Thursday, January 21, 2016

Moments of the Year, 2015

Inspired by the now defunct Film Comment "Moments Out of Time" series and the great Roger Ebert's year end recap, this Moments of the Year list (17 years running now!) represents indelible moments of my film-going year. It can be a line of dialogue, a glance, a camera movement or a mood, but they're all wondrous examples of a filmmaker and audience connecting emotionally.

The extreme wide shot of a river with one man walking towards the shore while at the other end of the frame, a man flounders, trying to pull himself up after being shot.  “Timbuktu”

The landscape of Mother Russia and the way filmmaker Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Leviathan” centers a huge mountain in the distance of a ramshackled apartment building. It’s not just the politicians lording over the people.

In Bertrand Bonello’s fantastic “Saint Laurent”, old Yves Saint Laurent (Helmet Berger) carefully arranging his lighter and other trinkets in distinct order on the coffee table before him as if he were sketching another fashion collection in his mind.

In an extreme close-up of her hand, a woman (Arielle Holmes) trying to thread a needle, unable to hold her drug addicted hand steady.  “Heaven Knows What”

“Sicario”. A row of heavily armed assault vehicles methodically bobbing and weaving in line as they race through a Mexican  border town. Then the eyes and tense face of Emily Blunt trying to absorb every bob and weave.

The momentary closing of the eyes for Therese (Rooney Mara) as a hand glances her shoulder, evoking so much passion, sadness and dutiful remembrance of the action that it leaks off the screen. “Carol”

The long opening shot of Trey Shults’ “Krisha” as it follows the title character down a suburban street pulling her luggage, struggling to find the right address, through mud puddles in a neighbor’s yard and finally to the right home where she enters into an orgiastic holiday of hellos and embraces, then the red title card tells us this is a horror film of a different sort.

In Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu”, a group of children playing soccer with an invisible ball.

The way in which Kumiko (Rikyu Kukichi) deflects the casual conversation of a friend she meets in the street as if the words are physically hurting her, flinching and vulnerable in a wonderful performance in “Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter”.

Eddie Redmayne mimicking a peep show stripper’s actions from behind the glass, then their eyes meet when she catches him… and the sensitive cat and mouse glances that ensues. “The Danish Girl”

“Beasts of No Nation”. The ferocity of capturing the bridge in a shanty town.

Ben Stiller trying to explain his seven hour documentary to a hedge fund investor (Ryan Serhant) in “While We’re Young”.

The unmatched whimsy of David Gordon Green: Al Pacino opening his locked van door with an invisible key tossed to him by a mime.  “Manglehorn”

When asked by Carol (Cate Blanchett) “What do you want to do?” during their first lunch together, the way in which Therese (Rooney Mara) replies “I don’t even know what to order for lunch….” and then the silence that falls over both women. "Carol".

The face of Melinda (Elizabeth Banks) listening to Brian Wilson (John Cusack) talk about the abuse at his father’s hands and the range of comprehension, emotion and empathy that flashes across it, followed by a half-hurt, awkward reply of, “well, shit….”   “Love and Mercy”

The first appearance of the “man who can’t breathe” in “Insidious Chapter 3”

A piano player’s eyes welling up when he sees the concentration camp numbers slowly protruding from underneath the sleeve of Nelly’s (Nina Hoss) blouse, and her voice carries through the air as he stops playing. “Phoenix”

Fireworks exploding from the rooftop… … a group of officers using a bullhorn from a vacant window as the fireworks pour into the opening…. a police crane slowly raising officers towards the roof and then the quick cut to black. The final images of “Black Coal Thin Ice”, as offbeat and stunning as the rest of the film.

In “Aloft”, the confrontation between son (Cillian Murphy) and mother, finally, after all these years.

The sound of a young man’s dying breaths, violently sucking in air and then crying out for his mother. Haunting and unforgettable in Russell Crowe’s “The Water Diviner”

In Christian Petzold’s “Phoenix”, the seductive, charming way in which an American soldier flips a cigarette to Nelly (Nina Hoss) and tries to brush her lips, then becomes instantly dissatisfied when a voice behind him says, “hey captain, wrong woman.” Just like the rest of post war Berlin, its exploitative until it isn’t.

Devereaux (Gerard Depradieu) being locked in a New York City jail cell and the way he and other cellmates encircle and glare at each other liked wild animals testing the anxiety in the air. As Abel Ferrara’s camera maintains its gaze from outside the bars…. “Welcome To New York”

Tall, waif-like Betty (Aymeline Valade) hovering across the dance floor, demurely denying Yves Saint Laurent (Gaspard Ulliel) with “I can’t” over and over as he asks her to model for him. In that ethereal moment, a lifetime friendship is borne.  “Saint Laurent”

Making a left and coming head-on to an “end sign” where his house used to be, and then the little ticks of confusion then acceptance as Brian Wilson (Cusack) confronts his past. “Love and Mercy”

A classroom of students not believing their professor’s message about Kennedy’s death in “Experimenter”.

In a scene framed from behind the gentle swaying of amber curtains, the way they eventually fall aside and perfectly frame Yinniang (Qi Shu) as she studies the conversation going on in front of her. “The Assassin”

“Oh I love that outfit.” The non sequitor that emerges from Sindee (Kitani Kiki Rodriqguez) as an infuriated Armenian mother-in-law (Alla Tumanian) bursts into the verbal and emotional carnage going on in a donut restaurant in Sean Baker’s “Tangerine”

In Paolo Sorrentino’s haunting companion piece “Youth”, A masseuse (Luna Mijovic) dancing in an open window, her body serving as the fluctuating ebbs and flows of a high class hotel where everyone is observing everyone else…. And then we see her movement is from playing a dancing video game.

The conversation between Catherine (Elizabeth Moss) and Virginia (Katherine Waterston) that veers from old flames to guilt to victimization in one sobering long take. “Queen of Earth”

In Adam McKay’s “The Big Short”, the quick bursts of montage editing that serve as logistic, spatial and cultural time stamps in a film whose sobering message of unrequited greed and malignancy falls silent amongst the winds of hip pop stupidity and technological solipsism. 

In “The Look of Silence”, a daughter, hearing about her father’s atrocities for the first time, and the small twitches that erupt across her face, trying to process what she’s hearing.

A close up of a young girls a face. Her rapid breathing. A figure moving in and out focus in the background. Horrors hinted at off-screen. The final shot of Melanie Laurent’s “Respire”

Hitler walking down a spa hallway. “Youth”

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