Monthly Archives: December 2018

2018: Resilience and Despair

Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Unfriended: Dark Web, A Star Is Born, Lean on Pete

Writing these countdowns always comes with a sense of relief. I made it through another year. (And spent a big chunk of it watching movies.) Excitement, too: now I can set aside that year, break it down, hold its little pieces in my memory. The year that was can hold no further surprises; now, as I pause in late December waiting for the new one to start, I have an opportunity to assess it. So here, as far as cinema’s concerned, are the little pieces of 2018.

First, a couple outliers. Blue is a lovely Apichatpong Weerasethakul short that premiered at TIFF this year. Within its 12-minute run time, he finds sublime uses for some antiquated visual trickery. The Other Side of the Wind is a film Orson Welles starting shooting decades ago, now given a posthumous release. It’s breathtaking: a poison pen roman à clef full of formal experimentation. (Ranking it alongside films from living auteurs feels a bit like apples and oranges, but it’s a strong addition to the Welles corpus.)

Here are 15 other movies I enjoyed in alphabetical order: The Day After, Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun?, First Reformed, Happy as Lazzaro, Lean on Pete, Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, Minding the Gap, Private Life, Shirkers, Sorry to Bother YouA Star Is Born, Unfriended: Dark Web, Unsane, Werewolf, and Widows.

And here are 10 other performances: Bryan Cranston, his voice a forlorn growl in Isle of DogsWidows’ Viola Davis, giving blunt directives in the midst of mourning; Jennifer Ehle (supporting actress extraordinaire) as The Miseducation of Cameron Post’s homophobic villain; Daniel Giménez Cacho, who bears weariness in his sharp features as Zama’s title character; Upgrade’s Simon Maiden, drily funny as a HAL-style AI; Amanda Seyfried as bereaved mothers-to-be in both First Reformed and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again; Adriano Tardiolo, his eyes wide as the namesake naif in Happy as Lazzaro; Tessa Thompson embodying praxis as the earring-adorned artist in Sorry to Bother YouReady Player One’s Lena Waithe, transformed via mocap into a lumbering avatar; and Anton Yelchin, now a couple years deceased, playing the scumbag of all scumbags in Thoroughbreds.

And now, the list:

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Writing Samples 2016-18

A few years ago, I compiled some writing samples. This is an update with some of my subsequent work. I fear I haven’t been especially prolific, and I can readily pinpoint the reasons why. I’ve worked a series of exhausting day jobs; suffered periodic bouts of depression; and seen my ambitions recede a little. (Countless half-finished projects have led me to set myself fewer and humbler creative goals.) That said, I’ve still written things, and I’m proud of it. On this blog alone, I kept up a thorough viewing diary in 2017 and have put out year-in-film summaries each December. Elsewhere, I’ve published the following:

Here’s hoping I’ll have enough for a similar round-up a couple years hence.

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50 Best New-to-Me Viewings of 2018

Beggars of Life

Every year I put a list like this together as a means of remembering what I’ve watched and loved. A dozen months distilled into a few dozen titles. These movies might’ve made me weep or shiver—though maybe I just sighed, “This is nice,” and put them from my mind till they flew back like a boomerang weeks later. Between them, they boast the acting of Judy Garland and Eusebio Poncela; ZaSu Pitts and Claude Rains; Shu Qi and Roy Scheider; Sharon Stone and Sol Kyung-gu; Lily Tomlin and Denzel Washington. They’re shorts and features, curios and crowd-pleasers, each with its own share of power and beauty.

Alice, Sweet Alice (1976) · Arrebato (1979) · At Berkeley (2013) · Basic Instinct (1992) · Beggars of Life (1928) · Black Girl (1966) · Blood Tea and Red String (2006) · The Chase (1946) · The Cremator (1969) · Duelle (1976) · Duplicity (2009) · 45 Years (2015) · Greed (1924) · I Am Cuba (1964) · I Could Go on Singing (1963) · In My Skin (2002) · In This Corner of the World (2016) · The Kleptomaniac (1905) · The Late Show (1977) · The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1962) · Losing Ground (1982) · The Manchurian Candidate (2004) · Madam Satan (1930) · The Masseurs and a Woman (1938) · Master of the House (1925) · Millennium Mambo (2001) · The Moderns (1988) · Moscow Clad in Snow (1909) · The Mouth Agape (1974) · Peppermint Candy (1999) · The Passionate Friends (1949) · Private Lives (1931) · Rock Hudson’s Home Movies (1992) · Running on Empty (1988) · The Sacrifice (1986) · Satan’s Rhapsody (1917) · Senso (1954) · Shoulder Arms (1918) · Sorcerer (1977) · Spanglish (2004) · Stage Door (1937) · Starman (1984) · The Stone Tape (1972) · Stromboli (1950) · Terms of Endearment (1983) · They Were Expendable (1945) · Thief (1981) · Tugging the Worm (1987) · Up the Down Staircase (1967) · Les Vampires (1915)

[The bolded titles form a loose top ten. Everything is pre-2018.]

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