Four Shorts from the Brothers Quay

Copied and pasted the four reviews I posted on Letterboxd of four different shorts to see how well they would cohere.

“Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies” is almost frustratingly enigmatic, stubbornly refusing to adhere to any one narrative throughline. If there is any common aspect that unites the disparate parts of the short, it is the craftsmanship of the Brothers Quay; the smooth and surprisingly intricate camera moves and framings settle into static tableaus, from which all kinds of eerie, disfigured figures can appear (and on many occasions, items seem to flicker in and out of the frame). The only possible idea I can seem to untangle from this short is perhaps a kind of entropy; as the principal character scratches the bump on his forehead, the world of the short begins to unravel. Though this does not necessarily explain the scene change to the two larger men and the hands holding quills, the menacing lines seem inexorably linked to this inciting motion. “Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies” is rather gripping, if ultimately too surreal for its own good.

In some respects, the titular comb is a bit of a red herring; it is only featured in a handful of shots and only takes on any sense of significance in the final minute or so. But it forms the perfect gateway into the mysterious world of “The Comb”, as the seemingly ordinary takes on a sinister quality. Throughout the short, continually alternate between blurry black-and-white live-action and vivid, fantastical stop-motion. The stop-motion footage’s environment feels like a strange mixture of a fairy-tale landscape and castle and an industrial wasteland, and the Brothers Quay do a surprisingly good job of mapping out where exactly the camera is in relation to the various subjects of the frame. More importantly, most of the short focuses on one subject at a time, even while the Brothers constantly cut between the “real” world and the dream world. Whether it be through extremely long shots or startling close-ups, there is an undeniable purpose to each shot. Though the more specific aspects of what exactly transpires is unclear, as befitting a film so rooted in dreams, the mysterious atmosphere is just a joy to witness.

“Anamorphosis” may not have the personality of the Brothers Quay’s usual shorts, as most of the action is done through visual analyses of existing works rather than their uniquely unsettling stop-motion figures, but a similar mood is maintained throughout. Whether it be through a eerie score or the frequently jarring visual alterations (in the form of quick camera moves or stretching to illustrate the anamorphosis phenomenon, to say nothing of an unexpected vividly shot live-action sequence), the Brothers ensure that the short is no ordinary documentary, but also an examination of their own body of work. By casting one of their signature figurines as the observer, it provides an extra conduit for the viewer to ponder on the phenomenon, and the capabilities it holds for not just artists in the traditional sense, but on a cinematic level as well.

If there is one aspect that truly defines the shorts of the Brothers Quay, it is their unsettling atmosphere, and “In Absentia” is an exemplar of this ideal. Most of the short is presented in a manner that can be best described as uncertain, as even the scale of the sets is distorted, appearing as neither fully stop-motion nor fully live-action. Despite the frequently moving and occasionally blinding beams of light that traverse the various shots, they deliberately do little to provide any sort of added perspective on the murky depths of the short. This is most apparent in the set seen in the opening shot, which the short returns to several times but still appears entirely divorced from the ostensible central storyline and additionally is indecipherable, filled with unidentifiable structures that might form a roof or a landscape or something stranger. And this is all without getting into the surreal narrative, which is presented in jagged, equally inscrutable close-ups of dirty fingers, broken lead, and an inexplicable stop-motion puppet (the only one in the short), along with swinging, possibly disembodied legs. Even the possible presentation of an explanation in the final title card does little to account for how strange this short gets. Above all, Stockhausen’s score rumbles and wails with disembodied cries, whispers, laughs, and moans, plunging the Brothers Quay’s atmosphere into further disarray. “In Absentia” is beguiling and bewildering in the best possible sense.

Joint Security Area

***1/2 (Excellent)

It could be reasonably argued that one of the worst tendencies of films set in the world of the military is the temptation to glorify the soldiers, to make them heroes or martyrs whether it be because of or in spite of their surroundings. It is thus truly impressive that Joint Security Area avoids this trap and many more. Part mystery, part political rumination, and quite unexpectedly, part ensemble comedy, the film is accordingly divided into three sections, complete with admittedly ostentatious segment titles in the form of the reverse of the movie’s title (Area, Security, Joint).

Joint Security Area‘s main pleasures lie in its central and best section, but even before the reveal, Park does a fine job of crafting the world of the DMZ. One of his most brilliant gambits is in his choice of investigator, a Korean that has never set foot in either Korea before. This amount of ambiguity is further compounded by the continually shifting actions (though not motivations) of each side. As the Major looks closer, the stories only seem to become more and more divergent, until one of the characters reaches a breaking point.

At this moment, Joint Security Area takes an altogether unexpected turn, and devotes almost half of its running time not to the mystery-thriller that one might expect from the setting, but to a four-hand flashback that, though it takes place over several months, is situated primarily in a North Korean border house. Most of the time, it is practically comedic, first in the way that the people first meet, and then as it observes these four men from different sides of the stalemate getting to know each other through games, drink, and relaxed conversation. However, there is an unmistakably melancholy that runs throughout, as a result of both the viewer’s knowledge that this will end in the deaths of at least two and the Romeo and Juliet-esque division that divides the two groups. On the one occasion that this topic is broached, the mood quickly becomes contentious, and though it dissipates, the idea still lingers, and is emphasized by various training exercises and potential attacks that recur throughout the segment.

When Joint Security Area returns to the present, the mood still persists, as both the soldiers’ and the investigator’s efforts seem to be stymied. But all comes to light in the cleanest and most efficient way possible, and if the conclusion of the investigation seems a bit too clean, the conclusion of the film itself is anything but. It evokes the all too human traumas that are caused by the politics of war, where the symbol of shared cigarettes can be obliterated by a single misstep. Park’s style reflects this, using both 360 degree pans and an astonishing amount of striking close-ups where the subjects look into the camera to heighten the subconscious intensity of the film’s most crucial moments, to either link or break apart the two factions. (The bold transitions and camera angles are an extension of this.) Joint Security Area ensures there are no heroes, only young men trying to be themselves in perilous circumstances; with one gunshot things will never be the same.


**** (Great)

Looper wastes no time in thrusting the viewer into its dystopic, almost lawless future. The first section of the film could be described in and of itself its own, self-contained short film, presenting a future as divided as our own in the urban malaise and class divisions, with violence ready to spring from every corner. It is an evocation of so many attitudes and moods, but paramount among these is ennui. From the noir-inflected narration that somehow transcends exposition in its efficiency and bleak outlook to the empty thrills of clubbing and drugs, Johnson builds the viewer’s understanding of the loopers’ existence and mindset through the unrecognizable face of Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Joe. Gordon-Levitt’s performance is essentially that of an shallow machine; he has his various friends and flames, and he possesses very real (if hedonistic) dreams, but he is trapped in the empty lifestyle of the looper, killing a man a day remorselessly with the same amount of thought that he has towards learning a French word a day.

Then, after a stunning montage of partying, Joe’s life is turned upside down in an almost brutally programmatic series of events. However, the film never feels linear, as he continually teases out more and more aspects of the astonishingly rich world in an organic fashion that only explains the background, never what is happening in the moment. After Willis emerges, perhaps the best scene of the film occurs, condensing a lifetime of regret and redemption into a few minutes, before immersing the viewer back into the chase, scored to Nathan Johnson’s spare, rattling, and pulsating score.

Up until this point, Looper has been a relatively straightforward, if incredibly imaginative, science-fiction action film. But Johnson makes the ingenious move to pivot, shifting to focus on a radically different, more relationship-driven study of the consequences of time travel. Discounting some cross-cutting between the two Joes, the two parts hang together in large part due to Johnson’s incredible screenplay. As mentioned before, he manages to pull off what could be empty exposition with noirish flourish, but he also combines it with a certain kind of laconic, almost country-fried dialect, which fits the Kansan setting and manifests itself even more out in the countryside. Blunt’s strong performance, by turns combative and general, is also key to selling the parent-child dynamic that arises even as things get stranger and more menacing.

Looper‘s final scene is perhaps the most intriguing of all. It comes after what would be the climax of standard action-fare, in an almost ridiculously one-sided gunfight. However, it chooses to eschew that idea for a surprisingly moving decision that speaks to the power of the past and the hope for a future while solving a particularly knotty paradox, all in one fell swoop. Looper is ultimately hopeful without sacrificing its own pessimistic outlook, and is in general structured to perfection; if it feels reserved at times, this issue is overcome by its sheer craftsmanship and innate understanding of what truly makes science-fiction a fascinating and innovative genre.

Rating Comparisons

For Background

Charles Francois’ Letter Grades

A: For All Time
A-: Event
B+/A-: Near Great
B+: Must See
B/B+: Warmly Recommended
B: Recommended
B-/B: Recommended with Mild Reservations
B-: Recommended with Strong Reservations
C+/B-: On the Fence, Leaning Forward
C+: Take It or Leave It
C/C+: On the Fence, Leaning Backward
C: Pass
C-: Ugh
D+: Double-Ugh
D: Bomb
F: Burn the Negative
Walk-outs: Channel Surfing
Incomplete: Mishap/Bad Timing

Mike D’Angelo’s 100-Point Scale

100-90: Masterpiece, or damn close. Very rare.
89-80: Fanthefucktastic. Near-lock for my year-end top 10 list.
79-70: Definitely something special. Do not miss. Likely list contender.
69-60: Very good, but also flawed or missing some crucial element.
59-50: Didn’t quite work for me, but has many redeeming qualities.
49-40: Demerits clearly outweigh merits.
39-30: I really did not enjoy this picture, but talent was involved.
29-20: When will this fucking picture end. When.
19-10: Outright fiasco and/or unwatchably boring.
9-0: One of the worst movies I’ve ever seen. Very rare.
W/O: I don’t know the director and the first two reels (about 35 to 40 minutes) didn’t convince me that (s)he has it going on.

On Letterboxd, shift all of the point values up 1 (aside from 100 and 0, of course) to get my star ratings (5 for the first tier, 4.5 for the second, etc.).

Blake Williams’ Richter Scale

A+ 9.4 – 10.0 [Top 10 of All Time contender]
A 8.6 – 9.3 [Masterpiece]
A- 7.8 – 8.5 [Pretty great; Near-masterpiece]
B+ 7.0 – 7.7 [Kinda great; Contender for Top 10 of its year]
B 6.2 – 6.9 [Has a special something]
B- 5.4 – 6.1 [Solid]
C+ 4.6 – 5.3 [Doesn’t arouse any particularly strong emotions either way]
C 3.8 – 4.5 [Useless; Mediocre; Significantly flawed]
C- 3.0 – 3.7 [What a failure]
D+ 2.2 – 2.9 [What-a-failure with cheese]
D 1.4 – 2.1 [Grating]
D- 0.6 – 1.3 [Offensively horrific; Horrifically offensive]
F 0.0 – 0.5 [Worst of All Time consideration]

On Letterboxd, the tiers proceed in half points for Williams’ star ratings (9.5-10.0 for the first tier, 8.5-9.4 for the second, etc.).


Dan Sallitt’s color-coded lists use the colors red, orange, green, blue, and purple in decreasing order of liking. (parentheses below indicate my corresponding rating for the objective version)

The Movie Nerd Discussion Group uses a rating system of PRO/pro/mixed/con/CON; to conflate it with the ++/+/+x/x/xx Critics Roundup scale, they are as follows:
100 points, an ecstatic reaction/75 points, positive/50 points, mixed, ambivalent or barely positive/24 points, negative/0 points, extremely negative.

The Skandies group utilizes Leonard Maltin’s 4-star scale, with no 0.5 rating. (For my own purposes, I use D’Angelo’s interpretation.)

My Interpretation

D’Angelo’s scale is my baseline.

100 10.0, 9.9, 9.8, 9.7, 9.6, 9.5 (A, PRO, 4.0)
99 9.4
98 9.3
97 9.2
96 9.1
95 9.0
94 8.9
93 8.8
92 8.7
91 8.6 (A-)
90 8.5
89 8.5
88 8.4
87 8.3 (3.5)
86 8.2
85 8.1
84 8.0
83 7.9
82 7.8
81 7.7 (B+/A-)
80 7.6
79 7.6
78 7.5 (B+)
77 7.4 (D’Angelo pro)
76 7.3
75 7.2
74 7.1 (3.0, pro)
73 7.0
72 6.9 (B/B+)
71 6.8
70 6.7
69 6.7 (B)
68 6.6
67 6.5
66 6.4
65 6.3
64 6.2
63 6.1 (B-/B)
62 6.0 (2.5)
61 5.9
60 5.8 (B-)
59 5.8
58 5.7 (mixed)
57 5.6
56 5.5
55 5.4
54 5.3 (C+/B-)
53 5.2
52 5.1
51 5.0 (C+)
50 4.9
49 4.9 (2.0)
48 4.8
47 4.7
46 4.6
45 4.5 (C/C+, con)
44 4.4
43 4.3
42 4.2 (C)
41 4.1
40 4.0
39 4.0 (D’Angelo con)
38 3.9
37 3.8
36 3.7 (C-, 1.5)
35 3.6
34 3.5 (CON)
33 3.4
32 3.3
31 3.2
30 3.1
29 3.1
28 3.0
27 2.9 (D+)
26 2.8
25 2.7 (D’Angelo CON)
24 2.6
23 2.5
22 2.4 (1.0)
21 2.3
20 2.2
19 2.2
18 2.1 (D)
17 2.0
16 1.9
15 1.9
14 1.8
13 1.7
12 1.6
11 1.5
10 1.4 (0.0)
9 1.3 (F)
8 1.2
7 1.1
6 1.0
5 0.9
4 0.8
3 0.7
2 0.6
1 0.6
0 0.5, 0.4, 0.3, 0.2, 0.1, 0.0


***1/2 (Excellent)

Zatoichi is, as some critics have mentioned, a film of two minds. On one hand, it is a straightforward martial arts movie, with no small amount of pulpy violence and exceedingly impressive fighters. On the other, it is a subversive act in defiance of the samurai genre, by turns overtly comedic and almost disturbingly violent, turning the viewer’s expectations on their head at every possible turn. Correspondingly, Kitano’s plotting is admittedly a bit scattered, consistently following a straightforward narrative but going on frequent digressions, though these tangents almost always end up expanding the scope and the viewer’s interest in the movie.

Zatoichi begins and exists in a state of in media res. From the start, Kitano quickly introduces the viewer to the main characters in vignettes that eschew clear exposition for specific traits and moments that will come to define these figures. The rest of the film does little in the way of tangible explanation, save for a few scattered lines and one or two extended flashbacks, but somehow every character feels fleshed out to the exact amount that each needs. Zatoichi, for example, remains to a large degree an enigma, defined largely by his abilities and interactions rather than any sense of past. The ronin and the aunt and nephew are similarly defined squarely in the present, by those around them; they have clearly defined ways and outlooks towards life and generally stick to their paths, no matter where it carries them in the narrative. On the other hand, the siblings’ past is expanded upon, both in the two flashbacks that clearly explain their desire for revenge and in the small hints through quick flashbacks that similarly define the rest of the characters.

Kitano’s style is simply a delight to watch, as he incorporates the martial arts trappings within the comedic aspects of Zatoichi. Most of the film proceeds in a relatively straightforward manner, fluidly introducing the viewer to the various locations that the film centers around in scenes that are gleefully comic. In the violent sequences, the action comes quick and brutally, using blatantly digital and cartoonish blood to both accentuate the violence and, perhaps unintentionally, subvert the notion of this traditional samurai film. Additionally, there are some incredibly pleasant stylistic touches, both in combat (a zoom in on a combatant’s face, fractured editing/slow-motion) and not (a cross-faded shot playing over another shot where someone is describing the subject of said shot, quick cut-ins of flashbacks).

Kitano’s subversion of the tradition he is imitating is perhaps strongest not in the final plot twist relating to Zatoichi (which is itself subverted at the very end), or even in the various shifting identities that are revealed throughout Zatoichi, but in the finale. Throughout the film, there are occasional, digressive presentations of farmers that seem to imitate the percussive music playing over the scene, which return rather unexpectedly in the festival finale. (Side-note: the score blends surprisingly well with the traditional geisha music played diegetically in several scenes.) The supposed climax is not in the final duel that the film had been building up to, as it takes place in a matter of seconds (in two possible scenarios), but in a glorious celebration of movement and even the intersection of past and present. After a more traditionally styled prelude, the festival resumes after the final death with a shocking burst of sound and dance, as the music becomes blatantly electronic, especially using drum machines. The percussive stomping feels traditional, and the period setting is never violated (though the use of slow-mo, canted angles, and focused close-ups does interrupt the aesthetic to some degree), but there is an unmistakably modern vibrancy to the images and motions, as every character besides Zatoichi (who does get the final shot in his own film) comes out to dance, celebrating both the positive outcome of the narrative and of the film itself. It is subversive, but genuinely enjoyable. Zatoichi isn’t necessarily a film meant to stand with the samurai classics of old, but its status as an oddity is perhaps even more important.

From the Other Side

**** (Great)

More than anything, the tapestry of disparate faces that form From the Other Side are defined by two things: their shared humanity and their location. Whether they be on the Mexican or American side, the inhabitants are defined by a close proximity to the border. For the Mexicans, it practically represents the whole gamut of human existence: hopes, desires, loss, sadness, and especially an irrepressible melancholy. For the Americans, a more mixed reaction is produced, as Akerman interviews a variety of Arizonians whose reactions span the range from total, anguished sympathy for the Mexicans’ plight to a wary resignation to outright intimations of violence towards the illegal immigrants. But what From the Other Side illustrates so well is the sense of restlessness and melancholy that every person shares, especially those out in the desert.

The first two-thirds of the movie is devoted to the Mexican people, with particular attention on their ways of life. It is a desolate setting, full of dirt and decay, but signs of life are scattered throughout: a group of children playing sports, people walking as cars drive past, and people simply doing their work. The interviews are even more revealing, as all of the interview subjects clearly try to put on a brave face, but their smiles cannot hide their sadness and their melancholy as they tell stories of missed opportunities, dead brothers or sons, and failed attempts to get to the other side. In Akerman’s style, a single, jarring cut from a barber standing behind a chair to him sitting in the chair without speaking is treated with the same reverence as an unblinking shot of a grandmother who has lost both her son and her grandson as she tries to keep in her emotions. Speaking about the minutiae concerning the past is just as important as a man reading a prepared statement about his entire group’s tribulations; Akerman is willing to observe everything with compassion, as her voice drifts from offscreen with a questioning but gentle tone.

The wall is treated in stark contrast, using a similar framing each time as it seems to stretch on to infinity. It appears in several iterations, sometimes with people and sometimes without, sometimes as a solid wall and sometimes formed out of vertical wooden poles, but each time it is a barrier, not only towards the Mexicans but also towards the viewer. Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than in two tracking shots: the first begins in a close-up of the wall and makes a 180 degree turn to show a seemingly unending row of houses of different materials and social classes all directly opposite this obstacle, and the second is a bravura 10-minute shot (a few shots before the film crosses into America) that begins on the wall, moves through an extensive line of cars waiting to try to cross the border, shows that the line to cross from the other side is nonexistent, and ends in a Mexican town’s parking lot. In a few shots taken at night, the wall only seems more foreboding, coupled with some nighttime tracking shots almost abstract in the mix of the digital camera and the low lighting and a chilling night-vision shot of helicopters spotting a few would-be illegal immigrants.

From the Other Side, fittingly, moves over to America with a shot of a sign calling on citizens to keep out criminals, a clear sign of Akerman’s sympathies. But she does not merely use ignorant xenophobes (though she does use one such couple who threaten illegal immigrants with violence); a wide variety of people, from a resigned Mexican-American official to a sympathetic Arizonian sheriff to a wary restaurant owner, form a different but very clear sort of mirror to the Mexican people. It is a very different nation (for one, the majority of shots are indoors), but Akerman shows the emotions, whether it be fear, disgust, sadness, or melancholy, without sacrificing her sympathy for the Mexicans. Even when taking into account two troubling shots (one following a Federale and one thermal image taken from the air of a line of migrants), she is never anything but fair-minded, willing to show the whole extent of the American attitude towards the other side.

But Akerman does not end there; she ends with an almost stream-of-consciousness reading of her own words in French, as she remembers an illegal immigrant who had taken up residence in Los Angeles, gotten to know Akerman, then vanished. Overlaid over footage taken from a car heading to Los Angeles, the coda takes on a dreamlike aesthetic, a reconciling of these two different areas by bringing them together under Akerman’s point of view. From the Other Side asks the viewer to consider both sides as they look towards the other, and to observe just how the other half lives.


****1/2 (Tour de force)

Throughout Thief’s virtually wordless opening sequence, Mann both lays the foundation for and sets a sort of false expectation regarding the rest of the film. Aside from the heist centerpiece and the relatively simple action sequence at the end of the film, Thief proceeds in a low, contemplative key that has all the drive of a regular action film while focusing on Frank. But the ideal of this master thief that is established in the beginning is vital to the movie; it is the conception that Frank is continually pressured into adopting, as he is torn between his criminal ways and his genuine desire to go on the straight and narrow. Practically every character aside from Jessie pushes and pulls Frank to either keep going or to leave, but all pigeonhole him, only thinking of him as a thief.

There is no denying that Frank (and by proxy Mann and the audience) takes pleasure in what he calls his “magic act”. Mann shoots the heists largely in extreme close-ups, focusing on the hands of the thieves and the detailed instruments; though the viewer doesn’t necessarily understand exactly what is going on, there is such an incredibly purposefulness to each shot that carries the viewer along in the controlled rush that the sequences offer. The rest of the film rarely lets go of this intensity, judiciously using tight close-ups and long shots that observe the body language of the characters (notably, Frank is much more dynamic in his motions), frequently holding in a way that both increases tension and allows the viewer to ponder what drives Frank. The visual look is also incredibly gorgeous, rendering each scene with both unmistakable, gritty realism and a more dreamlike aura. Especially in the nighttime scenes, the neon streets seem just a bit abstract, just a bit too beautiful to be real.

One of Thief’s greatest strengths is that it is willing to seriously consider Frank’s desire to become, for lack of a better term, ordinary. In the bravura coffee shop sequence, Mann forges an uncommon and touching intimacy towards his recollections of the past and hopes for the future, using both the ruminative dialogue and the power of Caan’s by turns ferocious and subdued performance present two sides to the complicated figure at the center of the film.

Tangerine Dream’s score must be mentioned, both in just how lush the pulsing synths sound and in how they are used. Without exception, the synths only come in moments of transition; almost none of the dialogue scenes have a score, whether it be a quiet discussion or a tense confrontation, and even a large portion of the second heist lacks any music cues. The transitions are, quite simply, the most important parts to Frank’s life (and indeed, Mann’s filmography), as they signal to him that he is indeed going somewhere, that there is something more than the doldrums of running successful businesses or the quick thrills of heists.

But in the end, Thief reveals its hand in the best way possible, as both it and Frank realize that he cannot exist in a world with anyone by himself. Caan’s work is key here, as he manages to sell his character’s devolution in a matter of minutes, and his shedding of all of his accouterments feels both saddening and cathartic; after all this time he is free to fulfill his true desires. And he does so, in a glorious haze of gunfire that is assisted by the film’s most soaring music cue and startling alternations between slow-motion and quick cuts that make the deaths all the more impactful. Thief is pure genre, but it also feels like so much more: character study, ode to professionalism, and drama, all made with an equal amount of pulp and grace.


Even though South takes place almost exclusively in the town of Jasper, Texas, focusing on the horrific murder of a black man, there is no denying that there is a universality to the portrayal of the many different locales throughout the film. The audience is shown a cross section of this Southern community in parts, never using anything too specific to Jasper but dealing in the universal iconography of cars, forests, churches, stores, and other such commonplace signifiers.

Akerman’s style is as unmistakeable as ever, subtly shaping the viewer’s perception of the setting. Predominately, static shots are used, often of individuals dwarfed by their surroundings. Even in shots that appear to be in the countryside, cars can be frequently heard and seen, serving as a connecting device between these disparate locations. This is taken to a further extent with the extended tracking shots taken from a car, patiently observing as the buildings change, get more crowded or more separated, or disappear altogether, as people drive by and frequently wave to the camera.

These two signature Akerman techniques are contrasted with the interviews and the pivotal church scene. The interviews are perhaps the both the most political and the most intimate passages in South, putting side by side the personal, passionate recollections of black people which detail racism from both the 1960s and the present (1998) and the fairly dispassionate, sometimes misguided or downright false testimonies of white people (who are only seen in these scenes and in one brief shot of a white man in a field on a horse). The body language also contributes to the divide, as the black interviewees lean in, presenting themselves and their words with frank warmness (occasionally with accoutrements like children or an electric guitar) whereas the first two white people are shot behind desks and the third in an armchair. (Oddly, during two interviews, including the third white man’s, there are several fades to black, even though the others are all done in an unedited shot.)

Without a doubt, however, the most important and impactful scene is the sequence set in a church. Partly passionate and partly reserved, it covers both the political and the personal responses to the brutal tragedy that was James Byrd, Jr.’s murder. Fittingly, it expresses these emotions to a large degree through song that acts as both a lament and praise towards God, and it is no accident that all but one of South’s close-ups are in this scene.

I must echo the concerns of others that South is inadequate when it comes to articulating a clear position on the South and its inherent racism. But the key to me is the shots of nature that appear sporadically, especially in the last third, which suggest to me that the movie is quite simply a document. It is meant to be an evocation of the South, if not the “South” and all the political and societal entanglements that the term implies, and if it doesn’t achieve the lofty heights of a true dissection of this messy region, it is an experience the likes of which only Akerman can truly deliver.


Written for The Dissolve Facebook group’s Lovefest feature.

LoveFest Summer 2016 #2: “How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Sky” – Cameron Crowe’s Aloha

Aloha was probably doomed to fail even before it was released in theaters. Between the scathing emails by Amy Pascal unearthed in the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack, with such choice phrases like “People don’t like people in movies who flirt with married people or married people who flirt”, and the rather unfortunate controversy over Emma Stone’s casting as a quarter-Hawaiian, quarter-Chinese Air Force pilot, the odds seemed stacked against the film’s success, on both critical and commercial levels. Aloha’s commercial failure, at least from an general overview, seems inexplicable, as almost all of his previous films turned at minimum a respectable profit (except, intriguingly, what is considered by some to be his best film, Almost Famous). Crowe’s critical cachet, on the other hand, has lessened over the years, as his past three films (Elizabethtown, We Bought a Zoo, and Aloha) have all received at best mixed reviews, and Aloha in particular has been savaged.

I should note here that I have not seen any other Cameron Crowe films, but earlier this year, when I saw Aloha on a plane as part of a sort of 2015 wrap-up, it completely knocked me off of my feet. Even then, I knew it was a special film, bursting with life and joy, and on a recent watch (after it had kept rolling in my head over and over) Aloha seemed to click on both intellectual and emotional levels.

One of the keys to Aloha’s charm is its setting. Like Lost in Translation, another one of my favorites (and perhaps a future Lovefest entry?), what could have (and is likely viewed by many, certainly much more than for Lost in Translation) been a cheap feint at exoticism becomes completely vital to both the characters and the narrative at large. Though Lost in Translation used its setting to evoke alienation and Aloha uses it to evoke a sense of tradition and friendliness, both emphasize the importance of relationships and the sometimes chaotic intersection between past and present. Theo Panayides described it in his Letterboxd review as a “magical setting”, and there is undeniably an almost mystical mood that bleeds through many of the most consequential scenes. Frequent mention is made of the mythology of the Hawaiian people, and even discounting the tantalizing glimpses at the possibility of spirits inhabiting the Hawaiian islands (mainly through too-strong gusts of wind and recurring whispers, especially the ones that happen right before Brian’s climactic decision), the magic of the setting makes the more outlandish situations and characters seem more believable, in a same way. It must be emphasized that the setting is not exploited; characters like the nationalist King Kanahele (playing himself) are treated not as caricatures (if anything, the military officials are more pigeonholed, though they do have their distinguishing, humanizing traits) but as idiosyncratic, strong-willed and passionate people, and the three main characters all have essential ties to the islands. In a way, the movie can be seen as fundamentally the journey of Brian trying to reconnect with his roots in Hawaii through the people he learns to love.

Aloha is also built on the notion of the sky; Brian, Allison, and Tracy’s son are or were at one point obsessed with the beauty of space and its contents, and the clash of Brian’s cynicism and Allison’s optimism in the first half of the movie is founded in part by his disillusionment. Indeed, the opening of the film is a mix of these two ideas, as it intercuts footage of the Hawaiian natives with objects in space before transitioning seamlessly into a CGI recreation of a space cluttered with objects, over which Brian’s wistful but resentful narration plays. The “action” part of the plot centers around Carson’s attempts to control the sky with his weaponized satellite, and no matter how far-fetched it seems (for me it fits in with the overall tone of the film, and is clearly never meant to be treated too seriously) it goes against the deeply-held beliefs of the Hawaiian people and Allison; for Brian his decision to eventually destroy the satellite is the final nail in the coffin for his cynicism and gray sense of morality, as he is willing to sacrifice his livelihood for both the woman and the home that he loves.

But the aspect that struck me most about Aloha this time was how it uses that mode of cinema so loved by vulgar auteurists: “gestures”, and more specifically, glances. Peter Labuza described the film as a rom-com without a single shot of coverage, and it is apparent how meticulously yet effortlessly planned each shot is; Crowe scarcely uses more than one angle on a person for each segment of a conversation, and each edit to something different, no matter how seemingly inconsequential the contents of that frame, feels purposeful. The apex of this feeling is through the gestures that happen extensively through the course of the movie, from military salutes to a friendly but firm shoulder touch to the hula dance. Woody (John Krasinski) is perhaps the personification of this ideal, as he stays mostly silent, only rarely saying something truly important, but the way he physically interacts with people says so much (a phenomenon commented on by Brian and Tracy, and hilariously literalized in the closing minutes with a series of Annie Hall-esque subtitles). Even more important are the glances that form a large part of Aloha‘s most indelible images. Most of the time, the words that the characters utter are almost secondary to their expressions, and large portions of the film are played out entirely through the way they look at each other, whether it be in anger, love, or even a sense of wonder. To carry the idea further, the sunglasses that various characters wear throughout the movie, especially the first half, obscures these glances, making their intentions somewhat unclear. Though it may just be my perception, the characters’ traits seem to be more magnified: Brian is more cynical and willing to bend his principles, Allison becomes more naive and reliant on her heritage, and Carson becomes even more enigmatic, and when each of these characters takes off their sunglasses they become more down-to-earth and more nuanced. It is perhaps not an accident that Carson, in his final appearance, briefly puts on sunglasses and then takes them off, laughing and accepting his arrest.

Turning away from this possible navel-gazing, even without these ideas Aloha is a wildly entertaining, immensely well-crafted film. Crowe’s screenplay may not be the most coherent, straightforwardly plotted thing imaginable, but it moves gracefully with a lighthearted but never weightless mood, as the characters feel alive and converse in an irrepressibly playful manner. Every main actor plays his or her part magnificently: Cooper gives a bona fide movie-star performance, mixing his natural charisma with a sense of inner darkness to create his character’s conflicted nature; Stone, unfairly maligned by the whitewashing controversy, gives a spirited and youthful performance that uses her energetic personality and expressiveness to their fullest extent; and McAdams produces an almost explosive performance (that, I might add, by far outpaces her still wonderful performance in Spotlight), as she is by turns sarcastic, witty, and tender, easily exposing the cracks in Brian’s cynicism in the relatively few scenes she has. The music choices (Cameron Crowe’s specialty) span a wide range of styles, easily mixing (and furthering the idea of the intersection of past and present) together classic rock songs, traditional Hawaiian music (Allison even asks for and is given a performance of an old Hawaiian song that she desperately wanted to hear again) and a modern indie musical score. Of course, I would be remiss in not mentioning Eric Gautier’s cinematography, which, with all due respects to our dear Narrator, is purposely shaky; in the first half Brian is still trying to find solid ground, so to speak, and so the camera careens around as he is thrust into the world and people which he had left; the camera steadies just before the Christmas party (the turning point of the film) and remains mostly stable from then on.

And yet, the most striking and indeed moving part of Aloha is its ending, which may seem almost inconsequential to someone not totally invested in its characters. The only main character in it is Brian, and it is the first and only time in the film that he and his biological daughter (with Tracy), Grace, interact. But it seems to encapsulate every part of the film’s driving ideas: the scene plays with no dialogue, driven entirely by the editing between the glances Brian and Grace share, and has as its subtext the past, present, and now future, as the final shot of the film is of Grace’s hands (another gesture) as she dances the traditional hula. As if to underscore all of this, the music gradually moves from non-diagetic Hawaiian music to the modern score.

In the end, I’m not sure if I can fully explain my love for Aloha coherently. It may just be something that appeals to me in a way that seems incomprehensible and incredibly misguided to most others. But, to my eyes, it is an incredibly well-crafted, moving, and genuinely funny romantic comedy, made with an overflowing amount of love and care.

2016 First Watches

Renewed Appreciation: The Social Network, Casablanca, True Grit, Easy Rider, Pina, Unknown, Mission: Impossible, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

Shorts: “The Heart of the World,” “Let Your Light Shine,” “Lady Blue Shanghai,” “Amuse-guele #1: Digital Destinies,” “Duck Dodgers in the 24½th Century,” “Foyer,” “Rabbit Seasoning,” “Something Between Us,” “Sailing With Bushnell Keeler,” “In Absentia,” “Mad Ladders,” “Cat Listening to Music,” “Broadway by Light,” “Cilaos,” “The Comb,” “Indefinite Pitch,” “Fe26,” “A Train Arrives at the Station,” “Screw”

  1. A Brighter Summer Day (1991, Edward Yang) [July]
  2. Chungking Express (1994, Wong Kar-wai) [September]
  3. Trust (1990, Hal Hartley) [August]
  4. Wavelength (1967, Michael Snow) [December]
  5. Manhunter (1986, Michael Mann) [May]
  6. Passion (2012, Brian De Palma) [September]
  7. The Devils (1971, Ken Russell) [February]
  8. Miami Vice (2006, Michael Mann) [May]
  9. Carlito’s Way (1993, Brian De Palma) [September]
  10. Carol (2015, Todd Haynes) [January]
  11. Public Enemies (2009, Michael Mann) [May]
  12. Out 1: Noli me tangere (1971, Jacques Rivette) [January]
  13. Margaret (2011, Kenneth Lonergan) [November]
  14. Meek’s Cutoff (2010, Kelly Reichardt) [August]
  15. Ran (1985, Akira Kurosawa) [March]
  16. Mistress America (2015, Noah Baumbach) [January]
  17. Days of Being Wild (1990, Wong Kar-wai) [September]
  18. Manchester by the Sea (2016, Kenneth Lonergan) [December]
  19. Possession (1981, Andrzej Zulawski) [October]
  20. Cameraperson (2016, Kirsten Johnson) [June]
  21. Femme Fatale (2002, Brian De Palma) [September]
  22. Thief (1981, Michael Mann) [May]
  23. The Forbidden Room (2015, Guy Maddin) [January]
  24. My Golden Days (2015, Arnaud Desplechin) [April]
  25. Death Proof (2007, Quentin Tarantino) [January]
  26. The Handmaiden (2016, Park Chan-wook) [October]
  27. The Insider (1999, Michael Mann) [May]
  28. O.J.: Made in America (2016, Ezra Edelman) [October]
  29. Inherent Vice (2014, Paul Thomas Anderson) [February]
  30. Blow Out (1981, Brian De Palma) [August]
  31. Nosferatu (1922, F.W. Murnau) [March]
  32. The Gang’s All Here (1943, Busby Berkeley) [July]
  33. Two Days, One Night (2014, Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne) [November]
  34. Ali (2001, Michael Mann) [May]
  35. Wendy and Lucy (2008, Kelly Reichardt) [August]
  36. Mountains May Depart (2015, Jia Zhangke) [June]
  37. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004, Michel Gondry) [January]
  38. Inglourious Basterds (2009, Quentin Tarantino) [January]
  39. Casualties of War (1989, Brian De Palma) [September]
  40. Godzilla (1954, Ishiro Honda) [March]
  41. Right Now, Wrong Then (2015, Hong Sang-soo) [October]
  42. Blackhat (2015, Michael Mann) [January]
  43. Holy Motors (2012, Leos Carax) [July]
  44. The Master (2012, Paul Thomas Anderson) [February]
  45. Body Double (1984, Brian De Palma) [September]
  46. When Marnie Was There (2014, Hiromasa Yonebayashi) [January]
  47. Raising Arizona (1987, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  48. Carrie (1976, Brian De Palma) [July]
  49. The Man Who Wasn’t There (2001, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  50. Beauty and the Beast (1946, Jean Cocteau) [February]
  51. Magic Mike XXL (2015, Gregory Jacobs) [January]
  52. Elle (2016, Paul Verhoeven) [December]
  53. Cemetery of Splendour (2015, Apichatpong Weerasethakul) [March]
  54. Old Joy (2006, Kelly Reichardt) [August]
  55. The Day He Arrives (2011, Hong Sang-soo) [October]
  56. The Last of the Mohicans (1992, Michael Mann) [May]
  57. Non-Stop (2014, Jaume Collet-Serra) [June]
  58. The World’s End (2013, Edgar Wright) [May]
  59. Collateral (2004, Michael Mann) [May]
  60. Mildred Pierce (1945, Michael Curtiz) [May]
  61. D’Est (1993, Chantal Akerman) [May]
  62. Dragon Inn (1967, King Hu) [June]
  63. You Can Count on Me (2000, Kenneth Lonergan) [November]
  64. Kate Plays Christine (2016, Robert Greene) [July]
  65. John Wick (2014, Chad Stahelski) [June]
  66. Certain Women (2016, Kelly Reichardt) [October]
  67. Things to Come (2016, Mia Hansen-Løve) [December]
  68. Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma) [July]
  69. Oldboy (2003, Park Chan-wook) [October]
  70. Sunset Song (2015, Terence Davies) [May]
  71. Sully (2016, Clint Eastwood) [September]
  72. L for Leisure (2014, Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn) [June]
  73. Orphan (2009, Jaume Collet-Serra) [June]
  74. Lady Vengeance (2005, Park Chan-wook) [October]
  75. SPL II: A Time for Consequences (2015, Soi Cheang) [September]
  76. Creepy (2016, Kiyoshi Kurosawa) [November]
  77. Aquarius (2016, Kleber Mendonça Filho) [December]
  78. Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2015, Stephen Cone) [July]
  79. The Edge of Seventeen (2016, Kelly Fremon Craig) [December]
  80. Justin Timberlake + the Tennessee Kids (2016, Jonathan Demme) [October]
  81. Intolerable Cruelty (2003, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  82. Dressed to Kill (1980, Brian De Palma) [August]
  83. The Hateful Eight (2015, Quentin Tarantino) [January]
  84. Hot Fuzz (2007, Edgar Wright) [May]
  85. The Shallows (2016, Jaume Collet-Serra) [October]
  86. River of Grass (1994, Kelly Reichardt) [August]
  87. Shin Godzilla (2016, Hideaki Anno) [October]
  88. Scarface (1983, Brian De Palma) [August]
  89. From the Other Side (2002, Chantal Akerman) [August]
  90. Burn After Reading (2008, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  91. To Lavoisier, Who Died in the Reign of Terror (1991, Michael Snow) [December]
  92. Everybody Wants Some!! (2016, Richard Linklater) [April]
  93. Love & Friendship (2016, Whit Stillman) [June]
  94. Shaun of the Dead (2004, Edgar Wright) [May]
  95. Chimes at Midnight (1965, Orson Welles) [May]
  96. Aloha (2015, Cameron Crowe) [March]
  97. Afterschool (2008, Antonio Campos) [October]
  98. The Silence of the Lambs (1991, Jonathan Demme) [June]
  99. Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016, Zack Snyder) [April]
  100. Snake Eyes (1998, Brian De Palma) [September]
  101. Looper (2012, Rian Johnson) [August]
  102. Raising Cain (1992, Brian De Palma) [September]
  103. Sisters (1972, Brian De Palma) [July]
  104. A Serious Man (2009, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  105. 45 Years (2015, Andrew Haigh) [January]
  106. Night Moves (2013, Kelly Reichardt) [September]
  107. Jackie Brown (1997, Quentin Tarantino) [Januyar]
  108. Russian Ark (2002, Alexander Sokurov) [April]
  109. Bridge of Spies (2015, Steven Spielberg) [January]
  110. Boogie Nights (1997, Paul Thomas Anderson) [February]
  111. In Another Country (2012, Hong Sang-soo) [October]
  112. The Keep (1983, Michael Mann) [May]
  113. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956, Don Siegel) [October]
  114. Until the End of the World (1991, Wim Wenders) [March]
  115. Frances Ha (2012, Noah Baumbach) [January]
  116. In the Shadow of Women (2015, Philippe Garrel) [December]
  117. Belladonna of Sadness (1973, Eiichi Yamamoto) [May]
  118. The Glass Shield (1994, Charles Burnett) [September]
  119. Tower (2016, Keith Maitland) [November]
  120. Kubo and the Two Strings (2016, Travis Knight) [September]
  121. Hail, Caesar! (2016, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  122. The American Friend (1977, Wim Wenders) [March]
  123. Moonlight (2016, Barry Jenkins) [November]
  124. Blondes in the Jungle (2009, Lev Kalman & Whitney Horn) [June]
  125. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002, Park Chan-wook) [October]
  126. The Black Dahlia (2006, Brian De Palma) [September]
  127. Zatoichi (2003, Takeshi Kitano) [August]
  128. Allied (2016, Robert Zemeckis) [November]
  129. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003, Quentin Tarantino) [January]
  130. Kill Bill: Volume 2 (2004, Quentin Tarantino) [January]
  131. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016, Gareth Edwards) [December]
  132. Weiner (2016, Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg) [December]
  133. De Palma (2015, Noah Baumbach & Jake Paltrow) [September]
  134. Clouds of Sils Maria (2014, Olivier Assayas) [January]
  135. Mustang (2015, Deniz Gamze Ergüven) [March]
  136. I Am Not Madame Bovary (2016, Feng Xiaogang) [November]
  137. Our Little Sister (2015, Hirokazu Kore-eda) [September]
  138. The Treasure (2015, Corneliu Porumboiu) [December]
  139. South (1999, Chantal Akerman) [August]
  140. Run All Night (2015, Jaume Collet-Serra) [June]
  141. Office (2015, Johnnie To) [February]
  142. James White (2015, Josh Mond) [January]
  143. Only Yesterday (1991, Isao Takahata) [March]
  144. Actress (2014, Robert Greene) [July]
  145. Greetings (1968, Brian De Palma) [July]
  146. House of Wax (2005, Jaume Collet-Serra) [June]
  147. Rules Don’t Apply (2016, Warren Beatty) [November]
  148. The Academy of Muses (2015, José Luis Guerin) [December]
  149. Arrival (2016, Denis Villeneuve) [November]
  150. Güeros (2014, Alonso Ruizpalacios) [April]
  151. High School (1968, Frederick Wiseman) [November]
  152. Hell or High Water (2016, David Mackenzie) [September]
  153. Journey to the Shore (2015, Kiyoshi Kurosawa) [September]
  154. Aferim! (2015, Radu Jude) [December]
  155. The Love Witch (2016, Anna Biller) [November]
  156. Neruda (2016, Pablo Larraín) [December]
  157. Dead Slow Ahead (2015, Mauro Herce) [November]
  158. Knight of Cups (2015, Terrence Malick) [December]
  159. Hospital (1970, Frederick Wiseman) [November]
  160. The Fury (1978, Brian De Palma) [September]
  161. Obsession (1976, Brian De Palma) [August]
  162. Don’t Breathe (2016, Fede Alvarez) [September]
  163. Joint Security Area (2000, Park Chan-wook) [August]
  164. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016, Akiva Schaffer & Jorma Taccone) [December]
  165. Voyage of Time: The IMAX Experience (2016, Terrence Malick) [November]
  166. Home Movies (1979, Brian De Palma) [August]
  167. The Untouchables (1987, Brian De Palma) [July]
  168. Hard Eight (1996, Paul Thomas Anderson) [February]
  169. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939, Frank Capra) [April]
  170. Lemonade (2016, Khalil Joseph and Beyoncé Knowles Carter) [October]
  171. Buena Vista Social Club (1999, Wim Wenders) [March]
  172. The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015, Marielle Heller) [January]
  173. A Bigger Splash (2015, Luca Guadagnino) [May]
  174. Miller’s Crossing (1990, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  175. Chantal Akerman: From Here (2010, Gustavo Beck & Leonardo Ferreira) [April]
  176. Titicut Follies (1967, Frederick Wiseman) [November]
  177. Demolition (2015, Jean-Marc Vallée) [April]
  178. Das Boot (1981, Wolfgang Petersen) [June]
  179. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  180. Boy & the World (2013, Alê Abreu) [February]
  181. The Nice Guys (2016, Shane Black) [May]
  182. Django Unchained (2012, Quentin Tarantino) [January]
  183. Blood Simple (1984, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  184. Green Room (2015, Jeremy Saulnier) [April]
  185. The Invitation (2015, Karyn Kusama) [September]
  186. The Lobster (2015, Yorgos Lanthimos) [June]
  187. 42nd Street (1933, Lloyd Bacon) [April]
  188. Moana (2016, John Musker & Ron Clements) [December]
  189. The Fits (2015, Anna Rose Holmer) [December]
  190. Là-bas (2006, Chantal Akerman) [May]
  191. Los Sures (1984, Diego Echeverria) [September]
  192. 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016, Dan Trachtenberg) [March]
  193. Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015, Joss Whedon) [March]
  194. Easy Rider (2012, James Benning) [March]
  195. Hacksaw Ridge (2016, Mel Gibson) [November]
  196. X-Men: Apocalypse (2016, Bryan Singer) [May]
  197. Steve Jobs (2015, Danny Boyle) [January]
  198. I Don’t Belong Anywhere: The Cinema of Chantal Akerman (2015, Marianne Lambert) [April]
  199. Blue Ruin (2013, Jeremy Saulnier) [August]
  200. Captain America: Civil War (2016, Anthony & Joe Russo) [May]
  201. Doctor Strange (2016, Scott Derrickson) [November]
  202. True Lies (1994, James Cameron) [July]
  203. April and the Extraordinary World (2015, Christian Desmares & Franck Ekinci) [April]
  204. Café Society (2016, Woody Allen) [May]
  205. Fences (2016, Denzel Washington) [December]
  206. Viva (2007, Anna Biller) [November]
  207. Midnight Special (2016, Jeff Nichols) [April]
  208. Mission to Mars (2000, Brian De Palma) [September]
  209. Cloverfield (2008, Matt Reeves) [March]
  210. Ant-Man (2015, Peyton Reed) [March]
  211. Dionysus in ’69 (1970, Brian De Palma) [July]
  212. Bad Seed (1934, Billy Wilder & Alexandre Esway) [September]
  213. Minotaur (2015, Nicolás Pereda) [October]
  214. The Fighter (2010, David O. Russell) [November]
  215. Purple Rain (1984, Albert Magnoli) [May]
  216. Fish Tank (2009, Andrea Arnold) [September]
  217. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016, David Yates) [December]
  218. Francofonia (2015, Alexander Sokurov) [April]
  219. No Way Out (1950, Joseph L. Mankiewicz) [May]
  220. Sing Street (2016, John Carney) [August]
  221. Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (2016, Nicholas Stoller) [June]
  222. No Home Movie (2015, Chantal Akerman) [April]
  223. Deepwater Horizon (2016, Peter Berg) [October]
  224. High-Rise (2015, Ben Wheatley) [May]
  225. Zootopia (2016, Byron Howard & Rich Moore) [April]
  226. Bataan (1943, Tay Garnett) [May]
  227. The Jungle Book (2016, Jon Favreau) [April]
  228. Krivina (2012, Igor Drljaca) [October]
  229. American Honey (2016, Andrea Arnold) [September]
  230. Coraline (2009, Henry Selick) [January]
  231. The Magnificent Seven (2016, Antoine Fuqua) [October]
  232. Jason Bourne (2016, Paul Greengrass) [September]
  233. Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016, Ang Lee) [November]
  234. La La Land (2016, Damien Chazelle) [November]
  235. Eye in the Sky (2015, Gavin Hood) [August]
  236. Hi, Mom! (1970, Brian De Palma) [July]
  237. The Cheat (1915, Cecil B. DeMille) [March]
  238. The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (2015, Ben Rivers) [October]
  239. The Battle of Brazil: A Video History (1996, Jack Matthews) [January]
  240. High Noon (1952, Fred Zinnemann) [May]
  241. Murder à la Mod (1968, Brian De Palma) [July]
  242. Harold and Maude (1971, Hal Ashby) [February]
  243. The Witch (2015, Robert Eggers) [February]
  244. The Public Enemy (1931, William A. Wellman) [April]
  245. The Ladykillers (2004, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  246. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994, Joel & Ethan Coen) [February]
  247. The Blues Brothers (1980, John Landis) [February]
  248. Passengers (2016, Morten Tyldum) [December]
  249. The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990, Brian De Palma) [September]
  250. Simon Killer (2012, Antonio Campos) [October]
  251. Embrace of the Serpent (2015, Ciro Guerra) [March]
  252. The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan) [April]
  253. Money Monster (2016, Jodie Foster) [June]
  254. Keanu (2016, Peter Atencio) [June]
  255. Nocturnal Animals (2016, Tom Ford) [December]
  256. 13th (2016, Ava DuVernay) [November]
  257. House of Little Deaths (2016, Scout Tafoya) [September]
  258. Lion (2016, Garth Davis) [December]
  259. Room (2015, Lenny Abrahamson) [January]
  260. Groundhog Day (1993, Harold Ramis) [January]
  261. Anomalisa (2015, Charlie Kaufman & Duke Johnson) [January]
  262. Meet the Patels (2014, Ravi Patel & Geeta Patel) [November]
  263. The Distance (2014, Sergio Caballero) [October]
  264. Song of Lahore (2015, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy & Andy Schocken) [May]
  265. Redacted (2007, Brian De Palma) [September]
  266. Jackie (2016, Pablo Larraín) [December]
  267. Synecdoche, New York (2008, Charlie Kaufman) [January]
  268. Son of Saul (2015, László Nemes) [February]
  269. Cosmos (2015, Andrzej Zulawski) [December]
  270. Assassin’s Creed (2016, Justin Kurzel) [December]
  271. On the Silver Globe (1988, Andrzej Zulawski) [October]
  272. Get to Know Your Rabbit (1972, Brian De Palma) [August]
  273. Deadpool (2016, Tim Miller) [February]
  274. The Revenant (2015, Alejandro González Iñárritu) [January]
  275. The Wedding Party (1969, Brian De Palma & Wilford Leach & Cynthia Munroe) [July]
  276. The Neon Demon (2016, Nicolas Winding Refn) [November]
  277. Now You See Me 2 (2016, Jon M. Chu) [June]
  278. Beasts of No Nation (2015, Cary Joji Fukunaga) [January]
  279. Game Change (2012, Jay Roach) [February]
  280. The Big Short (2015, Adam McKay) [January]
  281. Only God Forgives (2013, Nicolas Winding Refn) [June]
  282. Wise Guys (1986, Brian De Palma) [September]
  283. Suicide Squad (2016, David Ayer) [September]