On the Utility and Futility of Year-End Lists – Happy New Year!

January 1st, 2009

Happy New Year everyone. I wish you nothing but peace and happiness in 2009.

In keeping with the holiday spirit of ‘out with the old, in with the new’, here’s a link to indieWIRE’s 2008 Critics Poll ’08.

Since many of the films are year-end specialty releases and art house films, one hopes that, at some point in 2009, these movies will find their way into more provincial cinemas and onto DVD so that the 290 million (or so) people in the United States living outside New York and LA (of which I am one) have the opportunity to judge these films for ourselves. In effect, the 08 poll essentially becomes a “to-watch” list for those of us out in the hinterlands. I am thankful for it.

That said, a survey of this list also exposes the increasingly problematic nature of assessing and classifying films by their release date. Take film #35, Ronnie Brownstein’s Frownland. This would have been made my “Best of 2008” list this year… except I saw it at its premiere at SXSW in March 2007. Similarly, the best film I saw in 2008 was There Will Be Blood. Of course, TWBB was not released widely until January, yet it made many critics’ Best of 2007 list. Should I include Frownland or Blood on my best-of? Does it matter? Not really. It only highlights the fact that, now more than ever, time and memory are the true arbiters of what lasts.

Enough hand wringing. Of the films I saw in 2008, these are the ones that have stayed with me the longest:

Favorite doc, favorite studio film, and favorite american indie:
At the Death House Door
The Dark Knight (or There Will Be Blood, if you want to count it as 2008)

plus two foreign films…
In the City of Sylvia

three shorts…
Merrily, Merrily (short)
Second Egyptian (short)
Voda (short)

and four Microbudgets….
Medicine for Melancholy
The New Year Parade
Nights and Weekends

And that makes a dozen.

Happy New Year!

“Herbert” – ContemporAsian @ MoMA

December 11th, 2008

Indian filmmaker Suman Mukhopadhyay recently visited Blacksburg to screen his two features and speak with filmmaking students at Virginia Tech. Talking with Mukhopadhyay about Herbert and Chaturanga was a real highlight of the semester, and a great way to end to the year.

Today, Mukhopadhyay shares Herbert, his debut feature, with New Yorkers as part of the Museum of Modern Art’s ContemporAsian film series.

Nathan Lee, writing in today’s New York Times, calls Herbert “mad, messy, and frequently amazing.” It is.

Showtimes are as follows:

Thursday, December 11, 2008, 8:00 p.m. (Introduced by Mukhopadhyay)
Friday, December 12, 2008, 6:30 p.m. (Introduced by Mukhopadhyay)
Saturday, December 13, 2008, 1:00 p.m., Theater 2, T2
Sunday, December 14, 2008, 5:00 p.m.
Monday, December 15, 2008, 4:30 p.m.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008, 8:45 p.m.

Mukhopadhyay’s newest film, Chaturanga, which is still playing cinemas in India, is even more impressive. It trades Herbert‘s surrealism and self-reflexivity for a more contemplative approach, as befits its story of spiritual searching. Chaturanga is currently screening in theaters in India. Catch it on the festival circuit if you’re lucky right now — and let’s hope that a smart American distributor picks it up.


December 11th, 2008

SRF reader Jeremy Parker recently alerted me to a website he’s been building called Join My Crew.

Just as it sounds, it’s a completely free website that hopes to help independent filmmakers find cast and crew for their next productions. The site Beta launched last week and will only get better as more and more filmmakers start to use the site.

Best Film List, By Alphabet (x 2)

November 20th, 2008

Chris Cagle at Category D tagged me for the Alphabet Meme.

Here are the rules:

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.*

2. The letter “A” and the word “The” do not count as the beginning of a film’s title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don’t know of any films with those titles.

3. Thanks to some clarification by The Siren, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number’s word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under “T.”

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type “alphabet meme” into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you’re selected, you have to then select 5 more people.

I have rejected Cagle’s new guideline that with foreign titles one should “rely on the original title if in Roman alphabet, the translated title otherwise.” This rule had me making even more tough choices than I wished, so I threw it out. I’ve cheated, in fact, by using foreign titles or translations whenever it helped with difficult letters, tough choices, etc. My guilt is nil.

And to make the choosing even less painful, I have created two lists: One satisfies the theme of this website, the other lists more general favorites. Of course, MANY of my favorite films — a ridiculous number of them beginning with the letters “M”, “T”, and “G” — are left off of both lists. And if a film got listed on one list, I tried to list a different film on the second list.

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Fassbinder)
Black Ice (Brakhage)
City Lights (Chaplin)
Dance Party USA (Katz)
Edvard Munch (Watkins)
Frownland (Bronstein)
The Gleaners and I (Varda)
The Hours and Times (Munch)
Isle of Flowers (Furtado)
Jo Jo at the Gate of Lions (Sjogren)
Killer of Sheep (Burnett)
Last Chants for a Slow Dance (Jost)
Meshes of the Afternoon (Deren)
Night of the Living Dead (Romero)
O Dreamland (Anderson)
Pather Panchali (Ray)
Les Quatre Cents Coups (Truffaut)
Rome, Open City (Rossellini)
Shadows (Cassavetes)
Thirteen (Williams)
The Unchanging Sea (Griffith)
Les Vampires (Feuillade)
The Whole Shootin’ Match (Pennell)
Xala (Sembene)
Zorns Lemma (Frampton)

Harrill’s list:

The Awful Truth
Best Years of Our Lives, The
Diary of a Country Priest
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
The Fly (Cronenberg)
Grand Illusion
The Hours and Times
Isle of Flowers
Killer of Sheep
Love Affair
The Mortal Storm
Night of the Living Dead
The Parallax View
Les Quatre cents coups
Ruggles of Red Gap
Starship Troopers
Tender Mercies
Vivre Sa Vie
Woman Under the Influence
Yi yi
Zero for Conduct

Finally, I want to hear from David Lowery, AJ Schnack, Darren Hughes, Alison Willmore, and Karina Longworth.

Dallas Video Festival

November 9th, 2008

Quick Feet, Soft Hands will be screening at the Dallas Video Festival this evening at 7pm. Details for my screening are below, but the main reason I wanted to post about this was to draw attention David Lowery’s fantastic trailer for the festival:

Quick Feet, Soft Hands @ Dallas Video Festival
Screening as part of the “Don’t Give Me No Grief” program of short films.
Sunday, November 9 @ 7pm
Angelika Film Center (5321 E. Mockingbird Lane)

Wet Dream (DVF 2008) from David Lowery on Vimeo.