This Young Century’s Best and More

“The 25 Best Films of the 21st Century. So Far.” Frankly, this time of year, my cursor tends to fly right over a headline like that, having worn itself out on such lists from Thanksgiving through Oscar Night. But this one’s from Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, chief film critics for the New York Times. What’s more, it’s pretty. Seriously, this is one nicely designed list.

But the main attraction, of course, are the critics’ arguments for their choices. At #1 is Paul Thomas Anderson’s There Will Be Blood (2007), “a 21st-century masterpiece about love, death, faith, greed and all the oil and blood gushing through the American 20th century,” as Dargis puts it. Scott: “While I am endlessly fascinated by what this movie is about—the dynamic, infernal spirit of American capitalism; the dialectic of faith and greed; the invention of California; the melodrama of modern masculinity—I am perpetually astonished by what it is. It is stranger than any of its themes, mightier than its influence and bigger than any of the genres it explores.”

Scott calls up Guillermo del Toro to talk about #2, Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away (2002). You’ll also find Richard Linklater discussing Boyhood (2014) (#8), Kathryn Bigelow on The Hurt Locker (2009) (#10), Ava DuVernay on Frederick Wiseman—In Jackson Heights (2015) comes in at #13—Robert Pattinson on Claire Denis, with White Material (2010) at #15, Barry Jenkins on Hou Hsiao-hsien’s Three Times (2006) (#17; his own Moonlight (2016) is in at #20), and Michelle Williams on working with Kelly Reichardt on Wendy and Lucy (2008) (#21).

There’s a nice sidebar, too: Antoine Fuqua, Sofia Coppola, Paul Feig, Denis Villeneuve, Brett Ratner, and Alex Gibney write up lists of their 21st century favorites.

More Reading

Stan Brakhage: Interviews, a collection edited by Suranjan Ganguly, is just out and, writing for the New York Review of Books,Max Nelson offers an insightful primer on the work: “Watching Brakhage’s films, you feel something close to awe at the range of textures and depths of excitement he found in the most commonplace situations. . . . This is not a sensibility that would seem to lend itself to making home movies, and there is a disquieting tension in many of the films Brakhage made about his family during his first marriage.”

“In the spring of 2016, after editing Autumn and The Dreamer, I began to project my camera original Kodachrome outtakes of footage I had shot while making my Kodachrome films from 1992 through 2009,” writes Nathaniel Dorsky. He then “edited the camera original without a work print and with cement splices. I have decided not to print them. I feel that their charm is in their ephemeral nature as camera original and any attempt to reproduce them only lessens their modest nature.” He’s posted stills from and notes on all five.

3:AM senior editor Andrew Stevens on Studio: Remembering Chris Marker, a book of photographs by Adam Bartos with a text by Colin MacCabe: “Much continues to be made of Marker’s Pynchonesque reclusivity and refusal to discuss or engage with his past, which perhaps serves to underscore the premise behind Studio, Marker being that ‘obsessive agent of memory’ according to writer and academic Stephen Barber.”

Also at 3:AM, Denis A. Conroy argues that, in Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction (1994), “the sense that an intractable appetite for personal gratification had become America’s raison d’etre is all pervasive.”

“A team from the Universities of Oxford Brookes, Bristol and Exeter has been collecting audience memories of cinemagoing in 1950s Italy,” writes Danielle Hipkins for The Conversation. Federico Fellini’s La Strada (1954) “had an important role to play in their responses—unprompted, many of our respondents mentioned this film as their favorite, along with its striking female protagonist.”

Drôle de drame (1937) “helps pave the way for [Marcel] Carné’s political interests,” writes Chelsea Phillips-Carr in the Notebook, “while its lighthearted comedy sets the ground for the mix of emotion that would color his simultaneously funny yet sharply dramatic later films, such as Les visiteurs du soir (1942) or Air of Paris (1954).”

“Is the ethereal Sissy Spacek of Brian de Palma’s Carrie (1976) the virgin mother of monstrous women?” asks Rebecca Harkins-Cross at the Literary Hub.

“Since his creation in 1939, Batman blurs the line between black and white unlike any other classic comic book superhero,” writes Simon Philipp Born in the Journal for Religion, Film and Media. “Drawing on the complex ambiguity of the character, Tim Burton and Christopher Nolan deconstruct the traditional dichotomy of good and evil in the superhero narrative by reversing its polarity and emphasizing the fictionality of it all.”

La Direction de Spectateurs, edited by Dominique Chateau (2015), is an interesting compilation that is the result of a symposium on the subject of film spectatorship held in several places in France, the UK and the Netherlands.” Nadin Mai focuses on a single chapter “which made me think a lot about Slow Cinema, contemplation, and my work for tao films.

In Other News

The various debates sparked during the Cannes Film Festival about the impact Netflix and other streaming services are having on cinema, the art and the business, have not dried up and blown away just because the festival ended weeks ago. The AFP reports that Naomi Kawase, whose Radiance screened in Competition, would be eager to work with Netflix: “That would be a place for me to express myself freely.” And Hirokazu Koreeda seems to agree that the Japanese film industry is in such a state that filmmakers will have little choice but to turn to Netflix or Amazon.

Screen’s Melanie Goodfellow reports on an interesting mix of distribution deals for another Competition entry, Josh and Benny Safdie’s Good Time: Netflix for some territories, traditional theatrical runs for others.

For the New York Times,Glenn Kenny talks with Efe Cakarel, founder and chief executive of Mubi, which has picked up Philippe Garrel’s Directors’ Fortnight entry, Lover for a Day. “The first few years I came to Cannes, all I did was explain to film producers what streaming video on demand even was.”

Goings On

It’s Friday and, wherever you are, you’re likely thinking about which movies to catch this weekend. Your best guide will be the expertly edited Critics Round Up. Click the titles to see the entries on Miguel Arteta’s Beatriz at Dinner, Steve James’s Abacus: Small Enough to Jail, Patty Jenkins’s Wonder Woman, Bill Morrison’s Dawson City: Frozen Time, Matías Piñeiro’s Hermia & Helena, and Trey Edward Shults’s It Comes at Night. And by the way, Jeffrey Bloomer has a spoiler-laden conversation with Shults for Slate.

New York. “Few movies are as redolent of their times as Funeral Parade of Roses, a 1969 exemplar of Japanese countercultural ferment that, retrieved from history’s dustbin and digitally restored to its original black-and-white glory, opens on Friday at the Quad.” That’s today, of course. And that’s J. Hoberman in the New York Times. More from Jonathan Romney, writing for Film Comment: “You also feel an almost tragic surge of melancholia watching it: where and when, you wonder, will cinema ever get quite this wild again?”

The Human Rights Watch Film Festival opens today at the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the IFC Center and runs through June 18. “So where does a justice junkie begin?” Lauren Wissot presents a guide at Filmmaker.

Los Angeles. Downtown is finally getting its Alamo Drafthouse, reports Gwynedd Stuart for the LA Weekly.

In conjunction with the exhibition Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space, on view through August 20, the Hammer Museum is presenting a program of rarely screened shorts, Artists and Experimental Cinema in Italy 1960–1970, with further screenings at the Italian Cultural Institute in July. Meantime, the Hammer’s Tuesday night film series People Power is on for three more weeks.

Kassel. While the Athens portion of documenta 14 remains open through July 16, the second half of the event in its hometown begins tomorrow, attracting visitors from around the world through September 17. Among the artists invited are Wang Bing, screening his digital documentaries and presenting selected letters, drawings, photographs, and documents, and Jonas Mekas with not only his landmark films but also thirty-six photographs from the Wiesbaden and Kassel/Mattenberg Displaced Persons Camps, 1945–48 (2012 and 2016). “‘Even in miserable places, besides the fact you were in a horrible situation, there were moments when people were singing and laughing,’ Mekas, 94, tells me down the line from his home in Brooklyn about that time in his life,” writes Rob Sharp in the Telegraph. Mekas: “That is the nature of the human spirit.”

In the Works

“After winning the Palme d’Or at last month’s Cannes Film Festival with The Square, Swedish director Ruben Östlund is turning his attention to Triangle of Sadness, a satire set against the backdrop of the fashion world,” reports Variety’s Elsa Keslassy.Triangle of Sadness—which Östlund says refers to a ‘term used by plastic surgeons to fix a wrinkle between the eyes with Botox in 15 minutes’—follows two high-profile models who are approaching the twilight of their modeling careers and are searching for a smooth exit out of the fashion biz.”

Jon Hamm has joined Jeremy Renner, Ed Helms, Jake Johnson, Hannibal Buress, Annabelle Wallis, and Rashida Jones in the cast of Tag. According to the Hollywood Reporter’s Borys Kit, the comedy is “based on a true story featured in The Wall Street Journal about a group of friends who have been playing a no-holds-barred version of the children’s game Tag for the last 30 years.”


“Rita Riggs, the costume designer and wardrobe specialist who worked on Psycho and The Birds for Alfred Hitchcock and on TV's All in the Family and The Jeffersons for Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin, has died. She was 86.” Mike Barnes has more in the Hollywood Reporter.


On the new Talkhouse Podcast, Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick) and Zoe Lister-Jones (Band Aid) “chat about putting their real lives in their movies, working with their partners, getting in touch with their emotions, why comedies have terrible third acts, why Boardwalk Empire made enemies in New York, and what it’s like to make a movie with an all-female crew.” (49’17”).

The Cinematologists talk with Hope Dickson Leach about her debut feature, The Levelling, and with Corrina Antrobus, founder of the Bechdel Test Fest (90’25”).


The Film Doctor takes us into the weekend with a new round of “bruised links.”

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