Gerow

    @ Jorge: The films of Pierre Étaix had simply disappeared for decades, so that few people were even aware of their existence. Now that they have all been restored digitally and are touring the world, we can see what Godard and Jerry Lewis were so enthusiastic about. His use of sound and camera placement for comic effect are in some ways comparable to Tati and Lewis. There is also a deep melancholy running through the best of them which is brought out by his presence as an actor. The New York run was cut short by Hurricane Sandy; luckily I saw the last screening at Film Forum before the theater was forced to close the night of the storm.

  • David Cohen

    About CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU?
    Years ago I had a newspaper copy-editing job that started at 2 a.m. Nick at Nite must have been airing it every night at 1 or so because I used to watch it before driving to work, something that others on the desk did as well – we all found this out when the desk broke into a rendition of the theme song. (“There’s a Scout troop short a child/Khruschev’s due at Idlewild” is etched into my brain.) … I really should go back and rewatch some of that delightfully Yiddishkeit show.

    Foster:
    For a disappointing film, I’d single out Preminger’s THE MOON IS BLUE. I don’t generally like the term “dated” to describe a movie because it often suggests a disdain for non-current movies/ideas/customs, but I think it fits in this case. The plot developments, dialogue and the acting all seemed more than a little off-kilter to me.

  • Barry Putterman

    David, Khruschev and Idlewild. How dated can you get?

  • 2012 was perhaps the most decisive year in the digital transition. In Finland at the end of the year all premieres were digital, and thanks to the new opportunities in digital saturation booking the attendance figures rose higher than in 30 years. It was an especially rewarding year for Finnish movies which now could be booked everywhere at once. Previously small venues had to wait for months for their turn.

    The visual look of the digital cinema got better. A cold, bleak, and lifeless look was still predominant, but there were exceptions. Margaret, Beasts of the Southern Wild, and Moonrise Kingdom were shot on 16 mm, and the warm photochemical quality was successfully sustained in the digital intermediate. Skyfall was the first James Bond film shot digitally, but it had a richer look than the two previous ones that had gone through a bleak digital intermediate process. Steven Spielberg (Lincoln) and Quentin Tarantino (Django Unchained) kept shooting on 35 mm, and Christopher Nolan (The Dark Knight Rises) and Paul Thomas Anderson (The Master) on 65 mm.

    Since the 1990s we have been hearing the slogan from the marketing departments of the information technology business that “in five years film will be dead”. Every film professional knows that in 500 years film will probably still be very much alive, but we do not know if the current digital formats will be valid in 15 years. Laser technology and quantum computers may change everything. There are more than a million feature films on film, and of short films many times more. It will take generations to digitize them, not forgetting that digital formats keep changing. We will need film for a very long time, and many of the best film-makers will want to keep shooting on film as long as they live.

    My two favourite film books of the last year are about the digital transition:
    David Bordwell: Pandora’s Digital Box (E-book, Madison, Wisconsin: The Irvington Way Institute Press, 2012).
    Torkell Sætervadet: FIAF Digital Projection Guide (Brussels: FIAF, 2012).

  • @Jim, I had the good fortune of seeing the Étaix movies when the restoration road show drove through Lisbon in 2011. I knew of their invisibility, but was flabbergasted at just how much better they were than all I’d read about them led me to think. To me he is up there on a par with Tati, and yes, that melancholy is definitely part of it.

  • THE BEST NEW FILMS I SAW IN 2012
    Hiljaisuus ([Silence], FI 2011, Sakari Kirjavainen)
    Canned Dreams (IE/NO/PT/FR/FI 2011, Katja Gauriloff)
    Carnage (FR/DE/PL/ES 2011, Roman Polanski)
    Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (GB/FR/DE 2011, Tomas Alfredson)
    Hugo (US 2011, Martin Scorsese)
    A Dangerous Method (DE/CA 2011, David Cronenberg)
    Shame (GB 2011, Steve McQueen)
    Soundbreaker (FI 2011, Kimmo Koskela)
    Eräänlainen rakkaustarina (My Little Window, FI 2011, Lauri-Matti Parppei)
    Sodankylä ikuisesti 1-4 (Sodankylä Forever, FI 2010-2011, Peter von Bagh)
    Cave of Forgotten Dreams (CA/US/FR//DE/GB 2010, Werner Herzog)
    The Descendants (US 2011, Alexander Payne)
    Les Neiges du Kilimandjaro (The Snows of Kilimanjaro, FR 2011, Robert Guédiguian)
    The Pirates! In an Adventure with Scientists! (GB/US 2012, Peter Lord)
    Dark Shadows (US 2012, Tim Burton)
    A Torinói ló (The Turin Horse, HU/FR/DE/CH/US 2011, Béla Tarr)
    Mario Ruspoli, prince des baleines et autres raretés (FR 2011, Florence Dauman)
    Side by Side (US 2012, Chris Kenneally; Keanu Reeves)
    Carlos I-III (FR/DE 2010, Olivier Assayas) the long version in three episodes, totalling 330 min
    Barbara (DE 2012, Christian Petzold)
    Cosmopolis (FR/CA/PT/IT 2012, David Cronenberg)
    Terraferma (IT/FR 2011, Emanuele Crialese)
    Beasts of the Southern Wild (US 2012, Benh Zeitlin)
    Moonrise Kingdom (US 2012, Wes Anderson)
    Holy Motors (FR/DE 2012, Leos Carax)
    Margaret (US 2008/2011, Kenneth Lonergan)
    Urbanized (US/GB 2011, Gary Hustwit)
    1 Plus 1 Plus 1 – Sympathy for the Decay (FI 2012, Ilppo Pohjola)
    Searching for Sugar Man (SE/GB 2012, Malik Bendjelloul)
    Sinivalkoinen valhe (When Heroes Lie, FI 2012, Arto Halonen)
    Palme (SE/DK 2012, Maud Nycander, Kristina Lindström)
    Akkaansilta ([The Akkaansilta Bridge], FI 2011, Juha Rinnekari)
    De rouille et d’os (Rust and Bone, FR/BE 2012, Jacques Audiard)

    NEW RESTORATIONS AND TOPICAL RETROSPECTIVES
    Universal Pictures Centenary: our tribute was to screen nine Robert Siodmak masterpieces from his film noir cycle
    Die Weber (The Weavers, DE 1927, Friedrich Zelnik, 2012 restoration)
    Magde dhaka tara (The Cloud-Capped Star, IN 1960, Ritwik Ghatak, 2012 restoration)
    Komedie om geld (The Trouble with Money, NL 1936, Max Ophuls, newly restored)
    Kalpana (Imagination, IN 1948, Uday Shankar, 2012 restoration)
    Lewat djam malam (After the Curfew, ID 1954, Usmar Ismail, 2012 restoration)
    Phono-Cinéma-Théâtre (FR 1900, Paul Decauville, 2012 restoration)
    Vor fælles Ven / Our Mutual Friend (DK 1921, A.W. Sandberg, 2012 restoration)
    Moi syn ([My Son], SU 1928, Yevgenii Cherviakov; Anna Sten, 2011 study dvd)
    The Spanish Dancer (US 1923, Herbert Brenon; Pola Negri, newly restored)
    The Jiří Trnka 2012 touring show from Naródni filmový archiv (Prague)
    Die freudlose Gasse (Joyless Street, DE 1925, G.W. Pabst, the 2012 colour print from Filmmuseum München)
    Kevade (Spring, EE-SU 1970, Arvo Kruusement) the Estonian Film 100 touring show in 2012
    Pohjalaisia ([The People from Pohjanmaa] / [The People from the Plains], FI 1925, Jalmari Lahdensuo) 2012 restoration

    FURTHER CLASSIC DELIGHTS
    David Golder (FR 1931, Julien Duvivier)
    Olivier Assayas retrospective: it is rewarding to view his films within a short period
    The Making Over of Mother (US 1916, Christie Film Co., Horace Davey; Neal Burns and Betty Compson)
    Prostoi sluchai (A Simple Case, SU 1932, Vsevolod Pudovkin)
    Jenseits der Strasse (Harbour Drift, DE 1929, Leo Mittler)
    Liberty (US 1929, Leo McCarey, Laurel & Hardy) – with the children of Pordenone playing the Star Spangled Banner
    A Woman of Affairs (US 1928, Clarence Brown; Greta Garbo) with the Carl Davis score
    Bab el hadid (Central Station, EG 1958, Youssef Chahine)
    Il cammino della speranza (The Way of Hope, IT 1950, Pietro Germi)

  • Rick K.

    I spent some time this New Years weekend with the Universal Hitchcock blu-ray set, which has been largely overlooked among the lists of top dvd/blu-ray releases of the past year (my own post included). Indeed, the acclaim for this set has been somewhat subdued ever since its (delayed) appearance earlier in the fall.

    When I first got the set in November, I immediately absorbed about six of them, films which I knew by heart but, thanks to the hi-def upgrades, managed to enhance my relationship with films I had grown up with, and from which I have probably learned more about the art of filmmaking (and cinema in general) than any other source. These are, in fact, the movies that I MOST wanted to have on blu-ray ever since the format was introduced!

    The general lack of enthusiasm for the set is probably attributable to several factors … most obvious being that these same films have already been marketed by Universal at various intervals for about 25 years now. Also, I think expectations were probably TOO HIGH concerning the quality of the restorations. The reviews were mixed … the problem here that many reviewers were simply using standards which weren’t really justified for the films under consideration. A full scale restoration (as was done for films like VERTIGO and REAR WINDOW) will probably never take place for movies like FRENZY or FAMILY PLOT … but I don’t think that the majority of the reviewers or “blu-ray connoisseurs” understood this. In fact, some of the titles drew more attention for their various source imperfections than to the actual boost in quality which blu-ray allows.

    Different studios and different eras dealt with issues of varying film stocks, visual textures, transitions from composite shots, montage, and other key lab and photographic issues in different ways. Restorers CAN apparently toy with and refine some of these issues, creating an “enhanced” version with the aid of digital technology. While in certain cases this can be useful, I don’t think that this should or need be a part of the process of releasing films in hi-def (nor, I’m sure, are the studios anxious or willing to spare the time and expense to do so). What the studios or owners of these films SHOULD concentrate on is searching for and utilizing the best available elements for the video master. And I think in the case of the Hitchcock set, this was probably done. Certainly Universal, over the past 25 years in handling these films for revival and release in various formats, has had plenty of time for trial and error tracking down the best materials and coming up with “definitive” versions.

    Another issue/problem with the Hitchcock blu-rays was that Universal may have misjudged their pricing, especially since many online shoppers were alerted to the fact that the U.K. release of the same set was substantially cheaper. And within a few weeks of the street date (delayed, causing concerns as well), there were significant price drops for the Christmas shoppers, causing speculation (and some ill-will) about the justification for the higher pricing. Universal also refrained from issuing important titles individually, tho perhaps this is warranted to simply get their entire Hitchcock catalog out in the hi-def marketplace. Admittedly, individual release of the lesser titles could be a hard-sell even for Hitchcock enthusiasts, since they probably already have those films in earlier formats.

    But I guess my point in writing is that this IS a truly significant release … VERTIGO, REAR WINDOW, THE BIRDS, MARNIE, SHADOW OF A DOUBT, the previously released PSYCHO, are among the ESSENTIAL blu-rays in this collection, all given exemplary treatment in the format … I’m sure they’ll get individual release before long, so those who wish to pick-and-choose can do so, but the whole set not only one of the most important releases of the year, but one of the most important releases for cinephiles on home video, EVER.

  • Foster Grimm

    Hello, again

    Thanks to all for the welcome.

    Barry P – I’m a guy. I like walks in the sunshine, puppies and… uh, wait, that’s when I’m off my meds.
    Actually I’m a film noir kinda guy. My thinking is that the first real film noir is Double Indemnity and the first cycle ends with Odds Against Tomorrow.
    Just don’t ask me what is film noir. I know one when I see one. (That covers the previous discussion.)
    I, too, thought of Mask of Dimitrios when watching Ruthless, but they were 4 years apart and no Peter Lorre in Ruthless.

    Jim G. – I missed Wedding Ring at FLSC, but I’ll move Phoenix to the top of my Hulu Plus viewing. Lately, though HP has been stalling when I watch Criterion titles (doesn’t do it when I watch Don’t Trust the B in Apt 23.) Anyone else have the same problem?

    David C- thanks for the tip on Moon Is Blue. There are some films I go out of my way to avoid. What A Wonderful Life is one. Any Star Wars movie is 2 – 999.

    Cheers,

    Foster Grimm

  • Alex

    10 best of 2012 (2 slots tentatively reserved for unseen “Amour” and “Zero Dark Thirty”)

    The Master
    (rest in alphabetical order) )

    Les adieux à la reine
    Argo
    Deep Blue Sea
    Django Unchained
    Hitchcock (the wit and pathos of hanging out with Hitch)
    Lincoln
    Moonrise Kingdom

  • Barry Putterman

    Foster, a few words of clarification lest the nits begin picking again.

    It was Potter Stewart who said “I know it when I see it” regarding the ill-defined genre of pornography. And it was James Stewart who starring in a movie called IT’S a Wonderful Life. On the other hand, it was Louis Armstrong who sang a song called WHAT a Wonderful World.

    Further, there are almost 40 years separating the Hitchcock PSYCHO from the Van Sant PSYCHO. And maybe if we wait another forty years somebody will deliver us a crock of manure regarding the making of the Van Sant film.

  • Michael Kastner

    So far my top 10 has 3 titles
    1 Bernie. Despite being biopic’d to death, this is about the only one I watch more than once.
    2 Turin Horse. Tarr at his best.
    3 Looper. Best sci fi since District 9.
    Everyone liked but me: Moonrise Kingdom (except Norton who was at his very best), Magic Mike (except Mcconaughey, ditto), Lincoln (bring on the oscars), Loneliest Planet, Attenberg, Haywire & Alps.
    The Day He Arrives will likely end up top 10 after another viewing or two. This Resnais like work won’t leave me alone.
    First time viewing best.
    Treasure Island ( Ruiz, Leaud & Vic Tayback!)
    Lumiere D’ete (Gremillion)
    Umbracle( Portabella)
    Wandering Shadow(Lang)
    Yellow Ticket (Walsh)
    Dave’s world reviewed with pleasure : Angi Vera, Quadrophenia, Room in Town & That Obscure Object of Desire.
    Dave’s world, what were you thinking : Left Handed Woman.

  • Foster, regarding your comment “Moon Is Blue. There are some films I go out of my way to avoid” as a follow-up to one of this group’s not liking it. I’m not a Premigerian, particularly, at least not to the extent of many people who post here. Nor do I have a particular interest in that particular film. I quite liked it when I saw it, and I’m aware of its historical importance, although that is no longer relevant for making viewing decisions unless you’re studying the history of censorship. The question you should ask yourself, though, before writing the film off, is “Do I like Preminger?” As you say you like noir, you probably do. OK, then, why not see as many Preminger films as you can? Perhaps you might learn something about what Otto brought to the noir table by looking at his non-noir films (to my mind, the same shy, dour sensibility animates both LAURA and MOON). There’s no point in just looking at a director’s “good” films anyway, if you like a director; there’s a great quote from Truffaut about going to see the bad films of a favorite director, because “don’t we visit friends when they’re sick?” Why not then see a “bad” film if you like a director? My understanding of Preminger has been immensely deepened by viewing universally scorned films of his like ROSEBUD. (Which I also liked.)

    If of course you don’t like Preminger, then by all means don’t see THE MOON IS BLUE.


    I’ve always wanted to see this used as a password in a movie:
    “Isn’t Life Wonderful?”
    “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    RULES OF THE GAME, THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE — all three films that are favorites of mine, all put down by someone upthread. Ah well. Happy New Year anyway.

  • Foster Grimm

    Barry P – It’s, not What. The fingers were faster than my brain. Arrgh.
    And Gregg, you are right. I am in the pro Preminger camp and when I admire a director I try to watch all I can get my hands on.
    And I’ve been planing to finally watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” for awhile, since it is regarded by many as noirish.
    Again, the fingers faster….
    I’m with you on RULES OF THE GAME.

    Oh, my first film of 2013 – THE BLUE LAMP (Dearden, 1950) Wow.

    Foster Grimm

  • jbryant

    FWIW, I find IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE to be an almost inexhaustibly rich film.

    DJANGO UNCHAINED was the last film I saw in 2012, and will undoubtedly have a place on my eventual Ten Best list (which I should finish by 2022).

    Didn’t have time today for my first film of 2013–the girlfriend was too tired to stay up and watch the latest RESIDENT EVIL on Blu. Maybe tomorrow.

  • Robert Garrick

    Many years ago (I believe it was 1975), in Utah of all places, I was at an assembly at which Andrew Sarris took questions from the audience. One woman asked him why he didn’t like “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

    Sarris seemed flustered by the question, and said: “Where did you get that idea? I think it’s kind of a great film.” (The words “kind of” are interesting.)

    And sure enough, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is Sarris’s fifth-rated film of 1946, and it’s italicized, along with films by Hitchcock, Hawks, Ford, and Renoir.

    Back in 1968, when “The American Cinema” came out, “It’s a Wonderful Life” was not a well-known film. (Its initial release in 1946 was not a great success, either.) It became better known in the ’70s, but it only became a phenomenon in the late ’70s and 1980s when it entered the public domain and was on television, on multiple stations, more or less continuously every December. (The film’s copyright was not renewed in 1974; these days “It’s a Wonderful Life” enjoys derivative copyright status after Republic successfully brought suit based on a 1990 Supreme Court decision.)

    I still like the film, certainly more than any other post-1935 Capra, but currently my favorite Christmas films are “Susan Slept Here” (Tashlin, 1954) and “Remember the Night” (Leisen/Sturges, 1940).

    It never occurred to Capra while he was making “Wonderful Life” that it would be thought of as a Christmas film, and for much of his life he was bitter over the film’s public reception. He lived long enough to see that change.

  • Robert Garrick

    I’m in fundamental agreement with Barry Putterman on the value of Van Sant’s retake of “Psycho” (1998), and consequently I’ve never seen the film all the way through, though I’ve seen bits and pieces, which always leave me shaking my head in dismay.

    But: Earlier this evening, I learned from “Film Comment” (September/October 2012 issue) that the late Chad Everett has a “brief, brilliant turn” in the film as the leering bank customer who supplies the soon-to-be-stolen $40,000. So the next time it’s on, I’ll make a point of watching at least through that scene.

  • Barry Putterman

    Robert, I am not aware of having ever offered any opinion regarding the Van Sant PSYCHO. Or the Peter Jackson KING KONG for that matter.

    Nevertheless, if “Film Comment” is to be believed, I will be happy to add the film to my EVERETT COLLECTION.

  • If anyone hasn’t caught it yet, Johnnie To’s LIFE WITHOUT PRINCIPLE is streaming on Netflix. It did garner an extremely limited release in the U.S. from Indomina, an inscrutable distributor who also put out HOLY MOTORS and FLYING SWORDS OF DRAGON GATE in 2012.

    To’s latest, DRUG WAR, already screened at the Rome Film Festival, and I can’t wait to see it. Let me also recommend his Milkyway production company’s MOTORWAY, one of the great genre films of last year.

  • Alex

    Foster Grimm,

    “It’s a Wonderful Life” does have a noirish stretch toward the end, but one soon offset by a finale of supreme Capracorn.

    For decades after my first of many viewings of the film at UW-Madison in December 1971, I felt the
    film marred by a failure not to retain some concluding hint of the noirish. However, I’ve more recently come to the realization that Frank Capra at his very best Is bound to be … Capraesque.

  • “It never occurred to Capra while he was making “Wonderful Life” that it would be thought of as a Christmas film, and for much of his life he was bitter over the film’s public reception.”

    I wonder if anyone considers Pottersville the reality of post WWII America and Bedford Falls the fantasy.

    “On the Road” brought that thought to mind since the time frame covers the period 1946-1950. The film version is a mash up of Kerouac biography, the 1957 novel, the 2007 scroll version (written in April 1951 from which the 1957 novel was extracted) and “Visions of Cody” (Kerouac’s vertical treatment of the same material written in 1952-53 and published in 1972.)

    As for “Zero Dark Thirty,” my anti-imperialist friends have a problem separating the art from the propaganda (something that Left cinephiles can do but rank and file comrades don’t get.)

  • Jim Gerow

    A few items I forgot in my previous roundup:

    Two DVD releases:
    BFI’s THE OZU COLLECTION: THE STUDENT COMEDIES contained 4 features and a fragment, all new to me in 2012. And it’s bargain priced on Amazon UK at £13.00.
    The extended 3-hour cut of Kenneth Lonergan’s MARGARET deepened my appreciation of this film, which is great in either version.

    Some memorable short films:
    Tsai Ming-Liang’s WALKER (Lee Kang-Sheng slows to a crawl as the frenetic life of Hong Kong goes on around him)
    Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s MEKONG HOTEL
    Miguel Gomes’s CHRISTMAS INVENTORY
    A fascinating collection of VIENNALE TRAILERS by various directors, ending with one by the late Chris Marker which weirdly anticipates Zero Dark Thirty

  • Barry Putterman

    x, I suspect that Bedford Falls is Capra’s reverie of pre World War II America and Pottersville is his fears for post World War II America. The best years of our lives indeed.

  • “I suspect that Bedford Falls is Capra’s reverie of pre World War II America and Pottersville is his fears for post World War II America.”

    I think you’ve expressed it better than I Barry. Then there’s Hitchcock’s 1943 Santa Rosa that becomes Siegel’s 1956 Santa Mira.

  • MDL

    Here are a few fine films I finally caught up with or discovered in 2012.

    Two by Grémillon:
    Lumière d’éte
    Le ciel est à vous

    Two by Preminger:
    Daisy Kenyon
    Anatomy of a Murder [Yes, had not seen this before].

    Two by Aldrich:
    Emperor of the North
    All The Marbles

    Two by Naruse:
    Repast
    Ginza Cosmetics

    Two from the 70’s:
    Charley Varrick – Don Siegal
    They Might Be Giants – Anthony Harvey

    Two from the 50’s:
    The Music Room – Satyajit Ray
    The Big Heat – Fritz Lang [Another one everyone has seen].

    Happy New Year of movie viewing.

  • Best Film of 2013 (so far)
    A Kiss Before Dying (Gerd Oswald, 1956)

    Worst Film of 2013 (so far)
    Lover Come Back (Delbert Mann, 1961)

  • alex

    Barry’s bit about Capra’s PRE-WWII reverie and POST-WWII fears is very astute about Capra. However, it’s worth considering that as social commentary Capra ‘s reverie may have been pure Capracorn while as prophesy –at least of the Stateside ’50s — his”fears” may have been pure ’46 paranoia.

  • jsh

    Among the the 594 films that I watched this year, these were the most impressive/striking/moving of those that I hadn’t previously seen:

    Lucky Star (Borzage, 1929)
    Old and New(Eisenstein, 1929)
    The Ghost Ship (Robson, 1943)
    Try and Get Me (The Sound of Fury) (Endfield, 1950)
    The House on Trubnaya Square (Barnet, 1928)
    Contraband (Powell, 1940)
    Le Trou(Becker, 1960)
    You and Me (Lang, 1938)
    The Hatchet Man (Wellman, 1932)
    A Gentle Woman (Bresson, 1969)

    Runners up:
    Me and My Gal* (Walsh, 1932)
    Oyuki the Virgin (Mizoguchi, 1935)
    The Late George Apley (Mankiewicz, 1947)
    Woman on the Run (Foster, 1950)
    A Hen in the Wind (Ozu, 1948)
    The Face Behind the Mask (Florey, 1941)

    Disappointments:
    Wind Across the Everglades*(Ray, 1958)
    Das Wandernde Bild (Lang, 1920)
    What Price Glory (Walsh, 1926)
    Saskatchewan (Walsh, 1954)
    Sadie Thompson (Walsh, 1928)

    Hall of Shame:
    Distant Drums* (Walsh, 1951)