Did You See This?

1919, 1999, and 2019

On Film / The Daily — Jan 11, 2019
Laurence Fishburne in The Matrix (1999)

The week began with a collective groan heard all across social media when the winners of the Golden Globes were announced, but awards-watchers’ spirits were lifted when the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA) presented its nominations. Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite leads with twelve. In other awards news, Lee Chang-dong’s Burning is the frontrunner for the 2019 Asian Film Awards, and Cinema Eye, which honors great nonfiction filmmaking, has given its top prize to RaMell Ross’s debut feature, Hale County This Morning, This Evening. And just about every guild in Hollywood has rolled out its nominations for the awards to be presented in the coming weeks: directors, writers, cinematographers, editors, art directors, sound professionals, costume designers, and makeup artists and hair stylists. As we turn to this week’s highlights, we begin with a list of an entirely different sort.

  • The American Society of Cinematographers, founded this very week in 1919, is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, and its members have voted up a list of “100 milestone films in the art and craft of cinematography of the twentieth century.” Topping that list is David Lean’s Lawrence of Arabia (1962), which was shot by Freddie Young (and the late great Nicolas Roeg was a second-unit cinematographer). Overall, this is an impressive list, but as many have pointed out, it’s disheartening to see that not a single female cinematographer’s work is recognized. As the ASC’s magazine American Cinematographer prepares to mark the anniversary in all twelve of its monthly issues throughout the year, perhaps that lack of representation will be addressed.
  • Best. Movie. Year. Ever. How 1999 Blew Up the Big Screen is the title of a book by Brian Raftery that’ll be coming out in April, but the party is already on at the TIFF Cinematheque in Toronto. Starting today and on through February 15, TIFF will screen a selection of films turning twenty this year that includes Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich, Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, Kimberly Peirce’s Boys Don’t Cry, Pedro Almodóvar’s All About My Mother, Claire Denis’s Beau travail, David Fincher’s Fight Club, Lynne Ramsay’s Ratcatcher, Abbas Kiarostami’s The Wind Will Carry Us, and probably the movie that says “1999” more than any other, the Wachowskis’ The Matrix (and cinematographer Bill Pope has made the ASC’s list). TIFF has also set up a March Madness-style bracket that allows you to vote for your favorites. In the Guardian, Amy Nicholson argues that it was the introduction of the DVD, which went on sale in the U.S. in 1997, that led to 1999 becoming “the most pivotal year of modern cinema . . . Suddenly, the geniuses who’d been discovered during Sundance’s 90s indie wave were entrusted with millions in play-cash plus marketing muscle. It was a creative renaissance.” Meantime, Nick Davis’s outstanding piece “1999” in the September-October 2018 issue of Film Comment is not online, but do yourself a favor and track down a copy if you can.
  • First Look, the festival of new and innovative work from around the world, opens today at New York’s Museum of the Moving Image with Donbass, “the film in which [Sergei] Loznitsa’s work as both fiction and documentary filmmaker come into closest harmony,” according to Daniel Witkin at Reverse Shot. Writing for Artforum, Tony Pipolo suggests that Vitaly Mansky’s Putin’s Witnesses (2018) makes for “an ironic companion piece” to the other Loznitsa film in the program, The Trial, which pieces together restored footage filmed during one of Stalin’s show trials in the early 1930s. And in his overview of the series for the Notebook, Jaime Grijalba Gómez argues that the “clearest example of the festival’s point of view is the focus on the short films directed by Sophy Romvari.” On a related note, IndieWire’s Eric Kohn interviews David Schwartz, the museum’s outgoing chief curator who’s coprogrammed First Look 2019 with Eric Hynes.
  • Why do we remember every beat of some films but forget what some of the other films we’ve seen are even about? Luke McKernan, a curator at the British Library, has been looking into this and notes that “neurologists can tell us how we remember films . . . but we need to think more about the why. For me, it all points to something fundamental about the purpose of film, which is to provide assurance and identification of the self.”
  • Kay Francis: The Queen of Pleasure, a series at New York’s Metrograph, opens today and runs through February 3. There’ll be four screenings of Trouble in Paradise (1932), which just happens to be the subject of the new episode of the Projection Booth podcast. At well over two hours, the episode is nearly twice as long as the film itself, but that’s because, besides the discussion, it also features an interview with Joseph McBride, the author of How Did Lubitsch Do It?

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