Posts Tagged ‘film’

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My 2014 Discoveries

January 4, 2015

Top 35 (2013/14 not included):

35.  Involuntary (2008, Ruben Östlund)
34.  Les maîtres fous (1955, Jean Rouch)
33.  Love at Large (1990, Alan Rudolph)
32.  You Instead (2011, David Mackenzie)
31.  Above the Law (1986, Corey Yuen Kwai)
also Yes, Madam (1985)
30.  NY Export: Opus Jazz (2010, Henry Joost/Jody Lee Lipes)
29.  Sorcerer (1977, William Friedkin)
28.  Unfinished Business (1941, Gregory La Cava)
27.  High School (1968, Frederick Wiseman)
26.  Berlin Express (1948, Jacques Tourneur)
also Appointment in Honduras (1953)
25.  Bachelor Mother (1939, Garson Kanin)
24.  The Apple (1998, Samira Makhmalbaf)
23.  Hud (1963, Martin Ritt)
also The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965)
22.  Pushover (1954, Richard Quine)
21.  Shanghai Express / Blonde Venus (1932, Josef von Sternberg)
20.  Citizen X (1995, Chris Gerolmo)
19.  Fireworks (1947, Kenneth Anger)
18.  Outrage (1950, Ida Lupino)
also Hard, Fast and Beautiful (1951)
17.  La Vie des morts (1991, Arnaud Desplechin)
16.  Hercules and the Captive Women (1961, Vittorio Cottafavi)
15.  China 9, Liberty 37 (1978, Monte Hellman)
14.  Vampire’s Kiss (1988, Robert Bierman)
13.  Come Back to the Five and Dime (1982, Robert Altman)
12.  Go Get Some Rosemary (2010, Ben Safdie/Joshua Safdie)
11.  Dragnet (1954, Jack Webb)

10.  We’re Going to Eat You (1980, Tsui Hark)
09.  Les passagers (1999, Jean-Claude Guiguet)
08.  The Chase (1966, Arthur Penn)
07.  Border Incident (1949, Anthony Mann)
06.  Lone Star (1996, John Sayles)
05.  Violent Saturday (1955, Richard Fleischer)
also Armored Car Robbery (1950)
04.  Lady Windermere’s Fan (1925, Ernst Lubitsch)
03.  Out 1, noli me tangere (1971, Jacques Rivette/Suzanne Schiffman)
02.  Humanity and Paper Balloons (1937, Sadao Yamanaka)
01.  Tokyo Twilight (1957, Yasujirō Ozu)

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My 2013 in Film

February 21, 2014

I’ll keep it brief here because I have nothing to actually say. First up are the best new-to-me films that I saw in 2013. These do not include movies from 2012-2013. Why? Because [reasons]. The end of the ranking got really awkward as I tried to cram movies into it, so I opted to have a bunch of categories to give said movies mention despite their exclusion. I’m cool like that, my mum tells me. After all this are my 2013-premiere favourites as they sit for now (having not seen virtually every major film: The Immigrant, Stray Dogs, Under the Skin, and so on), including performances I dug, and notes on the year’s cinematography because apparently that is of particular interest to me (?). The only pieces I wrote all year were this Bastards review and this one on James Gray. What else? Breaking Bad and Bunheads destroyed all other TV, Gone Home was more moving than any film, and the only book I can recall finishing is The Invention of Morel. Music is cool too I guess.

  • Best Animated: Perfect Blue (1997, Kon)
  • Best Horror: The Exorcist III (1990, Blatty)
  • Best Australian: Dead Heart (1996, Parsons)Clay (1965, Mangiamele), Crawl (2011, China), One Night Stand (1984, Duigan)
  • Best Documentary: Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003, Wang), Public Housing (1997, Wiseman), Nostalgia for the Light (2010, Guzmán), Bovines (2011, Gras)
  • Best TV film: Someone’s Watching Me! (1978, Carpenter), Something to Remind Me (2001, Petzold), Homecoming (2005, Dante)
  • Best Short: Never Weaken (1921, Newmeyer), The Professional Man (1995, Soderbergh, also TV)
  • Best Ad/Music Video: The Work of Director Jonathan Glazer
  • Further Best Musical: At Long Last Love (1975, Bogdanovich), Cabin in the Sky (1943, Minnelli)
  • Further Best Western: The Indian Fighter (1955, De Toth), Decision at Sundown (1957, Boetticher), Tennessee’s Partner (1955, Dwan), The Hanging Tree (1959, Daves), Apache (1954, Aldrich), Ride in the Whirlwind (1966, Hellman)
  • Further Best Action: Hard Target (1993, Woo), Drive (1997, Wang), Police Story (1985, Chan), U.S. Seals II (2001, Florentine), Torque (2004, Kahn)

Top 40:

40.  Sleepwalk (1986, Driver)
39.  Au Revoir Taipei (2010, Chen)
38.  Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, Cimino)
37.  Art History / The Zone (2011, Swanberg)
36.  The Step (1985, Rekhviashvili)
35.  The Marrying Kind (1952, Cukor)
34.  That Old Dream That Moves (2001, Guiraudie)
also No Rest for the Brave (2003)
33.  The Sterile Cuckoo (1969, Pakula)
32.  Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998, German)
31.  Picnic (1955, Logan)
30.  Landscape Suicide (1987, Benning)
29.  Double Team (1997, Tsui)
28.  The Long Voyage Home (1940, Ford)
also Donovan’s Reef (1963)
and Two Rode Together (1961)
and The Quiet Man (1952)
27.  The Wife (1995, Noonan)
26.  The Amazing Mrs. Holliday (1943, Manning/Renoir)
25.  Duo Sang (1994, Wu)
24.  The Thief of Bagdad (1924, Walsh)
also The Big Trail (1930)
23.  Love is Colder Than Death (1969, Fassbinder)
also The American Soldier (1970)
22.  Raw Deal (1948, Mann)
also T-Men (1947)
and The Man From Laramie (1955)
21.  Le Grand Amour (1969, Étaix)

20.  Nighthawks (1978, Peck)
19.  Kamome Diner (2006, Ogigami)
18.  The Manxman (1929, Hitchcock)
17.  In the Family (2011, Wang)
16.  The Mortal Storm (1940, Borzage)
15.  Golden Eighties (1986, Akerman)
also Nuit et Jour (1991)
14.  Great Day in the Morning (1956, Tourneur)
13.  A Girl in Every Port (1928, Hawks)
12.  Crippled Avengers (1978, Chang)
11.  Applause (1929, Mamoulian)
10.  Running on Karma (2003, To/Wai)
also A Hero Never Dies (1998, To)
09.  Spetters (1980, Verhoeven)
also Flesh + Blood (1985)
08.  A Cottage on Dartmoor (1929, Asquith)
07.  The Ballad of Narayama (1958, Kinoshita)
06.  The Oyster Princess (1919, Lubitsch)
also The Wildcat (1921)
05.  Koridorius (1994, Bartas)
04.  The White Meadows (2009, Rasoulof)
03.  House By the River (1950, Lang)
also Die Nibelungen (1924)
and The Tiger of Eschnapur / The Indian Tomb (1959)
and Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler (1922)
02.  The 8-Diagram Pole Fighter (1984, Liu)
also The Legend of Drunken Master (1994)
01.  The Heiress (1949, Wyler)
also Dead End (1937)
and The Letter (1940)
and Dodsworth (1936)
and The Little Foxes (1941)
and Detective Story (1951)

Best 2013 Premieres:

  1. Stranger by the Lake (Alain Guiraudie)
  2. A Touch of Sin (Jia Zhang-ke)
  3. Blind Detective (Johnnie To)
  4. The World’s End (Edgar Wright)
  5. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese)
  6. The Dance of Reality (Alejandro Jodorowsky)
  7. Computer Chess (Andrew Bujalski)
  8. Bastards (Claire Denis)
  9. Top of the Lake (Jane Campion)
  10. Our Sunhi (Hong Sang-soo)
  11. Young Detective Dee: Rise of the Sea Dragon (3D, Tsui Hark)
  12. The Lone Ranger (Gore Verbinski)
  13. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater)
  14. Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen)
  15. The Last of the Unjust (Claude Lanzmann)

Best scene:  Love dance — Tip Top (Serge Bozon)

Favourite Performances:

  • Leonardo DiCaprio (The Wolf of Wall Street)
  • Simon Pegg (The World’s End)
  • Julia Louis-Dreyfus and James Gandolfini (Enough Said)
  • Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (Before Midnight)
  • Michael Cera (Magic Magic/Crystal Fairy)
  • Dolph Lundgren (The Package)
  • Paulina García (Gloria)
  • Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence (American Hustle) suck it

Notes on 2013 Cinematography:

The uncategorisably unique achievements this year were Computer Chess (Matthias Grunsky) on vintage tube video (this year’s No)—infinitely fascinating to look at—and Gravity (Emmanuel Lubezki, Arri Alexa/one scene 65mm) which wasn’t to my eyes one of the year’s best looking films, and raises some reactionary skepticism as to its faux-camera/lighting cinematographic “authenticity”, but is a technical marvel requiring probably the deepest involvement between cinematographer and post-production artists to date.

Film:

  • The World’s End (Bill Pope, 16mm/35mm): Rationally mixes gauges and spherical & anamorphic lenses, the lattermost causing the invaders’ blue orifice light beams to span the width of the ‘Scope frame for maximum stupefaction (and prettiness).
  • Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (Ian Lagarde, 35mm): Dat grain, dem blacks, dat painterly precision. Chilly.
  • Paradise: Hope (Edward Lachman and Wolfgang Thaler, Super 16): Pretty much the above but for the blacks, and the grain porn is twofold. SYMMETRY.
  • The Spectacular Now (Jess Hall, 35mm): Seriously, Panavision C- and E-Series lenses. Such lovely texture.
  • Inside Llewyn Davis (Bruno Delbonnel, 35mm): What a palette. Blurring software transforms grain into a RED-esque “bloom” as Delbonnel himself puts it. The jump from dailies to post-DI image must be staggering.
  • The Grandmaster (Philippe Le Sourd, 35mm): Soft, shallow focus. Dense elemental texture.

Digital:

  • Mother of George (Bradford Young, RED Epic): Long lenses oppress (a la The Yards) Adenike within the already insular Nigerian community of New York, her dilemma fully felt in suffocating isolation. The design touchpoint here is the Wong Kar-Wai of In the Mood for Love and 2046, they too fetishisations of lavishly textured garments and surfaces of bright colours thrown into darkness. Custom subverted as visual oppression.
  • Prisoners (Roger Deakins, Arri Alexa Plus): My goodwill started with its being a Hollywood flick that didn’t default to 2.35:1. Its refreshingly expansive frame finds a myriad of light sources and reflections amongst droplets of rain and bokeh, curiously busy at all depths. The highway emergency charge, and the candlelit vigil and its ensuing footchase are especially lavish setpieces.
  • Nebraska (Phedon Papamichael, Arri Alexa): I’m surprised, too! The trailer & Academy praise for its visuals to me indicated little more than a black-and-white-therefore-reputable fallacy, a shot-in-colour grey bore of adequate medium shots. But here it is, frequent long shots in deep focus, compositionally immaculate graphite drawings. In most cases these setups allow us to engage a character’s gait within the barren, wintry surroundings.
  • White House Down (Anna Foerster, Arri Alexa Plus): Refreshing in the midst of painfully overlit Hollywood movies. As well as being handsome, it smartly uses cameo lighting to direct one’s eye to faces in a shot that matter (as they will spout important bits of exposition) while others are draped in shadow, quite useful for a sprightly film so loaded with plot.
  • A Teacher (Andrew Droz Palermo, RED Epic): The revived Lomo lenses (see Starlet) warp bokeh and the world in line with the teacher’s irrational subjectivity.
  • Bastards (Agnès Godard, RED Epic): Not a noir painted with light to cast shadows, rather a smart use of digital’s sensitivity to near-eradicate its world of light. In all that murkiness, skin tones reign.
  • This is the End (Brandon Trost, RED Epic): Trost, a DTV & shorts DP and FX assistant miraculously landed Crank: High Voltage and Zombie’s great Halloween II in 2009, and has since made studio comedies look much better than they need to. In his best work to date, the RED diminishes all colours, conflating them into gold, ruptured beautifully by Trost with pink lens flares.
  • The Bling Ring (Harris Savides, RED Epic): The filmic loveliness of L.A. in Somewhere now the pearl-like sheen & eerie stillness of the city here, as fitting to its own subject, its increased ambivalence.
  • Legacy (Felix Wiedemann, Arri Alexa): Long-ass lenses and a soft palette recreate the 70s period look sans grain.

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My MIFF 2013

August 17, 2013
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I attended 19 actual screenings (bolded), 1 of which was a pairing of two shorts bordering on featurettes (italicised). That’s half the number I saw in 2012. The greyed out entries are those that played at MIFF this year but which I saw externally. Sorry for the lack of comments. The ranking:

  1. A Touch of Sin (2013, Jia)
  2. Stranger By the Lake (2013, Guiraudie)
  3. Passion (2012, De Palma)
  4. The Dance of Reality (2013, Jodorowsky)
  5. Computer Chess (2013, Bujalski)
  6. Everybody in Our Family (2012, Jude)
  7. Bastards (2013, Denis) I wrote a review here
  8. The Act of Killing (2012, Oppenheimer)
  9. Starlet (2012, Baker)
  10. Paradise: Faith (2012, Seidl)
  11. Omar (2013, Abu-Assad)
  12. Tip Top (2013, Bozon)
  13. Museum Hours (2012, Cohen)
  14. Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013, Côté)
  15. The Last Time I Saw Macao (2012, Rodrigues & da Mata)
  16. Viola (2012, Piñeiro)
  17. Stories We Tell (2012, Polley)
  18. Tiger Tail in Blue (2012, Ross)
  19. Leviathan (2012, Castaing-Taylor & Paravel)
  20. Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (2013, Hong)
  21. Manuscripts Don’t Burn (2013, Rasoulof)
  22. A Field in England (2013, Wheatley)
  23. Gloria (2013, Lelio)
  24. Lesson of the Evil (2013, Miike)
  25. 3x3D (2013, Greenaway/Godard/Pêra)
  26. The Capsule (2012, Tsangari)
  27. Drinking Buddies (2013, Swanberg)
  28. The Past (2013, Farhadi)
  29. The Missing Picture (2013, Panh)
  30. Oh Boy (2012, Gerster)
  31. Cutie and the Boxer (2013, Heinzerling)
  32. Closed Curtain (2013, Panahi)
  33. Harmony Lessons (2013, Baigazin)
  34. Magic Magic (2013, Silva)
  35. Ginger & Rosa (2012, Potter)
  36. differently, Molussia (2012, Rey)
  37. Child’s Pose (2013, Netzer)
  38. East Hastings Pharmacy (2012, Bourges)
  39. In a World… (2013, Bell)
  40. Upstream Color (2013, Carruth)
  41. Prince Avalanche (2013, Green)
  42. A Werewolf Boy (2012, Jo)
  43. Blue Ruin (2013, Saulnier)
  44. Gebo and the Shadow (2012, Oliveira)
  45. Blancanieves (2012, Berger)
  46. Rhino Season (2012, Ghobadi)
  47. V/H/S/2 (2013, various)
  48. Stoker (2013, Park)
  49. Ilo Ilo (2013, Chen)
  50. Outrage Beyond (2012, Kitano)

I have not included the retro titles that I have previously seen, nor Paradise: Love which first played at MIFF last year.

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My June ’13 in Film

July 1, 2013

June ’13

  1. The 8 Diagram Pole Fighter (Liu)
  2. A Cottage on Dartmoor (Asquith)
  3. Passion (De Palma)
  4. Before Midnight (Linklater)
  5. Picnic (Logan)
  6. The Man From Laramie (Mann)
  7. The Marrying Kind (Cukor)
    and to a lesser extent It Should Happen to You (Cukor)
  8. Two Girls and a Guy (Toback)
  9. Tennessee’s Partner (Dwan)
  10. Paradise: Faith (Seidl)
  11. I Hired a Contract Killer (Kaurismäki)
  12. L’argent (L’Herbier)
  13. Chronicle of a Summer (Rouch)
  14. Louisiana Story (Flaherty)
  15. Ruthless (Ulmer)
  16. Way Down East (Griffith)
  17. Lesson of the Evil (Miike)
  18. Leviathan (Castaing-Taylor/Paravel)
  19. After Earth (Shyamalan)
  20. Death Sentence (Wan)

vlcsnap-2013-06-30-21h07m31s239

Best rewatches:

The Village (Shyamalan)
Alphaville (Godard)

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Pakula in Soderbergh

May 6, 2013
vlcsnap-2013-02-07-17h17m39s23

Klute (Pakula)

vlcsnap-2013-02-07-17h10m37s149

Solaris (Soderbergh)

vlcsnap-2013-05-06-18h23m26s30

The Parallax View (Pakula)

vlcsnap-2013-05-06-18h29m22s2

Solaris (Soderbergh)

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My March ’13 in Film

April 3, 2013

March was another month of completism rather than discovery, so much so that I’ve had to create categories for the directors I became attached to. Rohmer and Chabrol’s small book Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films fueled a fascination (alliteration!) with the master’s silent period in particular, and in viewing the woefully ignored “minor” efforts from throughout his oeuvre. These 9 films only fortified my adoration for the man’s work. Yes, Hitch made suspense pictures, but truly his is a cinema concerned with marriage as vital as Lubitsch’s. Jesus, 94 films in one month, including Wang Bing’s 9-hour epic and not including Scorsese’s shorts…I am wasting my youth.

  1. The White Meadows (2009, Rasoulof)
  2. A Girl in Every Port (1928, Hawks)
    and to a lesser extent #2 & 3 under “Hawks” below
  3. Running on Karma (2003, To/Wai)
    and to a lesser extent Fulltime Killer (2001, To/Wai)
  4. The Manxman (1929, Hitchcock)
    and to a lesser extent #2-4 under “Hitchcock” below
  5. Khrustalyov, My Car! (1998, German)
  6. Raw Deal (1948, Mann) and T-Men (1947, Mann)
    and to a lesser extent He Walked by Night (1948, Mann/Werker)
  7. The Wife (1995, Noonan)
  8. Hard Target (1993, Woo)
  9. Drive (1997, Wang)
  10. Torque (2004, Kahn)
  11. Dead Heart (1996, Parsons)
  12. Sue (1997, Kollek)
  13. Decision at Sundown (1957, Boetticher)
  14. Choose Me (1984, Rudolph)
  15. Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003, Wang)
  16. Everybody in Our Family (2012, Jude)
  17. Dillinger Is Dead (1969, Ferreri)
  18. Nostalgia for the Light (2010, Guzmán)
  19. Melissa P. (2005, Guadagnino)
  20. The Tree, the Mayor and the Mediatheque (1993, Rohmer)
  21. Freeze, Die, Come to Life! (1989, Kanevsky)
  22. After May (2012, Assayas)
  23. Le Dernier Combat (1983, Besson)
  24. The Crimson Pirate (1952, Siodmak)
  25. Five Dedicated to Ozu (2003, Kiarostami)
  26. The Hawks and the Sparrows (1966, Pasolini)
  27. A Good Lawyer’s Wife (2003, Im)
  28. Rope of Sand (1949, Dieterle)
  29. Dans la Maison (2012, Ozon)
  30. The Flower of Evil (2003, Chabrol)

Compelled to mention:

  • Sudden Death (1995, Hyams)
  • Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011, Ritchie)
  • Rien sur Robert (1999, Bonitzer)
  • In the Bathtub of the World (2001, Zahedi)
  • Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty (2003, Pitts)
  • New York Stories (1989, Scorsese/Coppola/Allen)
    for Scorsese’s Life Lessons only

Worst:

  • New York Stories (1989, Scorsese/Coppola/Allen)
    for Coppola’s Life Without Zoe, surely the worst film ever made.
  • Bullet in the Head (1990, Woo)
  • The Expendables (2010, Stallone)
    *

Hitchcock:

  1. The Manxman (1929)
  2. The Farmer’s Wife (1928)
  3. Downhill (1927)
  4. Topaz (1969)
  5. The Paradine Case (1947)
  6. Jamaica Inn (1939)
  7. Champagne (1928)
  8. Rich and Strange (1931)
  9. Mr. & Mrs. Smith (1941)

Hawks:

  1. A Girl in Every Port (1928)
  2. Land of the Pharaohs (1955)
  3. The Criminal Code (1931)
  4. Tiger Shark (1932)
  5. The Crowd Roars (1932)

Boetticher:

  1. Decision at Sundown (1957)
  2. Buchanan Rides Alone (1958)
  3. The Cimarron Kid (1952)
  4. The Man from the Alamo (1953)

Carpenter:

  1. Someone’s Watching Me! (1978)
  2. Village of the Damned (1995)
  3. Memoirs of an Invisible Man (1992)

I suppose these three Carpenters are considered among his least, but for me they each affirm his qualities. #1 & 2 are strong examples of the insidious terror that so encapsulates Carpenter, with the 1978 Hitchcockian film about a woman’s apartment being stalked/violated astutely fed right into the viewer’s own personal space via the television set that was its original destination. Also noteworthy for its strong, witty, successful, and sexually assertive female protagonist and the surrounding ideas of sexism and defilement ingrained in her urban milieu. Why wasn’t this in the above top 30 again? Village displays the auteur’s brilliant comprehension of line and composition in his trademark scope frame, scarcely more appropriate than for this story of inhuman Hitler Youth-esque offspring and the fascistic forms they collectively exhibit. And lastly there was his Invisible Man, a neo-noir technological (diegetic and formal) update of a “monster” classic made fascinating for Carpenter’s workmanlike dedication to achieving the many visual effects above its fairly clumsy humour (though shoutout to the risible womaniser and his strained Gregory-Peck-doing-James-Mason voice) and clumsier baddie scenes.

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My February ’13 in Film

March 1, 2013

February was the month of James Gray rewatches/commentaries, coming close to completing Soderbergh, Bigelow, Jerry Lewis and Michael Mann, and actually completing Kubrick’s features at last (with Fear and Desire), discovering James Toback (Fingers and Exposed unlisted), and confirming that I am not really much of a vulgar auteurist (with more ambivalent reactions to its canon’s works, chiefly Hill’s Johnny Handsome, Tourneur’s Anne of the Indies, Carpenter’s Vampires, and McTiernan’s Nomads). It’s probably no accident that films about complex, charming women impressed me (another being a rewatch of A League of Their Own, which is actually more remarkable for its ‘Scope framing!), and that the male-centric movies tended to possess homosexual subtexts or undertones (Sirk’s Captain Lightfoot providing scaffolding for the Cimino film in this and in its premise).

68 in total:

  1. The Oyster Princess (1919, Lubitsch)
  2. Duo Sang (1994, Wu)
  3. Thunderbolt and Lightfoot (1974, Cimino)
  4. The Sterile Cuckoo (1969, Pakula) and Klute (1971, Pakula)
  5. Rent-a-Cat (2012, Ogigami)
  6. We Won’t Grow Old Together (1972, Pialat)
  7. The Loveless (1982, Bigelow & Montgomery)
  8. The Hanging Tree (1959, Daves)
  9. Sunny (2011, Kang)
  10. The Keep (1983, Mann)
  11. Thursday Till Sunday (2012, Castillo)
  12. Three Lives and Only One Death (1996, Ruiz)
  13. When Will I Be Loved (2004, Toback)
  14. You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet! (2012, Resnais)
  15. All the Light in the Sky (2012, Swanberg)

Compelled to mention:

  • Eros (2004, Wong/Soderbergh/Antonioni) mainly for Wong’s segment
  • The ABCs of Death (2012, various) for Dogfight and Orgasm only
  • Side Effects (2013, Soderbergh) for brilliant lensing
  • Pee-wee’s Big Adventure (1985, Burton)

Worst:

  • The Man with the Iron Fists (2012, RZA)
  • War (2007, Atwell)
  • The ABCs of Death (2012, various)

Best rewatches:

  • Two Lovers (2008, Gray)
  • We Own the Night (2007, Gray) -and again with commentary
  • Dogville (2003, Trier)
  • Contagion (2011, Soderbergh)
  • Little Odessa (1995, Gray)
  • Die Hard (1988, McTiernan)
  • Contempt (1963, Godard)