Before ringing in the new year, we’re taking a look back at some of the most memorable essays and interviews we published on the Current in 2020. It’s been a head-spinning twelve months, to say the least, but we hope that the explorations of film history and culture we’ve shared with you, from many of the finest writers in the game, have inspired you and kept your love of movies alive. In this roundup, we’ve chosen a few standout articles from each month, with selections ranging from critical appreciations of beloved auteurs and actors to in-depth conversations with film (and film-loving) luminaries to deeply personal reflections on the life-changing power of cinematic discovery. Dive into these highlights, and stay tuned for more great writing when we return in January!
By Lulu Wang
For our ongoing series One Scene, the director of The Farewell joined us to celebrate Federico Fellini’s 100th birthday and talk about the mixture of pain and hope in the final moments of Nights of Cabiria.
Other highlights: Kenneth Lonergan on William Wyler, Ed Park on ’70s sci-fi, and Dan Callahan on Burt Lancaster
This installment of our Songbook series pays tribute to one of the most iconic rock bands of the eighties, whose music provides the soundtrack to Leigh’s poignant portrait of friendship and lost youth.
Other highlights: Howard Hampton on Judy Davis in Naked Lunch, Angela Schanelec on a scene in Antichrist, and Michael Sicinski on the short films of Mati Diop
By Pamela Hutchinson
Behind her carefully crafted bombshell persona, the great Hollywood actor found ingenious ways of signaling how aware she was of the artifice of her own image.
Other highlights: Kelly Reichardt’s Top 10; Michael Almereyda, Geoff Dyer, Shirin Neshat, Peter Strickland, and Colm Tóibín on their favorite shots in Andrei Tarkovsky’s films; and Carol Cooper on Quincy Jones’s film scores
By Moeko Fujii
An actor of extraordinary physical presence and kinetic energy, Toshiro Mifune was the most widely recognized and transformative superstar in postwar Japanese cinema.
Other highlights: Ben Ratliff on the music of Elvis Presley in A Brighter Summer Day, Nick Pinkerton on Philip Baker Hall in Secret Honor, and Phillip Lopate on Maren Ade’s debut feature
By Imogen Sara Smith
A pedestrian activity becomes a radical vision in Elevator to the Gallows, La notte, Vagabond, and other films that follow their female stars on foot.
Other highlights: Six contemporary title designers on their favorite Saul Bass sequences, Kim Morgan on Jean Arthur, and Matt Wolf on a scene in The Times of Harvey Milk
One of the American theater’s most visionary figures opens up about her lifelong love affair with the movies and the influence Hollywood has had on her art.
Other highlights: Michelle Orange on Chantal Akerman,Natasha Lyonne and Clea DuVall on the twentieth anniversary of But I’m a Cheerleader, and Michael Koresky on The Watermelon Woman
By Andrew Chan
The celebrated musician dives into the culture and history captured in a series of jazz short films on the Criterion Channel, which features performances by Duke Ellington, Louis Armstrong, Bessie Smith, and other titans.
Other highlights: Christian Kiefer on a scene in Summer Hours,Ruth Saxelby on the music in Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, and Adam Nayman on Atom Egoyan
By André Aciman
The author of Call Me by Your Name remembers the first time he saw The Apartment—and the long, late-night pilgrimage through a vanishing Manhattan that the film inspired.
Other highlights: Ashley Connor, Anna Rose Holmer, Kirsten Johnson, and Lauren Wolkstein on their favorite scenes in Agnès Varda’s films; Benjamin Mercer on the restoration of Dance, Girl, Dance; and Rebecca Bengal on Linda Manz
By Hillary Weston
The legendary photographer and filmmaker explains how a lifetime of compulsive movie-watching has shaped her artistic practice.
Other highlights: Ari Aster on Albert Brooks, Jonathan Lethem on empty theaters, and Tyson Kubota on the cinematic influences of the video game Ghost of Tsushima
By Jericho Brown
A Pulitzer Prize–winning poet reflects on the liberating power of the pioneering filmmaker and his truth-telling body of work.
Other highlights: Mark Anthony Neal on Curtis Mayfield and Gladys Knight’s Claudine soundtrack, Violet Lucca on the special bond between Kraftwerk and Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and Sloane Crosley on the easy pleasures of the multiplex
By Isabel Ochoa Gold
One of the French auteur’s most immersive art projects finds itself on the brink of format obsolescence, as Acrobat plans to phase out Flash software at the end of the year.
Other highlights: Devika Girish on Supriya Choudhury in The Cloud-Capped Star, Ed Lin on New Korean Cinema, and Sean Durkin on a scene in Code Unknown
By Farran Smith Nehme
With her contralto drawl, genius for innuendo, and fierce control behind the camera, this great Hollywood provocateur pioneered a sex-positive cinema far ahead of its time.
Other highlights: Mayukh Sen on Soumitra Chatterjee, Carrie Coon’s Top 10, and Phillip Lopate on movie dates
Hip-Hop’s Big-Screen Breakthrough
As the influence of the New York–born cultural movement began to spread across the country, cinema gave audiences a deeper sense of the sounds and styles that had emerged from it.
The Replacements: AI in the Movies
Over the past half-century of sci-fi cinema, the theme of artificial intelligence has foregrounded our anxieties about sex, reproduction, and labor in the modern world.
Elvis’s Adventures in Hollywood
Over the course of thirty-one feature films, one of the world’s most revered rock-and-roll icons developed a charismatic persona all his own—and created moments of surprising dramatic depth.
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